Summary: Silmarillion-based. Pengolod returns to Armenelos, learns of the preoccupations of Númenor's philosophers, and tells Tar-Minastir of Minastir's ancestor Elros and the War of Wrath.
Story Rating: Rated PG.
Disclaimer: These characters and Middle-Earth are the copyright of the Tolkien estate and this fan fiction is not meant to infringe on that copyright in any way.
Thanks to beta readers Aayesha and Suzana.
Pengolod arrived at Armenelos an hour past midnight. Shunning the heat of noon, he had begun the ride from Rómenna two hours before sundown. At any elvish settlement, there would have been someone of rank awake to meet him, but at one in the morning in Armenelos, there were only some surprised night guards. An impulse had come over him as he had drawn near and seen the Meneltarma’s height rearing dark above Armenelos. Finding himself free until dawn, Pengolod left steed and luggage with them, and said he would return with the day. He would visit the tombs of Númenor’s perished kings and queens.
As Pengolod ascended the sacred mountain for a second time, he walked up into mists. Clouds driven over the land were butting against the mountain, wrapping their moisture about it, allowing only glimpses of the stars. After all the well-finished pavements of Rómenna and Armenelos, the dirt and stone path felt appealingly natural beneath Pengolod’s thin boot-soles. At one spot, he stepped off the path simply to stand on a patch of grass again, and enjoyed its soft comfort for some moments. He had not felt such since he had returned to Rómenna last, there being few lawns in the port city. Then Pengolod drifted onwards, inhaling the damp, cool airs with pleasure.
After a time, Pengolod came to the first tomb, Elros’ tomb, its cave’s mouth opening directly onto the path. Of all the tombs, this was the one that faced true West. The tomb-runes over the entrance were simple, with only Elros’ name and years of Elros’ reign. Pengolod had to stoop slightly to go inside.
Within, the cave was natural, with just enough room for someone to stand by the stone bier. The lid of the casket had been carved with Elros’ full likeness, the length of a man in repose. Pengolod peered to see if it was a good likeness of Elros as he had seen the man. Very good, he decided, though not as fine as art had become in Númenor. It reminded him of the stonework of the mortal Wood-woses, the Drúedain.
Pengolod was mindful that mortals’ souls sometimes lingered as ghosts. He stood beside the bier and casket for a time, striving to sense any presences in mist, shadow, and darkness. If souls returned from wherever they went outside the circles of the World, he thought, perhaps one of them might answer his questions.
He felt nothing. Elros’ departed soul did not linger. There would be no answer for him, here.
Pengolod slipped along to the next tomb in line. Elros’ son Nolimon had been given a ruler’s honour with his grave, though he had never reigned, between the long life of Elros and his contentment making books. Here, Pengolod tried even harder to sense something of the occupant’s spirit. Failing, he went on, working his way up the mountain. The tombs grew more spacious and fine inside as the years of Númenor progressed, gaining columns and tiled floors and carved tablets, with more detailed likenesses reclining eternally upon the biers. For all their trappings, these other tombs were equally empty of souls.
At the tomb of Aldarion, Pengolod paused. Its entry-way was still blocked by offerings. New ones had been added since he had last been there, for sailors gone to sea over the summer. More, there was a strange keenness to the breeze, which had taken on a disturbing whistle in the grass. Suddenly, Pengolod wondered whether it was permitted to ascend the Meneltarma if it was not a holy day. He lingered on the path, considering. Eventually, though he was curious about the other tombs, and wanted to ascend and see if he could discern the lights of Avallónë by starlight, he went down. With every step, he wanted to turn back more, even as he became more uncertain as to whether he had transgressed with his wanderings. When Pengolod returned to the King’s door with the light of dawn, which was already summer-sharp, he said nothing of where he had gone.
After the Erulaitale and its great feasts and fairs, Armenelos was quiet, almost sleepy. Pengolod gathered that the King’s Court was not the fashionable place to be at that time of the year. Tar-Minastir’s near-empty hall and his greeting confirmed this. “Fair fortune brings you here at this time. Were we not concluding our great war in Middle-Earth, I would be by the Western sea, governing the people by day and gazing from my tower’s height at night. This year, had you come later, I would have gone to Rómenna, to greet the last great transport of our returning troops.”
