Círdan came upon the cabin in late summer, when the trees were just beginning to brown and the wind was just beginning to rustle the tall, thick grasses. This close to the coast, the air maintained its midsummer humidity, but as the wind picked up and the trees swayed and Círdan's long, silver hair blew behind him, the Elf knew that autumn was slowly making its way to the Havens.
He thought it strange that he had never seen this area of the woods before. This cabin was entirely unfamiliar to him, although judging by its dilapidated exterior, it had been around for many years.
The wood that made up the small frame was turning gray with rot, and what remained of the curtains fluttered listlessly in the window frames. What was once a flower bed was now overrun with thick dandelions, and an alarmingly large snake slunk away from the worn stone steps.
Yes, the house had seen many days and nights. Círdan wondered who, if anyone, had ever lived in the cabin, and why they had left. He thought suddenly with a sick feeling that perhaps they had not ever left, and their bones still remained in the shadow of a house.
It was then that Círdan hesitated. Perhaps it were better that the house remained shrouded in mystery. Perhaps it were better if he never entered the collapsing structure. He feared that something might change or shift if he opened the door, that something irreversible would be set in motion.
He shook his head. That was nonsense. Taking a deep breath and focusing on the sunlight that lightened the clearing, he stepped closer to the cabin.
Whoever had built the house had certainly had some degree of skill, for though the house was crumbling, it's excellent craftsmanship was obvious. The ornately carved windowsills, flower boxes, and doorframe and the ruins of a stone fountain all attested to the builder's skill in the arts. The garden was a tribute to the owner's gentle nature and patience, and the stone path was evidence of the builder's practicality.
Círdan continued up the circular stone steps until he reached the decaying wooden door. The instant he placed any pressure on the door, it caved in with an explosion of dust and dirt. Light filtered through the open doorframe for perhaps the first time in years, and the smell of dirt and mildew reached Círdan's nose.
Squinting through the dimness and peering around the deserted room, Círdan took a tentative step forwards. When nothing leaped out at him or even moved, he continued further into the room, and nearly gasped at what he saw.
Instruments, beautifully carved and intricately designed, filled the entire room. A large harp in the corner by the fireplace. A fiddle and a bow on the round table in the center of the room. A flute made of bone on the small bed opposite from the fireplace, and another made of wood beside it. A mandolin lying on the floor. A half-carved fiddle beside a rusted knife, and a small handheld harp beside it. Sheet music littered the dirt floor, and a dried ink stain spread across the table, but the only music coming from the room was the wind whistling through the windows.
Whoever had lived here had lived here for a very long time.
Círdan closed his eyes and tried to imagine the room alive with music and musicians and life and happiness, but his mind could only conjure an image of a lone bard, singing lamentations in the dark.
Breathing deeply and stepping around the center table to investigate the tiny fireplace, Círdan saw that the small stone cube was built into the wall with a vent that led to the outside to keep smoke out of the living quarters. It was excellent craftsmanship, and as Círdan admired the stones he noticed that many of them had drawings carved into them. In fact, now that he looked around him, he saw that all of the walls were coated with elaborate artwork.
Squinting so as to better make out the drawings, Círdan's heart seized when he beheld perhaps the largest painting in the room, a depiction of the First Kinslaying and the burning of the Telerin ships. The entire image was painted in a deep red color that looked horrifyingly similar to blood, and Círdan averted his eyes in sorrow.
Blinking rapidly and turning back to the fireplace, his eyes landed on the harp and he plucked a string. It was hopelessly out of tune, and many of the strings were missing or frayed. Círdan ran his wrinkled hand over the wood of the harp, admiring its elegant yet simple design, and then he noticed something.
Peering closer for a better look, he realized that carved into the front of the harp was an eight pointed star, with eight rays behind it, and that the design was repeated throughout the room in various, more subtle ways.
Círdan's eyes found a small woven basket on the bed, and he was strangely drawn to it. When he picked it up from the disintegrating blanket, he noticed that it was full of yellow-brown papers all bound with an old, faded ribbon.
Settling on the bed and removing the papers from the basket, he gently removed the ribbon and blew dust and dirt off of the papers.
The first page read, in fine, neat Quenyan script:
I am writing with my right hand
For a brother who never had the chance,
I am singing songs and ballads
For a mother who loved to dance.
I am lifting my voice in lament
For a father who rebelled and died,
I am bleeding from my heart
For the brothers always beside.
I am screaming alone in the night
For my brother of anger and dark
I am shivering in naked remorse
For the blood that left its mark.
As the poem progressed, the handwriting slowly disintegrated until Círdan could hardly read the last line, or anything after it. He imagined that he could see tear stains on the old paper, and traced a finger over the scrawling print near the bottom.
'A father who rebelled and died,' Círdan murmured to himself, and set the paper aside so that he could read the next poem. This one was written in a much more emotional script, slanting and hastily written in passion, and Círdan knew he was not mistaking the tear stains on the page this time.
I know that they are
With bloodstained hands and dripping swords
And harsh weapon fire severing families and
Loved ones lost forever to dark
And screaming echoing in the halls-
But dreams of guilt and blackening sin
Will never erase what they have done
Then I realize with horror and growing pain
That I am one of them.
