Finrod was somewhere close, standing in the corner or by the window or just outside the door. He came to stand by the bed with a hand held out invitingly. "Im ú-chaeron, ionden," he said, smiling softly.
At the words, Glorfindel snapped wide awake as if he had been burned, and sat up so fast it made him dizzy. No half-dream figures stood nearby, though he squinted to look and listen in darkness. Everything seemed suddenly very quiet. And very warm. His skin was sticky with sweat under his nightshirt and the sheets felt too hot. He stepped out of bed, pushing damp hair back off his forehead, and crossed to the window to open the shutters. The cool mountain air was a relief to feel, and somehow easier to breathe. For some time he just stood, leaning tiredly against the stone frame.
The last dream, which had seemed so real, seemed also impossible to forget. It made no sense, if Glorfindel understood properly what Finrod had said. Im ú-chaeron, ionden. I am not far, my son. Why would he dream such a thing? He could only reach to guess at a reason. He had been speaking to Finrod directly before he came up to bed, which explained Finrod's presence in the dreams. Finrod spoke Sindarin because Glorfindel had spent so much time with Oropher that afternoon, always striving to speak Sindarin until his head hurt. The subject of his father stayed in his mind always, and he had been speaking of his search to Fingon. He could hardly deny the tiny flicker of hope, however unreasonable, as he sat in the garden with Noldorin Finrod, who knew Amma, who had lived in Valmar, who had left Aman after Fëanor forty-four years ago, though he said he was unmarried.
It all came together, he supposed, in a wishful thought. Such dreams had come to him before, innumerable times, though the father was always left faceless. The sight of Finrod was nothing more than a desire.
With a quiet sigh he rubbed his eyes and turned back to the bed. It was still dark and he had so far managed hardly any sleep at all. He lay down on top of the blankets and closed his eyes, hoping the night breeze would help calm him. The image of Finrod's outstretched hand was still bright in his memory.
No-one called for him in the morning. A pair of Sindarin boys came early to bring wash-water and light the fire, but Glorfindel was so exhausted from the restless night that he fell back asleep almost immediately. No-one brought breakfast. He lay in bed, feeling groggy and slipping in and out of sleep, until common sense forced him up and into his clothes. He washed his face and hands and feet in the basin of cool water. Then he waited. He grew hungry and impatient, but no summons from Fingon came. He waited until the sun shone at midday height in the sky before he convinced himself that no order was coming. Then, with the prospect of a free afternoon before him, he resolved to find Oropher.
Oropher was hardly difficult to locate. He had situated himself in the stairwell between the third and second floors and was sitting on the third step from the bottom, eating loucoums out of a cloth bag. A dusting of powdered sugar trailed from his chin to his lap and coated the cuffs of his jacket. He smiled as he saw Glorfindel approach, and held out his hand. "Aiya Laurefindil! Want one?"
"No, thank you." Glorfindel stood beside Oropher on the narrow end of the step and peered down at the bag, which looked sticky. "I need instead real food. Will you come with me down to the dining room?"
"Mm." Oropher nodded, his mouth full of candy, and stood up to brush the sugar from his coat. "It'll be busy right now, but we can go if you're hungry. I could use some food."
With a nod in return, Glorfindel led the way down the spiral stair. Oropher chattered on as they walked.
"But did you hear me? I said 'Aiya Laurefindil', that's Quenya isn't it? I heard the King say that one time. Not the 'Laurefindil' part, the other word, but that's your name, I remembered."
"Yes, very good," said Glorfindel.
"I was hoping you'd show up again today so's you can start teaching me. You think we can start right after dinner? I want to be able to say at least a few good things by tonight. I mean I wouldn't say it to anybody out loud, but I want to know some things still. Right now I only know a few names, like your name and my name. In Quenya I'm Oroferno, I guess. That's what the King calls me. Nice-sounding, isn't it? O-ro-fer-no. Sounds mostly the same. You suppose it means the same?"
