26. Chapter Twenty-six
He was dreaming heavily, after a copious noon meal. Someone was about to be buried in the Noirinan in the shadow of the Meneltarma, among the laments of kin and friends. It could not be a king, as the mourning procession was not headed for the Royal Tombs. Nonetheless the deceased must have been a great man in his lifetime, for a king graced the burial with his presence. It was not Tar-Minastir, so it must be his successor, though his face was unfamiliar to the Ciryatur. He was hovering close enough to ask the King a question between the slow, muffled beats of the mourning drums: 'Could you tell me, please, who is being buried, sire?'
And without looking aside the King answered: 'Why - my late father's former admiral, of course. What a strange thing to ask. Were you properly invited?'
What a weird question - was he invited to attend his own funeral? As if he could have thanked no! The Ciryatur started from sleep, his heart beating frantically against his ribcage. Someone was knocking on his door. Sitting up in his bed he realised he had drowsed off fully dressed. 'Enter!' he croaked when the knocking did not cease, and with some difficulty he rose from the bed, just before the door opened.
At first he thought it was Gil-galad who stepped inside, dressed very casually in none-too-clean garments, but when his eyes cleared he found that it was not so. It was that strange Elf from the Undying Lands who had dived overboard into the Gulf of Lune, some days ago. Gildor, the more obnoxious of his two Eldarin passengers.
The Elf inclined his head. 'I hope I do not disturb you, my lord admiral?'
Even had his life depended on it, the Ciryatur would still have been reluctant to admit that he had fallen asleep like an old man. He could only hope that his hair and his robe did not betray him. 'No,' he said curtly, his heart still pounding. 'What is it?'
'I have come to bring you word of your man Beregar,' said Gildor.
'Beregar? If you are here, then why does he not come personally?' the admiral asked, immediately on edge, which did nothing to improve his condition.
Gildor spread his hands. 'He is not yet here. He disappeared last night. Undoubtedly,' he continued, 'you will want to hear the whole story, my lord.'
It was not a question. The admiral sat down on the edge of his bed, preparing to listen. Pillar of Heaven, what had happened?
Unfortunately, in his Elvish way, Gildor appeared to be as long-winded as some of the lords and ladies at the court of Armenelos. If the telling had outpaced the tale a little more, the Ciryatur might actually have enjoyed the living images the Elf conjured up before his eyes in the middle of the room. Now, fearing Gildor would never finish his account before the joined armies of Lindon and Númenor would march to war, he raised a hand. 'Do I need to be shown every detail of the scenery? Hear every remark about the weather that any of you made the last few days?'
The images dissolved and the Elf raised both his eyebrows. 'I assumed you would wish to know everything Beregar saw and heard,' he said.
'For mortals, time is more precious than an Elf can fathom,' the Ciryatur said, ignoring the insolent suggestion that Beregar had been sent along as a spy. 'Tell, do not show, please. I leave it to your discretion to judge what is relevant.'
This helped - to a certain degree. But when Gildor finished speaking, the Ciryatur still wanted to know what had happened in the valley, what could have caused Beregar to run after this girl, and what could be the reasons why he had not returned.
The replies were invariably vague, especially the answer to the admiral's last question: how could Glorfindel know that Beregar was on his way to the Havens, instead of wandering aimlessly through hills and woods?
With a frown the Ciryatur repeated Gildor's answer. 'He can feel it?' Am I supposed to believe anything where Elves are concerned? 'How?'
A prolonged sigh. 'That is very difficult to explain.'
Of course he would jealously guard the mystery. The Ciryatur gave up. 'Do you know, Gildor, that you remind me of your High King?' And not only outwardly. Gil-galad could also be very evasive and unforthcoming.
The Elf smiled. 'That is not to be wondered at, for we are kinsmen. His grandsire was a younger brother of mine. But,' he added almost as an afterthought, 'he is not my King. That is Finarfin, son of Finwë, who rules the Noldor in Tirion upon Túna. My great-grandsire.'
Gildor's tone was just proud enough to give him away. 'But are you not subject to the High King's rule, then, now that you have entered his realm?' the Ciryatur asked.
This seemed to give the Elf pause, for he remained remarkable silent.
'I can see why you hesitate, if he is of a junior branch of your House,' the Ciryatur said casually.
'That is not the point.' Gildor objected, his smooth brow creasing a little.
