Disclaimer: All characters, all locations, all the genius: It belongs to Tolkien!
Author’s Note: This very short story was written for the birthday of a friend over at livejournal – it has gone down quite well at ff.net, so I thought I would share it with you all here!
Inspiration struck as I was in a plane over the Pyrenees – not that mountains have anything whatsoever to do with this piece, but I thought it was an interesting aside…
“Ereinion!” A panic-stricken voice sounded in the air, frightening a nearby flock of gulls into flight. It was quickly followed by a wordless groan of exasperation.
“Ereinion, I am warning you; if you are playing in the boats again…” A second voice rang out, with more than a hint of intimidating impatience underlying each word.
“I rather think, Lord Círdan, that we might have better luck finding the little princeling if you could keep that murderous threat out of your voice.” The first speaker seemed somewhat fraught as he contemplated informing the High King that his son had disappeared less than a month after his arrival at the havens. He pushed through the rushes, cursing mildly as, yet again, his foot sank into the soft mud at the waterside.
“And I think, Lord Erestor,” came the caustic reply, “that we might not have been in this situation were it not for your inability to keep one small Elfling in your sights for more than half an hour!”
Erestor snorted. “Evidently, Lord Círdan, it is too early in your acquaintance with the High King’s son for you to fully appreciate his independent personality.”
“I note that the High King did not mention that particular characteristic when he requested that young Ereinion come here,” remarked Círdan as he scanned the docks of Sirion. “Independent personality, indeed.”
“There can be no doubt that Ereinion is his father’s son in that respect,” murmured Erestor, as he came to stand beside Círdan at the entrance to Sirion’s harbours. He tried to quell the panic that rose within him as he looked at the many small boats moored at the dockside.
“I tell you, Erestor, if he is playing in the boats again…” Círdan forced himself to stop and take a deep breath. In one way, he was gratified by the Elfling’s fascination with boats and fully intended to teach him a great deal about seafaring in the future; preferably the distant future. Currently, however, the prince’s interest was coupled with a complete lack of anything resembling common sense. It was a source of some distress to the Shipwright that Ereinion had already managed to entangle himself in a furled sail on two separate occasions. He had also come precariously close to toppling into the bay, when a captain, unaware of the presence of a small royal passenger on his boat, had tacked sharply to avoid collision. After such incidences, Ereinion was the very picture of remorse but there was always a distinct gleam of mischief in his eyes, even as he apologised. Somehow, he had always managed to avoid being physically punished although Círdan privately thought that a sound thrashing would do the child a world of good.
“Erestor, you search the north dock while I take the south dock,” ordered the Shipwright as he wondered what hideous mess might certainly await him.
“Certainly,” Erestor strode off quickly before stopping dead as Círdan called after him. “And Erestor?”
“You had better hope that you find him before I do, or else you will face the unpleasant prospect of explaining to the High King exactly why his only son and heir is unable to sit down for a month.”
There was a note of amusement in Círdan’s voice but, nevertheless, Erestor felt a sudden chill at the thought of conveying such news to Fingon. He hurried away, hearing the Shipwright’s laughter behind him.
Círdan sighed as he made his way towards the southern dock. All humorous thoughts deserted him as he peered into the first boat. In truth, it would take more than Erestor’s famed diplomatic skills should something more serious befall the High King’s son. His heart sank as he searched seven consecutive boats. It occurred to him that the Elfling could be in any number of ships currently at sea. He had spoken with his captains to warn them of Ereinion’s propensity to explore any vessel within clambering distance but there was every chance that a small Elfling could go unobserved in the corner of a boat in the clamour of departure.
Círdan was on the verge of accepting that Ereinion had embarked on a lengthy sea voyage when he let out a small cry of relief. Curled up in the corner of the furthest boat was a rather familiar shape. The Shipwright stepped lightly onto the deck, scarcely rocking the boat as he did so, and moved carefully towards the slumbering figure.
Ereinion’s thumb was in his mouth and his hair half-covered his face. He was the very image of serenity as his dark eyelashes fluttered slightly and a gentle stream of nonsensical dream-speech flowed from his mouth. Before Círdan knew what he was doing, he had reached down and brushed the prince’s black locks off his face. The child sighed and a small crease of consternation appeared on his forehead. Círdan picked him up gently and made his way back onto the immobile dock. He glanced down at the sleeping Elfling, who stirred slightly and an unexpected wave of tenderness swept over the Shipwright, as a small hand grasped at the front of his robes. Carefully manoeuvring the child to a more comfortable position, Círdan walked back down the dock, softly humming a lullaby that rose and fell like the waves of the sea.
As he neared the entrance to the docks, Círdan glanced up from Ereinion’s face and found himself looking straight at Erestor who was failing miserably to conceal a gleeful expression. Erestor opened his mouth to pass some comment as the silver-haired Shipwright swept past him. One glimpse at Círdan’s face was enough to dissuade the Noldorin lord from saying anything, but he could not prevent a chuckle escaping his lips as Círdan’s words floated back to him.
“Not a word, Erestor; not a word.”