Gaergath wondered how Drauglir was going to fly, seeing as how he had neither wings nor cloak.
And even as he wondered, a very large owl suddenly appeared where the wolf had been.
Was that the transformation Sauron had told of? Impressive, but Gaergath had expected much more.
Then he grinned to himself, and took the form of a black swan. Sauron laughed.
"That's my lad," he said.
And he began to transform also.
Gaergath nearly lost his bearings as he watched. For Sauron had begun to grow a long, long scaly green-black neck with a hideous horned head full of long teeth, the wings of a giant bat with enormous curved claws, and a long tail like a huge lizard, with spikes along the back. Gaergath stared in mingled terror and fascination, then found he was losing his own swan-form, and the cloak was no longer bearing him up. He began to plummet, shrieking, frantically and absurdly flapping his arms in an attempt to stay airborne. The dragon-like creature glanced down toward him, then swooped downward with incredible speed and caught Gaergath on his back. And as he did so, he no longer looked the horrible beast he had been, but like a great eagle, its back thick with downy feathers.
Gaergath clung to the "eagle"'s back, quivering all over, then glanced aside at Drauglir to see how he was taking his master's metamorphosis. He merely continued to fly as if giant dragon-like creatures who turned into eagles were an everyday occurrence to him. He even seemed to be laughing a little, inasmuch as an owl could laugh.
"How far have we to go?" Gaergath finally asked, when he could find his voice.
"Not so far. We should be there in less than one hour," Sauron's voice seemed to come from the eagle's back. Gaergath wondered if he were dreaming. "Perhaps you would like to take a nap," Sauron added as if he had heard his son's thought.
And much to his dismay, Gaergath suddenly felt himself growing sleepy. He burrowed into the feathers of the eagle's back, where it was most pleasantly warm. It really was growing cold, particularly at such a great height.
And he fell asleep almost immediately.
He woke to find himself lying on a great couch in a softly lighted room, his father standing nearby, looking down at him with an enigmatic expression.
"Where am I?" Gaergath asked, then yawned.
"You are here," Sauron chuckled. "Here in my home, on Tol-in-Gaurhoth. Are you hungry?"
Gaergath blinked up at his father, then sat up slowly, glancing all around. The room was large yet narrow, with high ceilings, the walls of a dark grey stone with high narrow windows, through which he could see it was dark outside. Yet he could see stars--no fog. There were luxuriant furnishings all about--deep chairs with elaborate carving, tall and intricate candle holders and sconces of iron, bronze, silver, brass, wood, and ivory, as well as various types of stone. And some strange carvings with a truly sinister and twisted aspect. A fire blazed in a fireplace that took up one whole end of the room, and a gorgeously worked rug near it formed the one burst of rich color to be seen, save for a couple of crimson velvet pillows lying on the couch near Gaergath's feet.
He glanced about for his cloak, and saw it lying on the back of a nearby chair, and took a deep breath of relief.
He did not see Drauglir anywhere about.
"I am a bit hungry," he finally spoke. Sauron laughed.
"I thought as much," he said. "I think you will find the fare here far more appealing than in your previous surroundings."
"That is not even saying much," Gaergath said. "So. You have a cook? Or is food here eaten raw?"
"There is food cooking even as we speak," Sauron said. "In the meantime, come over to the table here in this adjoining room...if you feel up to it. How do you feel now?"
"All right, I suppose," Gaergath said rising a little shakily to his feet. "How...how long have I been asleep?"
"Not so long. This way."
Gaergath followed his father through an arching doorway, and soon found himself before a long oval table of elaborately carven oak, set about with matching chairs. There were fewer candles, but at the opposite end of the room, there was a large torch set up before what appeared to be a wide platform, expanding from one wall to the other. A huge mirror hung behind it.
Well, at least there are mirrors here, thought Gaergath. Yet he did not look into it. A bowl of fruit and bread distracted his attention from it as it was set down before him. He turned to see who had brought it, and gasped as he looked up into a woman's pale face. It was a sharp and lovely face, with black eyes burning inscrutably down at him, and black hair streaming all around it, smooth and long, and she wore a black gown embroidered with scarlet and gold designs flaming all about the neck and sleeves. Her lips were scarlet also, and he just waited for them to part to show fanged teeth, but they remained clamped and unsmiling as she set down a glass of wine before him.
Then she turned slowly and walked away.
Gaergath looked around for Sauron, and saw him grinning from the other end of the table.
"So you have servants too," the boy remarked.
"Aye, that I do," Sauron said. "She is somewhat fairer than that Hyldreth woman, yes?"
"Considerably," Gaergath said, then turned his attention to the fruit. He wondered if he should be eating the food here. No telling what was in it. Yet he had no other choice; he was ravenously hungry. He picked up a plum and looked at it for a moment, thinking it had a slightly evil aspect about it, as though it had come from one of the trees in Celirwen's garden. He looked at the other fruits, which seemed a little too colorful and gleaming and fragrant also. Then he saw the bread, and bowls of butter and honey beside the plate, and he picked up a knife and cut a slice, and slathered it with the butter and honey, barely refraining from drooling, and bit deeply into it, without looking at his father. It was so delicious it fairly brought tears to his eyes, and he devoured it, then cut another slice.
"Nice, is it not?" Sauron said smiling almost beatifically.
"It's very good," Gaergath said inanely. And he tried the plum, wonderfully sweet and juicy and cold it was. The grapes were even better, and kumquats and pomegranates. Then he tried the wine. It was sweet and tart at the same time, the fragrance maddening. He barely noticed when music began to play.
