2. The Bay of Belfalas
Moonlight entered the small porthole, providing the faintest of light. Erestor suddenly realized that something important was missing. He crawled out of the hammock and began frantically searching the cabin. He didn't know where or what it was. In the cargo hold, down below, he heard the stallion scream. There was a ringing of hooves and the sound of splintering wood, as if the beast were kicking down his stall. It was disturbing but he couldn't attend to it just then. His trunk against the wall did not look right. The familiar scene of Gondolin carved on its side had been replaced by hideous beasts, which brandished their tongues at him. Stumbling in the dark, Erestor went over to it, opened the lid, reached in, and felt around. Ai! A sudden sharp pain struck his hand. He cried out and jerked his hand back. A huge black snake poured over the rim and rapidly slithered under Glorfindel's bed. Shocked, Erestor stuck his throbbing hand between his thighs, hoping to soothe the ache.
The door to their cabin opened with a soft creak. Abruptly, he was awake, his heart pounding in terror. Erestor took a deep breath and realized his hand no longer hurt. It had only been a dream. Thank the Valar. He raised his head and then started as a human form slid into the room, solid and darker than the darkness. This was not a dream. Erestor reached for the knife he had hidden under his pillow.
There was the barest breath of a whisper, "Glorfindel. My lord, are you awake?"
A pause, then Glorfindel's answering whisper, "Yes. Come."
The shadow moved into the room with a soft barefoot tread. Erestor could smell a faint scent, sweet and intoxicating. What was that? A memory prickled at him - of a cascade of white, star-shaped flowers over a wall and Prince Du-phursa saying, 'Delicious, isn't it? I can't get enough of this smell. There is a shop that makes the perfume down near the docks.' Jasmine. That was it.
Erestor could see the slender figure standing by Glorfindel's bed. "Do I presume too much, my lord?" he said. The words were barely audible, sibilant.
"Not at all. I'm pleased. Come to me."
It was Ardan, of course. Erestor saw him slide onto the bed. It was more a blur of movement than a definite image. There was a slight crunch of the mattress, shifting, bodies turning. A long sigh.
"Ah Glorfindel, you're uh . . . oh!"
The air in the cabin seemed warm, heavy. The jasmine scent drifted towards him like magic. Erestor relaxed his grip on the knife and settled back himself. For a moment he considered speaking up and telling them that he was awake and didn't want to witness this sordid tryst. Instead, he found himself straining to hear.
"You've unbound your hair, Ardan. It's lovely."
"You like it?"
"I do." There was a deep inhalation. "And you smell so good."
"I'm glad it pleases you . . . my lord."
"You do please me. Come here."
There was a soft, indeterminate sound. Then another, more clearly wet. Another sigh. The sound of weight settling further into the mattress. Then nothing, for a long time.
The quiet was maddening. Worse when marked by the slightest of sounds: a breathy groan, the rustle of the sheet, a moist pop of separating flesh. They were kissing. It was becoming more heated, deeper, breathless.
There was a growl. That was Glorfindel. "Get rid of these," he said.
The slight form sat up, arms lifted, a rustle, then a faint plop of fabric hitting the floor. Another movement and a mattress shift, then something else landed on the floor. Trousers, Erestor thought.
"That's better," Glorfindel whispered. "Much better. You are so beautiful."
There was a soft murmuring reply. A light chuckle. More movement. Sighs. Then an inhaled hiss of pain.
"No teeth, you minx."
"Please forgive." Another shift of weight and a period of quiet.
"Ah yes, that's good." That was Glorfindel speaking. The bed creaked again. Then there was a moist kissing sound. A groan, definitely from Glorfindel. "Ardan . . . oh yes . . . that's . . . uhhh."
Erestor's imagination easily filled in all the missing information and more beyond. He was so hard that it was painful. He reached down, ran a finger up one side of his difficulty, down the other, shifted himself a little. That felt good. He stroked it again, rubbed over the end and felt the dampness seeping through the fabric. 'Curse you,' he thought, 'always getting me in trouble.'
