He woke with a start, feeling the pressure of a hand on his shoulder, and looked up in confusion. His eyes were blurred, and he was cold, groggy, and, for some strange reason, partially underwater. It took a moment for his thoughts to clear; he shook his head.
"Get up," said Fingon, or at least a voice that sounded very like Fingon.
"Where am..." he began, but stopped. The memories had started to fall neatly back into place. He blinked, rubbed his eyes with wet, water-wrinkled hands, and squinted down at his naked self. The bath: he must have fallen asleep in the bath, hours earlier. The water had turned cold.
"You are in my bathtub," Fingon said. "As you can see. But as to why you are here: that, I cannot answer. I am wondering the same thing myself.
Glorfindel yawned, stretched, and tried to stand. His legs and bottom hurt horribly, and his shoulders as well. After sitting in stillness for so long, every movement made the muscles ache. "I feel like... like..." He could not finish the sentence. Fingon was too observant. If he admitted how he felt, how stiff with exhaustion he was, Fingon could too easily guess what had happened and what he had done. The only time he ever had a full bath in the middle of the afternoon was following...
Quickly, he looked at the floor and tried to think of anything but Idril to keep from blushing. Money: he could think safely on money. He still needed sixty kulustar.
"You feel like what?" Fingon asked after an awkward pause. "No, honestly, Lauron. Why are you in the bath? I thought your Vanyarin code of whatever it is you follow required you to bathe before bed. We are having supper directly. You'll only need to wash again later."
"The orange oil," Glorfindel lied. "It was still on my skin from the bottle I broke last night. I didn't think it appropriate that I should see your brother tonight, smelling of your perfume."
"Yes, well, that's a small worry compared to all the other faults he can find in you," Fingon growled. "Let's not add tardiness to the list. So, out of the bath, and go dress yourself. Supper is in less than an hour."
Nodding, Glorfindel stepped from the tub and wrapped himself in the waiting bath sheet. As long as he could keep the conversation on the subject of supper and clothing, there was a chance he could escape without Fingon questioning him further about the bath. And, as an extension, without Fingon finding out what he had done. "Dress how?" he asked. "What sort of supper is it?"
"A family supper," said Fingon. He was clearly agitated, which, Glorfindel thought with relief, worked very nicely. Agitation meant his mind was elsewhere. "Dress in whatever manner you wish, Lauron; I honestly do not care. You could wear animal skins or a silken robe fit for Manwë Himself, and it would make no difference."
"Something nice, then?"
"If it please you." Scowling, he threw open the doors to his own wardrobe and began flipping through the clothing with a look of blatant disgust. "Nothing... nothing... nothing..." he hissed, seemingly to himself.
Glorfindel watched for a moment while hastily dressing. "Do you... ah... need help finding something to wear?"
"No," Fingon snapped, but immediately reconsidered. "Wait. Yes. Yes, I do. Come here, and choose what you would wear."
"What I would-"
"What you would wear. If you had to dress yourself in my clothing, what would you choose? For you. Not for me."
Accustomed to choosing Fingon's clothing to fit Fingon's stark preferences, Glorfindel surveyed the contents of the wardrobe. None of it appealed to his tastes. A wall of blackness stared back at him, broken only by the occasional glint of silver trim or gold detailing. "Have you anything... not black?"
"Of course not," said Fingon.
Glorfindel sighed and squinted at the choices before him. One protruding sleeve, at least, appeared to be made of a fabric shot through with the occasional strand of very fine silver, lending a subtle sheen. Silver purl decorated the cuffs and collar, and a grey sash of the same pattern of liberally applied purl lay folded beneath. "I suppose this one isn't bad."
"You're right," said Fingon. He pulled the robe out and held it at arm's length to examine it. "This is truly the gaudiest and most excessive piece of clothing I own. Thank you."
Clenching his teeth, Glorfindel said nothing. He stepped back to watch as Fingon dressed. To his eyes, the robe appeared to be neither gaudy nor excessive. It was, in fact, rather plain. He would have preferred to see some crystals worked in among the purl designs, and perhaps a continuation of the decorative pattern down the front edges. The decoration was hardly big enough to be seen from across the room.
"Do you suppose I need jewellery on top of this?"
