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Never Speak Nor Sing: 5. Sinda
"You needn't speak," said Fingolfin. "I can sense what you think and feel, in my heart. And that is good enough. We need not speak to convey our love. But here, come sit by me, as you used to when we were first wed. Do you remember then? Before the children were born. It was different then, wasn't it? ...No here, sit here... yes, just like that. And you can lay your head in my lap so I can run my hands through your hair and let it spill across my palms. It is a simple pleasure, but one I miss when you are not with me. You always had such beautiful hair, like a sash of black satin, perfect even as it lay in tangles across my pillow. I remember that too, you know, on those nights, rare and precious as they were. Too rare. I think we both know that.
"Did you find a fault with me, that drove you away, that brought such distance and darkness between us? I only tried to love you as I could. That was never good enough, it seemed, when you loved our child better and I was brought to fight with my own son for your attentions. I don't know if you ever saw how you hurt me with your easy dismissal, Anairë, or how your few careless words all but destroyed us. For all those years, I suffered from your blind cruelty.
"But now, my love, we are together, and we are alone. We can make up for our mistakes and losses. Can you guess what I would ask of you? One little favour, as you sit with your head at my knees? I will take your hand... yes, you can guess, my clever Anairë. With your small hands, such delicate hands. You can always guess. And your breath, so sweet, and your... No do not pause, not now, when you are so good to me. ...yes, just like... you do know. You have not forgotten, even after so many years. I need not remind you... bend your wrist like so... or move like... and come nearer now... oh very softly... Why lift your head, now? Is there-"
There was a sound in the corridor. The Sindarin boy moved sharply back and stood just as there came a knock at the door. Fingolfin had time only to open his eyes and throw shut his robe before the door opened and Fingon stepped inside. The destructive, disruptive son.
Fingon stared at him unapologetically. "Poor timing?"
"What do you want?" Fingolfin asked.
Fingon ignored him. "Get out of here," he said, frowning at the Sindarin boy and motioning to the door with his elbow.
"Ethelithon," said the boy, and he bowed to Fingolfin before exiting quickly.
When the boy had gone, Fingon waited moment before speaking. His eyes drifted insincerely over the room's furniture as he avoided his father's scowling gaze. "I'd would ask how you can stand to spend so much time with him," he said with a small cough, "though I'm not sure I really want to know."
"The time is not to my convenience, Findekáno."
"You hurt me, Ta," Fingon said. He sat down heavily beside Fingolfin on the bed, wrapping an arm around his father's waist. "That's no way to greet your favourite son whom you've not seen in ten years."
"Favourite," Fingolfin scoffed. No, Turgon had always been his favourite, and always would be. That was no secret. Fingon had been the favourite of Anairë. That was no secret either. The knowledge was too common, and it burned Fingolfin even now to think of it.
Fingon's face hardened as if he had read his father's thoughts. "Neuno hasn't been much of a presence lately, has he?" he asked. "Off building his own city, far away from us. Hardly considerate, is he."
Fingolfin ignored the remark. "What do you want?"
"I don't *want* anything, Ta. I just came by to see you. Make up for lost time. We could talk for a while."
"I don't care. Anything. News." Fingon twirled a lock of hair around his finger. "I think I'm going to stay here."
"Mmm." Fingon nodded. "That new servant, the Vanya- he's doing quite well so far."
"I'm glad you like him."
Fingon nodded again. "I mean, he needs to learn a few basics, but otherwise he'll do nicely."
Fingolfin said nothing in reply, letting the air hang tense and thick between them. Long seconds passed before he asked, "Is that all?"
"No," said Fingon. He turned to face his father, meeting his eyes and challenging his indifference. "I only want to talk to you," he said, "for once at least." His voice was quieter, almost holding a note of rare sincerity.
But Fingolfin was unmoved. "Then talk," he said. "I am at your mercy."
"Well," Fingon began slowly, "I suppose that since I have decided to stay, I will need my things brought back here."
"I have already called for them to be brought."
"I will need my good clothes by this afternoon, as we will naturally be having a supper for Findaráto and Artanis?"
Fingolfin nodded, but stayed silent, ushering in another long pause. This time, a minute or more passed.
"You never welcomed me back, Ta," Fingon finally said in a bitter voice.
"You refused to see me until now," Fingolfin countered flatly.
