Sequel to "When First We Parted" and "Horses and Hounds"
By Laura L.
WARNING: Some implications of bi-sexuality; nothing graphic.
If there was a long silence between Doriath and Nargothrond, Galadriel laid the blame to distance, and her kinsman's anger, for King Elu Thingol had yet to soften his pride. Her letters to Celeborn remained unanswered, but this did not strike her as unusual. Celeborn was not an avid correspondent.
When word came from Menegroth that Thingol's ire had eased and his kinsmen were once again welcome, a letter from Melian followed hard upon it.
Celeborn, she wrote, was behaving rather strangely. He had returned, those months before, quiet and introspective, and had then progressed into a nervous temper so unlike him that finally Melian had confronted her husband's kinsman. Apparently, Celeborn had met someone on the road to Doriath. What occurred at that meeting, where and when and what was said, she could not say, but that she wished Galadriel in Menegroth as soon as possible.
The daughter of Finarfin was no lack-wit; she herself had spent a month studiously avoiding the company of one Maedhros, son of Fëanor, who had arrived the very day Celeborn had left Nargothrond. This coincidence immediately sent Galadriel into a righteous rage.
Had Finrod the foresight of the Valar, he would have wished himself far away, even to the farthest reaches of Arda, for his sister now understood that he had kept this secret from her. Well she remembered the day he had sped out to meet Maedhros, and never a word of a meeting with Celeborn had he uttered to her, although he knew that she loved the Sindarin nobleman to distraction.
Finrod was presiding over open council and nodding his golden head over what his steward was saying, when he spied Galadriel entering at a fast clip, face white in fury and with Melian's letter clutched still in her hand. His natural self-preservation gave alarm, and he moved to intercept her course, fearing casualties in the wake of her anger.
"You will tell me of Maedhros and Celeborn, Brother, and you will tell me now." Galadriel's gray eyes blazed forth her determination.
Finrod waved for the attendants to go and took a deep breath. "I know less than one might think, Nerwen." Then he explained the scene that had unfolded before him as he had approached the Falls of Sirion, and of Celeborn's declamation of Maedhros. "There seemed no real affront, in my eyes. I assumed some too-familiar rudeness on Maedhros's part, but that is nothing new. Fingon indulges him no end, since his loss."
Galadriel made an impatient sound. "The loss of one's hand at the torment of Morgoth is no light matter, but he presses good will on all sides, and this newest insult being not the least of it."
"Surely, you don't think he abused Celeborn in some way?"
"Melian is concerned enough to say that his manner has so altered that she wishes me in Menegroth immediately."
Finrod's optimistic assessment of his Fëanorian cousin plummeted. "Then whatever he did or said figures as abuse, if Celeborn was hurt by it."
Galadriel nodded curtly. "I will return to Menegroth, and I am going to do what I can for Celeborn. If I find that Maedhros's rudeness encroached upon abuse, you may rest assured that my enmity will know no bounds. Let Maedhros go where he will, he will find no safety with me."
Finrod sighed, but took his sister's hand in mutual understanding. "I will send you my servants to help you with preparations."
Word ran ahead of her, and by the time she was entering her rooms, her ladies in waiting were already in the middle of serious packing. Her cousin Vana, as always, had taken initiative, and had correctly ascertained her cousin's state of mind.
After gratefully embracing the woman, Galadriel set to prioritizing the organizing, then sat down to write a fast letter that would precede her by a day. In it, she thanked her Maian friend, assured her that she was equally concerned, and that she would be arriving as soon as possible. She added that she knew the name of the culprit, and hoped that the effects of what was said and did could be healed.
Thingol's steward met her as her ladies began to direct the servants to take their baggage to Galadriel's suites in Menegroth. He bowed courteously at her nod of recognition. "His Highness asks you to attend upon him and the lady queen as soon as you are willing."
"Give me leave to change, and I will gladly go to them. In the great hall?"
"Their private reception room, if it please you."
That was less surprising, now that she perceived their concerns about Celeborn. "It pleases me well."
Vana approached as soon as the steward departed, ready to hear her cousin's wishes.
"Shake out one of the velvet dresses and set up my vanity," she told the girl. "It seems things are far more dire than I supposed, if His Highness is so urgent."
It was less than an hour from her arrival that Galadriel was admitted into the more intimate reception room of Their Highnesses. Between stables and suites, she had little time to prepare herself for this meeting, and half expected to find Celeborn in the halls.
But he was not present anywhere, not even in their company. She suppressed the growing dread that had begun with Melian's letter, and did obeisance to the royal pair.
Thingol was, as always, reticent but generous in his courteous nod and faint smile. His hair, a dark silver plaited in a multiplicity of braids, was surmounted by a crown of autumn leaves. The people of Doriath observed the course of the seasons where the Noldor barely acknowledged their passing. It was a tradition Galadriel thought lovely. Melian, her own black hair loose and crowned similarly, rose and gave her a kinswoman's embrace.
"Long have I wished to see thee, Galadriel," she murmured. "Long have I wished to impart the misgivings of my heart to thee. Little did I know that I should suffer so, my confidante cleft from me so suddenly."
They had a chair set down for her, and there she told them of her stay in Nargothrond. When it came to Maedhros's stay in Finrod's kingdom, Melian's pale green eyes sharpened.
"I take it you little care for the One-handed," Thingol remarked, his chin in his hand, his keen gray eyes taking in her pale face.
"I make no secret of it," she returned. "I have no love for many of my cousins, especially that one. He trades too much on his handicap, expecting forgiveness for his many transgressions."
"Yet Fingon son of Fingolfin appreciates him," the king said with a small smile.
"Fingon and Maedhros have always been like two leaves off the same branch," Galadriel declared dismissively. "But I beg pardon…where is Celeborn?"
Melian exchanged a somber glance with her husband. "From day to day, we have no way of knowing. Some days he is here or in his chambers, then some days not a one knows his whereabouts."
Galadriel did not have to ask if he knew of her arrival that day. It was implicit in Melian's tone. "Perhaps you should tell me of Celeborn now."
Thingol said: "For my part, I know nothing. He is mannerly; he is quiet. He is elusive, yes, but will not tell me aught."
"I have spoken to him on many occasions," Melian added. "It pains me that he is so terse with me, unwilling to divulge his private thoughts. I dare not bring up your name, for once I did so, and he was agitated and defensive."
Galadriel sat with hands clenched in her lap. "How have I deserved this? We parted sadly but amiably, with no ill will…quite the contrary! We spoke of the joy of meeting again."
"He met Maedhros on the road," Melian surmised.
"My brother has told me of the circumstances of their meeting, or at least the end of it. He said the Celeborn showed a marked dislike for Maedhros, although he saw no sign of abuse."