"Yes," said Glorfindel, nodding. "Most definitely. A silver collar, perhaps with jewels, and then earrings. And your circlet, and rings, and I should probably do your hair with some nice clasps."
"Yes," Fingon said, and he clapped his hands together. "Yes to all of it. Drape me in outrageous finery, Lauron. Everything you wish. I am at your mercy."
Glorfindel frowned slightly. Something in the tone of Fingon's voice made him wary. There had to be some catch to this somewhere, or some hidden agenda. Fingon would never willingly subject himself to such decoration; he never had before. Glorfindel eyed him warily as he donned the robe, but could tell nothing for certain beyond his nagging sense that something funny was at play.
"Jewels?" asked Fingon.
"You choose first," Glorfindel said carefully. "Choose what you think is appropriate, and I will give my opinion."
Fingon shrugged. "If you wish..." He opened the first jewellery case, running his hands over the contents before selecting his silver circlet, a delicate collar of plain silver links, and two rings. "Wait," he said. "On second thought, not the collar. It might be too much with all this..." he waved his hands toward the purl at his throat; "...glittering. I'll have earrings instead." Replacing the collar, he selected a pair of small, circular silver earrings. "How is this?"
"I thought you wanted finery," said Glorfindel.
"I do," Fingon answered. "And I have chosen some of my finest pieces. Why do you say that? Are they not large enough?"
"They are very... few. Here. You sit in the chair, and I will choose."
Glorfindel opened the four jewellery cases that sat on the table next to Fingon's wardrobe. The first he dismissed immediately, it being filled entirely with gold. The second, which Fingon had already perused, contained mainly rings and a few cuffs; he selected four rings set with different jewels and pearls, and a pair of wide silver cuffs etched with a coiling design. From the third he took a heavy collar set with alternating lozenges of ruby and onyx, and from the fourth, a small box containing only hair clasps in a variety of sizes. "And I suppose you can keep the earrings you have," he said, "though they are rather on the small side."
Fingon, staring at the selection laid out before him, said nothing. He opened his mouth and closed it again, biting down on his bottom lip as if considering what to say, or not to say.
"What?" Glorfindel asked, somewhat more sharply than he intended.
"Oh..." said Fingon." Nothing. Nothing. I only... Ah. You see, I have never before worn so many items, nor so many... well... varying colours of jewels. Would it not be better, do you think, to stick to, say, entirely white?"
"No," said Glorfindel. "That would be dull."
Again, Fingon opened and closed his mouth, but nodded as he did so. "Right. Of course, you are right. And I did ask for your opinion, so..." He held up the collar, clenching his jaw at the sight of it. "This was a gift from Ta, back when he still thought I was easily impressed by shows of wealth. I do not believe I've ever worn it. It is very... ah..."
"Beautiful," Glorfindel offered
"I was about to say, 'large'."
"No," said Glorfindel, shaking his head. "It is impressive, but not too large. The jewels are wonderful. Put it on."
Gingerly, Fingon draped the collar over his shoulders and arranged it across his chest. "Good stars. It weighs more than one of Ta's new dogs."
"Now the rings and the cuffs."
Fingon snapped the cuffs around his wrists and slid the numerous rings onto his fingers. "Hair?" he asked. "I dare not attempt it with all these ornaments about my hands. I'd entangle myself."
Taking up a comb from the dressing table, Glorfindel stepped behind Fingon, whose thick, black hair fell as an enticing sheet down his back. He had never been allowed to do anything remotely interesting with that hair. As with his clothing, Fingon preferred styles that were unvaryingly plain: usually two simple plaits. Glorfindel took a section between his fingers at the crown. "I think I shall give you a nice Vanyarin style," he said.
Fingon's answer came in the form of a dismissive wave of the hand. "As you will. Only hurry, as we are growing short on time."
"I can do three five-stranded plaits, which-"
A sharp intake of breath from Fingon interrupted him. "No," Fingon said. "No five-strands. Six-strands."
"Why not five?"
"It's the unluckiest of numbers. Use six."
"I can try," said Glorfindel, "but it really works better with an uneven number. Seven?"
Fingon shook his head, as much as he could with his hair in Glorfindel's hand. "Seven is entirely incompatible with my personal numerology."
Glorfindel sighed. "Nine?"
