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Ships in the Harbour by Himring

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Story Notes:

I originally began this story for "Sorry, Celebrimbor" month, Huinare's challenge on LiveJournal, which asked for a story featuring Celebrimbor that did not involve him in heavy angst and major trauma and, if possible, even allowed him some measure of happiness.

I've taken the SWG's "Behind the Scenes" challenge as a prompt to continue this stalled WIP. For the purposes of the current SWG challenge, what is taken to be "behind the scenes" is what happened in Dor-lomin during the War of Wrath, when the Host of the Valar made war on Morgoth. Some of these events are narrated in a section of the story that previously only existed in outline and that I have now written out for the SWG challenge.

There is a second chapter planned and already partly written.




Celebrimbor spotted the young man on the harbour front, perched on a boulder all by himself, at some distance from the bustling quays. He sat watching silently, doing nothing, while all that noisy activity on the water was going on, amid occasional shouting: large ocean-going ships being built, small coastal vessels arriving and leaving, people in boats scurrying to and fro... Celebrimbor was in the thick of it, the skills of a smith constantly being called upon, but gradually that lonely figure set apart called to him, as if he recognized something vaguely familiar. He extricated himself and made his way over to him, carefully, across the rocks.

The man was no elf, certainly, but one of the Edain—not one of the House of Hador, though, going by the colour of his hair. Maybe he was one of the survivors of the House of Haleth—or of the House of Beor? Celebrimbor knew rather more of Men now than he once had when he dwelt in Himlad and Nargothrond, but he had made no study of the Houses or bloodlines of the Edain. It was hardly his field; he had focused more on gleaning what might be useful of their crafts. Besides, those distinctions seemed more or less irrelevant now that everyone who had made it out of Beleriand alive intermingled willy-nilly in Lindon. Even before Beleriand had sunk, he believed, the Houses had interbred.

The young man raised his head and turned, acknowledging Celebrimbor's approach and allowing him to get a better look.

‘I'm half Easterling,’ the young man said instead of any kind of greeting.

Ah, thought Celebrimbor, with interest, that explains it. It explained some of the physical features he hadn't been able to place, entirely, something about the stature, the complexion, the shape of the eyes. But it also explained something else. He understood perfectly well the spirit in which the information was being offered.

‘Is that so?’ he answered, placidly. ‘Pleased to meet you. I'm half Feanorian.’

The young man looked at him fixedly for a moment. Then he came to a decision and moved aside on his boulder, making room for another person to sit. Celebrimbor accepted the silent invitation.

He asked no questions. He sensed that here were words long held back and wanting to spill out. So he simply waited, allowing them to emerge.

The young man returned his gaze to the bustle on the quays and on the water.

And eventually he spoke: ‘You will have heard what they say: that in the War of Wrath that is past the Edain of the Three Houses fought on the side of the Valar, all that survived, and the Easterlings fought for Morgoth. And that may seem true to many, for certainly, those Edain who had fled south and west to the coast flocked to Eonwe's banner when he landed, and the Easterlings Morgoth summoned from beyond the Ered Luin marched with the forces of Angband.

But in Dor-lomin, at the time when Glorwendil and the others rose up and threw off the yoke of the Enemy and joined themselves to the Eldar of Aman, matters were less clear-cut, for there were in that land, by that time, many of mixed blood. And so it came that there sometimes matters were almost turned on their head: often those were termed Easterling who chose to be loyal to Morgoth and those Hadorian who backed the uprising, and yet sometimes the latter might have more Easterling blood and bear the mark of their descent on their bodies.

When it came to picking sides, for my mother the choice was easy. Her Easterling father had forced himself on her mother and she had never been treated as other than a lowly thrall. So when Glorwendil sent out her call to arms, my mother took up her grandfather's ancient sword, from out of its hiding-place in the bedstraw, and followed the rebels without looking back.

