Burning Bright: Answers in the Dark

7. The Leaving

Rather to his surprise Erestor opened the door at the first knock, all casually fastened hair and irritation. Amber eyes looked him up and down impassively. “ “Don’t you have work to do, Songbird? Lays to practice, instruments to tune?”

Lindir leaned against the doorframe and grinned, putting all his charm into it. “Oh, I’m done with that for the day. I came to persuade you out into the fresh air. You’re keeping the hours of a well bred bat.”

“That would be because I’m busy,” Erestor informed him with a glare. “I have no time to appreciate any more fresh air than wanders in through my bedroom window right now.”

“What are you doing? It’s a beautiful morning, the rain’s gone, it’s almost a crime to sit indoors.”

Erestor heaved a sigh and stood aside, gesturing him to enter. “There’s no point in arguing with you. Come and take a look.”

Lindir followed the short, black–clad figure past a meticulously tidy living room that felt unused and through to the bedroom, a light, airy room decorated in shades of blue and white. The mid-morning sun, a welcome change from the rain that had cloaked Mithlond for days, streamed in through the windows and pooled onto a wide, canopied bed in the centre of which a small chest lay on its side, the contents shimmering on silk. The sunlight also brought out the colours in several mounds of rich fabric piled upon the bed.

Erestor casually pushed a bundle of furs out of the way and sat down frowning, gesturing for Lindir to follow suit. “They like display. Fine white wool and a hint of pearl won’t do, according to Círdan. Not for the envoy of a rich and powerful king. So – jewels, silks, brocades, eastern embroideries…. Did you bring the sun with you? It’s about time.”

Lindir sat carefully on the edge of the bed, impressed by the display and doing his best to hide it. “Sunshine follows me like a tame puppy, yes. Where did you get all this? It’s not yours, is it?”

Erestor stopped pairing earrings and laughed. “Gods, of course not. I have a few good pieces but nothing like this. No, most of the jewellery comes out of the Treasury. Some of it seems to belong to Elrond and a few pieces are Gil’s own, though we have different tastes usually. The diamonds are Gil’s,” he added, pointing to a heap of rainbowed fire. He hesitated before touching them and Lindir remembered something mentioned briefly, in passing – Annatar’s name for him had been Quenya for diamond. “They were a personal gift to Gil from Khazad-dum at the conclusion of the trade agreement on mithril,” Erestor went on, letting a strand slide through his fingers. “Durin’s folk tried to pass them off as incidentals, but they handled them a bit too carefully to be convincing.”

Perhaps the pause had been less about Annatar than a homage to a more distant memory of a time before his stay in Eregion then. Lindir looked but couldn’t quite bring himself to pick up the priceless white stones. “You wore some of these last night, didn’t you?” he said instead. “They looked fine on you but I think I prefer those emeralds. For your hair?”

Erestor nodded and seemed fractionally to relax. “For my hair, yes. I’ve not seen them before but there are strands and strands here. I might try and turn a couple into a belt or something…”

He held a tunic fashioned from heavy yellow silk near the emeralds for a moment, considered the contrast, then placed it on the larger pile of clothing on the other side of the bed. “Hardly any of this is mine either. It got delivered early this morning – clothing, unworked fabric, no idea where it was all collected from. I might not want to know. There’s some wonderful eastern cloth – over there, under the red thing – that I really want. I might just drape it round me and hope for the best if they can’t get it stitched in time,” He looked around and spread his hands. “Right now I can’t decide if I should just take everything or if less will be more…”

“If you take all this, Gimilkhâd’s likely to toss half your baggage overboard,” Lindir pointed out cheerfully. “You need some shiny stuff for court, elegance for dinner, and sensible clothes so you can ride a horse and look halfway useful, not like a pampered noble.” Lindir ran a woven scarlet belt through his hands as he spoke, enjoying the texture. It was embroidered with very fine gold thread, giving just a hint of shimmer that lifted the red to flame. “What are you wearing this with? It’s stunning.”