"Oh... yes," Glorfindel said. If possible, Oropher spoke even more quickly than he had the previous day, allowing Glorfindel to catch only snatches of his speech. He hoped he had answered the question correctly, and that it had indeed been a question requiring only a yes or no answer.
"I know some of the words sound a bit the same, but I don't know if they mean the same. How long you reckon it'll take me to learn? All year? More than a year? How long you been learning edhelren, anyhow? Armion says the King's been learning near forty years now but he still can't say 'edhelren' right even. Says 'eselren'. But I heard you and you can say it right so you must be better than him. No, dining room's to the left. Anyway ever since yesterday I been listening real close to how the King talks and none of the sounds seem too different. Shouldn't be too hard, right?"
Oropher paused, looking expectantly at Glorfindel. Glorfindel cleared his throat. "Ehhh... yes."
"Was that 'yes' it shouldn't be too hard, or 'yes' it will be hard?" asked Oropher.
Glorfindel blinked. "No."
"Huh," said Oropher. He shrugged. "I reckon I'll find out when I try then."
The doors to the servants' dining hall had been propped open, and a long queue snaked back out and down the corridor. Oropher fell silent as they joined the line, seeming more interested in trying to peer over the heads of those in front and discover what was being served. "Looks like stew again," he eventually said. "Bread... same's we had yesterday. Weren't any meat in the stew yesterday, you know, you could've ate it after all." Then he added, more slowly for Glorfindel's benefit, "No meat."
"Hm," said Glorfindel. But he still watched carefully as the Sindarin cook ladled stew into the wooden bowls of those who waited. It was hard to tell; he could discern only carrots and peas for certain through the thick brown sauce.
Another man, black-haired and sharp-eyed, stood to the side as if supervising the operation. He was likely the kitchen overseer, and almost certainly Noldorin. He watched the queue carefully, eyes darting hawkishly from ladle to bowl as if to make certain nobody was given too much stew or received an overly large piece of bread. Hesitantly, Glorfindel leaned toward him.
"Pardon sir," he said softly, in Quenya. "What's... what's in the stew? Please?"
The Noldorin man's miserly expression changed as abruptly as if Fingolfin himself had just spoken. "You're not Sinda?" he asked.
"No," said Glorfindel. "But the stew-"
With a grin, the Noldorin man held up a friendly hand to quell his fears. "Not to worry," he said. Then he turned to the cook and snarled an order in Sindarin. "Give him a soldier's meal!"
Obediently, without looking at him, the cook handed Glorfindel a silver plate and bowl. The bowl was full of the same stew the others received, but the plate held two pieces of bread, an apple, boiled turnip, and a thick slice of roast ham. Glorfindel stared at it uncertainly, and tilted the plate to make the oily juice from the ham flow down toward the edge rather than touch the turnip.
"Now tomorrow," said the Noldorin man, "you just ask for that, and you get a decent whole meal instead of just the slop these savages eat."
"But I-" Glorfindel started, but the Noldorin man had already turned back to shout at the queue.
"Next!" he barked, in Sindarin.
The only empty seats Oropher could find in the hall were in the far corner, near the larger polished table where the Noldorin guards sat. These seats were always last to be filled, as the Sindar knew well enough by now to keep out of the way and stay a respectful distance from any black-haired individual carrying a weapon. But though the guards briefly paused to mark Glorfindel and Oropher's presence, the sight of Glorfindel's silver plate was assurance enough for them. They returned to their loud and vulgar conversation, a discussion of exactly what interest they had in a particularly pretty girl who washed floors in the barracks, and paid Glorfindel and Oropher no further heed. Glorfindel pushed the ham as far to the side of his plate as it would go and began eating the turnip.
"Why'd you get that, then?" asked Oropher. He eyed Glorfindel's plate longingly as he dipped a corner of the dry bread into his stew.
"I don't know," said Glorfindel.
"Bet they just gave it to you because you spoke to that man in Quenya. How fair is that? Bet they thought you were Golodhren then even though you don't look it. You ought to teach me how to ask for food in Quenya first. You going to eat that, anyhow?" He pointed at the ham slice.