"Perhaps because I knew you would be as difficult as ever to talk to."
"Perhaps because you have always been distant and uninterested in talking to me."
"Perhaps because you never gave me reason to be otherwise!"
"Perhaps because you always favoured your mother and never gave me the chance!" Fingolfin snapped. Immediately he regretted it. He looked at his hands and bit down on his tongue. There was no use in starting another battle with Fingon over Anairë. He had fought that one long ago, and lost.
But Fingon would not let it go. "Ammë," he said slowly, "never shouted at me. She never doubted or dismissed me, as you have often done."
"She spoiled you," countered Fingolfin.
"She loved me," Fingon said. He stood, looking down to stare his father in the eye. A small, cold smile spread across his lips. "And at least when I tell myself that, it is not a lie."
With a fierce swiftness, he turned his back and left the room as abruptly as he had come. Fingolfin remained sitting, blood quietly raging, until he could stand it no more and he stood with a frustrated shout. The crown on his head felt heavy. He could hardly call himself King if he could not control his own son, or his own temper. He reached for the crown, useless as it was, and flung it at the fireplace. It fell against the stones with a satisfactory metallic clang. For a long, slow while, Fingolfin stared at its meaningless shape, and a thousand darkened thoughts filled his mind.
"Ferno!" he shouted. The room gave him no answer. He went to the door, looking out into the stone corridor beyond, and called again. "Ferno!"
But the boy was nowhere to be seen, and Fingolfin was alone.
Glorfindel awoke to a knock at the door. It was neither the sharp, purposeful knock of Celeiros, nor the quiet, deferential knock of servants. "Who is it?" he called. His voice sounded so young, lost and uncertain, weak and afraid. He imagined he looked like a small frightened child, cowering helpless on his bed, and he hated that thought. He sat upright and stared at the door. There was no answer to his question, but after a moment the knock came again.
"Come in?" he called, quieter than before.
The door opened and a pale face peered down at him from out of the darkness beyond. Then a small figure stepped inside, closing the door quickly behind him. It was Fingolfin's Sindarin boy. "Armion told me this was your room," the boy said. He sat down on the bed and glanced around. "Same as mine. Mine's just down the corridor."
"Oh..." said Glorfindel, at a loss for what else to say. The boy spoke too quickly to be fully understood.
"I'm Oropher," the boy said suddenly. "Personal retainer to the King." He forced a note of pride into his voice as he spoke his title.
"I'm Laurefindil," said Glorfindel.
"Glorfindel," said Oropher.
"Your edhelren name," said Oropher. "It would be Glorfindel."
Glorfindel blushed at his mistake. Carefully, he repeated, "Glor-fin-del." The name rolled awkwardly off his tongue, unaccustomed as he was to the difficult Sindarin consonants.
"Good enough for now," Oropher said with a shrug. He stood up and went to Glorfindel's table, looking over the few things that lay upon it in a way that made Glorfindel uncomfortable, as if in his simple Sindarin clumsiness he were liable to break or lose something. He picked up the copper knife and ran his thumb over the dull blade. Glorfindel cringed. The thought of his delicate treasures from Valinor being handled by this heathen dark Elf, who likely wore animal skins or nothing at all before Fingolfin gave him proper clothes, made him uneasy.
"Moriquendu..." he muttered.
"What?" Oropher asked. When Glorfindel remained silent, he continued, "I heard you talking to the King this morning."
"Yes, I was," said Glorfindel. He leaned forward, anxious to keep his eyes on Oropher's meddling hands.
"In that other language. So you do come from across the sea?"
"I do. Why?"
Oropher seemed to ignore the question. He turned the knife over in his hand before setting it back down, then returned to sit beside Glorfindel on the bed. Glorfindel exhaled in relief.
"I was talking to Armion this morning, early. Armion said you probably weren't a real Miniel but just half Telerren like the Prince's cousins." He narrowed his eyes as if examining Glorfindel closely. "You look like him. What's he called... I saw him and his sister this morning in the salon with the King. Maybe that's why Armion said it. But maybe he don't know what he's talking about if you do come from over the sea. And if you do, like you said, then you can help me."
Glorfindel looked at him blankly. Oropher spoke far too quickly, and the few words he managed to catch made little sense when strung together. He understood something about that morning, and Fingon's cousins being half Telerin, and a request for help. But there was no reasonable connection between those things, as far as Glorfindel could imagine. He stared at Oropher a moment before simply asking, "What?"
