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A Further Shadow Despite the Darkness: 5. Theft
Idril did not accompany him back to the tower. She refused to so much as follow him to the grove, glaring and huffing as she was and rolling her eyes in a great show of scepticism, so he went alone. He gave a moment's pause near the dancers, glancing around for Oropher, but continued on with no luck. Oropher and Emmith had disappeared somewhere into the trees. So had a good number of the rest of the guests, to judge by the subdued sparseness of the dance ring. The paths back to the walls of the city were likewise empty, and even the halls and corridors of Barad Eithel stood hollow and deserted. Glorfindel took the stairs up to the fifth floor two in a stride, passing no-one along the way, and pushed open the door to Fingon's room.
The door swung open, hit something solid just inside, and bounced back to crack him on the head. He swore as a hot, white light flashed behind his eyes and pulsed in time with the throbbing pain that shot from his forehead and down his neck. Of course the evening would end this way. He pushed the door again, though carefully, giving it a steady shove. What sounded like the legs of a heavy chair scraped against the stone floor, until he had pushed the door open enough to slip through.
Inside the room, Fingon's bed curtains were drawn. The fire burned low, and a single lit candle stood on the bedside table. Fingon had to be already in bed, though Glorfindel was certain he had heard noise and a voice as he pushed open the door.
"Finno?" he called.
Fingon's voice answered from behind the curtains after a short pause. "What?" It was followed by sound of rustling and a stifled laugh.
"Are you in bed?"
"Of course I'm in bed." The curtains parted in the centre, but only enough to allow Fingon's head to slip through.
Glorfindel bit down on his tongue at the redundancy of his question. "Sorry. I meant, are you going to sleep right away?"
"No," said Fingon.
Again, the muffled laughter sounded. Glorfindel's eyes flickered to the foot of the bed, hidden by the curtains. "Is somebody-"
Fingon sighed. "Marderya."
Fingon pushed back one of the curtains to reveal the outline of a man, half hidden in the shadows, kneeling at the end of the mattress. He appeared to be fully clothed, though Fingon, Glorfindel could now see, wore only loose breeches.
"Why is he... Why is your surgeon in your bed?"
"On my bed," Fingon said tersely. "And I don't think you two have ever been formally introduced. Lauron, this is Marderya, my surgeon. Marderya, this is Laurefindil, my retainer."
Marderya leaned forward far enough that Glorfindel could see his face in the flickering candlelight. He had seen him before, about the tower in the corridors and courtyards, but had never known who he was or what he did.
"Anyhow," Fingon continued, "it is a perfectly innocent situation. I injured my shoulder sparring this afternoon. Strained muscle, and it's rather sore. Marderya is here to give me a massage."
"Oh," said Glorfindel. He looked at Marderya, and at Fingon, eyes flitting back and forth between them. Both of them seemed reluctant to return his gaze. "Well, if you're engaged, I suppose I'll just..."
Awkwardly, he turned and shuffled back to the door, stepping around the chair that blocked the way.
"Oh, and Lauron, before you go?"
Glorfindel paused to glance over his shoulder at Fingon.
"Take the pouch of coins from my desk. You'll need to go to the market in the morning and buy a replacement for the bath oil you broke."
He cringed at that reminder; he had almost forgotten his stupidity and clumsiness, and everything it invited. "Right. Sorry, Finno. I'll find a new one for you."
"Orange oil. Only orange. Undiluted."
"I know." As quickly as he could manage, he snatched the coins from Fingon's desk and left the room before anything further could be said. He pulled the door shut behind him and was certain he heard, as he retreated down the corridor, the sound of a heavy chair scraping against the stone floor. It echoed and followed him down, step by step, until he reached the third floor.
Before he reached the bottom stair he could see that something was wrong. His bedroom door, which he was always so careful to close, hung open. There was no reason for anyone to have gone in that evening, and he had not been there since fetching Oropher's money. He approached with a frown. The closer he came, he could see that not only was the door open, but the blankets on his bed had been turned back. They were carelessly thrown aside and his pillow pushed against the wall, as if someone had been in search of something.
It only made him the slightest bit ashamed that his first accusatory thought turned toward Oropher.