“It’s not going,” Erestor said flatly. “It’s mine. I got it in Ost-in-Edhil. A gift. It came out when I was looking for accessories.”

Lindir considered the turn of his mouth, the by now familiar closed off look that bespoke Annatar, and nodded. “But a fine gift,” he pointed out. “And putting it aside because of the giver hands him power over your choices.”

“Don’t start,” Erestor snapped. “And since when were you such a philosopher?”

“My interesting visit home probably helped,” Lindir said mildly. “And you know I’m right. Wear that with black or palest cream or that buttery yellow you have over there and they’ll be struck dumb.”

“A philosopher and full of compliments too? You should go home more often.” Erestor clapped a hand over his mouth as soon as the words were out, amber eyes flew to Lindir’s face, wide and contrite. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly, “That was uncalled for. I’m just tense about all this. So much to organise and learn, too little time, pages and pages to work my way through once I’ve sorted out my wardrobe… It’s a bad excuse, yes. I’m sorry.”

A dozen images flooded in, none of them good, led by his mother’s hopeful, worried face, but Erestor had no idea what he had conjured up and was genuinely remorseful so Lindir made himself shrug it off and focused on the present. “I know. You’re prickly when you’re worried, I’ve noticed. Your tongue gets sharper.”

“Yes, but I shouldn’t use it on you,” Erestor said quietly. ”I need to stop doing that.”

“Can I help? With the preparation I mean. Your tongue’s beyond my control.”

Erestor gave him a wry look but let it pass. “I’m not sure. Mainly I’d just like more time to prepare and there’s nothing you can do about that. Gil’s spontaneous by nature, a few days to skim old reports and throw some clothes together would be fine for him. It wouldn’t cross his mind there’s a problem and I’m not about to whine.”

“I’m better off than you, I suppose. Just need to pack my clothes and make sure the instruments are well wrapped against the sea.” Lindir drew a knee up as he spoke and clasped his hands round it. Long curls insinuated themselves over his shoulders and he brushed them back automatically, almost missing the flash of something suspiciously like relief that crossed Erestor’s face.

“You’re definitely coming then? I wasn’t sure if Gil was serious about that last night. Arvarad, yes. He already knew. Then we got interrupted by the news from Eriador and he never quite picked up the thread again.” Erestor moved so his back was up against the pillows and stretched his arms above his head, fingers interlocked. “I think I need a break. All this finery’s wasted on me anyhow, I like nice things but I was never seriously materialistic. Getting the chance to dress like a prince – or a prince’s paramour – isn’t much of a reward for the headache it’s giving me.”

Lindir nodded, turning a little to avoid the sun in his eyes, and noticed a curtained doorway that must lead to a private bathroom, something unheard of over on his side of the palace. Different worlds, he reminded himself. “I’m coming, yes, if you’ll have me. I mean, the chance to see Númenor – most bards would kill for it. The entire troupe loathes me.” He was grinning, keeping his tone light, but it was true, as was the fact that right now he couldn’t give a damn; the opportunity was one in a thousand lifetimes. “If you’d rather not, I can tell his majesty I don’t think I’m suited and recommend another musician, but I’ll never speak to you again. They liked my playing, did you hear? I was offered as a kind of – cultural exchange.”

Erestor snorted. “Like a commodity, yes. There’s wine going along too. Someone on the Council wanted to include a cook, but sanity prevailed. And no, of course I’m glad to have you along. It’ll be like crossing Eriador, just dryer and no horses to fuss about. And you’ll keep me and Arvarad from killing each other. I don’t want sole responsibility for any of this and we work well together, but it’s likely to get rough after a few weeks. We like our space.”

“I’m glad you think this will be drier,” said Lindir, who had nearly been washed overboard at least twice and could not remember a single dry voyage out of the many he’d taken in his quest for new ideas, new audiences. “You haven’t done a whole lot of open sea sailing, have you?”