"Good," said Oropher, taking the question as an agreement. "See, I want to learn your language."
"What?" Glorfindel asked again, though this time he understood perfectly what Oropher had said.
"I want you to teach me."
"Teach... you? Quendya?"
Oropher nodded. "Mm-hmm. The King talks to me all the time, but I never know what he's saying. And his edhelren isn't very good, so I want to know your language. I want you to teach me."
"Oh," said Glorfindel. He considered Oropher's request. The first concern that came to him was, were the Sindar even allowed to learn the speech of Valinor? They must be, he thought. It was only words. Anybody could learn words. Fingon had mentioned the night before how the Sindar had no desire to learn Quenya, or they chose not to, or they were incapable. He hadn't said that they were forbidden from learning. But still the thought of teaching Oropher seemed unsettling somehow. Almost as if it were an unspoken rule that Quenya would remain ever the high speech of the Noldor, used in private or for court ceremonies- a secret code for the elite. The Sindarin servants would never know what their masters spoke of in quiet counsel.
He looked at Oropher, who stared back at him impatiently. No, Fingon hadn't said it was forbidden. What would the harm be, really?
"Will you?" Oropher asked.
"I... I can," said Glorfindel.
Oropher remained with Glorfindel for the greater part of the afternoon. He had taken it upon himself to show Glorfindel around to all the important rooms and corridors of Barad Eithel, as well as thoroughly explain how and when each was used despite the fact that Glorfindel only understood a fraction of his speech. It was not until they had seen all the stairwells, the upper and lower corridors, the kitchens, the store rooms, the tunnels to the stables and barracks, the servants' dining room, the lower hall, and both common bath rooms that Oropher decided they were done for the day.
"Now I guess I'd better take you to see Armion," he said, "since he wanted to have a look at you and get you some clothes made. But he's very close- just down at the end there back past our dining room."
With a short nod Glorfindel followed after Oropher, who seemed to be walking more quickly than necessary. "Who is Armion?"
"He's the housemaster and chief tailor," said Oropher. "He's in charge of all the servants, making sure they know what they're supposed to do and when, and making sure they're dressed right. He'll probably make you wear something different."
Glorfindel looked down at his clothes, running a possessive hand over each sleeve. "What is so bad with this?" he asked. "This was my grandfather's clothes, though my Amma made the..." He paused, trying to think of the proper Sindarin word for Amma's beadwork. "She made all this," he finally decided with a large gesture to the beads.
Oropher shrugged off Glorfindel's concern. "Might be the wrong colour," he said. "Or the wrong style. You'll probably have to wear a coat like me, maybe."
Oropher, Glorfindel saw, wore fitted coat of shining blue over tight grey breeches. The coat was knee-length in the front, but longer in the back, showing a vivid yellow lining where it hung down. It had a high black collar and purple cuffs. In all, it looked stiff and uncomfortable, as well as garishly bright. "But maybe I will have something different?" he asked.
"You'll have to see what Armion says," said Oropher. He stopped in front of a door marked with a star and waited for Glorfindel to catch up to him before knocking.
Armion the Housemaster was a Sindarin Elf who had lived in the lands bordering Sirion long before Fingolfin's coming. There was no joy about him. His grey hair, which must have once been brilliant silver, was pulled back into a single strict plait down his back, and his dark grey eyes were flat and dull. His clothing was grey like ash, making even his skin seem pale and colourless as the rest of him. He walked with a limp, heavily favouring his left leg.
Years earlier, Armion had been a chief of his people, watching over a small village just south of where Eithel Sirion now stood. Then, he had been tall and proud and noble as Thingol himself. He had sneered at the coming of the Noldor and paid little heed to their presence in Hithlum, and he stood against them when Fingolfin led his people over the mountains. Interrupters, he called them, meddlers and thieves who took the good land of the Sindar and ruined it with their bleak stone buildings and rumbling war-wains. He spat at the name of Finwë Nolofinwë. He also underestimated the king's power.
All those who opposed Fingolfin's fortress at Eithel Sirion, and those who refused to acknowledge Fingolfin as King, were taken by soldiers. Armion was taken, and months passed before his people saw him again. When the soldiers brought him back, he was shrunken and silent. His leg had been broken and carelessly reset. His shoulders were bent and scarred with stripes. Thereafter he hated the Noldor, but he hated the Sindar more, for their cowardice, and for seeing in them his own weakness. All of them had been defeated and made subject to the new lord from the West. He hated them for their submission.