It seemed to go on forever: the little moans, the soft, wet sounds, now a rhythmic hitching of a bedsheet. Erestor twisted uncomfortably. His hand strayed downward, caressing.
He heard a gasping breath, then another, coming quicker. A whimper. "Uhhhh, please, my lord, please!"
A lower moan. "Hold still." That was Glorfindel. There was more movement, shifting, the mattress crunched. Erestor heard definite rhythmic wet sounds. It was maddening.
"Do you want it?"
There was another long pause. "Unnhhhh." The pained gasp was from Ardan.
"Oh . . .gods, you're . . . unh."
A slight chuckle. "Not too much?"
"No, I like it."
"You feel good, Ardan. So good."
More movement. The wood creaked, slightly, then quicker. A breathy gasp, Another. A muffled cry. Then there was a soft slapping sound of flesh connecting. At the end of each slap there was a light gasp and a panting, pleading moan.
Erestor couldn't take it anymore. With both hands, he unlaced his leggings and pulled himself free. He spat on one hand and began stroking in time with the sounds below.
There was another gasp and Ardan's light voice, "Please, harder." The slight knocking increased in speed.
It went on endlessly. Curse Glorfindel for having such stamina. Erestor could feel
an explosion building in his loins. He rocked his hips with each stroke. Oh, it was so good. So good. And suddenly he was erupting in a glorious surge of feeling. By the gods! He had forgone this for too long. He moaned and then bit his lip to keep quiet. It was no matter. They were making enough noise below him now, apparently having abandoned efforts to be quiet. He milked out the last tremors, feeling disgusted at the stickiness on his hand. At a loss, he finally wiped it against his leggings.
There was a soft wail from Ardan, following by a deep breathy groan from Glorfindel. The knocking stopped a moment, then continued more slowly, more slowly still, finally ceasing. Soft panting. Then another shift on the mattress. A quiet chuckle from Glorfindel. A giggle from Ardan. More kissing.
"Did you like that?"
"Mmmm. You are like stallion. I want more."
"Sshhh, don't wake my companion."
Too late, Erestor thought. Glorfindel, you piece of orcspawn! You had to have known I wouldn't sleep through all that. I don't know how I'm going to get my revenge, but be assured, it will be suitably nasty. He continued to listen, but the quiet deepened. Finally, just as he was drifting off, he heard, "I must go now." Another kiss, followed by a squeak of the bed and shuffling. The shadow moved about picking up something off the floor. Soft rustling of clothes. "Good night, my lord."
"Good night, sweet boy."
The door creaked open, shut. With an aching heart, Erestor lay in the dark, awash in a sea of conflicting emotions and imaginings.
Erestor awoke with the dawn. Half sitting up as best he could in the finicky hammock, he looked down at Glorfindel. He was sleeping deeply, lying on his face, one arm flung up, rippling yellow hair spread about his back like a cloak. The sheet had slipped down to his legs revealing his muscular backside. It was an inspiring sight. Erestor felt a hot surge within his loins, which only served to irritate him. Out of long habit, he suppressed the feeling, climbed out of the hammock and dropped to the floor. Last night had been an aberration, a lapse of his formidable control. It must have come from that dream. In the past, vivid nightmares had always meant something important if only he could decipher them, and often they were prescient. He had learned to pay attention to them.
He went over to his trunk, which was shoved up against the wall. It looked rather unremarkable - a light cedar wood, unpainted but richly carved. This trunk had carried his few belongings out of the wreck of Eregion - over five hundred years ago now. For a moment, he felt the weight of his years.
