The Passing of Fire
Cirdan looked down at the coils of smooth, wet rope that lay across his graceful hands. He wrapped them slowly around the mooring, knotting it fast. Beside him, the ship lifted and fell with the breath of the sea, the waves bringing the beating of their ebbing, flowing heart to his. The wind stirred his hair like a lover, gentle and rich with the scent of salt, windswept trees, fresh rain coming. Deep and piercing, unfathomable silver-grey as the sea itself when the moonlight lingers upon the waves in the quiet hours before dawn, his eyes turned first to the crystal honeycomb shreds of foam whispering their sweet songs across the sands. Above him, one yet waited. It had been hours, perhaps. Hours now, since they had first arrived, these servants, these helpers of spirit clad in forms of aged men. This was his home, his world, his heart. He, who it was said could see further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth knew they had been coming. He had welcomed them, seen to their comforts and set them upon their way. All but one.
Their hearts he knew also. All were great, all were powerful and all were called to aid in the downfall of that darkness, that canker that now dwealt in the shadows of this land. The heart of the brown-clad one had lain before him, brown and green and golden as an oaken leaf, filled with the wonder of creation and its creatures. The blue-clad ones, with their hearts drawn to the mysteries of the lands beyond the shadow, to finding some reaches yet untouched. And he who was all in shining white, Curunír. The strongest and wisest he had seemed, the leader of them all. Dark was his head, bright were his eyes also but with the brightness of polished stone in torchlight. The sun and moon did not shine from this heart as it ought to, reflect it though he might. Cirdan looked upon those eyes, watched his lover the sea-wind tousel that dark hair only for a long-fingered hand to come up at once to smooth it down again. Looking deeper he found strength within this one, yes, but also pride. As a fortified tower of great beauty lifting itself above the lands was the heart of Curunír, but also as hollow and one day, as cold. Not in this time, no, but it was to come. Cirdan's own heart sorrowed to see it.
As to his own heart, it remained strong, strong as the sea is strong with a strength that was not entirely his own. Strong with a fire and warmth, sunlight upon the waters, firelight beside the waves. He knew what was needed, he knew the gift that needed to be bestowed. A gift, a tool, a blessing. And so he had waited these many hours until the others were well gone. Waited until the wind and the sea had washed away all traces of them, until the land no longer bent beneath their passing footfalls. And one yet waited above him, silently sitting upon the stone ledge of the wharf, watching him with eyes as gentle and blue as a summer's afternoon, clad in soft grey, grey as spring tides, stone reflected in tidal pools, clouds in the early sunrise.
Cirdan turned his own eyes to those that waited, seeing far and deep, and knew whence this one had truly come and whither he would return. He had no stature or beauty that called for any man to follow him, and yet so great was his heart and so willing and earnest was he to see his dark and fearsome task to its end, as end it must in the dim blackness of the years to come. Meekness he saw there - strength controlled and willfully humbled. And love. There was love there, a love not only for the creation of the world but for those who dwealt within it, those who would be born and live and die underneath the shadow of this mortal world. Such a terrible burden to carry, weary and long and yet… this was the one who would see it through.
He touched that which had been entrusted to his care, gave it a farewell caress and drew it off of his hand.
Cirdan mounted up the slope, met this one, Olórin, he who would bear the name of Mithrandir among Cirdan's kindred in this land of Middle-earth. He had spoken with him earlier, but only now was he sure that they were alone. Olórin rose to his feet and their eyes met, the breeze swirling between them. Cirdan held out a hand, closed upon the treasure that he had carried and hidden for so long. Olórin's hand met his with understanding and took that treasure from it, gently, so gently.
"Take this ring," Cirdan said. "for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself." Long will the years be, long will you labour…
He watched as this other hand that was not his own caressed the warmth of the familiar red gem, red as roses in summer, red as comforting fire on a cold winter's night and set it upon his own finger.
"For this is the Ring of Fire," Cirdan continued, "and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill."
"I know," came Olórin's voice soft yet firm. "And yet I wonder greatly that you entrust me thus with it, that you give it into my keeping. Yes, it is a great trust, one that I pray I will be able to hold."
The years will be many, thought Cirdan, the sun and moon turning and dancing upon the waves, and the unchanging sea will not remember their passing. Above him the seabirds wheeled and called to one another. He felt Narya leaving his heart, the intimacy of its warmth subtley drawn away, but it weakened him not, not as he had feared it might. His strength was of another sort, for another purpose had he found his way. Narya had been entrusted to him as a child to a father, and now it was time for him to release her to her greater work.
He turned his head to gaze once more upon the ship that lay moored and waiting. Wood he had curing, to be shaped under his hands until their sleek wings lifted over the waves beside her, a sister ship. Many sisters to yet beget from the sweet-scented forest above him, a gift from the land to the sea.
"As for me, my heart is with the Sea, and I will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails. I will await you."