Narn Gil Galad
Chapter XV – The High King I
Curtsy: to Ute and Círdan who made the beta-reading. What would I do without you? (Pester someone else, so all others better give you Leckerli. *g*)
To Soledad, Nisshoku, Anja, Ute, Círdan, Jaschenka, Jojo & especially to Vorondis for their help and inspiration in finding names for my rats. They are called 'Findor' and 'Rodnor' now. Orc-cookies to everyone who knows the meaning behind them. :)
Vorondis: Don't be too sad – we will meet Glorfindel again, as you know. Just wait some fifteen-hundred years and about ten chapters...
Dragon-the-confused-Sunday-roast ;) : Last year this time I did not even dare to write reviews in English!
XV The High King I
Not in the least the ragged Man who was led to Elwing and Erestor resembled the leader of the Gondolindrim he claimed to be. After one year in the wilderness Tuor's fair hair was dull and his clothes worn, despite the efforts of Idril and her maidens. He was haggard and of a weariness that had nothing to do with the hardships laying behind him but was set in his very fëa. Only his eyes were as bright as ever, alert and curious, and his bearing proud.
Erestor was of the Nandor who had shown little love for the Fathers of Men when these came across the Ered Luin early in the First Age, still he welcomed Tuor with kindness and in honour. Long gone were those days now and in the meantime his mind had been changed. At first by Beren, whom the Elves of Ossiriand had accepted as their leader, and later by the Edain living along the coast of Balar.
But while witnessing the love between Beren and Lúthien made it only easier for Erestor to accept Tuor's marriage with Idril Celebrindal, the memory of Doriath's ruin could not lessen the pain it meant to hear about Gondolin's fall. With astonishment and grief he and Elwing listened to Tuor's tale. They hadn't received any message from the Hidden City for several years, yet this was not unusual so there had been no reason to worry, let alone to expect the worst.
"And where are your people now?" Erestor asked in the end.
"Idril and I decided to lead them further along the Sirion. To remain in Nan Tathren any longer would be of no avail. They need a home…" Tuor's voice acquired a questioning, almost pleading tone.
"Of course they are welcome!" Elwing said determinedly. Then she blushed, surprised by her own boldness, and peered towards Erestor. He laid a hand on the girl's shoulder and nodded.
"We will send ships to bring your people here as safe and comfortably as possible."
Only hours after this conversation the first fleet of small boats left the haven and followed the mighty Sirion upstream to meet the Gondolindrim. One single ship turned south-west to Balar, bearing the news that a messenger of Gondolin had arrived.
Elwing was old and educated enough to know what Tuor's news meant for Gil Galad. She was, however, not old enough to be free from childlike fears. After they had retreated for some rest she lay awake, thinking about the future and filled with worries. Finally she left her bed and went to Erestor's room.
He looked up from his book. "Yes, my Lady?"
Opening the door just wide enough to push through it Elwing came in and lowered herself beside him on the thick rug in front of the hearth. She would have preferred to accompany the older Elf on the chair, but although a gentle teacher Erestor never treated her like a father or other relative would have done.
"Will 'Ellach leave us, now that he is the King?"
The Elf folded his hands over the paper. "Do you think you used the appropriate titles?" he asked his pupil friendly if a little disappointed.
Elwing bit her lower lip, a habit she had copied from her beloved brother.
"Master Erestor, I would like to ask if King Gil Galad will leave us, now that he is to become the High King of the Noldor."
"That's better. No, I am sure he will stay with us. There is no place he could go with his people and moreover I do not think he has any intention to leave Balar." He smiled knowingly. "And be assured: he will have as much time for you. He has been acting as High King since his arrival on Balar, there will be no great difference to his former life."