“I hope that, after your victory, you will never more have to absent yourself from Andúnië in the summer, Tar-Minastir – or, if so, you have a reason that pleases all Arda better than duty to war.” Pengolod bowed.
Tar-Minastir replied, “Fair spoken as ever! I share your hope, and add to it that I wish you spoke prophecy. Stay here as you wish it. Since you have returned for our archives, they are open to you.”
Pengolod went on his way buoyed by this, a better start than his last beginning with Tar-Minastir. Perhaps it had been the ceaseless crowds that brought out Tar-Minastir’s regal pomposity, before.
Far more than on his previous visit, Pengolod was left to his own devices. Minastir verily had quantities of kingly work, and trusted that Pengolod had been sufficiently flattered and impressed before. Pengolod kept to his night-owl’s schedule, taking his sleep in the heat of the day. With his hours turned about, apart from the King’s table, he rarely spoke to anyone who was not an archivist or a servant. Though Armenelos was notably cooler than Rómenna, Pengolod did not turn down the ices and cooled sweetmeats that were Armenelos’ delicacies for the season. He felt somewhat guilty as he accepted them, recalling all the humble remedies for the heat in Aelfwine’s house; but he accepted them nonetheless. He noted, too, that the page and maid who attended him were both in the prime of their youth, and singularly fair.
To reconcile himself to the luxury around him, Pengolod was diligent in the archives. Nûph’s question preyed on him, and not for Nûph’s sake alone. It would be something he could offer Aelfwine, to say, the way you were born; this is why; those who said or did you ill are wrong. His forays into the Númenoreans’ knowledge of such things dismayed him. He was drawn into the texts and pamphlets of healers, healers from the past, for the study of imperfect bodies had fallen away in Tar-Minastir’s time. He shook his head over a recent folio, a self-styled expert’s dissertation of ideal beauty amongst mortals. It was lavishly illuminated with the lines and planes of allegedly perfect faces, marked by their angles and percentages of symmetry, and Pengolod wondered that such a work had taken up so much of one man’s mortal life.
Pengolod turned to a new section of the library without finding what he sought. Other questions emerged, like salamanders squirming under a lifted stone. Númenorean philosophers had not wrangled with lame legs and fair faces. To them, the greater issue was death. The silence of the tomb was a challenge in its mystery, and they too had beseeched the dead to bring back what wisdom they could. Pengolod was distracted for a full day by their extensive vocabulary for death. There were myriad words indicating all the parts of a funeral or mourning, and the accoutrements of the tombs. There were the diverse names they gave to what awaited their souls after death, beyond the Circles of the World, painting it as either paradise or cold justice. Pengolod read these with a kind of awe, torn between amazement at their imaginations and a sense that such thinking was, somehow, blasphemous, trespassing against the unknowable truth of the One. Their visions were all so different; how could one know for sure?
For in that matter as well, no answer had been vouchsafed to mortals, nor accepted by their philosophers. Pengolod even began to wonder if there should be answers to such questions. Regarding Nûph’s query, was it not enough that he and Aelfwine simply were? Aelfwine had enough virtue and talent in him for ten men. Nûph was packing more life and wit into his span of years than many of the Elves Pengolod had known, Elves content to cycle in their lives’ routine like trees through the seasons.
A good week passed as Pengolod researched, noted, and made his own stabs at philosophy. Though absorbed, he did his best to be a considerate guest, responding to invitations, thanking the servants even as he dissuaded them from the inappropriate fawning they fell into, they being, Pengolod thought, over-enthused in their youth. Then, at the hour when evening turned to night, he had his first unscheduled encounter with Tar-Minastir.
Pengolod had just set aside his first volume of the night in the library when he heard footsteps, then the sound of a door. Looking, he saw someone’s turned-up shoes set outside the astronomer’s balcony (which he had duly admired in midsummer.) It pleased him that he was not the only scholar enjoying the reaches of the night, and he kept an ear open for the astronomer’s return. That the stargazer was Tar-Minastir surprised him for only a moment; if he watched the stars in Andúnië, why not from here, as well? “Good evening, Tar-Minastir, or should I say, good night?” said Pengolod. “What do you read in the stars?”
