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Never Speak Nor Sing: 7. Secret
When Glorfindel came back downstairs, Finrod was already standing outside on a balcony overlooking the gardens' spread of flowering trees and spidery winding paths. Fingon had not yet arrived; Glorfindel's spirits lifted immediately to see this. If only for a moment before Fingon came, he would have a chance to speak about Valmar. He approached loudly, scuffing his feet on the stonework to be sure that Finrod would hear.
"Ah, finally," Finrod said as he turned to face Glorfindel. He smiled as he glanced further back, as if expecting to see Fingon, though he showed no signs of disappointment when Fingon was nowhere to be seen. His eyes returned to Glorfindel with interest. "Findekáno not with you?"
Glorfindel shook his head. "No... he said he'd be along in a moment."
"No matter," said Finrod. "We can go ahead. Findekáno knows his way through the gardens. He'll find us. Walk with me?"
"Yes, of course." Glorfindel hurried forward, following a welcome gesture right up to Finrod's side. He proudly mirrored each of Finrod's steps down the stone staircase while remaining a respectful arm's length behind.
"My sister went by a minute ago with a few of the court's more seriously-minded ladies," Finrod began, "and I saw my uncle with his counsellors not long before. We could look for them."
"Mmm," said Glorfindel.
"Or rather," said Finrod, stopping suddenly, "I think we ought to go this way." He pointed down a curving tree-lined path off the main avenue. "Artanis was out walking earlier and said they've built a terraced fountain into the hillside down here, and I always love to see a good bit of landscaping. Even in the dark. Do you mind?"
"No, not at all," Glorfindel muttered. He raised a hand to cover his mouth and chin in what he hoped looked like a thoughtful pose, to cover the smirk he was unable to subdue. While Finrod had spoken in a more Noldorin way at supper, he was now making an attempt at a true Vanyarin dialect. An attempt which, Glorfindel realised with a surge of pleasure, was surely intended to impress him. Unfortunately, it also left him in the awkward position of having to speak very carefully and match each of Finrod's mistakes to avoid any potential for embarrassment.
"Have you been this way before?" Finrod asked, to which Glorfindel replied only with a shake of his head.
"Have you been around the gardens at all?"
Glorfindel shook his head again. "No." He followed Finrod down the path.
"What do you usually do of an evening?"
Finrod paused to look back at him. "Nothing?" he asked quietly. "Is that true? My cousin allows you to do nothing? How very unlike him." He turned forward again and moved quickly ahead down the path, brushing aside strands of ivy and clematis that hung from the trees above. Glorfindel followed, though this time he lagged further behind. His smile had faded, replaced by a worried bite at the thought of what Finrod knew, or guessed. Neither spoke further until they reached a small clearing at the edge of a pond.
"Now this must be it," said Finrod, bright once again. "You see, the tiered fountain falls all the way down the cliff face- I imagine it's fed by one of the springs- and into this pond here. And they must have a drain, underground I imagine, which might feed one of the other waterways..."
"I see," said Glorfindel. Hundreds of questions and comments hung on the tip of his tongue: about Valmar, about the Noldor who left Aman, about Fingon, but he could not bring himself to speak any of them. Most of what he wanted to say risked revealing his history, which Fingon explicitly warned him against. But Finrod, who had sat himself down on a bench facing out over the terraced slopes, looked so understanding. He gazed up at Glorfindel, open and inviting, as if encouraging him to speak.
"You're very quiet," Finrod eventually said, his own voice far softer than it had been.
"Mm." Glorfindel nodded. Say something, he told himself. Anything. Tell him you've never seen such a complex garden fountain. A proper lord would say a dull thing like that. He suspects something isn't right.
But Finrod smiled apologetically at Glorfindel's silence. "I suppose you must think me rather odd, dragging you off here with no explanation..."
Glorfindel blinked back at him. No, he had thought himself the odd one, unable to voice even a simple comment on the scenery.
"In truth," Finrod continued, "I thought I'd seize the opportunity to ask you a quick question before Findekáno joined us."
"A question... me?" Glorfindel asked, suddenly struck by the unpleasant feeling that this conversation would soon turn in a direction he'd rather avoid.
"Your shirt," said Finrod, pointing a finger at Glorfindel's sleeve. Glorfindel's stomach sank. "Where did you get it?"
