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Avar and Away: 1. Avar and Away
"Avar!" Turgon spat. "Where did he come from and how did he get in here?"
Tuor shifted uncomfortably. "He said Ulmo sent him. He says he has a sign to prove it. Since he knows of the place, the guards thought it prudent to bring him in."
"Yes, they did the right thing," Turgon said, frustration clear in his voice. He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture and turned from the window. "I suppose I should at least talk to him, find out what he knows. But if he led anyone here. . ." He made a cutting motion across his neck with one finger.
Tuor suppressed a shudder and gave a small bow. "I shall have him brought to your antechamber, my lord, so that you may question him."
"No, not in my private apartments. Have him taken to the Blue Room off the main hall."
"As you wish," Tuor replied, exiting hastily.
Turgon stopped by his apartments to take off his kingly robes and dress in more casual attire. No reason to frighten the poor fellow with his eminence he thought, as he hastened down to the main hall. On either side of the palace entrance hall were a series of smaller rooms decorated in various themes, and it was to one of these Turgon had directed the Avar be taken. The Blue Room was Turgon's tribute to Ulmo, with walls the soft blue of a sunlit sea, the chairs and tables in delicate pinks and whites carved to look like shells, and a great conch shell on a pedestal in the center that was sounded on special occasions or to call a meeting to order.
"Ah, thank goodness you've arrived," he said. "I can't seem to understand what this gentleman is trying to tell me."
Turgon looked the Avar up and down with a critical eye. He was a short, delicate looking sort with black hair done up in three braids then tied into a ponytail. His eyes were deep blue and he looked confused and a bit agitated. He had no cloak or pack and was holding a leather flask in one hand. His clothing was exactly the sort of thrown together forest garb Turgon would have expected, consisting of a crudely tanned deer-hide tunic and pants, a mere step above animal skins, embellished with bead and bone. He managed to keep his lips from twisting into a grimace and smiled a bland, expectant smile.
"I am Turgon, Lord of this city. Who are you?" he said.
The fellow began to speak and Turgon tilted his head and strained to make sense of the thick accent. He did catch the word Noldor but could not tell if the fellow was saying he had Noldor ancestry or was asking if Turgon was Noldor.
Turgon glanced at Tuor. "What did he say?"
"I believe he said his name is Lotsêk and that he is happy to be among the Noldor."
"Ah, Lotheg," Turgon said, automatically changing the name to Sindarin dialect. "A typical folk name."
He nodded absently and raised his voice, as though increasing the volume would increase the stranger's understanding. "Yes, that's all well and good but how did you find this place? Who told you the city was here?" Turgon asked.
Lotsêk held up the flask and spoke slowly, as though accenting and drawing out each syllable would make Turgon understand him. Out of the string of words Turgon caught only one – "Ul-mo."
"Ulmo?" Turgon asked. "In that flask?"
The Avar nodded and Turgon glared at him, all pretense of amicability gone.
"Ridiculous!" he exploded. "What are you playing at? Speak sense man, before I lose my patience."
Lotsêk gave a slight bow and placed his fingers on the stopper of the flask then looked at Turgon, waiting for permission. "If I may. . ."
"Get on with it," Turgon snapped, and Lotsêk pulled the stopper.
A booming, resonant voice issued forth that sounded as if it were coming from the depths of the sea. "Behold, Lord of Gondolin, I who knoweth the minds of Elves and Men, who dwell within the halls of the watery abyss, do hereby task thee with the care and safekeeping of this Elf who fled the thralldom of Melkor and is in need of succor and security from those minions who would hunt and slay him."
The message complete, Lotsêk replaced the stopper and gave a slight bow.
Tuor watched the events unfold with awe, remembering his own encounter with the Lord of the Sea. He noticed Lotsêk's lips move along with those of Ulmo as he spoke and smiled in wry amusement. The poor fellow had undoubtedly listened to the message many times before. He probably could have recited it by rote if Turgon would have believed the message was from the Vala. . . and if he could understand the Avar.
