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Stirring Rings
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The Voyage

Several of those who lived upon Eressëa brought gifts of food and other needed goods to the one who came to claim the skiff left in the havens of Avallonë, as well as skins necessary to catch rainwater for drinking and to provide protection while he must sleep. A device for distilling pure water from seawater was given him, and he was taught its purpose and usage. Some of the Teleri taught him how to handle the small craft, and how to tie the rudder that the skiff keep as true as possible to its course while he must be busy about other tasks or resting. A sextant was given into his hands, and an astrolabe, then a compass, and he was taught the use of each. A few books and scrolls were given him, some written before open communication and travel between the two great continents was discontinued and others by more recent refugees, to offer him what knowledge he might garner of what had been known of the lands and peoples of the coastal regions; and certain charts and maps were also given him that had been drawn by those newest come to the island.

Curumo resented every minute that must be spent in receiving instruction, for in his mind he felt he ought to be already in Endorë and offering instruction in his own right. However, aware of how little he knew of handling boats and sailing upon the sea and that he’d not yet mastered the skill of drawing on the power and memories held in his staff, he realized that without this aid freely given he would likely fail to make it to his destination. So he held his temper and impatience in check and listened and watched closely, and was at last judged by the harbor master ready to set sail.

Several came to help launch the skiff, and among the last gifts given him was a great hat. The elleth who presented it explained, “You will need a mark of distinction there in the Mortal Lands, my lord, as well as protection for your skin as you travel beneath the sun. This will offer both.”

He looked on it with disfavor, for it appeared to him with its wide brim and tall pointed crown ridiculous and ponderous, but he accepted it, resolving to throw it out when he was well out to Sea that he not openly offend her. Instead he thanked her, although it was obvious to all who heard him that his thanks were grudging in nature, and he stowed it in the small sheltered storage space provided.

Last minute advice was given him, but it was now plain to be seen that he was too eager to be off at last to wait and listen. Finally those there to see him off helped to see the skiff set loose upon the waves, and soon boat and Istar were far out upon the water, approaching the harbor mouth.

“Did he listen when you explained about the fishing line and landing net?” the elleth who’d provided the hat asked of her husband.

He shook his head. “Barely if at all,” he answered her. “I believe, however, that the voyage shall teach him somewhat of patience.”

“So it is to be hoped,” she responded. “Then let us be off to our home, for our daughter awaits us.” They and others turned away and quitted the harbor before the one they’d sought to teach was quite out of sight.


He thought he would go mad during the voyage. As accustomed as he was to being amongst his fellows and those Elves associated with Aulë, Curumo had no idea how to be alone. There was none by him to marvel at his skill or cleverness or power, none to pay attention to his brilliance, none to report his wisdom and insights to others.

Then there was the simple fact that he had little skill as yet in dealing with the needs of what appeared to be the body of an elderly Man. On cooler nights his joints would stiffen, while during the clear days he would suffer under the light of the sun, his skin blistering with sunburn, his lips and the skin of his hands drying and cracking from exposure to wind and weather and from the handling of lines and sheets. And the indignity of relieving himself he found almost beyond endurance.

He realized he had not brought enough in the way of food and drink to get him all the way to Middle Earth, and vaguely remembered one of the Teleri trying to teach him how to bait a hook and catch fish; but on examining the line and hook provided to him he found he had little memory of what had been told him.

He heard the laughter of Ossë as he sat, line wrapped about his right foot, frustration filling him. And what is this, brother Curumo? Ulmo’s vassal asked. What do you here?

Curumo glared at the Maia of the Sea. “I go to Endorë on Manwë’s business, and so was given this shape that I not overawe the inhabitants of the Mortal Lands. And what are you doing here, brother Ossë?” he demanded. “What are you doing on this side of the Straight Path? I thought you had nothing to do with the waters surrounding Aman.”

My Lord Ulmo asked me to come and bear you company and aid you as I might. After all, you will soon enough enter the Straight Path.

The Istar felt relief at that. “Then how long will it be once I reach the other side?”

He felt Ossë’s equivalent to a shrug. It will be however long you make of it, brother, but should be no more than a week or two at best. Why do you sit with fishing line caught about your foot?