Inside the room, he could hear quiet movements: the shuffling of feet and the rustle of clothing. Whoever had opened the door was still there, searching through his things. He held his fist up and paused, but only for a breath before slipping silently through the door and coming face to face with his intruder.
Or rather, face to back. He reached to grab the shoulder of the figure before him, only halfway discernable in the darkness, and his hand closed around hair. The owner of the hair shrieked, and the next thing Glorfindel knew a hand came whistling out of the shadows to make solid contact with his face. He staggered backward, more out of shock than the force of the blow, and his leg bumped against the bed frame. It was too close to allow him any room to regain his balance. Slowly, fully aware of his awkwardness and unable to do anything about it, he toppled over onto the bed. The intruder gave another screech, this one sounding more pained than surprised, and something heavy enough to knock his breath out fell on top of him. He realised belatedly that he still held a handful of hair.
The hair was attached to a head, and the head turned to snarl at him, "You touch me again, you filthy cur, and I'll rip your balls off and keep 'em for a trophy!"
He froze at the threat, spoken in a sharp, Sindarin voice: a feminine voice. Most of the girls of Eithel Sirion were brash enough to speak so vulgarly. But few were large enough to match the weight that now lay across his body. "...Emmith?"
He tried to sit up and wiggle out from under her, but the movement only earned him an elbow in the ribs.
"Don't rub up against me, pervert!"
"Ow!" he gasped. "No! You're lying on top of me! I can't move unless you stand up!"
With a grunt, Emmith pulled herself to her feet, and Glorfindel was able to sit. He coughed and rubbed his chest.
"Thought you'd attack me unawares, hm?" she asked. "Well look here! I'm too quick for you, and now I'm going to report you to the tower guards! You shouldn't even be up here!"
"Shouldn't even-" Glorfindel began, but a coughing fit overwhelmed him when he tried to breathe too deeply. His eyes began to water. "What do you mean? This is my bedroom!"
Emmith inhaled sharply. "Yours?" She bent over until her face was inches from his, and he could see the shadow-blurred lines of her features. Putting a hand to his cheek, which still burned with the memory of her slap, she pushed him into the weak beam of light coming in through the doorway for a better look. "Oh," she said. "It is you. Oropher's Midhren friend."
"Who else would I be? And who else would be in my bedroom?"
Stiffly, she stood back upright and crossed her arms over her chest. "I thought you were one of the cooks who followed me up here for a quick grab and feel in the dark. You smell very strong of fruit, you know."
Glorfindel gritted his teeth. "I know."
"But I'm glad you're not one of the cooks," she continued in a voice that had made a sudden shift from harsh to pleasantly melodic. "They're all dirty and greasy and stupid."
"Oh... thank you," Glorfindel said uncertainly.
"You're not like them, are you? I bet you didn't try to attack me at all. I was only startled. What a funny misunderstanding!" Moving into the light of the door, she gave an airy laugh. "Anyhow I have to go. My brother is very protective and gets worried when I'm not back when he expects."
"But why were you in here in the first place?"
Her smile grew strained. "Oh. Uh. I was... I was looking for Oropher. I thought this was his room!" She laughed again, and flapped her hands about her head in a frivolous gesture. "How silly of me!"
"Right..." said Glorfindel. He stared at her, trying to get any reading of her true intent, but her face showed only as a black silhouette against the light of the corridor. There was no point in pressing the question. If she had come to steal money from him, she was out of luck; every coin in his purse had already been handed over to Oropher.
"Good night!" she called, and flapped her hands in something akin to a wave of farewell.
"Good night, Emmith."
She made it only three steps beyond the door before spinning around and returning. "You know... I did tell my brother I might be very late. Maybe not back until morning."
"Aaaaannnddddd..." With a sound like a humming sigh, she ran her hands slowly down the outline of her body.
Glorfindel groaned. After the fiasco with Idril, if there were anything he wanted less than to spend the night with Emmith, he could not think of it. "Look, Emmith," he said. "I'm sorry, but I think you should just go back to your family. It's late, I'm tired, my head hurts..." He tried breathe in, and coughed. "My chest hurts."
"Is that the truth or are you just being loyal to your Princess?"
