11. Chapter Eleven
She held Nenya in the palm of her hand, sensing the power coiled inside it, faint and veiled, as it would ever be unless worn on a finger. She felt the strong pull of the Sea. I am the voice of true depth, it sang. I am freedom. I am the way home. Come! But her home was barred to her. So she concentrated on other things, trying to sense the other rings. Ring. Would the King use Nárya? Galadriel had left him knowing that her very presence had turned into a provocation that would precipitate folly rather than curb it. Yet she was far from certain he would embrace the chance to prove himself wise in her absence.
Casting about, though, she sensed little of the Ring of Fire; he had not put it on then. But she did not even have the time to feel a careful relief before she encountered something else: the vague turmoil of a mind attuned to hers. Her daughter's.
She frowned. On her return to the infirmary they had told her that Celebrian had left. To seek out Gil-galad in his apartments? And finding him, had she found out about him and his Captain? That would explain why she was so upset.
Perhaps she ought to speak to her daughter? But acknowledging that it would be better if she waited for Celebrian to broach this thorny subject of her own accord, Galadriel shielded her mind against her daughter's presence. She had to put a rein on her desire to interfere with Celebrian's weal and woe regardless of her daughter's own wishes. And one way of doing this was to avoid temptation.
Twilight was upon them. Soon, supper would be set, but Galadriel decided that eating in the main dining hall would not bring her the peace she wanted. So she requested for the meal to be served in her own room. It was there Gil-galad visited her, long after nightfall. He had calmed considerably, which told her his lover would survive without the aid of means not justified by any end.
He was also honest enough to tell her that Tárion had sided with her on the subject of using the Ring. Galadriel was hardly surprised, for she realised there was more to this Captain than met even the mind's eye. Underneath the agony of his burning flesh she had touched on a serpent-wise caution, possibly innate, though more likely hard-won in one possessing a fiery Noldorin fëa, that counterbalanced Gil-galad's more straightforward attitude (though the King was by no means as impetuous as he liked others to believe). She resolved to deepen her too superficial knowledge about this survivor from Gondolin, to whom the High King of the Noldor was so discreetly but inseparably bound.
They sat for a while in mutual silence, their thoughts brushing without evolving into language, until Galadriel sensed there was something else he would speak of. Or someone. Celebrian.
'She knows,' Gil-galad sighed, without having to explain what it was she knew. 'And this is the kind of knowledge that consumes like fire. Having felt her gaze on me for some time I would never willingly have been so cruel. But she overheard us.' He rose and walked towards one of the windows on the night, gazing at the starry darkness outside. 'Should you not have told her that we are too closely related to wed, even under the best of circumstances? Would not a ban be easier to accept than what seems a cruel streak of fate - the doom of love unrequited?'
To this, Galadriel could not agree, for none knew better than she did that sometimes a ban was almost impossibly hard on the banned. But as it was irrelevant, she shook her head. Using the Quenya form of his father-name she replied: 'You are my brother's grandson, Artanáro(1), and indeed close kin. But as Celebrian knows well enough that it is not too close, such a warning would have been to no avail.' She folded her hands in her lap. 'There even was a time, before I discovered the bond between you and your... Tárion, when I would have applauded such a match. The High King must needs have an heir. As things are now, there will be no one to succeed you if you are killed.'
Gil-galad frowned, as if he suspected her of wanting to exchange an embarrassing topic for two even more unpleasant ones: the inevitable barrenness of his union, and his bad habit of endangering himself in battle. 'In times of war the Eldar do not wed or beget children,' he reminded her, though he knew she was capable of disregarding that custom if it suited her judgement of the situation. 'Right now, my chief concern is for your daughter. Celebrian seemed distraught when she ran from my room. Have you seen her since? To be frank, I did not have the courage to face her after this.'
Galadriel shook her head, a tendril of fear coiling around her. 'It seemed better not to touch the sore spot.' She stood, reaching for her daughter's presence.
All she sensed was a residue of grief.
When they knocked at Celebrian's door, no one answered. No one they asked had seen her at dinner. None were able to tell her where she had gone. But it was not long before they discovered that her horse was missing from the stables.