Not yet, perhaps, my princeling. But it may be. And as the admiral of Númenor did not overly like the High King of the Noldor, this was an entertaining thought.
Although the new arrival did not come unexpected, the King felt slightly apprehensive when the visitor from Overseas was announced. This would be his first encounter with one of the Rehoused, and a hero at that. As he had never met a Power Demon face to face, not even in the War of Wrath, Gil-galad could not tell with certainty how he would acquit himself in such a battle - at least half as well as this chieftain of Gondolin had acquitted himself, he hoped.
He smiled thinly. Here he was, making calculations: if a Balrog was dangerous, how dangerous would a Balrog-slayer be? And a rehoused Balrog-slayer?
The fair stranger who approached him while he rose to greet him, did not look in any way daunting. In fact, he looked deceptively and almost disappointingly normal, except that, like Galadriel, he had the bright, piercing eyes of those who had beheld the light of the Two Trees of Valinor before they were slain. Flame-eyed, as those born in Middle-earth called it. But Glorfindel's flames burned gently; his fire was banked - though Gil-galad did not doubt that it could flare.
'Welcome, my lord Glorfindel,' he said, extending his arm. 'I am greatly honoured to receive you and make your acquaintance.'
'The honour is mine, my lord Gil-galad. It gladdens my heart to meet the successor of Turgon of Gondolin, once my lord as well as High King of the Noldor.' Glorfindel mirrored Gil-galad's gesture. His grip was firm and strong, a warrior's grip. But though outwardly they were merely two Elven lords clasping arms, Gil-galad felt the veiled power behind the other's appearance: a might beyond strength of body or mind, a power of spirit surpassing his own and maybe equal to Galadriel's.
Glorfindel let go of Gil-galad's arm. 'I apologise if I seem hasty or blunt, but there is a matter that demands your attention, my lord,' he said.
When he finished his explanation Gil-galad, more than a little alarmed, immediately acted on his newly acquired knowledge. Whether or not he was subject to the authority of the Ciryatur, this Beregar and whoever accompanied him had to be intercepted and interrogated. But after his aide had left to carry out his command, he hesitated.
The next bridge was less easy to cross. The matter of this strange ring Glorfindel had mentioned had to be addressed, but this would most likely involve inviting Tárion to consult him once more regarding his visit to Eregion and its jewel-smiths. And Gil-galad was far from certain whether Tárion was ready to face the memory of his past embodied in Glorfindel.
Postponing his decision, he turned back to Glorfindel. 'Allow me to ask - what brings an Elda rehoused in Aman back to the sorrowful shores of Middle-earth?'
With an almost imperceptible smile, Glorfindel took the bait. 'A ship, perchance? This new flesh has no more wings than the old one had - though I could certainly have used them to my advantage.' His eyes grew distant for a moment before he went on: 'I perceive that you waste little time on ceremony and formalities and press ahead like your grandfather Angrod used to do, ever since the time when we were both striplings in Aman. Before I can answer your question in full, I would request you to you invite the lady Galadriel to join us. The lord Círdan as well, I think, and any that are able to shed light on the rings made by Celebrimbor son of Curufin and his jewel-smiths.'
'Then you are a messenger? You seem well informed,' Gil-galad remarked, beginning to feel uneasy. He wondered if he could successfully command Glorfindel to inform him first, but judged it wiser to desist. 'Are the Powers aware of all that transpires in these parts of the world?'
'The Lord of the Breath of Arda harkens to the voices of the winds,' Glorfindel replied, 'and the music of streams and springs carries the news of the needs and grieves of the World to the Lord of Waters. In the Houses of the Death all that has ever been is storied in the Webs of the Weaver, and the Keeper of the Houses forgets naught.
Yet the Holy Ones do not fully understand the theme by which the Children of the One entered into the Great Song, and much that happens resides in the choices of those born from the earth since the beginning of Time. What is revealed to me shall be revealed to you. But the Valar cannot pierce the minds or break the silence of any of the Children unless by force - which they are as loath to use as their Enemies have ever been eager to. There are things that Celebrimbor will not speak of in Mandos' Halls.'
Both Glorfindel's words and the gravity with which they were uttered filled the King with a sense of foreboding. He felt that he needed time to think, to make conjectures, to speak with the others Glorfindel had mentioned - and with Tárion. 'Shall we discuss these matters tonight, after the evening meal?' he suggested.
