14. Part 14
The lords of the Houses of Gondolin are seated, their faces cast as stony as the table before them. The King sits at the head, grave and resplendent in gold, red, white, bearing on his crest the Heart of Fingolfin, the Sun of the House of Finwe, and the Moon. To his left in blue mantle is Egalmoth, an opal on his lofty helm to signify that he is Lord of the House of the Heavenly Arch, a house for the wealthy, the treasure-hoarders. Beside Egalmoth is Ecthelion of the Fountain, silvered and steely, and he looks long across the table at me before extending his hand, a peace offering.
But I recoil, my gut knotting at the probing depth of his eyes, the sharp glitter of the white diamond on his brow, and I do not touch him though his palm lay open and flat. I do not so quickly forget the repugnance, the fear that rose in his face when we stood in the mine. I will not let him seek further confidence. I will not be opened up and explored like a cave. I will not be responsible for his destruction.
I represent the House of the Mole; I wear no decoration.
On Ecthelion's left is Lord of the House of the Golden Flower, Glorfindel, a noble warrior, a dream-dwelling artist. His face is young and keen, his arms banded with gold. He speaks with Duilin of the Swallow House, a house of formidable archers. Duilin is darker-clad, of a sharp countenance; his eyes search all present, but ever return to the face of Turgon.
I am seated next to Salgant, lord of the House of the Harp. A valiant house, but they are led by a tasselled coward. Salgant stayed behind from the Nirnaeth in protection of the City, and he has grown comfortable in Gondolin, soft and sluggish. The flesh around his eyes dulls their Light, and his limbs rest heavily in chairs.
He seeks to engage me in conversation, though I persist in ignoring him.
Down from Salgant is Penlod the Tall, who leads both the House of the Pillar and of the Tower of Snow, and the green-clad Galdor of the House of the Tree, and Rog of the Hammer of Wrath, strongest of the Gondolodrim. Soft conversations gradually dim, and all heads turn to the king.
Turgon speaks, and so begins the council to decide the fate of Gondolin.
"We all know of the Doom of Mandos which was laid upon the exiled Noldor," says the King of Gondolin, and heavily his words weigh in the air. "It was said that all our works within Middle-Earth shall be destroyed. Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, led me to this hidden valley of Tumladen that I might build a kingdom unseen, and so would be protected. But he did not think that by doing so he protected us from the Curse, only delayed its consummation. Three-hundred and seventy-nine years ago I left my castle on Mount Taras in Nevrast, but at the bidding of Ulmo left there a suit of armour upon the wall, that in time, he said, I would recognize his messenger.
"In that same armour," he says slowly, his eyes turning to pierce each of our faces, "has come Tuor, son of Huor of the House of Hador whom we sheltered years ago. And he brings a message of warning, of short time before the Curse is fulfilled and Gondolin perishes. His advice is to go down Sirion, to the sea, to the Havens, and leave the Hidden Kingdom before it is found. We must now decide what course to follow."
For a moment the lords keep silent, looking to each other as though to read the thoughts of the others present. It is Egalmoth who speaks first.
"I do not know what is to be decided," he says, his gaze passing from Ecthelion to Turgon. "We must heed this and leave before all is destroyed."
I am startled that he is so bold, so quick to sunder himself from Gondolin. Perhaps his love for his gold is stronger, so that he seeks above all to protect it.
Penlod voices my thoughts, his brow low, voice quietly disturbed. "You are hasty in decision, Lord Egalmoth. If our Lord King has reason to doubt this Man, then his opinion is not without merit. Let us consider what in the message was truth from Ulmo, and what were perhaps Tuor's own words."
"And that perhaps they were all of the mind of Tuor," I interject.
Ecthelion looks at me sharply, though his words are directed to all. "Did you not see that with which he was cloaked?" he demands. "It was an impenetrable mist. His voice caused the very ground to tremble. It was not of his own power that this came about."
"It was an impressive show," I agree. "From a skilled speaker. But more is needed to prove he came of a Vala than a commanding performance."
Duilin glances between Ecthelion and myself. "He wears the armour and carries the sword of Vinyamar," is his neutral observation.
"He fulfils the prophecy," states Ecthelion in firm voice. "For no other reason could he have found the ruins at Nevrast in the precise time that Voronwe Aranwion was there. He was intended to guide him here to Gondolin."
