The Grey Havens were buzzing with talk, even more than usual. Such a thing was unheard-of before; namely, the Shipwright was leaving the havens, for no more than a desire to find his daughter. His people, who had seen him sit steadily in his house and work in his shipyards as if nothing had happened when dragon-fire lit the skies, who refused to flee when armed might of Morgoth marched from the north, were as surprised by this as if Cirdan had expressed a wish to drink the ocean dry.
However, he would not be detained, nor would he take anyone with him. He would bear no weapon save a knife, and take as food the lembas of the Elves. Curudol, his counsellor, was very troubled by this.
“Lord, this is madness. The Orcs will come upon you in the Wild. Will you not even take a guard?”
“I will not drag anyone into this with me. It is personal.”
“My Lord, none of us wishes to intrude into your private affairs, but safety…”
“I am well able to protect myself, Curudol. I was one of the First of Elves, and learned of weaponry from Orome himself. You need not trouble about that.”
Curudol, unhappy about the whole situation in general, but finding no option, left with a stiff bow.
Word spread quickly in the House, and soon everyone knew. Many, indeed, thought that Cirdan did right, while others questioned his sanity. But nothing they said could change the stark, bare fact: Cirdan was going.
He went without much fuss. Slinging his saddlebag full of lembas over his grey horse, he quietly slipped into the twilight, headed east, following their trail. Most, indeed, would not have called it a trail, as it was so faint that even elves could not without difficulty detect it. But Cirdan was as the Elves of old, skilled in woodcraft, and also the earth was aware of their passing, and spoke of them. And so it was that Cirdan slowly but surely tracked them.
“Will we camp here tonight?” Ithilwen inquired. “Elorne says he is tired.” She put extra stress on Elorne, as if to clarify that it was Elorne, and Elorne alone who was tired.
“I do not know,” said Aramel. “Ask Feawen. She is in charge.”
In truth, Feawen was no such thing. Letting Tarolore take the lead, she walked without looking, her mind pondering the many things that had happened. And so she was startled by a voice from somewhere around her elbow.
“Are we staying here tonight?”
Feawen looked down at a golden head, then around at the grassy sward they were on. “Why not? Tarolore!”
“Shall we stop for the night?”
Tarolore looked around mistrustingly, then made a gesture of indifference. “If you like. This is as good a place as any.”
“Fine!” Feawen sat down on the springy grass with a sigh. “What say you to some lembas?”
“Just looking at the trees of this beautiful sward is enough food for me. Also, I can find something to eat. Save the lembas for dire needs.”
“Oh, certainly. I elda máta alda. Can you imagine that?” Aramel muttered in the high-elven tongue.
Tarolore glared at her, but mercifully didn’t say anything.
The soothing music of the running brook that would later grow to be the river Withywindle added to the calm of the dusk, as the nightingales sang their dusk chorus. In the moment when the last light faded from the west, all seemed still in a long instant of equilibrium. Then the world resumed its pace.
Beside the roaring fire, Tarolore deposited his berries. They were the fruit that the Eldar called carneyáve, wild and sweet, but difficult to find, but they made as good a meal as any. When Ithil rose shining above the trees, the fire was quenched to embers as the party settled down for the night.
A few weeks ago, Feawen might have thought the ground hard, but now she hardly noticed it, and without any ado, dropped into the olore malle.
Cirdan ghosted silently through the forest, leading his horse by the bridle. He had read the signs carefully, and was certainly nearing his goal. As he stepped close to the brown, warm waters of the Withywindle, he felt the power of beings far older than he, beings that existed in the very Spring of Arda, before the Marring came. He had nought to fear from them, or so he thought, yet their presence was felt, as an ominous hum in the otherwise silent forest. It made him nervous.
Suddenly, a gale blew from the north, making the trees bend and creak like living things. Cirdan resisted the urge to cringe. Whatever this was, it was most certainly not normal!