1. Chained by Water
Turgon stood poised on a large rock, one foot braced on its peak, the opposite leg stretched behind. Trousers rolled up to the knee left his legs bare to the light sea-spray that scattered where low waves collided with the stone. He leaned forward, his back inclined in a long, even plane as he rolled a spear restlessly in his palms. The tight braids at his temples did little to restrain the loose black tresses that spilled over his shoulders, raised against his cheek by the idle fingers of the wind. His gaze was focused on the surface of the water below him, his eyes narrowed against the glare of the sun as with sinuous agility his shoulders rolled forward, his arms extended to suspend the spear a bare hair's-breadth above the water. Motionless, he stood fixed on the rock, the warmth breaking perspiration on his brow. Then, slowly, the tension in his arms gathered.
"Take care that the water is not deeper than you think."
Turgon thrust the spear down-- but at the same moment reared back, his head turning sharply behind him toward the voice. His expression dissolved into one of horror as his balance broke, and teetering forward once more, he toppled off the rock and into the ocean with a resounding splash.
His face stricken, Ecthelion's feet left the sand as he lunged forward onto the rock, scrambling to kneel at the end. His bare arms plunged down into the frothy water, groping frantically for the elusive form of Turgon.
The son of the High-King surfaced just out of his reach, inky hair plastered down his neck as he sputtered out water. "You are quite right, Ecthelion," he managed to say between coughs. "The water is deeper than I expected."
His brow puckered in consternation, Ecthelion stretched to his body's extent and grasped Turgon's arm, helping pull the Elf upright onto more steady footing. "My lord, please know that it was not my intention to cause you to lose balance."
"Nor was it my intention to take a swim." Turgon's breath drew more easily as the water sloshed against his middle, and he batted the other Elf's hand away. "But now that I am in, I find the water is quite pleasant." A frown crossed his face and for a moment he searched around himself in the water. "My spear seems to have vanished. I imagine the fish took it home to hang on his wall."
"I am sorry, my lord." Ecthelion rested on his haunches, looking helplessly down at the Elf bobbing in the ocean. "If you wish, I will fetch you another."
"A spear or a fish?" Turgon asked dryly, floating closer to the rock to rest one hand on its rough side. "Do not trouble yourself. But if this story is spread among the nobles, you may find yourself in close company with one or the other."
Ecthelion's mouth split in a smile, and catching the other's fist in his hand, he pulled him up onto the rock. Turgon allowed himself to be helped, feet grappling the rock until he stood dripping before his vassal, tunic sadly wilted. Shaking back his wet hair with vague impatience, Turgon pulled the tunic over his head, leaving the lean, tapering lines of his chest to glisten with moisture.
"What news of my City, Captain?" Turgon asked briskly, draping the tunic over his shoulder.
Ecthelion's posture stiffened, just noticeably, his pale eyes bright as he replied. "She is nearly complete. A vision, Ondolindë is-- like a dream or a memory brought to life. Her walls and towers shine, and she sings to us, lord-- sings as she is built."
Turgon's grey eyes passed out of the other's gaze, locked in some private pain or longing. Then they returned, and his face relaxed in a smile as he clapped a hand briefly to the sun-warmed skin of Ecthelion's shoulder. "That is well, Ecthelion. I count the days until I join you there." His hand dropped, gesturing behind him as he glanced briefly over Ecthelion's half-clothed form. "But for now, you are here. And as I imagine you did not come to stand on a rock pulling foolish Elf-lords out of the water, please, go ahead and swim-- if that is your wish."
"It is indeed." Ecthelion turned eagerly toward the lapping waves, but hesitated, looking back over his shoulder. "Would you not join me, my lord? You may find the water more enjoyable when you are unclothed and more . . . prepared."
"That I might." Turgon appeared to consider the idea, settling down on the rock while Ecthelion launched off, cutting cleanly into the water. The lord of Vinyamar watched, amused, as the other Elf bobbed to the surface with chin tilted up, his pursed mouth blowing a delicate stream of water into the air.
"Ecthelion of the Fountain," Turgon observed, his eyebrows slanting together. "I am pleased to see you earning your name." His mouth curved in affection as Ecthelion grinned and stretched, floating languidly on his back. "You are glad to build fountains again, in Ondolindë?"
"Beyond words, lord. The Fountain of the King is like no other-- taller, deeper, lovelier than any I have seen. And such a voice-- she plays the song of the rock with her very heart."
"Then you shall have to tell me her words-- for the rocks I hear, but the water speaks more clearly to you."
Ecthelion sank to his feet, his head tilting to the side as he peered up at Turgon. "I would not say so-- for was it not the Spirit of the Water who led you to the very vale in which we build Ondolindë?"
A slight tremor ran through Turgon as he met the Elf-captain's eyes. "Perhaps," he evaded lightly, pushing his tunic off his shoulder. "And perhaps we are all fey, hearing voices in everything."
"I do not think it so," Ecthelion answered quietly, his brow low as he raised his head above a rippling wave. Turgon's response was lost as he dove headfirst into the salty water, swiftly surging past Ecthelion. The lord of the fountain thrust back his arms and propelled himself forward, matching Turgon's strokes until it became a race along the shoreline. Fair Elven bodies glimmered beneath the translucent water, arching and flattening in fluid grace as dark hair streamed behind them.
They reached a small cove, and it was Turgon who touched shore first, clambering onto the sand with ragged breath. Flopping down, he stretched out full on his back, a deep sigh rising in his chest as the sun beat down on his damp flesh. Ecthelion dragged himself out of the water and settled beside the other Elf, drawing up his legs to drape his arms loosely about his knees.