“Good fortune and prosperity for my people,” Minastir said. He sincerely believed this; despite the late hour, some of the creases that had marked his face earlier were smoothed away. “Indeed, I cannot see an ill augur for the rest of the year, no clouds in the heavens, and the Sickle of the Valar sharp for the harvest, even in these misty skies. The best star-gazing about here is from the Meneltarma, but that is rare. You are up late? Were you comfortable?”
“In the heats of Rómenna, I fell into the habit of working at night, and it still suits me,” said Pengolod.
”How little light you use – only one candle,” Minastir observed. The wavering light and shadow made all the contours of his handsome face firmly mortal.
Pengolod replied, “An Elf would remark that I had to use it at all. My old master Rumil had dwelled long in the light of the Trees, and could read by the glimmer of his own skin.” Thinking of his master’s old authority and faced with Minastir’s kingly presence, Pengolod felt his conscience twinge, and said, “May I ask you something? Is it forbidden to go to the Meneltarma outside of the three holy days?”
“Not at all. Anyone may go thence at any time, as long as the law of silence is observed. Do you wish to go once more?” asked Minastir.
“No: I have been. When I arrived here a week past, I went up the Meneltarma’s path in the watches of the night, to see more of the King’s tombs.”
Minastir looked impressed. “We say that ghosts walk at that hour. Did you see any?”
“Not a soul,” said Pengolod.
Pleased, Minastir replied, “Ghosts are barred, by geas or ill deed, from leaving the world. So it is well that you met none of my ancestors: it means that they were all noble-hearted.”
Pengolod said, “But I have met some of your ancestors in life. You are very like them to look upon. You resemble Elros far more than Aldarion did.”
Minastir laughed, a little. “I should be used to this by now. Yet it is always astonishing, that you Elves have seen and known that which is the oldest history.”
Hastily, Pengolod added, “With Elros, I did not know him well, or long. But I can tell you something of him, and of the war where he gained his kingship, if you will hear it.”
Minastir took a seat across Pengolod, his gravity unsettled by his eagerness, the candle’s light turned to a sparkle of alertness and wit in his deep-set eyes. “Speak away, then, Master Elf, and take all the night if you need to!”
So Pengolod began, thinking that, as with Aelfwine, this might be the first step towards the honest friendship with an elf that Minastir yearned to have.
We were living in some despair on the Isle of Balar when we received our first herald of the War of Wrath. Who were we? By then, a motley crew of Elves and mortals, the remnants of all good folk who had had the good fortune to escape from our foes, the orcs and Easterlings and foul beasts of Morgoth. Balar, our refuge, was safe, but I have had other dwellings I preferred. The isle was wrapped in endless marshes, and the west wind lashed cold. We had dwelt there for some years, and many of us were growing concerned, or our prospects were limited. Our young rightful King, Gil-Galad, was starting to speak of returning to the shores of Middle-Earth, and when told we would have to fight for it, he said, “Then we will fight.”
It was at this time that we saw the omen, like everyone else in Middle-Earth. A new star arose. We who had dwelled in Sirion and seen the beauty of the Silmaril recognized it for what it was, but we did not know its import. We thought that Ulmo had salvaged it from the deeps of the sea when Elwing fell. Soon, this good augur was followed by a sight I had never seen in all my days, an equal wonder to us. Ships from the West, at last.
They were fair ships and many, and when they moored in Balar’s one anchorage, we saw that their cargo was warriors. Their herald required some interpreting, since the Elvish languages of the shores of Eldamar and of Middle-Earth were sundered by then. I was one of the translators who untangled what they meant. They had been sent to let us know that the Valar had hearkened to Eärendil’s plea, and that the Powers were coming to cast Morgoth out of the Circles of the World once and for all. They, our kindred, had come to Middle-Earth to aid the Speaking Folk during this time of battle and tumult. We cheered them and made them welcome. They were of the high Vanyar kindred and of the Noldor who had repented and turned back before the Curse of Mandos. Valiant and fair they were, well-armed with steel from Aulë’s forges, and, all in all, absolutely ignorant of what they were in for. I saw them gaping at how we lived – and, while we did not dwell in the stone halls of yore, we did not live so badly, for Elves in Middle-Earth at that time.