She nodded, thanked him and went to bed again, trying to find reassurance in Erestor's words. When she fell asleep eventually, nightmares disturbed her rest. She was fleeing from a unknown danger, full of panic and fear, and Gil Galad was not there to protect her. Next she saw him from high above: he stood at the bow of a huge vessel, armed and with fierce ire emanating from him. She wanted to call to him, but when she cried his name, it was only a forlorn yell similar to those of the great silver-gulls. Shortly after he was gone and she flew on across the dark deep waters, and Manwë's wind was around her.
Early the following morning Tuor set sail for Balar. While the Elves prepared his ship he watched the haven of the settlement. Unease was in his heart at the prospect of having to deliver such dire news.
In the end he approached Erestor who leant over the quay wall, his eyes set a thin line of dark clouds hovering over the horizon like an ill omen.
Tuor's finger followed the joints between the bricks of the wall.
"Master Erestor, what is Gil Galad like? We have heard in Gondolin that he led his people to Balar and I also know that he has acted as representative of Turgon in many matters, but how will he react to..."
"To your marriage? To the fall of Gondolin? To the death of the High King?" the Elf replied without turning his head.
"To all of it."
Erestor chose his words with caution. "I cannot tell for sure. He can be...difficult to understand. Most of the time he is a very calm character, nonetheless the fire of the Noldor is within his heart, that's for sure. Nevertheless he cares deeply for his people and he always acted very kindly towards the Edain, so do not worry. Even in case he disapproves of your bond with the Lady Idril, he will give the Gondolindrim all the support he can muster. The end of Gondolin and the succession of the High Kingship, however...," the Nandorin Elf stopped and shifted his weight from the left arm to the right. "He has acted as High King while Turgon bore the title. Not few of those living at the bay of Balar have almost forgotten that there is another King of the Elves than Finellach Gil Galad. And he was...he did not agree with the High King's choice to remain in Gondolin."
Tuor nodded. "I think, I understand. Thank you."
Gil Galad awaited him at the quay, and for the first time Tuor beheld the future High King of the Noldor.
He was more than a little disappointed. This Elf did not look like a King at all, let alone a High King of the Noldor, he seemed a poor substitute in comparison to the noble and wise Turgon who had borne the light of Aman in his eyes.
The 'poor substitute' watched the Man he took for his uncle's messenger with genuine delight as well as sincere surprise. Why had Erestor not told him that he would have to welcome one of the Edain? After Tuor had left the boat, clumsily since not used to the movements of ships, Gil Galad mustered him for a while.
"You look like a member of the House of Bëor. You resemble him."
"That is right, my Lord. I am Tuor son of Huor and of Rían, great-granddaughter of Bregor, the son of Boromir."
"So we are already bound to each other by the friendship between your House and mine. Be welcome then, Tuor of the House of Bëor the Old. I remember Boromir, though he was a child when I saw him last." The memory of a lanky youngster begging him for permission to ride his horse came into Gil Galad's mind and made him smile. "He was very...persuasive, even at that young age." Making an inviting gesture he added, "However, your errand is not the history of our families but news from my kin in Gondolin. Please accompany me and deliver the message you are sent for."
They walked along the beach, soon leaving the harbour behind. Only then, with nobody else around them, the son of Orodreth spoke again.
"Seldom have we received news from the Hidden City, and still I am astonished that some of the Secondborn live within Turgon's realm."
"I am the only one, Highness." Tuor made a short pause. "And I am a prince of the Noldor."
Gil Galad stopped and slowly turned his head, one eyebrow lifted.
"By what right?"
A certain sharpness was in his voice which did not escape Tuor's notice. He had, however, expected a much worse reaction to his disclosure. "By right of marriage. Idril Celebrindal daughter of Turgon is my wife."
Some of the surprise in Gil Galad's glance was replaced by controlled disapproval, manifesting itself in a slight frown.
"Then we are kin now, you and I. And I can only hope that your fate will not lead you to destroy your home as did your uncle's son Túrin!"
Gil Galad walked on, his steps faster and of an irritated firmness. Confused by this sudden anger Tuor followed him.