Glorfindel shook his head and turned the plate so that the ham faced Oropher, who grabbed it with his fingers and dropped it into his stew.
"Thanks. Can I have your knife too?"
Glorfindel handed him the thin silver knife. He cut the ham into rough pieces, then used the point to spear each bite of food.
"Don't you like it?" he asked.
"Pigs are unclean animals," said Glorfindel.
Oropher shrugged. "So? Butchers clean them up before they're cooked, don't you guess?"
Glorfindel gave no answer, intent as he was on stirring his stew to discover the contents. What he had suspected to be pork turned out to be nothing more than a long slice of mushroom. But Oropher hardly cared whether or not Glorfindel answered. Oropher in fact seemed to prefer Glorfindel to remain silent, as it gave him far more opportunity to speak.
"Everyone says how pigs are dirty but I had pigs on my farm and they're fine by me. Had one real big sow that was friendly as a dog and used to let me ride her around when I was little. Course I got covered in mud but mud washes off, don't it? Ada never could kill her even when she was too old to have piglets any more so she just died naturally and me and my brother took her body out into the trees. You can't eat an animal that's died like that; it's bad luck. If you do that then all your animals'll start dying on you. I always wished I could've had a real horse to ride though, instead of just that sow. I've never ridden a horse, have you? The family that lived down the river had one. They said once I turned forty I could maybe try and ride him, but I guess that won't happen now. Anyway I'm pretty good at running on my own so really why would I need a horse? Horses can't run as fast through the trees as I can. I wonder whatever happened to that one... You going to eat that other piece of bread?"
Somehow through the course of all his talking, Oropher had managed to finish his meal, and his hand had started wandering toward Glorfindel's plate again. "Take it," said Glorfindel.
"Thanks. Where'd you come from, anyhow? I mean I know you come from across the sea, but what'd you do there? What'd your family do? Me, my family was farmers, but Armion reckons there aren't farmers across the sea, and that everything just sort of is there already. Like you get all the fruit you need from trees that are right there, and the animals just come to your side ready to take. That true? You know any farmers? What'd your parents do?"
Glorfindel held back an answer for several seconds, carefully scooping up the last of his stew and setting the silver bowl aside before he spoke. "Nothing," he said vaguely. "Armion is right. Nobody works in Aman."
Oropher was clearly impressed. "I wish I lived there," he said, and sat up a bit straighter.
"I do too," said Glorfindel, though he said it very quietly.
Oropher nodded, though likely only to show he was still paying attention as he scraped the gravy from Glorfindel's bowl with Glorfindel's uneaten bread crust. "So now that we've eaten, how about you teach me Quenya now?"
Oropher glanced around the hall. "Maybe we'll go outside. Too many people in here, and they all love to snitch on each other when they hear interesting things. I don't really... want anyone to tell the King about this, you know? Better for me if he doesn't know I know what he's talking about."
"I'll tell him nothing of you if you tell him nothing of me," said Glorfindel, at which Oropher grinned.
They set their dishes on the corner of the table and left the dining hall, Oropher grabbing whatever bits of leftover bread he could find from finished plates along the way. He had done this after their meal the previous day as well, prompting Glorfindel to suspect that, if given his way, he would eat at least twice as much as anyone else in the castle. He already ate more than his fair share. When Glorfindel asked him why, he factually stated that he was trying to grow faster, and did not elaborate on the point. Glorfindel understood, though. After seeing Fingon's rather more impressive bare form, he had been stricken with the same wish for his body to hurry up and grow into its adult size rather than linger in gawky adolescence.
Oropher led the way up and out of the tower, onto the stony walkway of one of the terrace walls that overlooked the gardens. Glorfindel glanced around. No-one could be seen, apart from three ladies on a midday stroll, and even they disappeared quickly behind a bank of flowering trees. Oropher crouched down, leaning back against the sun-warmed stones of the terrace wall behind him, and Glorfindel sat at his side.