"There was no fight?"
"Not that Finrod saw. He assumed some rudeness on Maedhros's part, for we all know that one's temperament. Certainly, Celeborn would not begin a conflict with him."
"Never," Thingol agreed. "It is not his way." The king frowned. "Proud is my kinsman," he said, and at Melian's look, added: "Nay, you need not say it is a family failing, Wife. I know it well. Celeborn has always been even-tempered, truly; he runs neither hot nor cold. When angry, he is sharp, and in all ways he is forthright. You have a right to be concerned over this new mood of his, and I now must add my own misgivings."
"Kinswoman," Melian entreated, leaning forward to take Galadriel's hands. "I beg thee. Uncover this mystery of our Celeborn's heaviness, for there can be no symptom's physic if the healer cannot know the cause."
"I will," Galadriel assured her. "For love of him, I will do all in my power."
She left with many assurances on both sides, and went to check on the unpacking. Her ladies had already finished and were tending their own needs, so she went then to Celeborn's chambers, but the servants there reported that he was not within. They did not know where he was, but would relay that she had asked after him when he returned.
She wondered at how true these statements were. Were Celeborn's servants lying for him? Did they in fact know where he was, if in fact he was not there in his chambers at all? She visited Vana in her chambers and helped her cousin finish her unpacking, and spoke of her doubts.
"Well," her practical cousin declared, "there is more than one path to take, if you wish to know the truth."
Galadriel lifted a brow at that, and listened as Vana continued, all the while arranging her small reminders of Menegroth about her room. "Or should I say more than one river to travel? You can work against the current, or with it, as it were."
"Is that so?"
Vana glanced at her wryly. "You were ever too forthright for court politics," she commented, "else you would know of what I speak." She laughed at Galadriel's blank look. "The servants, dear coz, the servants. If indeed they are lying under the wishes of their master, you can use your own servants to ascertain the truth."
"Spying? That's hardly dignified."
"Yes, well, so it is, but effective. That is our "against the current" option. The other is perhaps more to your taste."
"And that is?"
"Why, win his servants to your cause."
Galadriel had to laugh at the simplicity of the proposition. "Vana, have I recently told you how wonderful you are?"
"Yes," the woman replied complacently, "but it always bears repeating, I think."
Galadriel sat at Melian's left hand at dinner that night, and was pleased to renew friendships and acquaintances throughout the long meal. Celeborn did not appear, and it did not take a discerning eye to see that the king was not pleased by his absence. She met his clear, gray glance over Melian's head and saw that he was now more strongly her ally at this defection. Celeborn might have disguised his difficulties up to this point with his uncle, but now it was clear even to Elu Thingol that more than a slight upset had occurred.
"If he were younger, I would take him to task over his behavior," the king said to her when the household retired from the table. "You hardly deserve such a homecoming." It was left unsaid that Melian and Thingol hardly deserved such treatment, either, to have their kinsman absent himself without provocation or excuse.
Galadriel took that reaction to mind as she returned to Celeborn's door, and was once again told he was not within by his head servant, one young, silver-eyed youth with a waif-like, slight stature and soft voice.
"I am concerned," Galadriel said after a pause, as he waited for her departure. "I am more than concerned. His Majesty missed your lord at dinner, and seemed not at all pleased. I would not for all the world be the cause of such upset."
The boy's brows lifted. "Beg pardon, Lady? How can your esteemed self be the cause?"
"I am convinced the Lord Celeborn blames me for my kinsman's follies at Nargothrond, but I would not have him alienate his own kin in order to avoid me."
She had never seen such alarm on a face that seemed not accustomed to such expressions. Apparently this was new and upsetting information to him, but the expression was fleeting.
"I can assure you, Lord Celeborn has expressed no such blame, Lady. But I will convey your concerns."
"Thank you," Galadriel said, with her best smile.
"…you are …very welcome," the boy replied, his eye wide and awestruck.
On the way back to her chambers, Galadriel reflected that she did not give Vana enough credit. Vana might not be a warrior or a woman of highest lineage, but she certainly knew more about the intricacies of the households she occupied. Galadriel had learned much from Melian in reading people's desires and motivations, but she had yet to apply them in terms of courtly politics. She now deemed that it was a lesson worth learning.
Vana reported the next morning that she was keeping an eye
on Celeborn's servants, and Galadriel, deeming the situation at an impasse,
kept company with Melian as was her wont. It was in a spell of silence, while
Melian was reading and Galadriel was designing a new project that Melian
stiffened in her chair, casting down the tome that had been resting on her
knees. Her green eyes were wide and staring.
Standing in shock and concern, Galadriel watched as the queen of Menegroth sat still and far-gazing, then slowly relaxed, finally blinking.
"What is it?" she asked her friend. "What did you see?"
"Oh, Galadriel!" the Maia cried. "Celeborn has left Doriath!"
This information was so unexpected, that it took a moment for Galadriel to understand. "What?"
"He has just crossed the Girdle out of northwestern Doriath."
It was now Galadriel's turn to stare. "That far? That means…he left yesterday."
"Yes. And alone!"
Dread weighed heavy in Galadriel's stomach as they looked at each other in apprehension. "Then I will be following."
The queen did not try to dissuade her. "Not alone," Melian told her. "I have some interest in keeping both of you safe, and since my nephew has no thought to his own safety, I mean to do it for him."
A day behind! Galadriel fumed, as much of what had just been unpacked was packed again. Vana was staying in Menegroth to continue her cousin's interests at home. When her horse was readied, she saw Melian and Thingol waiting in the courtyard with a brace of armed Elves, among them the familiar face of the boy whom she had assumed was Celeborn's head servant, by the name of Eleni, who was, Melian explained, also a kinsman. Eleni, apparently, had been in the dark as much as any other inhabitant in Menegroth, but the youth took it personally that he had not discerned his lord's mind.
Thingol gave her one of his latest maps, and showed her the point at which Celeborn had passed the Girdle, where the river Sirion flowed from the north. His finger traced north along the river, curving along the foothills that were its source, and pressed against the lettering there. Hithlum, the kingdom of Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor. He exchanged a meaningful look with Galadriel that told her that he too had guessed why Celeborn might have headed in that direction.
Maedhros was known to guest in that kingdom, in the company of his best friend, Fingon. If Celeborn was seeking reprisal upon the son of Fëanor, Fingolfin's realm would be the first place to seek him.
Melian rolled the map and gave it to her when she was mounted, clasping her fingers. "I know not what madness has taken our kinsman, but I do not have to tell thee it fills me with fear that he seeks its source, my friend…to go to that place, where no kin of ours has willingly gone…"
"I do not fear it," Galadriel assured her. "Fingolfin is my uncle, and the place the seat of my kinsman's house. Even Fëanor's sons do not dismay me in such a place."