His eyes hooded against the bright sky, Turgon grasped a handful of soft, dry sand and let it fall between his fingers. "You will miss this, in Ondolindë, will you not? The sea, the open sky . . . It is not so within the Echoriath."
A moment passed before Ecthelion answered, his eyes drifting the horizon. "I will miss it," he agreed softly.
"Yet you come anyway." His eyes opening, Turgon peered up at him. "As you came to Middle-Earth, unstirred by thoughts of dominion or vengeance-- Why did you come, Ecthelion? Why did you leave Valinor, and your mother's people, to come to the Wide World?"
Pale eyes looked back at him, mildly surprised that the question need be asked. "For my people," was the reply. "For my lord."
"For me," Turgon repeated, digging his fingers into the sand. "Address me by name, Ecthelion-- I am no deity." He looked away a moment, his brow furrowed. "And now you leave the shores of Nevrast for Ondolindë. You go to my city of stone for loyalty alone? Is there nothing else that drives you?"
Ecthelion studied him, his shoulders shifting, stirring the dark hair that hung down his back. "Is that not enough?" he answered at last.
Turgon looked back at the Elf, into sea-silver eyes brimming with faith, trust, love-- all of it swelling for him in a staggering tide of devotion.
"Yes," he said softly, his hand falling limp in the sand. "Yes, it is enough."
A sigh passed through Ecthelion's lips and he lay back in the sand, falling alongside his lord so that their arms touched, small grains of sand grating between their skin. Turgon swallowed, feeling the silken mouth of the surf lather at his feet, hearing the slow, even rhythm of Ecthelion's breath.
Then catching Ecthelion's hand in his, he brought it to his mouth, pressing his lips down in a kiss. "Thank you," was all that he said, and after pressing the palm briefly to his cheek, he rolled away.
Ecthelion raised himself up on an elbow, his eyes on Turgon where he kneeled, hands against the sand, face pointed to the sea. A noble profile was that of the Elven-prince, lines and angles of a flawless symmetry-- yet his features were hard, as though etched from stone.
"What troubles you, lord?"
A moment of silence, then-- "This," said the lord of Vinyamar in a soft voice, his gaze tracing the horizon of the Great Sea, his hands curling into fists. "To be so close, yet so far-- to strain my eyes for a glimpse of Aman, all the while knowing it is of no use, and I cannot return." He turned away, his voice falling into bitter defeat even as his chin bowed. "To know that she is there, and I am here until death-- because of a madman who no longer lives. I am bound by what he left behind-- division and hatred, and an Oath-- an Oath of such blasphemy that it will bring ruin to us all. I am bound by him, as all the Noldor were, and are-- bound by words of power and a spirit of fire. Chained to these mortal lands until we watch the fall of all that we have created. Cursed, Ecthelion-- this is what it is to be cursed: when even free will cannot take you from the path to destruction."
He started when a cool, gentle hand was laid on his back, swinging his head only to meet Ecthelion's searching gaze from where the elf-captain kneeled beside him.
"I do not think of my love for you as a chain or a curse," Ecthelion said quietly.
The stone facade fell from his face and Turgon laid bared his turmoil to the other Elf, his eyes deep in shadow, haunted by spectres of the past. Damp hair clung to the hollow of his cheek, where his jaw clenched against quake or cry, and his shoulders braced to the chill of the wind.
His hand reached out, cupping the face of his friend, and his lips parted, though no words left his mouth. Ecthelion kissed his palm and Turgon drew uneven breath, sliding his hand down to the crook of Ecthelion's neck. Then grief overcame him and he leaned forward, drawing Ecthelion sharply toward him and sealing their lips together-- so that Turgon's cries of pain were locked inside his mouth, his tears buried in Ecthelion's smooth cheeks.
For one heartbeat, then another, they were motionless save the merging of lips and the mingling of tears. Sorrow, comfort, pain, passion-- each was given and each was received in a violent embrace. The shallow surf gathered around them, weaving a lace of foam around their legs as Turgon cradled Ecthelion's shoulders in his arm, his eyes shut tightly and body trembling against the one that he held. Then his fingers snared in the Elf-captain's ebony hair, the opposite arm twining about his waist as bare flesh met flesh in heated friction.
Ecthelion began to sink under Turgon's weight, faltering back toward the water. His hand groped in the sand, searching for a purchase. When at last his fingers closed on a rock, it sank into the wet folds of sand, buried beneath him as Turgon lowered him onto his back.
Another wave rolled to the shore-- far taller and colder than the first. It crashed down atop the two Elves, flooding their nostrils with salt. Ecthelion broke the kiss to gasp for breath, but received only a mouthful of seawater. Choking coughs began to wrack his body, and Turgon pulled him quickly from the sand, gathering his convulsing form into his arms so that his chin rested on Turgon's shoulder, high above the waves.
The water subsided, a docile touch once more to the Elves kneeling in the sand. Ecthelion's coughing eased until his body heaved only with deep breaths. At length that, too, fell still, and he sat silent, breathing, in Turgon's arms.
"Tell me, then," Turgon whispered, resting his temple against Ecthelion's. "Will the love of my people free me?"
"Nay," Ecthelion answered, stroking him once, lightly, between the shoulder blades. "But your love for them will."
Turgon bowed his head, brushing his lips against the other's shoulder before they quivered with a sigh. Drawing back, he lifted his chin, a lone braid dangling dark from his white temple. Clear, deep, distant grey eyes swept over the face before him, until at last he spoke.
"I shall see you in Ondolindë, Captain." A small, bittersweet smile twisted his lips as he rose to his feet. "And together inside the walls we will sing with the rocks and the fountains."
"Farewell, my lord," Ecthelion responded, and watched the tall, shivering form of the Lord of Gondolin walk away from him.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.