Gil-Galad showed what he was made of, then. He spoke to their putative commanders, and had soon persuaded them that they would do well to let us of Balar join their troops, as guides and interpreters. He told us that our job was to keep these newcomers alive, and if we had to run interference against the Kinslayers, that was as much a task as warding them from the orcs. So we went forth.
Our main task, the one given to the Elves of Aman who had come, was simply to warn all goodly Speaking Folk to leave Beleriand, soon to be the battle-field of the Valar itself. They could not tell us why this geas had been laid upon them, but we all worked hard to fulfill it, journeying to the few stockades that remained, fighting many skirmishes with orcs and brigands. At that time, all Elves came to be united under one banner for the great battle, another gain due to Gil-Galad. He managed to stay our wrath when we met the Sons of Feanor once more. They were as tricky as ever, for they sent forth as herald, to our shock, Elwing’s son Elrond, who we had thought slain in the sack of Sirion years gone. Gil-Galad did his own negotiations, and forged an alliance in the strangeness of the times. It was well that this had been achieved by the time the Valar came forth.
The first sign of this was that the new star that had appeared changed its course in the sky, traveling eastward across the heavens heedless of day or night, with the glimmer of lesser stars about it. Next, our horses and hounds seemed to caper for no reason, and then they stopped, laying back their ears and going still with fear. Many riders were taken far south by their steeds, against their will. But even those of us on two legs understood: by then, we too felt the silent throbbing of the earth beneath our feet, as if it was rocked by massive footsteps. The wood-elves among us climbed trees and peered to the West. The horizon, they said, was ringed with aurora borealis, and there were mountains in the sea – mountains that had not been there before. When all the birds in the land about took off in great flocks, streaking South, we knew the hour of great battle was nigh. The gentler folk, we sent south, too. Those of us minded for vengeance arrayed ourselves around several passes. There, over the years, we ambushed many an orc and many an Easterling as they fled the ruin of the great battle, and the host of Hador had warg-skin trophies to warm them in the winter.
We had our vengeance, but the battle of the Valar, even from afar, was too awful even for the most doughty among us. At times the smokes and fumes of the broken earth in the North made day seem like night. Other times, the sky would flare with auroras and blazing, falling stars to make the night brilliant. Great storms whipped the land, and more and more often, the earth would groan and tremble, leaving great ravines. The world itself was breaking and changing. When the weather and land grew more perilous than the occasional battles, we gave up and withdrew south to join our people. Other groups of fighters and messengers straggled in over several years, all having come to the same conclusion. We dwelt cautiously, moving often to avoid the deep, frequent changes of the shore’s waters.
One day, after a very severe storm, I awoke full of a great joy. I should have been ill-tempered, for the peals upon peals of thunder had robbed me of much rest. Instead, I felt as if some shadow had been lifted from me, giving me the first unmarred day of my life. I was not alone in this. The birds’ dawn chorus was a glorious chain of song, and the other folk who were about were similarly blithe. It seemed a day of fair omen, and so it proved.
In the morning, the day’s promise was fulfilled. A sizeable warrior-company of the folk of Hador, that had not been seen for many a year, found us at last. Gil-Galad summoned us interpreters, in case we were needed. Elrond delivered this summons to us, and this seemed proper to us, by then. At first, Elrond had been treated as a peer by Gil-Galad for politics’ sake, but the two fellows, young for elf-men and come of age amidst the ruins of war, became friends true. Elrond also had a marvelous mind for lore, which has come to its fullness. I count myself fortunate that I was able to see Elrond’s reunion with his brother, Elros, that morn.
The warrior-company had taken so long to reach us because they were grown to be a massive van of refugees. I admired a tall warlord striding at the front, decked out in wolf-skins and strings of amber, with the jawbones of orcs clattering from the bindings around his spear. When he came closer, we saw that though his face was painted, he was one of those mortals who was elven-fair, with grey eyes and dark locks. A warrior-maid of like kind was striding by his side, her long blonde braids looped about her head, her paint curled in whorls about her face and arms. He soon outpaced her as he leaped forwards, ignoring any politeness to shout out, “Elrond! Elrond! My brother! Vidumavi, did I not say that he lived yet? Elrond!”
