29. Chapter Twenty-nine
Tearing his gaze from the door that closed behind Gil-galad's back Tárion caught Glorfindel's eyes and held them for a while. They gave away nothing, but Tárion realised this was merely a way to hide dismay.
'So, what message does the King of Gondolin send to me?' he asked finally.
'Your father begs you to forgive him,' Glorfindel replied.
Your father. Turgon's son cringed. 'For what?' he asked, though he knew the answer.
'Do I need to spell it out? He made you vow that you would survive the fall of the city, did he not? In the Halls of Mandos he learned how much suffering and pain it caused you to redeem that vow. He was mortified.' Glorfindel bit his lip at the appalling but probably unintentional pun.
Tárion began to unbutton his tunic. 'You know, Glorfindel after seeing my mother's corpse gnawed by yrch outside the door of our home in Gondolin, and seeing my... king burn in his own Tower, and seeing my beloved teacher and captain tumble into the abyss wrapped in the Balrog's flames, I was not only ready, but eager to go. The stray coil of the demon's whip that lacerated me when I stepped too close, burned right through my skin, and a Balrog's fire will continue to sear the flesh long after it ceases to touch you. Together with the grief, it would have sufficed to kill me.' He shrugged out of the tunic and laid it aside.
'I know how terribly a Balrog's fire hurts,' Glorfindel said quietly. 'Though for me, it ceased when I shed my ruined body. You-' He fell silent. You should not have tried to come to my aid, he probably wanted to say. But there was so much that should not have happened, and yet had.
'It ceased for me, too. Briefly, I was free of the pain, and never in my existence have I felt a greater relief. I could see my own body lean against a rock, knowing it would be a corpse and I would hear Mandos' summons the instant I turned away from it. But I had vowed to live, so my fëa sought back to my hröa to suffer lasting agony. It never fully healed.' Tárion pulled his shirt over his head. 'Look.'
Glorfindel stared, and stared. 'Are you still in pain?' he asked finally in an odd voice. 'But... why is there a bandage on the other side?'
'Battle wound. Nearly healed,' Tárion replied curtly. 'But yes, I still hurt, though at times I am unable to say whether it is true pain, or merely the vivid memory of suffering.' He picked up his shirt. 'Why this plea for forgiveness? And how will he know my answer, being in the Houses of the Dead?'
When his head emerged from the neck of the garment he saw that Glorfindel wept. In two swift steps Tárion closed the distance between them, raising hesitant arms. Then his hands were on Glorfindel's shoulders to pull him close; and they embraced as in bygone days, when they had been friends. As they ought to become again.
'I am sorry,' he said. 'You are not to blame for any of this. You deserve awe and praise and honour, not embittered words flying astray like badly aimed arrows. Not you.'
Glorfindel blinked, though he did not wipe away his tears. 'But can you forgive him? I am convinced that he will know it if you do, though I could not tell how.'
Tárion let go of him and took a step back. 'Can you forgive me?' he asked with a smile that could not but appear crooked, judging by the way his mouth felt. 'Can you forgive me for disappointing you by bedding a king?'
Glorfindel took a deep breath; Tárion sensed he regretted his initial accusation and would rather wish it unthought. But they had to sort this out. Fight it out, if necessary, though he hoped it would not come to that.
At last, Glorfindel spoke. 'Did you? Or did he bed you?' he demanded to know.
'I took the first step. Arto - Gil-galad would never have done so: how could he be sure the Captain of his guard would not take his wish for a command?'
'And does he know whose son you are?'
The crucial question. Tárion turned away and strode blindly to the window, stopping just before his head hit the glass. 'As you no doubt guessed, I never told him.'
Silence. Without turning back, he went on: 'It did not seem necessary. I am a mere soldier, and nobody's son. I wanted to serve and aid him in every way I could - I still do. Let dead Balrogs be dead, I told myself. Who knew about it? Only he who fathered me, she who bore me - and you. How was I to know you would return here as a re-embodiment of the past?'
Glorfindel sighed. 'Have you no intention ever to take ship to the Blessed Realm? Do you think the Powers are unaware of your parentage?'
'I did not think it would matter there.'
A lame excuse, followed by a renewed silence. 'I know what you think,' Tárion went on, addressing the window and the dark blue sky outside. 'In his heart of hearts, Turgon's son yearns to be High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth. Surely he regrets he never allowed his father to acknowledge him, because naively he thought the King had to be without blemish and should not be known to have betrayed his dead wife(1). But it must have festered, and all the more so when Maeglin came and was honoured as the King's close kinsman, and became his heir in the eyes of many.
