9. Chapter Nine
They had taken the wounded Captain to the King's apartments, Celebrian was told. She briefly wondered why, but on second thought it would be the best place for one severely wounded; there, he was least likely to be disturbed. The guards flanking the door did not even challenge her when she showed them the jar of salve she had brought along as a pretext.
The anteroom, mainly filled with chairs, was empty. She knew that of the two doors in the back wall, the left one gave access to a parlour. So the right one had to lead to the King's private chambers. Quickly slipping inside, she found herself in a corridor lit by softly glowing lamps that made the flowers and grass depicted on the floor tiles come alive, and across this gently waving spring meadow of baked and glazed clay she proceeded on soft feet to the only door that stood ajar.
Through the opening, she could see part of a bed, and beside it the kneeling figure of the High King of the Noldor. He seemed to be speaking to the person, undoubtedly the Captain of his Guard, who lay in the bed, showing him something, or holding something up. A small object that sparkled like fire and cast a red glow on his hand.
Gil-galad's voice was soft, but Celebrian's ears were keen enough to catch his every word.
'You have to let me do this,' he said. 'You saved my life, now let me save yours.'
The answer was either inaudible or not given, though the Captain could hardly be dead if the King was speaking to him.
'So you want me to believe,' Gil-galad replied, lowering the arm with the glowing object until it rested on the bedcovers. 'But the pallor of your face tells me there is little life left in you.'
Again, Celebrian heard only silence, but she saw Gil-galad shake his head. In despair, if she was any judge of gestures, and suddenly she felt a peculiar apprehension.
'Perish!' the King said, speaking louder than before. 'Then let me fall prey to the Enemy, if that is the price. I love you, Tárion, and I do not care what buying your life will cost me. Do you think I will not perish if you die?'
In the doorway, Celebrian felt her legs grow weak. A King should love all his subjects, be they laundry maids, cooks, or shipwrights, warriors, or sages, but the love that made Gil-galad's voice shake was not of that kind. She knew it, because she recognised it. The love her own heart held for the King was no different - except that it was doomed to remain forever unfulfilled.
So this was what her mother had tried to tell her without saying it. I want to die, Celebrian thought. If you can die for love, my star of radiance, so can I.
Startled, she took a step backward, thinking for an instant that she was the one spoken to. Her gown rustled; surely the sound was loud enough to be caught by Gil-galad's ears. Poised to back away from the door, she waited for him to turn his head.
He did not. Instead, she heard the wounded Elf in the bed - Gil-galad's lover, she made herself say in her thoughts - repeat his audible 'No', perhaps summoning all the strength left in him to warn, to convince, to talk reason into the blinded mind of the King.
'I vow to you that I shall not die,' she heard Tárion say, his voice seeming to float above the bed, detached from his body. 'If you doubt me, beloved, remember that I have done so before. Or let me wield the Ring and imperil myself. My soul still holds the memory of burning. It may enhance my power.' Despite his words, he began to falter, yet he managed to add: 'And remember that I was well acquainted with Celebrimbor, who forged this ring, and learned something about the workings of his mind.'
The Ring of Fire. It dawned on Celebrian that she was trespassing in more than matters of the heart alone. She ought to go. But she could not help herself, she wanted to know -
At that moment, Gil-galad did look up and turned towards the doorway. Still affected by what she had heard and seen, she did not withdraw fast enough, and he saw her. He froze. Then, he stood, slowly and almost menacingly, and came towards her.
Clutching her jar of salve, Celebrian decided not to flee. Instead, she asked: 'Can I come in?'
By the time they put the sloop out, the Ciryatur's vessel was well east of the place where Gildor had jumped ship. With swift strokes, three Númenorean volunteers and Glorfindel rowed the boat to the southern coast of the Gulf of Lune. Right there, it did not look particularly accessible, with a steep, rocky slope on which sorry looking bushes clung tenaciously to thin patches of soil. When the keel touched ground, the Elf picked up his companion's cloak and the bag of supplies of from the bottom of the sloop and leapt lightly overboard Thanking the rowers he began to wade towards the rocks.
A splash made him look back. One of the Númenoreans, a tall young lad with short brown hair, was standing behind the boat, pushing it out into the Gulf. But he did not follow it to climb aboard again. Instead, he waved his fellow sailors goodbye and turned to face Glorfindel. 'Do you mind if I come along, my lord?'
If he thought there was a chance that the Elf would mind, he could have asked earlier. But in fact Glorfindel welcomed his company. He remembered the youth's name: Beregar(1), and that he hailed from Romenna, but that was all. Gildor had spent more time with him, and perhaps that was why Beregar came along. He decided not to inquire if the young man had asked permission; that was something between him and the Ciryatur.
'It pleases me to have you for a companion, Beregar,' he replied. 'Especially as you are a sailor, and may be able to tell how far away we are from the place where Gildor swam ashore.'
'Given the speed of the ships, less than two miles, I think,' Beregar answered. 'The fastest way to find it will be partly through the water, I think. But do you believe he will wait, my lord?'
Glorfindel suppressed a sigh. If he were able to predict the younger Elf's every action, he would have prevented him from leaving the ship in the first place. Still, he could not imagine him setting out for the mountains in soaking discomfort.
'We will go back along the shore,' he declared.
They were both correct. In many places, they made more headway by wading through the shallows than by negotiating the rocks, and Gildor had not moved beyond his landing place. He had spread out his wet clothes on a strip of beach and was sitting naked on a boulder, his face drinking in the rays of the afternoon sun. They approached from the east, and as Glorfindel halted just out of elvish earshot, he did not suspect anything.
Putting a finger against his lips, Glorfindel took Gildor's cloak in both hands and began to move silently towards him. If the younger Elf had been more experienced he would have been alert enough to notice something, but living in Valinor was not conducive to watchfulness, except when you loved hunting, which Gildor did not. Right now, he was stretching himself lazily and with visible pleasure. And so, coming up behind the boulder, Glorfindel was able to throw the cloak over the careless figure, jump at him and pull him down.
To his credit, the victim put up more resistance than expected, but because of the cloak wrapped about his eyes his kicks and blows were hardly effective. Soon enough, Glorfindel sat astride him, using his full weight to pin him to the ground. He peeled some folds of cloth from Gildor's fallen face. 'Thank the Valar that I am not the danger you went to seek,' he told him.
'No,' Gildor shot back wryly. 'You are the danger that found me. And you are quite ponderous. Could you please stop taking my breath away?'
Without budging one inch, Glorfindel caught his gaze and held it, though it took him some effort not to laugh. Eventually, Gildor coughed briefly. 'All right,' he conceded. 'Point taken.'
When Glorfindel released him, Gildor extricated himself from the cloak and rose. Seeing the young Númenorean approach, he raised an eyebrow.
'So you didn't come alone. Did the Ciryatur send Beregar along?'
'I don't know.' Perhaps he had, Glorfindel mused, to know what those Elves were up to.
Meanwhile, Beregar had halted, looking a little strange, his gaze directed at Gildor, though not at his face.
'Gildor,' Glorfindel said softly, 'perhaps you could assume a semblance of modesty?'
'Why? I don't think my clothes have dried yet... oh. I see.' Gildor picked up the cloak and wrapped it around himself. 'So, what's the next lesson?'
'Now that we are here anyway,' Glorfindel said, 'we could perhaps take a detour to acquaint ourselves with the Ered Luin.'
1)taken from the Tale of Aldarion and Erendis, where it is the name of Erendis' father
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