Turgon, for his part, looked skeptical but was relieved he was not being asked to abandon his realm or to raise an army and fight like when Tuor had shown up. He was happy with things the way they were. Still, he found it hard to believe Ulmo would send a message in such an unusual way.
"May I see that flask?" he asked.
Lotsêk handed it over and Turgon scrutinized it, turning it this way and that. He pulled the stopper and looked into the now silent flask, tipping it so he could see its contents.
"This appears to be water." He tipped a drop onto his finger and tasted it. "Seawater." He looked at Lotsêk who gazed back at him mildly, the picture of innocent hopefulness. Turgon motioned him and Tuor to take a seat. "Tell me of your escape from Morgoth and how you came to meet Ulmo," Turgon said.
Lotsêk told a harrowing tale of his capture and enslavement at the hands of Morgoth's orcs and how he had escaped forced labor in the mines by convincing them he had a bad back. He was assigned to the assay office instead and there earned the trust of the orc overseer by slipping him the purest samples of valuable ore that came in. One day the orc sent him to talk to the mine foreman about a new vein they had just opened, but instead of delivering the message he ran. The orcs tracked him for many days before he managed to give them the slip, but he feared recapture and so made his way to the sea, intending to build a ship and set sail. Ulmo's hand thrust out of a dense fog holding a flask, the very flask Turgon now held, and bade him seek out Gondolin where his safety would be assured.
"But the last message I had from Ulmo was that Gondolin was under the doom of Námo and was not safe. Why would he send you here?"
Lotsêk shrugged. "That I do not know. Maybe the doom is as yet far off."
Turgon liked the sound of that. He looked at Tuor who raised an eyebrow in response.
"Well, if Ulmo himself has sent you, we will show you the hospitality of our city," Turgon said. I will arrange a tour and until you find a place of your own you can stay in the guest wing of Tuor's house.
Tuor's eyebrows climbed into his hairline and disappeared. "My house, my lord?" he asked.
"Yes, you have plenty of room there and no children as of yet." He shot Tuor a meaningful look that made the man suppress a sigh.
"As you wish, my lord."
"Very good then," Turgon said briskly, pleased to be done with the matter. "Why don't both of you come to supper at the palace and our guest can meet the heads of the Houses and begin learning a bit about his new home."
Lotsêk smiled happily and Tuor said, with only a hint of sarcasm, "Nothing would please me more."
Tuor escorted his charge through the city and the citizens stopped to stare at the strangely dressed Elf as they passed. Tuor noticed the stares and decided something must be done. He directed Lotsêk into a nearby tailor shop and Tuor had the Avar choose the colors and cloth for a new suit of clothes.
Lotsêk wandered around a moment, perusing the selections. He held up a beautiful tunic and trousers of dark blue but Tuor shook his head.
"You can't wear that. That color belongs to the House of the Swallow."
Lotsêk tried another color. "Green?"
"House of the Tree."
"Red and black?"
"Hammer of Wrath."
"Purple and black?"
"Pretty much everyone."
By the time they had gone through the array of Houses there was little left from which to choose. Lotsêk finally decided on a shade of grey so nondescript as to render him practically invisible. Tuor thought that, given Turgon's opinion of the fellow, this was the clothing's best feature. He had Lotsêk go in the back and put on his new clothes, paying the tailor to burn Lotsêk's old ones, then the two continued through the city. The clothing did the trick and there were no more stares or whispers as they passed. On the outskirts, at the top of a hill, was Tuor's home. They were greeted by servants who were surprised to discover their Master would be hosting a stranger. It had been many years since they'd seen an immigrant, and that man had become their Lord.
The house was quite roomy and Tuor offered Lotsêk a wing near the servant's quarters, 'In case you need anything' he had said. Lotsêk thanked him politely and Tuor left, promising to return to take him to the palace for supper.