They turned their horse's head and rode hard north.
Celeborn was proud, yes, and certainly his disposition could be called impassive to those who did not know him. To say that his nature was steady was to state the obvious; very little disturbed the complacent temper that was the source of his reputation.
But the last almost-century had seen a disconcerting prevalence of emotional upheavals for Thingol's wise nephew, all of which could be laid at Galadriel's door. It was Galadriel whom he loved, and whose very existence brought with it a cascade of struggles.
Although the origin of this newest torture was not specifically Galadriel's fault, Celeborn bitterly acknowledged that his love for her had certainly introduced another element to his conflict with Maedhros. It was rare that Celeborn experienced self-doubt to his very nature, and now he doubted everything.
He wondered at the strength of his love for Galadriel; he questioned his own capacity to be faithful to his own feelings for her. He was conflicted to the point that he knew he could not face her, and of all his options, he had only one.
Face the one that had created this torment, and bravely attempt to end it.
He was not being sensible, and he knew it. A man less conflicted would have thought things through a little more wisely, but Celeborn was not a man used to thinking through his own problems, having spent his life solving the problems of others.
It took him three days to make it out of Doriath and into the misty foothills bordering Hithlum. He was not attempting secrecy once he recognized the signs of Fingolfin's marchwardens, but stilled Quesse and waited upon the foggy road when they appeared before him, armored and grim-faced warriors with the Sun and Stars clearly displayed on their blue and silver surcoats. He bore only the black cloak Galadriel had fashioned for him, but the marks on his saddlery were Melian's. They regarded any Elf not Noldor with some suspicion, but they were courteous if a little clipped in that courtesy, and escorted him into Barad Eithel, the eastern fortress at the source of the Sirion. They did not ask him his business, for that was the domain of their superiors, and for that, Celeborn was grateful. He did not known how he would explain himself.
The Noldor as a rule did not build underground, Finrod being the exception to the rule. Fingolfin had build Barad Eithel on the eastern foothills of high Ered Wethrin, overseeing the falls that were the source of the region's mightiest river. Menegroth had its outlying buildings out of necessity, but these towers were like nothing in Celeborn's experience, taller than any building he had ever seen, bare to the eye of anyone approaching from the south and east. There was something daring in that bold design, as if to pronounce that the beings living here had not fear of what might find them.
It was an alien sentiment, and filled Celeborn with the foreboding of one whom had lived his life in necessary secrecy. It was a sort of insanity, he mused, that these Noldor out of Valinor indulged in. And then he fell to wondering after the spiraling design of white stone towers and peaked roofs, and whether they were inspired by the workings of the Valar, as they passed through guarded gates where armored sentinels watched silently.
His steed, Quesse, had endured much strangeness (including heavier saddlery for a long trip) in the last three day with a sort of spirited good-naturedness that was the hallmark of her breed. Now, she balked slightly and rolled her eyes as her hooves clipped against paved stone. Menegroth's pastures and stables were packed dirt, and the roads the same. Celeborn murmured to her, his own eye nervously scanning the strangeness of buildings on either side of him.
The captain told him that he was to be taken to the steward after Quesse was stabled in the guards' stable. Celeborn did not let the anxiety show on his face as they passed under another guarded gate, this one more ornate, and entered a courtyard at the base of the largest of all towered buildings. There they dismounted, and servants came to take their steeds. One look at the young and black Quesse, with her prancing and nervous turning, and they were calling for the stable master, a tall man with a long face and reddish hair. The master came out, brows rising more at Quesse than her master, thought he cursorily introduced himself before examining the barely mature filly with intense scrutiny.
"Five years?" he asked, holding out a hand for Quesse to investigate.
"Bred to hunt?"
When Celeborn nodded, the master rubbed Quesse's neck, thoughtfully. "Unusual color."
Celeborn tried not to smile. Were all stable masters of the same line? Once you understood one, it was pretty much natural to understand all. He knew exactly where this conversation was heading. "She hasn't taken to mate yet."
The stable master gave him a shrewd look that almost covered his disappointment. But he rallied almost immediately. "Do you give them a chance to choose?"
By 'you' Celeborn knew he meant 'you ignorant Dark Elves' and smoothed his own expression. "We do."
"Interesting. Well, aren't you a quick girl," the man said, in an indulgent tone as Quesse began to huff around the pockets of his coat. "I'll stable her by herself until I get a glimpse of her style, and let her run with the others if she's cooperative."
Celeborn bowed gratefully. Quesse's dark eyes watched him even as the stable master brought out a slice of fruit and presented it to her. Celeborn watched her lip it up, then patted her in farewell. He turned and went with the surprisingly patient guards.
Perhaps these were civilized folk, after all, if they valued their steeds so highly.
Fingon was acting as part scribe, part advisor for his father when the steward entered into the hall, leading a tall stranger into open court. Heads were turning like the ripples of wind over water, so that even the king paused, curious to see the cause of distraction. It was perhaps meet that open court was always somewhat informal, Fingon thought, else his father might have found such distraction annoying.
What he had first thought was a tall maid wearing a silver veil soon revealed itself to be something even more extraordinary, and for a moment Fingon felt his throat tighten. Not since Valinor, and in the persons of his aunt, Eärwen, and Fëanor's mother, Míriel, had he known of such hair, long and bright silver. Out of the corner of his eye, the king leaned forward, seemingly making the same connection.
But this was male, tall and almost as beautiful as a maid, but with high cheeks and dark blue eyes. He wore a black cloak, over which that amazing hair only seemed the brighter. He also wore an impassive, yet attentive expression and seemed not at all perturbed by the attention he was getting.
He was definitely not Noldor, Fingon knew, but that silver hair gave him the idea of where this one had come from.
From his throne next to his son's, the father glanced with a raised brow.
"Out of Menegroth, think you?" Fingon mused for his benefit. "I know no other place that hair could have come from."
"Thingol and the Teleri are the one and the same, in blood," the king agreed. "From his line, the silver hair passed into Valinor, and to Finarfin's wife. So why not to his brethren here in the Mortal Lands?"
"Your Highness," the steward murmured humbly, "this one has entered into your kingdom from the south, following the Sirion. He has requested to speak to someone in authority, and knowing your pleasure in speaking to travelers, I have brought him to you."
The king beckoned to the stranger. "Come forward, visitor."
The tall man stepped forward, then bowed low, rather exquisitely. Fingon felt suddenly ungainly and very plain, looking upon such elegance, and wondered at himself.
"Who are you, sir, and what is your business in these lands?"
