2. Chapter Two
The Ciryatur(1) of the Númenorean fleet was intrigued to have two Elves on board of his ship, the Falmacilya. They looked like kinsmen to him; both fair-haired, tall, lean and sinewy, but then, Elves often looked alike to him. They were also young and handsome, though their youth was deceptive, of course. Observing them more closely he could discern a difference in age - or rather, maturity. The one introduced as Glorfindel was a warrior, as the admiral's experienced eyes told him. Quite possibly he had fought in the ancient wars of Beleriand, in a past more distant to the Ciryatur than the Gates of Morning on the far side of the World. Of the warrior status of Glorfindel's companion - Gildor, if he recalled correctly - he was less sure, though this one too, bore arms. Gildor seemed more light-hearted, not as serious as the other Elf; he laughed aloud at times, instead of merely smiling faintly and detachedly. Maybe that was the reason why he appeared younger. Or maybe he just was.
Though the Ciryatur had little time to occupy himself with passengers, he did invite the two Elves to dinner once, at the end of the third day of their voyage. Tar Minastir had not explicitly instructed his admiral to try and hear them out, but it could be worth his while to ask questions, he thought.
They reclined on couches, a habit of the Ciryatur's native Hyarnustar, one he refused to abandon even on a ship. The Elves were good at reclining. Especially Gildor, who stretched on his couch like a big, lazy panther of far Harad, and looked as if he could start blinking and yawning any time - unless he chose to crouch and leap. But like a cat, he was uncooperative when nudged.
Glorfindel was no more forthcoming. A few times, he swept away the questions hovering on the Ciryatur's tongue with a mere look from his eyes. The eyes had been bright enough from the start, but now the Númenorean discovered that this brightness merely served to veil a radiance he had never encountered before even in an Elf. A brilliance that Gildor's eyes seemed to lack.
Though it galled him, he guessed he was lucky that most of his questions were judged worthy of an answer, though the answers did not tell him much. No, nothing had changed much in the Undying Realm since the Noldor had ceased to be rebels; change was a thing of mortal lands. No, the Valar would not intervene to save Middle-earth from Sauron, as they had once saved Beleriand from Morgoth. They wished Númenor well, but the fate of Men was not foretold in the Music of the Ainur, so meddling with it was dangerous. No, Gil-galad had not received a message concerning their arrival, and they had not come to aid him, though they would if he asked. But their errand was of a more private nature. By the way, the food was delicious and the wine excellent, and they thanked him for his gracious invitation and hospitality. Elves were not supposed to utter outright lies, and as their palates were refined, the Ciryatur accepted this for a compliment, told them the wine came from his own estates, and thanked them in his turn. Not much later he was called away, but he promised them to be back soon, and they agreed to stay for a while yet.
When he returned, Glorfindel had moved to sit on Gildor's couch. They were speaking softly, an ancient form of Quenya. It looked innocent enough, but as the Man approached he saw that Glorfindel's hand rested on the younger Elf's thigh, quite close to the groin. He knew, or had heard, that in matters regarding the flesh the Elder race was both less and more restrained than Ilúvatar's younger children were: it was rumoured that Elves lay with whom they desired until they bonded forever, but also that they could suppress physical desire to a degree that was impossible to achieve for Men.
The two on the couch did not immediately react. It was only when Glorfindel saw the Ciryatur's face that he withdrew his hand, not hurriedly, but with what seemed deliberate slowness.
Unable to keep a slight edge from his voice the Ciryatur asked: 'Do you, perchance, require a private cabin, my friends?'
Glorfindel smiled faintly. 'We are perfectly content to sleep on deck beneath the starry dome of the sky, as we did until now.'
Gildor laughed. 'Besides, it is our understanding that all your cabins are occupied. Who are we that we should want to turn out someone?'
Who were they, indeed?
Elves... the Ciryatur thought, and checked himself. What if they were able to catch his thoughts?
In the starless night, Galadriel slowly walked along the perimeter of the Fountain Court. Though it was the smallest court of the High King's palace, it was the one she loved most, because of the water splashing softly into the marble basin in the centre. Two lamps only lit the space enclosed by the arched galleries; they were fashioned in such a way that they gave more light as the sky grew darker. They were the work of an Elvensmith from Ost-in-Edhil the Fallen, perhaps of Celebrimbor himself, and tonight their rays were brighter than usual.
The thought of Celebrimbor agitated her, and she increased the pace of her steps. His death was too recent for her to think of him with equanimity. No more than four years ago it was that Sauron took his city, tortured him to death and hoisted his corpse onto a pole to serve as a banner. A cruel end, but not even with his last breath had Celebrimbor turned traitor. He had refused to tell the Dark Lord to whom he had bestowed the three mightiest Elven Rings, those that enabled their keepers to ward of the decays of time and postpone the weariness of the world.
She, Galadriel had one of them. Celebrimbor had given her Nenya, the Ring of Water, because she was the greatest of all the Eldar left in Middle-earth. Those, at least, were the words of his mouth, but behind them was the language of his burning heart, for he loved her. A hopeless love, as she was wedded to Celeborn of Doriath, yet this had never kept Celebrimbor from seeking her company. Nor had it kept him from seeking her council when the One Ring to rule all others was revealed on Sauron's hand, and the question arose what to do with the Three.
He had been honest with her as never before. He told her what Sauron, then still known as Annatar, Lord of Gifts, had said to the Noldorin smiths of Eregion: 'You can make these lands as beautiful as Valinor itself. You can preserve all that you hold dear from decay and death. You can have the bliss and peace and perfection of Aman, and yet remain here on these mortal shores.'
'Where our race is the greatest of all - not the least, as in the realm of the Valar,' Celebrimbor added, for her ears only.
A thought undoubtedly insinuated into his susceptible mind by the fallen Maia, as even he must have realised then - though he would never admit it.
Rebellion, Galadriel remembered herself thinking. This is rebellion. Celebrimbor was the grandson of Fëanor, and more like the greatest of all Elvish rebels than she cared to dwell on. These rings were his act of defiance. But was not she, too, a rebel, who in her pride had followed the Spirit of Fire in search of realms of her own to dominate? Even here and now, while she walked around the gently splashing fountain, she could feel the power of Nenya reaching out to her, though she did not wear it anywhere near or on her body.
'Destroy the Three,' wisdom had urged her to say, knowing that Sauron could govern the thoughts of their wearers if his own Ring was on his finger. But what she had said aloud was: 'They cannot be used as long as the Ruling Ring exists.'
Celebrimbor had been only too eager to listen, for it meant he would preserve the work of his hands.
In their desire for power and possession lurked their lack of strength to follow the path of wisdom. Galadriel was well aware of that.
To this, another awareness had been added. One that had hit her forcefully when, seeking refuge in Lindon, she set eyes on the Sea again. 'Your home is in the West,' the waves murmured, and 'Remember where you belong,' the gulls cried. Never before had she heard it so clearly. And she knew it was Nenya who sharpened her hearing, and that from now on the Ring of Water would add to her tears of loss.
For Galadriel, daughter of the wise Finarfin, Galadriel the Unpardoned, was banned from returning to the West. Still worse: she was not even sure that she would if the ban were lifted. Such was the plight that Celebrimbor's gift of love caused her. The fruit of love rejected. She should not have accepted.
Yet she had. And now Sauron was coming.
(1)as this means 'ship-commander', and as Ciryatur was the admiral of the Númenorean fleet come to rescue Middle-earth, I take it to be a title rather than a name.
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