When he returned a few hours later, Tuor was amazed to see how well Lotsêk had settled in. He was soaking in a tub full of bubbly water, eating cucumber sandwiches and drinking tea, while a servant girl scrubbed his back.
"A little to the right. . . more to the left. . . up, up, and. . . right there," Lotsêk was saying.
"I see you've made yourself at home," Tuor said drily.
"I have, my lord. I hope you do not mind,"
"Yes, all this is mine," Tuor said. The Avar's thick accent still stymied him at times.
"Never mind," Lotsêk said with a sigh.
"No, I don't mind," Tuor said. "You are welcome to make yourself at home. But we must be getting ready to go to the palace."
Lotsêk wisely chose a nod for his reply.
That night when the two presented themselves at the palace the guests were already mingling outside the dining hall. Tuor was dressed in his formal palace livery, with a small, white, wing-like white swoosh on the upper left of his tunic, and the heads of all the houses were there, likewise sporting the livery and emblems of their clans. Tuor smiled at Lotsêk's look of awe as he gaped at the grandeur of the hall with its sweeping arches, gilt moldings, marble statuary, and sparkling fountains. Servants wove in and out of the crowd with trays of drinks and small appetizers of goat cheese and avocado on toasted flatbread. Lotsêk quickly adapted his demeanor to the crowd of nobles around him, accepting the offerings with the graciousness of a Lord.
Tuor introduced Lotsêk around and he took to Egalmoth right away. The Chieftain was dressed in blue with rubies at his collar and amethyst upon his sleeves. He wore a circlet of purest silver with a crescent moon centered upon his brow and on each finger he wore a ring with a different colored gemstone. When he heard of Lotsêk's experience in the mines he seemed equally taken with the Avar and the two chatted for some time.
As they talked, Penlod the Tall joined them. Those of the Pillar and Tower of Snow were his people and he towered over the diminutive Lotsêk and everyone else in the room. Maeglin, short and swart, joined them as well, making a distinct contrast with the tall, slender Penlod. Maeglin was of the House of the Mole and at his side was Salgant who laughed a little too loudly at his companion's jokes and eagerly agreed with everything he said.
After they had all greeted Lotsêk, Tuor took the Avar over to where Ecthelion of the Fountain and Glorfindel of the Golden Flower tarried by one of the fountains, their easy camaraderie a bit too studied as they gazed adoringly into each other's eyes.
The one called Glorfindel had hair of honey gold, the like of which Lotsêk had never seen, while Ecthelion's dark hair contrasted with his pale skin in a most attractive way. The two seemed a bit perturbed at being interrupted but greeted Lotsêk politely.
"So what is it you two do?" Lotsêk asked.
Ecthelion choked on his cocktail and Glorfindel looked shocked for a moment before he replied.
"Why, we are lords of our Houses and direct the business of our Houses from our. . . great houses. . ." Glorfindel faltered.
"Whenever do you find time to yourselves?" Lotsêk asked with a sympathetic smile.
"We don't need time to ourselves," Ecthelion sputtered, "we are friends, only friends." He looked exceeding uneasy.
"Forgive me, I meant time 'for' yourselves."
"We manage," Glorfindel said tersely. "Now if you'll excuse us." He and Ecthelion moved away, talking rapidly in lowered voices.
Tuor watched the exchange, wondering why Glorfindel and Ecthelion seemed so uncomfortable with Lotsêk's questions. He supposed they were discomfited by the Avar's odd accent.
Tuor continued to introduce Lotsêk around until he had met the lords of all eleven Houses, and by the time he greeted Rog from Hammer of Wrath, the guests were being called to dine. Lotsêk was affable and charming and Tuor was pleased that, for the most part, he seemed to be fitting in well. It would certainly create problems if Lotsêk was unable to assimilate because he would not be leaving. Tuor wondered if Lotsêk knew just what he had gotten into by coming to the protected realm, for whether he liked his new home or not he would have to remain. Yet he supposed the city was the pinnacle of the Avar's humble experience. How could it be otherwise? He had certainly been captivated at his first sight of it.