Glorfindel groaned again, and bent over until his crossed arms rested on his knees and his forehead rested on his arms. He could do with never speaking of Idril again. Least of all with Emmith. "She's not my Princess," he muttered.
"Ooooh," said Emmith, in a voice he was certain was commonly used to relay bits of information formerly known as secrets. "Cut you down, did she?"
"No, in fact it was just the opposite, and I was the one who-" He caught himself too late, and bit down hard on the sides of his tongue. Another former secret was on its way to join the greedy kitchen gossip of Eithel Sirion. He turned his head to look at Emmith, and sure enough, she had leaned forward to better absorb what he had to say.
"You can tell me," she whispered anxiously.
"No, I can't," he said. "And I can't do anything else, either. You should go. I need to sleep. Alone."
Her pouting lower lip was prominent enough even to see in silhouette. "Are you sure?" she asked. "I know a full good way to mend heartbreak. I been told I'm very good at-"
She gave a little sniff. "Fine. But I hope you know what you're missing."
Gathering her skirt in her hands, she swished out of the door once again. Glorfindel lost no time in shutting it after her. His head hurt more than he had first realised, and the only thing he wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep. Preferably for a very long time. He shrugged off his clothes, splashed his hands and face with day-old water from the basin, and collapsed onto his disarray of blankets.
"Oh please..." he whispered to his pillow. "Oh please let me just fall asleep quickly and forget all about this horrible night..." But sleep was unwilling to come, chased off by visions of Idril and Glorfindel's memories of everything he had done wrong. If only... he thought. Though he could not think of a single thing he should have done differently, apart from never having set eyes on Idril in the first place.
At some point he must have fallen asleep, though the waking thoughts segued seamlessly into dreams. The sun had started to rise by the time he looked up from his pillow, though he could have sworn less than an hour had passed. His bedroom was full of the grey light of early morning. Yawning and stretching, he rolled over to face toward the door. The first thing he saw was Oropher's round-eyed gaze staring back at him.
"Valar!" he shouted, and nearly leapt out of bed for fright.
"Go back to sleep," said Oropher, his voice affecting a low and soothing tone that missed its mark entirely. "Shhhh..."
"What are you doing in here?!"
"Shhh," Oropher repeated.
Glorfindel quickly pulled a blanket across his naked body. "I don't believe this! My bedroom is not a public space! First Emmith, now you!"
At the mention of Emmith's name, Oropher tensed. "Emmith? She was here?"
"I caught her sneaking last night. Much like you're doing, come to think of it!" He glared down at Oropher's hands, which, he now saw, were wedged between his mattress and the bed frame.
"Get off the bed," said Oropher.
"What? No! I'm trying to sleep, and you're disturbing me! Get out of my room!"
Oropher shot him a fierce look. "Just get off a moment. I need to check something."
Glorfindel growled a half-secret obscenity, but still he complied. It was always easier and faster to go along with Oropher's ludicrous ideas than oppose them. He slid down to the foot of the bed and watched through narrowed eyes as Oropher felt under the mattress and then lifted its edge to peer at the slatted frame beneath.
"That dirty bitch!" Oropher shouted. He let the mattress fall, and then punched it.
"Emmith! I don't believe it! She stole the necklace back!"
"She stole the..." Glorfindel looked from the mattress to Oropher's enraged face. "What are you talking about?"
"The necklace!" said Oropher. "The necklace I bought! I took it back and hid it, and she stole it! Bitch!"
Glorfindel was lost. "But... Why would it be under my mattress?"
"Because I hid it there!" Grunting and sighing, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, Oropher explained. "I gave her that necklace last night. She took it off with most of the rest of her clothes out by the wedding grove, but then when she was down to only her shift she said that's as far as she'd go! She only let me kiss her a bit. I wasn't about to waste that necklace on her if that's all I get, so I grabbed it back and ran. But I couldn't hide it in my room. She'd look there first. So I hid it in here. And she stole it!"
Glorfindel rubbed his eyes. Despite having just awoken, he felt as tired as ever. Oropher's antics usually had that effect. "Are you sure it's not there?" he asked. "She had been looking through the bedding when I got in. Perhaps she disturbed the slats and it fell to the floor."
