24. Rise of the Golden Star
In his life, there had been so many gifts that he had wasted in foolishness. Wasted, misapplied, or –as it had happened with his intelligence- cultivated for the wrong reasons. He remembered that eerie night in the Elvish city, when all the purposes in his life had been reduced to seeing the sea-grey eyes widen in recognition and fear. How he had been read – and how wouldn´t he-, and his most shameful desires used, to make him betray what he should have held dear.
It could be said that she had been the one who had saved his soul from a fate of perpetual escaping, of laughter that rung false, of empty words and the slow, insidious final corruption. Saved him from his old nightmare, only to throw him into a long and elaborate dream of her own making. She – nothing but a three year old girl when he had first heard about her, a young thing of nineteen when they married, though he still hadn´t guessed the true age of her soul beneath the slight, measured smiles. The barbarian, as the Court had nicknamed her in derision before they also fell under her spell.
And yes, a barbarian she was indeed. A strange creature who burned perfume, prayed quietly to the Goddess while they embraced at night, and read her fate in the stars. An enigma for him, as she walked with hips that moved with a daring, sensuous cadence that belied the mild look in her eyes. Day by day, year by year, she had persuaded him to let her share his troubles, personal and political, and often offered him words of wise counsel, but the naive and the irrational had never faded from the core of her heart.
Do you know what my name means? That night she had smiled in childish joy, pressing her brilliant cheek against his. It means "Bearer of the King."
At first, he had refused to listen. He had been angry, and self-righteous. But, through the years, even this had become another of the golden nets in which the lovely barbarian had ensnared him.
Treason? Her ringing laugh, so quiet when she was in front of strangers. Why treason? Can it be treason, if it is what the King wants?
And that other night, nine months ago, Gimilkhâd remembered the soft poison that oozed from the shadows of the Palace´s halls. The tension, cut here and there by the edge of a black knife in the eyes of an onlooker, who immediately lowered them with fright and fled in a rustle of silk robes. His father, his brother, and the dead baby that lay between them like a silent scream.
When he arrived to his chambers, trying to banish remembrances from his mind, she had been there, quietly waiting for him to arrive. Her dress had been a flowing green silk; she had perfumed her hair as if she was performing in a ceremony.
"I wish to be with you tonight."
"I am tired."
"No." A look of determination crossed her soft brown eyes, and she pointed at the window with the unquestionable conviction of children and people who talked with the gods. "Tonight is the night."
She had made him surrender to her fantastical prophecies, back then. And now, lying in bed like a triumphant queen with a gleaming forehead, she acknowledged him with a smile of joy.
"He has come." she said simply.
He was sprawled upon her lap, his cheek resting against the curve of his mother´s stomach. His tiny eyes were wide open, already endeavouring to explore his surroundings. The colour of his skin was his mother´s rare golden, and for a moment he had the mad hallucination that the whole baby was a sceptre that she held in her hands.
He has come.
Filled with an almost religious awe, he sat down at her side, and extended a finger towards the baby. It trembled a little, and he irreflexively cursed between his teeth for showing this weakness.
It was a baby. Nothing more. His baby, his son... the third heir to the Sceptre.
"Isn´t he magnificent?" she muttered. Gimilkâd had never heard such a fanatical adoration in her voice before, not even in the endearments that she used to whisper in his ears. "Radiant, like the golden star that watched over his birth. No – like the Sun itself, like the three jewels in the Great God´s crown!"
Gimilkhâd drew closer to the baby, who seemed to realise for the first time that he was there. He blinked reflexively – and suddenly, his father felt the irrational euphoria of Melkyelid tighten around his throat like a knot.
Could it really be true?
Everything, he fancied in the aftermath of his last struggles to escape the pull of the divine enthusiasm, could be as easy, as beautiful as an old legend if he believed in it. His own birth – unlucky, unauspicious, the second serpent that all their ancestors had avoided like a dark curse-, his mother´s rejection –daughter of traitors!-, his brother´s contempt, and even his father´s smothering love. His wedding to the golden barbarian goddess, who bore her fate in her name as she did in her quiet insistence upon the will of the gods.
He could have been born for this. For this –to be the father of the King who would save his lineage from his brother´s impious snares. He would have a mission, and Melkyelid, the priestess of the Holy Mother, would have been the one to guide him through the steps.
Still overwhelmed, he picked up his son, feeling his smooth skin, his arms, his legs, the tuft of dark hair upon the golden head. The baby uttered an irritated yelp, in protest for the intrusion, and began to kick at him. Melkyelid´s smile widened in amusement.
"He already has a character." Her expression became dreamy, lost in the distance. "One day he will be a great warrior, the terror of the enemies of Númenor..."
Gimilkhâd nodded, unable to let go of the child as if he had been plunged into a trance. The perfection of it all bewildered him, and he felt as if he was standing in reverence upon the altar of the Divine King. He muttered a prayer of heartfelt thanks to Melkor.
Never to feel lost anymore...
Tears welled in his eyes, the first time that he had cried since the day of the red flowers.
King of Light, Lord of the Armies. O Radiant, King of Armenelos.
Out of an impulse, his hand trailed towards the pendant that hung hidden upon his neck, to produce a ring of gold and rubies. And then, full of a fervour that he did not himself understand, he took the object of his imperfect childhood desires, the price of his treason and folly, and reverently laid it at the feet of his newborn son.
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.