"My Amma-" Glorfindel began automatically, before catching himself and finishing, "... gave it to me."
"And where did she get it?" Finrod asked again.
"I don't know. I suppose she bought it."
"With the beading as it is?"
Glorfindel cringed. "I don't know. I guess. Why?"
"I don't mean to press, if you truly don't know," Finrod said kindly. "It's only that I know who did that beadwork; I recognise the crafting. I was merely interested to find out whether you were familiar with her as well." He pulled back the folds of his cloak and held out his arm to reveal a fine silk sleeve, the cuff of which had been delicately beaded in gold and blue. He then gestured to a similarly decorated sash, and the hem of his jerkin. "As you see, I have been a patron for some time. I believe my sash carries the same pattern as your shirt."
Glorfindel's urge to speak the forbidden swelled to ten times its original strength. Finrod knew Amma. Amma never once even hinted at a connection to someone so grand, but he must have been on familiar terms to so easily recognise her work. And if he knew Amma, and was among the princes who led the Noldor out of Aman, then there was a chance he would know-
"Do you own any other such articles, or just the one?"
Finrod's question came just in time to interrupt Glorfindel's thought and prevent him from shouting anything impetuous and stupid. "Oh..." he fumbled. "Well the sleeves of the robe... it matches this. The robe, I mean. And I have a... a shirt collar done too." Finrod nodded in interest at his words. "They were presents as well," he quickly added.
It was a sickening feeling, having to hold his tongue when he knew that one simple question had the potential to end a lifetime of curiosity. The excitement that had sparked as he first considered asking Finrod about his father turned quickly to dread. If he asked for any such news, Finrod, who surely knew Amma's family was far less than the nobility Glorfindel had invented, might say the wrong thing to Fingolfin. Fingolfin had been speaking to Finrod about Glorfindel that morning, and had almost certainly related his brief lie of an ancestry. If Fingolfin found out, his wrath would be echoed by Fingon, to whom Glorfindel had promised to remain silent on the matter. And if Fingolfin and Fingon found out, Glorfindel would be forced to bear the punishment not only for lying to the king, but also for breaking his word to his prince. In this case he could always flee from Eithel Sirion with the information Finrod provided, but where would he go, and to what end? And there was also the possibility that Finrod would know nothing, and his deception would be revealed needlessly.
"Is something the matter?" Finrod asked. "You look a bit as if..." His voice trailed off.
"No," Glorfindel lied. "I'm fine." Ask him, a part of his heart insisted, while another voice, a voice that sounded far closer to Fingon's, said, Better to keep your mouth shut. He sighed.
"You need not hold back if there is something you want to say."
"No," he repeated. "It's nothing. I just..." He shifted his weight nervously on his feet. "It's nothing. Just something I thought. But Findekáno said I... shouldn't..."
"Ah," Finrod said, voice turning darker at his cousin's name. "I daresay I can guess what troubles you. Come and sit with me a moment?" He slid a few inches to the side, patting the bench next to him. Glorfindel sat, and Finrod wrapped an arm around his shoulder. It felt protective and warm, and worlds away from Fingon's menacing clutch.
"How much do you know of our half-cousin Maitimo, Fëanáro's son?" Finrod asked.
Glorfindel shook his head. "Nothing." He had heard the name and the common tales, but owing to Celeiros' cryptic comment the previous evening, he suspected that Finrod meant to tell him something very new and confidential.
"Findekáno and Maitimo were lovers," Finrod said in a low half-whisper. "Secretly for a long time, I imagine, though they grew more blatant about it in the years after we left Aman. After he rescued Maitimo from the cliff-face, Findekáno never bothered to hide his involvement. But some years ago my uncle demanded they finish. And Findekáno did quit his liaison, though on very harsh terms. The two have not so much as spoken since- likely out of rampant stubbornness. But I'm certain Findekáno loves him still. His loneliness and unchecked feelings cause him such pain. So he-" Finrod spoke very carefully- "tries to find a substitute. I think you can guess where that leaves you."
Silently, Glorfindel nodded. He had guessed as much: that Fingon had an absent lover who remained somewhere far-off and inaccessible. He was the replacement. Not only that, but he was a replacement gift from Fingolfin, who saw fit to supply his son with a new partner, having been the one to drive off the first. Suddenly, the night seemed that much darker. He leaned against Finrod, who tightened his one-armed embrace.