He hated Oropher especially, as Oropher had been born free in a south-eastern village outside of Fingolfin's reach, but had come to Eithel Sirion of his own will. He hissed in disgust when he opened the door to his little room, and turned his back. "You again," he said.
"I brought the Prince's Miniel," said Oropher, following Armion into the room. "And he is really. Came from over the sea and don't speak edhelren hardly. See for yourself!" He lifted himself up onto the table and sat there, dangling his feet over the edge.
Armion turned to regard Glorfindel with a quick sneer. "Bah, as if I care one way or the other!" he said. "Why's he here? I've got work to do."
"Needs new clothes," said Oropher, "like you said this morning. Might as well get that done now, right?"
"I'm too busy," said Armion. "Bring him back tomorrow. Early." He turned his back again and shuffled over to a high counter at the far side of the room.
"As you like," said Oropher. He kicked his dangling legs and hummed to himself.
Armion turned around. "What's that mean?" he growled.
"Nothing," said Oropher. "Just thought you might be in more of a hurry, since... well you know."
Growling again in the back of his throat, an ugly, cursing sound, Armion shuffled a few steps over toward Oropher. "No I don't know," he said. "What're you on about?"
"Oh you know how impatient they all are," said Oropher. He stretched out his leg and hooked his foot around a nearby chair, pulling it toward the table. He rested his feet on the seat. "I mean the King and them. They don't like you now, do they, so you don't want to give them any more trouble, do you? Don't want to give them any more reason to not like you. 'Specially after I was told to bring our Glorfindel down here and get him some new clothes made. They're supposed to have supper with those cousins tonight."
The look on Armion's face sank from a scowl of contempt to a gaping frown of disbelief. "He's mad!" he screeched. "He knows I can't get anything for tonight, or tomorrow, or any sooner than ten days! At least ten days, maybe more! That's madness!"
Oropher nodded emphatically. "That's why you should start now," he said, "so's you can at least show him you started. Then he won't be as upset that there's nothing done, maybe."
Armion spat on the floor. He narrowed his eyes at Oropher and gave Glorfindel another disgusted sneer before hobbling around to pound on a small door in the side wall. "Henael! Henael, get out here!" Then he shuffled back to his counter, muttering to himself as he searched for something amid the mess of scattered objects.
Oropher finally turned to look at Glorfindel, who felt ready to shrink into a corner to hide. "He's not so bad when you get to know him, really."
Glorfindel nodded meekly in reply. He watched as Armion pulled up a pair of shears and a measuring tape, wishing that he had never listened to Oropher in the first place and had stayed in his own room. Armion made him uneasy, and Oropher's casual indifference helped none. He had a gnawing fear that whatever happened next would be unpleasant.
"Henael!" Armion shouted again. "I said, get out here! Important work!" He gave the little door another hard smack as he passed on his way over to Glorfindel. The door opened and a silver-haired girl, who was so alike in appearance to Armion that she must have been his daughter, poked her head out.
"I'm busy!" she shouted back at him. "Mending up Daebregol's cloak again! The ass went and tore it on a fencepost and he needs it for hunting tomorrow!"
"You get Thiliel to do that when she's back from her rounds," said Armion. "Now you measure this boy here for new clothes. That'll be your job less only the King says otherwise."
With an irritated snarl, Henael tossed Daebregol's torn cloak against the wall and grabbed the measuring tape from Armion. "Take your clothes off," she snapped at Glorfindel.
Glorfindel nearly choked on his breath. "What?" he asked, sincerely hoping that he had misheard.
"Your clothes off," Henael repeated. "Can't measure you proper when you're dressed, can I?"
"He don't speak edhelren too well," said Oropher. "Maybe can't understand you." He jumped down off the table and stood in front of Glorfindel, unbuttoning and pulling off his own jacket to demonstrate. "Clothes off," he said slowly.
Glorfindel stepped quickly backward, a look of shock and horror spreading across his face. He crossed his arms over his chest and clutched at his sleeves. "No!" he said, shaking his head at Henael. New clothes or not, he would sooner risk Fingon's wrath than undress in front of a strange Sindarin girl.
