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Twisted Paths of Fate
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Author’s notes:
Yes, this is the end of this particular story. It has become unexpectedly serious for the final chapter – originally I intended to write something more light-hearted than I usually do. But Gildor is not easy to contain when he wants something.

Dedication: This one is for Vorondis, who wanted to know what spoiled the seemeingly easy relationship between Elrond and Gildor forever. Also for Finch, who wanted to know what it would take for Gildor to grow up.


Chapter 5: Confessions

The Sea Festival continued without a break on the next day. Since Elves could go without true sleep for a considerable length of time – and the minstrels provided them with anough stuff for their waking dreams – there was no need for that. Almost invisibly, empty plates were carried away and replaced by heaped ones in the Feasting Hall, new barrels of wine were opened, and the talking and jesting and singing and dancing went on and on, both in the water and on the shore.

Elrond felt drained. After having spent the major part of the day in the Lord Celeborn’s company, he finally slipped away when the Tree Lord had found someone else to talk to, and returned to his chambers, in order to put on something more comfortable and have a moment of peace. He loved the life in the Havens, but this time, the festival crowd was simply too much to bear. He needed to be alone.

Changing into the simple grey grab of Círdan’s people, he escaped through a back door into the garden and carefully descended the same narrow, hidden path Glorfindel and Galdor had been following in the morrow while looking for Voronwë. That little bay was nearly unknown by any one else but those who dwelt in the Sea Palace, so he could hope to be left alone for a while.

He sat down on the edge of the open terrace, almost on the same spot Voronwë had been sitting when his friends had found him, and looked out, far above the white crest of the waves. He thought of his father who had loved the Sea as much as the Sea-Elves did, if not even more. So much that he was never at home. Not even when his home had been attacked and burnt down by the sons of Fëanor, his wife sought escape in leaping from a steep rock and his sons were taken by his sworn enemies.

Of course, Eärendil had saved Middle-earth, at the end, finally bringing much-needed help against the Dark Lord. But that changed not the fact that his wife had no husband, most of the time, and his sons had no father. Not that they had that much of a mother, either. Elrond knew that Elwing had been right not to give the Silmaril the sons of Fëanor – the events of the War of the Wrath had proven it – but it changed not the butter truth that she had cared more for that cursed jewel than she had ever cared for her own sons.

Mayhap that was why Elros had turned to Maglor so completely, Elrond mused, watching the ship of his father sailing up the sky, with the only remaining Silmaril shining brightly upon it(1). What ever Maglor might have don in order to fulfill that horrible Oath of his, he, at least, genuinely cared for them. Elrond had been shocked how fully his brother identified himself with Maglor and the House of Fëanor, but he could understand it to a certain extent. Who else had ever truly cared for them before? Or later, for that matter?

Sure, there always was Glorfindel. Had been since the end of the War. But even though during the years that had gone by since then a genuine fondness grew between them, Glorfindel had neve been part of his childhood. And though the ancient Elf treated him like a son, Elrond knew that Glorfindel only remained on Middle-earth to fulfill that old oath, given to Idril Celebrindal in another life. Only his given word was keeping him here, for his heart was in the Blessed Realm still, keeping the hope that one day he, too, might return.

“Are you still angry with me?” a teasing voice woke him of his thoughts. He needed not to look back; even if he had not recognized that voice by its slight, stelly hardness, there was ony one person in the whole Sea Palace who had a reason to ask that question.

“Of course I am,” he answered, sharper than intended. “You embarrassed me before the Lord and the Lady of Evendim at our first meeting – not to mention before the High King – and for what? A silly jest?”

“Who says I was jesting?” Gildor replied in that infuriating, light-hearted tone that made it impossible to decide whether he was serious or not, and sat down on the paved floor of the terrace, just behind him. Elrond rolled his eyes.

“You want to make me believe that you have fallen in undying love with me? All of a sudden?”

“Certainly not,” Gildor laughed quietly and rubbed his face against the dark braids, half-loose once again. “I am too young to fall in undying love yet(2). But,” he added, beginning to unbraid Elrond’s hair and combing it with his fingers, “I admit that I am… intoxicated. You are truly beautiful.”

“So are you,” said Elrond, slightly embarrased, though he meant it. Even for an Elf, Gildor was exceptionally radiant. Surely, not the one from Elrond’s secret dreams, but still…

“I am fair,” Gildor corrected without false modesty, “as all Elves are. Mayhap a little more, due to all that Vanyarin blood in my veins. But I am not the one who walks the Earth in the likeness of Lúthien, even if in male form.”

“You would prefer me as a female?” Elrond laughed. It sounded so – unlikely, Gildor speaking such words. Flattery was never one of the Prince’s personal flaws.

“I would rather you were a woman, indeed,” Gildor replied half-seriously, wrapping his arms around Elrond from behind. “Then I could marry you and have you all for myself, forever.”

