Beneath the Twilight
Disclaimers:Middle-earth, etc, belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and his estate. I am making no money from this and intend no infringement of copyright.
Summary: A snapshot of life in Gondolin through Tuor's eyes.
Thanks to Isis and Lalaith for betaing this.
This is for Isis and her Tuor fixation.
Tuor poked dubiously at the mud encrusting his boots, great daubs of thick, brown muck which smelt of river water and decay. It had been one thing to go about thus attired when he had lived alone in the caves of Androth, but 'twas quite another to do so in one of the finest houses in Gondolin. He winced slightly at the thought of his wife's swift-tongued retort, should he do so.
Unfortunately, the child by his side seemed to share none of his qualms. Eärendil hopped from foot to foot, his muddy hands grasping first at the lintel and then at his father's tunic, eager to be over the threshold, muddy boots or no. 'Twas only just in time that the Man caught his son by the scruff of the neck before he bolted through the open door. The child gave his father a piteous look, made rather less effective by the mischief lurking in his eyes, and squirmed against the grip.
"Nay, îon-nîn, not yet." Tuor steeled himself against the trembling of the little prince's lip, and pinned him more firmly in place, making short work of his shoes, albeit one-handed. Freed from his clogged footwear and his father's grip alike, Eärendil dashed into the house, squawking at the top of his voice and trying to investigate every corner at once. Tuor groaned almost inaudibly; even now, the boy was not terribly clean. Rather, he seemed to be streaked with an unlikely combination of dust, mud, grass, slimy water weed, and jam. Involuntarily, he looked down at his own tunic, and groaned once more. There was a trail of sticky handprints from hem to collar, dark red against the once-pale linen.
During the afternoon's progress through the city, preparing for the festival that evening, there had not seemed to be one baker, elf-maiden, or purveyor of sweetmeats who had not had something to press into their beloved prince's small hand, and a substantially amount of that seemed to have ended up on his father's tunic, even before Eärendil had dragged him off in search of further amusements.
It had taken quite some persuasion, and yet more of the sticky tartlets, to make the peredhel see that while it was conceivably possible for Ecthelion of the Fountains to run all the way to the Gate of Steel at the entrance to the Orfalch Echor, and back again across Tumladen with the boy on his shoulders, but his own father could not, being of the Edain as he was. Cheated of this pleasure, Eärendil's thoughts had turned, as so often they did, to water, and he and his father had spent a decidedly messy afternoon by the back of one of the many little streams which flowed down from the Encircling Mountains and into the vale.
All in all, Eärendil was an extremely happy child as the evening drew in. But, as even his doting grandfather would be forced to admit, the boy was something of a wretch, with the stubbornness of both his parents to leaven his sunny temper, and Tuor was exhausted. At times during the afternoon, he had even gone so far as to wonder if it might not be preferable to suffer Maeglin's sour glances in council, rather than to be subjected to his son's attempts to paint his face with mud.
Tuor shook his head slightly to dispel that last thought. Jest he might, but in truth it could never be so. And the Valar only knew how long he might have to enjoy this, for he was mortal, one of the Sickly, doomed to die, and go whence none could, beyond all the Circles of Arda, and the ken of those who dwelt therein. But Eärendil, he thought with a slow, sad smile, was Half-elven, neither one thing nor another, and the blood of his mother's kin flowed strongly in his veins, and his fate, whether to be counted among Edain or Eldar, was not yet written.
His eyes closed, his fair face drawn into tight lines of pain, Tuor passed one dusty hand through his thick, dishevelled hair. He knew without looking that grey had begun to streak its golden strands, like silver sea-foam on the distant strand that lay beneath the halls of Vinyamar, on the shores of the Belaegar. He knew without seeing that, even though he could still count many years in the tally of the Men of Old, tiny lines crinkled at the corners of his eyes when he smiled or frowned in grief, and that their grey was older, infinitely more sorrowful, like the sky in winter above the lands of Dor-lómin.
Fírimar,he heard them say, the Inscrutable, the Self-cursed, the Usurpers, the Strangers, the Night-fearers, for all that they loved him, and he knew that 'twas the touch of the mortal years upon his shoulders which brought such names to their lips, and it grieved him. But never so much as it grieved him that he would pass from this world, and leave his Idril to sorrow, or new love, and he would not see his son in the glory of his days, nor know the triumph of his great deeds.
