3. Chapter Three
That same night, in his room above the Hall of the Guard, Tárion the Captain was adding a tall tower to his sketch of two days earlier. Having exchanged his armour for an old shirt and his instruments of war for a tool of art he felt truer to himself again, and he was singing softly while he worked. The picture he had in mind would cover the entire wall, so he had cleared away a chair, his writing table and his clothes chest, to clutter the space on either side of his bed. This way the room looked as if he prepared to move elsewhere. Overseas.
Tárion knew he would not take ship to escape the Dark Lord. He was of the opinion that he had moved too often in his life: from Vinyamar to Gondolin, from the destruction of Gondolin - a painful, headlong flight from imminent perils to vaguely looming dangers - to the Havens of Sirion, from the burning of the Havens to the Isle of Balar and from there to the westernmost lands not destroyed in the War of Wrath. He was determined to remain with his King, for better and for worse. At the moment, worse seemed the most likely.
He began to draw the balcony at the top of the tower, but before he was halfway done he paused, and stopped singing. Though he had been expecting the vivid memories appearing before his mind's eye, he had not anticipated the force of their onslaught. Looking at his hand he saw that it shook. That would not do, and he told himself sternly to resume his sketching.
Before he could regain full control he sensed that the door was being opened, though there was no sound to be heard. Only one person would enter his room without knocking. And turning away from the wall, Tárion watched the High King enter the room and close the door as silently as he had opened it.
Gil-galad was still dressed in the flowing blue robe he had worn during the evening meal, the royal circlet on his head. He smiled at the Captain of his Guard and crossed to the wall to inspect the artist's progress. 'If you began this the day before yesterday, you work fast,' was his conclusion.
'I was, until I met with an... obstacle.' Tárion noticed that his hand had stopped shaking. He stepped back to assess his own work.
'What obstacle?' Gil-galad inquired, searching his face. 'Memories?'
Tárion nodded. 'Do you want me to stop?'
'Do you want to stop?'
'Perhaps not yet... Never cease when you are stuck, but struggle on until you remember where you were headed.'
'And then you may relax,' said the King. He took off his footwear and sat down cross-legged on the bed, the blue robe puddling around him like a small lake. The sketcher turned back to his sketch, and after a short hesitation continued working at it.
After a while, Gil-galad asked: 'What are you making? Gondolin?'
Adding the finishing touch to a tiny figure on the balcony Tárion said: 'Your eyes are as keen as your lance.'
Gil-galad chuckled. 'Let us rather say that I know you, Valanya(1)... But why this subject, with the armies of the Dark scant leagues away? Is that what you call keeping our hopes up?'
'Gracious King,' the Captain replied with slight mockery, 'what makes you think I am drawing the Fall of Gondolin? The city stood for hundreds of years, singing with the music of water, shining in her splendour. Those are the days I hope to evoke.' He liked to refer to Gondolin as a woman. A spouse to her King, a mother of many children.
'You never fail to make me think I missed something,' the gracious King said wistfully. 'But I guess I will soon set eyes on your fabled City as it was in its halcyon years, for you are a true artist.'
Sadly, the Captain shook his head. 'An artist is what I would like to be. As things are now, I am but a warrior.'
Sliding from the bed, Gil-galad came to stand before him. With a swift movement he took the circlet from his brow and placed it on the other's head. 'You are not "but a warrior", as you know well enough! You are a Noldo, even more so than I am. And artists is what the Noldor are, even when they are many other things as well. As you are.'
Everything about Tárion went rigidly still, but for his face, where he felt ancient hurts waging war against a strong desire to smile. His hand went up, and no sooner had the smile won the battle or he lifted the golden circlet from his dark hair and handed it back to its owner. 'What is it you want to speak about?'
Gil-galad hooked the circlet on his index finger and swung it around. 'Guess. On which matter would I ask your advice?'
Tárion's smile vanished again. 'The Rings,' he said flatly.
On the Falmacilya, the two Elves from Valinor lay side by side on the deck, wrapped in their cloaks. On the other side of the ship, near the bow, a group of Númenorean soldiers sat up late, talking and drinking. Every now and again, an outburst of merriment drifted along the length of the deck towards the stern.
The Elves were silent. Their waking eyes drank in the glory of Varda's stars adorning the vast expanse of the sky. But the view was less splendid than it could have been, as part of it was obscured by wisps of cloud that foretold them the fair weather of the previous days might not last. The wind, too, was rising, and the noises of the ship increased. They had covered more than half the distance separating Númenor from Lindon, and the signs they were leaving the mild climes of the south were increasing.
At the moment, however, it was not the risk of running into a spring gale that occupied Gildor's mind. 'Now the Ciryatur of Númenor may spread the rumour that we are lovers,' he said when he deemed ther silence had lasted long enough.
'That is plain,' replied Glorfindel. 'Do not let it bother you overmuch...' he paused for a while, '... unless you regret declining his generous offer of a private cabin?'
'Well... I glanced into one of the cabins yesterday. They have feather beds. I was sorely tempted to accept.'
'You are a pampered youth, Gildor.'
'I am older than your second body.'
'Which is very young,' Glorfindel countered, mildly amused. 'I wonder why you do not deny you are pampered.'
Gildor snorted. 'Some charges do not merit denial.'
'Such as the Ciryatur's suggestion that we are more than friends.'
Rolling to his side with a fluid movement, Gildor studied Glorfindel in the starlit darkness. The blond hair of the twice-embodied one - the same hue as his own, but straighter - gleamed softly, framing a noble face shining with a light of its own. 'You deliberately prolonged the contact to provoke him.'
'I did,' his companion admitted. 'I allowed myself to be a little... vexed by the man's obtrusive interrogation.' His eyes glinted. 'He was even worse than you.'
Gildor sighed. He knew no more than the Ciryatur did regarding the other Elf's errand. Not for want of trying to find out - he had pried long enough, even suggesting that Glorfindel had grown tired of telling the Eldar of Valinor the story of the Fall of Gondolin and was looking for a new audience in Middle-earth. But the other Elf had remained tight-lipped. But as frivolous curiosity was Gildor's predominant motive to leave the Blessed but not Very Eventful Realm, he guessed he was lucky that Glorfindel the Balrog Slayer deigned to accept his company at all.
As he was wide awake and felt no desire to explore the paths of his dreams yet, he prolonged the conversation by changing subject.
'What do you think of Men in general?' he asked. Unlike Gildor himself, Glorfindel had repeatedly visited Númenor. Having had ample opportunity to study the race, he must have formed an opinion.
'You mean, Men as opposed to Women?' Glorfindel inquired innocently, just before the wind carried a gust of Númenorean laughter towards them.
'I think you know what I mean.'
After a thoughtful and lengthy silence Glorfindel replied: 'The only mortals I ever met are the Dúnedain. They are a mighty people, strong, valiant, enterprising, great craftsmen and mariners. But the first time I saw them they were more like the Firstborn than they have become since: wiser, the light in their eyes shining more brightly - and less envious of our long lives. There is a struggle going on in their souls: they are restless, ever seeking what is new and strange, sailing to the ends of the earth to find it - yet they would reject the Gift of Death that saves them from growing bored and weary of the world.'
'But is it not tempting to want what you cannot have,' Gildor heard himself say.
'And since when have you grown so experienced that you would know this?'
Gildor laughed and rolled onto his back again, stretching himself. 'It is something my grandfather told me once.'
'Ah!' Glorfindel said. 'Your grandfather. Yes, he would.'
But I did not say it on his authority alone, Gildor thought.
(1)This will be explained later (in case there are people who want an explanation).
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