As they dined, the guests had many questions of events in the outside world which Lotsêk was happy to provide, or at least such news as his wanderings had revealed. Yet when questioned about personal details he deflected the queries with imperceptible cleverness, managing to turn the conversation back to the questioner so that he ended up learning much about the histories and families of the group while relating little information about himself.
Supper ended, the guests were preparing to go to the music room for singing and aperitifs when Egalmoth raised a sudden hue and cry. He was frantic because one of his rings was gone. The guests and servants all began to search the floor and tables for the missing bauble. Egalmoth was becoming increasingly agitated as he exhorted everyone to search harder. Finally Lotsêk called out, "Here it is!" and produced it from beneath Egalmoth's napkin. The Chieftain was so happy he seized the Avar in his strong archer arms and embraced him so heartily Lotsêk nearly lost consciousness from lack of air.
"I cannot thank you enough, Lotheg. My wife gave me this ring and she would be furious if I had lost it. Please, you must visit my house whenever you like," he said.
Lotsêk beamed him a smile and gave a slight bow. "I would be honored, lord."
Some of the guests went to the music room for the entertainment and some excused themselves to go home. Tuor decided to go home, anxious to see Idril. He told Lotsêk he was welcome to stay but the Avar declined. The two said their goodbyes to their host and the other guests and left the palace.
"That was certainly an interesting evening," Tuor said as they walked through streets lit by silver lamps back to Tuor's house. "It was lucky you found Egalmoth's ring, but how did you manage it when the servants had already searched the table?"
"They must have moved it with the napkin in their search," Lotsêk said. "I thought I saw something glint and there it was."
"You seem to be quite a lucky fellow," Tuor replied, "finding your way here, finding a lost ring. Have you always been so good at finding things?
"Sometimes – and sometimes I only find my way into Morgoth's clutches," Lotsêk said sadly.
Tuor felt bad for questioning him so. The little Avar had been through so much he had no right to spoil his first day in his new home. He also remembered all too well what it was to be a thrall of the enemy. "Forgive my indelicate remark, Lotheg. I am sorry to have rekindled old wounds."
"Think nothing of it," Lotsêk said, but with sorrow still tinting his voice. "It must be difficult having a stranger in your midst, and an Avar at that."
"Indeed, your arrival was most unexpected, and fraught with portent. Morgoth has sought this city for many years and only the wards surrounding us have kept the enemy's might at bay. I should imagine with your arrival Turgon will again increase the watches on the North peaks."
"If he does decide to do so it will give me great comfort," Lotsêk said.
"And I, to tell the truth," Tuor said. "My wife also feels we should keep the guard strong for she often has had many misgivings about Gondolin's security. You will meet her when we arrive home. She is the daughter of the king and her name is Idril, but the people call her Silver Foot."
"Because she wears silver slippers?"
"No, because she likes to go barefoot."
"And her skin is silver?"
"No, it's white, but her hair is silver."
"Then why don't they call her Silver Head?"
Tuor considered this. "I have no idea," he sighed.
As they entered, Idril was waiting for them, curious to see the Avar her husband had spoken of earlier. It was said she could see into the hearts of Men and Elves so Tuor was curious as to what she would make of Lotsêk.
"Allow me to present to you, Lotheg, an Avar who escaped Morgoth's mines. Your father suggested we be the ones to host him until he settles into the city," Tuor said.
Idril took Lotsêk's hand and clasped it in her own, smiling. "We are glad to have you with us. . ." she began, halting as a frown creased her brow.
"A lovelier lady I have never seen," Lotsêk said and gave a smooth bow. "Indeed, you fairly glow. May I be so bold as to ask when the child is due?"
Idril's frown deepened as an odd sort of feeling was laid upon her heart at Lotsêk's touch, but the Avar's words were so unexpected she had no time to discover its meaning. Tuor, for his part, stood gaping at her with his mouth open like one of Ulmo's beached fishes.