Tuor was jerked from his reverie to find that he had stood where he was for some minutes, his back braced against the door-jamb, one boot half-on, half-off, dangling in the air. His cheeks were wet with tears, and his throat was sore with them.
"Ada? Ada upset?" Eärendil's childish eyes were huge with worry, and he tugged nervously at the hem of his filthy tunic.
"No." Tuor kicked the boot hastily off and bent to scoop the boy into his arms, feeling the tiny body curl into his own, and the grimy arms wrap around his neck. "Ada is not upset, îon-nîn."
Earendil peered at him with almost adult scepticism, and then relaxed. "Book."
"Bath," the Man bargained.
Earendil scowled. "Book."
"Bath, then book."
The child mumbled something incoherent which his father took for reluctant consent, and together they made their way to the bathing chamber.
Some time later, they were both somewhat cleaner, although still a little soggy around the edges. Tuor stretched his lean legs out before him, relaxing into the back of the chair, and tugged at the gilded braiding at the neck of his tunic. Damp tendrils of golden hair curled over the collar, and he smoothed his long fingers through them, hoping rather forlornly that this would flatten them into some semblance of order. It had never worked before; nor did it work this time, and he gave up with a sign.
But before he could do anything else, with a leap and a bound Eärendil was on his lap, small feet prodding stray cushions out of the way. Once Tuor had found a way to breathe around the various obstacles thrown in his direction by the exuberant child, he grinned. His son was still clad in a bathrobe, his feet bare and slightly crinkled from the water. In his hands he grasped a book which had been read and read again, beautifully illustrated by Voronwë, its colours still bright and vivid, the tengwar bold. It was a book of tales of the sea, and Eärendil's most favoured possession.
"Read," he commanded, thrusting the book into his father's hands. "Please." It was almost an afterthought.
Carefully, slowly, knowing that Eärendil could correct any mistake he made from memory, he began to read, turning the pages one by one. And just as gradually, the child drifted into a light doze.
The Man closed the book, and regarded his son tenderly.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when a light kiss was pressed to his temple.
"I am surprised that the house is not quite coated in mud," Idril said in a voice low and soft with amusement.
"Not quite." He turned his head to brush a kiss to her lips, the hand not cradling the sleeping boy creeping up to curl around the nape of her neck.
They were interrupted by an uncomfortable cough from the doorway. Tuor glanced sideways to see the king standing there, framed by the light of the lanterns outside. Tall and grim he was, his hair very dark, and his eyes impossibly ancient. He was clad in the colours of his house, in long, sweeping robes for the festival, and the crown was upon his head, shimmering in the soft light.
Tuor shivered, as if touched by some chill breeze that no other could feel. He saw, as he always did on meeting the king, a corona of flames about Turgon, and smelt the sickly scent of flesh burning, and heard the cries of the gulls, and the voice of Ulmo. He blinked, and looked away, and the vision faded as it always did.
"Mae govannen," he said quietly, and made to stand, but Turgon waved him still.
"Nay; I see that my grandson sleeps, and we need not be at the feast for an hour yet." He inclined his head to his daughter. "And, besides, Idril tells me that the Lord of the Golden Flower gave you a rather fine vintage which I might like to savour."
Earendil grinned, his sombre mood put aside, if not forgotten. "She is very wise indeed."
Idril laughed, and smoothed an errant lock of golden hair back from his forehead, a blush staining her own cheeks. "And yet both my husband and son are mudlarks."
Turgon chuckled, moving further into the room. "I have no doubt that Eärendil would tell you that a fascination with mud is very wise indeed."
They all smiled, and the child sighed in his sleep, dreaming of the waves upon a distant shore. The candlelight was golden, lighting bright sparks within the dark wine, and there was the sound of singing from without the house, and the stars shone overhead, and Gondolin stood yet, as if it ever would.
îon-nîn – my son
Ada – father, daddy.
A/N:The issue of Tuor's hair colour is disputed. In this, I've chosen to go with Unfinished Tales: "But the Elves cared for the infant son of Huor, and Tuor grew up among them; and he was fair of face, and golden-haired after the manner of his father's kin". Thanks again to Isis for that quote.