Disclaimer: All characters, places and peoples belong to JRR Tolkein. I make no money from this, so kindly don't bother trying to sue me.
Finrod looked up from the pile of papers he had been reading to find Orodreth leaning over him. "Are you still working on those plans, uncle?" Orodreth asked in disbelief. "You've been working on them all day! Not to mention yesterday, and the day before. Don't you ever take time off?"
Finrod rubbed his eyes."We are just about to start the next stage of building, and it needs to be right the first time so we don't have to do it again. There are some problems with differences in tensile strength between the dwarvish and elvish building materials, and the conversion factors have to be correct or the roof could collapse."
"Yes," answered Orodreth, "but surely that doesn't mean to you must spend all day every day on it. I'm sure you'd think better if you took a break."
"You might be right, at that." Finrod glanced over at the water clock. "It's nearly midnight. Where did the time go?"
"You spent it staring at pieces of paper." Orodreth sat down next to Finrod and folded his hands neatly on the desk. "I was planning to go rock climbing tomorrow. Why don't you come with me? The plans aren't going to melt if you leave them for a day."
Finrod blinked. "That actually sounds like a good idea. I don't think I've accomplished much this afternoon." Why not? I don't think I've been rock climbing since I left Valinor. Too busy with creating kingdoms, playing diplomat and learning skill at arms, tactics and strategy. "I'll come with you. Just please remember I'm not the mountaineering enthusiast that you are, and that I'm out of practice."
"Oh, I'm sure that you'll be fine. I won't pick something hard," Orodreth answered. He looked at the water clock and frowned. "If we're going tomorrow we should probably both get some sleep."
Finrod nodded and stood. "I will see you tomorrow morning, then," he said. "Goodnight." I had better let Edrahil know that I'll be gone tomorrow so that he can reschedule - I don't think that there is anything pressing except the plans, and even that won't be hurt by a day's delay. They parted, and each sought sleep.
There were a couple of unexpected delays, so it was early afternoon by the time they left the caves and walked up into the hills. It was a bright day, and Finrod's heart lightened immediately. Caves might be a wonderful idea defensively, but there was always something missing no matter how good the artificial light and pretty the paintings and carvings. Unless one was gonhorrhim, of course, but he most definitely was not, epesses not withstanding.
"The high faroth has some wonderful climbing, uncle. I can't believe you haven't done this before."
Finrod shrugged. "Where are we going?"
"Up that face," said Orodreth, pointing to a long and rather sheer-looking cliff to their right. "I've been up it a couple of times, and it's interesting without being particularly hard."
They continued along the path and over to the rock face. It looked even steeper from underneath, but at least the rock was clean and there were marks where it had been climbed previously. They got out their ropes and other equipment and prepared to climb.
It started off well enough. Orodreth went up first, carefully clipping the ropes to the pegs driven into the wall. Not that anyone was going to fall off, of course, but it never hurt to be careful.
Finrod, watching from beneath, informed him that he looked like a spider on a wall, with the speed he was moving, the ropes trailing down the cliff, and his long arms and legs splayed out like that. Orodreth spluttered a little, then laughed. "I promise the ropes aren't sticky and I won't eat you if you get stuck in them!" he said. "You can start now."
Finrod followed quite a distance behind. The first part was rather fun, involving a steep chimney. He concentrated on the rock and temporarily forgot all about Gonhorrim, conversion algorithms, metrics and the tensile strength of materials.
Then it began to get harder.
It was completely vertical now. Finrod looked up towards Orodreth, and discovered that he couldn't see him. There was an overhang just ahead, and the route went straight up it. "Interesting without being hard, Orodreth? I dread to think what you consider difficult!" he muttered, and continued climbing. I should get him to train the special mountaineering units...
It took a while and a good three tries, but Finrod managed to get up over the overhang. There was a broad ledge just above it, and he paused there and drank some water from his flask. Orodreth's voice came down from above. "How did you like the overhang?" he asked.
"It was very overhanging," answered Finrod. "What's the next section like?"
"Oh, the next section isn't so exciting. No more overhangs, and after that we're at the top."
"Glad to hear it. That was fun, but if there was too much more like that I think my arms would fall off!"
"Somehow I doubt that," replied Orodreth.
They continued upwards. Two-thirds of the way up, Finrod ran into a major problem. He couldn't reach the next handhold. And there was nothing closer that was big enough to jam his fingers into. It wouldn't have bothered Orodreth, with his long arms and legs - he really had looked like a spider earlier - but Finrod was just short enough that this wasn't going to work. "Orodreth," Finrod called,"is there an alternate way up this route? I can't reach the next handhold, and it looks like the next five holds are just as far apart."
"You can't reach the handhold?" said Orodreth, sounding startled. "But they aren't far!"
"You have longer arms and legs than I do. The handhold is three inches out of reach!" Finrod answered.
There was a pause. "I see," Orodreth said. "Is there anything you can reach?"
There was silence for the next few minutes, as each of them considered what to do.
"If you climb back down around ten feet, I think there might be another way up. You could try that. You'll have to tap your own pegs in though; I don't think anyone's used it before. You have a hammer?"
"Yes, and pegs. I'll try that."
