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
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."