His guest nodded and was about to reply when another voice said: 'Can I come, too?'
Distracted as he was by his own musings Gil-galad had failed to take note of the new arrival. Looking towards the door he saw another stranger approach, and he realised this had to be the companion Glorfindel had mentioned earlier. Casting a glance at the latter, he saw a flicker of amusement and anticipation cross his face. So Glorfindel was curious what would happen next.
Gil-galad gave his unannounced visitor a raised eyebrow. 'Even if I wanted additional company tonight, I should not agree to any such thing, until I knew a good deal more about you, and the reason for your presence in this place.' While he said it, he realised he had seen that face before, or one very much like it.
The newcomer turned to Glorfindel. 'Would you be so kind to introduce me?' he said, seemingly unperturbed.
With a slight frown, Glorfindel looked at Gil-galad, who inclined his head. 'This, my lord King,' he began, 'is my traveling companion Gildor, son of Inglor, son of-'
'- Ingoldo, more widely known as Finrod Felagund,' Gil-galad finished in wonderment, suddenly remembering. 'My kinsman.' So Finrod had been released from the Halls and raised a family. Why had Galadriel not told him? The likeness could hardly have escaped her.
'Indeed,' Gildor said triumphantly. They extended their arms simultaneously. Gildor's grip, the King noticed, was not just firm, but almost forceful, as if he wanted to make a point. 'I come to lend you my arm and what strength is to be found in it, in your struggle against the Abhorred One,' Finrod's grandson told him.
No 'my lord King' or anything of the kind. Usually, Gil-galad did not stand too much on ceremony. He wondered why he felt the impulse to do so now. Did he want this cousin, born of an older line, to defer to him?
He studied Gildor's oddly familiar face at length, knowing that he was being subjected to the same, careful scrutiny. I loved your grandsire, he thought, more than I loved my own. He was valiant, faithful and generous, though he was also restless and maybe a little crazy. I swore on my life's blood to avenge his cruel death in Sauron's dungeon. If you are but half the person he was, you will be fair company, Gildor Inglorion. But it remains to be seen.
'You are welcome, cousin,' he said in his formal, kingly voice.
'You mean, tonight, cousin?' Gildor asked, sounding suspiciously innocent.
Looking from him to Glorfindel, Gil-galad was certain that the ensuing silence was, in fact, filled with a rather intense exchange by way of mind-speech.
At last, Glorfindel turned to the King. 'I see no good reason to refuse him.'
'You are too kind,' Gildor said.
The Shipwright was older and saw further and deeper than anyone she knew; he was the only person besides her unavailable husband whose counsel weighed as heavily with Galadriel as her own. Seated on a bench in his shipyard she watched him stroke his silver beard and waited for him to speak
Slowly, he repeated her question, as if tasting its flavour: 'So, what shall we do, should our guest from Overseas put this request before us, as you think he may?' His mind seemed to fly westward as if to fathom the purposes of those behind the messenger's errand. 'Would the Powers intervene, you wonder, and if so, in what way?'
'Have they not intervened before,' she said softly but urgently.
Círdan turned back towards her, drawing her worried gaze into the vast, blue sea of his foresight and wisdom. 'They did so twice, at Cuiviénen and with the War of Wrath - too soon and too late, some say, though how they presume to judge minds that are older than Eä itself, is a source of amazement to me. But my heart warns me that they have withdrawn from these shores, leaving the decisions and deeds to us who dwell East of the Sea - even if they remain willing to offer us guidance. And we should heed them, yet in the end we must deem our own doom. But as we do not know what the message is, who sends it, and why...'
His mouth curled a little. No doubt he considered her impatient still, though she was no longer the maiden who had so eagerly gone into exile to stake out her own path and make her own mistakes. 'We can guess,' she replied. 'Do you not also think that they deplore the desire to create timeless and stainless realms this side of the Sea, keeping a rein on death and decay where they were decreed to reign supreme?' How deplorable is it? she wondered. Have the Noldor added offense to revolt by trespassing on the territory of the Powers, crafting devices to bend and stretch and still nature according to our desires? Or have we merely made by the law, in which we are made?
Galadriel realised that she was no longer looking at Círdan but at her own hands, when she heard him speak again. 'We must not fear loss. Loss is inevitable, be it now or at the end of Arda, and fear is the worst of counselors.'
She looked up with a smile, more composed than before. 'Then let us be fearless and grow wise.'
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