Work Header

Gates of Steel

Chapter Text

Still summer had come to the wood of Nan Elmoth. Few of the Elves lived among the forest of pine and hemlock, so close-roofed with branches that the stars themselves were blocked out for all the year. And those few that did took Eöl for their lord, and did his bidding.

Maeglin thought on this bitterly as he sat at table with his father, Eöl, his mother, Aredhel Ar-Finel, and their guest, Saeros; his father's spy in the realm of Doriath. Saeros was telling them all the news that Eöl would hear, of traffic with the Dwarves and the dealings of Thingol. But he would not suffer Saeros to speak any news of the kin of Aredhel and Maeglin, the elf-people of the Noldor. Maeglin seethed at this. He and his father had become estranged since they had traded harsh words over Maeglin's desire to visit his kin. Eöl had said to him, "I will not deal or have my son deal with the slayers of our kin, the invaders and usurpers of our homes. In this you will obey me, or I will put you in bonds." And Maeglin knew his father did not make idle threats.

Eventually, Eöl rose, and smoothly invited Saeros to walk with him a while. He bade an uxorious good-evening to his wife, and she watched with a look between sadness and petulance as the pair left. Maeglin's eyes glinted with rage. When Eöl was gone, he spoke to his mother.

"How can you stand it? Do you not burn with fury? You know they now speak of your kin, and deny you all the news you would most have!"

Aredhel laughed lightly. "The news from Doriath - he may tell me some of it later. Saeros should have remembered all the details about the scandal of Daeron's lust for the king's daughter. I wonder if it came to anything?" she mused. She turned to see if this amused her listener, and her face shifted to regret to see Maeglin's uneasy expression. "My son! I spoke my thought too freely. I am sorry; for it was not meet. You are grown so tall and lordly, and the talk tonight was so diverting, that I felt among my companions of old. Forgive me." She bowed her head, ashamed.

"Of course, Mother." He could never bear to see his mother grieved, especially on his account.

"We are both lonely, I think," said Aredhel. She had changed the tongue she spoke. Before, she had spoken a common elvish language, but now she spoke the old High Speech, that was used every day only in the city where she had dwelt, Gondolin. She and her son were the only ones who spoke that language in all Nan Elmoth; it was their secret. She stood and moved aside the drapes blocking the late-setting sun from entering the chamber. A ray of light fell in, blinding as it glanced from Aredhel's white raiment. "Would that your father had not forbidden you at least from visiting our kin! For me, I made my choice, and I must bear it. But I would have our kin see how fair you are. Might you not try to reconcile with him?"

"I had thought on it, mother," Maeglin admitted. "I long to go riding with you again, and not to be idle away from the forges all day. But he has barred me from both, and his wretched servants bide by him." The servants of Nan Elmoth were not their allies. They were not pleased that Eöl had taken a straying Noldor to wife, instead of one of their own kin. It was no hardship for them to obey commands that suited their long grudges. "But do not stay here tonight on my account; ride out and bring me back the tale of all you see. That will lighten the time for me."

Aredhel danced off, relieved to have her greatest pleasure made her duty. Maeglin went back to his private chamber with a heavy heart, and paced its length. In the twilight room, his face was so pale it seemed to have its own light, and his hair was black without any glint of sleekness. Anyone who looked at him and his lovely mother standing together would have known they were kin, but they would have marvelled at his dark, deep-set eyes; those he had from his father.

For most of his years, Maeglin had followed his father's will. The increased hunger of his mind had changed that. Nan Elmoth grew stale to him. He was ever more mindful of his mother's tales of her lost city, Gondolin, and dreamed of new faces and deeds. Restless, he had quarrelled with his father more and more; the spite, and the attention he received, was a change from dull routine. When Eöl had realized what Maeglin gained from their quarrels, he had struck doubly, with the grave threat and with complete silence to his son. Whoever spoke first to the other, it was understood, was surrendering.

They had been silent to each other for a year.

Now, the busy mind that had led Maeglin to rebel brought him at last to the idea of reconciling. It was not that he was breaking, he told himself; this would be a means to an end. Once he might ride out again, it was only a matter of time before he left for good. In the meantime, he would sharpen and harden himself at the forges, making things that would be needful for a battle-torn flight. To do this within the bounds of Nan Elmoth, Maeglin needed his father to lift the blocks and bans placed on him. Eager for escape, fading from boredom, Maeglin decided to feign contriteness and break the silence. He stopped his pacing and sat down in the coolest corner of the room, deep in shadow.

He needed to harden himself to deceive Eöl without being undone. If he did not go to his father at least partly with good will, the deep-seeing elf-man would read it in him, and call him out on it. This Maeglin knew, for he too had the same strange gift to peer into another's soul and mind. He must persuade himself, before he persuaded his father.

What was the worst that could happen? Nothing, really; no word and no change. And that was not likely, he thought. One so possessive would not refuse fealty again. Anything else that his father might bring him, harsh words or otherwise, he would bear it, because it was the pathway to what he wanted. Not just a measure of freedom, but escape. When he was younger, Eöl had taught him everything. A harsh word from his father broke his heart, and a kind touch made his heart leap. He was steeled against both, now. He would be stronger than hammer or anvil.

A week after Saeros had left, Maeglin went to his father at his forge beneath the hemlock trees. When he arrived, Eöl was hammering out a sword. It was unusual to see at this time of year. Normally, Eöl saved the making of swords for winter, when it was easier to anneal them with secret arts in the long, cold nights. By the looks of it, some dwarf-lord had pleaded for it out of season; the blade was short and wide. Heat shimmered from the forge's open wall on the summer night. Maeglin waited patiently as the blade was hammered, cooled in a trough of blood and water, and lain to temper on a hot sheet of metal. Eöl looked up then, wiping the sweat from his face. He saw Maeglin and did not speak, but nor did he send him away. And it meant much not to be dismissed from the smithy of Eöl at the end of a sword's forging.

Eöl bent and took a metal pipe out from a secret place, balancing it on the forge until its channel glowed. He flipped the tempering blade, at times cooling it again in the red water. When the blade-metal was at a certain radiance, yet touched with ash, he took it in a pair of tongs and thrust it into the pipe, turning it, thrusting it in again, muttering charms as he worked the metal inside the pipe's trebled heat. At last he thrust the blade into the red water, and the steam filled the forge with a rich fume of steel. When Eöl placed the blade on a scorched block of wood, Maeglin stepped forward at last. "Father?"

Eöl turned to his estranged son and spoke. "What?"

Maeglin's voice was laced with persuasion. "Father, I came to apologise to you. And to say that I will bide by your laws with a good will, not grudgingly."

"Been thinking, have you?" Eöl's tall frame was hung with a heavy leather apron over coarse, scorched garments, and he wore leather gauntlets. His long black braid was bound into a club at the back of his neck, and his lean face and sinew-strong arms were streaked with soot and metal-grime.

"Yes, father."

"You should have come to me sooner," Eöl said, wiping more sweat away. "Could have used your help here tonight."

"I could help now, father."