Erestor pulled a face. “No. I am not what you’d call a boat person. Besides crossing between Balar and Sirion back in the old days, the most time I’ve spent on board ship was after they broke the land and the sea came pouring into Sirion and we had to evacuate Balar before Ulmo got distracted and forgot to protect us.”

“Of course – you’d have been there then.” Lindir was still playing with the scarlet belt, reluctant to put it aside: he liked the way it felt. “That must have been an experience.”

Erestor rolled his eyes then laughed. “First it was terrifying, then it was just uncomfortable. We were at sea for close on half a moon, I think, and no one had been prepared. Comparisons to crossing the Ice didn’t go down well with those who had, but it was just as badly thought out.”

“They hadn’t a clue what they were getting into when they left Aman,” Lindir said, his voice softening. The tale of that epic journey had resonated deep inside of him since he first heard it. If he tried he could see the endless grey-blue of the Helcaraxë, feel the bitter chill, hear the grinding, cracking of the ice, the rush of the deadly sea. “I had the story from someone who was part of it. She lost her parents and sister, only her brother survived and he died in the fighting. Those were hard times.”

“Is there a song?”

Lindir smiled in spite of himself. “Yes, of course there’s a song. How wouldn’t there be? I never sung it for the Lady though. I thought it might cut too close to the bone. I’ll play a little for you some time if you’d like?”

Straightening up, Erestor stretched, arching his back, all sleek muscle and indefinable but costly scent. The sight set Lindir’s blood singing and he had to crush inconvenient thoughts firmly. “I’d like that yes. There’ll be some long nights between here and there. You said you’ll just be packing a few clothes and your instruments? I hope you’ve got something flashy to wear for the Queen, not the plain blue you had on last night.”

“I have something more courtly but I’m going as a bard, not a courtier. There’s a subtle difference – I’m working, not trying to find favour.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Erestor said firmly. “You are the King of Lindon’s chief minstrel, you need to dress accordingly.”

“I am, aren’t I?” Lindir laughed, pleased in spite of himself. “I can think of a few who’d not like to hear that either.”

“For purposes of this trip, yes you are.” Erestor began searching through robes and tunics, then shook his head. “None of this will work for you, our colouring’s too different. We need to have something made for you, or at least adjusted, so you look the part.”

“And how does the King of Lindon’s chief minstrel look?” Lindir teased, flicking him lightly with the belt.

Erestor swatted at it. “Expensive,” he replied, and his eyes were alive with mischief, a look Lindir had seen little of and found he liked rather a lot. “Very expensive and important in his own right. Lots of pearls. I’ll go and add it to the order – they’ll be sewing till we board at this rate.”

Lindir dropped the belt and caught Erestor’s wrist as he made to rise. “You don’t want to rather trust my instincts on this?”

Erestor hesitated, then sank down on the bed again. ”Explain?”

Lindir left his fingers loosely circling fine bones and cool skin. “I’ve travelled through the south west, remember?” he said, confident now he was back on solid ground. “I played in several of the Númenórean settlements and for the Haradrim, too. They like display and opulence, yes. You need the jewels and the silks, they need to value you because you speak for our king. Me? I bring music. Their bards carry news and gossip just as we do, and their value is the same as ours – unbiased information and a song in exchange for a plate of food and a dry bed. In the east that’s vital because most of those little cities are at war or in a state of armed truce with one another. No one dresses up, there’s too much chance of being robbed. I need one really good outfit, and I have it. Otherwise, my music has to speak for itself. I shouldn’t outshine it; a halfway decent bard should have more faith in himself.”

Erestor had been following this with a frown and now he bit his lip for a few moments then nodded. “That makes sense. We’re saying different things about our king and our realm. What about jewellery then?”

“Oh, a few good broaches and rings wouldn’t hurt,” Lindir said. ”Marks of appreciation. Every travelling bard worth his salt has a stock of those. I have some decent bits and pieces…”

Erestor pushed a box of rings towards him with his free hand, the other stayed tamely captive. “Here. Help yourself. And there’s a few broaches in the corner of the box. I’m using my own so I don’t need any of this. Do you also want to look over what we have about Númenor? There’s mainly essays and a few notes from mariners plus the original description from Eönwë. Gil doesn’t trust that but then he and Eönwë didn’t get along.”

