Epilogue to Incidents Will Happen. Still more AU than not.
This one is for Mouse (who had to wait long for it.)
Let us be gentle with each other, friend,
The proud high word of love unspoken:
Too many hearts it must leave broken
With helpless grief beneath the wind.
(Paraphrased from a Dutch poem by A. Roland Holst. Oh yes, and Finrod & Turgon belong to Tolkien, of course)
Gondolin was ready, and prepared to receive him inside her concealing girdle of mountains. He told himself that she was almost as fair as Tirion upon Tuna in the realm whose blessings were lost to him. And the 'almost' was a concession to the humility he knew he ought to feel despite his awareness of having created a masterpiece. A living song for a dead spouse, a hymn of rock to the passing of flesh that should never have withered, the music of love caught in quivering stone, like his heart.
His people were on their way, secretly, company by company, to pass unseen into the valley surrounding the city. Turgon lingered on the shores of Nevrast, still filled with awe, as ever when the mighty Lord of Waters spoke to him. Obeying his instructions he had prepared the armour for the Lord's future emissary. Now, alone in the empty halls of Vinyamar, he sat pondering Ulmo's warnings: to stay aware of the Doom of the Noldor, and not to become too enamoured of his own handiwork or the devices of his heart.*
But that was not the reason why Turgon delayed his departure. He had wanted to say farewell to Finrod - cousin, friend, and a little more than that since their incidental joining on the banks of Sirion. But Finrod had vanished without a trace. The messenger dispatched to Tol Sirion carrying the invitation, some time ago, had returned with a riddle. According to the Captain of the Watchtower his liege had left for a destination not to be divulged to anyone, except to the High King Fingolfin, and even then only in dire need. Turgon was merely the High King's son, and his need scarcely of the kind one entrusts to messengers or garrison captains.
If he left Vinyamar now, he might never see Finrod again this side of Mandos' Halls. To say goodbye would be grievous enough; not being able to say it was unbearable. Staring at the armour on the wall and vaguely wondering whose broad shoulders it would fit one day, he concentrated on the image of Finrod the fair, whose hair was almost that of Elenwë and whose smile could melt ice.
He had told Idril and Aredhel he would delay his departure two moons, a mere ripple in the life of an Elda, a sea of time for one who waits. The days crept by. Though it had never been his favourite pastime, he took to swimming, diving, and gathering beautiful and useless shells, like a child would. Once, he found himself attacked by large and angry swans that beat him with their wings, hissing the word 'Kinslayer' at him. Dismayed, he wondered how they knew about Alqualondë but then thought of the Lady Uinen and her wrath. He did his best to convince them he had no blood on his hands, but though they ceased their assault, most of them remained hostile. After some consideration, he dismissed the idea of shooting and roasting one of them. They had a right to be angry, and the combination of swans and fire would remind him too vividly of Losgar and the burning of the ships.
Two moons waned and waxed, until the moon of his leave-taking was almost full. That last night, he dreamed of music, of strings tuned to moonshine and wishfhul longing and loss. But waking up, Turgon discovered the strings were playing on. He rose, and wrapping himself in his cloak he went outside. And there, below him on the seashore, was the musician, harping beneath a moon that turned his hair from gold to silver - and it was Finrod.
They met halfway up, halfway down. 'I knew you would come, master harper,' Turgon said, joy and relief surging through him.
'That must have been foresight,' his friend and cousin replied mockingly, 'for I hardly knew it myself until I was well on my way here.'
'You merely obeyed my call,' Turgon told him. `But tell me, did you have to vanish without a trace?'
Finrod cast a glance at the moonlit sea, where a single, very large swan swam his nightly vigil. 'The Lord of Waters told me to build a hidden refuge against the rising of darker tides,' he replied, his voice turning grave. 'I did his bidding, though at the moment, the tide seems low.'
Remembering his troubled dream beside the waters of Sirion, Turgon bit his lip. In the course of the last fifty years he had deluded himself into thinking he was Ulmo's chosen one, a guardian of exclusive knowledge, a bearer of unique responsibilities - to discover now that Finrod had dreamed the same dream and been granted the same vision.
'You, too...,' was all he said. He knew better than to ask where.
Finrod ran his fingers along the strings of his harp, a sequence of melancholy, pensive notes. He looked up at the black windows of the great hall of Vinyamar and smiled. 'So you built your own secret refuge, and your people have gone thither, but you waited here, all alone, until I would deign to bid you my fond farewell?'
'Of course not! I merely lingered to take a last dip into the Great Sea. It may be a while before I see it again.' Turgon let his cloak slip from one shoulder to prove his point; it was a warm night, and he had been sleeping naked. 'You're welcome to join me, though you'll have to explain to that swan over there you're not a burner of ships.'
'All swans are my friends,' Finrod declared airily. 'They'll believe anything I tell them, even if it's true. But you're a liar. This is just an attempt to seduce me.'
Turgon dropped the cloak entirely to show his lack of arousal. As his cousin could not begin to guess how much restraint this took, it seemed safe enough. 'Bugger you, Findaráto!' he said with deliberate vulgarirty. 'Do you seriously believe you're irresistible?'
'Bugger me? So that's what you want,' said Finrod, searching his face. 'That's why you called me!'
It wasn't cold, so why did he have gooseflesh all over? Turgon picked up the garment he had just dropped. The movement made him strangely dizzy, and suddenly the horizon changed. Finrod was still there. But beyond him the night paled to day, while the waves rose and rose and twisted and curled and turned into Gondolin the White, beckoning her spouse. Her sheer beauty took his breath away, and she spread before him, begging him to enter her.