"Dressed like that? No. I am finished, anyway." Maeglin wore a fine white shirt and slim-fitting indigo leggings. Amidst the fumes of the forge, his skin was fairer than Eöl's, and his soft, dark eyes less shadowed. "Come here."

Dutifully, Maeglin went and stood by his father. Eöl was taller than he was. Maeglin showed promise that he would become even stronger than his sire over time, but at eighty years he was only barely come of full age by the count of the Elves. Eöl took off one of the gauntlets and stroked Maeglin's cheek. "Iôn," he said, the elvish word for "son," which he often used instead of Maeglin's name. "You'll work with me tomorrow."

"Thank you."

"And you'll come to me tonight."

"Of course, father." In the heat of the smithy, Maeglin was chilled by those words.

"Good. I would be sure of you. Keep that garb when you come later; it suits you."

Maeglin was obedient in garb and appearance that evening, hiding his double mind. When Maeglin came to his father's chambers in the silence before dawn, Eöl's pale skin was clean, and his braid trailed down his back. He stood tall and commandeering, dressed in a loose summer robe dyed with indigo. Maeglin took the metal cup of wine his father proferred. Ordinarily, he would have refused it. One never could tell what dark herbs lurked in the cups of Eöl, to incite passion or dull the will. In his placating mood, he accepted the wine, and sipped sparingly.

Sitting on the couch of repose, they spoke for a time of the labours of the forge, and Maeglin could not help but come alive at the talk of the work he loved. For the first time, Eöl smiled. "It is well to see that you are still my son." He moved closer along the couch, and smoothed back Maeglin's dark hair. His hands smelled of iron, and his dark gaze drew like magnet-steel.

Eöl began one of his rare speeches. "I was disappointed in your wilfulness, to succumb to wishing to visit your mother's unworthy kin," said Eöl. "I raised you to have a stronger will than that. The Noldor can teach you nothing more than what we know already, and they betrayed our people, slaying the Teleri and usurping their lands. They are deceivers and defiers ever. Have they not been cursed to fall by treachery of kin unto kin?"

"That is so, father," said Maeglin.

"Then you understand why I kept you from them, to protect you," said Eöl. "I care for your mother, enough to rescue her from her tainted kin; and I care for you." He looked hard at Maeglin. "And that is why your foolishness angers me. Show me that you are not as they are, that you are true."

Maeglin rose. The sooner this ritual began, the sooner it was over with, he thought, brooding more on what Eöl might have planned for him later than on the fact that he moved to strip before his father. He had learned his silence from these hours; such times were their secret. With practised grace, he began to unfasten his white shirt. Before he could slide it off his shoulders, Eöl spoke. "Keep it on," he commanded, "but off with the rest." He moved aside so that Maeglin could recline along the couch of repose.

Silently, Maeglin ran his hands over his own body, drawing one leg up. Eöl stood above and watched the young elf-man caress himself for a time. Maeglin strove to make a flickering, flowing display, stretching out his lithe body curved with a smith's muscles, now with his head tilted back voluptuously, now meeting Eöl's dark eyes with dark eyes that were the same. From beneath his half-closed lids, he saw Eol brush his own robe so that it fell open from shoulder to ankle, then reach into a pocket. Eöl's smile was grim as he reached down and grasped his son's right wrist. "Did you think I spoke in vain, Iôn, when I said I would put you in bonds?"

"You never said what you did not mean, father," said Maeglin, very quietly. His black eyes flew wide as he felt cold metal snap fast around his clasped wrist.

"Good." With a bruising grip, Eöl took his other wrist and snapped a second gyve there, then seized the short chain between the two in his fist and pulled it up to the level of Maeglin's eyes. Eöl released the chain and stood back, hands on his hips. As he realized he was meant to, Maeglin tested the gyves. They were slick and secure, wrought of his father's black metal, galvorn, the same shining black as both their hair. Involuntarily, he jerked his arms back, trying to escape their clasping touch.

Eöl grabbed the chain again with one hand and dragged him up to kneeling, leaning down so they were face to face. "This is what awaits if you defy me again, to bide in these very bonds. Do you understand?"

"Yes," whispered Maeglin, on the choked edge of silence.

Eöl's lips curled in a thin smile. "You hate them already, do you?"


"My making always meets my purpose. As you shall, Iôn." Maeglin saw that his father's other hand reached back to grasp something - the hilts of a sword that rested by the couch. Eöl shook his blade, Anguirel, free from its sheath with one hand, pulling Maeglin's arms above his head with the other.

Then Eöl rammed the sword into the couch between Maeglin's kneeling legs. Maeglin twisted and bit his mouth for silence, feeling the heat of a cut and blood sliding down one thigh, wincing back from another touch of the sword's metal against his groin. Eöl dragged his raised arms down so that the sword rose between them.

"Are you in a mood to defy me further in these matters?" asked Eöl.

"No, father," said Maeglin.

"Swear your fealty to my sword, then!" Slowly, Maeglin leaned forward and kissed the centre of the hilt, where the hilt's quillon met the blade.

"Again. Lower down."

Maeglin pressed his mouth against the oil-smeared blade. His father still watched him, so he drew the touch of his mouth down a ways, and let a flicker of his tongue show. Eöl grasped the hilt above him, and drew the sword out of Maeglin's chained embrace. He turned the blade sideways, and pressed it against Maeglin's throat. They were both still for a moment. Then, not moving the blade or Maeglin's wrists, Eöl sank down beside Maeglin upon the couch, and turned his lips to his son's.

Eöl was many ages old, with the long life of the elves beneath the stars. Never did he speak of what corruption or fear had darkened him under the trees in his past, whether it had been the cruel ways of unlettered Avari or a shadow of Morgoth. And he had taught Maeglin more than smith-craft. For he would have every pleasure from his son, harsher things than he would ask of his wife. Maeglin was well aware of this; it made their complicity complete. Eöl did not demand a more sophisticated form of satisfaction from Maeglin tonight, preferring to keep him in bonds beneath him.

Eöl was slow to rouse and slow to sate, and he had much use and torment of Maeglin, who was fiery with youth. None had touched Maeglin in his year of silence, and he was more willing to be taken than he wished. Beneath his father's hands and body, and the touches that had first seduced him years past, Maeglin's pain turned to lust, and lust itself became another torment. Longing to plead for release, he was too proud to do so with the gyves around his wrists, holding back until his father commanded it. Eöl was not finished with him then, continuing to take him until Maeglin felt like a sword itself pierced him, hot from the tempering sheet. Maeglin willed himself silent against the long pain; Eöl, silent himself, had taught him not to cry out at such times.

Eöl released Maeglin at dawn so that his son might return to his own chambers. Back in his own space, Maeglin rinsed his mouth from an ewer of water. He knew that he was bleeding where no man wished to bleed from Eöl's long use of him. One of his wrists was still numb, but the well-finished gyves had left him unmarked. Even a blow that had made his mouth run red inside had not marked his face. When he realized that, he straightened up again.