“That’d be useful. We could go through it together – I find it easier to learn things that way.” And he might pick up a few more historical curiosities like that while he lightened the pressure on Erestor.

Erestor slanted him a look from under dark lashes and retrieved his wrist. “You are so transparent. But that would be useful, yes,” he said. “And you can tell me anything you picked up while you were in the south. People must have talked about home.”

“Picked up?” Lindir remembered a few brief but satisfying encounters and bit back a smile. Erestor’s raised eyebrow spoke volumes. “Yes, that too – I’ve never been one to say no to good company. But it’s true, people always talk about home. I’ll give it some thought.”

“Let’s go get some lunch,” Erestor said, rising gracefully. “Suddenly I’m starving, and I’ve had about as much time with all this as I can manage. We can take the books with us down to the Owl. It’s a good place to work.”

Lindir folded the red belt and placed it next to the yellow silk. The gold thread glittered as though fire-lit. He quirked an eyebrow but Erestor looked away so he let it go. “It’s time for a break, yes. Come on, I hear they do a good fish lunch.”

“You’re determined to make me wear that thing, aren’t you?”

In the simple tunic and pants and with his sleeves pushed back, he could see Erestor had lost weight since Eregion. Lindir shook his head. “It’s a belt, Erestor. It’s good quality and the colour suits you. And maybe it can have another use, maybe it can be a reminder of why we’re doing this and why we have to succeed.”

Erestor gave him an expressionless look then shrugged and reached out a hand to him. “If you say so. Come. Get up. If we leave it much later, the Owl will be packed and I like a window seat.”


In the end, they had a week to prepare, which was hardly enough by Erestor’s standards, Lindir took it upon himself to provide light relief when the clothes came back from the seamstress not looking as Erestor had pictured them or a renowned essay on the fishing industry on Númenor proved a pretty fable when run past Captain Gimilkhâd. Otherwise he divided his time between making his own simple preparations, choosing his repertoire, and keeping his excitement to himself.

He was still required to sing and play at dinner each night as one of the troupe, not a soloist. So far as Master Cirithon was concerned, he was no more than what he was: the new singer who happened to be going along on some outlandish excursion with two of the ‘Balar crowd’.

He heard that term used on several occasions before asking, and as he’d suspected, it referred to the handful of courtiers and friends who had known Gil-galad in the hard times on Balar and who had stayed part of his inner circle ever since. Lindir could understand the implied jealousy, just as he could understand a king wanting people close to him who he had grown to know in adversity, in a time when there was very little in his gift besides a smile and a place at Círdan’s table. In that light, choosing Erestor to go to Númenor started to make sense.

The night before they sailed was spent as Círdan’s guests. There was to be a farewell dinner for the Captain and his two young, highborn passengers, both of whom Erestor had been carefully cultivating with a single-minded skill that made Lindir, who had seen his charm at work in Ost-in-Edhil, smile. Lindir had concentrated on Gimilkhâd once he found they had two of the coastal settlements in common. He liked the captain, but he also thought he might be useful for networking purposes. Successful sea captains in his experience had connections, and connections were pure mithril in a foreign land.

Erestor vanished into Maeriel’s kitchen almost as soon as they arrived, leaving Lindir free to roam the grounds of the Academy or stroll back down to the harbour. He had an idea he’d see more than enough water in the next few weeks and settled for the Academy. His wanderings soon took him up onto the roof, which he had heard was used for the study of stars by young mariners learning their craft. It was open and a bit windy with none of the sheltered corners he had already discovered on the Palace roof except for a semi-circle of benches on one side with a raised dais which he assumed was used by the instructor. The late afternoon view was spectacular though, taking in the entire gulf with its rocky basin, the sea beyond and the looming mountains that sheltered Lindon.