Henael sighed. "One of those kind, ain't he..." She took another step toward Glorfindel, holding out the measuring tape as an explanation of innocence. "Look, I only have to measure you for your new clothes. Not so hard, eh? You just take that off-"
She reached out to grasp the collar of Glorfindel's robe just as he stepped back again, firmly shaking his head. "No!" he repeated. But Henael was quick, and her hand closed around the edge of the fabric even as she stepped with him.
"Look here, you stupid, ignorant Elf!" she said, temper rising once more as Glorfindel struggled to move away. "I have to measure you, and you have to take these clothes off, simple as that! You don't want your Prince to see you've been giving me a time, do you?"
"Glorfindel, please," said Oropher. "It won't take a minute... You want Armion should do it, and Henael can turn around and not watch?"
As if promoting Oropher's suggestion, Henael released Glorfindel's collar and glanced hopefully at Armion. Armion in turn stared coldly back at Glorfindel.
"I won't stand for this nonsense. I don't need none of your Western morals or modesty. You're one of us now so you'll act like one of us, and you'll do what I say. And I say undress."
Glorfindel's hands were shaking. He curled and uncurled his fingers, hidden inside his sleeves, to try and calm himself. He breathed, low and deep. "I am not," he said, fighting to keep his voice softly level and speaking in the best words he could find. "I am not one from you, and I will not undress. In my home, this thing is not done. Not with..." he paused to glance at Oropher and Henael. "Not with others to watch. It is not right, and I will not do this."
Armion was silent for one terrible moment before slamming his fist down on the table and shouting with rage. "Darkened stars! I don't care one jot for how things were done back in your home, you lazy swine! You think you're so much better than us, don't you, since you come from that fancy land of yours! All you... whatever you are..."
"Mínil," said Oropher.
"Shut up!" Armion yelled before turning back to Glorfindel. "It don't make one bit of difference, see, since you're here now and here's where you're staying! All you Western dogs might do well to remember that you're in my land now, and I'll be killed by an orc before I let any more of you walk in here and do what you please! I've had enough with that mindless self-crowned king and his whining son. I don't need you servants acting the same!"
Armion snarled, and would have spat at Glorfindel's feet had he not been interrupted by a quiet knock at the door. He motioned for Henael to answer it, but though she flung the door open angrily, she moved quickly back and bowed low.
Fingon stood in the doorway. He stepped inside, looking around the room as if he found it distasteful to even be in such a place, sniffing at the stale air. "You must think to be quieter, Armion," he said; "the whole corridor can hear what you shout." He spoke in heavily accented Sindarin, as if the language were beneath him and he had no interest in learning how to pronounce the words or even form proper sentences.
"My lord," Armion muttered. He stared at the floor.
But Fingon paid him no attention, instead turning to smile at Glorfindel. "Good, I search for my friend here. You will make for him now new clothes?"
"I will, sir," said Armion, "but he refuses to cooperate."
Armion coughed. "Well, sir, he refuses to undress so we can measure him."
"Oh?" Fingon raised an eyebrow, then took two steps to stand in front of Glorfindel. In one quick movement, he pulled off Glorfindel's outer mantle and tossed it onto the table. "You can now do it," he said. "And if you are too stupid to measure him with only this clothes on, then you are too stupid to be a tailor. I will think to have you make roads instead."
"Yes lord," said Armion, in a voice barely audible.
Fingon sighed. "You make me handle such..." He paused, searching for the word.
"Nonsense?" asked Oropher.
Fingon sneered at him. "You may not speak to me. And I have told you today twice already to leave from my sight. Go! I do not want ever to see you."
"Should I go back to the King?"
"No!" Fingon hissed.
Shrugging, Oropher pulled his coat back on and headed out the door. "I'll be on the stairs!" he called back to Glorfindel as he left.
Glorfindel wished he could answer, but between Fingon watching him hawkishly and Armion hovering over him with the measuring tape, he was too nervous to breathe properly, let alone think of anything to say. So he stared at the floor until Armion told him to look up, then stared at the ceiling until Armion told him to look straight ahead, then stared at Fingon's sleeve, as it seemed to be the safest part of Fingon to stare at. He could not bear to look to Fingon's stern face and sharp eyes. It was a trial enough to be touched and prodded and have every possible dimension of his body measured by Armion. It only made the ordeal worse to know that Fingon watched him with great interest. He shuddered.