"Yes, there is also Voronwe his companion." I emphasize 'companion' rather than 'guide,' my eyes sliding from the Lord of the Fountains, and I incline my chin to Turgon. "My lord set the armour in Vinyamar in the sight of many. Could not this Voronwe have met with Tuor and led him not only to Gondolin, but even to Nevrast, telling him the tale of Ulmo's promise?"
Penlod's voice has chilled slightly, his manner precise and quiet. "Voronwe is above suspicion."
Rog regards me in perplexity, seconding, "What would be his purpose in doing this? Though I do not doubt your intent is not such, you sew needless distrust, Lord Maeglin."
I lift my eyebrows as though I am surprised by their vehement response, showing a palm of peace. "I do not know what his purpose would be, nor do I say that it was so. I simply show the width of the margin of doubt, and pray that my lords give this matter the consideration and investigation it deserves."
Lord Glorfindel speaks for the first time. "Alas that we look too deeply with our eyes at a matter of heart and spirit. Ecthelion saw the will of Ulmo in this Man; I also feel the burden which is laid on his soul. Perhaps it is not prudence but prejudice which holds us in doubt."
Only my ingrained respect for Glorfindel restrains a leap of anger at this remark, for it is not "us" who doubts, but I alone. Duilin holds himself impartial, as is his way until the moment of final decision comes. Galdor speaks not, nor does Salgant. I must search out support or be disregarded entirely.
"You speak with perception, Lord Glorfindel, yet I hold myself innocent of this charge, for it is often that I forget Tuor is not of our kind, nor has not always dwelt among us as a friend. But I have said all that I wish, and I would now listen to the judgement of others." I turn on Salgant abruptly, giving him a smile and a nod. "My Lord Salgant has not shared his opinion on this concern," I say in invitation.
Salgant is now the focus of all gazes, and a moment he takes to fold his hands atop the table, jewelled rings catching candlelight in an efficiently distracting way. "I confess I am not well educated in this matter," he says in pleasant voice. "But is not Huor who with his brother was sheltered here the father of this Tuor? Could he not have disclosed the matter of Gondolin to his son?"
"He could not," Turgon interrupts with finality in his voice. "Huor perished in the Nirnaeth while Tuor was yet unborn. Even if he had had the will to share his speculations with his wife-- for he knew not in certain our location-- she could not have given this information to Tuor, for she also died shortly after giving birth. And," he adds more softly. "I know that Huor had not the will to tell, for he was an honourable Man."
Salgant nods attentively. "Then I must make a second confession, that in part I fall under Lord Glorfindel's charge of prejudice. The Curse of Mandos is a matter of Elves, the Noldor specifically. Why then would a Man be made to interfere?"
"Say not interfere," Ecthelion answers him. "For it is a matter of the Noldor and the Valar, and it is on Ulmo's behalf that he comes."
"As I see it, the matter of the messenger is irrelevant," Egalmoth's voice raises. "As is the hour and perpetrator of our destruction. We need only know that the hour comes, closer tomorrow than it was today, and Gondolin no longer is a name of half-believed legend but a city known to be real and true. That which is real can be destroyed. We must leave for the Havens."
"The people of Gondolin will not be so easily uprooted," says Galdor of the House of the Tree in a faint and gentle voice peculiar to him. "Many have survived the destruction of other homes, other friends. Some will try to flee in panic, without reason or knowledge of where they go. All hearts will be crushed by the foreknowledge, and left without will to fight."
"Then you mean for us to sit and wait for an attack?" Penlod asks.
"I would not spend my life in wait," Galdor answers. "I say rather live until our doom is come, then fight with what we may."
I look to Turgon but he sees me not, for his eyes rest on the pale and disquieted face of Ecthelion.
"I do not like to let the chance of hope pass us by," the Lord of the Fountains says softly. "I think not of my valiant House, who would give their lives many times over in defence of Gondolin, but of the children, and the maidens, and the young Elves who have not yet submitted their lives to a City or a lord, but still grasp them with their own hands, their own purpose. I would not have them stilled." He straightens up. "I have heard the hearts of my lords, and against some I speak. But that of my King, I will yield to."
His pledge is taken up by Glorfindel, by Rog, by Salgant and Penlod and Egalmoth and Galdor. "As will I," I echo their voices, for I know the heart of my king, and I know that neither elf nor man will leave Gondolin while its gates still stand.
Duilin speaks last, he who watched Turgon through the council and spoke little. He stands. "I will follow the will of my king," he says, bowing slightly. "But I do not yield my heart."
So perhaps I am not the only one who sees the doom of Gondolin resting in Turgon's stone eyes.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.