When he awoke next morning, she was gone.
Not too much wine this time. But where was she now?
He sat up groggily, noticing that he wore nothing at all beneath the covers.
He would have to go back to Celirwen's hall and retrieve his clothes. He had but the one suit he had arrived in. But he did not know the way. Perhaps Sauron had a map somewhere about the place. Maybe he could even find his horse.
Nay, Russandol would never come here. Deep down, Gaergath knew his horse was forever lost to him.
He stood up and used the chamber pot, setting it far from him just to see if he could hit it from here, and make a noise loud enough to be heard in the next room. Then he looked around for his clothing, remembering the previous night. And knowing his life had changed forever. Again.
So this was what it was all about.
He was not sure what to feel. In truth, he had rather hoped his first time would be sweeter. Instead, it had been more like his own fevered imaginings. Binya knew things he had never supposed girls knew. Things he had not even supposed people actually did, save in their minds perhaps. It was as if she had read his mind. Perhaps she had, at that. Oh, she was good...and bad...and he never wanted to see her again...and he wanted more and more of her...
He wondered if he were in love, touching the sconce he had made the previous day, and had forgotten to give her. He would make more, and better things for her. And someday....
He could not even remember the name of the yellow-haired lass now. She was as far away as his childhood.
"Binya," he whispered looking into the mirror, and he discovered some objects lying on the table next to it. A comb, a pumice-stone, a small bowl, a tin of powder for washing his teeth, a little brush for the powder, a pitcher of water. And a leather pouch to hold the smaller articles.
While he was making himself presentable, he heard a tap at the door, and his heart jumped.
"Come in," he said. The door opened, and a male figure stood there, with an armful of towels.
"Your bath is ready," he said looking a little askance at the boy's nakedness. Gaergath resisted an urge to glare at him for not being Binya.
"I suppose I could do with a bath, at that," he said after a moment, snatching a towel and wrapping it carelessly about his hips. "I can scarcely even remember the last time I had one."
A smirk flickered over the servant's face. Gaergath grinned roguishly at him.
The bathing-room was directly across the hall from the bedroom, and Gaergath entered, the servant following.
"I need no assistance," he told the fellow. "Sorry to disappoint you, for I know you would have a great deal of fun washing me down. However, I much prefer members of the opposite gender for such purposes, so kindly pry your eyes away from my hindside and leave me to my privacy, if you please sir."
The man looked slightly uncomprehending at the boy, then turned to go. After a moment, Gaergath snapped the towel at his backside, and laughed at the expression on his face as he quickly backed out the door.
The room was made of black and white veined marble without windows, several iron sconces on the walls with candles burning in them, the tub sunken into the floor, with a pipe attached to a pump beside it. Several flasks and bottles stood about on the edge. After ascertaining that the door was locked, Gaergath quickly undressed and lowered himself into the steaming water. After sampling each flask, he chose one and poured some of the fragrant contents into the bath, then lay back, savoring the water and remembering the previous night once more.
And wondered where Binya was. She might be attending him right now. He wondered what time it was. Perhaps she was at breakfast. He closed his eyes and dipped far down in the water, wetting his head, then rising once more. He found another flask and poured some of the stuff within into his hand, then rubbed it into his hair. It felt wonderful, all tingly and sensual, and he laughed to himself as he rubbed and rubbed, luxuriating in the delightful fragrance that excited his senses almost as much as Binya had done. Ah...what could be better than this place? He rubbed the stuff onto his body, and it felt heavenly, like a thousand tiny fingers massaging him all over. He imagined the fairies of his mother's garden all coming together and swarming all over him, tickling and caressing him, he could even hear their murmurs and giggles and exclamations, and sometimes they bit into his flesh, like insects, yet the pain was pleasurable, at that, and he touched himself, not even caring if anyone saw him; indeed the thought of anyone watching aroused him all the more. And a cry of pure joy broke from him and he nearly lost consciousness in the water, which seemed to be full of light all around him....
It was nearly an hour before he finally emerged from the bath and went to dry himself. There was a thick robe lying beneath all the towels, but he did not put it on, did not even wrap a towel around himself, but merely walked naked from the bath chamber to his bedroom, scarcely checking to see if anyone else was about. And there he found a suit of clothes, all laid out for him on the bed, which was made. It was a perfect fit.
He did not even remember to put on his cloak.
And now he was hungry. He wished that his breakfast might have been brought in to him, for he did not wish to see any others about, but it had not been done. After rubbing his hair dry and combing it into some sort of order, he went down toward the dining-room, hoping to see Binya there, and at the same time, hoping not to.
"Ah, my son," Sauron said startling him by coming through a door from an adjoining room. He was simply dressed in dark brown sparingly trimmed with gold, but still wearing the pendant, and he looked genuinely happy to see Gaergath. His face was glowing and his smile was full of pride and affection, and at the same time, his eyes twinkled with amusement and knowledge. "You look much refreshed. I am guessing that last night was far more successful than the previous one?"