Truly, it had been a success. It might have been far worse. Maeglin smiled. Was that all his father could think of to make him suffer, over the course of a year? Eöl was easily won, then. If their places had been reversed, he would have been more cruel by far. In a few days he would ask to ride out again, and once that was granted, he could plan in earnest. As for seeing his father at the forge tomorrow evening, he would cope with that when the time came. He supposed he might have borne everything without going to the edge of breaking, except the last. His father had taunted for a time, saying that he had decided not to remove the gyves, but keep him so bound. Even the horror and shame of that idea had not broken him, and thinking on it gave his determination a bitter edge.

By the time the moon had waxed and waned again, Aredhel had great delight; for Eöl rode to the midsummer feast of the dwarves of Nogrod, leaving Maeglin as his seneschal, not the head steward. It seemed to her that all was right as it might be beneath the trees.

The evening that Eöl had ridden out, Maeglin and Aredhel had gone out separately, taking their horses to the eastern edge of the wood to watch the sunrise, and then returned to Eöl's halls. Maeglin was silent as they returned. This freedom was sooner than he anticipated. He had not completed the work of weapons he hoped to, but he did not know when he would have another chance to flee again. He looked at his mother as they rode, she exuberant at the chance of a few days under less forced guard. He would speak to her, and see if she might not mend her ill choice, hoping that he would not need to tell her all the reasons she might wish to leave Nan Elmoth.

Maeglin spoke to her when they walked between stable and dark doorway. "Lady, let us depart while there is time! What hope is there in this wood for you or me? Here we are held in bondage…" He laid out his plan swiftly, to guard her while she guided him. His mother's response thrilled him, not least because he did not need to try and persuade her more. "That indeed I will do, and swiftly! And no fear shall I have upon the road with a guard so valiant."

"Then let us seize what is needful, and leave when day is come! Take only what a swift horse may bear besides us, riding fast and secret. Then I will meet you at your chambers, and we shall go forth."

Maeglin did not run, but walked swiftly to his room. He donned his black-metal armour against his father's darts, and covered all with a grey-green cloak to blend with wood and field, although it would make the summer ride hot to bear. He took up a pack that he had made ready with subtle thieving from his father's stores, then went to pass to Aredhel's rooms. On the way, he stopped and paused. The door to his father's chambers, through some neglect, was not locked. The portal was open.

He entered.

In the main room, the curtains were still drawn; the couch still bore its gash from the sword-strike meant to humble him. The dusty, incense-laden smell of the air made him feel cold again, as if he might hear Eöl's footfall at any moment. He walked up to the couch. After looking at it for a long moment, he spat in contempt, then turned to leave that place forever.

A gleam caught his eye, and he looked among the jewels and metal scattered on a table. There lay the sword Anguirel. Of course! Maeglin recalled that, when Eöl went to the dwarves, to flatter them he carried an acid-graved axe as his weapon, not his sword. Maeglin carried a sword. But his fingers itched with covetousness at the sight of Anguirel. He went to Anguirel and lifted it, drawing it partly from its sheath. The metal seemed to hum in the dusty room.

"Black sword," whispered Maeglin. "I swore fealty to my father and to thee. Thee at least I will not betray; come with me." Quickly, he opened his belt and took down the sword he wore already. It had been bestowed by Eöl, and he had had to earn it. Maeglin did not cast it to the table, but to the floor, and he slid Anguirel's sheath along his belt. Striding wider to balance the extra weight, he came to his mother's chambers.

"I am ready, dear son!" Aredhel trilled.

Maeglin looked at her in dismay. "Mother! Why are you clad all in white? You will shine like a beacon as we ride, to be seen a league or more away!"

"I would be in fair array when we come to Gondolin, although the ride is long."

Maeglin recognized her stubborn expression and gritted his teeth, balancing his anger at her flightiness with his eagerness to be free. He would not linger to argue about which cloak was prettiest. "Let us go, then. Now!" he said, harshly. Aredhel looked at him, astonished, then followed him obediently. Maeglin used the same harsh tone to the shocked stable-elves to demand the two swiftest horses. As they went out, Maeglin looked at his smiling mother, and felt the weight of the black sword by his side. He decided that he was filching the two fairest things from Nan Elmoth, and he was glad.

Maeglin never forgot that wild ride. Two weeks they rode, every day in the summer sun or the light rain, and even the clouded day-sky seemed bright after the night of Nan Elmoth. They taunted Eöl's servants at the fords of the Celon, telling him that they rode to see the sons of Fëanor. Then they went hard along the fences of Doriath, east and north. When they turned away from Doriath into the fell foothills of Nan Dungortheb, the evil place of shadow and the spawn of Ungoliant, they did not ride unchallenged. Maeglin wielded Anguirel, and the sword seemed well pleased with its new master; nothing stood before them. When they rested the horses, Aredhel again spoke the oft-told tales of Gondolin. "My brother Turgon has no heir, nor will he, being bereaved, poor dear elf. He will be greatly pleased when I ride there with you." Maeglin smiled. He had been counting upon this, and looked forwards to seeing the truth of it.

At last they came to the Dark Gate that led to the Hidden City of Gondolin; and from the moment that Maeglin heard other elves besides himself and his mother speak in Quenya, he was silent with wonder. They passed the great gates, they walked the white streets and halls, and they were brought before Aredhel's brother, Turgon, in the highest hall of all. It was as Aredhel had spoken; her brother ruled Gondolin.

As the sundered kin embraced joyfully, Maeglin looked about, and was stricken to the heart. For there was a woman beautiful beyond his dreaming, as bright as freedom itself, standing dutifully by the king.

"Who is that maid? I never imagined a woman so lovely," he said.

Aredhel gently said, "That is my niece of whom I spoke, wise Idril. She will introduce you to maidens as fair as she, as is fitting. I am not surprised you did not think she might be kin, for you had no cousins in Nan Elmoth."

No, thought Maeglin bitterly; but he had a father. And in his mother's soft rebuke he saw all his father's uncleanness, and his own, and his heart curdled with venom.

Later on, he did not remember much of the courtly pleasantries that passed before a messenger came with unimagined news; Eöl had followed them. Based on the messenger's report, Aredhel's white raiment had been part of what betrayed their path. Maeglin's throat clenched with fury at his mother's vanity, his own sloppy haste, the irony that it all might begin again here, the lust and the pain and the service. He said naught as his mother said for them to bring Eöl forth.

He was brought there, proud and sullen. Eöl looked at his son and saw the black sword by his side, and read the hatred in his eyes; and he knew well that Maeglin was come to wisdom. Maeglin saw him collect himself and speak proud words, turning at the end to Maeglin, not to his wife. "Come, Maeglin son of Eöl! Your father commands you. Leave the house of his enemies and the slayers of his kin, or be accursed!" But Maeglin answered nothing. He would not surrender, this time, or come at his father's bidding ever again.

Staring at his father, Maeglin barely heard the words as Turgon presented Eöl with a choice; live forever in Gondolin, or accept death. "And so also for your son," said Turgon at the last. Eöl was silent, and stayed silent. The longer the interval drew on, the closer Maeglin and his mother drew to each other. Aredhel was trembling, he saw.