"No, it's not!" Oropher insisted. "I left it right here, toward the top back corner, and now it's gone! There's nothing there at all!"
It took a moment for Glorfindel's mind to fully process what Oropher had said, but once it did, a sickening thought hit him like a blow to the stomach. "Wait," he said. "There's nothing there?"
He jumped off the end of the bed, heedless of his nakedness, and lifted the mattress as high as he could off its frame. Empty slats of rough wood looked back at him. He dropped the mattress and fell to his hands and knees, looking desperately for anything that could have fallen between the slats and landed on the floor beneath. But nothing was there. Of the few things he had considered valuable enough to hide, nothing remained. His copper ceremonial knife had disappeared, and the poor jewellery he had brought with him from Valmar. Amma's ring, on its fine gold chain, was gone.
A hot fury started to rise in his chest. He sat up, looking Oropher in the eye to see his own hatred reflected perfectly. "That dirty bitch!" he hissed.
Oropher did not know exactly where Emmith lived, but he did know where she worked in the vast kitchens of the tower. At this early hour of the morning, he told Glorfindel, she would be already at work making bread for the King's breakfast. They were on their way to find her as soon as Glorfindel had pulled on some clothes.
Glorfindel had been near the kitchens, but never inside. Even after eleven years among the Noldor, the stench of their food still made his stomach churn: the searing flesh and hot blood of animals, bare of the spices that softened the smell of Vanyarin cooking. He supposed he would never be used to it, and he avoided the corridors that ran near the kitchens mostly so he would not have to breathe that air. Now he covered his nose and mouth with his sleeve as Oropher led the way.
The blast of heat that hit them as the double doors opened made Glorfindel's eyes water. The rest of his senses were equally assaulted: the huge and numerous fires that created the heat filled the kitchens with a strange, red-orange light and hints of smoke from ineffective chimneys. Noise echoed from every corner of the room, which seemed to be little more than an Elven-made cave. Shouted orders mingled with the clash of dishes and general chaos of countless workers on the move. Even through the fabric of his sleeve, the air Glorfindel breathed had a smoky, greasy taste.
"Over here!" Oropher shouted above the din. "She'll be in that far corner!"
Oropher wound his way between tables and food carts, and Glorfindel followed. To their right, older boys chopped vegetables into great iron cauldrons of soup or stew. To the left, a shirtless man hacked away at the carcass of a goat with his cleaver, as rivulets of sweat slid down his naked back. Whether it was because of the sights, the smells, or the heat, a creeping nausea had started its way up Glorfindel's throat by the time they reached the women in the back corner.
He watched as Oropher's eyes scanned over the women rolling dough at tables, and those cooking flat-cakes in pans over low fires. "There," said Oropher, and he pointed to a group sorting fruit into barrels along the side wall. Her head was low in a barrel, but Emmith's round bottom and cleverly fitted skirt were unmistakeable. "Come on."
In the commotion of the kitchen, Oropher made no attempt to sneak up and catch her by surprise. It would be impossible for her to hear them, and she would not have seen them either, if not for an unlucky chance. Emmith stood up and flipped her hair back, shaking it away from her face while laughing to her companions about something Glorfindel was sure had to do with him and Oropher. As Oropher approached, she spied them from the corner of her eye and did a double take. There was nowhere to run and no chance of hiding, but Glorfindel saw her hands fly to her chest, and she turned her back to them. The movements she made looked distinctly like she was stuffing something down the front of her dress.
"Emmith!" Oropher shouted. "You horse-fucking-"
"Wait!" said Glorfindel, and he grabbed Oropher by the shoulder. Looking furious, Oropher spun around to face him. "Look," Glorfindel continued in a quieter tone, "it's pointless to confront her when she's with her friends. She's too arrogant, and their presence will only help her. We need to talk to her alone. Make her feel nervous and overpowered."
