Winter gave way to early spring, and as the river ran swift and loud and the trees began to bud, Glorfindel became more eager for the bustle and activity up at the house, not so much in the evening but at times during the day. He took to claiming a chair on one of the balconies overlooking the waterfall to sketch and talk with any who stopped to pass the time of day and see what he was about.
Gildor was more absent, making plans with his people and riding out to look at the winter damage to the road and the trails going off it that were more regularly used by the wanderers. Before he left to cover the distance to Bree and back, he looked long and careful at Glorfindel as though perhaps trying to assess whether he would be missed, but Glorfindel found no pressing reason to ask him to stay. The dreams came and went with or without him, the days found their own fulfilment. Neither was keen to look at just how little they added to one another’s lives; that was a conversation for another day.
He was spending more time with Erestor, who often came to sit with him while he drew. As they talked, he learned that Erestor had come to the fore in Gil-galad’s court, first reaching the king’s notice over a game of chess. More of a strategist and a sifter of information than a warrior, he had still fought in the major battles of the Second Age, culminating in the final, desperate confrontation on Gorgoroth. Afterwards he faced two choices: to cross the ocean to Tol Eressëa, a place known only from fireside tales, or remain and join Elrond in Imladris.
“There was no real decision of course,” Erestor finished his tale with a wry smile. “I miss the sea, I spent much of my life beside it, but I grew used to living here soon enough. Elrond and I share an old friendship, the river has its own voice and the valley makes a good home.”
They were on Erestor’s small terrace overlooking the river, which he had thought might provide fresh vistas for Glorfindel’s charcoal. His rooms on the ground floor offered a good view of the opposite bank with its tangle of flora and the occasional glimpse of passing deer or fox, while river fowl and frogs made their home in the reeds and water flowers that grew just below the terrace’s rim. Glorfindel had already made several rough sketches while they talked, to be fleshed out later.
It was one of Erestor’s rare leisure days, and he was dressed for the season in a sleeveless, forest green tunic and black leggings, his feet bare, his only adornment an armband of silver and jet pushed up to just below his right bicep. Small side braids fastened behind his head drew his hair back from his face, while the rest hung smooth and heavy to his waist. In the margin of one drawing Glorfindel had made a series of rough sketches, trying to capture the long line of his neck and the curve of his hairline. He had made any number of casual sketches of Erestor, but something was always lacking, some animation or inner spark that defeated the charcoal.
“It was at least your decision, I never chose to fight,” Glorfindel said thoughtfully. “It was not something we were raised to, there were no weapons in Aman when I was a boy, just those kept for ceremonial use. Later, after the Ice, it became a part of life for those of us who could, and I had a talent for it, something I could offer Turgon. Like or dislike formed no part of it, and once we moved to Gondolin — we were a city under siege, only vital artisans were excused from service in the army.”
Erestor nodded and the light moved on hair that was amongst the darkest Glorfindel had ever seen, ebon with an inner sheen. Somewhere in the pit of his stomach sensation stirred, a shiver of something akin to lust roused, there and then gone. He blinked and made himself focus on Erestor’s words.
“The times make decisions for us all. I think I would have been a librarian otherwise, as my father was and still is. I loved books when I was growing up, partly because we had so few back then in Sirion.”
“Your father was a librarian? For some reason I assumed a warrior – untidy thinking on my part.”
Erestor laughed, and Glorfindel felt the sound on his skin. “Oh yes. In fact you’ll have met him. He looks after the natural history section in Elrond’s library.”
“Bronior?” Glorfindel asked in disbelief, realising too late how that might sound. Bronior was one of the senior librarians, a pleasant though unprepossessing elf who bore no resemblance to the valley’s rather exotic captain. Erestor, however, laughed.
“That’s what everyone says. My mother’s father was Avarin, a love match and the family scandal on both sides. I have my looks from him, I’m told. We never met, he fought and died in the Tears. He’d left my mother and grandmother at Sirion, and I was born there years after.”
“Do you spend any time with your grandfather’s people?” Glorfindel asked. So that explains the short, wiry build and night-dark hair, those incredible eyes…
Erestor shook his head regretfully. “Our paths cross now and then when I join one of the longer patrols, especially if we travel over the mountain, but my grandfather’s kin were in the west lands, and they all lie beneath the sea now. Many of them, perhaps most, died when the land changed.”