Elrond’s reserve fell away like dawn’s softness before the full sun. He shouted and leapt forwards, showing the same long stride, and we marveled as they embraced. For beneath the silk and armor of the one, and the leather and war-paint of the other, they were like two fair copies of the same book. The kindred had, after a fearful battle, been separated in the strangeness of the times, and had each fought separate wars on the same side, until this reunion. Elros pounded his brother’s back and whooped for joy, and all his mortal company took up a cry. No fine diplomacy would be needed to merge the many strangers with Elros into our company. Elros was evidently their leader, and beloved, and they were goodly at his word.
We were very glad indeed. However, my joy was tempered by learning that a mortal who had helped me for long in Balar was known to these newcomers, but had been slain. They assured me that it had been a good noble death, especially for someone so hale and grey. I was saddened still. If he had been an elf-man, he would have just come of age, and he had finally reached something close to mastery of certain linguistic arts.
You would think that such an amazing reunion could not be capped. We were at feast at sundown when something even greater happened. Alerted by the crying of many birds, we looked skywards, and stayed looking in wonder. A vast feathered flock was coming nigh, silhouetted in the dusk against that which drew them, something none of us had ever seen: a star floating gently to the earth. The light should have blinded us as it drew near, but it did not, softening and refracting. This was the Silmaril set in the sky, and the one who carried it. At last, to our surprise, we saw how it was borne. It had been carried in a white boat of strange design, its deck enclosed with great windows and its sails silver, which now drifted to the earth, spilling Silmaril-light from its windows and reflecting it from its sails. Upon its landing, we saw writ upon its side the name Vingilot – it was the very ship in which Earendil had left our shores, transformed. Very beautiful it was, yet to see it made one as giddy as strong wine, it was so strange. This feeling is why I rarely speak of that time, even to chronicle it, for who would believe such things?
In the side of the ship, a doorway fell open, the door turning into a ramp, and the strange vessel’s captain and passenger disembarked. The passenger came first; the outline of a fair tall man, blurred and difficult to discern, through a halo of rainbow and aurora. When he spoke, the light about him changed, and his lines cleared. He existed the most when he used his voice. For he was Eonwë, the herald of Manwë. It was the first time I had ever beheld a Maia who had not been turned to evil. As the Maiar allied to Morgoth had inspired fear and despair, so he uplifted all our hearts by his very presence, and his words. “Rejoice all ye people! The World is delivered from the Great Evil: Morgoth has been defeated and cast out. Now the hour of fate is come to you. First, here is Eärendil, who has borne me hither, to tell you of his doom!”
Eärendil stepped out from behind Eonwë and told the tale of his successful errand. The only reason he could compare to his passenger in glory was that he bore a Silmaril mounted in a great silver helm. We still recognized him, though he was greatly changed, in fair and strange array, both aged and exalted by his curious doom. I was near Elros and Elrond, and I heard them exclaim, one to the other, “That is…” Elrond began, and Elros finished the thought, “Our father?” They looked at each other and, after a word I did not hear, each gave Eärendil one rueful glance. Together, they went to stand by Maglor in the crowd. Maglor had fostered them from early childhood, but he did not notice their arrival. His expression, as he looked on the Silmaril again, was consumed with hunger.
When Eärendil concluded, he received a mighty cheer from the gathering, and Eonwë spoke further. He told us that the Doom was lifted (this was hailed with wild shouts) and that any of the Elves who wished might, again, journey to and dwell in Aman, on the isle of Tol Eresseä (news greeted with further cheers and muttering). Next, he said that the valiant mortals who had sought to flee the darkness could now do so and that the great isle of Númenor, safe and fair between Aman and Middle-Earth, awaited them and would be their realm and dwelling, where they would have long life, health, and good fortune. This gathered another mighty cheer. Lastly, he declared that there was only one matter to settle the chaos of the time. “Elros and Elrond, come forth!” They did, Elros boldly, Elrond hesitant, and their followers went to the front of the crowd, anxious. “The choice that is given to your sire and mother is given to you. Choose you how you will be counted for your fate: will you be Elf or mortal?”