"The second choice I take for myself, and for my son as well. You shall not hold what is mine!" As he spoke, he flung a light spear and it struck home, not against armoured Maeglin but against Aredhel, who sprang before her son.

Even as the guards leapt forwards to bring Eöl down and bind him, and Aredhel pulled out the javelin, Turgon shouted that he would have Eöl slain. To Maeglin's shock, Aredhel, her white gown bearing a flower of blood, cried out, "No! He is my husband!"

Before Maeglin could recover from this, Idril also spoke. "I would not see any elf so slain by your command, father. It is as ill as the Kinslaying we both suffered to avoid. Bring him tomorrow to your judgement! We might take counsel tonight."

Turgon looked swayed by the women's words. Maeglin added nothing, angry that both the women placed his father's life above his own. How could his own mother spring before him, then speak up for the one who had tried to kill him? Her face was white and blank, and she looked at neither her husband nor her son. Maeglin saw that one of the guards had pinned Eöl's wrists behind his back with a belt of chain. Used to making the best of things, he thought that it was one satisfaction, at least, to see his father hauled away in bonds, while he stood free, Anguirel by his side.

Even after the dreadful night, when his mother died from the poisoned wound that had seemed small, there was still satisfaction in it the next day when they brought Eöl forth at noon up to the height of the Caragdur. Turgon went to witness Eöl's execution, for he had decreed it after Aredhel had died. Eöl would be flung from the height, to fall and perish on the stones. Maeglin went as well.

Before he could climb the height, Idril spoke to him. She had said little, uneasy at his dark looks and silence, and she burst forth at last. "How can you stand by to watch your father slain? I would have spared him, my cousin; but you may at least spare yourself."

Maeglin saw the horror in her eyes as she looked at him, saw her standing white and gold in the summer mountain sun. All through the counsels of the night, Turgon had borne Idril's disagreement without a raised hand, let alone a raised word. Maeglin had learned much by watching them, and his silence had grown deeper than ever. So had his desire of Idril. "Your father's law is more right than you know," he said, half to himself.

Idril was defiant. "I do not think so. Not in this matter."

Maeglin said nothing to that, but gave Idril a last hot glance. Then he turned and took the stony path, following his father and the execution party, with one hand on the hilts of Anguirel.

Chapter Text

When the last fugitive of Gondolin came to the refugee camp at Nan-Tathren, he found a cold welcome. It did not surprise him to find the spears of several elf-guards turned against him in the dusk, nor that they did not let him pass beyond the first willow-glade of the camp. But he did not expect that Idril Celebrindal herself should come to interrogate him, bringing the loremaster Pengolod to mark their words.

"What is your story, Aranwë? Leman of Maeglin!" Idril, the chief lady of the fallen city, was garbed for defense in silvery mail and buckled armor. Her icy eyes flashed and the braid of her golden hair hung down one shoulder like a sword. "You are daring to follow us. Our scouts had you marked from the Gates of Sirion. It is well that you came alone, and none followed you. What know you of the battle of Gondolin?" she demanded.

Aranwë spoke slowly. "Lady, Maeglin betrayed us. I escaped but by chance. And I know not if Voronwë, my son, lives."

"For one who has not walked with us before this night, you know much," said Idril, "and you will tell me all. As battle raged upon the walls, Maeglin seized my son. I pursued them, and he told me what he had long planned. The betrayal of Gondolin to Morgoth, and worse besides; to take me to wife by force, despite his kinship to me. I know not how this treachery came about, and I know not why save for his marred lust. Maeglin perished on the walls, cast down from a great height. Rumor had it that none were as deep in his counsel as you. Tell me what you knew of the mind of Maeglin. Did you plot with him?" The guards lifted their spears.

"No, lady! It was not my will that our city should fall!" cried Aranwë.

Idril was scathing. "No; you gave your will to Maeglin long ago."

Aranwë did not deny this.

"Come, sword-smith," said Pengolod gently. "Tell the tale but once, for I do not forget, and then the matter is done. What secrets did Maeglin hide?"

Aranwë looked at the ground, bound beneath knotted willow-roots, and sighed. Then he began to speak. And though his words were brief, the full tale ran through his mind like fire.

When Turgon, Lord of Gondolin heard of his sister-son Maeglin's love of metals, he set the chief of his smiths to be Maeglin's mentor and guide. By this he hoped to distract Maeglin from sorrow after the double death of his mother and his sire. Maeglin looked on Aranwë at his forge, and liked him well. He was tall, though stooped from his smith-work in a way Maeglin had seen before, clad in a long apron of scorched leather over his plain garb. His fair skin and black hair were such a match to Maeglin's that they might have been kin. Maeglin stood by as he tidied the dimly lit forge at the end of his work, oiling the metal anvils and work-benches before covering them in sueded hides. In response to Maeglin's quiet, he let his warm, deep voice run on in chatter.

"Rumor speaks about your silence last night, as you watched Ecthelion's trial of ansereg. What do you think of our warriors' ritual? They essay the pain so that they might last through battle and torment, having endured much before," said Aranwë, kindly. Maeglin did not reply.

"Are you like many of the Sindar, who reckon it strange and cruel?" Aranwë asked.

"I am no Sindar any more!" said Maeglin. "It could be sterner. I have taken more myself. And dealt it, too."

Aranwë chuckled and looked fondly at the young elf. Maeglin's hair fell like a raven's curved feathers around his grave, beautiful face. Beneath the indigo clothes and strange black-metal armor he always wore, his body combined litheness and strength. Even his rare smiles seemed deep. The young always took themselves so seriously, thought Aranwë, who had lived long. "Well, lad, before you say so in the great halls, perhaps I should kneel and see what you have to offer in the way of a trial."

Maeglin read his intent. The older smith was half beguiled by his beauty, and half wished to save him from making a fool of himself in front of his new folk. Perhaps Aranwë had a point. This was not the first offer he had received, but he thought it the one of greatest merit. The more imposing his first conquest was, the better the tale of him that would run through the gossip-loving halls of the hidden city.

He stepped up to his challenger with a smile. "I accept, Aranwë. More, I would have it begin now, here at your forge. Bar the great door, then return to me!" This took enough time for Maeglin to arrange some things he thought needful. He had removed his steely arm-braces and was rolling up his sleeves when Aranwë returned.

"Off with all this," said Maeglin, dragging impatiently at Aranwë's burned leather and linen forge-garb. The impromptu roughness titillated Aranwë, after the somber rituals and prepared spaces of full ansereg.

"As you wish, lord," said Aranwë, perfectly correct, and he saw Maeglin's eyes shine at that. Maeglin threw the smith's hide apron over an ordered pile of metal bars waiting at the back of the smithy, and dragged and bent Aranwë to kneel face-down over it.

"You might have bid me hither. The rite of ansereg is to place yourself in the other's hands and power."

"Be quiet! You talk more than anyone I have ever met. You will have what you wished. More than you knew you wanted." The tall smith's hard legs and broad, muscle-finned back were exposed to him. Maeglin took up Aranwë's heavy belt, and trailed it over the bent body, to judge the distance and pace of his strikes. Last night, the elf building up blows on Ecthelion had started out slowly, pacing the pain. Maeglin decided to do the opposite.