"I do not understand."
"No, of course you don't. There are few who would." Lost in his memories Gil Galad watched the birds on the strand. Finally he sighed deeply and shook his head.
"It was his fate and yours does not have to be the same. So tell me about Gondolin, cousin." And in spite of all the trust that would develop between them over the coming years, Tuor was never to find out the importance of this address, or what it had cost Gil Galad to accept another Man of Hador's House so close to him.
The Adan briefly shut his eyes. This was the very moment he had feared for a whole year. He licked his lips, tasting salt – of the sea? Of all the tears he had shed? With some effort he looked straight at the Elvenking.
"To make it short, Highness: Gondolin is no more. Morgoth came with Dragons and Balrogs and destroyed the Hidden City. Most of our people are dead." He guessed the unspoken question.
"Yes. Among them the High King Turgon. I am sorry."
Again Gil Galad had abruptly stopped. Like having a will of its own his gaze turned towards the shells on the sand, white spots on brown like pale stars on a twisted sky. He counted them absentmindedly.
All the time since the destruction of his home he had feared that also Gondolin would not last for ever. And now finally the day had come. Turgon was dead, the last of the High Kings who had seen the Light of Valinor and the last High King from the House of Fingolfin.
Was he ready for this? Gil Galad could not tell. Like the fall of Nargothrond the ruin of Gondolin had come suddenly, feared and yet not expected, and it forced him to take on a responsibility regardless whether he felt himself capable to bear it or was willing to do so.
"I feared this would happen," he whispered. "Nargothrond, Doriath and Gondolin, within mere fifteen years. Indeed, the Valar have abandoned us."
'They have abandoned me!' a nearly hysterical voice cried inside him. 'How shall I defend and protect the Noldor against Morgoth's attacks? Why was this task put upon me? I do not want it, oh please, make it go away!'
But he knew only too well that as a member of the House of Finwë he could not refuse it. He was simply not allowed to do so.
Tuor waited patiently until the Elf beside him had regained his composure.
"I assume Erestor sent help for your people already?" Gil Galad asked hoarsely after a few minutes.
"Yes, Highness. Ships have left the Haven of Sirion last night."
With a short, humourless laugh the King nodded in direction of the bay. "A far cry from the feelings the Doriathrim bore towards all Noldor in the beginning. At least our fates bring us close and make us forget past mistakes. Where are your people now?"
"What remains of Gondolin's sons and daughters lives under Idril's leadership in Nan Tathren."
A weak smile played around Gil Galad's lips. "How fares my cousin?"
"She is well - as is our son."
"Your..." Gil Galad inclined his head towards his companion without any attempt to hide his astonishment. "Tell me Tuor son of Huor: when do you intend to stop surprising me? So I have another cousin, and a Half-elven, no less…"
Much to the Adan's relief the King's voice was soft and slightly amused.
"Yes, my Lord. His name is Eärendil."
"'Lover of the Sea', a strange name for a child born in Gondolin." There was a moment of silence and when Gil Galad went on his voice was low and serious. "Who else knows about Turgon's death?"
"Only the Elves who found us, Lord Erestor and Elwing. I did not deem her old enough to hear about such matters, nonetheless he insisted on discussing it in her presence."
"She is older in mind than in body. And she will be the leader of the Doriathrim. It is not wrong to let her know what is happening around her."
The Man frowned. "You mean, the Doriathrim will accept a ruling Queen?"
"Tuor, the Sindar are not as strict in their laws of succession as the Noldor. The people of Doriath accepted Dior as their King, they will also accept his daughter – as a Queen, Lady or whatever you may call it. The title does not matter. They will follow her."
"I supposed that Erestor…"
"Erestor leads them until Elwing reaches her maturity. He is her representative as well as her teacher. Apart from that he has no right to govern the people of Arvernien, nor has he the wish to do so. Like so many of us he had to perform a duty regardless if he was willing to take it."
