33. Chapter Thirty-three
Of course the savage girl with the preposterous name could not be taken seriously. No doubt she would also have pointed an accusing finger at his people if they had only cut down a single tree, or killed a single deer. Or raped a single woman - for which the perpetrator would have received his just deserts. The Númenoreans were honourable men.
If only he could be certain that the Elvenking shared his opinion. 'But I cannot,' he spoke, though he was alone on the balcony of his palace apartment, with no one to overhear him, while the west wind swept his words away.
The Ciryatur frowned; he should not be alone. His aide should have joined him long ago with the map. And where, he suddenly wondered, was young Beregar, whose imminent return had been announced by Gildor before supper? What kept the fellow so long? Maybe he should have asked Zaba about Beregar's fate, but truth to say he had been too outraged at her allegations to think of anything else. Could it be that she had killed Beregar, as a first payment for all those so-called Númenorean evils?
I retired too soon, the Ciryatur said to himself. He did not know what an Elf-maiden would think of a mortal Man who visited her in her private rooms, but it was there Celebrían had taken Zaba, so that was where he went.
One good thing to be said about the Elves was, that most of them treated him with all the respect due to his rank (the main exception being their king, who had misled him on the quayside and paraded naked in front of him while his catamite lay watching from their bed) They pointed him courteously to the door he sought. As he feared that Celebrían would refuse to admit him he stepped inside without knocking.
He saw Zaba first, in front of the fireplace. 'My father never even dreamed of serving any Dark Lords!' he heard her say. 'You must...' She faltered when she saw the Ciryatur.
The Silver Lady rose gracefully from a high-backed chair. 'Can I help you, my lord?' she asked, her voice matching the cold glint in her hair.
'Actually, my lady, I was looking for your... guest.'
'If you dare to lay hands on me...' Zaba spat.
The Ciryatur did not deign to react. 'Tell me, Zaba' - he made it sound like the insult it was - 'did you by any chance encounter a young man in the wilds beyond this town, a Númenorean called Beregar?'
She gave him an angry look. 'What I can tell you,' she said, her tone as insulting as his, 'is that I was assaulted by a young Númenorean who called himself Falmalion. He stole my father's ring from me. It could have been this Beregar of yours, in which case he also lied about his name. Not that it would surprise me.'
How interesting. 'What happened to him?' he asked impassively, refusing to be angered by such as she.
'He forced me to accompany him to this town and used a trick to enter, allegedly to help me slip past the gatekeepers, though now I believe he guessed that they were looking out for him. Only I could not warn them, for I did not know his true name. I took my chance and ran away. But he still has my ring and I -'
'Zaba,' Celebrían interrupted her, 'maybe you should not openly discuss this ring; did you not hear what I told you about it?'
This was even more interesting. 'So Beregar is here in Mithlond,' the admiral mused, stepping closer to his Silver Lady. Grabbing Celebrían's hand the Ciryatur pressed a kiss on it. 'Thank you for bearing with me, sweetest maiden.'
She pulled her hand away and seemed about to wipe it on her skirt, but checked herself in time. 'Was that all, my lord?'
He smiled. She thought herself above him? Perhaps she needed correction, one day soon. 'It was.'
But it was not, of course.
'Have him watched carefully, lest he escapes us,' the King told the Captain when they led Beregar away.
'He will not surprise me a second time, lord,' replied Tárion, avoiding the concern in Gil-galad's eyes.
'You will return here for the meeting?'
'I will.' A nod, and Tárion followed Beregar and the guards.
Glorfindel looked at the ring on the table, knowing that if it had promised him the power to bring joy and mitigate grief and offer infallible guidance, he might have been tempted to use it.
'You told us that you were sent here for the sake of the Elven-rings, my lord Glorfindel,' Círdan reminded him.
Taking his original seat, Glorfindel said: 'I was. When Celebrimbor died, five years of the Sun ago, and passed into the Houses of the Dead, his fëa appeared before Námo Mandos, the master of the Halls and the judge of all Elves who enter them. And he repented of his errors, his desire to preserve the world around him from death and decay by all possible means, his misplaced trust in the one who called himself Annatar, but who was in truth Sauron the Abhorred.'
'My brother's murderer,' Galadriel said, her voice deep like a man's, and almost a growl.
'Whom I am sworn to destroy,' Gil-galad added with grim determination.
At that instant, Glorfindel saw a flash of fire before his mind's eye - fell flames running up the shaft of a spear and enveloping its wielder in a fatal embrace. Sworn to your undoing, he thought, knowing the vision to be foresight. Yet he did not see when or how it would come true, nor was this the proper moment to speak of such things.
'This lord of lies and temptations,' he went on, sighing ever so slightly, 'suggested that with his help, the Mirdain could make Endor as beautiful and enduring as Valinor. A veiled attack on the Powers this was(1), an attempt to create a Blessed Realm without their blessing. But in his eagerness the son of Curufin son of Fëanor had not seen this, and though he and his Mirdain crafted the Three without Sauron's knowledge, just as Sauron made the One without theirs, in the end they will fail, whether the One prevails or not. All that they accomplish shall founder on the unyielding rock of Time, all that they preserve shall fade, and the change and world-weariness they halt, shall overtake you the faster on these mortal shores. So the Powers say.'