There was a railing and he went to lean on it, letting the wind lift and tangle his hair. There would be time before dinner to tidy it. The sea was loud here, so the voice behind him was unheralded and made him jump.

“You’re ready for the voyage, Master Minstrel?”

He would have expected more noise and busyness to announce the king’s arrival, though there might be less formality over here than in other places. His father referred to Gil-galad disparagingly as ‘the Sindar king’ and never seemed to notice how his mother always cringed a little into herself… Their family history was – tangled – to say the least. He caught himself and bowed his head hastily. “Your Majesty. As ready as I’ll ever be. It should be a unique experience.”

“Two or three weeks on one of their ships? Yes, should be. I had another look at the rigging a few days back, it’s nothing like what we use. Círdan’s fascinated.” Gil-galad joined him at the railing leaning his forearms on it and stared out towards the sea. “The wind’s turning, you’ll be sailing into it but that shouldn’t be much trouble for them. Read up on Númenor with Erestor, have you?”

Despite the casual tone, Lindir knew this was not a simple pre-dinner chat. Gil-galad was not obligated to stop and make small talk with him, therefore he must want something. People in authority always did. “It’s easier studying it together, yes, plus I’ve spent a little time in the southern settlements and we could explore a couple of rumours and stories I’d heard, too.”

“You speak the language a bit, Gimilkhâd tells me?”

“He’s being polite, Sire. I can manage basics like hello and thank you and where is the privy, but that’s about all.”

Gil-galad smiled briefly. “You can probably get by in most places with those three. Where were you? Erestor should have mentioned it.”

“He didn’t know before and I had nothing useful to add beyond the language and a sense of their religion – nothing worth mentioning.” Things not necessarily important enough to raise at a briefing, rather the kind of information you shared casually with a friend over a cup of wine. He knew from Erestor that he and Gil-galad no longer spent that kind of time together, but could hardly say so.

“Hmm. Well, they’ll like that about you. And the music went down well, too.”

He fell silent and stood watching the water, ignoring the wind that pulled at his long dark hair and bejewelled oak green surcoat. Lindir waited quietly. He could not leave without being dismissed and until Gil-galad was inclined to do so, he might as well enjoy the view. And it was not every bard that got to study the King of the Noldor up close.

“Erestor’s ready for it, in your opinion?”

The king had not turned round and there was no judging from his tone what he was looking for, but Lindir had his answer ready. “He’s more than ready for it, Sire. He has a wardrobe fit for a king’s ambassador, as good a grounding in Númenórean history and interests as we have available and he’s been practicing what little he has of the language with one of Lord Círdan’s men who’s fluent. He’s as prepared as it’s possible to be.”

Gil-galad did turn his head now, and his look was speculative. He had very clear blue eyes, Lindir noted. “That was quick and thorough. Loyalty to a friend’s a good thing. Now – how ready is he?”

Lindir restrained an urge to roll his eyes, which would have been forward. “He’d have liked a month, he’s making do with the clothes, and he’s worried that speaking Sindarin to everyone will sound elite and like we think we’re too good to learn their tongue. That’s why he’s making such an effort with it and I’m trying to pick up a few more words too. He’s a perfectionist, Sire. He wants – needs – it to be right.”

“Hmph. That’s better.”

Gulls swooped past shrieking and the shadow they cast made Lindir shiver for no discernible reason. He saw movement out the corner of his eye on the other side of the roof, near the stairs, and there must have been some sound he missed because Gil-galad glanced round too, then moved away from the railing. He didn’t exactly smile, but his look was focused, pleased.

“There you are. I asked when I got here but they said you’d gone for a walk.”

In Lindir’s admittedly limited experience, Glorfindel liked plain clothes and simple styling for his hair, none of the affectations he had seen from some of the Exiles in Ost-in-Edhil. Today the Reborn was in soft greens and blues and had his hair fastened back from his face with a pair of mother-of-pearl clips. The very simplicity underlined his status, a lord of fabled Gondolin and the only elf ever sent back across the sea from the Halls of the Dead. He gave Lindir a quick nod and had a smile for the king. “I like to do that in the late afternoon when the birds are getting ready to settle for the evening. I thought you’d be here later?”