"Nine is perfect, thank you. Use nine."
As best he could, Glorfindel split his handful of Fingon's hair into nine rather unequal sections and began to weave them together. He was accustomed to five-stranded plaits. Seven strands were tricky, though not impossible, but attempting to work with nine was proving to be something of a disaster. Little catches of hair kept popping up or slipping loose. The second plait, beginning above Fingon's left ear, looked somewhat better, but the third, on the right side, was worse. He joined the three together at the back of Fingon's head with a wide silver clasp, letting the loose ends hang down.
Fingon lifted a hand to tentatively pat his hair. "Are you finished? How does it look?"
"Uh," said Glorfindel. From the back, it looked terrible. He took a quick few steps around Fingon's chair. From the front, it merely looked lumpy. "Give me a moment."
With a handful of jewelled pins, he set to work fixing the pieces that had escaped and smoothing sections that had twisted the wrong way. Larger clips and combs hid the worst parts. They made a small improvement.
"Lauron, what exactly are you doing?" Fingon asked. This time, he lifted both hands to pat the glittering cap of silver. "How many jewels did you use? This feels as if it looks stupid."
Wordlessly, Glorfindel took up the mirror from the dressing table and held it out for Fingon to see.
Fingon stared into the mirror with a face that held no expression whatsoever. He turned slightly to the left, then the right, and then dropped his head and covered his face with his hands, bending over until his elbows rested on his knees. Though he made no sound, his shoulders shook, either from weeping or from laughter; Glorfindel could not tell which.
It made him uneasy either way. "You did ask for nine strands," he muttered.
"I did," Fingon agreed. His voice, muffled through his sleeves, shook as well. He sat upright, biting down on his bottom lip and holding his breath, and regarded Glorfindel with a strange, strained smile.
Glorfindel's stomach squirmed. "So..."
"It's charming," said Fingon. His words were as strained as his smile. "Perfect. Thank you."
"Are you sure?" Glorfindel asked. "I can redo it if-"
"Oh, no. Nonono. This is lovely. Truly, lovely. I could not have done it better myself. Thank you, Lauron." He stood, once again gently patting his head with both hands. The odd smile remained fixed in place. "Now I really must hurry off to supper. You will join me as soon as you are able?"
Fingon clapped him on the shoulder a little too heartily. "Splendid! I shall see you there." He flashed a grin that bordered on maniacal, then spun about in a swirl of glittering black and fled the room at almost a run. Glorfindel was left standing at the dressing table with a hair tie in one hand and the mirror in the other, wondering what in the world had just happened.
He blinked slowly and gave his head a little shake. Really, very little that Fingon did made sense, so this behaviour was nothing new. He gathered up the unused jewellery pieces from the table and returned them to their boxes, then stowed the boxes safely back in the wardrobe before leaving the room and shutting the door behind him. There were more important things to do than worry about Fingon's hair. Dressing for supper sat atop the list.
Good clothes would be needed, to judge by the importance Fingon had implied. His second-best magenta robe was stained with dirt and stew from the previous night, but he had his best red and silver clean and waiting. No time remained to style his hair. A few clips and combs would have to suffice. He came down the stairs too absorbed in thought to fully pay attention to where he was going, and nearly tripped over a large pile of laundry just around the corner.
He stopped, checked himself, and looked again. The laundry pile had a head of silvery hair at its top, and what appeared to be the rough shape of arms and legs beneath a layer of fabric.
Oropher raised his head with a sleepy blink. "Eh?"
"Why are you... wearing a blanket and sitting in the corridor?"
Yawning, Oropher stretched out to shed one blanket and reveal a second beneath. "I was napping."
"Why are you napping here?" asked Glorfindel. "Your bedroom is within spitting distance."
"Eh, well," Oropher said with a shrug. He cast an irritated glance down toward his bedroom door. "I can't right go in there just now, can I?"
Oropher made a face and pursed his lips.
"Oh, never mind," said Glorfindel. "I'm sure I don't want to know anyhow. But I'm glad you're here. Get up. I need help choosing what to wear to supper."
"What sort of supper?"
"A very fancy one. The King will be there, and Finno, and Finno's brother, and likely everyone else important in the whole city."
"Idril?" Oropher asked as he yawned and stretched his way to his feet.