"Where you reckon we ought to start?" Oropher asked.
Oropher was a far better linguist than Glorfindel would have guessed. They practiced until the sun began to dip toward the mountains, and within that time he had mastered numbers (minë, atta, neldë), colours (ezel, nazar, tulca), and times of day (arin, arië, thindyë, lómë), along with a few of the more important words like "water", "food" and "Manwë". Glorfindel made him count to twelve, forward and back and by twos or threes, until he was satisfied that Oropher did indeed know the numbers and had not merely memorised the order of the sounds. Then he pointed to various nearby objects and made Oropher state the colour (usually grey or green, as they were surrounded by very little other than stone and leaf) until Oropher grew impatient with the childish game and demanded to learn something difficult.
"I can teach you a prayer," said Glorfindel.
"Will it at least be challenging?" Oropher asked gruffly.
Oropher sighed. "Alright, let's hear."
Glorfindel turned himself to face the mountains, sitting neatly with his feet tucked under him. "You must look to the West when you say this," he told Oropher, who apathetically shuffled into place.
With a solemn breath, Glorfindel sat straighter and raised his head, as if looking to Taniquetil across the sea. Then he recited his prayer, automatically, in Sindarin and Quenya.
"All praise and thanks be to Manwë, Lord of Arda. Ilya laitalë aza hantalë na Manwen, Heru Ardava. Most blessed and most holy. Ammana az anaizë. Only King and only ruling Judge of the End of Arda. Aran thanda aza námo hérula eressë Ambar-mettava. You alone we praise, edy' eressë laitalmë, and You alone we ask to command us, az Edy' eressë maquetilmë canitalmë. Guide us to the straight path. Men tana i téra tië. The path of those to whom you gave your love, I tië tiva yarin antanedyë melessedya, not of those who bear your scorn, lá yariva i colir yaiwedya, as the Golodhrim, ve Noldor, nor of those who have strayed, lá yariva i aránier, as the..."
Glorfindel stopped at these words. He stared at Oropher, who looked back at him so innocently, and realised just too late what he'd done.
"As the Telerrim," he finished quietly, "ve Telezi." He sighed, muttering, "I should not have said that with you here."
"Don't worry," said Oropher. "It was long. And not very interesting. I've forgot all of it already. Can we go back to learning food?"
"Yes," said Glorfindel. He stood up on his knees, but before turning from the West he muttered to himself, under his breath, "Lord Manwë, I beg You forgive him his ignorance; he is simple and knows not the wonder of Your reign."
As the sun dipped lower and shadows grew longer, they walked along the terrace wall. They went as far as the guarded barrier where the wall met the mountain, then turned and continued back to the tower. While they walked, Oropher recited the words Glorfindel set him. "Alda. Taurë. Lassë. Indhil. Chellë. Ondo. Fandya. Anar. Ithil. Oronti." Glorfindel only half listened, not caring enough to correct Oropher's pronunciation. He ran his hand lazily along the roughness of the stones and kicked at pebbles. For the first time in his life, he realised, he had nothing to do: no work, no chores, and no duties. The few things he did for Fingon were ceremonial at best, and teaching Oropher was a choice, not a requirement. He absently wondered if all of life in Eithel Sirion would be so eventless. If so, he would be dead of boredom before the year's end.
"Apsa. Sáva. Pidhya. Tyur. Thornë. Celva. Thambë. Mindon. Minassë." Oropher's voice continued to chant at his side.
"What may people do here?" he asked.
"What may people do? Look, see us, we only walk on this wall. What may people do when they have no work? Walk, only?"
Oropher paused to consider. "Well, the people who work, they're always working. The ones who have farms or work in the castle. But the lords and people like you and me, and the King... I know the King has his garden and some plants. I help him take care of those sometimes. Or I sit in the stairs and think about things like I was doing when you found me today. Or sometimes I practice with weapons. Swords and spears and bows. You ever do that?"
