"But the folk of the royal house that yet lived would not budge a foot, but gathered thickly about the base of the king's tower. 'Here,' said they, 'we will stay if Turgon goes not forth,' and they might not be persuaded."—The Book of Lost Tales II, "The Fall of Gondolin."
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"My lord?" murmured Norno. "Will you not take something to sustain you?" He held the glass of spirits in a trembling hand, willing the king to take it.
Turgon, rigid in his chair, splattered with the mingled blood of the enemy and his own people, turned his face to the wall. He was ashen, staring into empty space, sometimes rocking back and forth, words forming on his broken lips, but no sound left him. Norno tried again, but when no response was forthcoming he set the glass down on the table beside the decanter.
"He's gone utterly mad," said Eäron, the king's valet. "Do not waste your time. Come, those of us who can are going to find a way out of the city."
Norno watched Turgon climb the stairs of the tower; the king's movements were heavy, dazed. "I-I cannot leave him. Someone must stay with him."
"Then you'll be following him to Mandos, fool." Eäron turned and left him, his arms laden with whatever treasures and supplies he could carry. From the base of the stairs, wide-eyed with disbelief, Norno watched him go. And all these centuries I thought you were the king's loyal servant, but now…now you are a thief who will not even stay to offer him comfort when he most needs it.
Such silence there was in the palace, and in the corridors that led to the tower; the only sound came from beyond, from the King's Square where Turgon's warriors and the survivors of the House of the Fountain yet held their ground against the advancing enemy.
Distant shrieks and crashes rent the air, and through the windows played an eerie red light. Norno had been afraid at first, watching the siege from the walls, cringing every time an urulókë swept shrieking overhead to rain fire down on the defenders. They still advanced, more of them now, accompanied by the howling of Orcs and Balrogs; Norno could see the flames billowing up from what remained of the Great and Lesser Markets. But, curiously enough, his fear was gone, replaced by an even more curious and quiet sadness.
They have all abandoned him, all the other servants. I do not think there is even a mouse left. Was he so ill a master, to deserve this? Sorrow was sharper than fear, and alone of the king's servants, Norno climbed the tower's many stairs to join Turgon in the small, uppermost chamber. I will not feel so alone, if he is near.
He knew why the warriors of the Fountain stayed. Once Ecthelion was gone, the fountain in which he perished was all that remained of their world. He knew why the warriors of the House of the King stayed, for that was their duty, but he did not know why Turgon refused to rally them, why he would not flee, why he would not help his daughter and her husband lead the survivors to safety--is that not what a king should do, look after his people?
Above, in the stairwell, he heard sobbing, deep and broken like the sound of a wounded animal, and the name Maeglin echoed down to him. Norno paused, laying his hand against the wall to steady himself; the masonry trembled slightly under his touch. Towers and walls were collapsing everywhere in the city; his heart hammered a beat in fear, for surely the enemy would pull this tower down as well. No, I will not be afraid. I must take you away from here, aranya. I cannot abandon you to this fate, he thought, and began to climb again.
Halfway up, he heard shouts, words of defiance shrieked at the night air, but by the time Norno entered the narrow chamber, all was silence.
Turgon saw him with eyes that did not acknowledge his presence. He sat stiffly in his seat by the window, his great sword Glamdring laid across the arms of the chair, unresisting as Norno brought water and a cloth to clean the king's face. Never before had he been so close to the king; it was always Eäron or one of the other body servants who saw to Turgon's comfort, and the guards of the House of the King who protected him, though he had always laughed and said he needed no protection in the Hidden City. Norno, busy with his dust rag or beeswax polish, excited no notice unless someone spilled something or made some other mess; he had cleaned up after Eärendil too many times to count, but only the lady Idril remembered his name.
He gently dabbed the blood and dried tears from Turgon's face, even as fresh tears rolled down the other's cheeks. With tender fingers, he tried to soothe the pain that brought them. "Please, aranya, do not cry," he whispered.
At last, the tears stopped and Turgon sat mute, staring at the wall. Norno was apprehensive about breaking the silence, but knew it was his duty to say something. "Aranya, your warriors are below. They need you."
Silence greeted his appeal, and Norno could not think of anything more to say. I am no roquen. Who am I to inspire anyone?
"They are dead. We are dead, houseless spirits on our way to Mandos." Turgon's voice was a startling sound, cracked and rough, not at all the musical voice Norno remembered. He gave a laugh, short and sharp, the sound of a wild thing. Then, as abruptly as he began, the laughter stopped and he looked at Norno with eyes that took in his plain garb and truly saw him. "Who are you, coandur?"
"I-I am Norno, aranya. I serve in your house."
"Why are you here?"
"I-I could not leave you alone, aranya."
More laughter, short and brutal. "Coandur." The word tumbled from Turgon's lips, mocking. "Get out."
"There is nothing for you here. Live, if you can—but go! Get out!"
The king's shriek filled the chamber with stabbing echoes. He has gone mad. Eäron's words chased Norno to the doorway, struck him with horror, and the realization hurt more than any Orc's blow. Without the king, without the center, the world was like a body without its fëa. He was like a child being thrust from the nest; his parents had died crossing the Helcaraxë, and the only home or family he had ever known had been among the servants of the king.
I have no where else to go! he wanted to shout, yet bit his lip to hold back the words. Turgon was past hearing him; he listened only for the summons to Mandos.
Norno trembled, slowly backing away. Turning his back on the king was the hardest thing he ever remembered doing.
As his hand touched the doorjamb, he heard a mighty crash and the tower shuddered. The floor lurched, spilling him to his knees. Walls and rafters groaned, and the mortar between some of the stones began to crack. He tried to rise, but could not. Far below, he heard the stairs give way, crashing inward.
Flames filled the windows; the wooden sills cracked in the heat, and half-melted glass shattered inward. A piece grazed Norno's cheek as he tottered, then slid as the floor began to tilt; heat and pain went unnoticed. The table scraped the stones as it barreled across the room and slammed into the masonry, followed by the chair; the glass and decanter shattered, a tiny sound lost in the chaos. His eyes were on the wall, crumbling and breaking, into which he was falling, and he threw up his arms to try to shield himself.
A hand grasped his arm, mail rings biting into his flesh, trying to pull him up. "Coandur. Hold fast--"
He is holding me. He reached for the king with both hands, straining into the embrace. "Aranya!" He felt the words form in his throat, but a great roaring filled his ears as the walls and ceiling fell inward and gave way to open, burning sky. There was a wrench as gravity found him, a moment of pressure that slammed him downward, then nothing.
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Notes: (All words are in Quenya)
aranya: my king
coandur: servant of a house