He lifted the lid. When he'd checked it the day before, he'd noted that, as he suspected, someone had been in it. His clothes had been disturbed. But they couldn't have found the secret compartment in the lid. Could they? He pressed the hidden latch. The false top clicked open, revealing the compartment in which he had placed the letter from Prince Du-phursa. He drew it out and looked at it. It was heavy, bound in textured parchment and sealed with red wax in three places, each with the Prince's personal seal - a hawk clutching a coiling serpent in its talons. He remembered the tall Númenorean prince taking him aside yesterday morning before they had departed and pressing the large envelope into his hands. 'Take this to your King,' he'd whispered in a voice heavy with conspiracy. 'It's terribly important that you yourself place it into his hands. Let no one else see it. And my gift, the horse, must reach him as well.'
'Why is it so important?' Erestor had asked.
'The letter will explain. But let me say this. The Dark Lord is again stretching forth his hand and his reach has come even unto Umbar. I have many in my own court whom I cannot trust. Do not let Ereinion Gil-galad believe he is immune in his far northern kingdom. It is coming there too. I have had disturbing news. Can I trust you and Lord Glorfindel to deliver this at all cost?'
'Yes, my lord,' Erestor had said with a bow. He had thrust the envelope into a pocket in his coat, the coat that was heavy enough to conceal such a package, even though Glorfindel had made fun of him for wearing it.
He ran his fingers over the seal and considered his dream. Was the deadly snake a symbol of the letter's contents? Or was it something else? He looked up - right into the clear blue eyes of his awakened companion who was contemplating him with one hand propped under his chin. Erestor's eyes lingered on that face - the one that had captivated him long ago with its contradictions: so strong and confident and also so vulnerable. At times, such as now, he radiated a wide-eyed innocence. At others, he embodied masculine power and predatory mischief. Always, he was Desire in its purest form. Erestor's tongue had become his defense against such a formidable temptation.
"Still worried about that message from the Prince?" Glorfindel said softly.
Erestor nodded. "I had a disturbing dream last night."
"I know. You cried out."
"It's remarkable that you heard anything, what with all the noise you were making." Erestor slid the envelope back into its compartment and closed it. It disappeared into the lid of the trunk. The workmanship was extraordinary, rendering it truly invisible.
"Noise I was making?" Glorfindel asked sweetly. "I wasn't making any noise when you had that dream."
"You lecherous villain. Did you think I was asleep for that sordid performance with the Haradrim boy?"
"No. I knew you were not."
"Then you are twice a lecher and a cad," Erestor snarled. He pulled his nightshirt off over his head and dug around in the trunk for his day clothes.
"You could have said something if you wanted it to stop. If I heard aright, you rather enjoyed it," Glorfindel said.
"What?" Erestor spluttered.
"Unhh uhh," Glorfindel groaned. It was probably an accurate rendition of Erestor's moan of completion last night.
"You are beyond belief for sheer audacity," Erestor snapped. "How could you possibly have heard that while you two were carrying on loud enough to wake the entire crew?"
Glorfindel rose from the bed in all his naked glory and padded over to Erestor, who stood there bare-chested, fumbling with a shirt. Glorfindel gently patted Erestor's cheek. "What makes you think that whole performance wasn't for you, Counselor?"
"I hate you," Erestor replied acidly. He took a step backwards, then quickly pulled the shirt over his head.
Glorfindel thrust his hands into his own hair, lifting it away from his head and letting it slowly sift through his fingers. "The boy was lovely," he said with a little moan. "So passionate. So hot and tight."
"Stop it," Erestor said.
Abruptly Glorfindel stepped forward and took him in his arms. He held Erestor gently but firmly about the waist, pressing his warm, muscular body hard against him. A shiver of excitement thrilled through Erestor. They were the same height. Glorfindel's enticing lips were inches away from his. All he needed to do was lean forward. Struggling against the idea, he looked into Glorfindel's eyes. For a moment the two elves stared at each other. Erestor had expected to see that sardonic smirk but, surprisingly, Glorfindel's expression was tender. He reached up and brushed a strand of hair away from Erestor's face. "One day, Erestor, I'm going to crack that armor of yours," he said in a husky voice.