"Look, my lad," Sauron said nodding in the direction of the platform. Another woman had come in and stepped up onto it. Her hair was a dark flaming red, hanging down to her hips, and she wore a filmy waist of a pale gold color, that left her arms and shoulders bare, and there were gold and bronze bracelets on them, upper and lower, and rings on her fingers--many rings. A scarf of dark purple girdled her waist, and Gaergath could see the outline of her lower legs through her gold-embroidered green silk skirt, which came to just above her ankles which also had bracelets on them. Her feet were bare, and very pretty.
And the nails of her fingers and toes were painted dark red.
Gaergath forgot the food staring at her. He had never seen a woman so scantily attired. As the music played, she began to dance, with a rolling motion of her hips, waving her arms about gracefully, her feet barely moving at all. She fixed her eyes upon Gaergath, and he could see they were painted with black stuff all around them, and glittery gold stuff at the corners, and her lips were crimson and quite full. And clamped together also.
Soon two more women, similarly clad, one with dark hair and the other with gold, joined her on the platform, and they all danced, their bracelets jingling, their hair swirling out like flames as they spun about on the balls of their feet. Their motions were sometimes smooth, occasionally jerky, and at one time they took hands and moved in a sensuous circle, at times caressing each other's hair and faces, looking as though they might kiss each other, and Gaergath held his breath, until they broke apart once more and the music grew faster. The dancers whirled about, their skirts flaring to show their legs nearly up as far as they would go. Gaergath wondered if they were wearing anything at all beneath the skirts, and he could smell them all the way to the t able. He knew there were women who wore scent, but had never been around any such before.
He scarcely noticed when his father moved closer to him.
"Which one do you like best?" he whispered.
Gaergath looked at him blankly.
"The dancers," Sauron said. "Which do you like best?"
Gaergath was rendered speechless.
"Perhaps you prefer lads?" his father said. Gaergath started then.
"Lads?" he said suddenly finding his tongue. Then stared at the dancers again. Sauron chuckled.
"Obviously not," he said. "Well. Just keep watching, my son. You can decide later on."
When the dance ended, another door opened and a man came in, bearing a covered dish. He set it down on the table, and the dark-haired woman in black came in again, bearing a tray of dishes and utensils. These she set down near the covered dish, and handed some to Gaergath. Then she lifted the cover of the dish to reveal a large hunk of meat, steaming and impossibly aromatic, floating in a pool of brown gravy. Gaergath had to swallow saliva, looking at it. The woman cut a generous slice of it, which he could see was beef of some sort, and laid it on his plate, then ladled a spoonful of the gravy onto it. He barely remembered to nod his thanks as she re-covered the dish, and he pounced on it as the music started up again and the dancers returned. The woman poured more wine into his glass, then turned abruptly and left.
Gaergath ate the meat with another slice of bread, and this time it was Sauron who cut more meat for him. They watched the dancers together.
"I most sincerely hope," Sauron said, "that you are not regretting coming out here, instead of going wherever it was you were going on this night."
"Not thus far," Gaergath said, although he had an idea what his father was about. Plying him with delicious food and wine and beautiful dancers, and all manner of creature comforts, in order to persuade him to stay, all for the purpose of spiting Celirwen. Yet just now, he did not care. He merely wanted to enjoy himself. The wine was starting to go to his head, he noticed. He took the bottle and poured more. Never had he tasted such delightful wine before. He would sit up and drink until he could drink no more, and stuff himself. How long had it been since he had eaten such food?
He could stay here forever.
He had scarcely given a thought to his mother. Yet it had been less than a week since her disappearance.
The woman brought in another dish, which was a small cake with some sort of white stuff poured all over it, and nuts sprinkled on top of that. Gaergath sampled it, and found it very agreeable indeed, and ended up eating it all, then finishing off the wine. His father watched him with a smile of almost dreamy pleasure.
Drauglir did not show himself. Gaergath thought to ask where he was, but another performance by the dancers distracted him. They were clad even more lightly this time, in what appeared to be little more than gold and silver ribbons wrapped around themselves. The ends of the ribbons streamed out as they whirled about so quickly they were almost a blur. In a wine-induced haze he watched with his mouth half open, wondering if the ribbons would come off, and then he saw one of them grasp an end of another's ribbon and playfully pull at it, then give it quite a yank, so that its wearer spun around and around, the ribbon coming off in the other's hand, leaving her naked between the breast and hips.
Gaergath had never seen a grown woman's navel before.
And this one seemed to have a tiny jewel in it.
It was the copper-haired maiden.
He could see she was little older than himself.
"You like her?" he asked. Gaergath nodded, watching the golden-haired dancer de-ribbon the dark-haired damsel. He thought he would fall off his chair in another moment.
"You shall have her then," Sauron said. And he called for more wine.
Later he asked Gaergath, "You may have any room you like. There are many on this floor. You shall have the entire run of it."
"Where do you sleep then?" Gaergath asked.
Then he wondered if Sauron slept at all.
And if he would have one of the dancers. And if the red-haired dancer had slept with him.
"Come, my lad," Sauron said without answering the question, "let's find you a room. How about one facing the east, so you might see the sun rise in the morning."
"Fine," Gaergath said, not caring one way or the other. He glanced toward the dancer, who was now standing still, speaking with the others. He could not hear what she was saying, but one of them was looking his way, then the other. He smiled at them. They smiled back.
"Come," Sauron laughed, hauling his son out of his chair. And Gaergath went with him into the hallway, which had a great many doors in the dim light of the numerous sconces. The red-haired dancer followed at an interested distance, smiling as Gaergath looked back at her over his shoulder.