Oropher gave a slow nod. "Right. That makes sense." He continued his way toward Emmith, ignoring her jeers, and grabbed her roughly by the arm. She screeched in protest and twisted her body around to either escape or strike him. But he was too quick, and too effective: in seconds, he had both arms pinned behind her back and was leading her off to a stack of barrels and crates. Those nearby threw a glance at the spectacle of Emmith dragging her feet and hollering threats and obscenities, but none so much as stopped working or lifted a hand to help her. Such rough-housing must have been commonplace among the workers, Glorfindel thought, as Oropher pushed her roughly against the barrels.
"Where's the ring, Emmith?"
Emmith stopped shouting abuses long enough to look from Oropher to Glorfindel with a mask of well-practiced surprise on her face. "Ring?"
"Don't be stupid, and don't be coy!" said Oropher. "I know you took that necklace. I can see the chain right now, stuffed down your dress!"
Quietly, trying to disguise the gesture behind a flip of her hair, Emmith brushed her fingers along the exposed chain.
"Now hidden in the same place as the necklace was a bunch of Glorfindel's things: a little knife, some hair clips and jewellery, and a large ring. I don't care about the necklace anymore, Emmith. Now you've shown all your friends I can't take it back, because everyone knows it's yours. But you have no right to take anything else!"
"That's right," added Glorfindel. He knew it sounded stupid, but he had to do something to support Oropher's attack on his behalf.
"How do you know I took anything?" Emmith sniffed. "I did take the necklace, alright? But that's it. Somebody else must've took the rest."
Oropher's arm whipped out to strike the barrel inches from Emmith's head. She screamed and leapt to the side, but his other arm was already in the way, preventing her escape. "Nobody else took it!" he shouted. "When I hid that necklace there, I saw the ring and everything else exactly where it should be! You took the necklace, and I'd be an idiot to believe you didn't steal the rest while you were at it!"
"I didn't-" she began, but Oropher struck the barrel on the other side of her head, with enough force to dent the wood, and she screamed again. "Don't threaten me!"
"Don't lie to me!"
Tensed for a confrontation, Glorfindel stepped forward. He had never before, in seven years, seen Oropher in this kind of rage. Oropher had been grumpy and sulky, quietly seething or patiently vicious like a snake, but never explosively angry. It was a frightening thing to watch, as if seven years of suppressed fire were about to burst free.
Glorfindel placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Oropher..."
Snarling, Oropher spun around. "What?!"
"Look... Maybe I should do this? It's my ring. Let me do the talking."
"You can try," said Oropher. "But good luck. Bitch's thick as pig shite."
Emmith's chin jutted out at the insult and she spat at him, but only after he had safely turned his back and was a few good paces gone.
Oropher, still coiled full of unchecked fury, kicked over a worktable as he stalked away. The man who had been there making sausages gave a shout. A shout came back from Oropher, and a gesture of threat. Glorfindel watched, shaking his head, as gestures turned to blows and blows became a full brawl on the floor. The brawlers crashed into a second table, and suddenly, two more men had joined the fight. The sounds of their fists and hollers of rage and pain slipped easily in to the greater noise of the kitchens.
Pressing his fingers against his forehead, Glorfindel turned back to Emmith. "Sorry about that," he said. "Oropher seems a little... uptight today."
Emmith scowled and said nothing. She stared him down with slitted eyes.
"Emmith, I know you took my things," he began, "but I won't care and I won't call the guards on you if you just give me back my ring and my knife. The rest, you can keep. I only want the ring and the knife."
"Go ahead," said Emmith. "Call the guards. I'll say you gave me everything as a present because you're so in love with me." Crossing her arms, she grinned smugly.
"Is that your usual scheme?"
She gave a sharp laugh. "Well how else am I supposed to get anything nice? All I do is pull my dress down like this..." She tugged at the front of her dress until the neckline was low enough to show the generous curve of her breasts. "Then I lean forward and talk in a pretty voice, and who do those thick guards believe? Me! You get hauled away and roughed up for giving me trouble."
"And this works for you?" Glorfindel asked.
"At least four times so far."
Glorfindel nodded. "It is a good plan. But I don't think it will do quite as nicely this time. You see, Emmith, I'm not some crude cook or rock-headed tower boy. I am the personal retainer to our Prince. And with that position comes a few privileges." Holding his hands up, he shook his arms so that his sleeves fell down to gather at his elbows. The gold bracelets at his wrists shone red in the fiery light. He watched as Emmith's gaze slid from the bracelets to the fine linen of his shirt, trimmed with imported silk. A hint of recognition that perhaps, for once, she had stepped into something beyond her control flickered in her eyes as she toyed with the edge of her rough apron.