He turned to reach for his glass of fruit juice as he spoke, and the play of light and shadow, the slide of muscle beneath smooth skin, left Glorfindel’s mouth dry, his head momentarily empty save for a brief fantasy image that he firmly dislodged.
“I only know what the books tell me about the War of Wrath,” he said, reaching for his own juice, something unusual and berry flavoured. “Perhaps you can tell me while I try and catch the light on the water.”
He had heard about the War from Gildor, and from Círdan soon after his arrival at Mithlond, but Erestor’s experience would be different. It was also as good an excuse as any he was likely to find to sit quiet and listen to that honey-bronzed voice.
Erestor had his office windows open wide, but while they offered an exceptional view across the gorge, there was barely a breath of wind. Imladris drowsed in bee-heavy summer heat, and its captain had his sleeves pushed back and his hair scrunched up on the back of his head, rather like an eastern courtesan in one of those illustrated novels about Harad or Khand. The look was interesting and exotic, but Glorfindel was careful not to be caught staring. Turgon’s court had taught him all anyone could need to know about watching people without being obvious.
“The heat doesn’t bother you, Glorfindel? I’m glad I’m close to the river this time of year. Your cottage must be baking hot.”
Glorfindel smiled slightly. “I have all the windows open and the door, it’s quite pleasant. Though it was never this hot in Gondolin and there was always some kind of a breeze. I forgot long windless days, they were a part of my childhood rather.” Though it had never been unpleasantly warm in Tirion, of course. Nothing in Tirion had ever been extreme. The need for adventure, for the unexpected. was one of the reasons his father had been so keen to cross to Endor. He had found it and more, dying on the Ice in the attempt to save Elenwë
He became aware that he was being watched with a touch of concern. “Something troubled you?” Erestor asked quietly. “You went very far away there.”
Glorfindel shook his head. “Just – memories of home, from a very long time ago. Nothing to concern yourself over. Certainly nothing I’d care to bore anyone with in the recounting.”
Erestor studied him, lashes low over amber eyes. “Some distraction then. I have a little time, we could try a few passes with the sword if it’s not too hot for you? In all this time I’ve not sparred with you, and I know Gildor is away.” No one entered or left the valley without his knowledge. “Or — I’m half tempted to ride up beyond the Ford and take a look at the world, talk to the watch stations. You could join me?”
Glorfindel considered. Sparring with Erestor would be interesting. As would a ride beyond the valley, he realised with something akin to surprise. Though perhaps not quite yet. Next time. He smiled slowly, feeling a frisson of excitement at the thought of being almost ready to expand his horizon beyond the hills and trees of Imladris. It had taken him almost a year to regain his curiosity about the outside world. “I have not left the valley since my arrival, did you know? Ask me again next time. For today, perhaps a little sparring.”
They decided on an outdoor practice area, one of the small, hedge divided enclosures that offered a modicum of privacy along with fresh air and grass underfoot, the preferred surface for a warrior who by the nature of things was likely to use his sword in earnest out of doors. Glorfindel had seen Erestor working out before with one or other of the veterans, but he had only managed to watch briefly, not long enough for an informed opinion. He chose his ground and waited, curious.
Erestor proved to be light footed, as much at ease moving backwards as forwards, and made up for his lesser height and reach by fighting dirty. Glorfindel quickly found he had to watch his opponent’s body language even more than his blade and eyes. There were attempts to trip him, passing blows with the flat of the sword, and at a point where he believed he finally had the captain at his mercy, a well-placed head butt had him backing off with a pained grunt.
They both knew he was not giving the encounter his all. He was heavier and far stronger than Erestor, also faster, and had he been fighting for his life things would have gone rather differently. As it was, Erestor put up a fair defence and was arguably faster than Gildor, though he lacked the prince’s experience and imaginative flair, plus Gildor had the strength of the Aman-born.
He prolonged the inevitable for as long as he could. Erestor moved with a falcon’s speed and grace, his black hair slowly working loose to swirl with each turn. His eyes were dark and focused and the exertion brought a faint flush of colour to his cheeks.
Glorfindel could have watched him all day.
That night Gildor came back some hours after dinner redolent of dwarf brandy, suggesting to Glorfindel, who did not ask, that he had spent time first in the Hall of Fire before coming home to the cottage. Not that Gildor would call it home in his heart, more like his current base.