"No," said Glorfindel. He had a small copper knife, hardly as long as his hand, and in Valmar had once used a long blade to kill a goat. But it was hardly the same. He had never touched a real weapon, like the heavy swords the Noldor carried. Nothing that was meant to be used on anything other than animal throats or vegetable stalks.
"Then I can show you," Oropher said, grinning. "You teach me Quenya, I teach you sword fighting. Just follow me."
Again Oropher led the way, this time following a winding path of stone steps down from the terraces and through the garden. The road twisted alongside falling streams that fed into pools, and turned past trees whose drooping leaves veiled the way. Always ahead, the faint sound of clanging metal on metal drew nearer.
"Someone's here already," said Oropher. "We'll have to wait. They don't like me interrupting. But we can watch."
They stepped out of the trees and onto the edge of a practice lawn just in time to see Fingon and Finrod, facing each other several paces apart, raise their swords in preparation to duel.
"Wonder how good he is," Oropher muttered.
"Who?" asked Glorfindel, but his voice was lost under the loud ringing blow as Fingon struck, fast and merciless as a snake. Finrod had barely time enough to lift his sword in defence when Fingon struck again, and again, forcing Finrod to stumble back under the force. He lost his footing and fell to one knee.
"Not very," Oropher said in answer to his own musing.
"Maybe he was not ready," said Glorfindel.
In the middle of the lawn, Fingon walked a wide arc back to his starting position, swinging his sword lazily at the air. Finrod stood and braced himself again, but Fingon's arm whipped unexpectedly around, easily knocking the blade from his hands with another resounding clang. He leapt back in surprise, and Fingon laughed loudly. Glorfindel cringed to feel the embarrassment on Finrod's behalf.
"Really not very good," said Oropher.
"Better than you and I, I guess," said Glorfindel. Oropher's statement may have been true, but it annoyed him nonetheless to hear Finrod being dismissed so casually.
Oropher shook his head. "Not me." He paused to watch a spectacular onslaught by Fingon, and a spectacularly bad tumble by Finrod that ended with him flat on his back while his sword stood wobbling in a clump of grass several feet away. "Me, I practice whenever I can. So's I'm ready when I turn fifty."
"Oh," said Glorfindel. He did not ask why Oropher wanted to be ready, nor for what.
The conversation lapsed into silence again, and Finrod continued to fail. He fell, was disarmed, suffered injury, was beaten back, and fully allowed himself to be shamed by the superior skill of his cousin. With one lunging strike he managed to land a solid blow to Fingon's back with the flat side of his blade, but even hopeful Glorfindel had to admit this seemed to be more out of luck than anything else. Fingon retaliated swiftly by knocking Finrod's feet from under him and sending his sword flying once more.
"We should go back inside," said Glorfindel, but Oropher shook his head.
"No, let's watch this."
"But if they see-"
Glorfindel's concern was voiced a second too late. Fingon's eyes, sweeping the lawn as he walked another arc of victory, came to rest on the mouth of the pathway where they stood. With a smile, he beckoned Glorfindel closer. Glorfindel reluctantly came.
"How long have you been watching?" Fingon asked.
Glorfindel shook his head. "Hardy any time at all. We just arrived."
"I suppose your little friend brought you here."
Blushing, Glorfindel looked back to Oropher, who had discovered a mat on the grass. On the mat was a selection of practice blades, and Oropher appeared to be studying them with interest.
Fingon turned up his nose, as if Oropher's mere presence could fill the lawn with a bad odour. "I would have hoped you'd choose your company more carefully," he said. Glorfindel said nothing.
Beside them, Finrod had managed to pull himself to his feet with a groan and was now standing slumped over with his hands braced on his knees. "I am beat, cousin!" he panted. "I have no strength to continue. So if it's fine by you, I'll return to my room and wash up before supper. I'm afraid I'm filthy as well as exhausted, from falling over so often."
"Aye, go," said Fingon. He crossed to shake Finrod's hand and pat his shoulder heartily, though Finrod winced in pain at the contact. "I will see you later."