Erestor panicked. He shrugged Glorfindel off. "Not today," he said.
"Such a shame," Glorfindel replied, turning away. He began rummaging through his own trunk for his clothes, found his trousers and donned them.
Erestor said, "For the King's Master at Arms, you showed a complete lack of caution in welcoming that boy into your bed last night. What if he had been an assassin waiting for an opportunity to slit your throat?"
Glorfindel plunged his hand down behind his mattress and brought up one of his long knives, unsheathed. It glittered in the early morning light. "He wouldn't have lasted long if he was."
Erestor nodded in approval.
"I made certain he had no weapons. I can assure you, there is no place that I did not check." He grinned wolfishly at Erestor. Yes, that was the Glorfindel he knew.
"Yes, I'm sure," Erestor said dryly. "Still, I urge caution. There's something suspicious about him showing up on this ship."
Glorfindel looked at him shrewdly. "I agree and I expect you'll investigate, won't you, Counselor?" He pulled on his tunic.
"You know me too well," Erestor replied, with a grim smile.
Glorfindel chuckled. "Let's go have breakfast."
Ardan had scrambled some eggs for them, which he served along with some of his family's biscuits. Erestor had to admit, once softened by dunking in tea, they were good. However, he had to grit his teeth to keep from saying anything when Ardan and Glorfindel looked at each other and Ardan's face lit with a sweet smile. The boy seemed genuinely infatuated. He was beautiful. Erestor felt a strange knot in his gut.
After breakfast, Erestor went out on deck. The Captain was already out by the rudder checking his position with the sextant. The day was turning fair with a good wind. No land was in sight. They must be crossing the immense Bay of Belfalas. Anor was rising on the starboard side and towards the stern, so Erestor guessed they were heading in about the right direction, northwest.
"We're two degrees off," Armalak pronounced. "Make the correction, Nadroth," he cried to his helmsman. "The wind's shifted. Prepare to come about."
There was a chorus of 'yes sirs.' Several of the sailors began pulling ropes to move the sails.
Erestor kept out of the way while studying the men. The Hirilondë was light and fast and didn't need a large crew. There were ten of them on this watch, most of whom he recognized from the voyage down, but now he noticed two new ones. Their features indicated that they were both Haradrim. They wore the cotton tunic and voluminous trousers but neither had the knotted headscarf. Instead their hair was plaited into dozens of small braids bound at the ends with strips of red cloth. 'That's different,' Erestor thought. He had seen that style before in Umbar, even among some of the men at court.
When Armalak finally had the ship under way to his satisfaction, Erestor approached him. "Captain, who are the new recruits?"
"Hired them in Umbar to replace the local lads who went home. They came recommended, just as Ardan did."
"Who recommended them?"
"They had letters from the scribe Ures."
Ah, Erestor thought. He'd met that scribe. He worked for . . . yes, that was it, Princess Ilien, the one Glorfindel had so thoroughly enjoyed.
Armalak looked at him with one eye squinted. "Do ye have cause for concern, Counselor?"
"I understand. I asked a couple of the lads I trust to keep an eye on them."
Erestor stood watching for some time. He found he was enjoying the breeze in his hair. Then Armalak clapped him on the shoulder, "Look, Erestor, dolphins!"
Indeed, there were three of them. They leapt and played in the spray alongside the ship. The sight made his heart soar. Then suddenly he was remembering a terrible night five hundred and fifty years ago. He recalled the terror of the storm, the sudden shudder of the ship, men shouting, water pouring over him, a frantic grasp for anything substantial . . . then the dark cold water closing over his head. He couldn't breathe. He heard himself praying, "Ossë, hear me." He remembered the hard shove of a long snout pushing him through the freezing blackness to the surface and that blessed gulp of air that tore at his lungs.