"How. . . How did you. . .?" she stammered. "I haven't even told Tuor yet!"
Lotsêk gave her an apologetic smile. "Forgive me, dear lady, I did not mean to spoil your surprise."
She looked at Tuor helplessly. "It happened last night. I was going to tell you today but you were busy with. . ." she glanced uneasily at Lotsêk, "with the business of the king."
"Then it's true?" Tuor said, his mind still reeling from the news he had waited so long to hear.
"Yes, it's true. We shall have our son by next spring."
Her eyes shone with tears of joy as Tuor, with a mighty whoop of delight, seized her and swung her around.
While they were thus engaged, Lotsêk wandered off in search of the servant girl.
The next morning Tuor went to seek out Lotsêk who had not appeared for breakfast. He opened the door to his room to find him still abed, a suspicious looking lump beneath the covers beside him and an empty bottle of one of his finest wines on the floor along with a scattering of nondescript grey clothing.
Disgusted, Tuor drew the blinds and Lotsêk groaned and pulled the covers over his head. Tuor strode over and shook his shoulder. "Lotheg, wake up, it is almost midmorning."
"Another five minutes, Ada," Lotsêk wheedled.
Tuor grabbed him and sat him up, giving him another shake out of sheer annoyance. "You had better be dreaming and not making light of my impending fatherhood."
Lotsêk's eyes opened blearily and he looked into Tuor's disgruntled face. "Ah, yes, Gondobar, Gondothlimbar, City of Stone, City of the Dwellers in Stone, Gwarestrin, Loth, Gondolin," Lotsêk muttered. "Pleased am I to be among the Gondothlim, my lord."
The lump beside Lotsêk moaned and a profusion of blond curls cascaded from under the covers.
"And you, Gormael, what have you to say for yourself?" Tuor boomed.
At the sound of Tuor's voice the mop of curls slowly sank from sight beneath the sheet.
"Good morning, my lord," the lump said in a tiny voice.
Now fully awake, Lotsêk threw the sheet aside and hopped out of bed. Tuor threw up a hand and averted his eyes. "Lotheg, for Ulmo's sake!"
Completely unaffected Lotsêk wandered to the bathroom, scratching his buttocks as he went.
"Under the circumstances I will draw my own bath, Gormael," he called over his shoulder.
When Lotsêk had bathed and dressed he found his way to the dining room, asking the servant there for glass of tomato juice and rubbing his throbbing temples. Tuor entered and sat down across from him.
"I have decided that, in light of Idril's most welcome news, perhaps you would be more comfortable in a place of your own. Go forth and seek your fortune within the city. You have met the lords of the Houses. I'm sure one of them would be more than happy to find you an occupation suitable to your. . . um. . . skills."
"Has the king withdrawn his charge that you host me then?" Lotsêk asked, scratching his itchy tongue.
"I intend to speak with him about it today."
"Perhaps you would be kind enough to give me your answer at supper tonight," Lotsêk said. "In the meantime I believe I shall take Egalmoth up on his kind offer to visit."
"Splendid," Tuor said, "then the matter is settled."
It was only after Lotsêk had left that Tuor realized the Avar would be dining with them that evening.
When night began to fall and Tuor was on his way home, he saw there was a crowd gathered in street with much shouting and raucous laughter. He stopped to see what the commotion was about only to find Lotsêk at a small table with a set of three clam shells. The Avar lifted one of the shells to reveal a pearl beneath. A pile of coins lay upon the table beside him and he was saying, "Only one small coin to play. Find where Ulmo's treasure sleeps and the pearl is yours. Step right up. Who will be the next to try?"
Tuor stepped up and laid down a coin. "What is this game and how is it played?"
Lotsêk placed the pearl beneath one of the clam shells and shuffled them rapidly around. "The game is simple, tell me under which shell the pearl resides and it is yours."