And then false Maeglin betrays Gondolin to the foe, and the city falls, and great is her fall and that of her King - and his crown goes to a boy, the son of the weakling Orodreth, and Tárion is left with nothing but grief, resentment and smouldering memories. So, what does he do, being tainted from his conception day? He seduces young Artanáro Gil-galad, who bears the crown, to bind him and be King and rule the realm in all but name. The scions of Finwë were never strangers to ambition, were they? And though he should not have been born, Tárion son of Turgon is one of them - and no less cursed than his cousin Maeglin.
Thus believes the lord Glorfindel, formerly of the House of the Golden Flower. Who among the dwellers on these shores shall gainsay him?' And listening to his own heavy breathing in the silence that followed even this outburst, Tárion at last turned back, bracing himself for the look on the face of his onetime friend.
'Are you accusing yourself?' Glorfindel asked softly, and sadly.
Tárion leaned back against the window pane, feeling the chill of the glass penetrate his shirt. 'Perhaps,' he replied, just as softly, just as sadly. 'I should have told him the truth. And I shall, tonight, after the meeting, if you are willing to grant me the benefit of the doubt. And if you find that he does not know tomorrow, you can tell him.' I will lose him anyway.
'Would that be wise? Would you not rather wait until the Enemy has been defeated?'
'And mar his victory? It would be worse rather than wiser. Gil-galad is a fighter. This will fuel his determination to fight.'
Tárion could not tell if he had convinced his old friend. Glorfindel's gaze strayed, and for the first time he seemed to notice the sketch of Gondolin on the wall. 'You drew him,' he said in amazement, gesturing at the King on the balcony, the only figure worked out in any detail. He stepped closer. 'Small as he is, I even recognise his face. You... you caught his likeness well.'
'Yes...' Tárion whispered. Despite everything, I love him. 'But I fear I will never see him again while this world lasts.' And seeing Glorfindel's sorrowful expression, he suddenly felt his legs give way, and sank to the floor.
'Are you certain you do not want me to accompany you back to the palace, my lord?' the aide asked once more.
'You think I will be assailed by the Elves?' the Ciryatur said; the youth was really becoming obnoxious. 'They have their flaws, but do you seriously think they will lift one finger against the leader of their rescuers? The saviours of Middle-earth. Find that ancient map you mislaid and bring it to my suite in the palace. Report back to me after supper.'
'Yes, my lord admiral.' The aide bowed stiffly, looking as if he thought it was his lord admiral who had mislaid the map.
The Ciryatur left his ship with the box containing Tar Minastir's gift to the Elvenking in his hand. I am getting old, he thought. Ten years ago I would have presented it to him during my first dinner in the palace. But it is mostly his own fault, for unnerving me like he does. Not to mention the Lady.
She had been prying into his mind. He had tried to veil it by thinking of practical and concrete matters: marching orders, battle plans, ships cleaving the waves; and Númenor, its grandeur and power, its great endeavours, its cities, palaces and tombs. He had tried not to think about himself. Yet he doubted he had remained wholly invisible in the forest of thoughts and images growing in his mind, and he was vexed.
Frowning, he strode along the quayside, his steps guided by those magical lamps that spread light without visible fire. The Elves denied that it was magic, but if they could not explain its workings, it quite simply was. Suddenly he saw yet another lamp straight ahead, moving away from the palace. A woman carried it - no, a maiden with long, silver hair that radiated a light of its own, a star shining into his gloom, a vision of imperishable beauty to brighten a brief mortal life lived between two nights of non-existence. His breath caught in his throat, and a thought crossed his mind: I want to die now, or never.
Old fool! Yet he found himself increasing his pace, straying from his course - and yes, it was the golden Lady's daughter, Celebrían, bow and quiver slung across her back. Target practice, and by night? But clearly even her Elven eyes needed more light than her precious stars could given. Except that, while gazed at her, the light disappeared and he found himself staring into shadows, seeking her in vain. Had she extinguished it, hoping to avoid him? In that case, she had succeeded well, and he had no choice but to continue to the palace.
Well, it was suppertime anyway, and he couldn't live on elusive visions.