"I don't try to make excuses for him," said Finrod. "Nor do I agree with his choices. But I know it can be so difficult, for so many who came into the east. Everyone has to adapt. Those who left families behind, loved ones... You'll find no-one here who doesn't sadly recall another who now lives the sea's width away or who has been lost to this new land. And it's the curse of our memory to dwell on the past. Out of necessity we find... ways to cope with the loss."
Glorfindel felt hardly better for all of Finrod's wisdom. He glanced up, hoping to hear something further about countering the pain of memory, but instead he saw Finrod's eyes fixed intently on the bottom of the hill, an angry frown curling on his lip. Down below, Glorfindel saw as he followed the gaze, Finrod's sister and her ladies had met the King's entourage. Artanis was holding out her hand to be kissed by one of Fingolfin's fawning sycophants. The sight prompted a hiss of disgust from Finrod, and a sudden thought from Glorfindel.
"Was the King ever married?" he asked, and the moment the words passed his lips he blushed at the idiocy of the question. Fingolfin had children, so of course he was married. "I mean," he corrected himself, "where is his wife?"
"His wife- her name is Anairë- remained in Tirion," said Finrod. He seemed hardly to notice Glorfindel's lack of sense, his eyes lingering on the scene below. "She was close friends with my mother, and chose to stay for her sake. That, at least, was the official story. Unofficially, she and my uncle were never close. Nolofinwë adored her, but she didn't return his affections. He never even tried to convince her to come with us. He left Tirion alone, like so many of the others."
"And he found a substitute as well," Glorfindel said dully. "One who couldn't refuse him."
Finrod nodded, though did not speak for a long time. "Yes," he finally muttered, staring down at the bench as Artanis and the ladies disappeared into the trees. The suffering on his face was unmistakable.
"Do you have a wife or beloved left behind?" Glorfindel asked.
There was an even longer pause before Finrod cleared his throat and said, shakily, "No."
They looked so much alike, Fingon thought, that he must have been an idiot not to have wondered at it when Glorfindel first arrived. And now they even sat together side by side on the garden bench, the clueless father's arm around his equally clueless son, in what could have been the perfect picture of a family if only they had known. He had to laugh at the pure coincidence and absurdity. And he would have paused to laugh longer if not for the possibility that either one could at any moment carelessly say something to trigger an epiphany in the other. He loudly stepped from the shadows into the clearing. "Cousin," he said. "Laurefindil. You didn't wait."
To his satisfaction, Finrod looked positively relieved to be interrupted, jumping up from the bench and hurrying to his side. "Your father's excellent gardens were far too inviting," Finrod said with a smile that was rather too cheerful. "We couldn't resist."
"Discussing anything interesting?"
"Just gossiping maliciously about you," said Finrod. He tried to speak lightly, as if making a joke, though a nervous edge to his voice told Fingon that this was more or less what they had been doing. "We did see your father pass by a moment ago," Finrod continued, quick to change the subject. "You think we ought to find him and finish our walk?"
Fingon shook his head. "No," he said. "Now that I'm out here, I don't feel much like walking at all. In fact I wanted to find you only to say that I'm tired and will be heading to bed shortly. But perhaps some wine first, by the fire?"
"Of course," Finrod said with a nod. "If you go ahead I'll quickly find my sister and-"
But Fingon interrupted curtly, "Not Artanis. Just you and I."
Finrod gave him a short curious look, but nodded again just the same. "If you wish," he said slowly.
"I do," said Fingon. He turned to Glorfindel. "Laurefindil, you are dismissed for the evening. I'll send someone for you in the morning when you are needed again."
"Thank you, my lord," said Glorfindel, and he gave Fingon a quick, awkward bow before hurrying down the path back toward the tower. Finrod watched him leave, pensively silent.
"I don't believe our little Vanyarin lord is too impressed by my company," said Fingon.
Finrod looked at him, eyebrow raised. "A Vanyarin lord? Is that what he told you? You don't honestly believe him?"
"That is indeed what he told my father yesterday morning."
"Vanyarin certainly, but if he's ever so much as met a real lord, then I'm the son of Manwë."
"I'll be certain to tell Arafinwë of your mother's infidelity," said Fingon. He smirked as they began to walk down the same path Glorfindel had taken, though far more slowly.