Glorfindel pretended not to hear.
"That why you need help dressing? To look nice for her?"
"Of course not," Glorfindel answered. It pleased him to realise that he meant what he said. The thought of dressing to please for Idril had not even crossed his mind. "I need to be appropriately dressed so as to reflect well on my Prince Fingon's station. Otherwise his brother will think poorly of us. Or something like that. I'm not entirely sure, and Finno didn't explain it to me."
"You... want to look nice for Fingon's brother?" Oropher asked.
"No!" snapped Glorfindel, though he found it impossible to think of anything further to say to refute that claim. If he admitted it to himself, it was Turgon's reaction he had in mind as he thought over the possible outfits he could wear. It was Turgon's opinion he needed to sway: Turgon and his idiot captains. "I mean," he added, "I don't want to look nice for him. I want to impress him. I need to wear something grand and intimidating."
"That might be a little difficult," said Oropher.
Glorfindel pushed the bedroom door open and stepped inside. "That's why I want your help. If you were Turgon, what would you find impressive?" He lifted the lid of his clothing chest to remove the red and silver robe, which he held up against his body for Oropher to see. "I was thinking of this one. Over a gold tunic with my gold sash and the opal pendant Finno gave me last New Year. Well, not just that. I think I had better use all of my jewels."
Oropher's eyebrows rose to an unusual height. "All of them?"
"Of course. How else can I show off that I have them?"
"Uh..." said Oropher. He let out a long breath with a puu sound and rubbed the back of his neck. "But you have a lot of jewels now. Fingon gives you gifts all the time."
This much was true. Fingon was very fond of presenting Glorfindel with little gifts of jewellery, though, to be fair, only the items given for special occasions such as New Year held any real value. The rest were inexpensive trinkets made from low-grade alloys and coloured glass. "You're right," Glorfindel said slowly, nodding in agreement. He laid the red and silver robe across his bed and bent over the clothing chest again to pull out the various jewels from their hiding places. "I should only wear my good pieces. It would look silly to have things of different qualities."
From within the knotted sleeve of an old shirt he took the opal pendant from New Year. A pair of gold and sapphire earrings from the New Year prior had been hidden in a ripped stocking, and three rings came out from the fingers of three different gloves: two rings of real gold, one of which held an amethyst, and a ring of silver and pearl with four tiny diamonds. He had hidden his pewter collar set with emerald-like glass inside a balled-up pair of very wrinkled linen breeches. Though fake, it was one of his favourite pieces.
"Emmith's sticky hands didn't find any of that?" asked Oropher. His voice had started to slip back into surliness, and Glorfindel looked up sharply.
"No. I checked this morning. She only found what was under the mattress."
"Convenient for you..." Oropher muttered.
"Yes, it is convenient," snapped Glorfindel. "It's very convenient for me to have you standing there and moping because Emmith only had the chance to steal the few things of mine that held any sentimental value, and all on account of you hiding something in my room when it shouldn't have been in here in the first place."
Oropher squirmed and glanced away, looking somewhat abashed, but did not apologise. He never apologised when he meant it. He crossed his arms and breathed loudly, then sat down hard on the far end of the bed.
Glorfindel accepted the wordless fidgeting as the awkward apology it was meant to be. "Anyhow," he continued, "what do you think of these?" He spread out the collar so it surrounded the rings, earrings, and pendant in an attractive semicircle. There were only six items: not nearly enough to show off his importance in front of Turgon. He would need to find some hair clips as well, and perhaps a brooch to pin to his sash.
"Fine," said Oropher. He still sounded surly, though no longer in an angry way.
"You didn't even look."
"I don't need to. You'll wear everything no matter what I say."
"What? No, I-"
Oropher interrupted him with nothing more than a single, raised eyebrow. He fell silent and stared down at the jewels on the bed. Indeed, he had been planning to wear all of them. Only he had fully been expecting Oropher to agree with his assessment that the entire collection worked very well together. Or even suggest that it looked somewhat sparse, as he suspected. He still needed some hair clips. But the way Oropher regarded him, and regarded the jewels, was not quite right.
He bit his lips. "Oropher..." he asked carefully, "do you think my tastes in fashion and jewellery are gaudy?"