And there was that fellow Gildor again, also approaching the gates, and, surprisingly, flanked by a female. The Ciryatur had assumed that Gildor favoured males - and this girl was not even of his own fair race. With her coal-black curls and her sallow skin she had to be one of those savages from Dunland, except that she stood slightly taller. Númenorean blood, probably. The Dúnedain did sow their wild oats in Middle-earth.
When Gildor wished him good evening the Ciryatur returned the greeting, adding an 'enjoy yourself'.
The girl cast him an unpleasant glance. 'Who is he?' she demanded to know, turning to the Elf.
'The admiral of the Númenorean fleet.'
'Another of those accursed treecutters!'
The Ciryatur's jaw clenched. He had never in his life wielded an axe in Middle-earth! But no, she was too far below him to be able to insult him. He would have stared her down if she had not stalked off, pulling a nonplussed Gildor along.
'What ails you, Zaba?' he heard the Elf ask.
Zaba? Definitely a Númenorean connection. Maybe the girl's begetter had played a malicious trick on the mother, the admiral thought, smiling thinly to himself.
'What ails me? More than I could tell you between here and the place where we are headed,' he heard Zaba reply to Gildor's question. 'Though I can tell you that he keeps me for a whore, and you for a whore-monger.'
The girl's reply was to soft to catch. The Ciryatur shrugged. That conclusion was hers, not his, and he had offended no one with his cheerful greeting. Seeing the two disappear inside the palace, he followed them at a more sedate pace.
When she encountered Gil-galad on her way to the dining hall, he was so absent-minded that he forgot to return her greeting. She wondered if it had something to do with the coming of Glorfindel and the coming meeting to which the Shipwright and she had been invited. When he did not open his mind to her she asked where their guest from overseas was; would he not attend supper on his first evening in Mithlond?
'He was probably delayed,' the King replied, sounding troubled. Galadriel stronlgy suspected that Gil-galad's troubles were the source of his preoccupation, but it was apparent that he did not wish to speak of it.
They were still on their way to the dining hall when they heard rapidly approaching footsteps and a voice crying: 'My lord King!' Turning, they saw an elf in the royal livery doing his best to keep ahead of two strange, poorly dressed but purposeful looking mortals. 'Be careful, my lord,' he warned, about halfway down the corridor. 'I could not prevent them from entering this part of the palace without taking recourse to violence. And they do not seem to speak any known language.'
Gil-galad's mind must have reasserted its presence, for raising his eyebrows he said: 'Oh? If they use it, I am reasonably certain that they know it.' Then he relented. 'Though this may not be of much help to us.'
Despite his calm voice, his hand crept towards his dagger. The mortals, who carried no visible weapons, halted abruptly, recoiling at the gesture.
It pained Galadriel to see the fear in their eyes. There was anger too, bordering on hatred but still one step short of it, as if they hoped they would be spared the necessity to hate. She did not wish to be hated by free people, and these two were free. Still. They do not seem a threat to me, my lord.
His hand dropped. How do we solve this problem, my lady?
Her brother used to be good at matching thoughts and words in languages unknown to him, better than she was, although she read desires and emotions more easily. Perhaps Finrod's grandson could -
As if her mere thought had been enough to summon him, Gildor Inglorion appeared at the far end of the corridor - with another woman, younger, and a little different in face and colouring. As soon as they set eyes on them the other two mortals cried out, and the man began to speak rapidly in his own tongue. The newly arrived girl interrupted him, seeming to ask a question, and receiving an answer from the woman.
'Cousin.' The King turned to Gildor. 'Glorfindel tells me that you acquired some knowledge of this language since you arrived in Middle-earth. What do they say?'
His cousin listened. 'I think they want to lodge a complaint against Númenor,' he said after a while. 'And against the Elvenking as well, it seems.'
Now why did that please him? Galadriel wondered.
'Do they, now?' came the cold voice of the Ciryatur, who came striding towards the company in that very moment.
Galadriel could easily catch Gil-galad's thought, and it would not surprise her if all the Elves in the palace caught it, too, so intense was it. No! Not now!
(1)I have to confess this is fanon. It was Chapter 2 of Finch's Fingon/Maedhros series Under the Curse, Brother and Lover, that inspired me to attribute a son to Turgon. As will become clear in a later chapter, I did change a few background details.
Further note To my regret, I have to tell you I may not be able to update as often during the next few months as I've been doing until now. I'll try to post a new chapter twice a month, though. The story will be told by Chapter 40, or at least, that's my intention...
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.