Disclaimer: I don't own this. I don't own the characters, setting, or anything other than the words. Ah...the words, and the heartfelt wishes for a very best of Birthdays goes to my dear friend, Dragon Confused. Hugs and the most warm wishes to you, my friend! I tried for something lighter, but this was what I was told. May life bring you the very finest, and treat you gently all the long days of your life. *hugs!*Star Fall, Star Rise
He did this after every storm; walked the beach, tossing back what creatures were still alive and unfortunate enough to have been washed ashore with the giant waves.
Carefully grasping the back of a crab struggling in the wet sand, Ereinion pulled it out and sent it scrabbling sideways, back to the sea. Looking up the curve of the seashore, and the long line of seaweed-strewn beaches, he bit his lip. "Círdan,...how are we ever going to help them all?"
Grunting, the Shipwright gently tossed a starfish back into the waves before bending to grasp another. "We don't." He gestured to the young elf before kneeling next to a dazed seabird, tangled in seaweed. Working far more gently than many would credit an Elf who bent wood to his will, Círdan untangled the bird and spoke quietly to the creature. Rising, bird carefully held in his hands, he walked to a dry rock, far from where the incoming tide would reach, and set it down. Waiting until the bird shook itself, fanning its wings before beginning to preen, he turned to face the boy. "You do what you can, Ereinion."
Trying to hurry, he didn't know how long a starfish could survive out of the water, but the sun was beginning to peek through the clouds, and that, he knew, would surely dry the poor creature out, Ereinion pushed dark hair behind his ears and trotted into the surf, starfish in either hand. "There are too many!" Tears filled the grey eyes as he looked to the Eldar. "They'll die!"
"Not this one." Círdan tossed another into the surf. "Or this one." He paused in his work long enough to gently grasp the small shoulders, and knelt before the child. "For those you can help you make all the difference in the world, Ereinion."
Lip trembling a bit, daunted by the thought of how many would still die, Ereinion nodded and wiped his nose on his sleeve before trotting to grasp two more starfish. "I helped this one. And this one!"
Entirely missing the Shipwright's nod and small smile of approval.
"Come, get on the boats." Ereinion took the arm of a wounded Elf, gently assisting him up the gangplank.
"Ships," Círdan growled as he passed, arms full of blankets and ...was that a stuffed toy?
Smirking at the Shipwright's back, Ereinion, formally the High King of Noldor in Middle-earth despite his youth, swept up a child who was crying and tugging on his mother's skirts. The lady in question had burns on her arms and looked so weary he could not help seeking to aid her. "There now, lad... 'Tis all right. We're going on a trip and then you'll have a warm bed to sleep in on our Island home. Won't you like that?"
He helped the lady aboard and stood a moment, stroking the child's back, soothing the shivers that wracked the small body. He recalled only too well what it was to be so small and frightened, torn away from home and family.
"What is your name, lad?"
Thumb creeping into his mouth, the small Elf slumped forward until his head was tucked under Ereinion's chin. Leaning trustingly against the large chest, he murmured, "Erestor."
Until today, the child had probably never known Elves would harm other Elves. A harsh word was most likely the worst thing that had happened to him.
The haven was mostly burnt, and blood stained the ground.
Kin-slaying yet again.
"Shh, little one." Ereinion kissed the child's head, wanting to weep at the smell of smoke and blood lingering in the dark hair. "You're safe."
So many dead. So many lost, and for what?
Sacred or not, it was a price he could not stomach.
Círdan stopped next to him, passing another armful of supplies before meeting the haunted grey eyes. Too young for such a burden as this.
Too young to have the mantle of leadership fall on such slim shoulders.
Resting a hand on the youth's shoulder, he gripped it gently, smiling at the muscle there. The youngster was growing into a fine Elf. "We do what we can, lad."
Ereinion nodded, a faint smile curving his mouth though the grey eyes were sad. He rested his cheek against the child's hair. "We made a difference to this one."
Círdan grit his teeth at the stench of burnt flesh and knelt next to the gasping Elf. Elrond was desperately trying to find one hand-span of flesh not blackened or charred, but ended up grasping his dying King's hand tightly between his own.
Grey eyes sought the silverish ones and Círdan gripped Ereinion's other hand. "You did well, lad." He was proud that his voice was steady. Proud that his hands did not shake. "Aeglos struck true."
"D..did n-not k-kill...."
"You struck a blow he'll not soon forget." Círdan grimaced as the Elven King wheezed to breathe through scorched lungs. "Ereinion...." A tear slipped from his eyes, trailing slow and hot down his cheek. "I'm proud of you."
One last smile, a flash of the boy who had stood on the beach and helped him save starfish showing in the slowly glazing grey eyes, and the fëa of Ereinion Gil-galad slipped its body.