"Nearly done," said Armion, though in a tone that sounded more like scolding than assurance.
"When will you have clothes for him finished?" Fingon asked.
"Ten days," said Armion, "maybe twelve."
Fingon shook his head. "That is too late. Finish with eight days and no more."
"I have other work to do."
"No," said Fingon, "this is most important. You will do only this. You and the girl together will make eight days."
Armion sighed heavily and put his measuring tape down on the table. "I am sorry, my lord," he said, "but it is impossible to make anything of quality in that time. I can do ten days, but no fewer. I cannot do an entire set of clothes in eight days."
"Then you will do two sets in eight days," said Fingon. "And you will not grumble further, or I will cut out your tongue and fill your mouth full with hot lead. And you will have two clothes for my friend finished in eight days, or you will be out from your nice room here and put to make roads.
"Yes, sir." Armion nodded in defeat, though Glorfindel could see his fists clenching angrily.
Fingon smiled thinly at him. "Good. Now remember this: I will have for him one dark blue, with underneath a light grey shirt. Long, cross in front, wide sash, but not so big sleeves like usual. Then the other the same, but dark green with the gold shirt. And make these nice, with good fabric- perhaps some nice pattern and trim. If it is not good enough, you will make over again."
"Of course," Armion muttered.
"And when you finish," Fingon added, " you can make for me the same style, but out from black."
"Is that all?"
Fingon nodded. "I think for now."
Without another word, Armion turned to a tall cupboard along the wall and began pulling out folds of fabric in the colours Fingon listed.
"No," said Fingon, shaking his head. "Not those. Not that linen. It is no good. Make for him out of better stuff, like you would make for me."
Now that his back was turned on Fingon, Glorfindel could see a look of fierce hatred pass across Armion's face. His fists clenched again and he ground his teeth together. "You know I can't do that," he said. "You know the rules about what servants can wear."
"He is my friend," said Fingon, "and the first son by a high Vanyarin lord across the sea. Not a servant. You will think better on him."
Armion exhaled a slow breath. "Of course. I am sorry."
"Good," said Fingon. "I will expect then this new clothes in eight days." He held out his hand to Glorfindel, motioning him nearer. "Come with me. We must leave Armion to work now."
Glorfindel nodded, and gathered his mantle from the table before following Fingon out the door. Armion watched them go, his expression changing from humble fear to furious hatred within seconds. "Henael!"
Henael stepped out from behind the door where she had been hiding. "I'll get to work," she said quietly.
"This is all you work on until it's done," Armion said. "You and Thiliel both. I don't care if you don't eat or sleep for eight days; it had better be done. Or else we're all in for suffering at that arse's leisure."
As soon as they were alone in the corridor heading to the tower, Fingon slipped back smoothly into Quenya. "They're all thick as orc shite," he said, "but we need them to do most of the labour around here. It's a wonder they ever managed to accomplish anything at all before Ta showed up to tell them what to do. Not that they have much to show: a few villages here and there, wool clothing, crude weapons. They've not evolved much since Cuiviénen without the enlightenment of Valinor. Still savages in the wild, really."
"You said I was the son of a lord," Glorfindel said softly.
"I did," said Fingon.
"I am not."
Fingon coughed in uncertainty. "You told my father you were, and so you must be. One cannot lie to the King."
"But I did," said Glorfindel. He cringed to remember his first encounter with Fingolfin, still feeling sick to think of what he had done.
"It will be our secret," Fingon said with a smile. "You won't be caught, so long as I can help you keep up the ruse."
Glorfindel forced a smile in return, but was uncomforted by Fingon's optimism. His stomach still twisted nervously. It helped none when Fingon placed an arm around his shoulder, and his nerves only worsened the higher they climbed up the tower staircase to Fingon's bedroom.
The room, Glorfindel saw, had changed since he was last in it. Now it was filled with objects: some in what looked like a proper place, others set randomly over the floor and furniture. A large chest stood in the middle of the bedroom and halfway blocked the door to the bathing and dressing room. Everything looked cluttered and awkward. Fingon, though, seemed not to mind as he stepped around the obstacles, using the chest as a place to drop discarded clothes on his way to the bath. Glorfindel made himself useful by picking up each article and folding them neatly into a stack.