Glorfindel stayed up late reading, waiting for him to fall asleep before getting into bed. He settled careful and quiet on his back, and after a time of stillness, surreptitious in the dark, his hand strayed down over his stomach, under the band of the loose pants he sometimes wore in bed, and he clasped himself. Unmoving save for the rhythmic clench and relax of his fist he lay in the dark, and behind his eyes he watched again as Erestor dipped and turned, lips parted, face flushed, eyes alive, intense.
And knew that soon, not yet but soon, the time would come for change. And when it did – if it did – he would be truly reborn at last.
Another turn of the moon came and went before Erestor again invited Glorfindel to join him on an inspection of the watch towers preparatory to winter’s approach, and this time he accepted. He left behind the quiet horse he had been given to ride the valley, climbing up with Erestor to the stables near the top of the cliff from where an easier, horse-friendly track led to the high land. There he was given a battle-trained mount and followed Erestor carefully up the steep trail to the land above.
They rode through drifts of fallen leaves, red and gold, russet and faded yellow, in the early autumn woods, and the air was fresh and sharp, filling his lungs with the scents of the wide world. Erestor was good company, pointing out landmarks, telling tales of past encounters, and as they drew further from Imladris, pointing to and explaining the distant fortifications and walls that marked the presence of the descendants of the Men of the West.
They visited three hidden outposts and were gone until late the following afternoon, sleeping over in a cave that was almost unnoticed in the thick brush growing around stony outcrops and between the forested areas. Glorfindel had forgotten how it felt to be in the midst of fighting men, even the lessons he gave several times a week had not been more than a casual reminder of such times. They were the same here as they had been in a previous age, he found, the only difference was in their attire.
That night the watch declared the area secure, so they sat around the fire and told tales and sang songs. When it came to his turn, he had no reticence, sharing a story of a watch night similar to this up in the mountains above Gondolin and the havoc wrought by an innocent she-bear seeking a winter haven. He had them shouting with laughter by the end, delighted to learn that even a famous hero could make errors common to the least amongst them and be willing to tell the tale against himself
When it was time to sleep, he shared a corner of the cave with Erestor. As the night quieted he became more and more aware of the faint warmth emanating from close beside him and the indefinable scent that was Erestor’s hair. Finally there was movement, a whisper of sound as the bed fur they had been given to share shifted, and then a touch brushed his arm and found its way down to his hand. Fingers slid between his, weaving and closing. Nothing more. After a time he fell asleep with a smile curving his lips, quiet anticipation in his heart.
Gildor had his bag packed and ready near the door when he got home. For a moment he was confused and part of him prepared for a confrontation, though over what he was unclear. Gildor, concluding a final conversation with the dog, turned his easy smile on him and rose from the couch. “Not as spur of the moment as it might look,” he said, indicating the bag. “They have an autumn harvest festival down south that has to be experienced to be believed. I’ve thought of it on and off for the past two months, but this close to winter I had to take a decision or stay till spring.”
He walked up to Glorfindel as he spoke and placed hands on his shoulders. They were of a height, leaving them comfortably at eye level. He gave Glorfindel a long, searching look and nodded. “You enjoyed yourself, it’s in your eyes, in the set of your shoulders. I’m glad of it. I’ve watched you growing into this new person you’ve become and promised myself once you no longer needed me for balance, I’d go back on the road a while, give you space. My gut was right, that day is now.”
Glorfindel opened his mouth to protest, even though every word resonated with his soul, but Gildor shook his head firmly and pressed a silencing finger briefly to his lips. “None of that. We’ve been friends since before the Darkness, we’ve shared adventure and laughter and mourning, we’ve fought side by side and caroused together after; nothing can take the memory from us nor make our friendship the less.”
He spent a moment moving Glorfindel’s hair back from his face, tightening a hair clip, his eyes serious but untroubled. “You passed through the Halls and came back changed, not in the way you look or in the things that matter like the goodness of your heart or your courage, but… we walk different paths now, Dreamer. I’ve had more than an Age to wander and grow selfish in my ways, while you with your art and your books – you’ve begun living up to my name for you.”