"The problem is," Glorfindel continued, "it's not your word against some poor, insignificant fellow any more. It's no longer a choice between pretty Emmith and a fool who finds himself in an unfortunate situation when the guards are looking to make themselves busy. This time, it's your word against somebody who has the Prince's favour. Can you see where this might lead?"
"I... I think you're bluffing," she said. Sneering, she stuck out her chin, but fear and doubt still wavered behind her show of confidence.
"Emmith, I am giving you a warning and a choice. The warning is that you're very close to being on the wrong side of an arrest warrant. The choice is that you either give me back my ring and my knife now, with no trouble, or I call upon my Prince to draw up the order for your arrest himself. In which case I will take back my things from your stash of stolen goods with no-one to oppose me, because you will be safely chained in a cell as a thief."
Emmith's eyes darted to his face and then away. She took a breath and paused, uncertain. "Well I don't have it here," she finally said.
"Somewhere else. Safe. And I can't go now, I'm in the middle of working. But if you come back after the breakfast is served I can get it for you."
"And you'll return my things with no fuss and no trickery?" Glorfindel asked.
As if it pained her to do so, she slowly nodded. "I'll return them."
"Good. I'll be back here to meet you as soon as I see the servers heading out with their trays. I trust you will be exactly in this spot, so that we can avoid any unpleasant misunderstandings. Is that clear?" Smiling at her, baring a hint of teeth, he noted with satisfaction that a small shudder ran down her back as she murmured her agreement. He stepped forward to put a hand on her shoulder. "Please don't disappoint me."
She shrugged him off with a little sound of annoyance. "I'm not a halfwit, you know. I'll be waiting right here for you. Now if you don't mind, I have work to do. Unlike some people around here." She snorted in the direction Oropher had left, though he was no longer anywhere to be seen.
There was nothing left for Glorfindel to do but step aside and let her pass. She returned to her place at the fruit barrels and kept her back solidly oriented against him, refusing to turn so much as a cheek in his direction. Shaking his head, Glorfindel stalked away. He had better things to do than stand around in the hot stench of the kitchens and watch Emmith sort fruit. Anything would be better than breathing in acrid smoke and the tang of blood while staring at her fat, mocking bottom.
He followed Oropher's trail of destruction that had blazed its way through the great rooms, passing an overturned table here, a splatter of liquid on the floor there, spilt food, broken stools, and numerous men nursing minor injuries. The mess and chaos wound back and forth across the various work areas before finally coming to an end in a corner near the main doors. There sat Oropher on the floor, arm in arm with the sausage-maker whose table he had first disturbed. The two had managed to pick up a suspicious-looking bottle somewhere over the course of their travels, which they now passed back and forth.
"LL!" Oropher called as Glorfindel approached. "I would like you to meet my very good new friend. This fellow."
Oropher's very good new friend nodded to Glorfindel, and raised the bottle. Oropher himself, Glorfindel saw, now sported an impressive goose egg on the side of his forehead, along with a bloodied nose and lip. His clothing had been torn in several places, revealing cuts, scrapes and bruises beneath.
"Are you drunk?" Glorfindel asked.
"Not hardly," said Oropher. "We're only just starting."
"Well, stop starting. We need to go. Emmith has agreed to give my things back as soon as breakfast is over. But I don't want to wait around until then. I think we should go, and then you can tell me when Emmith should be finished with breakfast, and when we should return."
The jovial mood dropped at once. "You're right," Oropher said as he stood. "Dealing with her is our priority right now. This is no time for carrying on." He bowed to the sausage-maker. "Good to meet you, friend. Sorry to leave so soon, but I have to get revenge on a scheming cat's cunny of a girl. You understand."
Whether the man understood or not, he gave no sign, but took another swig from the bottle as he rubbed at a streak of blood on his chin. Oropher gave him a last little salute before joining Glorfindel.