"I beg your pardon, Your Majesty. I am Celeborn of Doriath."
Fingon smiled at his father triumphantly. "As I supposed," he murmured for the king alone.
"We have had but rare messengers from Doriath since settling these lands," Fingolfin stated. "But you are not one of them, I deem. What connection have your with Elu Thingol?"
The man smiled in pleasant surprise at Fingolfin's astuteness. "He calls himself my uncle, but truth be told, he is my great-uncle."
"A noble visitor, then, the first from your kingdom. And your purpose?"
Lord Celeborn paused only slightly, then said, "I have business with one Maedhros, son of Fëanor."
Fingolfin glanced at Fingon, and father and son once again exchanged unsaid responses with a glance.
Now what has that man done? the king's look asked.
His son's said: I have no idea how this man connects with Maedhros, but it cannot be good.
"You may well be amazed," the Sindarin said. "We met as I was leaving Nargothrond."
That made some sense. Maedhros had been to Nargothrond recently, but he had never mentioned the silver-haired nobleman at all in his stories of his visit.
Fingon felt a twinge of anxiety and something darker and more possessive. He categorized it as a friend's concern, and locked it away for later scrutiny as he gazed at this strange Elf. Perhaps it was this strange feeling of inferiority working on his mind, although he continued to question it. Was he not a prince and warrior of reknown? What cared he for silver hair and blue eyes? Mahogany and gray were equally as fine.
"You are welcome, whatever your business," the king stated generously. "We have no quarrel with King Thingol, and would show our best side to his kinsman." To the steward, he said: "Show the lord to his rooms and communicate his desire to Lord Maedhros."
As the Sindarin lord turned, Finrod saw Fingolfin's head come up and his eyes narrow. "Lord Celeborn, hold a moment."
The lord turned, the black cloak and its intricate design swinging out of view again.
"That is an amazing garment, My Lord," the king observed. Fingon had missed part of the design, and wondered at his father's sudden intensity.
Something passed over the lord's expression like a brief cloud, before disappearing. What was it? Fingon wondered. It looked something like sadness, and a little like fear.
"My thanks. It was a gift."
"Which Noldor lady gave you this gift?" the king inquired.
The blue eyes lowered and Celeborn smiled softly. Used to gauging the expressions of others, Fingon perceived that it was an entirely false expression. This man did not like to be put to a disadvantage, did not like to be surprised and cornered.
"Ah, is the hand of a Noldor so easily discerned? It was made by King Finrod's sister," the lord answered lightly. "It was something of a play on my name."
Fingolfin sat back and stared at the nobleman thoughtfully. Fingon could see him calculating. What was this man to Artanis, that she would give him such a gift? Cloaks did not fall from her hands so readily. Indeed, Artanis was very careful about anything she gave.
The steward was ready to lead their guest away, so Fingolfin nodded his permission. Celeborn bowed again with that perfect grace, and strode after. Fingon finally saw the intricate embroidery of the White Tree of Eressëa on the back of that cloak, a work of many days.
Fingon sat through the rest of the meeting with some restless trepidation, a strange mixture of curiosity and unease, and as soon as it was acceptable to do so, he found himself at Maedhros's door. The servant conducted him in to the man himself, sitting by the window with an unopened book on his lap, his fiery red hair vibrant against the blue sky beyond him, his noble profile stern and familiar.
"You heard, then?" the Fëanorian inquired without inflection.
"Heard? I was there. You've never seen such a stir."
"Beautiful, isn't he? A veritable Teleri deity." Maedhros turned then, giving Fingon a wry glance.
"Why is the Teleri deity here, my friend?" Fingon asked, pulling up a chair. "Because Father is rather taken aback that Thingol's great-nephew has appeared in his court without warning, without guards."
Maedhros's gray eyes glinted. "Thingol's great-nephew? Truly?"
Fingon was perplexed. "Who did you think he was, visiting Nargothrond as he did?"
The redhead shrugged. "What do I care about that? To tell the truth, I don't even know why he's here."
"You don't," Fingon echoed flatly.
"No. It was just a brief meeting at the Falls of
Sirion, he leaving and me arriving. We hardly exchanged a few dozen
words." Maedhros's mouth quirked. "Perhaps it was the kiss."
The Fëanorian chucked at Fingon's aghast expression. "You saw him. Exquisite. All that pale, silver hair. Mark you, silver. And so utterly and elegantly standoffish. It was imperative I give him my due."
"You kissed a strange Sindar after a moment's meeting?" Fingon clutched at his temple. Valar, this was not happening!
"Certainly," Maedhros affirmed, unconcerned.
At first Fingon could not imagine such a thing, but suddenly he could: Maedhros claiming the pale lips of that otherworldly creature. How would such a man react?
"He was offended," he guessed. "You offended the nephew of King Thingol of Doriath!"
"Well, he wasn't very cooperative at the end, I'll give you that," his friend said, a thoughtful look deepening his handsome features. "But he seemed to like it towards the beginning. Before Finrod appeared, he seemed to recover his pride. He gave me such a look! It would have blasted stone."
"You offended the nephew of King Thingol of Doriath," Fingon repeated, dazed.
"You've already said that," Maedhros observed mildly. "It was just a kiss. I don't see how it should concern anyone." He glanced over as his servant appeared. "That would be him now. You will excuse me?"
"Of course…" Fingon rose, then stopped, grasping his friend's arm. "Maedhros."
"Oh, do stop. If I wanted worries and injunctions, I would have petitioned your father."
Fingon opened his mouth, offended and a little hurt, but just then Lord Celeborn appeared and stopped at the sight of them. Nothing showed on his fair face, and Fingon found himself admiring the man once again. Closer up, he was as exquisite as Maedhros had said. How would Maedhros say it? A "pretty piece"?
Instead, he bowed to the lord slightly, and left them there. Once outside in the hallway he stopped, suddenly bereft, and turned to look at the closed door behind him with a feeling of immediate and terrifying resentment. He wasn't sure why. His best friend was known for his little dalliances here and there.
A sudden sense of foreboding told him that this was one to worry about.
Whatever happened the day before in Maedhros's rooms was a subject of gossip the following morning, but no one knew anything for certain. The Fëanorian was being unusually discreet and Fingolfin's Sindarin guest, when he came to the king's invitation to breakfast, was as pale and impassive as the day before.
Fingon noted that he chose to sit as far away from Maedhros as possible, however, and knew that would send tongues wagging for lack of anything more titillating. As usual Fingon sat at his father's left, with his friend at his side, and no amount of small observations on his part could show him the state of Maedhros's mind, except that the Fëanorian was not particularly interested in Celeborn's presence across the table. There were no idle or intent glances back and forth. They did not exist to each other.