Finrod went back down, carefully unclipping himself from the pegs as he went. At about ten feet down, he looked around him in more detail. There was another possible way up, but unlike the path they had taken, there was a lot of loose debris that would make climbing potentially dangerous. Lovely. He thought for a moment about retracing his path back to the ground. Going down was always harder than getting up... except when rappelling, and one couldn't rappel down an overhang that size. I think I had better try this route and see how it goes. It looks like I could work my way back to the main route in another fifty feet. Finrod started up.
The loose debris was annoying, and the going was difficult. Still, it was a lot more possible than the route he had been taking. He put his hand into a horizontal crack, testing it carefully. It held, and he put his weight on it while he worked on the next. The crack widened abruptly, and a chunk of rock split away from the wall, carrying Finrod with it. He slithered eight feet down the face before being brought up short by the rope. He grabbed for the hand and footholds nearest him, and then waited for his heart to stop beating so rapidly. From up above came a worried voice. "Uncle! Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. I fell a few feet when the rock gave way, but I'm on solid stuff again."
"I don't think you should go up that way," Orodreth said. "If it has that much debris and and the rock is fractured it could be really dangerous."
"I just noticed that," Finrod replied. "Do you have any other suggestions as to how to get off this rock? I can't go up the way you went, and getting down past the overhang is likely to be a problem."
"Also, the sun is going down behind the mountains." Orodreth added. "If we don't find something in the next half hour or so, you're probably going to be stuck on the ledge overnight."
"Yes, I can see that. Did you remember to tell Edrahil quite where we were going? I wasn't sure, so I asked him to ask you."
"He knows approximately where, but the name the climbers use isn't the same as the one everyone else uses, so he might get confused. Oh dear. They'll send search parties out, won't they?"
"Considering that we were supposed to be back by dark, I'd expect they will. I'm going to go down a bit further and look for another way up. If I don't find one, at least I'll be closer to the ledge."
Finrod continued to look for another way up, but the light began to go, and it was obvious that even if he did find another way up, there would not be enough light left to make it to the top. It would have to be the ledge. "The light's going. I'm going to head for the ledge. Since you are at the top and can get down easily down the path, you should probably go and find the steward before someone decides we've both fallen off and drowned in the river, been eaten by wolves or succumbed to some other dire fate." Orodreth didn't answer immediately, so he added "I am hardly going to get eaten by wolves halfway up a cliff. I'll be fine."
"I'm afraid the path is rather bad in the dark and is overshadowed by trees. I'm stuck here too," Orodreth answered.
"It is also a bit too far for me to reach by osanwe. If Galadriel were there it would be a different matter, and you're here so that isn't much use. Lovely. I hope none of the searchers manage to fall off a cliff looking for us. I guess we're both going to have to listen to Edrahil giving us a lecture on the responsibilities of being royalty again, and about how one cannot simply disappear without warning."
"He lectures you?" Orodreth asked, sounding surprised.
"He served Finarfin before me and I think he still sees me as being young and reckless. He is older than I am by a good four centuries, after all, and watched me grow up."
"Young and reckless? You're notorious for always having a plan B, not to mention plan As that take centuries to mature!"
"Well, I am currently stuck halfway up a cliff you know..."
"But that's my fault really," Orodreth protested.
"Partly. I don't think I explained that I haven't actually rock climbed since I left Valinor."
"Its just... I find it hard to believe that there's something you aren't better than me."
Dead silence. "Orodreth, there are multiple things you are better at than I am, not just rock climbing. Abstract mathematics and poetry in old quenya, for a start. Metal work. Nonmagical chemistry. Astronomical theory. And it isn't as if there aren't things that I'm not good at."
"Name one," said Orodreth.
"Well, rock climbing obviously, but also dealing with mobs, metal work - I'm really rather a poor excuse for a Noldor in that. With reference to chemistry, I managed to get banned from the Feanorian's lab on the grounds that I was hopeless. That was after I nearly blew Curufin and myself up." I still don't think he's forgiven me for that, although I did apologize, and I was following his instructions at the time. "Saying no to people who are desperate for help, even when it isn't advisable to give it. Remember those 'escaped captives' from Angband that turned out to be spying for Morgoth? I have plenty of other faults, including the Finwe family tendency to lose my common sense if I lose my temper, for one. You're lucky you don't share that trait."
"Half the things you've mentioned are side effects of strong empathy, and I have the same problems. I'm worse at hiding them, too."
"You are nearly two thousand years younger than I am. You'll get better with practice."
Sigh. "I wish I were so sure..." Orodreth replied.
"Time helps with many things."
As dawn was beginning to break, they heard the voices of the searchers and saw lanterns. "We're over here, and we're fine!" yelled Finrod.
"Where?" they asked.
"Halfway up the cliff!" Finrod answered. "We are waiting for day to break so that we can get down."
Once day broke, getting down proved to be a bit of an anticlimax. Orodreth simply walked down the path, while Finrod managed to find a way down around the overhang. Granted, there was one awkward moment when he almost slipped, but it really didn't deserve the alarmed gasps from the watching rescue party. Really, really, I'm fine. Even if I fell off, that is why we use ropes, pegs and carabiners. I fell off earlier and I'm no worse for wear... maybe I had better not mention that part. I have a nasty feeling they'd take it the wrong way. The rescue party insisted on watching and waiting, but their presence proved completely unnecessary.
On returning to Nargothrond, Finrod and Orodreth found themselves greeted by a very irritated Edrahil. Once they were in private, they did indeed get lectured. The joys of being King...