"It's early still," Oropher said. "Won't be finished breakfast for another few hours, at least." He was walking with a limp, Glorfindel noticed, heavily favouring his right leg.
"What did you do to yourself, Oropher?"
"Me? Nothing. Just having some fun, you know... work off some anger. Just a little fight."
Immediately, Oropher tried to correct his movements. "No, I'm not." He evened his pace, but it only made his steps seem jerky and stiff. "Anyhow, like I said, we have a few hours at least before Emmith's done. What'd you reckon we should do? I think we need a plan. What if you hold her arms, and I-"
"I have a plan," said Glorfindel.
"And, my plan is to spend the hours we have going back to bed. Then I shall get dressed, in some of my better clothes."
"And then," Glorfindel continued as they reached the door and stepped out into the corridor, "we will go and speak with Emmith. And she will return my things."
Oropher looked sceptical. "I think you're underestimating Emmith's stubbornness. We need a better plan than talking to her. That'll go nowhere. Like I said, you hold her arms-"
"Oropher, who's the person in Eithel Sirion who frightens you most?"
"Fingon," Oropher answered immediately. He needed no time to think.
"Exactly. Everyone is always most afraid of Fingon. Why?"
"Because... Because he knows everything. He knows what you're going to do, can stop it before it happens, and has every way out covered. Then he tells you what he'll do if you don't behave. In detail."
"Has Fingon ever held your arms behind your back while getting someone else to rough you up?"
"No," Oropher admitted, "but he did once threaten to have somebody else hold my arms while he... did something unpleasant with my guts."
"And then you listened to him."
"Bleeding right I listened to him. Only the thickest kind of idiot wouldn't."
"And that's exactly it," said Glorfindel. "You see, in almost all cases, the threat of harm or punishment is just as effective, if not more so, than actual violence. It makes people afraid when they contemplate the outcome, and when people are afraid, they are more likely to do as you say. In seven years, I have never once seen Fingon carry through with one of his outlandish threats, and I've been on the receiving end of many of them. He subdues those who oppose him by attacking their minds, making them fear him, rather than harming their bodies."
Oropher stopped where he stood to give Glorfindel a quick and incredulous glance. "Erm, remember that time he locked you in the dungeons for six days? In the dead of winter? And you nearly died? From freezing and blood loss? From being chained up to the wall by your arms? D'you recall?"
Glorfindel's eyes darted down to the ever-present wide, gold bracelets on his wrists. He twisted one from side to side, feeling the soft leather lining rub against the ridges of scar-hardened flesh beneath. "That was different. I was arrested by Celeiros, not Fingon. Fingon was the one who got me out of there, and he was beside himself for having allowed it to happen in the first place. He never intended that."
Turning away, Oropher gave a derisive snort, but said nothing.
"Anyhow," Glorfindel said loudly, "my point is still that we'd do better to intimidate Emmith into returning my things as planned rather than trying to take them by force if she reneges on the promise. You saw how she only grew more stubborn the closer you came to hitting her. That's the sort of tactic she's accustomed to, and she expects it. She doesn't expect more subtle negotiations."
"So what are you going to do? Pretend to be Fingon and calmly threaten to sew her mouth shut with red-hot wire like he said he would do to me the other day?"
Glorfindel nodded. "That is exactly what I'm going to do."
"I don't see how that's very subtle."
"The subtlety isn't in what you say, Oropher, but how you say it. Fingon, for example..." He stopped to stand next to Oropher, so close their shoulders touched. "Fingon stands too close. And he leans in, like this, until his face is so close you have no choice but to look at him. He narrows his eyes, only a little, and smiles, just the slightest bit. And he speaks in a smooth, slow voice, making certain you understand, about every terrible thing that will happen if you're foolish enough to act against his wishes. Manwë help you."
From only inches away, Glorfindel watched Oropher's eyes widen in surprise before he shrank back. "Oh stars!" he whispered. "That's horrible, you even look a bit like him when you do that!" A wide grin broke across his face.
"I love it! Do it to Emmith!"
"I intend to," said Glorfindel. "But first I'm going back to sleep. Meet me back here as soon as the King's breakfast is done. Wear your best clothes. The more influential she thinks we are, the better this will work."
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