"I would say it went rather well," Gaergath said, surprised at his own cocky demeanor. "Very well indeed. The service here is..."
And he paused as Drauglir entered the door and went to stand beside his master. The beast's golden eyes looked at the boy with a knowing malevolence that quite unnerved him, and he involuntarily took a step backward.
"Something wrong?" Sauron asked with lifted brows.
"Nay," Gaergath said after a moment. "I feel...as though I could get a bite to eat. I'm hungry. What time is it?"
"It is mid-morning, not too late for breakfast, I should say," Sauron said. And he had food brought in.
Gaergath did not see Binya anywhere about.
"Is it possible that I could take my meal in my room?" he asked.
"If you like," Sauron said. "But is there something wrong with taking it on the porch?"
"If I could take it alone," the boy finished, keeping his eyes from Drauglir with an effort. "It is hard for me to choke down my food with that...creature watching me," he added, before he could stop himself.
Sauron looked startled, glancing down at the wolf, then he chuckled.
"There is no need to fear him," he said a little too smoothly. "But suit yourself."
Soon a tray was brought in, and Gaergath took it out on the porch. He rather hoped Binya would appear, but she did not. The food was excellent. There were hot rolls and butter, and some sort of meat, and some delicious fruits, and soon he had eaten his fill, and found himself wanting more. A cup of hot sweet tea was brought to him.
He was wanting less and less to leave. Even though he was aware that that was exactly what Sauron's plan was.
"So," Sauron said as the boy came back inside, "are you ready for more lessons at the forge?"
"Of course," Gaergath said. Drauglir was nowhere in sight. "Thank you for the clothes, by the way. They are well fitting and comfortable. And I think they become me."
He wanted to ask where Sauron had come by them, but then stopped himself. Not a good idea to ask too many questions, he remembered. Even when they were about clothes.
The lesson went well, and Drauglir did not follow them into the forge. He did not like the heat, Sauron said. He instructed the lad in making an object consisting of two curved pieces to be hinged together and connected in the front. When Gaergath asked him what it was, Sauron looked a little darkly at his son, then brightened a little, and said it was "an armband."
Indeed, thought Gaergath, and he looked rather darkly at it also.
After a couple of hours, Sauron said they might take a break. Gaergath remembered the crown, and went to have another look at it.
"If you like it so much," Sauron said, "it is yours. You may have it."
"Truly?" Gaergath took it in his hands once more. It was as heavy as he remembered, yet the gems gleamed even more brilliantly.
A servant brought down a refreshing drink to them. Sauron and Gaergath sat at a small table opposite the furnace to take it.
"So," Sauron said, "how do you feel about her?"
"Binya?" Gaergath started. "I...I don't know. I know so little about her. Was she really a slave that you rescued from...an Easterling?"
"Is that what she told you?" Sauron chuckled.
"Is it not true?" Gaergath raised his brows.
"You don't want to believe too much of what you hear," Sauron said. "In very truth...the girl is a trifle mad. I doubt she truly knows who she is."
"Is she? I would not have guessed," Gaergath said in dismay.
"You will see it, if you involve yourself with her overmuch. I would say take what she is willing to give you, but keep your heart safe, my lad. In truth, I would say guard it with your life. It is where your strength truly lies. Once it is given or taken, you become vulnerable, easy to reach, and you lose a part of yourself you had done better to keep. In a matter of speaking, you become unmanned and impotent, like a gelded horse. It is best to retain all the parts you came with, for then you remain pure and untouched, and in charge of your being. Give your heart, and you are maimed for life."
"My heart is my own," Gaergath declared, a little pompously, then burped. Sauron did not smile.
"Do not be so sure of yourself," he said. "It is then that you are most open. Be on your guard always. If you even suspect it could happen, turn away and repulse it. No one must own any part of you but yourself. You must forge your own stronghold, in order to become invincible. Now shall we get back to work?"
"I would like to make swords, and spears, and perhaps shields and helmets also," Gaergath said. "Will you show me how?"
"I will show you how to make anything you wish," Sauron smiled. "You have a knack for this sort of work. In time you will be a master swordsmith, I am certain."
"Might I make one today?" Gaergath asked, elation rising like steam inside him.
"Nay, we would need to make steel, for I have no raw steel left," Sauron said, "and that takes time. We will have to gather carbon, unless we can buy some, and I always gather my own."
"Where does it come from?"
"From charcoal, for one, and we can also get it from river sediment, but that takes much doing. We can get a great deal of it from Angband, but we will have to return on foot. We cannot fly with it. Are you up for a cross-country hike?"
"I would love it," Gaergath said, before he remembered just who lived in Angband. "I have scarcely been anywhere, in my life, save for here. It would be a great adventure, I should think!"
"Then we shall go out soon," Sauron said. "There is someone I would love for you to meet...and you will get to see the real Crown."
Before Gaergath could say more, a rap came at the door.
"Master, we have a visitor," a female voice said.