Which told Fingon something, after all. It had not gone well.
"Why did he come, then?" he asked the redhead later as they stood in the mews, looking over the year's adolescent hawks for promising hunters.
"To settle something," was all his friend would say, in a clipped tone unlike himself. "And not in the ways you think," he added after a glance at Fingon's expression. "But it is not concluded yet," he muttered, "not by a long throw."
When they next passed by the pasture, they were surprised to see a new steed running with the more familiar ones. She was young, sprightly, and as blue black as a crow's wing.
"The Sindarin's, I take it," Fingon said to the stable master as they entered the stables.
"Indeed, your highness, indeed. A pretty thing, too."
Maedhros quirked a smile. "Indeed he is."
The man blinked at him, then laughed. "Are you meaning the tall, polite fellow?"
"I take it you meant the horse," Fingon said with a smile, taken slightly aback by the cavalier description of Thingol's kinsman. Tall, polite fellow?
"I do, Sire. I was hoping she'd take to one of the stallions, but so far she's too busy with the pasture to think on them. I could bargain for a foal, if I played it right."
Fingon had to laugh at the single mindedness of the man, but inwardly conceded that such a foal would be a credit to their stable. She had a rare color and spirit.
Somewhat like her master, Fingon conceded. But still, tall, polite fellow?
"So what is this 'tall, polite fellow'?" Maedhros asked. Fingon stifled a laugh. As always, his friend voiced what he thought. It had always been this way, each of them filling in what the other lacked.
The stable master shrugged. "He just was. Never had a nobleman bow to me when I took his horse, I'll tell you that. And ever so concerned about the filly. Those Sindar might be civilized people after all."
Maedhros said nothing, but there was a defiant spark in his eye. What had gone on the night before? Fingon wondered.
They returned for luncheon to find the Sindarin in deep conference with the king. Cool, collected, exquisitely mannered, it was little wonder that Fingolfin found conversation with this being interesting, although perhaps it was Celeborn's rank that was more interesting still. Maedhros's entrance did not seem to be of any concern to either of them, but when people began to find their seats, Celeborn excused himself, and Fingolfin, after apparently monopolizing the nobleman for a while, acquiesced to this absence. Fingon marked that his friend noted the exit with a flicker of his pale gray gaze.
"A modest man," Fingolfin judged him when Fingon asked after the conversation. "And more powerful than he admits to. He has Thingol's ear almost exclusively when it comes to matters domestic. He has also bonded with three of Finarfin's sons on that visit; he knows too many of their habits to not have spent some time with them."
"And Artanis?" Fingon wondered, remembering that cloak.
"He does not speak of her."
On the other side of Fingolfin, Maedhros laughed without humor. "Now, imagine that. Strange behavior for someone whom she means to wed."
Conversation about him stopped. Fingolfin and Fingon stared at the redhead.
The king's voice was ice. "Explain yourself."
"As I've said. According to Finrod, Celeborn is Artanis's intended. She's even accepted his epesse, the name Galadriel."
"This was no secret to keep from us," Fingon snapped, amazed beyond measure at his friend's strange humor.
The Fëanorian glanced at them from his food. "I kept no secrets. How was I to know he did not divulge it to you, himself?"
Fingon opened his mouth, then closed it with a snap. He wasn't quite sure if Maedhros was telling the truth or being evasive. "And were you privy to this information before or after you knew him in Nargothrond?"
"After, of course," the man replied calmly. "Finrod told me. Really, stop looking at me like that."
That feeling of foreboding was back again, but Fingon dared not open a more intimate conversation in the company of half a dozen members of court. He glanced at Fingolfin, and found that his father looked none too appeased by Maedhros's words either. Turning back, he found his friend rising and excusing himself.
Fingolfin leaned over and said against his ear: "This will out at dinner, or afterward, by the Valar! I want the whole story."
"Stop cozening him, Son. He'll own up to his actions, as any of us do. I want no enmity between myself and Thingol!"
Fingon nodded his agreement, and silently vowed to discover the truth himself, for Maedhros's blithe behavior was beginning to germinate the seed of frustration in him, and a resentful anger.
He decided on a different course, heading toward Celeborn's rooms, but the servants there re-directed him toward the stables, saying that there had been an argument with Lord Maedhros, after which the Sindarin lord had decided to tend his steed.
Fool! He thought. Of course Maedhros would have attempted Celeborn again. And then Fingon realized all along what Maedhros was trying to do. He was resentful only that he did not know why, and frustrated that his friend was being so impolitic about the whole thing.
He kept telling himself this all the way to the stables.
Celeborn was in conference with the stable master at the fence, watching as Quesse socialized with three or four of the Noldor horses. She was definitely being courted.
They would be lucky if she was less stubborn than her master.
At Fingon's appearance, Celeborn turned and bowed, and the stable master excused himself.
"She's quite a prize," Fingon said, nodding.
"Perhaps. She is young still." There was a quirk to the silver-haired Elf's brows. "She's a bit too impulsive."
Obviously it was not a trait Celeborn held dear. No wonder he didn't care for Maedhros.
"High spirits have their advantage."
The lord raised an eyebrow at him, easily detecting the undercurrent of conversation. It was easy to underestimate this one, under that prettiness. "There is no value in blind action," he commented. "Life, limb and heart are broken on the stone of thoughtlessness."
Fingon blinked, then smiled, although doing it seemed to bring a bitter taste to his mouth. Celeborn was too wise, too wise indeed. "Did you break either on your ride here?" he dared.
That earned a long stare, and then a little, acquiescing smile. "I tend my own hurts," the Sindarin said. "Best you see to your own."
It was a long time after Celeborn had left that Fingon decided to be vaguely offended by his boldness, and only after he understood many things about himself and why he was angry with Maedhros. He could not reprimand Celeborn for opening his eyes with a few well-chosen words.
He was beginning to realize why Elu Thingol valued the man, and why Artanis coveted him.
Dinner was a more intimate and tense affair, although the sources of such tension themselves seemed untouched for most of the meal. Maedhros was much himself, blithe and unconcerned, and Celeborn was as they had come to know him, painstakingly civil.
But somewhere towards the end, there was a fracture.
Because it was a small affair, there were only immediate family present, with the exception of their noble guest. Without the presence of numerous others to keep tempers in check, it was not surprising that things began to deteriorate.
It began when Celeborn, ever so apologetically, proposed that he leave the next day. It was not standard protocol, when partaking of a king's hospitality, to insist on pressing a quick departure, and Fingon wondered at the reason, although he thought he might know why, considering how maddening Maedhros could be.