Tuor was well aware of the barely hidden accusation and stiffened. "Turgon only did what he considered best."
"Turgon abandoned all Noldor outside the Hidden City!" Gil Galad answered almost hissing. "He did not care about the Elves of the Northern Realms, he did not care about the fugitives of Nargothrond, nor about the people of Doriath. Maybe he had to fulfil his own fate as some say, but his people paid dearly for it!" (1)
"They have not been leaderless, as Erestor told me."
"I have tried to act in the High King's place, yes. Someone had to do. How successful my leadership was I do not know. What I do know is that no member of the House of Finwë has ever abandoned those who depended on him."
The anger faded as quickly as it had emerged. "It does not matter anymore. He is in Lord Námo's care now, and if he erred he will be taught. He will learn what we can only guess and maybe the Valar will forgive him - if there is any forgiveness for the Noldor at all." Pointing towards the harbour and the white sails of the Telerin ships Gil Galad continued, "Círdan is on a voyage along the southern coasts, we expect him back in three days. Until then be my guest and let us talk about more pleasant things. I am very interested in this Half-elven cousin of mine."
Tuor was only too willing to follow this suggestion, as a proud father as well as to forget the grief, if only for a short time.
On their return they found many people assembled, eager to see this visitor who was said to be a messenger from the High King Turgon in Gondolin himself. Those of the race of Men greeted Tuor in respect for they saw he was from one of the Three Houses, and messenger or not, they considered him a Lord of high rank.
When they had almost reached the small path flanked by young trees that lead up to the King's hall, somebody gave a loud cry.
A slender Elf with sharp features, clad in light grey, pushed himself rather roughly through the crowd.
Tuor's face flushed with both surprise and delight.
"Annael! Annael, foster-father!"
They fell into each other's arms, laughing and crying at the same time. Gil Galad's expression became resigned. Foster-father? Obviously the son of Huor did not intend to stop surprising him!
After a while the two parted and Tuor led the Grey-Elf to Gil Galad. "My Lord, this is Annael of the House of the Swan. He has fostered me after my mother's departure until we were driven from Mithrim."
Annael bowed before the King. "It was the least we could do for the son of Huor or any other orphaned child, be it Elf or Man."
"Still it was a noble deed," Gil Galad replied, "and as Tuor son of Huor is a member of the House of Finwë now, I owe you gratitude as well." He arched a brow. "Why do you look at me like that? I thought as his foster-father you of all would be used to his ability to surprise others. Be my guest then - unless you have other plans this evening than celebrating the reunion with your foster-son?"
He smiled and Tuor found that this smile, small and not without sadness as it was – for he would only later learn that the King of Nargothrond was never free from grief – lit up Gil Galad's face, unveiling a kind and less sombre personality.
Annael gratefully bowed. Never before he had spoken with the son of Orodreth, apparently those who told about his courteous manners had not exaggerated.
"Gladly I will do so, my Lord, but please allow me to inform my family first. All of them know Tuor since he was born and they will be relieved to hear he has survived."
"Very well, in order to make this second separation as short as possible, why don't you bring your family to my hall and be my guests tonight?" Gil Galad answered. "Then your foster-son can continue to astonish us."
Therefore, additionally to the happier stories Tuor could tell, there was great joy in the reunion with his foster-family.
Two days later Círdan returned from his voyage. But all gladness he felt – for he had found some small islands where at least some of the Elves could hide should Arvernien fall to the enemy - soon dwindled when Gil Galad informed him of the latest tragedy.
As was their wont, the two Elf-Lords took a walk along the beach, sharing their thoughts as well as relaxing from their daily tasks in the presence of the sea. The tide was low and many birds ran over the muddy sand, picking here and there or quarrelling about some titbits. The wet ground gurgled softly, reflecting the crescent of the moon in hundreds of puddles. The peaceful surroundings formed a painful contrast to the horrible news.