It was gratifying to know he had noticed the eyes no later than Glorfindel had, while the mortal remained unaware of the danger. Though the older Elf's lesson - as well-deserved as it was humiliating - no longer rankled, the thought of the stupidity he had displayed yesterday still had the power to sting. He pulled the unresisting youth further back into their gully, which ended in a narrow crevice between two rocks. Closer to the path, Glorfindel laid a hand on his sword-hilt.
'Let go of me!' the Númenorean hissed. 'My cloak has caught on a thornbush. And what on earth are we hiding for?'
Without looking back, Glorfindel made a gesture with his free hand to indicate they should keep their silence. Using osanwe-kenta(2) he told Gildor that he did not know if the eyes belonged to friends or foes. Would they be able to defend themselves back there, should the need arise?
Inspecting the crevice Gildor saw that it was narrow, but deep enough for three or four people, and that it was quite dark. Any enemy dim-witted enough to stick his head inside would be dead meat. He told Glorfindel as much; was he not going to join them?
The answer turned out to be no. While Beregar disengaged his cloak from the last of the thorns and allowed himself to be guided into the crevice, Glorfindel stepped onto the path they had just left and began to walk back towards the spot where they had first seen the eyes.
You two stay here! he sent, distinctly and clearly. If I do not return, go directly to Mithlond. And be wary.
The boldness of his move took Gildor's breath away. Glorfindel had his sword, but even in the hand of a seasoned warrior of Gondolin, a blade was no a match for a well-aimed arrow, and he wore no mail. Was he relying on the effect the unveiled powers of the twice embodied would have on those who had never encountered them?
As the other disappeared beyond the bend Gildor reluctantly withdrew to the entrance of the crevice, watching for any sign of an unveiled lord of the Firstborn. He had seen enough rehoused Eldar, his grandfather Finrod not the least of them, to know what it looked like. Surely the sheen would be clearly visible against the dark grey sky.
It did not come. He could hear noises: footsteps, a great deal of indistinct speech, a muted cry - of surprise, he thought - followed by what sounded like a shuffle. Then, a short silence, more noises and a kind of vague babble, and footsteps again, dying away. Nothing from Glorfindel. He waited, chafing, until all he could hear was the rustle of the wind in the bushes, and his own heartbeat. Her almost jumped when it was followed by a sudden, sharp crack of thunder and soon after by the first splash of fat raindrops onto leaves and rocks.
'What happened?' whispered Beregar behind him.
'I wish I knew...' Gildor replied, slightly bewildered, and unable to suppress the feeling that somehow, Glorfindel had played a trick on him. Or had he delivered himself into the hands of enemies for the purpose of protecting his companions? 'I fail to understand why he chose to confront them,' he went on. 'We could have defended ourselves here.'
'No doubt.' The young mortal laughed curtly. 'But perhaps they would have had the leisure to wait until we succumbed to thirst. Being of the Engwar(3) no doubt I would have yielded first - but I bet that not even the Eldar can make it till the end of Arda without an occasional sip of water.'
Gildor turned to study Beregar's face, unsure what to make of his tone. But his mien was not very helpful either. 'So what do we do now?' the young man went on, raising his voice above the loud downpour.
'Follow the trail.'
'Are you sure? I seem to remember that Lord Glorfindel told us to go to Mithlond.'
You have mind-speech? Gildor asked curiously, reminding himself not to underestimate mortals in general, or this one in particular. His grandfather's high opinion of them was not entirely based on mental generosity and wishful thinking. And this was a scion of the Edain of old.
Beregar's brow creased, as if he tried to follow a barely known language. 'I caught his meaning,' he said at last with a shrug that seemed to mask amusement.
Gildor smiled, his cheerfulness gaining the upper hand. 'And do you believe we should do as he thinks best and leave him to his fate, my friend?'
1)Yes, I adhere to the Shibboleth of Fëanor ( where Gil-galad is the son of Orodreth, who in his turn is the son of Angrod).
2)Quenya, meaning 'mind-speech'.
3)Quenya, meaning 'sickly'
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