He was surprised to discover that he would not be sorry to see the elegant Sindarin go, that the political and personal tensions engendered by his presence were interfering with his peace of mind. He imagined his father felt something similar.
Maedhros, on the other hand, looked thunderously displeased.
"If our distant kinsman feels the need to return home, of course we will not demur," the king said. "I would ask if our hospitality has been in any way lacking."
Celeborn's eyes did that dip and slide that Fingon knew meant he did not want to answer the question. It was the same reaction they had gotten when asking about his cloak.
"He's too perfectly polite to tell you the truth." Maedhros's voice abruptly cut through the silence. All eyes turned and looked at him; Fingon resisted the temptation to pound his head onto the table amid the plates and goblets of wine. Instead, he glanced at his father and winced.
Fingolfin was not pleased.
Celeborn's usually impassive features colored slightly, but he did not look at the Fëanorian directly.
"And what," snapped out Fingolfin's voice, "would be this truth, Nephew?"
Maedhros lifted insolent eyes first to the king, and then to Celeborn. "That our impeccable guest cannot be out of our proximity fast enough."
Fingon had never truly imagined how someone as collected as Celeborn would react in anger; now he did not need to. Those blue eyes, normally dark and somnolent, glittered, but his voice, if possible, grew even cooler, turning sharp and frigid: "I must protest, son of Fëanor. It is not their proximity I wish to leave. Or were you referring to yourself in the plural?"
Automatically, Fingon looked at Maedhros, whose face was flushed in anger. Maedhros would never win a war of words, and it was foolish to put him in his place with them, for his impulsive temper was never pretty when he felt humiliated. "Tell His Majesty, then, Lord Celeborn, why you really imposed yourself on our hospitality."
"Maedhros!" Fingolfin's roar whipped out.
But Maedhros pushed ahead recklessly. "I'm sure they'd be interested in the truth, this time, instead of evasive lies."
"I have never lied," the lord replied, eyes searing cold.
"Circling the truth is in itself a falsehood," the Fëanorian replied.
"And you Noldo have never avoided the truth for convenience sake, have you?" came the quiet reply.
Fingon drew in a sharp breath. It was a masterful blow.
Maedhros stood abruptly. "And still you avoid the truth!"
"Which truth should be told?" the lord returned sharply. He was not standing to face Maedhros, but his knuckles were white where he clutched at the arms of his chair. "That at the Falls of Sirion, a son of Fëanor called me Teleri, and made advances on me?"
One of the servants gasped. Fingolfin stared. Fingon dropped his head.
"And yet, here you are, pursuing me over leagues. If it was such a distasteful experience, why would you come here, Lord Celeborn? For you certainly have not called revenge down upon me, have you?"
"Maedhros," Fingon ventured uneasily, his hand on his friend's forearm. "Guard yourself."
"Why should I? I did not ask this…this…overnice courtier to come here!"
The king stood and silence fell. "Lord Celeborn," he said, "do you have aught to complain about against Maedhros, son of Fëanor?"
The Sindar stood politely in response. "The matter has already been resolved, Your Highness. I regret that I have broached it here before you."
"Has it, Lord Celeborn?"
Blue eyes slid to Maedhros. "On my side, I lack nothing more than your leave to return to my home."
Fingolfin frowned at the redhead. "Maedhros? What is your complaint?"
Maedhros shook off Fingon's hand, "How can I complain, since my adversary has so eloquently and generously relinquished my offenses, so perfectly forgiving?" His mouth twisted. "So condescendingly perfect."
Fingon saw Celeborn's expression shift subtly, his eyes widening just enough that Fingon knew he had suddenly understood something. It eluded Fingon, how anyone could understand Maedhros's mad behavior.
Just then there was a slam of a door and a patter of slippered feet. Fingolfin's steward approached in a fast clip, a look of hectic panic on his face.
"What is it?"
"Your Highness, she has come! The Lady Artanis is but moments behind me, and in such a temper! I could not delay her to let you know."
Celeborn turned abruptly, knocking over his goblet. His eyes were wide and wild, and there was such a look of fear in his pale face, that Fingon was amazed. Many men were intimidated by his cousin, and some had cause to fear her, but surely not her own intended!
And then she was there, that unmistakable tall form, the long stride, a fall of brilliant golden hair, and that steely look of determination that many of Finarfin's children had adopted over the years. She wore a layered riding outfit. With her came a slight, dark-haired youth dressed in green and silver.
Celeborn drew in a sharp breath, shaking his head silently. Fingon looked at him, perplexed, but before he could frame a question, Celeborn was turning and leaving out the other side of the hall, almost running.
Artanis's gray eyes saw him and tracked him, and she slowed, looking as perplexed by Celeborn's actions as Fingon had. Then her gaze landed on Maedhros and Fingon nearly took a cowardly step back at the look of absolute fiery hatred there, emotions running as hot as Celeborn's had seemed cold.
She dropped her eyes as she approached the king and did him obeisance. "My Lord Uncle, please forgive this intrusion."
"Artanis! What is the meaning of this haste?" the king wondered. "Or do I guess aright that you have come for Lord Celeborn?"
"I have, Your Highness." Her eyes blazed as she looked at Maedhros. "And also, I would have words with this one."
Fingon glanced at his friend. The Fëanorian's expression had hardened into almost a sneering rebellion, so much more overt than anything he had shown in Celeborn's presence. "Just words? Your countenance tells me differently."
They were not known to love each other, the son of Fëanor and the daughter of Finarfin, cousins across a gulf of historical conflict. And yet, Fingon would not have predicted the obvious animosity radiating from each of them. Here, he sensed, was the majority of the source of Maedhros's conflict with Celeborn.
"Say on, then," Maedhros told her. "Have your words."
"You will tell me what you have done to Celeborn."
"What I have done? Should I not be the one asking this question? It was from you that he went in such haste, not I."
The king's face was darkening. Fingon took Maedhros's arm. "Tell her the truth, Cousin. You create unnecessary discord with this mockery."
Maedhros shook him off, his dark eyes snapping with vexation. "Leave off! This is no concern of yours!"
Something that had been stretching tighter and tighter within Fingon pulled strongly still, as if it might snap apart with the slightest further pull. He could feel his face tense, his eyes growing hot.
Had Maedhros seen his look, he might have faltered, but he was already turning to Artanis and replying. "I kissed your beloved by the Falls of Sirion, Galadriel. Then he pursued me to this place…." He paused, giving her a shrewd look. "…because he preferred my kisses."
Galadriel had paled, drawing in her breath. At those last few words, however, her brows drew down. "You lie, and you lie knowingly!"
At this insult, Fingolfin moved quickly to intercede, and Fingon followed suit. Fingolfin took a hold of his niece's shoulders. "Lady, do not heed him. Some madness is upon him. You do well to find the truth in Lord Celeborn instead."