"Erestor? What ails you?" He heard Armalak shouting at him and realized he was bent over, gripping the gunwale while staring down at the iron-grey water.
"I feel ill," Erestor said. "Forgive me, I think I'll lie down."
Shakily, he made his way to the cabin, then paused just outside. Ever so faintly, he detected the jasmine scent. He opened the door. The first thing he saw was a set of clenched bare buttocks, pumping back and forth, then he noted that they were connected to a completely naked Glorfindel who was standing with a writhing Ardan held in his arms. A pair of brown knees gripped Glorfindel's sides and the legs were crossed at the ankles around his back. The pumping motion was accompanied by the music of rhythmic gasps and the thumping of Ardan's back up against the bulkhead. He looked as if he was thoroughly enjoying the pounding. His head was thrown back and his eyes were closed in rapture.
At first, Erestor froze in surprise. Then he was filled with anger - and other less noble emotions.
At that moment, Ardan opened his eyes and saw him. "My lord . . . Erestor!" he spluttered. Glorfindel turned to look, at the same time as Ardan flailed and grabbed one of the ropes supporting the hammock, using it to pull himself upright. The hook ripped free from the ceiling. With a wide-eyed look of surprise, Ardan shot backwards with it still in his hand. He managed to twist sideways and fall onto the bed. The shift in balance pulled Glorfindel, still connected, over on top of him. One end of the hammock slithered down, covering them both.
"Aiiii, I think you broke it!" exclaimed the Glorfindel-shaped lump under the hammock, and then he began laughing.
In utter disgust, Erestor hissed, "Wantons! Both of you!" and slammed shut the door.
He turned to see several of the sailors grinning at him. Curse Glorfindel! If he wanted to behave like a varlet, that was his prerogative. But why did he have to flaunt it? Summoning what dignity he could, Erestor went down into the hold to see what he could learn from the off-duty crew.
He paused outside the horse's stall. Oiolairë pricked his ears forward and Erestor patted his neck. "I think it would be less complicated to be a horse," he said and Oiolairë snorted.
Nearby, in the crew's section of the ship, he found three men crouched around a game of sigil. Erestor recognized all of them from the first leg of the journey. One of them was a handsome, dark-skinned Haradrim named Lornis. He wore the traditional knotted headscarf. The other two were Númenorean. The older one named Zirik shaved his head; the younger one, Aratanur, wore his hair in a long queue like Captain Armalak. Erestor approached quietly.
Zirik looked up from the game. "Look mikîn, Gil-galad's Counselor blesses us with his presence." His voice was heavy with sarcasm.
The Haradrim nudged him, "Respect is in order, Zirik," he said. "Is there something you require, Counselor?" His voice was deep and resonant.
"I grow weary of the journey and would like some diversion," Erestor said, "May I join your game?"
Aratanur looked up at Erestor as if he were a dish of sweets. He actually licked his lips.
"There is not diversion enough in your cabin that you would seek it down here?" Zirik said with a smirk. "If Lord Glorfindel is occupied with the Haradrim karbî, you should know that I can give you whatever you need." He poked Aratanur.
"I doubt that," Erestor said. He squatted down and folded his legs under him. They had chalked the sigil gameboard on the wooden floor - an outline of a star drawn in a continuous line so that its arms were five triangles. The knife was embedded point down in the upper right triangle. The floor was pitted with gouges. "What are you playing for?" Erestor asked.
"Chits," Aratanur said. "The winner calls for a favor from the loser. Right now we are playing for next watch. What would you wager?"
Erestor pulled the knife from the floor, flipped it in the air, deftly caught it, then tossed it again. It described an arc and landed point down in the center of the top triangle. "I would like to play for some information," he said.
The men laughed, clearly impressed.
"A shark," Zirik said, shaking his head. "This is what we get for playing with a scunning elf. What do you want to know?"
"What's a karbî?" Erestor said
"Ah, that would be a she-horse, wouldn't it?" replied Zirik. "You know, one who likes the bottom." He winked at Erestor.