Yet Finrod stood between them, and he was made of flesh, not stone. Turgon took a deep breath. 'Yes,' he heard himself say, his voice seeming to press against a solid barrier. 'That is what I want.'
After a silence, his cousin laid down the harp, and when he rose again his eyes seemed to reflect the starlit sea. 'I thought we agreed last time was an incident?'
'We did,' Turgon admitted, shivering under the gaze from those eyes. 'I did my best not to dwell on it or dream of it. I built an entire city trying not to dwell on it, and believe me, it was hard labour. Never in my life will I make anything like Gondolin. I love every stone of it, and every splashing fountain. But neither rock nor water will ever feel like flesh. Do you want to know what the Helcaraxë did to me? Do you know how it killed my sense of touch, as if the ice had burned it away?' He looked away. 'When I first set foot on these shores, my skin could not remember Elenwë's, her flesh against me, around me, her lips on my mouth, her breath caressing me. And though I did learn to feel again, to touch earth and stone and wood and things made of muscle and bone and skin, the one time when I fully remembered how it was to love Elenwë was when I felt your body touch mine. If I want you, it is because you help me recall her. There you have it.'
A rustling sound in the silence; Finrod shed his tunic. 'I know,' he said calmly. 'We are not lovers in that sense; we could never be. Or the path to this farewell would have been too unbearably hard, and I would have turned back before my ears caught the sound of the Great Sea. Touch me then, and take me then. But tread lightly on my ground, for though the tides of darkness are low, the currents will soon pull us apart, and all that may be left to either of us is the memory of a memory.'
Stepping closer, Turgon laid a hand against Finrod's chest and felt another shiver run down his spine. He knew he would see Elenwë when he closed his eyes, and with an effort he kept them open. And why would you let me touch you? he thought. Not for pity's sake, of that he was sure; Finrod would never insult him so.
They sat down, and Finrod picked up his harp, plucking a single string.
'Will you play?' Turgon said.
'I am a player.' Finrod struck a chord.
'Strings, words, thoughts - anything within reach. You.'
Was there a glint of mischief in those eyes now? Slowly, Turgon raised an arm and put one hand behind Finrod's head, guiding it towards his own. The other hand found the skin of his chest again, and the soft flesh of his thumb touched a nipple. Their lips joined in a long, languid kiss. And while it lasted, Finrod somehow managed to play on, each quivering note evoking a brief but vivid image of two cousins in the Blessed Realm: as boys, adolescents, young men, as playmates, comrades, friends. But some of the images brought out the difference: hair the hue of gleaming night and hair the colour of golden light; eyes like storm clouds and eyes like the sea, a mind bent on guarding and a mind bent on releasing.
Turgon disengaged his mouth and searched the face opposite his to fathom the meaning behind that wordless song.
'You were always the one to raise walls, Turukáno,' Finrod told him. 'Maybe I consider this my last chance to get all the way past? If you would let me?'
Turgon realised his cloak was still lying across his lap. He cast it aside, relief flooding through him, as well as gratitude towards Finrod for having pointed out to him what it was he needed to do, and say.
'Walls of flesh are easy to breach, are they not?' he replied.
Finrod laid aside his instrument. With quick fingers he unlaced his leggings, and stripped them off.
They embraced and kissed again. Turgon's hands roamed across Finrod's hips, savouring the smooth texture of the skin, fingertips tingling, as with the sensation of returning feeling. For the first time that night he felt the summer breeze caress his skin, instead of merely brushing past it. His ears caught the sound of flapping wings, somewhere behind him, and he wondered vaguely why the fowl made such noise. Soon, though, he heard nothing but the soothing melody of the waves. He sank down, pulling Finrod on top of him. 'I'm yours. Breach my walls.'
'So now I am to be a battering ram?' Finrod asked.
Turgon couldn't help smiling a little, but then he became serious again. 'I meant what I said. Breach my walls.'
'You know, I think you just tore them down yourself,' Finrod said.
They lay in silence for a while, side by side, listening to the slow breath of Arda, until Turgon heard himself say: 'When next we meet it will be in the Houses of the Dead.'
'Foresight?' Finrod asked hesitantly.
'That is what it sounds like,' Turgon answered, shaken, not knowing what else it could be. 'What is it that makes us what we become, Finrod? The world's song of fate? Our own choices, for good of for ill?'
'Or are they one and the same, and we are too small and too earthbound for a bird's eye view?' Finrod mused.
Hardly had he finished speaking or again they heard the sound of feathers beating the air. This time it was loud as the storm. Sitting up they saw the swan rise smoothly from the surface of the sea, its wings spread wide, growing huge, larger than any swan had ever been, and more beautiful, until at last it filled the horizon and their pounding hearts.
They gazed at it in awe, both recognising it for what it was: a reminder of the doom the Lord of Waters laid upon them years ago, when they fell asleep to the distant rumble of Sirion's Falls. To fulfil their appointed role in the storyof Arda their courses would separate - until they would meet again in the Halls of Mandos, where flesh is but a memory and the naked fëa has no walls to breach**.
*See Chapter 15 of The Silmarillion
**If this is at variance with what the Statute of Finwë and Miriel (Morgoth's Ring, HoMe 10) says about the stubbornnes of the naked fea (I'm not quite sure if it is), it's intentional.
This story is not entirely uninfluenced by Deborah's 'What Flesh Remembers'.
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.