"You needn't do that," said Fingon. "Just toss it all into the basket by the door. The laundresses will collect it tomorrow."
Glorfindel nodded, but still carefully placed his folded stack into the basket, afraid of damaging Fingon's fine clothes. He watched only from the corner of his eye, a fine blush creeping into his cheeks, as Fingon undressed completely and stepped into the bathwater.
"There'll be a supper for my cousins tonight," Fingon said after wetting his hair. "The chest along the wall back there is filled with my clothes, if you would unpack everything and hang it in the wardrobe so I can find something to wear."
Again Glorfindel nodded, and crossed to the room to kneel before a second wooden chest that had been placed along the far wall. Everything inside was neatly folded and ordered: clothes, mainly, but also shoes and some jewellery items wrapped in soft cloth. Resting on top was a square of folded satin, which Glorfindel carefully opened, the work-roughened skin on his fingers catching on the delicate fabric. He almost gasped to see the rich silver circlet inside. It was a thin prince's band, wrought of narrow twining strands that were unadorned but beautifully crafted. He was afraid to touch it, afraid to mar it with a slip of his fingers, but somehow it was impossible to stop himself. He let his fingertips glide over the smooth curves, perfect to his touch.
Behind him, Fingon spoke on. "On second thought, I'll have you choose something for me. Choose what you think would be appropriate for tonight's supper."
Glorfindel nodded in reply, only half aware that Fingon could not see him. He re-wrapped the circlet and set it safely aside on the table before continuing to look through the chest's fantastic wealth of clothing. Velvet and velveteen, silk and brocade, fine linen shirts, trims of lace and fur. Nearly all of it was black. Royally suited, but unvaryingly black all the same: black with gold embroidery, black with silver edging, black with black trim. Glorfindel searched for any hint of colour hidden within the folds of black, and only found it hidden at the bottom beneath an old set of black leather swordplay clothes. A crimson jerkin, shirt and breeches had been stowed with a crimson-trimmed outer robe of gold and silver. There was no need for Glorfindel to second-guess his choice. He pulled up the selection and set it on the table beside the circlet.
"You aren't very talkative, are you?"
Fingon had moved to sit upright in the bathtub and was now watching Glorfindel with an amused half-smile on his lips. Glorfindel shook his head.
Fingon's smile widened and he held out his arm. "Bath sheet."
With a quick nod, Glorfindel fetched a sheet from the rack and held it ready as Fingon stepped from the bath. He turned his eyes to avoid the sight of any part of the prince's nakedness.
"Dressing robe," said Fingon. He let the bath sheet fall at his feet as Glorfindel pulled his black dressing robe from the back of a chair. "Talk to me about something," he said. He pulled he robe over his shoulders and fastened the ties loosely.
"About... what?" Glorfindel asked.
"I don't care. I just want to hear you say something for once. You're unnaturally quiet." He crossed to his desk by the window and sat, staring out at the cloudless blue sky. The window, which Glorfindel noted contained squares of real glass, had been opened, and a warm summer wind caught on the shutters. "Tell me about Valinor," Fingon said in a soft voice. "I am starting to forget." He handed Glorfindel a silver comb.
"Valinor..." Glorfindel took the comb to the tangled ends of Fingon's wet hair, as gently as he could, carefully coaxing the strands into a straight fall of shining black. Fingon's hair was finer than his own, but thick and glassy smooth. Fingon had never worked a day in the sun.
"Why did you leave? You told my father it was out of kinship to the Noldorin exiles, but I would like the actual story."
Glorfindel bit his lip. Fingon would know if he lied. He had to tell the truth this time, loath as he was for Fingon to know. "I came here to find my father," he said quietly.
"He is Noldorin?"
"Yes. He left Aman after Fëanáro, before I was born. I never knew him, and he does not know he has a son. So I came to find him."
"Is he a soldier?" Fingon asked. "What is his name?"
"I don't know..." said Glorfindel. "Amma would not tell me. She is Vanyarin... I told your father I had a Noldorin mother, but really it is the opposite. Vanyarin mother and Noldorin father. Before I was born, just after they were married, Amma made a vow to Manwë never to speak my father's name or say anything of him until he returned to her."
"I suppose that's more than a bit of an obstacle for you, then."