Without answering, Oropher looked away again. He had pursed his mouth shut, lips pressed so thin they almost ceased to exist, and his eyes seemed to strain with effort of holding something in. His face took on a flushed, pinkish tinge.
His shoulders were shaking. Just like Fingon, with the same lack of any sort of sound, his shoulders, back and arms all shook. Unlike Fingon, though, Glorfindel could tell that Oropher shook with silent laughter.
The thought was more than a little annoying. "I don't see how you can think that," said Glorfindel. His voice had a sharp edge to it, but he did not care. "I wear hardly as much jewellery as anyone else here. Probably less. Because I have much less. And I don't see how only six pieces and some hair clips can be gaudy. Does any of this look gaudy? No, I don't think so!"
"But look at it!" Oropher said. The words burst out of him, followed by a little cadence of unchecked laughter. "None of it matches! You have a gold ring and a silver ring and diamond and pearl ring, and sapphire earrings, and an opal necklace, and that collar is huge and pewter with fake emeralds, and then a third ring with some purple stone in it-"
"Amethyst. The purple stone is amethyst, and it is a symbol of purity and good judgement."
"Right," snorted Oropher. "That's you all over. Anyhow, whatever it is, it doesn't go with blue and white and green and gold and silver and everything. The blue doesn't go and the white doesn't go, and nothing else goes. If you want my advice, which you never do, you should stay with all silver and red jewellery, to match your robe. How about that?"
"How about not," muttered Glorfindel, though quietly enough that Oropher could not hear over the sounds of his own cackling. Once again, he looked at his selection. He could vaguely recall, though he had not been paying much attention at the time, Fingon having mentioned something similar about only wearing one colour of jewels. Now Oropher voiced the same opinion. In fact, now that he considered it, Oropher and Fingon were more alike in their tastes than anyone might casually suspect. Neither had any abiding interest in dressing up in nice clothing, and both avoided decorative jewels even when faced with the perfect opportunity to wear them. And they both had the same irritating, silent laugh, complete with shaking shoulders.
Of course, they also both had terrible taste in finery, which meant it would be more than foolish to trust either one when it came to dressing for an important event. Glorfindel smiled to himself. Oropher might laugh, but only through ignorance. For one who spent every day with Fingolfin, he knew absolutely nothing about how to dress for the King's court.
"Thank you, Oropher," Glorfindel said aloud. "Your opinion has been very enlightening." He gathered up his jewels to take them to his dressing table, and then, while Oropher watched and shook and laughed, proceeded to dress in his red and silver robe and all of his finery. He draped the collar carefully over his shoulders, hooked the earrings, slid the rings onto his fingers, and hung the pendant from his neck. Then he fixed his hair with some silver clips, which, though devoid of jewels, had been cut and polished in a clever way so that they still sparkled as if covered in diamonds.
Once done, the effect on the whole was underwhelming. He frowned, shifting from side to side to watch himself in the mirror from various angles, but he looked equally as unexceptional in profile as he did from the front. "I don't know..." he sighed. "Somehow, this isn't what I had in mind. What do you think?"
"I think you look like you fell into a big pile of jewels and a few things randomly stuck."
Much as he hated to admit that Oropher was right, he could see the truth in the statement. Despite his careful placement, everything still managed to look haphazard and hastily thrown together. He sat down on the bed at Oropher's side with a huff and dropped his chin into his hands. "Oh, it's pointless. I'll never be able to annoy Turgon looking like this."
"I thought you wanted to impress him."
"Impress, annoy, same thing," said Glorfindel. "Really, I want to insult him, but I can't safely do that. He's the King of Vinyamar."
Oropher nodded slowly. "True," he agreed. "But you know, whenever I want to annoy somebody in an insulting way, I do exactly what I know he hates."
"Such as, whenever the King asks me to attend to him for some dull evening, I make a point of showing up with mud on my shoes and a smudge of dirt across my face. Then he's annoyed and he sends me away for being unpresentable, and I have a whole night to myself. He never knows I do it on purpose. He just thinks I'm too stupid to know better."
"Hmm." Glorfindel ran his tongue over his teeth, considering. He could not attend the supper with dirty clothes if he only wanted to annoy Turgon. Fingolfin would dismiss him, which would be counterproductive. There had to be something he could do that Turgon would hate but Fingolfin would tolerate.