"We will meet again, lad." Círdan patted the gloved hand and laid it to rest on the chest of the Elf who had been both friend and foster son. He met Elrond's eyes for a moment, the half-Elf weeping unashamedly, and nodded. "Elrond, see to ...him." He rose and turned, finding Glorfindel standing behind him.
The golden-haired Elf met his gaze, and in the blue depths there was compassion and sorrow that near staggered the Shipwright. "He made a difference in our lives, Círdan. I can think of no higher compliment." Reaching out, he gripped the Teler's shoulder.
Swallowing hard for a moment - Glorfindel would know the terror of being burnt whilst still alive, wouldn't he? - Círdan patted the younger Elf's arm. "Stay with Elrond, Glorfindel."
Hand over his heart, the golden Elf bowed his head, stepping aside as Círdan moved forward.
He longed for the clean air of the sea. The tang of the salt and seaweed, and the cry of the birds to wash his mind from the horrors of this blasted plain that claimed the lives of Elves and Men alike.
"When I get home," Círdan growled as he stepped over dead Orcs and pools of blood, "I shall never leave the sea again."
"You simply had to wait until the last ship, and be the last of our kind out, did you not?"
Celeborn inclined his head gracefully, silver hair streaming behind him like a banner in the winds. The gruff manner of the Shipwright only made him smile lightly. "'Tis hard to leave." His gaze lingered on the land quickly falling away, behind them. "Hard to leave one I have loved dearly all my long life."
"And yet loved ones wait for us in Aman as well." Círdan closed his eyes, lifting his head to the wind, relishing the caress of the salt spray on his face.
"Galadriel, yes." A true smile lit the Elf Lord's silver eyes. "And Celebrían."
A slim, dark-haired form moved up to stand next to him. "I cannot wait to see Naneth and Adar again!" Elrohir grinned like the youngster he had been so long ago, grey eyes alight with joy.
"Do you regret you waited this long to leave, Glorfindel?" Elladan rode the swell of the waves easily, eyes fixed ahead, where the horizon met the water. There....that was where they were going.
"No." Leaning against the railing, the golden Elf smiled. "But 'tis a relief to finally be able to put aside watching over you two." He winked at Círdan. "And Celeborn...everyone thinks he is so serene, so elegant and --"
"I have several tales I could tell of you, Glorfindel," Celeborn growled, crossing his arms and meeting the other's gaze in mock annoyance.
Continuing as if he hadn't heard, Glorfindel merrily added, "...did I mention that he is a truly magnificent shot?" A mischievous smile curved his mouth. "Unless he has had too much mead, and then he is quite the spinner of tales!"
Shaking his head, Celeborn chose to ignore the teasing, gazing ahead as if he could see those who waited for him already.
"I have waited long years for this journey." Círdan sighed, for the weight of his age had finally begun to weigh upon him in the waning decades. If not for his promise to remain until the last ship sailed....
Soon he would know.
The quay was, as expected, crowded and noisy with the happy reunions of Elves who had long awaited the arrival of their loved ones.
It was good to see Galadriel laughing. Too long had she been the somber Lady of the Golden Wood, and many years had she waited for her husband's arrival in Aman. Celeborn looked as though he had found everything he wanted as he hugged wife and daughter to him.
Snorting as Glorfindel swept Elrond up into what looked to be a near crushing hug, Círdan made sure the ship was secure before turning to leave.
He stopped, silver eyes widening as his gaze fell on the Elf standing at the foot of the plank, a jaunty grin curving his lips. One dark eyebrow rose over a grey eye as the silence lengthened. "What? No words, my cranky shipwright? Words dropped like pearls from your lips when I was a child. So much so I thought you must surely be a Valar or Maiar yourself...."
With a bark a laughter, Círdan stepped forward to throw his arms around the Elf. "Ereinion!"
Crushed against a chest he remembered so well as strong, a place for a weary and heart-sore child to rest his head, Ereinion hugged the Shipwright tightly. "It is good that you are here." He pulled away, smiling fondly, not mentioning the tears brightening the silver eyes. "Welcome to Aman, my good and faithful friend." He laughed and threw his arm over Círdan's shoulder, leading him off the ship into the crowd. "Welcome home!"
A/N: There is a well-know, well-loved story amongst those who participate in breed rescue programmes -- as well as many other programmes, no doubt. A story of a man who comes upon another man who is tossing starfish back into the ocean after a large storm has swept thousands of them upon the beach. The first man cannot understand -- it seems a hopeless task. How can they all be saved? How can the man hope to make a difference? The man's answer: "I made a difference to this one." And he tosses the starfish gently into the surf. I nicked that. *G* It just seemed quite the "Círdan'ish" thing to me. My apologies for the filching, and most sincere admiration to whomever first thought of that story. It has kept me from despair many times.
Don't know if Gil-galad would be released by then from Mandos or not, but it is my own supposition that he would be by this point. In fact all of this is just of my mind and should not be taken as absolute 'canon'. :)