“I thought we agreed that you are not in undying love with me,” Elrond reminded him teasingly, though it was hard to keep the light tone with Gildor nibbling most distractingly on his earlobe. And, of course, he had to do that on the right ear!

“Mhm,” the golden Prince agreed, “but I could.”

“You could what?” Elrond turned his head away to avoid the assault on his sensitive ear, with the questionable result that Gildor now started nuzzling his neck.

“Fall in love with you,” Inglor’s son replied, as if it had been the most evident thing on Earth. “’Tis a shame you were born male.”

“That seemed not to bother you last night,” Elrond shot back, getting a little annoyed by the whole topic. He knew Gildor had been fed a lot more of Noldorin prejudices, despite the fact that his whole family lived in the Havens where Sindarin customs were followed, but this was the first time he actually heard the Prince voice those prejudices.

“True,” Gildor admitted, “but a merry tryst during a festival is not being soul-bound. Not even by Sindarin measures.”

“And, of course, you could never bond with me,” Elrond added dryly.

“Could you?” Gildor asked, somewhat bewildered. Elrond shook his head.

“Nay, I feel not like bonding myself at all. Not yet. I am just curious. After all, male-to-male bonds are not unheard of among the Sindar… even if they are quite rare.”

“Yea, but we are not Sindar,” Gildor pointed out with a shrug. “We only dwell among them. Do you truly belive my parents – especially my mother – would allow me to bond with another male?”

“They have been lenient enough to let you follow Sindarin customs so far,” Elrond reminded him.

“They have,” Gildor agreed, “for they knew well that it was only for the time being. But once it comes to the choice of my life-mate, they will expect me to follow the laws and customs they have been raised by in Valinor(3).”

“And you will obey, of course,” Elrond said with a bitterness that surprised him. Why would it mean aught to him that Gildor followed the strict laws of his people – their people, even if he was of mixed bred himself – in every way that truly counted? They were but casual lovers – and not even close friends beyond that. Still, it bothered him that someone this young could keep the lifeless letter of law in such high esteem.

“Of course I will,” Gildor answered. “Just as you will do your duty to your family and your bloodline. We are not some stray Wood-Elves that can do as they please. I am a royal Prince of Finrod’s House, the next one in line for High Kingship after Gil-galad. I have the obligation to marry and give heirs of my own to our House.”

“And what am I?” Elrond asked quietly. “Am I no-where in that line?”

“Nay,” Gildor answered with brutal honesty. “You might be the son of the evening star, but you descended from a female line. You know our law: you would come into consideration for kingship only if I should die before you. Mayhap not even then.”

“Because of the mortal blood in my veins?” Elrond asked. “’Twas not a hindrance for Dior to become Thingol’s Heir. And Turgon accepted Tuor as the chosen husband of his only daughter.”

“Yea, but Doriath was a woodland realm,” Gildor waved dismissively, “and as for Turgon: he never named the son of Idril – your father – as his Heir. He chose his nephew, even though that decision caused the fall of the Hidden City.”

“So, ’tis about Noldorin pride and keeping the bloodline pure?” Elrond shot back with biting irony. Gildor sighed.

“You know how important kinship and tradition for our people are,” he said with a shrug. “Mayhap even more than written law. They would never accept you as the High King of the Noldor, regardless of the fact that you descend from Melian the Maia.”

Elrond turned and locked eyes with him. “Would you accept my claim?”

“Nay,” Gildor replied without hesitation, “I would not. I like you and I respect you, but ’tis not something I would decide on the basis of my personal likings. ’Tis about hereditary laws, and according to those your claim would not be justified.”

“But yours would, would it not?” asked Elrond bitterly. It hurt to hear this words from someone he considered a friend, even if only a casual one, more than he had expected. Gildor nodded.

“Yea, it would. ’Tis not something you or I can change. Be honest with me, Elrond: do you truly wish to claim High Kingship?”

“I do not,” Elrond admitted. Still, it hurt being rejected so utterly. “My gifts and ambitions lay elsewhere. But I do believe that you would very much like to make that claim, am I right?”

“Of course you are,” said Gildor with a strangely grim smile. “You know me well enough. And if Gil-galad cannot take the responsibility to get married and have some heirs, I might even follow him on the throne.”

“So you believe leadership is what you have been born for?” Elrond countered, with an equally hard edge in his voice. Gildor nodded with the easy confidence of the highly-born.

“Born and bred and taught for leadership,” he replied calmly. “Just as you have been raised to be a lore-master and a healer. We are the two sides of the same coin – but the opposite sides… never the same one.”

Elrond shook his head in disbelief. “And I thought I would know you! Indeed, I can hardly recognize you any more. You are more like the Lady Artanis than you are like your orwn parents.”

“We are kin,” Gildor shrugged, “and though she is not the most beloved member of my family, not for me, we do have similar ambitions. More so than my father and I have.”

“And so you hope she would support your claim?” Elrond asked dryly.