Glorfindel studied him, trying to memorise the unlikely red hair, the smoky blue eyes and lean, beautiful face, the coiled strength of Finwe’s grandson. “I saw death,” he said, searching for words that kept eluding him. “And then there was quiet and the sound of running water. And I had time to think about what’s important. I can still fight, Gildor, and I suspect – fear – that some day I will be called on to do just that. But new things give me joy now, as the thought of ending a life never can, even a life spawned in darkness and fed on hatred. Walking in the woods and watching things grow, being creative, reading, making real friends rather than being the centre of a crowd who couldn’t tell you my favourite colour or that I love the sea…”
Gildor leaned in and his lips touched then claimed Glorfindel’s mouth mid-sentence in one final kiss. “Hush, you. I know all that. I also know I’m not the one to share it with you. I stayed while you needed me, but the road calls me and always will and our lives would grow wider and wiser apart and in time we would learn to resent one another. This is your home now, and unless I’ve lost my powers of observation, you’ll not be alone one hour longer than you choose. And that also is a good thing.”
He slung the bag over his shoulder then and Glorfindel helped him settle it so the balance was fair, straightening the straps, leather and rough-woven fabric speaking of travel under his fingers. Gildor nodded his thanks, then gave him a hard, one-armed hug. “I’ll stop by and visit at least once a year, and we’ll catch up and share a glass or two. You take care and be happy, it’s nothing more or less than your due. Might be part at least of why they sent you back here rather than keep you in the peace of Aman till your brain rotted with lack of use.”
Glorfindel found himself laughing even though the thought of the cottage without Gildor’s presence was almost unimaginably strange. Yet again, something new. “No, hush. It might have improved in our absence. Watch yourself on the road, dearest of friends. And – thank you for all you’ve done since I arrived.”
Gildor turned when he reached the trees at the end of the little path and raised his hand in greeting. He looked pleased with life, ready to meet up with friends and continue his journeying across Middle-earth, collecting information for Elrond and Erestor, having adventures. They shared one final look, warm and regretful, and then he was gone and it was only Glorfindel in the cottage in the wood.
He stood looking at trees and emptiness for a time, then went in to feed the dog before drawing water from the shallow well outside the kitchen for him and the cats. Then he made himself tea and went to sit where he could watch the light kissing the edge of the meadow as the day moved down towards sunset.
He passed that evening alone in the cottage, trying to come to terms with the idea of its emptiness. Gildor had left a few oddments behind, and a change or two of clothing too good for the road, and Glorfindel was grateful as it made his departure less final. They were not as they had been, but the friendship was easy and reassuring, and the cottage felt unnaturally quiet without him. He read a while but it had been a long day, and he went to bed early with the cats for company.
He kept to himself for the next two days, moving a few things around, reading a little, painting when the light was good. He felt empty, lost, and tried to fill the space inside with activity, movement. It rained on the second day and he sat watching it feed the little garden he had created. He could hear Gildor laughing about it, but kindly, and his chest tightened, tears prickling behind his eyelids for the loss of something they never had.
That night the silence sent him up to the house for dinner, after which he stayed to talk a while. Elrond knew Gildor had left, but had assumed his return before winter. He looked a question to learn he was headed south, but held his peace.
A week passed, and another. The rain was more regular than the sunshine now, and the trees were starting to look winter-bare. The south wind seemed to have left with Gildor, and sharp, warning gusts came out of the north to shake the branches. He was lonely, but in its way that was good, it was the least their friendship deserved. It also meant he missed having people around him, as he had not when he first arrived.
Late one afternoon he went up to the House, planning to spend time watching the river before dinner. What had seemed like noise before, that blend of voices and children’s laughter and the river’s flow, now felt homely and inviting, a welcome respite from his own company. He sought out his favourite balcony and had barely chosen a seat and opened his book when Erestor found him.
They had seen one another since their return and Gildor’s leaving, of course, but Erestor had a good sense for when someone needed to be left alone and had made no demands upon his time. Allowing the book to drop into his lap, Glorfindel half rose, indicating the chair beside him. “You’re finished early today. Join me, I was waiting for the sunset.”
“You’d see more from the north wing,” Erestor pointed out lightly. “Though you should try watching from my terrace some time, the sunlight makes rainbows of the mist as Anor sinks behind the mountains.”
“Is that an invitation?” Glorfindel asked, meeting his gaze.