As Finrod nodded gratefully and limped off toward the tower, Fingon scowled and swung his sword viciously at the air. "Now see," he said to Glorfindel, "the Sinda's interruption has cost me my sparring partner!"
"I'm sorry; we didn't mean-"
"It's not your fault, don't worry," said Fingon. "I blame him. He knows he's not allowed here, yet he comes anyhow. I ought to teach him to respect the rules. Tell him to pick a sword and come over here."
Glorfindel stared uncertainly. "You want him to... fight you?"
"That's exactly what I want," Fingon said. "Now tell him to pick his sword."
Biting his lip, Glorfindel slowly walked to where Oropher was crouched. "Oropher... now that Findaráto is gone back in the tower... he wants you to pick a sword and fight."
Oropher's reaction was far from the fear Glorfindel had expected. Instead, his eyes widened and shone brightly, a disbelieving grin breaking across his face. "Honest? That's what he said?"
"Oropher, this is not a good thing..."
His warning was lost. In a second, Oropher had selected a thin, curved blade, more of a long knife than a sword. He ran to stand opposite Fingon, steady and alert, knife at his side. As was expected, he bowed his head in respect to his opponent. Fingon gave him a scant nod in return. Then they paused, but only for a moment.
Fingon, always the aggressor, struck first. He swung his blade with such speed that Glorfindel's eyes could hardly follow the movement. But where Finrod had tried to block, Oropher dodged with the agility of wind to slip under Fingon's arm and whirl around his back. Caught off guard, Fingon was slow to recover and repair the distance between them. Oropher's knife slashed through the fabric of his shirt and grazed the skin.
He attacked again immediately, but again Oropher spryly dodged. His knife whistled within a hair of Fingon's shoulder. Fingon spun and charged, again and again, but could not land a blow. He was larger and stronger, but that size and strength cost him agility. For all his skill, Oropher was too quick. The thin knife struck cloth and skin, never too deep, but making enough of a scratch to sting and draw a razor line of blood. At each cut, Oropher laughed gleefully, and Fingon shouted with rage. He began to swing carelessly. Oropher continued to duck, leap, and twist his way out of the path of Fingon's blade.
Fingon was breathing loudly, and both hands clutched the hilt of his sword. His shoulders had drooped with exhaustion. He lunged at Oropher, and missed, and lunged again, and missed again. On the third lunge he swung too heavily and fell on his hands and knees, where he stayed, panting, while Oropher let out a triumphant shout. Before he could stand again, Oropher was at his side holding his knife up proudly in the air.
"I win!" Oropher cried.
But as soon as the words were spoken, Fingon's hand shot up like an arrow and grabbed Oropher about the collar, flinging him down to the ground. The point of Fingon's sword was at his throat before Oropher had time even to blink in shock. Fingon stood, slowly and carefully, as a wry smile formed on his lips.
"One must never assume that an enemy who has fallen has been beaten," he said. All hint of exhaustion was gone from his voice and body.
It had been a ruse, Glorfindel saw. There was no way Fingon could have beaten Oropher had the fight continued in the way it started. He must have known this early on. Instead, he feigned tiredness to play up to Oropher's cocky inexperience, and he won. Something told Glorfindel he always won.
"Get up," Fingon said, in Sindarin. He relaxed his stance to let his sword hang at his side. "Go now. Back in the tower."
Oropher scrambled to his feet, face no longer cocky nor triumphant, and bowed hastily to Fingon before leaving the practice lawn as quickly as he could manage. He coughed and clutched at his chest as he ran. He must have had the wind knocked out of him when Fingon slammed him down, Glorfindel thought.
"You are dismissed as well," Fingon said, turning back to Glorfindel. "For the time being. But I think I'll have you come to my room tonight, later. You may do as you wish until then. Only avoid that Sindarin boy."