Tuor had been watching his movements closely and he smiled triumphantly. "That one!" He pointed to the shell on his right."
Lotsêk lifted the shell. There was no pearl. He lifted the middle shell and the pearl gleamed in the late afternoon sun. "Would you like to try again? One coin, one play."
Tuor gritted his teeth and slapped down another coin. This time he picked the middle shell but the pearl was beneath the right hand one.
Determined not to lose, Tuor tried again and again until Lotsêk's pile of coins had created a little mound on the table, the silver lamps began to glow along the street, and most of the crowd had drifted away.
Lotsêk slid the coins into his purse and placed the shells and pearl in his pocket. "We must be getting home, lord. Your lady wife will be waiting."
"Not yet," Tuor insisted, placing another coin on the table, "I want one more try!"
"Please, my lord, it is getting late," Lotsêk said. "We can play again tomorrow. Now come, your supper waits."
Tuor was in a bad mood as they walked together down the street, Lotsêk humming a happy tune beside him.
"The shell I picked that last time had to be the right one," he groused.
"You were very close with that last guess, my lord," Lotsêk said diplomatically.
When they reached the house Idril greeted them so happily that Tuor's mood was lightened. As they chatted over supper, the talk turned, as it often did, to talk of court and the various clans. Lotsêk told of his visit with Egalmoth, who had offered him work in one of his jewel houses. He had agreed to start the next week and as a sign of his good faith, and thanks for finding his ring, Egalmoth had given him the pearl he was using in his shell game.
While Tuor was heartened by Lotsêk's impending gainful employment, he was less happy that, despite the joyful news of Idril's delicate condition, Turgon had denied Tuor's request to have Lotsêk find other accommodations. The king still did not trust the Avar and felt if Tuor kept an eye on him it would keep him out of trouble. Tuor was not happy about the situation but he and Idril were busy making plans for the baby so he didn't have time to worry too much about their perpetual houseguest.
In the months that followed Lotsêk became known within the city. At first a mere curiosity among the Gondothlim, he soon gained the trust and patronage of Egalmoth, and developed an easy friendship with some of the Lords of the other Houses. Even Glorfindel and Ecthelion came around, and soon Lotsêk was the darling of the court, sought for his cleverness in telling stories and his lively, and sometimes bawdy, Avarin songs. He continued running his games of chance and with his work at Egalmoth's jewel house he was doing all right for himself. Still, Tuor continued to hint and suggest he look for another place to live, or perhaps have a home built to his liking, but Lotsêk refused. He liked Tuor. The big lug was both a genial host and an easy mark.
The days flowed flowed with the sureness of time and within the year Tuor and Idril welcomed a son they named Eärendil at Lotsêk's suggestion. Years later, the name was said to have many interpretations and was even thought to be wrought of some secret tongue that had perished with the Gondothlim, but in actuality it was the name Lotsêk had given his pet goldfish as a child when he was too young to speak plainly.
As summer approached, the city began to prepare for the festival of Tarnin Austa and Lotsêk was excited about the prospect of seeing the inhabitants of Gondolin really let their hair down for a change. He and Tuor went to the square to await midnight and the beginning of the festival while Idril stayed home to tend the colicky Eärendil. People in the square milled about, chatting and snacking on sunflower seeds while the silver lamps that lined the streets cast a magical glow. Just before the bells sounded the midnight hour, Tuor turned to Lotsêk to explain the meaning of the festival, only to find the Avar standing there without a stitch of clothing.
"What do you think you're doing?" he said, aghast.
"You said the festival starts at midnight, I want to be ready for the revelry," Lotsêk replied. Where I come from a festival isn't a festival until someone rips off their clothes and dances naked in the firelight."
"Well that is NOT how we do things here," Tuor said. "When the midnight hour sounds, no song or voice is heard until dawn. There is no dancing and no random nudity!"
"Wait, so this festival consists of standing around completely silent until dawn breaks? Will there be dancing then?"