Curumo straightened. “It appears the line and I are at odds as to how it is intended to be used. The end with the hook is intended to be dropped into the water, is it not?”

Once it is baited, yes, agreed the Maia. What have you to serve as bait?

The Istar felt his face flush and then pale as he realized he’d eaten the small fish he’d been advised to use when fishing for larger ones fit to eat. “I don’t appear to have anything at this time appropriate to use as bait,” he admitted.

Well, once you have managed to catch a few you should retain some of the flesh to use as bait for the rest, he was advised. However, I can offer you some aid….

Ossë sank beneath the waves, and a few moments later a number of fish leapt out of the water and into Curumo’s boat. The Maia rose again, obviously satisfied with himself. There, he indicated, now you need only club them, clean and scale them and either cook them or allow the flesh to dry in the sunlight. Do you have a small oil stove aboard?

It was galling to admit he hadn’t as yet figured out how to use this device and to be forced to accept instruction from his brother. Once they’d found the Straight Path and finally entered terrestrial waters it became somewhat better, for Uinen, Ossë’s wife, appeared better suited to advising Curumo without offering offense along with the teaching.

One evening the Istar and the two Maiar sat together in the darkening twilight, for once the three of them companionable in their conversation. In the far distance was a smudge against the horizon Ossë assured his brother was land, and that he ought to reach the Havens of Mithlond late the following day. Considering how his life would change once he made landfall, Curumo began to ask what Ossë and Uinen knew of those he would now encounter.

Círdan’s folk are well enough, admitted Ossë grudgingly. They are respectful of the Sea and its might, and toward Uinen and myself. They call mostly upon Lord Ulmo himself, however. The sailors among Men, on the other hand, tend to seek to placate us and call upon us more than the Lord of Waters. They are bold enough—I’ll give them that.

Tell me, brother,
he continued, what is it that you are to do among the peoples of Middle Earth?

“I am to teach them to stand against Sauron.”

A most reasonable task, agreed Uinen. Will you do this labor alone?

“No, others are also to be sent, each in his own time, each to serve as we see fit.”

They do not trust you to do this alone? Ossë asked.

Curumo’s face paled somewhat. Uinen responded to her husband’s slight, I suspect it is more that no one individual can be expected to be everywhere at once, and so the duty is to be shared. After all, Sauron’s forces are scattered over much of Middle Earth; should not those opposing him also be prepared in many places?

Ossë agreed, if somewhat reluctantly. Only if all will agree to face him together will Sauron be brought down in the end, or so I suspect; but you will find this will not be easily brought to reality. Men, Elves, and Dwarves fail to trust one another; and all too often do not even easily trust those of their own kind. As was true of Morgoth, Sauron has learned how to play upon this distrust of one for all others to keep all from cooperation. Curumo realized the Maia of the Sea was becoming restless. Ever does Sauron seek to sow discord and discontent, even as did his Master for so long.

“Morgoth even sought to suborn you, did he not?” Curumo asked. “Yet you turned from him and repented having considered the temptation. What blandishments did he seek to use to draw you from your fealty to Ulmo and the rest of the Valar?”

Ossë became very stern. At last he admitted, He played upon my love of wind and Sea and their interplay. Left to myself, I would see storms upon the Sea ever, but my Lord Ulmo has forbidden it, as he has indicated it is not particularly restful, and it stops many of his creatures from knowing pleasure on the surface of the waters. Plus such gives distress to the Children of Ilúvatar, who are, after all, very fragile and likely to suffer harm if the storms come too often or catch their crafts unawares. Also, as he has since pointed out, storms are not well appreciated for the good they can do if they come too often.

The Maia straightened somewhat and continued. He offered me also power, and Lord Ulmo’s place. He shook his head. And what good would that do? I love many of the beasts of the deeps, but I cannot command their love, nor would I wish to do so. To receive respect only out of fear is an empty honor, for fear destroys the respect offered; and love cannot be commanded at all.

“Yet you thought to accept the offer Melkor made you.”

Oh, I considered it, and almost I fell to his logic; but I felt there was a trap in his words, and went far out from the shore and the paths of sailors and away from my lord’s other servants to see if I could find it out. It was there that my beloved Uinen found me at the last, and sought to reason with me. She asked me to consider those who had already chosen to follow Morgoth and their condition, and to consider if the power they now could wield was fulfilling.