Finrod laughed in return. "He is a lovely boy no doubt, means well, and was earlier in our walk doing a rather admirable impression of my own speech. But otherwise, when losing his careful manner, he talks like a peasant."
"And behaves like a peasant, and walks like a peasant, and is unable to write his own name- much like a peasant, I'd say."
"Your father couldn't see it?"
"You know how trusting my father is," Fingon said. "He'll believe anything, so long as it presents no obvious or immediate danger."
They continued at a leisurely pace, through the dark garden, into the tower, and up the spiral stairs to Fingon's bedroom. Inside, the fire already burned brightly, and wine had been set on the bedside table. Fingon poured out two cups and sat on the rug by the fire. He regarded Finrod carefully, watching for any worrisome sign or any clue as to what Glorfindel said in the garden, but found Finrod's movements unreadable.
"What did you talk about?" he asked. "You and the boy. What did he say?"
"Oh," said Finrod. He sat beside Fingon and took his wine, but did not drink. "Hardly anything. I did most of the talking." He stared intently into the fire.
"I am hardly convinced that this fire could be so fantastically interesting to you, cousin, that it distracts you from speech," said Fingon. "Therefore I must assume that the two of you had a discussion that you are unwilling to share, and most likely a discussion about me. What did he say?"
Finrod thinned his lips and took a small sip of wine. "He said nothing."
"And from that nothing I suppose you were able to infer exactly what he meant to say?"
Finrod looked at him sharply. "I was able to infer enough, if you truly want to know." He propped himself up on his knees so that he and Fingon were face to face. "And if you want me to say it aloud," he continued, "I will. I do find it a despicable thing you have done. Why that boy? Surely in your entire kingdom you could find one who would willingly share your bed. Why him?"
"A rather harsh accusation," said Fingon. He leaned back on his elbows, sprawling lazily in contrast with Finrod's rigid pose. "I should be deeply offended that you would think me so low. You're lucky I'm such a forgiving person; I'll overlook your thoughtless judgement." He paused to watch Finrod, who still sat tensely; he smiled, and Finrod scowled.
"I kissed him," he said. "I kissed him this morning, and that is all, I swear to Varda. Nothing further, nothing to which he didn't agree. You may ask him if you wish. Just a kiss. He did share my bed last night, but even then I did no more than touch his shoulder. I have far more honour than you afford me."
Finrod looked hardly convinced. "But you intend to make him your lover."
"I do," Fingon said with a shrug, "eventually. But I'm not short on time. I'm fairly certain I can convince him to see things my way."
"How would that be?"
Fingon grinned and gestured to the room with a grand flip of his arm. "All of this. Anything he wants, I can give him. Wealth and power, jewels and trinkets, anything at all."
Finrod scoffed. "You think you can buy love and affection."
"Gifts make slaves like whips make dogs," said Fingon.
With a disapproving sneer, Finrod turned back to the fire and sipped his wine, keeping the cup held in front of his mouth as if it were an excuse not to speak further. Fingon licked his lips. There was opportunity, he saw, to steer the conversation in a more desirable direction.
"But you would hardly understand my position," he said slowly.
"What position is that?" Finrod snapped back. "The position of abusing authority?"
"You are a lucky one among us, Findaráto. Never took a lover, never married, never lost the dearest thing in the world." He paused, and watched with satisfaction as Finrod's grip on the wine cup tightened. "No, you are spared the torment. You never lie awake at night in a cold and empty bed, remembering times that have passed and dreaming in agony over what could have been if only you had chosen differently. You are not the one whose every joyful moment is marred by the nagging grief of being unable to share it with the one you love most. You are not one who yearns insatiably or suffers without hope of reprieve."
Finrod's entire body was tense. His shoulders were knotted, and he clutched the silver cup with a grip that would have crushed glass. He longed to speak, though he bit down on his tongue. Fingon could nearly hear the words in his mind. A step further, and he would confess. Fingon leaned in closer to his cousin, and lowered his voice to a pained whisper.