These words were on the edge of Fingon's hearing, for his attention was focused on his friend. Like his father, he grasped Maedhros's shoulders, but unlike his father, he shook them. "What madness is this, that you bait Finrod's sister for your pleasure?"
Maedhros's face twisted. "What care you for what I do, except that I embarrass you with my presence here? Leave me be!" He dislodged Fingon's hands with his good hand and with the stump of the other, pulling back. "I tire of your meddling!"
That feeling inside snapped; Fingon could feel it within his chest and in his eyes, growing hotter still. Maedhros faltered, then, his eyes widening at his friend's expression. "Meddler, am I? I who have defended your name when not even your brothers would be so charitable? If I were a lesser man…" His fist clenched. He had never wanted to hurt someone as much as he wanted to hurt Maedhros now, to force his friend to feel a pain twinned with his own. "You say leave you be. Then I will. You will not ever need to look for me again."
Maedhros blanched. Behind them, he could hear Galadriel mutter something, and out of the corner of his vision, she pursued Celeborn's course with a quick stride, led by the steward and followed by her slight escort. "Fingon," the Fëanorian said, a tinge of pleading in his tone. "No…"
Fingon stared at him, unblinking, until Maedhros dropped his eyes.
"Forgive me…forgive me, coz! I spoke in anger."
"Did you? I heard the truth in it. I interfere with you unnecessarily, you say. You would cause strife between out two kins, nay, between two kingdoms! But you will not hear me, for I meddle." He placed a dry emphasis on the last word.
Maedhros flinched. "Nay, nay. You do not meddle. It makes me mad, is all!" His head dropped, one hand grasping Fingon's shoulder. "Help me, mellonamin. Amin lava, mellonamin!"
Fingon's heart softened. The tension within him eased, and he drew a breath as Maedhros's forehead rested against his chest, for he could feel the trembling within his friend's body. "I do not understand you, mellonamin. Do you love him so well?"
Maedhros laughed, choking on bitterness. "Nay, I love him not. I would that I had never seen the silver-headed wood Elf!"
"Then why do you torment him, unless it be love or hate?"
"I do not know! Would that I did!"
Fingon's mind found anchor on that one moment in time, frozen on the image of Celeborn, blue eyes widening in understanding. What had Maedhros said that had triggered that look?
So condescendingly perfect.
Fingon drew in a breath, his head turning to look at the
stump that had once been Maedhros's right hand. Why hadn't he understood?
"He is beautiful," he ventured, watching Maedhros's reactions. "Tonight you called him 'perfectly condescending.'"
Maedhros stared at him. "What are you saying?"
"I think you know. You resent him."
Maedhros drew a deep breath, and shook his head. "I resent his…pride."
"You resent his perfection."
Maedhros's breath stuttered. "I don't think---"
"You resent his perfect calm, so you tear it down."
The Fëanorian blinked, then swallowed heavily. "Yes."
"You have done everything to make Celeborn angry, to lose his calm, to reveal his imperfections."
Maedhros nodded, finally. "Yes."
Maedhros's head snapped up. "Her most of all!"
Galadriel had never experienced such rage, outside of actual battle. She had been deceived, eluded, and lied to. She had ridden almost three days without rest, and the whole while her thoughts had bent toward Celeborn and why he had fled Doriath as he had. It had all come to Maedhros, and what she had perceived as his crime against her lord.
But now, she was unsure. Maedhros's mockeries were more painful because they contained the seeds of truth.
Celeborn had run from her. Twice. And although Maedhros's claim that the Sindar preferred his kisses had registered as a falsehood, it was one not entirely without some little truth.
If not for revenge, then why had Celeborn come to this place?
The steward led her to Celeborn's rooms, finding them locked. He glanced to Galadriel for permission, and she nodded for him to use his keys. Eleni watched anxiously. If Celeborn's behavior was like a blow to her, how had it been for him? she wondered.
The fire had burned down in the hearth, and by its meager light Galadriel could see little in the front room, but enough to know he was not there. She signaled Eleni to wait there, and went to look in the bedroom, and finally, there he was, sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at the opposite wall. She had never seen his face so white and strained.
She returned briefly to signal that he had been found, re-entered, and shut the door behind her. His shoulders twitched at the sound.
"Beloved," she said, forcing her voice low, suppressing her anger and frustration, "why hast thou run from me to this place, forsaking kith and kin?"
His head lowered, a swath of silver hair sliding forward to hide his face. "Forgive me. Forgive me, Galadriel."
"Thou dost not answer me," she observed, heart beating quickly in dread. "I am no wolf to thy lamb! What have I ever needed from thee but the truth?"
"Thou wilt not like this truth," he said dully. "I fear to tell thee."
She carefully sat next to him and he twitched, as if to move away, but her hand stayed him. "Tell me anyway."
The whisper was so low she could barely hear him. "I have betrayed thee."
It was if the world stopped its motion and all the stars fell out of the sky. She fought to breathe. "How have you betrayed me?" At Celeborn's stricken look, she winced at the change of pronoun that heralded the change in her perception of him, but it was hardly something she could undo. "Why did you come here?"
"To answer a question. The question: 'How can I find pleasure in the arms of a stranger, and yet love you?'"
The first words slew her and her eyes ached. The latter revived her enough to ask: "Do you love me still?"
"Yes," he whispered. She was glad to find no hesitancy in the answer.
"You speak of Maedhros Kinslayer--!"
"Did I say I was proud? Did I say that I have not punished myself a thousand times over? I do not understand it! It has cleft my heart in twain!"
Galadriel stood, her agitation so great that she felt she might fly apart if she sat still. "Tell me everything."
"Galadriel…" Weary blue eyes pleaded with her.
"How dare you sit there, with my epesse on your lips, and deny me the truth! You cannot wound me more than you have already!"
Celeborn's head bowed. "He kissed me at the Falls of Sirion."
"Yes." She had suspected something of the sort.
"I was surprised. I was in the middle of it before I knew it had begun. I pushed him away."
"That didn't stop him," she prompted.
"No. He tried again, but I was so shocked, struggling with what had happened, that I struck him and stood away. Quesse answered to her training and interceded herself between us."
Somehow Galadriel had to smile at that. "And then my brother."
"Yes. I was furious. To this day, I don't know what I said to him."
"You told him you didn't like his cousin. He was somewhat shocked at your tone, considering your usual politeness."
"I remember disliking myself at that moment, more than Maedhros. I was appalled. For a moment, I felt…"
"You liked it."