I know now that we are
With aching hearts and twisting guts
And cruel hatred gnawing away at love and
Always so hateful and hateful
And screaming in the dead of night-
But tears dripping from bloodshot eyes
Will only cleanse the dirt they land in
And I realize with a gasp and staggering knees
That I am one of them.
With a deep and shaky breath to steady himself, Círdan turned to the next poem with a trembling hand. The poem had obviously been reference to the Kinslayings, and he did not wish to dwell on the topic any longer.
But evidently the author did, for the next poem was about the Third Kinslaying. It's blunt beginning left Círdan reeling as he read.
Life blood wrenched from Dior's neck
Celegorm's body a mangled wreck
Caranthir gasping for painful breath
Curufin begging for blessèd death
Elurèd and Elurín lost to the cold
Maedhros refused to be consoled
Long he searched, and all for naught
When he returned, with cold he was wrought
Here the writing was scratched out and a new poem began beneath it.
When Maedhros abandoned the search in vain
To the door he stumbled, face twisted in pain
His fair face marred with scars of death-
From Thangorodrim, evil torture's breath-
Now pale with fever, drenched in sweat
I dropped my harp and wrung the wet
Scarlet hair from his shivering skin
And wept for the mess that we were in
As for our brothers, nothing left to bury
No time to mourn, no casket to carry
All that remained was an empty song
I could not sing- it all seemed wrong
No one left to hear my voice
Except Maedhros, who had no choice
For singing soothed his blackest dreams
And quieted his loudest screams
But once, in the dead of night
He spoke with voice so full of fright-
'The darkness here is now so dim
Compared to black Thangorodrim-
Here he choked, tried to remain
The stoic eldest, and forget the fain
Laughter of the Darkest lord
But now he crumbled- now broke the cord.
I watched him snap in fragments of glass
I felt his heart turn hard and crass
Gone was the brother I always knew
Here was a Kinslayer- and now I rue
The day that seven sons were born
Into the world and always torn
Between the Oath and what is right
Our hearts turned blacker than the night.
Lightning lit up the sky and thunder crashed, shaking the foundations of the small house and causing Círdan to flinch violently. A glance out the open window revealed that the sky had turned dark gray, almost black, and lightning hovered ominously on the horizon.
It seemed that autumn would be arriving sooner than expected.
Círdan set down the papers and stood with a grunt before deciding that this building would be a sufficient shelter to last the storm, with a few modifications. He heaved the door back onto its hinges and collected wood from outside to board up the windows to the best of his ability and to start a small fire, as the air was chilling rapidly.
Kneeling by the firepit and pushing ashes out of the way, Círdan noticed that there were several scraps of paper hiding in the ashes. His mind conjured an image of a weeping minstrel, casting aside his harp and sweeping music and ink off of the table before burning his insufficient works in the flame that had consumed his family.
Círdan sighed in pity for the owner of the home, and ignored the slight tremble in his fingers as he propped up the wood and retrieved his flint from the pouch that he always kept with him.
Once the fire was crackling warmly, he turned to the issue of the windows, and decided that the best course of action was to pack as much solid wood as possible into the window and then secure it with rope. He longed for his nails, and hammer, and tar. His lack of supplies was frustrating him, but he was clever and resourceful, and he felt confident that when he was finished, only a minimum of rain would be able to enter the shelter.
These preparations complete, Círdan settled back onto the bed and shuffled through the papers for the next poem. This one had scratch marks gouged across it, but Círdan could make it out regardless. It was titled 'Red-Haired One'.
This song is for the forgotten one
Who burned on white Telerin ships
And screamed though none could hear him
And cried and sobbed in fear
Father did not care
He was your son
Red haired one
'Ambarussa,' Círdan breathed, before turning to the next poem just as the rain began to pour. It slapped upon the roof and the wind beat against the foundation. The trees began to howl mournfully and the grasses beat upon the wet ground.
If you happen to disappear off the face of the earth
If your soul leaves me in desolation
If you steal all that I am
Here the poem ended abruptly. Lightning struck nearby and the house shook violently once again. Círdan felt the earth shifting and preparing for change in the new season. Soon the garden would be ready to harvest the pumpkins and the squash and the beans and the corn, and soon the Earth would be alive with workers preparing for the coming winter. Fires would crackle warmly in cozy stone hearths while glistening snow whirled outside, and large families would enjoy each others' company while sipping hot tea by a glowing Yuletide tree.
But this house would remain alone, as it always had.
This house would stand tall against the rain and storm and snow and the foundation would shiver in the ice, and the musical instruments would continue to decay in the cold and wet, until one horrible night, it would collapse, and all of its memory would be lost to the snow, just like its owner.
Círdan felt uneasy. He felt that to let these instruments rot would be a waste, regardless of the fact that nearly half of them were entirely unplayable. But still... he felt a strange attachment to them. He felt as though one day, if the right minstrel appeared, that these instruments and this house could sing once more.
The door opened, or rather fell open. Wind whistled through the open door and tiny droplets sprinkled the room. Without even having to look up, Círdan knew that a shadow of a figure stood there, dripping with rain and shivering from cold.
'So,' the hoarse voice rasped, 'I see you have found my old home.