Aranwë shouted as the belt slashed his back. As a snapping hail of leather struck without preamble, he gritted his teeth and clung to the pile of metal and leather beneath him, cursing himself for not taking Maeglin at his word. Instead of belaboring his hardened shoulders, Maeglin strapped across his ass and thighs, even his calves and, for a brief agony, the sole of one foot. The younger elf had a steel-smiter's strength, beating Aranwë's flesh down long and heavy until the blows rocked his bones. Just when Aranwë thought he would have to cry out, Maeglin threw aside Aranwë's belt for his own. The scant half-minute for the change was all the respite Aranwë got. Maeglin's belt might have been made for evil purpose, a narrow strap of hard leather tipped in metal. The doubled length felt like razor-cuts. Worse, Maeglin wielded the full length of it like a scourge. Aranwë sweated at the thought that Maeglin might labor so for as long as it took to hammer and shape a long blade.

But Maeglin thought to save his arm's strength. After one last lick with the belt-tip, he threw it aside and reached for the water-trough used to cool hot iron. He had found some arrow-canes waiting to be pointed and fletched, and had placed them there to soak supple. The one he swished in his hand cut the air like a whip of wood. Aranwë winced at the sound. Maeglin saw the fear and felt desire rise in his throat and groin. He thrust aside the thought of how he'd like to see tender Idril flinch before him, and turned to the more familiar pleasures at hand. It was sweet to torment the long smith with the dancing cane, sweet as red meat to the teeth.

Aranwë shivered at Maeglin's new torment. There were two blessings to the lightning cane-strikes. After the first body-cry of pain, a weird cool spread from each blow. And Maeglin was spacing the strikes so that the marks might show well. Following the tumultuous belt-beating, the hurt that he could pace and ride seemed like mercy. The caning began at mid-thigh, running right up to the very tip of the backbone. If a blow seemed overly faint, Maeglin repeated it, doubling the agony. Then, six cane-strikes were branded into each wide shoulder. Aranwë strangled down his cries, gnawing at the leather on which he sprawled.

After the last shoulder-strike, Aranwë unbit the leather but did not relax. Maeglin still lurked behind him, like a sweeping storm. Then the storm closed in. Maeglin knelt over him and ran a hot hand over the bruised flesh and its marks. "On the floor," said Maeglin, his voice sibilant from his fast breath. The two sank down to the slate flagstones, Aranwë dragging the leather with him.

He hissed as Maeglin turned him over, but forgot his suffering when he saw his tormentor again. In the dimness of the forge, Maeglin's dark and pale beauty seemed lit from within, reason enough for him to demand anything from anyone. For the first time that Aranwë recalled, there was a true smile on Maeglin's face, unshadowed by wryness or disdain. And it seemed a rich reward when Maeglin reached down to smooth his hair back gently, saying, "You took that. Perhaps there is something to your ritual after all."

"My lord," Aranwë whispered.

"And you are quiet, too, now," said Maeglin, turning his hands between the smith's marked thighs. "Last night, they stopped at this in their ritual. But I would go on." He stroked the back of his hand over Aranwë's stiffening cock. "Will you let me have you as I wish?"

"Yes! Ah, yes!"

Maeglin was plunged into his keen silence again. He drew over a jar of the thick, clear grease used to oil swords and knives for the sheath. His intent was obvious as he laved generously between Aranwë's cane-bruised thighs, and his victim spread and settled to ease his way.

This was fortune indeed, thought Aranwë, that Maeglin would have him face to face. He felt two fingers probe and pulse inside him, then a third stretched him. Maeglin's second hand reached up to caress his chest, linking them without speech as he coaxed Aranwë to pleasure. When Aranwë felt a fourth finger strive to press inside him, he leaned up to see. Maeglin was not changing his position, staying intent on penetrating Aranwë with one hand. He moved his free hand and began to smear sword-grease over his penetrating fingers and wrist, stroking up towards the elbow. Aranwë swallowed and braced himself to endure. But Maeglin reached up with his free, oil-smirched hand and touched Aranwe's breastbone again, leaving a stain over his heart while their eyes met.

"Be patient. Feel what I shall give you," breathed Maeglin. "Close your eyes."

Then Maeglin did something new. He began to sing. The music was a chanting song of unlocking, persuading, surrender. It blended with the thrumming of Aranwë's pulse and overrode his racing thoughts. The probing hand began to move again, to the song's rhythm. Twined in the beckoning music of Maeglin's voice, Aranwë could not track when the thumb was worked inside him to join the fingers.

At the peak of the song, Maeglin moved his arm forward, and shoved the cupped flat of his hand home into the orifice. A shot of pain ripped Aranwë for a moment, and he twisted and gasped. Maeglin held still, continuing to sing softly, then slowly slid his greased wrist in further. Aranwë was surprised when this stilled the pain, but he was not thinking that the wrist was narrower than the fist. Once the tearing faded, and the disbelief, Aranwë was shaken with unexpected delight. He could barely think, only turn and cry and lust.

 Maeglin knelt close over the bliss and ruin of Aranwë, rapt in his own dark joy. The clamping life and heat of the channel where he thrust called him on. His entire being was focused on his one hand and its work. This was power, to have this elf-man pinioned so that the least move of his hand was doom! He snarled as he forced his arm to slow, working from the elbow instead of pumping from the shoulder.

First the pain had been followed by wonder, and now Aranwë rode the overpowering sensation, moaning and bending like a wind-wracked pine. He had never felt such a terrible pleasure, not even in the lost arms of love. Maeglin felt the change in him and turned his arm, drawing out just a touch, until the hard curled hand hit a spot that pulsed back. Aranwë's entire body rang with bright fire. The very air seemed alive against his untouched hardness. When he came, and came, and came, he shouted until the stone roof rang, beyond pain or will.

To Maeglin, the cries heralded his triumph, and he knelt still, slowing his arm's movements to a stop, until Aranwë's dazed eyes met his. They looked into each other's faces. Aranwë was lost in the sharp glance before him. Maeglin coaxed his wrist and hand free, and watched his victim slump back, as if he had drawn the elf-man's heart and will out clasped in his fist.

Aranwë looked up at the young stranger dark above him, blocking the light. Maeglin leaned close. The snake-touch of Maeglin's flickering tongue ran from his belly to his collar-bone, lapping up his come. Aranwë's heart hammered. Although Maeglin was silent, the touch of his mouth spoke of complicity, shared desire, secrets. Then Maeglin, standing up, went to rinse his hands in the water-trough without a word.

Aranwë watched his grace as he walked and bent. "Maeglin, I - I long to ease you. However you may wish."

Maeglin smiled very slowly. "You are much improved beneath my hands; first you are quiet, and then you have manners."