"So, what annoys Turgon?" Oropher prodded.
"I do," said Glorfindel. "My mere presence. But why that is, I think is because of my position with Finno. He hates Finno for being with me, and so he hates me. Also, he hated that I played as Indis in our show." He stopped. A smile pulled at the corners of his mouth; an idea was beginning to form
"Then what you need to do is..."
"I believe I know what I need to do. I have a plan."
Fingolfin had not yet joined the party, which meant that Glorfindel was not yet late. As long as he arrived before the King made his grand entrance, the only one who could fault him for tardiness was Fingon. And, he could see as he paused in the doorway, Fingon appeared to be far too interested in a large cup of wine to notice much of anything, let alone the very understated arrival of his retainer. Glorfindel stepped into the room quietly and took up a position behind Fingon's chair.
Turgon was first to notice. As he took a sip of wine, he threw a passing glance in Glorfindel's direction and then choked and sputtered it back into his cup. He swore to himself as he wiped red droplets from his chin with the back of his hand, while the dark-haired captain on his right leapt up to offer a cloth. On his left side, the second captain stared with a gaping mouth. Idril merely blinked with mild surprise.
"Good evening, my Lords and Lady," Glorfindel addressed them. "I must beg your forgiveness for my delayed arrival. I ran short of time after attending to my Prince Findekáno, and I do apologise deeply for any disrespect shown you in my failing to present myself with the timeliness you so deserve."
"You what?" asked Fingon. He twisted in his chair to face Glorfindel, coming to stop halfway around as his eyes widened in surprise. He said nothing, though, and nothing again when Glorfindel stepped forward to stand at his side.
"What in the name of Varda's good stars is this ridiculous get-up supposed to be?!" Turgon snapped.
Glorfindel made a show of looking down at his clothing with concern. The red and silver robe itself was by no means ridiculous, and, now that he had rid himself of all of his jewels save the silver ring and a few hair clips, there was no ridiculousness to be found in his ornamentation, either. "I beg your pardon, my Lord," he said. "It grieves me indeed if my poor garments in some way offend you; that is by no means my intent."
"Quit the honeyed speeches, boy! You're painted up like some lewd wench, and it's an insult to my father's good house! What in Arda is the meaning of this?"
"Oh!" said Glorfindel, hand flying up to his cheek. The white powder felt smooth as satin beneath his fingertips, though he was loath to touch it too much for fear of making a smudge. "But, my Lord, I am merely following your guidance!"
Turgon, steadily reddening, looked poised to leap up from his seat in frustration. "My guidance!" he said. "However could you possibly think that such an affront to good morals could be following any guidance of mine?"
"You spoke to me in the corridor earlier today," Glorfindel explained, and he smiled sweetly. "If you recall, you expressed some concern that I shared a name with your good captain, and then suggested that I take the name Laurefindiel to avoid any confusion between us two. You should now be pleased to know I have taken your advice. I am Laurefindiel. At your service." Graceful as any lady, he curtseyed low.
"Service, indeed!" said Turgon. "I can only imagine what kind of 'service'. You look like a cheap harlot!"
"Again, I humbly apologise for any offence given. You see, my Lord, I am still very young and have little experience in the ways of the world, and certainly I have none where harlots are concerned. Any resemblance between a harlot and me would be entirely accidental. However, if you, my Lord, are so experienced in the wiles of harlotry to detect such sin by sight alone, I graciously defer to your great wisdom and hope that you will further guide me in the proper application of cosmetics so as to not unintentionally convey the message that I am cheap."
Turgon sprang from his chair, followed by his two captains, though none had a chance to do anything more than draw a breath. The King's private doorway opened as Fingolfin made his appearance, attended by Rodhalair. Turgon scowled, but must have known his opportunity for rebuttal had vanished. He bowed to Fingolfin as the others at the table rose to do the same, then returned to his seat.
"Are we all assembled?" Fingolfin asked. He took his place at the head of the table. Rodhalair, glancing about for a free chair, looked frustrated to see that he would be relegated to the far end. Everywhere nearer the King had already been occupied. Glorfindel, too, would have to settle for a low seat, though he did not mind so much. Sitting far from Turgon was no hardship. Three empty chairs remained: one on Fingon's side of the table, and two on Turgon's. He stepped quickly in front of Rodhalair in a petty race for the chair on Fingon's side.