In the end Círdan folded his hands on his back. "Do we tell the others?"
"Not yet," came the curt reply.
"At least the council should know."
Gil Galad turned to his companion. "Why? It would be utterly pointless." He frowned. "Don't you see what this means, Círdan? We thought Nargothrond to be well defended – and it fell. We deemed Doriath safe through Melian's power – and it fell. We have been sure Gondolin would remain hidden from the foe – and it fell."
He seemed to wait for an answer and Círdan nodded silently.
"So tell me now", Gil Galad went on, "tell me, Lord of the Havens who is counselled by Ossë and Ulmo himself, what kind of defence does Balar have? None!" He emphasised the word with a fierce gesture. "None except for a few guards. I have told you what Tuor said. The enemy came with fire and Dragons and Balrogs upon Gondolin, what could we muster against that? And with no other notable realm left, there is no doubt that we will be his next target."
His voice did not betray his growing despair, still Círdan could see it in his eyes.
"All we can do is wait and prepare for flight. Wait for the attack to come, and come it will. Sooner or later. All that has protected us until now was our insignificance in comparison with Gondolin and Doriath."
Círdan laid a hand on Gil Galad's arm. "You cannot stop the people from talking. Soon enough they will know about it," he objected.
"Of course I can't. But I want to spare them this realisation as long as possible. They have just begun to lead a normal life, to be happy again. They even started having children. What shall I tell these parents – that their sons and daughters most likely will be dead before they reach maturity?"
"Tell them that there is danger – and that there are preparations being made in case the necessity to leave Balar arises. You can't take away the fear, but you can lessen it. Do not try to tell me you would not know this. It is one of your main talents to give people hope."
"It may be as you say, Shipwright, nonetheless I do not know what hope I could have to give, for at the moment I see little chances for us."
Círdan smiled knowingly. "And? Will you give in to your despair?"
"Of course I will not!" the younger Elf answered quickly and, seeing the laughing eyes of his companion, had to smile himself. "You know exactly how to make me say the things you want me to say, my friend. That is one of your main talents!"
"I merely made you see the things you already know and just forget sometimes. Come, let us go back to the haven. The flood comes early tomorrow and much work awaits us."
Gil Galad, Círdan and Tuor returned to Arvernien the following day. Wind came up soon after their departure, the sky was as grey as the water and the sea choppy beneath the boat, making it a rather unpleasant trip.
Tuor stood beside the elvenking. He was not yet used to being aboard a ship and fought a little to follow the boat's movements in order to keep his balance.
"The sea is restless today," he said.
Gil Galad looked to the far distance, his face expressionless. "The sea is always restless when I am travelling on it. You better get used to it, it is the price for being in Ossë's realm with a Noldo."
"Although your family did not take part in the kinslaying of Alqualondë?"
"I am related to the kinslayers. For this alone the way to the West is barred to me. Ossë would never allow me to sail that far. He barely can stand me on the Leagues between Balar and the mainland."
"I find it hard to believe that an Ainu who doesn't follow the Black Foe could be so unjust."
Gil Galad shrugged and bitterness was in his voice. "Then do not believe it. But ask yourself why your forefathers have suffered in the East. Ask yourself why the Sindar, my mother's kin, have been abandoned as victims to Morgoth and his creatures while the Three Kindred lived in Valinor in peace and happiness. The return of the Noldor to Beleriand may have been bought with blood and death, but at least they brought us the help we needed so badly."
Tuor frowned. "You are to be the High King of the Noldor, yet you speak like a Sinda."
"Like a Sinda? I am one of them, Child of the Secondborn," Gil Galad answered sharply.
(1) Turgon's responsibility towards the Doriathrim: of course they were Sindar and thus not subjects to Turgon. However, as the only neighbour it would have been his duty to help them – at least from Gil Galad's point of view as he had to take care for anyone who arrived on Balar and asked for help, regardless of the respective origin.