"Yes," Glorfindel said with a nod. "I searched for any word of him in Valinor, giving Amma's name, but no-one knew any departed soldier who had married Amárië of Valmar. I asked all over Tirion."
"Tirion..." said Fingon. "Tell me about Tirion."
"I was only there a short time," said Glorfindel. "But... I remember when I first arrived. I walked from Valmar, and it was evening when I came through the Pelózi, just after a spell of rain. The clouds were still dark, all purple and blue, but golden light shone through a break in the sky and fell on the city like a holy ray. Even from miles away I could see it upon the hill and it shone like it were lit by the Valar."
Fingon leaned back in the chair, his eyes closed. "I never saw Tirion by the light of the sun or moon. I cannot picture it fully."
"I went to the Tower of Ingwë and stood at the base, looking up to the top until it made me dizzy. Yavanna's white tree still grows there beside the Mindon. And I saw the great stairways and wide streets. The masons were working to make new things, and to make the old things better. There is no place in Tirion I saw that is not decorated with the best stonework they can give."
"No," said Fingon, "they take care to make everything beautiful. Even a gutter to carry away rainwater is carved to the perfect shape so that it only adds to the greatness of the city." As he spoke he looked at his stark stone room. There could be no fair comparison between the towers of Tirion and the hastily-built, practical Barad Eithel. Plain curtains concealed flat walls, and a simple door led only to another simple room. One day, maybe, it would grow to be something beautiful and worthy of its royal masters, but until then it would remain a rough stronghold built as a convenience for battle.
With a sigh and a shake of his head, as if returning from some hazy memory of the past, Fingon stood. He ran his hands over his hair. "Thank you, I can plait it myself now," he said. "But show what you have chosen for me to wear."
Obediently, Glorfindel pointed to the gold and crimson outfit lying across the table. Fingon stepped forward, holding back a smirk, and brushed his fingers lazily over the fabric. "You like this one best?"
"Yes," said Glorfindel.
"Truly the best, out of everything I own?"
Glorfindel nodded. "Yes, out of everything I've seen."
"Then you can have it," said Fingon. He picked up the garments, folded them over his arm, and held them out for Glorfindel to take. "I've never worn it, and never will. It's yours now."
Glorfindel could only stare in surprise as he took the heavy fold of fabric, half through the force of Fingon's insistent gestures, and let it hang it over his own arm. But before he could think of anything to say, Fingon stepped in, picked it up again, and draped the robe loosely over his shoulders.
"There you see," said Fingon; "I like it better already now that it's on you instead of me.
It was made of silk, Glorfindel could tell. The smooth fabric was cool against the skin of his neck. "Thank you," he murmured, and was silent for a few short seconds until curiosity won out. "Why don't you wear it? It is-"
"Lovely, yes," Fingon finished for him. "And very expensive too. It was a gift from my brother, who has good enough taste in clothing. But only for himself, not for me. It is really a shame to let such a piece sit in a wardrobe unworn. So if you will wear it, then I am glad to give it to you." He leaned over his clothing chest and pulled out one of the black items, and took his silver circlet from the table. As he crossed to the door that led back to his bedroom, he said, "You may take your bath and dress in here. I'll be waiting for you in the other room. But be quick- the supper starts at sundown, and we have little time left."
The door tapped shut behind Fingon. Carefully, Glorfindel removed the robe from his shoulders, folding it onto the table with the shirt and jerkin and breeches. For a moment he stood and looked at it, noting tiny silver flowers woven on a background of gold, crimson velvet trim, and the extent of regal embroidery around the collar. He reached down to touch it, but with the back of his hand only so his fingers would not snag the fabric. On an impulse, he picked up the robe again and pulled it back on. It was still cold and heavy, but it sent a surge of pride through his body. He lifted his arm to see the way the great sleeve fell, and turned his head to see the way it draped around him. Even with Amma's beadwork, his grandfather's old clothes were poor fare compared to Fingon's discarded treasures.
With that thought, he reluctantly pulled off the robe again and placed it back on the table. He unbuttoned his tunic, which suddenly felt very thin and plain, and stepped out of his breeches, which he noticed were somewhat worn in the knees. He made no effort to fold or place them properly on the table. Then he went to the bathtub. A thought crossed his mind, as he stepped into the warm water, that perhaps life at Eithel Sirion was not so bad after all.
Pen tôl - (S) someone is coming
Ethelithon - (S) I will return
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