Notes: I'm going through this chapter by chapter, making a few minor edits and fixing the formatting that ffnet has screwed up. I am still working on the final chapter. It is not cooperating. (01-01-2014)
Disclaimer: With the exception of a few supporting roles and much embellishment, everything belongs to Mr Tolkien.
Forlond, SA 40
Celebrimbor runs a fingertip lightly over the raw metal. It is malleable, delightfully pliant to the smith's merest whisper. Yet it can also be resistant - everything depends on the forging technique. The metal has an air of innocence, for it bears little of Morgoth's taint. Most of all, it is precious, coaxed in ever-decreasing amounts from the Ered Luin. His contact has warned him there will be no more; the dwarves have tapped out the last vein and are leaving the Ered Luin for Khazad-dûm. (1)
Too beautiful to resist, too rare to mould with an uncertain hand, it awaits him; untouched, it is restless.
Celebrimbor looks at the boat dubiously - the Noldor do not put out to sea. "Are you certain it will not sink?"
Gil-galad takes out his knife. "Will this knife lose its edge?"
"My blades never dull."
"And I assure that you my boat will not sink."
Celebrimbor sighs heavily and climbs into the stern with the enthusiasm of a corsair's captive. Gil-galad unties the mooring ropes and pushes off from the dock, leaping into the boat with the grace of a Falathren mariner. (2)
He scrubs his hands raw in the cold salt water thrown upon the deck by Ossë's outrage. Celebrimbor can no longer tell whether the blood is his own or that of another. He knows only that the soiling comes from within and even should he flay his skin to the very bone, he will never feel clean.
He jumps at the light touch on his shoulder, expecting, for a moment, to see Maglor standing over him. Blue-grey eyes study him with an intensity that peels away the layers hiding all that he would forget.
Celebrimbor glances away, shuttering his eyes, and forces a weak grin. "If my lord will impress his subjects to maritime service, then he must accept their unfitness for the sea."
Gil-galad releases his gaze reluctantly and rows the craft into the gulf, guiding it with a watchful eye; Forlond's harbour is riddled with jagged rocks beneath the surface. Despite his attention to this task, the tension of the day melts from his shoulders and his face relaxes as the frown lines in his forehead smooth away. It strikes the smith that the younger elf seems as easy here as Celebrimbor in his forge; he is as much the child of his sea-loving foster father and Sindarin mother as his Noldorin father.
"These past years have not been easy for you," he observes.
"It is a greater burden than I imagined. On Balar I always felt as if I could not go terribly wrong, for I always had Círdan to guide me." They have come through the rocks and Gil-galad adjusts the sail so that the wind propels them at an easy pace. He turns to face Celebrimbor. "They expect wisdom from me, yet each day I find that I know less."
"Is that not why you have advisors?"
Gil-galad looks at his hands, twisting his ring, a sibling to Finrod's serpent and flower, around his finger. "I am not certain that I can trust them."
'You are wary as your father was not,' Celebrimbor thinks. Perhaps Gil-galad is wise to hold his elders at arm's length. Very little had been left to the young King to decide during the years on Balar, but his intuition has proved sound; he has a measure of Vanyarin insight common to all of Finarfin's descendants. He must learn to trust in it.
"Aye, that is the difficulty: to decide which among them have wisdom, for experience does not always make the best teacher," he says aloud.
"Of all our kindred, only two would I trust entirely, for never have they failed me." Terse enunciation, harsh and unmusical, betrays bitterness.
Celebrimbor's eyes narrow and this time, Gil-galad turns away from eyes that delve too deeply. Instead, he looks west, across the endless waters toward the mouth of the gulf and Belegaer beyond. "Somewhere, beneath all that, is the past," he murmurs.
Celebrimbor would pursue this, but Gil-galad's face is closed to him. His companion speaks instead of sea turtles in Mithlond, his face illuminated with boyish wonder as he describes the hatchlings in their scramble for the sea.
He breathes a prayer of thanks to Uinen when they dock. Gil-galad stands as the other elf prepares to alight; he will sail for Mithlond this night, for rather than take up temporary lodging in Forlond while the palace is built, he remains with Círdan.
"You see that my boat does not sink."
"And yet I shall be glad enough to feel solid ground under my feet again. May your journey to Mithlond be uneventful, and Ossë find amusement far from your wake."
Gil-galad grins ruefully - his relationship with the Maia has always been delicate. "I return in six days. Tell me that the doors will be done."
"The doors shall be done, my liege."
The younger elf looses the moorings. "Tyelpë, nas tye," he says in parting. He has pushed away from the dock before Celebrimbor can respond. (3)
Aland's tavern is busy this night, but then, it does a brisk trade on any night. Tucked away in a cellar, the dark little hole is grimy with soot from forges above the tavern. Strong liquor flows in quantity; the elves who drink it want to forget, for a while, if they can.
Celebrimbor weaves around the perimeter, hooded and silent, and takes his usual place in the corner. A serving-girl brings him a drink; he has no need to give his order, as Aland does not deal in wines and spirits for the refined palate.
'Tyelpë, he is you.'
He does not know what discomfits him more: an epessë he has not heard since the beginning of this Age, or Gil-galad's cautiously-given trust. The charge fits uneasily about Celebrimbor's shoulders, as a mantle meant for one of greater stature, one such as Círdan - Celebrimbor is not worthy to share Gil-galad's esteem with that virtuous elf. He takes a long swallow of his drink; the liquor is acrid and rough as it slides down his throat. He finds it soothing.
He cannot do this - cannot be this.
"The scions of Fëanor do not embrace our kin, Artanáro. We burn them." (4)
(1) it bears little of Morgoth's taint
Morgoth integrated himself into the fabric of Arda, which is why Beleriand had to be destroyed - he had poisoned the land beyond any hope of reclamation. Tolkien tells us that Morgoth favoured gold and his influence on that metal was strong (even after his defeat in the War of Wrath), but he had little to do with silver. (Morgoth's Ring, 'Myths Transformed' p 400 pub Houghton Mifflin)
lit. 'of the shore' - Círdan's people were known as the Falathrim, 'people of the shore'.
(3) "Tyelpë, nas tye."
"Tyelpë, it is you" Q. Tyelpë, 'silver', is short for Celebrimbor's Quenya name, Tyelperinquar. nas is formed from ná, 'to be' and the third person subjective pronominal ending -s (The Road Goes Ever On, 'Namárië' p 67 pub Harper Collins); tye, 'you', is a bit questionable, as it dates to an early fragment and Tolkien revised his pronouns quite a bit over the years. However, it fits into the scheme of his more recent pronominal systems and, in any case, we have no other word attested for informal singular 'you' as an object. (The Lost Road, 'The Lost Road' p 77 pub Ballantine/Del Rey)
Gil-galad's Quenya name.