'Is this your message?' Círdan asked when Glorfindel paused.
'It is a warning.' Galadriel straightened. 'The Valar tell us not to desire the same power that they have over matter - they who shaped the world from the Vision of Ilúvatar. We are but children to them, toying dangerously with the spark of creation in ourselves, which can easily flare into fire and consume us. As it consumed Fëanor. Is this not so?' She looked at Glorfindel.
'That is what they hold true,' he admitted.
At that moment, Tárion returned and took a seat at the end of the council table, swiftly and soundlessly.
'Do they tell us to destroy the Three?' Gil-galad wanted to know, his eyes narrowing.
'We have tried, Celebrimbor and I,' Galadriel said before Glorfindel could answer, staring at her hands, 'but we could not.'
'Are you not merely defending Celebrimbor now, my lady?' he asked. 'Was it not he who would not, and you who could not, because he never told you how?' And you avoided to ask him? 'For such were his words to Mandos, and the naked fëa cannot lie. Rings of Power, he says, are hard to break.'
The Lady shook her head. 'I have no answer to that.' Do not presume to know what I did and did not avoid.
Bracing himself, Glorfindel turned to the High King. 'The answer to your question, lord, is that the Powers hope I shall be allowed to take the Three across the Sea. In the Undying Lands they will be useless, and Celebrimbor is willing to aid in their unmaking.' Celebrimbor had overcome his desires. His kin in Middle-earth had not, though; Glorfindel could sense the resistance in the present Keepers of the Three.
'A far-reaching request,' said the King, glancing at his Captain, who remained impassive.
'Do all the Powers say the same?' Círdan asked suddenly. 'Do none gainsay the others, as the Lord of Waters did in the First Age, when the Great Sea still lapped the coasts of Beleriand? Does the Lady of Tears and Compassion not counsel otherwise?'
Glorfindel met his far-seeing, blue gaze. 'Perhaps some do doubt,' he said. 'Yet only one voiced such doubts to me: a lesser spirit, who does not deem himself wise or strong. Olórin he is, my friend and teacher ever since I left the Halls of Mandos.'
'I met Olórin long ago, in the Light of the Trees,' Galadriel said. 'He was the servant of the Lady Nienna then. Does he gainsay the Aratar?'(2)
'He does not. Yet he wonders if the three Elven-Rings will not have a part to play in the story of these lands.'
'And what say you?' Círdan wanted to know.
'I have never felt the lure of the Three,' Glorfindel replied, perhaps a little too quickly. 'It is not for me to tell you what to do.'
'Tárion?' Gil-galad asked.
The Captain gestured at Beregar's ring where it rested on the table. Its golden glow had become sullen, as if it was moping, and the gemstone gleamed dully. 'Has it been decided yet what to do with this? If the Dark Lord controls it, should it not be dealt with first?'
Gil-galad stretched out a hand after the ring but then withdrew it again. 'Destroyed, you mean?'
'If Rings of Power are as hard to break as the messenger from the West tells us,' Tárion mused, 'it is possible that we cannot find the means to destroy this one.' He turned to Glorfindel. 'Would the Powers allow any ring controlled by the Dark Lord to come to the Blessed Realm, to be unmade with Celebrimbor's help?'
Glorfindel frowned, and it was Galadriel who spoke first. 'They have no dealings with mortals. Their lives are not bound to the Great Song, and it seems to me that this ring is connected with the fate of Men.'
'They would reject it,' Círdan said immediately. The question that Turgon's son had asked was obviously a welcome distraction from the main subject of debate.
'If we attempt to break it, we must not do so without questioning the young Numenórean first.' Suddenly Gil-galad was High King again. 'Let us not act too swiftly. It could be that Sauron the Abhorred destroys us soon, which would make all our points moot.' Now he did pick up the ring. 'Meanwhile I will keep this safe.' He rose. 'It is late; let us retire. This meeting is adjourned until further notice.'
Glorfindel had the impression that no one regretted the King's decision.
After checking once more on Gil-galad's attacker, who had drifted off in the room where he was confined, watched by two members of the guard, Tárion's feet bore him reluctantly to the King's apartments. As expected, Gil-galad was in the bedroom, only clad in his shirt and leggings, lounging in his favourite chair. When Tárion entered he looked up from the scroll he was reading and cast him an uncertain glance.
The Captain hesitated. Under normal circumstances he would sit down on the bed, all the other chairs being occupied by books, clothes and whatever else his lover - no, he told himself, cease to think of him as your lover; he will not be yours anymore, though you will always remain his - the High King liked to surround himself with. In the end, he remained standing.
'Say it.' Gil-galad laid aside the scroll. 'Get it over with, so you can sit down and stop looking like an apprentice's first attempt at carving a statue.'
Tárion dearly wished that he could laugh, too. 'I have misled you,' he began, his heart fluttering in his chest. 'I have kept something from you that you had a right to know.'