"No, we shall all sing a paean to summer then go home and sleep until midday. Now put your clothes back on."
"You celebrate your way and I'll celebrate mine," Lotsêk said. He sat on the ground and crossed his legs, then rested his hands on his knees, took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"What are you doing now?" Tuor asked.
"It's a technique I learned in my travels called 'meditation'. It clears your mind and renews your spirit."
"And must it be done nude?"
"No, it's just more fun this way," Lotsêk grinned. He closed his eyes and murmured a chant as the bells began to chime the hour and Tuor was forced to fall silent.
Tuor spent the festival some distance from Lotsêk, silently listening to the musicians play their tunes low in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion. When dawn broke the city came alive with the voices of the people raised in song. As Lotsêk got dressed he sang a little ditty about a young woman of easy virtue then went to find fair company as Tuor went home to bed.
Lotsêk made his way to the House of the Mole where resided his current inamorata, a petite dark haired maiden with liquid brown eyes and a trusting, innocent nature. In the courtyard he met Maeglin who was on his way out, stumping along looking more swart and stout than usual.
"Is there a problem, lord?" Lotsêk asked.
"The same problem that has been plaguing me for months," Maeglin growled. "This week will see the last of our ore and Turgon is demanding more weapons. Rumors have reached him that Morgoth has spies everywhere these days. One hardly dares trust a mole upon the plain for fear it is reporting our location to the enemy. What am I to do?"
Lotsêk had for him an excellent suggestion.
That evening as Lotsêk dined with Tuor and Idril he related his meeting with Maeglin.
"The poor fellow was beside himself, so I asked him if he had tried going into the hills. I'd wager there is a wealth of iron there."
"Are you mad?" Tuor shouted. "Morgoth's spies are everywhere! Turgon has forbidden anyone to wander alone in the hills."
Idril gripped her husband's hand. "I have always had an ill feeling about Maeglin, for though he is my cousin he has shadowed my footsteps since I was a girl. It has always galled him that Tuor is the one who won my heart."
"Aah, he's all right," Lotsêk said. "If there is one thing I know it's people. All he needs is some time on his own to clear his mind. He'll go up there a couple of weeks and come back a changed man."
Idril forced a smile and turned to Tuor, "I have had an idea of my own I would like to discuss with you, my husband . . . after supper," she said.
As it turned out Lotsêk was right, for Maeglin returned from his foray into the hills a changed man in both attitude and demeanor, though he was gone for a little over a month, returned with no ore, and none but Lotsêk seemed to notice. It made the Avar wonder about the fabled wisdom of the Noldor.
Lotsêk also noticed that plans for a tunnel were on a rolled up scroll on the desk in Tuor's study. He would never have given the scroll a second thought if it had not been tied by a black ribbon with "Top Secret" emblazoned upon it in gold. He untied the ribbon and looked it over before turning his attention to the scroll. Idril really did nice work. He unrolled the scroll and studied the plans. Hmm, a secret delving, and in the iron rich hill upon which Amon Gwareth stood. 'Interesting,' he thought.
A few days later he caught Tuor at luncheon, just as he himself was coming in for breakfast. "You know, I've been very happy working for Egalmoth but I feel the need for a change."
"And what might that be?" Tuor asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Oh, I don't know, something in the construction industry maybe."
"So you're building your own home?" Tuor asked hopefully.
"No, I was thinking of something more. . . I don't know, like a delving or something."
Tuor groaned and buried his head in his hands. "How did you find out?"
"Is that really important?" Lotsêk said. "I think it's a wonderful idea and I want to help."
"Well, whatever your reasons we could use the extra hands. The delving will be difficult and the work will be long. Do you think you're up to handling a pick and shovel?"
"I had rather a different idea in mind. What are you doing with the rock delved from the tunnel?" Lotsêk asked.
After that, Maeglin had all the ore his forges could handle, Turgon had his weapons and engines of war, and Lotsêk was pleased to at last be able to cast off his grey clothing and wear the colors of Tuor's House of the Wing.