"I will," said Glorfindel. The way Fingon spoke gave a clear indication that he was to leave immediately and not ask any questions. He was more than happy to oblige. He followed Oropher's path back to the tower, though at a far slower pace, while behind him Fingon gathered the practice swords and wrapped them back in their mat. On the way he did not see Oropher, and did not look for him, and so kept his word.
Fingon liked to be clean. Water was, he thought, his favourite thing in the world. In his opinion, there was nothing better than a long soak in a steaming bath after a day of sweat and swordplay. He would sit until the water cooled, then sometimes, if he had nowhere to be, reheat the tub from the kettle that sat boiling over the fire and sit again until that water cooled. He could easily spend an entire evening in the bath.
He liked to swim, and feel his body encased in water. His uncle Finarfin had owned a little house in Alqualondë, a beachside retreat, and when he was young he had pleaded with his mother until she agreed to let him go visit his uncle there. That ocean felt more like home than anywhere else he had ever been. Finarfin teased him for it and often wondered that he wasn't in fact a little Telerin foundling his mother accidentally picked up in place of her own baby. He stayed there every year, up to the time when a cruel turn of fate led him to foul the pure water he loved with blood drawn by his own sword. With chaos in the air, it was hard to tell which he loved better, water or war. When it was over, he began to think he had made the wrong choice.
He could never survive in a dry place. He had not minded the Helcaraxë as much as some, and would cross it again if need be. Water was abundant there, however cold. But he knew he would have died crossing a desert. Crossing the mountains was trial enough, until they came to Lake Mithrim. Leaving the shores of the lake for Eithel Sirion was nearly as difficult as leaving Finarfin's beach home when he was a child. But there was the spring here at least, and the river. It was a necessity to have water and be clean, no matter when or where.
The water in the tub was starting to cool again, and the kettle was empty. For the last time, Fingon slowly slid down until his head was beneath the surface and his hair floated about lazily around his face and neck. He lay still until his breath ran out, then slowly slid back up, water running in little rivulets and dripping from his skin. It was time to dry off and, he supposed, find Finrod and keep him distracted for the evening. As he stepped from the tub and went to grab his bath sheet from where it lay draped across his desk, he made a note to have Glorfindel present at all bathing times in the future, so as to avoid the discomfort of having to walk across a cold stone floor while naked and dripping wet.
A small wooden box sat on the desk beside the towel, exactly where Fingon had left it. Inside that box was the gold ring Fëanor had given him. Once he had dried himself and pulled on his house robe, he opened the box and dropped the ring into the palm of his hand. Holding it close to his face, he still wondered at its detail, even after all the years. It was a shame to have to lose such a piece.
He had made up his mind already that he would send the ring elsewhere for safekeeping. He could not risk keeping it anywhere in his bedroom, no matter how well-hidden, if Glorfindel was to be constantly underfoot, tidying and straightening. If Glorfindel ever saw that ring, there would be no way to prevent his uncovering of the truth. It had to go. He would send it away, to the one person in the entire city he trusted to keep a secret. He would send it to Lailaniel.
Lailaniel's father was Anairë's cousin, making Lailaniel and her brother second-cousins to Fingon, though they always seemed closer. Lailaniel had been topped only by Maedhros in Fingon's hierarchy of confidantes and true friends back in Tirion. But now that Maedhros was no longer an option, she filled the prime position. She would guard that ring and keep it as secret as the depths of the sea.
Though still, Fingon told himself, there was no reason to tell her more than she needed to know. He took up a pen, mixed a puddle of ink, and wrote a short note in small, perfect script.
The contents of this box are for you and you alone. Tell no-one and show no-one; your father especially must not know, nor mine. Keep it safely hidden until I send word to do otherwise. It is a great secret that I would keep only for us.
When the ink had dried he folded the paper carefully and sealed it. Then he took up the box, replaced the ring, and tied it shut with ribbon. The box went into a small cloth bag, and the letter was tied to that. Satisfied, Fingon pulled on the first clothes he grabbed out of the wardrobe and set off to find a messenger.
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.