"Understood," Erestor said. He flipped the knife again and it landed in the upper right triangle.
"Well played," Lornis said.
"What do you know about Ardan, aside from his sexual proclivities?" Erestor asked.
"Good cook. Nice arse," Zirik said. "Some of the lads were making a play for him when he showed up yesterday. But he can take care of himself all right. Pulled a knife on Nadroth when he got too frisky. Seems he's set his sights on quality."
"His family is merchant class," said Lornis, "but he has attracted notice at court, they say."
"Is he working for someone at court?" Erestor asked.
"Unknown," Lornis said.
"He seems to be working on Lord Glorfindel at present," Zirik said. "He was seen getting cozy with him last night on deck. Now that's something I'd pay to see - the two of them together." He leered at Erestor.
"Hold your tongue," Erestor said sharply. "You are too familiar." He pulled the knife from the board with an abrupt jerk and threw it at Zirik. It stuck quivering on the floor right between his legs.
Zirik's mouth dropped in surprise, then he chuckled. "A near thing that, my lord. Forgive my ill manners."
Erestor gave him a half-smile, reached over between Zirik's legs and pulled the knife free. He flipped it again and it landed in the next triangle down.
"Uncanny!" Aratanur cried.
"I was playing this two thousand years before you were born," Erestor said. "Now, tell me, what do you know about the two new Haradrim with hair in ragties?"
Lornis scowled. "I wouldn't have let them aboard," he said. "They're bad luck. But no one asked my opinion."
"How so?" Erestor asked.
"Don't you know?" Lornis lowered his voice to a whisper. "They are Lorcastra - acolytes of Azgara, the serpent. They practice black magic. There seem to be more and more of them in Harad and it does not bode well for the future. I don't know what these two are doing aboard this ship, but I don't think they mean well."
"Where are your loyalties, Lornis?" Erestor asked suddenly.
Lornis ran his forefinger in a circular motion over his heart. "With Prince Du-phursa."
Erestor caught his gaze and held it until he was satisfied the man spoke the truth. He nodded, then reached into his belt pouch and pulled out some silver, which he spilled on the floor, a little in front of each man. "Can you keep an eye on Ardan and the Lorcastrans and let me know if they do anything remotely suspicious?"
All three nodded. "It would be a pleasure," Lornis said. "The Prince should have exiled that cult long ago. Now, it seems to be spreading."
"Yes," said Erestor. "I know only too well where it comes from."
"Ah Erestor, there you are." It was Glorfindel's voice. Erestor turned and saw him coming down the ramp into the hold. It was exactly like opening a shutter and letting the sun into a darkened room. He was glorious, even if he couldn't keep his pants tied. "I'm taking Oiolairë up on deck to stretch his legs. Care to come with me?" Glorfindel asked.
"Your company is not something I can avoid at present, much as I might wish to," Erestor replied.
"I fixed your hammock," Glorfindel said.
"Only of slight consolation," Erestor replied, glaring at him.
The men were grinning at each other. Glorfindel came up to the group. "Hello Lornis, Zirik, Aratanur. Don't tell me you let this rascal play sigil with you? He's notorious at court. Many is the time I've seen that sweet, innocent face beguile some self-important lord into a match, which the Counselor invariably wins."
"Your praise is unmerited, Lord Glorfindel," Erestor said, but he couldn't suppress a slight smile.
Zirik laughed. "Indeed, he took us like conies. 'Twas unexpected."
"There is much that is unexpected about the Counselor," Glorfindel said. "A fact I have come to appreciate."
Erestor rose to his feet and bowed. "I thank you, gentleman for a most diverting game. After you, my lord." He tossed the knife, which flipped in the air. This time it landed squarely in the center of the star.
mikîn - boys in Adûnaic
sigil - knife in Sindarin
karbî - mare in Adûnaic
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.