24. Making Plans
He killed her. He must have. That about changing the cloaks was just another of his lies.
"Rimbrion ran off without them," Binya said cheerily as she put the bag into Gaergath's reluctant hands. Sauron looked dourly at it.
"You cannot get into Angband with that," he said. "I've a bag of jerked venison for you. And also a bow. You know how to shoot?"
"I do," Gaergath said numbly.
"And how to gut and clean an animal for cooking? You did say you used to go hunting with your friends."
"I flatter myself that I am a capable hunter," Gaergath said, trying hard not to look at Binya who stood smirking at him, next to Drauglir. "But how am I supposed to fly while carrying all those supplies? And am I supposed to come back dragging a bag of carbon?"
"It will not be so large a bag, and it is not so heavy," Sauron grinned. "And it is a very special sort. The sword you make from the steel will be virtually unbreakable."
"I still do not understand why you are not coming with me," Gaergath said.
"Someone has to look after things here," Sauron said cheerfully. "And it will be a good experience for you. You do wish to learn how to look after yourself in the wild, and see some of the world? This is your chance."
I got quite a chance already, Gaergath thought.
"You are not afraid, are you?" Sauron said.
"Of course not," Gaergath said repressing a shudder. "I am going to pay a visit to the most evil being in Arda, and perhaps meet all his pet monsters and twisted henchmen and such. What's to fear about that?"
Sauron laughed. "That's my lad," he said in the most silvery tones. "You will make me proud."
Of course I will. "I am ready to go," Gaergath said. "I will be sure to give him your regards."
"Please do," Sauron said.
Gaergath laid the cloak over his shoulders. Then hesitated. "I have forgotten something. It's in my room. Just a moment."
And before anyone could say more, he flurried from the room and down the hallway, breaking into a run. In his room, he retrieved the dagger from its new hiding-place behind a loose stone in the wall. With a cheeky grin, he stuck it into the back of his belt. Wouldn't matter about the cloak, since he was not going to Angband anyway.
Then he noticed the iron crown, the replica of Nauglamir, and on a thought he took it down from the shelf where he had proudly displayed it, held it in his hands for a moment, and then took it over to the window. There, he held it over the ledge, then hurled it as far as he could. He listened to hear it land, but heard nothing. Shrugging, he went to his mirror, picked up a comb and ran it through his locks, then put it in the bag with the cakes. Might come in handy sometime.
"I am ready to go," he said as he returned to the three figures in the hallway. "Where is the doorway to the bridge?"
"The doorway?" Sauron raised his eyebrows. Binya stooped down low, and caressed Drauglir's fur. Gaergath fully expected him to purr. "You have your cloak. You can leap from the porch, you know. That is the direction of Angband."
"I prefer to go over the bridge," Gaergath said. "I do not fancy leaping from the railing."
"You are afraid?" Sauron repressed a chuckle.
"I am, a bit," Gaergath said cheekily. "I would much prefer to make the leap from the ground."
"Very well then," Sauron said. "This way. I hope you can find your way through the mist."
"I'm used to mist," Gaergath said. "There was plenty of that at her home."
Wonder if it's still there, now that she is....
"You do not fear the wolves?" Binya spoke up, sweet and bland as any maiden.
"Nay, why would I?" Gaergath said looking straight at her. "I even had one in my bed once."
She blinked and looked away. Gaergath could have sworn Drauglir looked amused.
"The cloak will keep them at bay," Sauron said.
The mist certainly was thick outside. Gaergath quailed inwardly as he looked down. There was a stairway leading downward, but he could not see a single step. There was no rail.
"Take care," Sauron said. "The stairs are steep, and long. You may wish to change your mind about taking the bridge."
"I shall make you a handrail when I return," Gaergath said, marveling at his own audacity. "A lovely one, such as might grace an Elf-king's palace."
"Are you not going to kiss Binya goodbye?" Sauron said glancing aside at the girl, who made a mock pout.
"You kiss her for me," Gaergath said looking away from her. And felt carefully for the first step.
"Farewell, dear son," Sauron said. "I will be eagerly awaiting your return. I know you will do well."
Gaergath felt for the next step. And the next.
And the door closed softly behind him. He did not look back.
You will pay for this, you rotten bastard, he thought.
He found himself getting dizzy on the way down, and got the big idea to sit on the steps and move down each one on his behind. Feeling a bit silly, he did this until he was in the thickest of the fog, and his foot finally touched wood. Then he stood up and took his dagger from his belt, and held it out in front of him as he stepped carefully over the bridge. He could hear the water below, rushing so close to his feet he could feel its coldness, and then he took Rimbrion's water bottle and filled it, his hand nearly freezing as he held it tightly so as not to have the river snatch it away from him. It was a long bridge, and he fairly held his breath until he was on the other side.
And only then did he look back. You will pay.
Now he had no chance of saving his mother at all. She was gone forever. Likely he would never even see his home again....
Where to go now? He walked until he came to a well-forested area, and there he sat down, and took out the map and unfolded it.
It was a cool sunny day, and the air felt fresh and wholesome. It was mountainous on either side of the river, and the foliage was in a flaming splendor of scarlet and gold and bright yellow and rust color and bronze. He was free now, he told himself. He might go anywhere he liked. Perhaps he could just leave this loathsome garment behind...Then again, he would get cold without it. Best to keep it until he could find another. Perhaps after he found his horse...yes, he would go back and get Russandol, if he could ever find the farm....
He sat down and studied the map. He had seen such before--Thorodon's father had many, and he had looked at them closely, discussing with Thorodon which places they would like most to visit. Thorodon said he would like to go to the sea, whereas Gaergath would like to find the hidden city of Gondolin. His mother had spoken of it, but had never been, she said, and Thorodon's father described it in much detail, considering that he had never been either. He said it was hidden deep in the mountains in order to protect it from invaders. He also said he did not know whether it truly existed or not, or if it were just a myth. It was an Elven city, he said, of gleaming white stone, guarded by seven gates, and it had seven names, and twelve houses, and the weapons made there were of the finest, they never broke. And there were mountain springs that made constant music all year....
Rimbrion was from Gondolin.
He had not said he was. Been dodgy about giving his origins. But he was, surely.
Perhaps I can find the city. After I find Russi. Apprentice myself to a smith, then find work. And then....
But first to avenge his mother.
He found himself actually drawn northward. The cloak seemed to be anxiously urging him forth, as if it were a horse he were riding.
He buried the dagger next to a white birch tree--the only one of its kind nearby, so he could remember where it was. Then tucking the map back into his shirt-front and tying the bag to his belt, he stood with the cloak dramatically spread, and said softly, "Eagle!"
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