Elros recovered first. “We must choose right now?”
Eonwë was merciless in his beauty. “Yes.”
The two brothers drew together and spoke privately for some minutes, casting telling glances hither and yon. The rest of the crowd began to speak amongst themselves about their own fate. Eventually, Elros lifted a great horn he carried and blew it, and Elrond lifted the tall banner he carried as herald of Maedhros and gave it a flourish. With everyone’s attention again, Elros spoke, shouting out. “I choose to become mortal, that I may take Vidumavi the Golden as my bride in full!” The tall warrior-maid who had stood by him often flew to his side, weeping with joy, and they embraced before all the company. The mortals started up a din of chanting, repeating Elros’ name, and many Elves joined them in the heated moment. Elrond lifted his banner once more, but full silence was impossible to achieve. I did hear him say, “I choose to become an Elf; as Elros has chosen for the love of mortals, I have chosen for love of the Eldar.”
The crowd’s muttering and queries as those who had not heard asked what he had said was drowned out by Eonwë, who lifted one bright hand and said, “Elros, thy choice is sealed, and your bride is known; mortal you are and your kin to come. Elrond, thy choice is sealed as well, but your bride not known; thus thy choice will also be the choice of thy children. So mote it be!”
Our celestial visitors stayed for the rest of the night’s feasting, Eärendil and his sons gingerly sitting at the high table and dealing with an endless stream of well-wishers and the curious. Elros was already taking audiences like the King he would soon become. I wandered and spoke with many. More of Elves than I had expected wished to stay in Middle-Earth, each for their own reasons. The Lords of Balar stayed; Círdan, who loved mortal shores; the lordly survivors of Doriath, Celeborn and Galadriel, Oropher and his son Thranduil. Celebrimbor, last heir of sons of Feanor, did not decide until the disastrous events of a few days later. Maedhros and Maglor seemed to be deferring their decisions. Maybe they were, until their own debate, after which they filched the remaining Silmarils and went to their doom. Following this, Celebrimbor took up the bereft followers of Maedhros and Maglor, many of whom had their own reasons to not return to Aman, whose shores they had sullied with Elvish blood. Celebrimbor was fiery and proud, but not one for politics, then; he swore his fealty to Gil-Galad, when Gil-Galad was crowned a week later.
But that all came later. I decided what I myself would do that night. Gondolin where I had long dwelled was fallen, as was our following home at Sirion, and the isle of Balar had been rendered uninhabitable, all in eighty years, a blink of an eye. Anything next would be a change. I might have gone over Sea then; but after hearing others, I did not want to miss out on interesting times ahead. As many of them said of themselves, Middle-Earth was my home. By the dawn that ended the feast, I had been sounded out about a promising role in the court of Gil-Galad.
There followed fifty years of building and ferrying. The Halls of Lindon were raised, and many ships were wrought; one ship of Elves, then one ship of mortals, departed in turn. I remember the day we Elves waved at the last mortal ship to set sail, then went back to the lamps of Lindon.
Thus the world was made three parts; Valinor, Númenor, and Middle-Earth, balanced in their equilibrium for long years of peace. But as you know, that peace was broken. I do not know how the years will change the balance.
Minastir’s serene self-posession was gone as he stood to tower over Pengolod. “Tar-Elros, wild as any woodman? His Queen, a warrior-maid from a motley tribe? Our tales, our histories, say she was noble and fair.” He glowered like a father wounded to learn that his well-behaved son had run riot at a feast.
Pengolod stood also and said, “I suppose it is because your histories speak of the Elvish name she took soon after. She was fair; I saw her with my own eyes. And she was noble – by the standards of the day. Fine measures of kinship had not been kept since the battle of the Nirnaeth Aenordiad, among mortals.”
“Still, to hear of Elros painted and whooping for war…” Minastir shook his head, as if trying to clear out the image. “Yet he was raised by your people – he had you as his model. You Elves never made war a revel, in that way.”
“No. But Elros was not an Elf.” Uneasy himself, Pengolod said, “He was the greatest mortal of his time, in both war and peace, and earned his kingship justly. More than that, he was free – more free than any Elf has been or shall ever be.”