The tall young elf came back, and instead of bending, stroked Aranwë with the steel toe of his boot. "It makes me hunger, to see you so willing! You shall not have long work of me." Now Maeglin knelt on top of him, straddling armored limbs around his chest. Aranwë shrank back from the chill of the metal leg-guards, even as Maeglin stroked the indigo fabric at his own crotch. "I shall take you again, for my own pleasure, this time," he said, and laughed to feel how that jolted Aranwë.

"Oh, on second thought, I will not," Maeglin said. If it was a joke, it was the first one Aranwë had ever heard from him. "You are ruined for that this night! No, I shall have your mouth instead." With two smooth moves, Maeglin's legs trapped Aranwë's face. The downed elf-man would have to stretch and strain his throat to please the one above him, but as he watched Maeglin free himself, he counted that the least torment of his life.

Maeglin was as fortunate in his elegant measure as in his fair visage. As he stroked his phallus against Aranwë's face, not letting him taste the steel and velvet of it yet, Aranwë sighed. "You are beautiful, even to what modesty hides. Straight as a spear, fragrant as musk."

"You want me so badly," murmured Maeglin, eyes narrowed. "Then beg for it."

Before he had taken off his smith's leathers for Maeglin, he would have laughed to scorn anyone who bid him plead. "My lord, please, let me taste you, let me take you in. I want nothing more, I beg."

Maeglin shifted the angle of his body, and Aranwë arched his neck painfully to bridge the small gap. He tongued the tip of Maeglin's cock, sliding the foreskin gently. Maeglin bent further, inciting Aranwë to take the full length in his mouth. Once that was done, he shifted forward even more, locking himself in the other elf-man's throat deeply. He began to move in sharp thrusts, choking Aranwë breathless.

"You are wicked, to call me on to further lusts. Ah, your heat and your hunger, your mouth-" His speech cut off as he buckled and came in dead silence, hands clenched to claws against his own armored thighs.

Maeglin stood again as lightly as he had settled, and without caress or thanks. Aranwë remained exhausted on the floor, breathing deep, still tasting traces of Maeglin's bitterness.

"What do you think of my way?" asked Maeglin.

"That... was as the lightning above the peak of Caragdur. But it was not ansereg. How did you learn that?"

"From Eöl," said Maeglin, simply.

Aranwë staggered up, horrified. "From your father! This is not a matter for kin of any closeness!"

"You are swift to say that, here in Gondolin," snapped Maeglin, face tight with pain.

"It is the way of all Elves, of all speaking folk. But you are not to blame. Your father did you a great ill, to hide you from your people and use you so." Desperate that Maeglin not turn from him, he went on. "I swear by my forge, hallowed to Aulë, that I do not judge you and I will not flee you, whatever you say to me. Do not let yourself be bound by Eöl's untruths and strange ways, but start anew."

Maeglin turned back to Aranwë, eyes ravenous and brilliant. "I may speak to you freely? Will you keep my secrets?"

"Yes, and swear oath to that as well," said Aranwë gently. No wonder Maeglin had been so cold and quiet in the bright halls, shadowed by such deeds.

"Let me hear you swear it!" He stood imperious and still as the marked elf-man, placing one hand on the anvil, repeated the enriched oath.

Maeglin smiled at the one he had mastered with pleasure and pain, and bound with a deep geas. Seeing Aranwë brighten at the smile from him, he decided to seal the smith's bondage with words. "Yes, I will free myself from the ways of Eöl. Will you teach me better?"

Aranwë's hearers each shuddered at the story he had begun. Then Idril spoke. "Clearly, you failed in your teaching. Add this to your memory, Pengolod. Maeglin but began by binding Aranwë to him. I knew of the cabal that Maeglin gathered; the proud, the willful, some over-fond of battle and quarrels. The rites of ansereg grew strange and dark under them. And Maeglin's power spread when Turgon sealed the gates against all comers. Then that dark one's whims and scandals filled too much of our minds, as a thin replacement for fresh news of our kin. Maeglin drew you all like a lodestone draws iron-dust, sticking at naught to bind elves to him."

Unexpectedly, Pengolod spoke. "No, lady, he shirked at one thing."

Idril started. "What was that?"

"Never was he known to take a trial of ansereg himself, for all that he loved to mete it out."

"That is fitting. I knew not; I listened only to what was said. And I should have hearkened to the silences, too. What say you to that, Aranwë?"

Aranwë continued. "You see the seed of Maeglin's treachery in these deeds. I knew of it scant time before, mere hours, my lady, and yet was not free to act until too late."

"I will be the judge of that," said Idril.

 Aranwë stood in the door of Maeglin's dark-draped chamber. No lamps were lit. Instead of pacing about in half-armor, as was his wont, Maeglin was reclining on his bed, his nudity white against the indigo sheets. "Come to me," he said softly.

Aranwë drew close. When had his desire of Maeglin become tainted with dread? It might have been the day he realized he bore deeper scars from Maeglin than from his smith-work. Or perhaps some caprice had burned Aranwë's heart too much. Maeglin had always swung between kind and cruel, heedless and fond. It was very like Maeglin to summon him this evening, when all the rest of the city was preparing for festival.

The strong young elf was using all his charm tonight, offering soft glances and gentle embraces. In this mood, there was no need to fear his hands; only the strange thoughts he would speak. At times merely the thoughts of Maeglin made him shudder. But Aranwë came back, again and again, for the sake of pleasures he could not forego, for his oath, and for the rare tenderness of Maeglin. Once Maeglin had spoken his shadowed mind, he might show that tenderness tonight, and that hope led Aranwë on to the dark bed.

Maeglin gloated as he watched Aranwë step near carefully. Of course he was wary; he was no fool, thought Maeglin. When Aranwë had sworn silence by his forge, that had been the first step of his rise in Gondolin. How would he have borne the torment of longing for Idril without being able to speak freely to at least one? And now, with everything almost within his grasp at long last, this one would set him free from the only torment that remained.

Aranwë undressed and lay cautiously upon the bed. Maeglin cast the dark linens about them, cocooning them. He caged the frightened, entranced elf-man in his embrace, sliding smooth as an adder, biting like a viper, but with eyes tender and dark as those of a deer. Aranwë looked up as Maeglin lay on top of him, pinioning his arms. "Dearer than father. My smith and my anvil. I must ask you something. Tell me, is there any torment that cannot be borne?"

"From your hands, lord?" He braced himself to hear some unclean dream of Maeglin's, even as he treasured the feel of Maeglin's smooth body against him.

"Such flattery. Tell me, what would you say if...if I said I wished to sear your eyes out with hot iron?"

Aranwë went rigid. Blinded! To be maimed like that was one of the black threats of Morgoth and Sauron.  "I could never bear that. For I live for my craft. And I do not see how it might please you."

Maeglin stroked his face with a wry expression. "Nor would one so marred ever be fair to look upon again, bearing scar-pits for eyes."

Then Maeglin nuzzled close. "Ah, it eases me to hear you say that, after all you have suffered from me. That you should say so to the one who mastered you; I am consoled for saying it to the one who mastered me." In the dimness, his eyes shone. "To Morgoth."

Aranwë felt denial flash in his spirit at the very name. Maeglin felt him tense and doubt, and began to speak hastily, pressing him down with sweating hands.

