Lily of Gondolin - Chapter Seventeen: Corridors
Chapter Seventeen: Corridors
When I remember all
The friends so linked together
I've seen around me fall,
Like leaves in wintry weather
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted.
--Thomas Moore, Oft in the Stilly Night
The Queen Melian regarded me. "How did you escape from Tol-en-Gaurhoth? Sauron's isle is well defended."
I shifted on the bench I was seated on. "I....know the fortress well, my lady. Finrod Felagund's people - " the golden-haired maiden beside the Queen looked up sharply " - built in hidden passages as escape routes. I picked the lock on the cell door, and we - that is, Taurion and I - "
"How is it that you encountered him?" Melian broke in.
"We were put in the same cell," I answered, then added bluntly, "my lady, I am sure I need not tell you what happened before that."
She nodded, smiling faintly. "No, you do not. But for Alatariel - "she motioned toward the maiden " - you might explain."
I opened my mouth to reply when the name hit me. Alatariel. Galadriel. Artanis. The only daughter of Finarfin, and the most powerful she-Elf in Arda. I swallowed hard, feeling suprised that she, unlike Melian, would need an explanation.
Alatariel must have read my expression, if not my thoughts, because she smiled, a hint of amusement in her eyes. "I do not like to delve into another's memories. It is not my place."
I swallowed again, and half-bowed from my seat. "Of course, my lady." I drew a deep breath. "Years ago my companions and I - we were a group of scouts from Gondolin, and I a healer - were captured by Gorthaur's people. We were taken to Minas Tirith. My friends were slain there, and only I was left. I was - Gorthaur placed a spell on me. I was forced to do his bidding." I decided not to go into the details of his orders. I was certain that, in any case, Melian already knew of them. "When I finally broke free of his hold I was....uncooperative, and so was taken to the dungeons. It was there, as I said, that I met Taurion."
"I see," Alatariel said. She had listened intently, and also, I had a feeling, gleaned far more of the story than I had given.
"So," Melian continued, "how did you make good the escape?"
I pulled my scattered thoughts back to where I had left off. "Er, yes, my lady. I picked the lock, and Taurion and I made it to the closest passage, though I had to kill a guard. There was no time to wait, you see, because one of the guards, because he was so ....happy...about it, had told me that I would be killed, or worse, the next day. So after we had collected what supplies we could, using the wall-tunnels, I used a spell to disguise us as orcs. I was exhausted, though, and only was able to hold it until we were almost over the bridge across the Sirion. Then I blacked out from the strain."
"And after that?"
"I don't remember, of course. Taurion told me later that the orcs chased after us, but since he had a head start he managed to get away in the dark. I woke up around noon, in a ravine. He'd carried me out. After that, I think it was mainly luck that we were not recaptured. We just travelled by night until we were out of Gorthar's territory."
"And then you went home," Alatariel finished softly.
I bowed my head, struggling to place a hold on my emotions. "Yes, milady. I - I didn't want to, at first. I mean I did, more than anything, but I didn't see any way that I could. Not after what had happened. But in the end it did not matter at all." I felt my eyes sting and looked down, blinking quickly.
Melain rose, and I hurredly followed suit. She placed a hand beneath my chin, forcing me to meet her gaze. "Remember what I told you, child. Though Gondolin has fallen, not all is gone. The Havens, child."
I nodded, not able to look away from her eyes until she turned, walking quietly away before I could bow or thank her. But suddenly she turned, and caught my gaze again. "Hold to your hope, Indil. Ther is still light - remember that. Fare you well, daughter of Ondolosse." She slipped away, as I this time gathered myself anough to bow, taking a deep breath.
Alatariel stood. "Come, Indil. I will show you back to your room."
"Please don't bother yourself, milady," I protested. "I'm sure I can find the way."
A hint of amusement showed in her eyes. "Really?"
I swallowed and looked down. "Eventually."
She smiled. "Come. It is not a bother, as you feared. My path lies in that direction." I didn't have a choice, so I followed her as she walked to the passage through whitch we had entered Melian's garden. As we made our way down it Alatariel turned to me. "I am truly sorry, Indil. I know some of what it is to lose a family. And a home, though that was by my own folly."
"On the march from Valinor," she explained, eyes distant. "My father turned back. He saw the evil in Feanor's deeds, and knew that it was deadly folly to go with his people. I could have gone with him; I could have never left Tirion." She smiled sadly. "But I did - I and my brothers went on. I too have my regrets, though I brought them upon myself."
We reached a flight of steps, and I was glad to concertrate rather than try to reply. At last, when the silence stratched on, I spoke up. "When I first saw Gondolin, my lady, I couldn't understand. The ground seemed to be dropping away from beneath my feet....I understood, but at the same time it did not seem real." I had no idea why I was saying this, but, strangely, I was certain that she understood, though she was centuries older and many times wiser than I.
Alatariel did not say anything, but when she glanced back at me her eyes held compassion.
It really was not far to my room. Alatariel seemed to know the halls and corridors perfectly. But I had enough time to realize that I had no idea what to do. Queen Melian had told me too seek the Havens at Sirion, but was I to depart directly, or stay, or look for Taurion, or ask for the weapons that I had given to the Marchwarden, since I would need them if I set out, or...there were too many possibilities.
We reached the upper level of the palace - or city, whichever it was - and turned a corner. I was just summoning up enough nerve to ask Alatariel advice when a silver-haired Elf appeared at the end of the passage. Seeing Alatariel he hastened forward, a warm smile crossing his face. I glanced at Alatariel and saw that she, too, was smiling, almost shyly.
The Elf halted before us, and taking Alatariel's hand placed a light kiss on it. "Greetings, milady Galadriel."
I thought I saw the faintest hint of a blush in her cheeks as she smiled again. "Good day to you, Celeborn." When they continued to simply look at each other, and it became appearant that he was not about to release her hand I realized that my presence would be perhaps more welcome elsewhere.
I bowed. "Thank you for your guidance, my lady," I murmered. "I can find the way from here; I beg you to excuse me." I slipped away from the pair. Alatariel turned to look at me for a moment before I went around the corner, and though I felt that her glance had a message I did not know what.
I walked quickly through the halls, looking uo only enough to find the way and ignoring the occasional bemused stare. They're happy, curse it, I thought miserably. They're happy, and they have a right to be. They know who they are, and there's a place they belong to. I don't know...what about the Havens?...what does Melian mean....
Disjointed thoughts ran through my mind as I walked faster, almost mising the corridor. I turned into it.....and found that it was not the one I expected. It was completely unfamiliar.
I mentally tried to retrace my steps, but realized that I'd lost track.
I was lost.
I went back to the other passage, looking up and down. No one was in sight, but at leas there was a window. At least I was on the highest level.
I wanered disconsolately down the hall, feeling adrift and wretchedly foolish. I couldn't have been very far from the messangers' wing when I parted from Alatariel. But here I was, completely without a bearing, inside.
It was ridiculous. And Emeryk would be wanting to be fed soon.
I sat down on a bench at the end of yet another corridor. It did not seem likely that I would be able to find the way myself. I would just have to wait for someone to pass by.
I stared out the window opposite me at the shifting beechleaves, and beyond them the clear sky. It was midafternoon, from what I could tell.
I rested my head against the wall. I felt oddly worn; though this day hadn't been a fight for survival it was still tiring. I'd sorted through my feelings, the simple apprehension, sorrow, awe, intimidation, and the small hope that Melian had given me. It was tiring.