For a time he went still, and all became becalmed about the small skiff on which Curumo sat. When at last he spoke again his voice was perceived not in the harmony of the winds and waves that he’d used before, but a single note, as plaintive as the call of a seabird. None of those who’d followed Melkor was truly honored—feared, yes, but not honored. Fear I can deal with, and at times I find the fear shown me by those whose ships I drive before my winds and waves exciting—I freely admit this. But the fear that the Children of Ilúvatar hold for the creatures of the Black Enemy is tinged with hatred and resentment. Pure fear I can deal with, as I have said, but not hatred, for that which is hated and resented will be destroyed in the end. And when Uinen asked me to come before my lord and beg pardon, I tell you I went freely. I was not compelled or threatened, and the forgiveness given me for having considered Melkor’s offer was without the taint of blame.

Again Curumo sensed Ossë was becoming restless. “I thank you for telling me this,” he said. “It is much to think on.”

If you can keep my words before you, they will aid you greatly, I think. Remember, Morgoth sought to offer power that, in the end, he could not truly give, for he was not and is not the Creator. Sauron is likely to do much the same; but being of the same order as we are, is even further away from control of what he purports to have authority to distribute than even Morgoth was.

Think also on this, brother—those among us who followed Morgoth have lost all save the weapons of fear, for they have been all either destroyed or frozen into the shapes of terror he taught them to assume. None love them or ever will. None honor them save those in whom no honor lies. And I have learned that the honor offered by those who have no honor in them is less than hollow.

Also, when they gave over the last of their loyalty to the Valar and the Creator and accepted the Black One’s shapes, they lost their hold on their own nature as Maiar. You have already begun to forget what it is like to ride upon the Creator’s Breath, and to dance as part of the Light of Anar and Isil and the Stars, I suspect. Oh, Manwë has sought to preserve those memories for you there within your staff that you might refresh yourself with them from time to time, and so that you may more easily accept back your true nature once your commission is completed. But the shape assumed serves to limit the working of the mind. Those who have accepted the shapes of Balrogs and werewolves and such can no longer even remember how they began.

I will go now, for I would raise a tempest upon the Sea, but not here where it would endanger your craft and the form you have taken. Lord Ulmo would not thank me should I drown this form and you would have to return to Aman to take another.
And with a releasing breath of wind that almost swamped the small craft, Ossë left his consort and Curumo, heading far to the south and east.

Quickly Uinen calmed the restless waves that rocked the skiff, looking after her husband. He resents the restlessness and envy planted in his center by the words of the Betrayer, and finds he must often fight against them. You will find that such utterances, once listened to seriously, are seductive and must be repeatedly thrust from one. However, he has had much practice in doing so during the last few Ages of Middle Earth, and will not fall to them.

Uinen stayed by him that last night and much of the next day, and at last coaxed a breeze from her consort to carry Curumo’s craft through the opening into the firth of Lhun and to the harbor of Mithlond.

The Elves of Círdan’s city watched the arrival of the small silver craft with wonder, and saluted him as the wind pushed his skiff to the quays. There others waited to greet him, tossing lines to him to allow the boat to be pulled into a berth, then assisting him when at last he stood to disembark.

“Welcome, Lord,” Círdan greeted him. “If there is anything my people can do to aid you in fulfilling your service, please let us know.” He held out his hand for the Istar to take, assistance Curumo accepted somewhat grudgingly.

Curumo set his foot upon the stone quays of Mithlond and left behind him at last the Sea. Two steps he took before he stumbled, for his body had absorbed the rhythms of the waves and he’d forgotten he had no need to anticipate movement where there would be none to perceive. Embarrassed, he forced himself to straighten. The voyage was past, and he would put all regarding it out of his mind, he decided. No, now it was time to begin his true task of convincing the people of Middle Earth to stand against Morgoth’s servant as their forebears had stood against the Great Enemy himself.

And in stepping away from the lessons taught him upon the Sea, Curumo made the first step away from his intended purpose, although he did not yet appreciate it.


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