"I tell no lie, and you swore never to judge me. I do not forget! Listen to me! Remember when I went to Himling in secret, prospecting last year? I was taken then. To him. There is no denying Angband; it is greater than any elf's dream. They have a strong way. Why should I not, as well? Why should I fall to torment, when I was offered all my desire? Morgoth seeks regents, more wise and high than orcs and worms, to complete his dominance. I shall have the lordship of Gondolin! The city will be little spoiled in its taking; I shall make sure of that. And also I shall have the hand of Idril. Not to mention the rest of her," said Maeglin. His voice had veered from a nervous rasp to a purr as he spoke, and the thought of Idril roused him hard.

Aranwë was passive with horror as Maeglin, still so beautiful, parted his legs and slowly penetrated him. After all the times he had begged for Maeglin's hand and arm, the lesser taking was all too easy, without aid. The fey elf whispered, hot with lust, "Kind Aranwë! Do not fear. I will not send you from me. Share in this with me, even to the chained favors of Idril." Aranwë's mind shuttered itself against what Maeglin spoke next, spinning out the lurid idea until he found release in it. As he always did, Maeglin came silently, with a flush of heat over his body, this time biting Aranwë's shoulder hard enough to draw blood. But Maeglin's words had become so dread that Aranwë was glad of the silence, even at its painful price.

Incredibly, when he pleaded that it was his shift to stoke the forges, Maeglin let him go. Feeling chill and empty, he actually went to his smithy, where Maeglin had first claimed him. He stood close to the embers of the forge, gazing at them as if they might clean his mind. After so much time that the stars had wheeled towards dawn in the sky outside, Aranwë sighed. He went to place his hand on the anvil and ask the sacred forge forgiveness for the oath he was about to break. But before he felt the still metal, he heard: horns blowing, screams, the alarms of war breaking the long peace of Gondolin.

"So Maeglin, twisted by his father, fell as a thrall of Morgoth, under threat of torment and doing his bidding. The tale is blacker than I thought." Idril was pained. "Might we have stayed Maeglin from his darkness, had we known? And he laid hands on my little son!" Her anger relit, she turned to Aranwë.

"I might say that you betrayed us all that last night, by your silence. And I might say that you saved me all those years, by letting Maeglin vent his will on you. Here is my judgment. You may live, but not bide here, knowing Maeglin's stained thoughts of me. Wherever I dwell, you are outlawed. You shall be taken forth at dawn and escorted far. Galdor, go to the camp-steward. Make ready supply for Aranwë. Then bring Voronwë hither, for he lives. But do not expect more kindness from your son than you have had from me." With a ring of metal, Idril and the guard Galdor swept away to hasten his departure. Aranwë bowed to the cold mercy of Idril, though she did not look back.

Pengolod and the other guard remained. The loremaster looked sadly at him who had been forge-master, before the son of the Dark Elf came. "Many envied you, that you were embraced by Maeglin, high-born and fair," he said quietly.

For the first time, Aranwë's eyes flashed with a hint of spirit. "What tale will you tell to those who envied me? Will you teach them better, Pengolod?"  

Chapter Text

"That was absolutely magnificent," purred Maeglin, in the privacy of his chambers. "Was I the lord of Gondolin, we should do that much more often."

Aranwë stared at him, incredulous. "They already call that battle the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears! How can you bear no terror from it?"

Maeglin shrugged his young shoulders. "My mind is stronger than others', I suppose. And you knew many of the elf-men in other companies; I did not." Maeglin's dark eyes gleamed, and a smile danced along his lips as he began to shed his armour, for they were newly returned to Gondolin after the battle. "And to think that King Turgon asked me, as prince of the city, to remain behind as his regent! Very seemly, of course. But what glory I would have missed!"

"Your own esquire was slain!" Nobody, least of all Maeglin, had blinked an eye when Aranwë stepped into that role after the hapless servant fell.

"Probably 'tis best." Maeglin sighed. "My black clothes have never been so faded as under his care; I shall send them back to the dyers."

"It is well that you mourn," said Aranwë.

"Mourn? I rejoice! I was made for battle, and my black sword to drink the blood of orcs and men!" Maeglin tossed his shield, solid black without any device, aside with a clang.

For the first time ever, Aranwë snapped at Maeglin. "Respect your shield! It saved your life more than once upon the battle-ground!"

Maeglin stopped, astounded, and turned to look at the elf-smith who was something between a servile vassal and an occasional lover to him. Aranwë's great height was bent almost double in grief as he sat, and his face was harrowed. Even loveless Maeglin was moved to a shadow of respect and regret. Silently, he walked over and righted the shield, hanging it in its place upon the wall.

"There now; I have dealt to it better." He went over to Aranwë, freeing himself from the last pieces of armour so that he wore only the black leather shirt and leggings that padded him against the metal gear. With a lascivious smile, Maeglin straddled the older elf as he sat. When roused by kill after kill in the bloody mire of the battlefield, Maeglin had been half-mad to take someone, anyone. Earlier his thought had been that he might vent his blood-lust on infatuated Aranwë,  rather than on one of his other admirers, because Aranwë was strong enough to bear his unbridled sadism. But he decided that to do so with Aranwë in this mood might forever break his willingness for enduring Maeglin's cruelty. He thought of a proverb of Nan Elmoth; the hunter must watch for his hounds.

"Warrior of old, I would not have you bowed with sadness. Forget the field and the fallen, the sword and the shield." Aranwë rested his head against Maeglin's chest, and Maeglin embraced him, stroking his dark hair, cropped relatively short after the fashion of the smiths of Gondolin. "I know what you need. Come and let me take you. You know I am harsh; it is not craven to weep in my arms." Maeglin said, cloaking his own lust behind the honeyed words.

Aranwë could not speak for gratitude, and cast aside his hunter-green clothes. He was hungry for Maeglin's use, longing for the familiar release brought by that deep, internal pleasure. After the despairing battle, he was ashamed to feel that hunger so strongly when he ought to grieve, to be as willing as a woman. As was his wont, Maeglin picked up on that thought.

The two were entangled on one of Maeglin's blood-coloured couches. Balanced above him, Maeglin did something he condescended to rarely, stroking Aranwë's cock at length, even giving him a glance of admiring rue. "Curse your luck in this, Aranwë. I wager that this pained your lost wife!"

Aranwë looked keenly at Maeglin, and was presumptuous enough to say, "You have some very strange ideas about women, my lord. You ought to lie with a woman yourself, one of these days, even in the bounds of courtship."

Maeglin knelt back with a superior look. "With women I am continent. I save myself for the woman I truly desire. In the meantime, I shall practice warriors' arts, as is fitting." He dragged the leather cord from the lacing of his own shirt's neckline, and bound it about the virile root of Aranwë, wrapping it several times tightly, so that the member was inflamed with blood, yet could not spend.

