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Celegorm shifted the weight of the book on his knee, gently stretching out his injured leg. Huan huffed as the limb intruded the space he had occupied at the foot of the bed.
“Cease your complaining, old friend,” Celegorm smiled. He reached a hand towards the great hound and was rewarded with a slobbery kiss. “Count yourself lucky that I am still here to share a bed with – and that my cousin doesn't mind you shedding hairs all over his silk sheets.”
Huan yawned widely and shook his head. His ears flapped and his pendulous jowls swung. Celegorm hastily shielded the book from the flying globules of spit; Finrod may not mind hair on the sheets, but he was fond of poetry, and might not take kindly to his cousin's companion destroying precious volumes of verse.
There was a knock on the door, and Celegorm stifled his instinctive groan. Could his brother not give him peace for even an afternoon? Although it was unlike Curufin to knock – his brother had taken to striding in and out of Celegorm's chambers at the most unsociable hours, as though terrified that Celegorm might vanish into thin air if he left him alone. And the knock had sounded uncertain, almost deferential. Not like Curufin at all. “Who is it?” he called.
“Only I – Finrod.”
Celegorm sank back onto his pillows, relieved. He did not know how much more of Curufin's well-intentioned fuss he could endure without snapping. “Enter.”
The door swung open, and Huan whuffed happily and bounded down from the bed to greet his master's cousin. Flickering golden light from the torches on the wall caught in the King's hair and gleamed softly against his blue robes. “Steady, great one,” laughed Finrod, dropping to one knee to receive Huan's attentions. “You forget your size.” He scratched the hound's silky ears, and smiled up at Celegorm. “You are lucky in your friends, cousin.”
“Huan, to me.” Celegorm felt a cold stab of jealousy even as the hound returned to his place, and quickly stifled it. It was ungenerous when Finrod had been so kind. His injuries were making him irritable. Remembering his manners, he pushed back the coverlet, but Finrod raised a hand and shook his head.
“There's no need to get up.” He closed the door behind him, then reached into his robes and produced a glass bottle filled with ruby red liquid. “I remembered you have a taste for fortified wine. This is particularly good; I was saving it for when you're up and about again, but something tells me that you might need it to help you endure Curufin's ministrations.”
Celegorm couldn't help laughing. “How did you guess?”
Finrod smiled, but it did not reach his eyes. “I had brothers too.”
The past tense wiped all mirth from Celegorm. They had all grieved when they heard the news of Angrod and Aegnor's fall. “Ai, cousin...” He longed to take Finrod in his arms and comfort him as he had long ago in Valinor, when his cousin was a child and their names had been Findaráto and Tyelkormo – but he would not permit himself the indignity of limping across the room. Instead, he tilted his head gently, inviting Finrod to come and sit by him.
“A moment.” Finrod crouched and opened one of the cupboards in the carved wooden sideboard. “I made sure we stored a pair of wine goblets in all of the guest rooms – ah.” He carefully removed a pair of beautifully fashioned glass vessels, placed them on the sideboard, and uncorked the bottle with a satisfying pop. “I won't insult you by asking you to drink good wine out of that.” He jerked his head at the water pitcher and cup that the healers had left on Celegorm's bedside table.
He studied Celegorm's face as he passed him one of the goblets. “You look better.”
“I am kept wrapped in silk and feathers and cosseted like a child. I could not fail to get better.”
Finrod raised his eyebrows. “Do not jest, cousin. It was a near thing.”
“I know.” Celegorm pushed away the memory of their flight south and west by the marches of Doriath, the fire that had burned in his left leg, the dizzying ache of his broken shoulder, the wild fever that had made the drifting dust seem a driving blizzard and the glow of dawn a dragon's flaming maw.
“Forgive me.” Finrod's fingers brushed lightly against Celegorm's hair. “I did not mean to make you think of it again so soon.”
Celegorm reached up and clasped his cousin's arm. Finrod returned his grip, though his blue eyes seemed distant, and sorrow gave them wisdom beyond their years. The fire in the hearth behind him gilded his proud form in deep gold-red light. “Look at you,” Celegorm said softly. “A King of your people. What happened to the little cousin I taught to hunt, and used to soothe when he fell from his horse?”
Finrod took a sip of wine; the grief receded for a moment behind a mischievous smile. “Oh, I am still him too.”
“I am glad to hear it.”
“And when this is over and you are well again, we will ride out and hunt together as we used to.” After a brief hesitation he sat down on his cousin's bed, arranging himself at the bottom so that he was facing Celegorm, and stretched out his legs. Almost without thinking about it, Celegorm passed him a pillow so that the wooden bedstead didn't dig into his back, and Finrod laughed a little as he accepted it. “How many years is it since we last did this?”
Memories flooded back – feasts and hunts and celebrations, and the morning after each event the cousins would gather in someone's chambers and eagerly share gossip from the previous night. “I couldn't count.”