“I wanted a little personal time before socialising and dinner so I got away early.”

There were words under those words, Lindir heard them with a musician’s ear and the head of a man who has seen a lot of strange and secret things. People tended to overlook musicians, as though all they could do was make music. Gil-galad finally remembered him. “Oh – Lindir tells me he spent a little time in the south. It could be useful over there.”

“In one of the Númenórean settlements?” Glorfindel sounded truly interested, not merely polite. “I was reading about those recently. They have a string of towns along the coast, don’t they?”

“Yes sir, they do.” He was back in the conversation, it seemed. “Strongholds might be a better word for them though, walled and protected by steel. Peace is a forgotten concept down there.”

Glorfindel frowned. “From what I’ve read, they pushed the local tribes out of the best sites and anchorage and they’re deforesting the land in a long swathe along the coast. Wood for ships I can understand, but all those trees – that’s not just a shame, it’s short sighted.”

“It’s worth the price. They kept the east busy for a while, and that means part of the army that might have come pouring over the mountains stayed home to watch out for Númenórean raiders,” Gil-galad pointed out.

Lindir had to keep his opinion to himself, but Glorfindel said firmly, “They reduced Sauron’s manpower yes, but I’d have liked a different reason for it than defending stolen land. At any rate – when you get back, you must come and share a cup of wine with me, Lindir, and tell me what it’s like down there. And in Númenor too. You’ll see a different side of it to the others.”

Glorfindel seemed approachable so Lindir followed instinct. “Could we do an exchange, my lord? I’ll tell you about the southern lands and you can share a little about Gondolin? A song, if you remember any, would be very welcome.”

“I think that would make for a pleasant evening,” Glorfindel said. He had a nice smile, it softened his features and crinkled the corners of his eyes. “We should have talked earlier. I look forward to it.”

The words in themselves were mere social courtesy, but Lindir could see he meant them. The king was paying attention to the exchange, his face inscrutable, and Lindir was aware of something going on there below the surface. He set a corner of his mind to working on the puzzle of what it was while he smiled at Glorfindel. “Thank you. And yes, not the same kind of experience. Different doors open to a musician than an ambassador, which might be useful. No information is ever wasted.”

Erestor said that sometimes, with a twist to his lip. Lindir, who knew what he was thinking, always felt for him at those times. But that veiled look, that feeling in the air, gave his own words a double meaning as well. There was a mystery here, one he would watch for on his return. Meanwhile Gil-galad took what he said at face value and nodded. “There’s a true word. We might need to have dealings with the island another time, so the more we know the better. Stay watchful.”

“That would apply doubly to Erestor and Arvarad, I’d think,” Glorfindel added. “The official negotiators.”

Gil-galad shrugged and started walking towards the door to the stairwell. “No need to tell either of them to keep their eyes and ears open,” he said over his shoulder. “Erestor’s been doing that from habit for as long as I’ve known him. I expect them both to come home speaking fluent Adûnaic and able to draw a map of the island blindfold.”


The wind had come up next morning. Lindir woke early from a fitful sleep to be greeted by leaden skies, wheeling, angry birds and the creaking and flapping that would have told him, had he not already known, that he was close to a harbour. He got out of bed reluctantly and went to splash water in his face, then wrapped his cloak about him and stood by the window assessing the sea and sky and taking note of the feeling of solid ground beneath his feet; it would be some while before he felt this again – anything from a few weeks to more than a moon, the captain said.

He had been told there would be a light breakfast downstairs before they set out and to bring his bags, so he dressed, braided his curls firmly, gathered his baggage – meagre by Erestor’s current standards – and his instruments and got everything downstairs in two trips.