Becoming a member of the most powerful House in Gondolin definitely had its advantages and Lotsêk discovered he was now free to indulge his penchants for gambling, wine, and women with a freedom heretofore undreamed of in his travels. He would have been happy to remain for longer if fate, more cruel than the hand of a Vala, had not intervened.
As Lotsêk was leaving his favorite tavern one day an angry Penlod accosted him. "Your games of chance have been creating problems within the Houses, causing in-fighting and debt among the servants, but this time you've gone too far!" he roared.
Taken aback, Lotsêk looked up, and up, and up, into Penlod's stormy face. "Gone too far? What do you mean, lord?"
"My daughter tells me her suitor has no money to marry her because he lost it all in one of your games two weeks ago."
"I am sorry to hear that but what has it to do with me?"
He held out a pair of dice and Lotsêk, to his credit, did not cringe. "These have been found to have a weight in them that increases the chance of certain numbers being displayed when they are thrown. What have you to say for yourself?"
Lotsêk laughed diffidently. "Why, those dice aren't mine. . ."
Penlod held up one of the die and pointed to a tiny message carved beneath the six that said, 'Property of Lotsêk. If lost return to the House of the Wing. Reward.'
Lotsêk sighed. "So what do you want me to do?"
"I want you to pay back every penny to those you have cheated, and by the end of next month, or I'll have you up before the king on charges."
"But. . . my lord, all the servants in all the Houses, all the members of Court. . ."
"By the end of next month!" Penlod repeated.
"Not a problem," Lotsêk said, sidling around the tall man. "Now if you'll excuse me. I have some business with Tuor."
He beat a hasty retreat, his mind racing all the way back to Tuor's house. He darted in and closed the door behind him, leaning on it, panting. Curse these Noldor and their eagle eyes. How could he possibly pay everyone off, and within a month?
Eärendil wandered in, his shining white skin and piercing blue eyes as disconcerting as ever. "What's wrong, uncle Lotheg?" he asked.
"Nothing, my dear, uncle Lotheg just had a long walk home." He patted the child on the head and went in search of Tuor.
"Say," Eärendil called after him, "have you ever seen a ship?"
"Never one I wished to sail on," Lotsêk called back without breaking his stride.
He found Tuor in his study, looking at a map of the surrounding hills. Tuor looked up as he came in. "I'm glad you're here. Turgon is confident that the city is safe but Idril still nags me about her premonitions. At first I took it to be a 'woman problem' but now I'm not so sure. I'm going to step up work on the passage. Will your men be able to handle the larger loads of dirt?"
"Dirt? Not stone?"
"Not anymore. We have broken through to the plain. The going will be easier from now on."
"Now that's good news," Lotsêk said, leaning on Tuor's desk as his knees suddenly went weak.
That evening after dinner Lotsêk gathered his things, had sex with Gormael one more time for old time's sake, and slunk out of the city in his nondescript grey clothing. He was a bit melancholy for even though he had no great love of the Noldor, that mortal was a pretty good guy, though his wife was a bit of a nag, and that kid was just creepy. He had to admit he had gotten used to the luxury of a warm bed, pretty servant girls, and all the money he could spend. Yet it was beginning to make him soft and that meant it was time to move on. Now that he thought on it, Penlod had done him a favor without realizing it.
Perhaps he would head toward Dorwinion this time; he was parched for some really good wine. The Noldor had many talents but wine making wasn't one of them, it gave one the worst hangovers. He lowered his voice to a deep, impressive baritone and tried to make it seem as if it was issuing from a nearby bush. Hmm, he was getting rusty. Lucky he had plenty of travel time to practice. The Gondothlim might have the magic to keep their city hidden but mimicking the Valar could certainly come in handy too.
The coins in his pocket jingled a merry tune and he couldn't help but whistle along as he picked his way through the rocky paths of the Encircling Mountains.
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