"Gracious, Laurefindil!" Fingolfin said at his back. "Is that you?"
Slowly, he turned to face the King, and bowed as a little surge of apprehension whipped through him. He had quietly assumed that Fingolfin would either accept or ignore his current eccentricity. If he had assumed incorrectly... "Yes, sir. Indeed it is I."
"Well!" said Fingolfin. "Don't you look charming this evening. But then, you always dress very well. Is this a new robe of yours?"
"I thank Your Highness for his generous compliments," Glorfindel answered, bowing again. From the corner of his eyes, he could see Turgon sneer and look away. He pursed his lips to keep from grinning. "And though this is not a new robe, it is my best. I would think of wearing nothing else tonight in the presence of my Lord's Grace. In fact I wish I had something finer, in order to do justice to the greatness of your court. I feel poorly underdecorated in the shining presence of my glorious King."
Fingolfin beamed. "Ah! For one so young you are a true gem among my courtiers. When did your words learn to match your looks for prettiness?"
"I have lived in the radiance of Your Highness' light for seven years," said Glorfindel. "Under such influence, how could I possibly fail to learn fairness and beauty?"
"You are an unrelenting flatterer, Laurefindil," laughed Fingolfin. "I like you. Come, sit here, at my side." He waved his right hand and one of the doormen brought forward a cushioned stool, placing it at the corner of the table between Fingolfin and Turgon. Fingolfin frowned. "No, not a stool. A proper chair. Go fetch one from the end of the table for my dear boy."
"Atar, I have to object-" Turgon began, though he was immediately shushed by his father.
"Nonsense. A chair can be fetched very easily."
"That was not my objection..."
"Chair," Fingolfin repeated, in a firm voice.
"I need no chair," Glorfindel said quickly. He passed behind Fingolfin and took his seat on the stool with what he hoped was a reverential enough smile. The stool, shorter than the rest of the seats at the table, placed him some inches lower than Fingolfin. It suited this new turn of events perfectly; adoring glances would have a greater effect coming from a low angle. "I would rather sit on a lowly stool beside His Highness than in a throne far from his gaze."
Beside him, Turgon made a sound like he had something dreadful caught in his throat.
Fingolfin, brimming with smug satisfaction as he was, paid Turgon's grunting complaints no acknowledgement. "You know, Laurefindil," he said as the steward poured him a generous cup of wine, "I always knew you would rise above the level of a common servant. You truly are in a class apart from those ill-bred ruffians one usually sees about here. And you do look exceptionally nice tonight."
Glorfindel expected to hear another snort out of Turgon at that, but Turgon merely stared down into his wine in seething silence. The requisite snort came from Fingon. Fingolfin, having suddenly developed a keener sense of hearing, frowned.
"Now Findekáno, one mustn't be envious." He reached out to pat his son's sleeve. "You look very handsome as well, and I am pleased to see you wearing some of your nicer clothes. Did Laurefindil style your hair for you?"
"Yes," Fingon answered in a flat voice.
Though Fingon's head still glittered with a cap of jewelled clips, Glorfindel was certain that some had disappeared between the bedroom and the dining table. The area above his ears looked somewhat sparse. And his hands, folded on the edge of the table, were missing two rings.
"You should employ his talents more often," said Fingolfin. "He has done lovely work of making you presentable."
Fingon's face remained expressionless. "I shall keep that in mind."
"I would be most honoured to be of such assistance to my Prince," Glorfindel said, "if he thinks me worthy of such a great task."
"Worthy..." snorted Turgon. He mumbled something further, though Glorfindel caught nothing but what sounded as if it might be the word 'pigs'.
Again, Fingolfin seemed not to hear. Instead, with a slippery and indulgent grin, he reached down to squeeze Glorfindel's thigh. "I am sure you are most worthy, Laurefindil," he murmured.
Glorfindel held back the shudder of revulsion that shot through his skin at Fingolfin's touch. There was no mistaking what it meant; the King's hand lingered, tapping out little fingertip caresses. He forced a coy smile before casting his eyes demurely to the floor.
From across the table, he could feel Fingon's fiery gaze on him like a hawk on a mouse.
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