The residential part of the Academy was already awake, with a good deal of coming and going. When he went out to test how bad the wind really was, he found some of the students already waiting on the steps, wrapped against the weather. From the excited chatter and speculation, he gathered watching one of the Númenórean vessels set out was an event not to be missed. No one realised he would soon be getting a closer view of a Númenórean under sail than any of them would ever experience but he kept quiet, enjoying their high spirits.

He felt incredibly old and jaded by comparison and wondered fleetingly where his mind had been when he agreed to this adventure. It was likely to be cold and miserable, with an uncertain welcome at the end and no guarantee of a speedy voyage home, to say nothing of the risk of drowning before they ever reached the island kingdom. No one had any idea of the Númenóreans’ safety record at sea. Lindir laughed at himself. He was a musician, and careers were made from such unlikely chances as knowing the right person at the right moment. Not only that, but the opportunity to see the Land of Gift was irresistible, he could no more have turned it down than he could fly.

Breakfast was taken mainly standing or wandering around the kitchen. Maeriel presided over a spread put together with easy consumption in mind and the only two seated were Círdan, whose home this was, and Gil-galad, who was doing so much talking that he had almost forgotten to eat. Most of what he had to say was directed at Erestor who stood by the hearth eating an apple and saying very little in return. He was richly and warmly dressed, but looked as though he hadn’t slept. Arvarad, Gil-galad’s assistant and their travelling companion, stood at the end of the table eating and occasionally nodding. Lindir wondered who was taking his place. Erestor would have known, but he had not thought to ask. Everyone present, with the exclusion of Glorfindel, seemed to be part of either the king’s or Círdan’s inner circles – the Balar crowd. They all knew one another, making this a casual, almost intimate gathering.

Lindir helped himself to a bowl of oatmeal and joined Erestor at the hearth. Círdan glanced up from a silent contemplation of his plate to say, “I trust you are a good sailor, Lindir. If not, something lighter might sit better?”

Lindir shrugged. “If it’s coming up, it may as well have some bulk to it. I’m usually a good sailor, my lord.”

Círdan gave him a satisfied look and returned to his breakfast. Lindir wondered what the usual answer was if his had that effect.

As though he hadn’t noticed him before, Gil-galad said abruptly, “Lindir. Of course. I almost forgot.”

He got up from the table and crossed the room to fetch a well wrapped bundle which he brought over and held out to Lindir. “Here. You may as well take this along. They might appreciate its age – doubt they’ll have heard of Maglor.”

Erestor came out of his silence to say, “I’m sure Elros spoke of him and legends have their way of growing. What is that?”

Lindir knew. Even before he took it one handed from the king, he knew. “Sire, I can’t. This belongs to the Lady…”

It was Maglor’s harp, the one Galadriel had placed in his and Erestor’s care when she sent them across Eriador to Lindon ahead of an enemy army, and in which she had carefully secured two of Celebrimbor’s three Rings of Power. It settled in the crook of his arm as though it had come home.

“I very much doubt my aunt’s played it in years, if at all,” Gil-galad said firmly. “And she’d want you to be well turned out. The quality must be good if it belonged to Maglor and you said yourself she’d looked after it. See if you can find a use for it.”

Lindir looked around for somewhere to put his bowl and Erestor was next to him, taking it from him. He didn’t open the wrapping, just cradled the harp carefully, feeling its perfect weight and balance. His mind was empty of words, but his musician’s soul sang.

“That’s settled then,” Gil-galad said, heading back to the table. Conversation had died away while everyone watched to see what he was doing and now it resumed, almost drowning out Lindir’s belated, “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

Beside him, Erestor tried a few mouthfuls of the oatmeal, made a face, and then handed the bowl back. “Stop looking so stunned,” he murmured.

“But – it’s the harp, Erestor. Did you know he was going to…?”

Erestor almost smiled. “Hardly. I’ve been quizzed over and over on what I know about Númenor, but it’s all rather flowed in one direction. No, but now you’ve got it, make the most of it. It’s a priceless harp once owned by a master. And more importantly…” he added, and his eyes flickered a hint of dark amusement, “at least this time it’s empty.”


Chapter 8