“I imagine not.” Finrod tilted his head, a teasing smile on his lips. “You had usually had too much wine the night before. Go easy with that, by the way,” he added, nodding at Celegorm's glass. “My healers won't thank me for making you sick with wine after they've spent all of this time patching you up.”
Celegorm chuckled and sipped his drink. It was strong, but smooth and rich with sweet berry notes. “You're right – it is very good.”
Finrod's smile faded, and he swirled the liquid in his glass. “Do you miss the old times, cousin?”
Finrod looked up, evidently startled at the venom in his voice.
“I do not miss Valinor,” Celegorm clarified. “I do think on the times we had together, and wish for a return to that friendship and simplicity – but I would build that for us here, for those of us that remain. It cannot be the same, I know,” he added, thinking of Angrod and Aegnor's bright faces, and Turgon broken by grief, “but cousin, does not this land feel more real to you? Is it not fresher, cleaner, clearer than Valinor? Do you not love its wildness, the strangeness of it, the way it is always changing?” He leaned forward. “I cannot bear now to think of that...that artificial perfection, the cage we were kept in -”
“Was it truly a cage?”
“How can you think otherwise? Finrod – remember – the air was always still, or perhaps gently breezy, and always warm, even when it should have been winter. Here in Beleriand we feel the full and fierce beauty of the world – great summer storms, the colours of autumn, long winters when the lakes freeze and the world sleeps under snow...”
“Had you endured the Grinding Ice you might speak less fondly of snow.”
The fire behind Celegorm's words guttered, and the fierce rush of energy ebbed away. He leaned back into his pillows. “I did not think.”
“Peace, Celegorm. I know now that it was not you who burned those ships.” But Finrod's eyes were distant again.
For a moment it seemed to Celegorm that Finrod was the elder of the two of them, and that he, Celegorm, was the foolish young cousin, clamouring for even a moment of his beloved idol's time. He took a gulp of wine. “Why did you follow us? You could have gone back, as your father did.”
“You know why.” The light shifted in the room as the fire died, etching shadows into Finrod's face. “At first we followed you for love. How could we abandon our cousins, after all we we had shared, all we had done together? Have we not ever sought to protect and succour one another, in spite of the strife between our parents, and Melkor's lies?” He drained his glass. “Then, when we thought you had betrayed us, we followed for revenge.”
“Now we stay for love and revenge both – love for those that remain to us, and revenge on the monster that has taken the rest.” His breath caught a little in his throat as he inhaled, and he brushed tears from his eyes. “A, elenya cala...”
The wise King was gone, and in his place was the vulnerable, gentle boy Celegorm had known across the Sea. Gingerly he eased himself forward and folded Finrod into his arms, stroking the golden hair and wrapping his own wounded soul around his cousin's, feeling Finrod's unmistakeable aura of sunlight on stone and deep, still water. Huan leaned against them both, his warmth and the rhythmic swell and fall of his sighing breath lending comfort to them both.
They remained in each others' arms until hurried footsteps in the corridor broke their reverie. The paces came to a halt outside Celegorm's room, and were followed by a sharp, urgent knock.
“My lords? Forgive the intrusion. We have had word from the lord Orodreth. The battle goes ill, and he begs for reinforcements – his messenger is in the Great Hall.”
In one graceful movement Finrod rose from the bed. “I will be there in a moment,” he called through the door, then set his goblet on the sideboard and turned to Celegorm. “I must go.”
“I know.” Celegorm gestured at his useless leg, his mouth twisting bitterly. “I would go with you if I could.”
“But you cannot.” Finrod bent and kissed his brow – then he paused as he straightened, staring at an emerald ring on his right hand. As though hypnotised, he lifted the ring to his face, watching the dying glow of the fire catch in its contours. With his left hand he traced its circumference, then began to twist it backwards and forwards on his finger.
Celegorm knew that Finrod carried the gift of foresight, and he recognised that glazed look in the blue eyes. He did not recognise the ring, although it was a beautifully crafted piece, shaped like two snakes supporting a crown of golden flowers. He wondered what about it could have induced this trance. Carefully, slowly, he reached up and stroked his cousin's hand. Normally he would let the vision run its course, but not this time. Nargothrond needed its King.
“Finrod,” he whispered. “Come back.”
Finrod blinked, and let go of the ring as though it burned him.
“What did you see?” Celegorm asked.
“I do not know.” Finrod frowned. “I think...there will be a debt, and a reckoning...”
“If anyone owes a debt then it is I. And there will indeed be a reckoning if you do not go to your people now, before they panic.”
Finrod smiled, and the strange cloudiness vanished from his eyes. “Ai, Celegorm, I am glad you came here." He touched his fingers against Celegorm's cheek. "Do not leave me.”
“Never, tyenya.” He returned the smile. “As long as you do not leave me.”
A, elenya cala - "Oh, my shining stars." Finrod is of course referring to Aegnor and Angrod, who perished in the Dagor Bragollach.
Tyenya - "Dear kinsman."
Source: Ardalambion. Apologies for my horrible Quenyan grammar - happy to be corrected.
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