Erestor smiled and his eyes sparkled. “I have cherry brandy,” he replied. “And I can beg a platter of food of some kind from the kitchen. That would be if you were interested in dinner as well as a good view of the setting sun? Though I’d have to ask your patience, I have a few matters to discuss with Elrond before day’s end. The door is open, you can let yourself in when you’re ready. If you’d like to, that is.”
“I’d like to, yes,” Glorfindel replied evenly.
Erestor gave him a pleased look. “Later then. I’ll not keep you waiting long.”
Over the next few weeks new strands formed in the unfolding tapestry of Glorfindel’s life. He painted or drew in the mornings when the light was good and still took long walks, usually with the dog for company, but he was equally likely to spend a morning wandering the House, or take a book and sit reading during the afternoon, preferring the Hall of Fire to the open balconies as the days grew cooler.
Around dusk he would walk down to Erestor’s rooms above the river, and if he was home they would share a glass of wine or cherry brandy and talk about the state of the wood, the brigands Erestor’s men were tracking on the Bree road or the latest news from Mithlond or Lórien over the mountain. They spoke about Gildor only once, or rather Glorfindel spoke and Erestor sat and listened as the room darkened, not caring to break the flow of words by rising to light the lamp.
Some evenings he spent alone at home, but most found him with Erestor in the Hall of Fire, sitting with Elrond and his family or with Erestor’s small circle of close friends. About to leave the Hall one night, they were faced with rain beating down so hard it was as though the river flowed above their heads, not past their door. After a single look at the downpour, Erestor shook his head and raised his voice above the noise to say, “You can’t think of walking back in this. Stay here tonight where it’s dry. You’ll drown out there.”
They stood in the entrance with the rain falling down beyond their shelter, the light from the covered lanterns fracturing and sparkling, haloed with fine mist. “Where’s Elrond? I suppose I should ask if I can use one of the rooms…” Glorfindel turned to go back into the Hall of Fire but stopped at the light touch of Erestor’s hand on his arm, not demanding but enquiring. He looked down and for a long moment all he could see was the curve of Erestor’s cheek, the pure line of his nose, those up-tilted, golden eyes. “There are more ways than one of drowning,” he finished quietly, his voice almost lost in the patter of the rain.
They ran the short distance between the Hall and the House, taking the steps two at a time, laughing like children, but as they made their way along the twisting, at times confusing passageways towards Erestor’s rooms, the laughter faded. They walked close, their arms almost touching, until Glorfindel finally took Erestor’s hand and they covered the last distance not only in the same direction but together.
There was a lamp burning and the room was bathed in welcoming light. The door closed and he swept Erestor up against him without a word, his mouth tracing the smooth curve of Erestor’s cheekbone, the softness of his cheek. His tongue caressed an earlobe, feeling soft warmth surrounding a tiny disc of beaten gold. Then he found Erestor’s mouth and time stopped.
Clothing was fumbled, fastenings parted, cotton and silk and suede marked a trail across the room – Glorfindel’s tunic, Erestor’s shirt and jerkin, Glorfindel’s belt. The bedroom was too far, it would mean too much time, talk, interruption. Instead Glorfindel had him on the couch, pushing him down roughly, instinct supplanting thought. Erestor waited almost motionless, bent forward, black hair clinging to the long lines of his naked back, pale skin marked by a scar below his left shoulder blade and a tiny dragon tattooed at the base of his spine. Glorfindel paused beside the couch, sweat prickling his skin, and devoured him with his eyes.
Kneeling, he lifted Erestor’s hair aside, bending to kiss the nape of his neck, mouth the curve of his shoulder. The entire world seemed to have contracted to this body open to his touch, and the soft, throaty sounds in response. He ran his hands over Erestor’s ribcage, shivering at the ripple of bone under smooth skin, then grasped his hips hissing sharply, “Up. More!” And breathed in harshly as Erestor instantly obeyed. The submission was new to him, unexpected, something he had not known he craved till now. It sent lust flaring through him, so startling in its intensity that it set the blood pounding in his ears.
One hand still twisted in hair like heavy silk, he fumbled for the lamp oil on the end table, spilt it over his hand as he unfastened his pants to release his aching sex and slake it with the oil. His hands were trembling and he was panting softly. Moving between Erestor’s thighs, he spread firm cheeks wide, the skin sliding under his oil-slick fingers, then thrust, breathless, into tight, demanding heat. Erestor cried out and pushed back against him, the naked hunger in his voice driving Glorfindel deeper, hands clenching and slipping on his hips, carried onward on a tide of cries and curses and pleading.