"Yes!" His whole aspect told his torment. "I have never dallied as many often do. But had I loved men, and been apt to play, I would not have chosen him, not him! Not a son of Fëanor, slayer of my Teleri kin! It was insupportable!"
"Did you torture yourself with this the whole ride back to Menegroth?" She could picture it.
"I was guilt-stricken; I was consumed in self-questioning. I could not account for it. I held no love for him, and yet…" He trailed off, and pressed his fingers to his eyes.
Galadriel took a deep breath. "Beloved, it is no crime to find desire in another."
Celeborn stared at her. "It is against my very nature to love in one direction and desire in another!"
She frowned at him. "Perhaps this is where my Noldor sensibilities differ from yours. We account love and desire to be…rather more flexible."
She had astounded him. She could see it. "In what manner?" he demanded. "How can one love one way and desire in another?"
Taking his hands, she said: "Certainly, one can love and not desire."
His fingers were tense and cold in her grip. "Yes," he said, turning his eyes away. Galadriel wondered of whom he was thinking.
"Does it not follow that one can desire, and not love?"
He swallowed, eyes flickering. He was thinking of Maedhros, perhaps. "I …thought not until…"
"Then I follows that desire and love sometimes do not meet in one person. For you, they do not meet in Maedhros."
"I had thought so. But never have I heard it commonly known that such a thing could be! And how could I feel it, if I loved another?"
She sighed. "Dost thou love me?"
Color tinted his fair face. "I do."
The harder question. "Does thou desire me?"
The color mounted. "I do."
The relief she felt was unimaginable. "Then ask thyself this: what was it in his kiss that warmed thee? If all else about him didst repulse thee, then it is that one thing that roused thee."
He looked down at their joined hands, eyes darkening in remembrance. "Believe me, I have thought on it. For in coming here, and confronting him, I once again knew I did not admire him in any regard except that one."
"Has he tried again?"
"Yes. He took delight in thinking I had pursued him for love."
"He would. Maedhros does not lack for arrogance." That won a small smile from him. "And didst thou come to a conclusion?"
His head sank lower, his face once again hidden by his bright hair. "I do not know how to say it."
"Describe this kiss, then."
Celeborn trembled. "Wilt thou hate me for saying? I hate myself for saying!" He clenched at her fingers, breathing deep. "Hard," he said. "Demanding."
Her mouth opened in surprise, not so much at the description as the realization of what he was saying in terms of his own desires. There were men among the Noldor who knew this kind of longing; it was rare but not unknown.
She tested this thought. "Did you find pleasure in the thought of yielding?"
Celeborn choked. "Forgive me, I did! I had not known that I would feel that way! Am I cursed?"
"Beloved, there are men who have felt thusly, that seek to submit under a commanding will. You are not cursed!"
There was a long silence. Celeborn's head lifted; blue eyes hesitantly glancing at her. "It is so?"
Lifting his hand to her cheek, she smiled. "It is so." His uncertain expression was so open and bewildered, he seemed almost a boy. "Such a handsome man thou art," she said, just to see the color rise in his face again. "If you have a mind to yield, I will not complain. What, shy still?"
"Galadriel," he protested, turning his head away.
She sighed. "I will be merciful," she decided, observing his discomfort with compassion. "At this time and place, at least. The question is, of course, how things stand with my uncle and cousins over this whole affair."
Celeborn took a deep breath. "Maedhros desires and dislikes me for the same reason he does you."
She stared at him, amazed by this conclusion.
"We have lost nothing, not even our dignity," he clarified. "Or so he thinks. And he despises us for it."
Artanis, most of all? Fingon wondered, staring at the pale features of his red-haired friend.
"How do you mean?" he asked.
"Every tragedy has been cast her way. Her mother's kin die in Alqualondë, and yet she is not brought down. She is forced to cross the Helcaraxë, and she survives. She comes to this deadly place, and finds royal kin to shelter her! And, after ages of refusing every suitor to come her way, she finds the most exquisite Dark Elf in Beleriand and binds him to her!"
"You measure her fortune against your losses?"
"How can I not? We had everything, did we not? Half of it was taken away, and the other we cast from us."
"Maedhros," Fingon murmured, "is it just that…jealousy? Is this madness envy?"
Storm gray eyes stared into his. "I was upon that mountain a long while, Fingon. You can't imagine how I suffered, how I thought on all I had done and found myself wanting. You will never know that feeling."
Icy fingers of dread grasping his heart, Fingon realized he was finally seeing the center of everything now, the core of his friend's madness. "Mellonamin," he murmured. "Do not further torment yourself."
"I have not stopped," Maedhros whispered. "I have never stopped…"
Finally the Fëanorian succumbed, and allowed Finrod to pull him close and comfort him, and although he trembled, he did not weep.
His tears had dried forever on the peaks of Thangorodrim, and Fingon was the only one who truly understood why.
The day he had cut off his best friend's hand instead of his life, Fingon had set them on this road. Now he could see the end. Did Maedhros wish Fingon had killed him, instead of freeing him? Fingon shivered at the doubt that he had subverted so many times in the past. But all he said was: "This poison has long been building within you."
Maedhros did not answer.
It was a much altered scene later than night, with Galadriel at Celeborn's side and Fingon at Maedhros's. Maedhros, repentant and quiet, offered a formal apology to the Sindarin lord, and it was accepted with solemnity. Then both parties were steered away from each other during the night court's festivities under the stern eye of King Fingolfin, who knew better than trust Galadriel's mild expression. He would have no peace until the silver-haired catalyst and his warrior-lady were far outside his borders.
For her part, Galadriel could not help but make the acquaintance of many of her cousins, and beside her Celeborn was silent, attentive and strangely anticipatory. The shaken and doubtful man was once again his cool and collected self, but from his eyes he could see that he had not forgotten what had been said between them. She let him ruminate on matters during this time until she caught him sleepily stifling a yawn as more and more people retired.
She accompanied him back to his chambers and watched as he grew tenser and tenser the nearer they got to his door. When he opened the door, it was with trembling hands. She shook her head at his inquiring look.
"I am weary," she said, "and bid you good night."
Something flickered in his eyes, uncertain and shy. It was that hesitant look that sparked in her the desire for touch. The warm flesh of his cheek under her hand was smooth, so pale. He was all cool silver and shadowed blue eyes and yet under her hand he burned warmly. He trembled, and his eyes closed.
And when she kissed him, he yielded so sweetly.
Mellonamin = My friend.
Amin lava, mellonamin = I yield, my friend
Many thanks to Cirdan_Havens and z107m for information/inspiration on things Fingon/Hithlum related. Also thanks to Chorale and her estimable "master" for breaking down the geographical ramifications on Hithlum architecture. You people so rawk in terms of total geekiness! I 3 you!