“Save Elrond,” murmured Minastir. “Yet who is free who loves? One loved the elf-folk; the other, a mortal. For myself, was I given the choice anew, I too would choose for love. The love of the world, rich and varied, with its treasures of wisdom and arts waiting to be found. I feel its bond upon me, though I know it is the love of Illuvatar that calls us mortals beyond the world. Thus our fates are wrought.” Minastir let go of a chair-back he was gripping. “Your history has been most illuminating, Master Pengolod. I thank you for your tale, and its insights into Elvish politics. Now I shall go, and think once more on certain matters of Gil-Galad and Imladris.” He turned and departed, all dignity.
A moment later, he returned, padding over to his abandoned footgear. “My shoes. I always forget them,” he admitted, and smiled briefly. He slipped his feet into them and went off again with a gracious gesture of goodnight.
Pengolod drooped over the books before him, too drained to be angry that he was being treated as the arbiter of all Elvish customs and fate. Besides, he was disarmed by Minastir’s final smile; he had been the image of Elros, for an instant. When Minastir is not working at living perfectly, he does so, Pengolod considered. The answer for the philosophers was, as he had thought before, at the Meneltarma. Yet it was too simple an answer, not good enough for cunning minds, such as mortals had in these days of their power. Perhaps it might have been enough, if the answer did not also guarantee an end to the debate. Here in Númenor, Pengolod felt it himself as well. Time had him in its net, and the cords cut tight.
Reshelving the books, Pengolod thought of his own interrupted journey. Tar-Minastir's longing made the things that he deferred sweeter. When Pengolod arrived in Eressea, he might experience its beauty, speak with many of the Maiar, perhaps even, some day, see his lost kin re-housed in elvish bodies again. Had Númenor held but Armenelos, he would have journeyed on well before. Rómenna, though, swirled Pengolod’s lost past and its own vivacious present in a potent mix. He was not done yet with Rómenna, nor, he hoped, Rómenna with him. The last ship, he decided: the last ship of the year's sailing, he would take.
He would work no more that night, he decided, and returned to his suite. When he opened the door, the serving-page uncurled from a chair and blinked the sleep out of his eyes. Pengolod, who had expected solitude, started. “Do you want anything, my lord? A change of your robe? Are your shoulders stiff?”
Pengolod said, sharply, “No; please do not trouble yourself. I would be obliged if you would go. Get the sleep you need, and leave me to my work.”
The page’s face fell, and he darted a nervous glance around. “All right, my lord. I will, I will see you in the morning.” With that, he left, slipping out without turning around.
Pengolod heard the door click shut, and listened, satisfied, as the lad went softly away. Then, before he turned to his own thoughts once more, he heard a shuffle and a low cough, and the sound of a second set of padding footsteps. Pengolod inhaled and forced himself to not turn around. For the sound had come from the wall behind him.
When Pengolod could hear nothing but his own beating heart, he turned. Immediately behind him was a large tapestry of Unien in her glory, attended by swans and dolphins. Pengolod lifted the tapestry and scrutinized the wall. There was an unmortared slot between two smooth blocks of stone, at eye level for an Elf, or a tall Númenorean. He tapped the wall, slid a long slip of paper through the slit; the wall was thin, and very likely concealed a space behind it. Pengolod stood before the slot and let the tapestry fall in front of his face. The weave had been thinned to a screen through which someone keen-eyed could watch.
Angry, Pengolod paced the suite. There seemed to be no more spy-holes, and all the walls save the one with the tapestry were solid. Nonetheless, every moment he had spent in Armenelos was tainted, from the young servants’ fawning to his encounter with Tar-Minastir. Had that been chance, or no? As if his intuition tapped him on the shoulder, he thought of Minastir’s strong son, Ciryatan.
Pengolod collected himself. If he was being spied upon, the spy must have been bored and tired himself, which was his due for watching blameless activities. Whoever had sought to catch him out in he knew not what would have gained naught. He knew what he wanted to do next, and was all the more firm that soon, his sojourn would end. That would give him an uncontestable reason for his second departure from Armenelos.
Please do not reproduce or repost this story without permission from the author. First posted February 11, 2005.
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Magweth Pengolodh Sections