There was no time for finesse, no place for art, he drove them into the fire, one hand wound in Erestor’s hair, riding him with no regard for kindness, his free hand thrust between his lover’s thigh and his own, pumping till Erestor’s back arched and he held still on an endless, keening breath. He pulsed within Glorfindel’s hand as he came, convulsing around Glorfindel’s hardness, carrying him crying hoarse and joyous over the edge into life.
At first they moved between the cottage and Erestor’s rooms depending upon the needs of their day and the state of the river. When it ran high and noisy, Erestor spent more time at the cottage, when the hour grew late or the night was still, Glorfindel stayed over at the House. They each kept their own space though, and not just for Glorfindel’s sake. Erestor was used to living alone and had his own adjustments to make. As time passed they began spending more time at the cottage, though that might have been more a seasonal choice; it was cosier in cold weather than Erestor’s waterfront suite.
Glorfindel rode out occasionally with Erestor and his men, perhaps once a month. Erestor had made the point, with which his own common sense concurred, that if the day came when circumstances made it necessary for him to join in the defence of Imladris or her allies, it would be as well for the warriors to be at ease with him and familiar with his ways.
He enjoyed the excursions, but found he was still not drawn back to his old way of life. Instead he went home eager to return to his studies: he was learning the Westron, a tool he believed would be of greater value than any sword. It was Finrod who had said that to understand a man, one needed first to master his speech.
Midwinter saw them snowed in for three days, sitting by the fire wrapped in furs and drinking the last of Erestor’s cherry brandy while they laughed and kissed and shared stories of childhoods spent on opposite sides of the sea. In private, Erestor possessed a wicked sense of humour, a fondness for silk and a cat-like sensuality. He got on with the animals – there were more cats and the dog had found a friend who became a regular visitor – and taught Glorfindel to laugh at himself again and take life less seriously than before.
Their nights were varied, ranging from passionate love making on Erestor’s less than private terrace to lying quietly in bed together reading. Glorfindel continued to paint: Erestor thought it a way of assessing the world as he became reacquainted with it, borne out by the loving detail he gave to the simplest scene, be it a pair of squirrels gathering their winter store, a neighbour’s child watching a bird in flight, his horse grazing in the meadow, or a deer about to enter the cottage garden.
And he painted Erestor at last, lying naked and relaxed as a cat before the fire, his hair cloaking breast and shoulders with the sheen and texture of silk, his skin warmed by firelight and his eyes and smile an invitation. It was Erestor as the charcoal attempts had been unable to portray him, alive, touchable, affectionate. It hung over the mantle, the focal point of the room, just as the original had become the centre of the artist’s heart.
One late winter’s afternoon while he was putting out bread for the birds, Glorfindel suddenly realised he had been in Imladris for more than a year, and that Gildor had left almost on the anniversary of their reunion. He stood watching the birds flocking down and wondered if the choice of date had been deliberate or was just tied to the seasons and the needs of life as a wanderer – adventure in the summer, safe haven in winter. When the prince returned, he would remember to ask.
They had only heard from him once, when one of his people arrived shortly before the midwinter festival with letters for friends and a Khandian fertility doll for Glorfindel, with a note, hoping it would engender creativity and new beginnings in their lives. It was addressed to Glorfindel and Erestor, Gildor’s way of having the final word, of sorts.
The wind was rising, tugging at his clothes and shaking the branches. Glorfindel looked up at the mountains towering above them in the east and assessed the cloud. There would be more snow, he thought, and that howling north wind that came before and after, lifting and carrying off any small item not fastened down. He needed to make sure the horse was comfortable in his shelter up against the cottage and the well covered, perhaps even bring extra water into the kitchen. Their valley was a peaceful place, not much given to extremes in weather, but the north wind had a will of its own.
He had stew waiting for when Erestor got home, and later they would close the shutters and retire to the bedroom so their bodies could relearn one another after a day apart. And they would sleep with the wind calling outside the window, and in the morning would wake, limbs tangled, heads close together. And he would know, as he knew every morning since the first time they woke together, that he was finally, truly, alive.
Beta and Banners: Red Lasbelin
Art by Mathia Arkoniel