"This is what I must endure," he hissed. "I loved him, Findaráto, and he is lost to me. At one time I thought I would be strong enough to weather the hardship, but no more. The pain only grows more acute with passing time. Every night that I lie alone makes me want to swear that it will be the last, that I will somehow find a way to save myself. Only how could I be so faithless? How could I be so wretched as to dare to love again? But if I can stay the suffering with empty comforts, why shouldn't I?" He pulled back just far enough to sit upright again. "You would hardly understand how I feel. This wasting fate never touched you."
"Shut up," Finrod whispered. "Just shut up, Findekáno, when you know nothing..." The corners of his eyes were wet, glistening in the firelight.
"I know enough," said Fingon. Hesitantly, Finrod looked up at him. "You hide it well, my cousin," he murmured. "I never guessed until today. But it is impossible to keep such secrets from one who knows what he seeks, and your eyes betray the truth. What was her name?"
The despair in Finrod's face shone more vividly as he spoke the name. "Amárië," he said softly.
Finrod shifted as he sat, hesitating a moment as if debating the wisdom of divulging his secret. "Just before we left Tirion," he said at last. "After Fëanáro's speech I was... inspired by the thought of leaving. Valinor held too many restrictions for me. For years I had sought to marry her, but... You must understand, the Vanyarin caste system... it forbids marriages between nobility and commoners, and I was a prince, and she was just a girl who did beadwork... Tirion would be no better. They expected me to choose some lady of the court. But I thought that if we went into the wild lands of the East, nobody would care about status or birthright. So I went to Valmar to ask her to come with me. And... she refused."
"But you married her nonetheless," said Fingon.
Finrod nodded slowly. "I did. I convinced myself that even if we were to be parted forever, I'd rather spend one night with her than choose another. And I gallantly thought the happiness of that one night would be enough to give me strength to overcome my loneliness. And I was so wrong. The nights ever since have grown blacker. I dream of her and I wake up in such pain that I feel sick. It hasn't dulled, it hasn't lessened, even in all these years..."
"Forty-four years," Fingon muttered.
"Four-four years, yes." Finrod smiled weakly. "Four-four years since I last saw her, yet I can still remember perfectly every detail of her face and the scent of her skin..."
"As I remember Maitimo."
Finrod gave no answer.
"You should understand then," said Fingon, "why I seek solace."
The fire cracked and snapped. Finrod was silent for a long time. "I do," he finally said.
Fingon stood, yawning loudly. "It's getting late," he said, and Finrod nodded in agreement. "Perhaps tomorrow morning we can go riding or hunting. Free our minds of the past for a while." He extended a hand down to Finrod, who grasped it as he pulled himself up. "If you wear your riding clothes down to breakfast we may be able to escape before my father insists on joining us."
"I will," said Finrod. He forced a smile. "Until tomorrow, then."
Finrod left and, alone in his bedroom, Fingon felt a grin break effortlessly across his face. He fell back onto his bed and lay staring up at the canopy. Glorfindel was the son of his cousin. It was a certain thing. The only remaining question was how to best manage this information. Apart from Finrod's wife, who resided on the wrong side of a dividing ocean, he was the only one who knew. He could say something now, but that would only result in him losing his servant and facing his cousin's wrath at having dared to choose the boy as his lover. And, he never knew when such leverage might become useful.
No, he thought, it would be better to keep the knowledge to himself. Let them both remain safely ignorant. He would not be the one to interfere.
With that thought, he turned over to lie on his side, and pulled a blanket over his back. He would dream of the future that night.
In the corridor, Finrod stood with his forehead pressed against the cool stone wall. His hands were cold and damp with sweat, but his face burned. The way Fingon spoke, the way he conjured memories- the sickening pain was nearly too much to bear. He felt exhausted, though a frustrating energy lingered in his limbs, and starving, though he cringed at the thought of food. There was no way to undo this feeling. He could only weep uselessly, and lean heavily against the wall while the rough rock jabbed at his skin.
"She is killing me," he said to himself, choking on the words. "The thought..."
He managed to stand, wiping his eyes on his sleeve and swallowing the stinging sob in his throat. If he could stand he could walk, and if he could walk he could find his way to collapse in bed. But as he shuffled down the corridor he only paused at his bedroom. The door was dark. No light or warmth came from beyond it. To be alone in this haunting place would ruin and curse.
He stood a bit straighter, forced all emotion from his face, and smoothed his hair back. With a stern force he continuing on his way. A few steps further. Then he stopped at the next room down, and softly knocked on his sister's door.
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