'Since the first time we had a private conversation and I could have told you.'
'That was years before this Age began,' Gil-galad remarked. 'And now, all of a sudden, you have decided to make a confession? Or' - his eyes narrowed - 'is there a connection with the arrival of Glorfindel, formerly of Gondolin? You did not merely send me from your room to exchange fond memories, did you?'
'We did exchange memories,' Tárion replied, 'but there was nothing fond about them.'
'And they concerned this devastating truth that you kept from me?'
'They did. But pray, my lord king, do not encourage my attempts to prevaricate. Allow me-'
'My lord king?' Gil-galad interrupted him. 'Where has Arto gone? Did Glorfindel banish him from your heart? I hope not.'
Tárion realised he was not the only one who was prevaricating. He had succeeded almost too well in conveying the gravity of what he was about to disclose. At that instant, he knew with certainty that, were he to say he had second thoughts about the whole thing, Gil-galad would be relieved more than anything, and let the matter rest. Yet in time, the splinter of uncertainty lodged in his heart would fester, if not in a year, then in a yen or in a thousand years, here or in Mandos; the Eldar could never bury a lie by dying.
'Hear me out,' Tárion said swiftly, 'before you say anything you will regret. I told you once that my father was of Fingolfin's following and died in the fall of Gondolin, like my mother. That was no lie. What I omitted to tell you is that my father was not my mother's husband, and that he was more than Fingolfin's follower. He was' - Tárion's fists clenched as if he was grasping a lifeline, except that there was nothing to hold on to.
Gil-galad's facial expression was carefully schooled but he was as quick of understanding as ever. 'Are you saying,' he began slowly, 'that he was Fingolfin's...kinsman?'
Tárion nodded, wondering where his voice had gone.
'Are you trying to tell me,' Gil-galad went on, 'that he was Fingolfin's son? That you were sired by the lord of Gondolin, my predecessor as High King of the Noldor?' He shook his head rather vehemently, in a final attempt to disbelieve his ears. 'Impossible. Turgon was bound to Elenwë!'
At last, Tárion managed to clear his throat. 'When she perished in the Ice it drove Turgon nearly insane. My mother, who had loved him in vain for long years of the Trees, offered him her pity. He took it. Her next offer, that sprung from more than pity, he took as well, barely knowing what he did. And so, between them, they condemned Elenwë to Mandos as long as they both lived, and she bore me, a son of doom and exile who betrayed what he loved most. Like his cousin Maeglin did, be it in a different way.'
'So that is why you were named Tárion? "King's son"... and all these years I believed it was because you were born on that particular day of the week(3) - and you let me call you Valanya and said nothing. But how you must have laughed at me...'
'I was begotten and born on that day of the week,' Tárion said softly, remembering how his mother had loved and detested her own lame joke, depending on her mood.
Gil-galad ignored it. 'And did you ever desire to be High King of the Noldor after your father - son of Turgon?'
'I could not. I never let him acknowledge me.' As soon as he said it Tárion realised that it was not the best of answers. Yet it was the only one he could give in all sincerity.
'What a shame. Surely you regretted that decision, when Turgon's city fell.' There seemed to be a catch in Gil-galad's voice. 'Yet, resourceful as always, you then helped yourself to a considerable measure of power by taking the next High King for a catamite.'
'Catamite?' repeated Tárion uncertainly. He remembered it was the unknown Númenorean word that the admiral had left unspoken, though his thought had been loud enough.
'Ah, yes, I forgot to tell you that I asked one of the Ciryatur's men what it means.' Gil-galad laughed curtly. 'He told me that it was their term for a young man who allowed himself to be used as a woman by an older man.' He rose abruptly. 'And as you are several yeni older than I am it fits the situation perfectly, would you not agree? Especially the first time you took me, when I was still quite young in years of the Eldar. But what a surge of power you must feel running through you, every time you use me to satisfy your needs.' He took a step forward as if to strike, but his mouth trembled.
It is not like that! Tárion thought desperately. This is not how it has been all those years. I loved you. I love you still. All I want is to serve you. It was wrong not to tell you, but it was not power I was after. But if he was not even able to convince himself, how could he hope to convince anyone else? And Arto was out of reach; he would heed neither Tárion's words nor his thoughts. Only the King was left - and the King was leaving.
'I need some fresh air,' Gil-galad said, opening the door. 'I expect you to be here on my return, though. We are not done yet.'
The door closed.
Tárion sagged with fatigue, his scarred chest burning painfully. He longed to stretch himself on the bed - if only it had not been the King's bed, from which he would henceforth be banned. And so he lay down on the floor, gazing at the carved ceiling above him and willing his eyes go blank.
But he was unable to enter the path of dreams and find rest.
1)Or so Tolkien tells us in his Letter to Milton Waldman, probably written in 1951
2)The Nine greatest Valar
3)Tárion (Q.: High Day) is the last day of the Eldarin week, also called Valanya, after the Valar. But Tárion also litterally means 'King's son'.
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