But to my father the choice came hard. His father had wedded his mother, who was herself of mixed blood, and he had acknowledged him as son and heir. There had been a manner of love between them, at least, between husband and wife and between father and son. When my father walked away from that, he walked away from his whole upbringing. And yet he too chose allegiance to the Valar and freedom for his people and turned against Morgoth.

Many died in that uprising. Some were killed by those who had oppressed them cruelly all their lives, but others by those they had called friends only the day before. The memory of that kinstrife weighed bitterly on the survivors. And when at last the Edain of Dor-lomin were free to join the forces of the West, once again Edain died before the walls of Angband, and fell battling Easterlings, fled from Dor-lomin or new-come over the mountains, as the case might be.’

The young man sighed and continued, with visible reluctance: ‘Perhaps it is not surprising that, among those who lived to see victory and the fall of Thangorodrim, there were those who loathed being any part Easterling or who were bitterly ashamed. Then many who had black hair or were shorter of stature chose to claim that they were descended from the House of Beor. And indeed there were—and are—Edain who descend from Beorian refugees and a man or woman might even descend from both, Beorian and Easterling or, more rarely, have an ancestor of the House of Haleth. But not as many—not all of Dor-lomin that now call themselves Beorian, looking the others firmly in the eye and daring them to question their claim.

And maybe I, too, might be content to pass as Beorian, if I easily could. But as you see, I look the Easterling more than most.’

He deliberately turned back to Celebrimbor, permitting him to study his face more closely.

‘It is the shape of my eyes that betrays me, I guess, and makes others regard me askance, and the sallowness of my skin,’ he said. ‘Yet even if I could plausibly deny my Easterling descent, it would seem disloyal to me, disloyal to my father and his past, although my father himself has encouraged me to forget it...

And now here’—he pointed across the water at the tall ships being made ready for their maiden voyage—‘comes the promise, the offer of the Land of Gift that the Valar have made to those of Men who have fought on their side against Morgoth, but they have offered it only to Edain. And perhaps Eonwe has not thought on it, perhaps he does not outright demand it, but it is my fellow Edain who will insist: no wavering will be permitted, any who set foot on those ships being built in the harbour must deny their Easterling blood or they will not enter Numenor.

My parents struggled so hard to win free of Morgoth, to escape from the ruin of Beleriand, to provide for their only child among the flotsam when we washed up here in Lindon. Now they are old for the journey, but they want the best for me, they want Numenor, even if it should mean leaving them behind...

I do not want Numenor at that price, Master Elf. I am not sure which is worse, leaving my parents or abandoning their stories, the past that made them who they are, that makes me who I am. But what else is there, for me? I am Easterling, but I do not wish to go east and join the tribes. What would we have in common? They fought on Morgoth's side!’

‘You could stay here,’ said Celebrimbor, slowly.

‘Here?’ asked the young man. His voice rose, incredulously. ‘Here?’

‘There is room here to build,’ said Celebrimbor. ‘Now that Morgoth is gone—maybe even room to found a realm where it does not matter so much whether we are Edain or Easterlings, Dwarves or Elves or even Feanorians...’

‘When everyone is leaving?’ asked the young man. ‘Soon Elros will embark and all three Houses with him—even the Druedain are going! And are not the Eldar leaving too, both the Noldor and the Sindar? I have seen you working on those ships, you seemed as eager as any mariner! You suggest I should stay and yet you yourself are leaving, are you not?’

‘I am staying’, said Celebrimbor, and as he heard himself say it, he knew it to be true, although he had believed it to be otherwise. Only at the back of his mind there had been a niggling doubt, subtle but persistent, and now it was out in the open.

‘I'm staying here, in Middle-earth,’ he said.

And, in the surprise of that discovery, he reached for the young half-Easterling's hand.




Chapter End Notes:

Glorwendil, who was among the leaders of the rebellion in Dor-lomin, is an OFC of mine. She is descended from Aerin's mother's family and has previously been mentioned in "Three by the Door".




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