“I not only hope it – I know she would,” Gildor replied with a wry grin. “She might not respect my parents for their lack of ambitions, and she certainly likes not me very much, but she knows all too well that I am her only chance to come closer to real power.”

“Would you truly give her that chance, just to secure her support for yourself?” Elrond asked in disgust. “Are you so hungry for power that you are already plotting your own little scheme against your rightful King?”

“I need not to plot, Gildor answered, a cold glint in his eyes. “As for now, I am the heir apparent to Gil-galad’s Kingship.”

“’Til he takes a wife and has heirs of his own,” Elrond countered, feeling his anger rise again. To his great surprise Gildor suddenly burst out in a merry laugh and shook his head in some hidden delight.

“Valar, but you are blind… oh, but it matters not. You will see it one day – soon enough, I deem. But you have no reason to worry for the High King. I know where my place is, and I know the law. I would never assault Gil-galad’s position. There will be no need for that.”

“You speak in riddles,” Elrond complained, more in surprise than in anger. This new Gildor, whom he saw for the first time – and he could not decide if he liked his so-far hidden side or not, though he tended to the latter – confused him to no end.

Gildor smiled that easy, well-know smile again – then he unexpectedly leaned over and kissed Elrond. “And you are incredibly clueless for someone who is supposed to be wise. Calm down. I am not your enemy.”

“You might be one day,” Elrond warned him, “should you forget your obligation to the King in favour to your own ambitions.”

“If you believe I could do so, then you truly know me not,” Gildor answered a little sadly, “but let us not fight about what might come, pray you. What ever tomorrow might bring, we still have today. Let us not waste it. Would you come with me?”

“What for?” Elrond asked pointedly. “Do you hope to tame me through the pleasures of your bed, so that I might support you?”

Tame you?” Gildor laughed so hard that tears rolled down his face. “Nay, Elrond, no-one would ever be able to tame you. You have both the powers of Lúthien and the wildness of mortal Men under all the Elven smoothness of yours. That is why I still desire you,” he added, his voice low and silky now. “Let us make good use of the rest of the festival; we might not have an other chance to do so.”

“For you might turn against me?” Elrond replied with a mirhless smile.

“Nay,” Gildor said, suddenly very serious. “For you might turn against me, soon.”

“Should you break your oath to the King, I might,” Elrond said. Gildor sighed.

“Oh, but I fear I would not need to do so, even. You have sided with the King from the first hour on, and even though I expect not Gil-galad and myself to become rivals for the throne, since he already has it, he will separate us, sooner or later. I honestly wish we could remain friends, even allies, but…”

“There is little hope for that if you ally yourself with the Lady Artanis,” Elrond finished for him. Gildor shook his head sadly and embraced him tightly, kissing his neck.

“Let us forget tomorrow, Elrond, I beg you! I know I cannot keep you, for many reasons, first of all being the fact that no-one can without bonding with you for ever, but give me the at least rest of this festival. I need you more than I need air to breathe.”

“But we both know you love me not,” Elrond replied in slight bewilderment, for Gildor’s unexpected plea seemed to come out of no-where for him. “You said so yourself, not so long ago.”

“Nay, I do not,” Gildor said honestly, but his eyes were burning. “’Tis not about love, ’tis about passion, can you not feel it? We might never want each other the way we do now – at least the way I want you –, but that is the future and this is now. Lie with me tonight, my very own evening star!”

“I am not yours!” Elrond protested, though the passion began to cloud his mind as well.

“Not tomorrow,” Gildor agreed, entwining his fingers with that wonderfully silky, raven-black hair, "and mayhap never again. But you can be mine tonight. Would you?”

Elrond hesitated for a moment. Their playful tryst had turned into something deadly serious all of a sudden – as if they had reached an invisible crossroad of utmost importance, from which one they would walk separate ways. He felt with a sorrowful certyinty that they never would find back to their easy friendship once this night will be over.

But, at least, they still could have this one more night.

“I would,” he answered, cupping Gildor’s face and kissing him on the lips. Hard. “I shall be yours tonight – and never again.”

“Tonight is all I ask,” Gildor answered quietly. “Come, let us go in that hidden bower of the backyard garden. I would have you under the stars.”

~And here endeth this tale.~


End notes:

(1) Yes, yes, I know that he could not actually see the ship, only the light of the Silmaril, okay? I just could not resist being nauseatingly poetic this one time.

(2) And before anyone gets agitated: no, I would never buy from the Great Maker the highly unrealistic idea that Elves mature at the age of 50 and get married on the spot, just to cease having physical contact some two centuries later.

(3) Wich are not entirely identical with the similarly-named document in "Morgoth’s Ring". But I believe that the Noldor in Valinor followed a great lot of them. Maybe the Vanyar, too. Even more so. Inglor being somewhat lenient towards his children might come from the fact that he had to grow up without a father. In my interpretation Finrod and Amarië had secretly exchanged marriage vows before tha latter left for Middle-earth, and Inglor was born a year after that.


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