Maeglin leaned in and bit Aranwë across the shoulders several times, hard enough to leave marks, leaving off to draw his tongue across Aranwë's sweat-salted skin. Maeglin's victim still bore the reek of battle-blood and smoke trapped in his hair, and a fine web of dried gore splayed over one side of his chest. The dark, clinging odors reminded Maeglin of the fury of the field again, and he felt himself lift into hardness. Sweetly, he said, "I have wanted you, Aranwë. Look how roused I am for you." Rising, he stripped off his leather clothes, then straddled Aranwë as he lay.

Hesitant at first, Aranwë reached up with both hands and caressed Maeglin, whose beauty was undimmed by even a bruise across his white skin. Maeglin suffered himself to be admired in touch along the lines of his muscles, and even leaned into it as Aranwë's hands slid up his back. But when Aranwë's hands returned too far down his back, Maeglin grabbed his adorer's wrists and sank his nails into them in warning. Maeglin bent Aranwë's arms back, crushing his wrists and leaning into him until their faces were close enough to feel each other's breath. The elf on top smiled to see in Aranwë what he wished to see; raw lust, heart-yearning, and a thread of terror linking the horrors of battle and remembered torments from Maeglin. "Turn over," Maeglin commanded, sliding aside.

Aranwë watched as Maeglin partly unsheathed his prized sword, Anguirel, and ran his hand over the length of the cleaned, recently greased blade. Aranwë knelt up and arched back, trembling at the touch of Maeglin's grease-bearing fingers entering him. Through tension and weariness, he was tight as the seals on the Seven Gates, but Maeglin's cunning hands could unlock him utterly. And this was well, for Maeglin soon forced his hard cock inside Aranwë and took him with as much fury as he had used in battle-slaughter, hammering and clawing his back.

Such hard use would have made any other cry out in pain and anger, but Aranwë bore it, joyfully even. The welcome violation stripped him down to the core, burning away thought and plunging him into lust and deep elven-grief. As Maeglin had foretold, he did not hold back from tears when Maeglin's hands tore at him. Close to his peak, Maeglin yelled the battle-cry of Gondolin, and then silence seized him as he bucked and came. Had Aranwë managed to come through the cruel bindings, it would have wounded him sorely, but he was slowed by the tears that, once begun, could not stop.

Once he recovered himself (and this took longer than usual after his battle-fired release), Maeglin would usually have strode away and waited for Aranwë to plead. However, he was feeling kindly after the marvelous battle. Maeglin dragged Aranwë over onto his back and undid the cock-bindings, stroking and kneading where the cord had marked the hot flesh. Aranwë gasped in relief. "See, one of your comrades lives, and fills you with life and heat. You live yourself. Feel the pain and pleasure of it burn you!" As he spoke, Maeglin used one hand to work Aranwë's cock. The manipulated elf-man cried out in shameful surrender, turning his face away as he came.

Maeglin was divided between desire and revulsion to watch another elf-man come. Altogether untidy, he thought, to have it all revealed instead of decently buried in flesh, as was Maeglin's own privilege. Maeglin decided he would humiliate Aranwë for it next time he reeled the fellow in. Aranwë was weak enough to please him for now, spent and still weeping. Then Maeglin, having turned his thoughts so much to cruelty that he could in no way accuse himself of weakness after battle, laid himself close beside the taller, broader elf-man. And he let himself be embraced for a time.

Chapter Text

After the joy in killing he had found at the Nirnaeth Aenordiad, if Maeglin encountered mortal Men in his illicit prospecting outside the valley of Gondolin, he slew them. It was his pride that he had mastered a party of as many as seven. Such they deserved, he thought, after seeing how the betrayal of Men had brought the Eldar low and stolen victory from them at the battle of the Nirnaeth. He brushed aside the fact that the sacrifice of mortal Hurin had been the saving of the host of Gondolin, for he had borne a long grudge against that particular Man. Nor did he distinguish between kinds of men; for were they not all doomed to die? 

This day, from a secure place, he watched a small party of mortals, two men and a woman on a horse. She was no lady, though she rode; she was bound with gyves. This evidence of thraldom amused Maeglin as he prepared to strike.

The first Man was slain quickly, with surprise. The second one fought long and fiercely, pleasing Maeglin well; he loved the way sword-play made him feel, kindling his blood to burn and sharpening the world around him. But he had never met a mortal man who could pierce his armour, nor withstand the malice of his sword Anguirel. The way he died was ideal, knowing that he was downed and mastered, thought Maeglin. He had lamed the man so thoroughly that the mortal had fallen from the pain, and the he had watched aware as Maeglin slowly slit his throat, then plunged the sword into it so that the blood spurted like a fountain.

There remained only the woman, cowering frozen between two rocks on the mountain-path, ill-clad to flee, bruised from her scramble down from the horse. When he got a closer look at her, Maeglin was startled. She was young enough to be tolerably fair still, her cheeks fresh and smooth, her long black hair lustrous. Only her smallness and her rounded ears, as well as the extra fullness of her bosom and croup, gave her away as a mortal maiden. She was ill-clad for a mountain journey in shimmering silks, and her legs were still hobbled by the heavy gyves. She could not flee her holders, nor could she flee the one who had slain them, and so she whimpered among the stones, saying pleading words that Maeglin could not understand. He spoke no tongue of Men.

"Wretched mortal! I shall slay thee now," said Maeglin. She did not seem to understand him, either, looking up at him with a bewildered, tear-stained face. "Ignorant brat," he added. She was a dead woman if he slew her, or if he had mercy upon her, because there was no way he could equip her for escape from the mountain, and the horse with the mortals' gear and food was fled.

As he mulled over which would be crueller, a third option came to him, which no unshadowed Elf would have contemplated, for it was a very wicked deed. Every Elf knew that to be raped was to perish. That would be a fine way to kill this snippet of humanity! Hadn't one of the elf-men who served him said to him the other day that he ought to lie with a woman? The privacy of the situation appealed to his pride.  If he ever laid with a maiden or widow of Gondolin, instead of pleasing himself with men as young warriors might, word would filter back to Idril and she would think he had set aside his devotion to her brightness. This slattern would do nicely, for she would not live to give report to another. It would be fine practice for when he finally conquered Idril. He reached down and dragged the girl to her feet by one wrist, pulling her along stumbling behind him.

A ways down the mountain-path where he had slain the Men, it dipped down into a pass that had some sheltering caves. Maeglin drew the gasping girl into one of these, then cast her down upon her back. Even then the foolish thing did not seem to understand his intent, staring at him as if she had never seen an Elf before. Perhaps she had not. By his own beauty, she might think him incapable of darkness, come to save and spare her. He would soon show her better.

As she lay staring, he flung himself on top of her, still cloaked and in his armour. How small she was, and how soft! He took off one of his gauntlets to touch her. Her skin was very tender, not at all like that of the hard elf-men with whom he took his pleasures now. She seemed to melt beneath him, squirming a little like a fox-kit. He stroked the long horse-tail of her hair, and that too was softer than that of elf-men, surprising him. How much finer Idril would be, if this was a mortal maid! He would not take his armour off, he was not that foolish - in fact he dragged the two of them around so that he might watch the mouth of the cave even as he took her. But he could still feel her full breasts flattened beneath his chest-plate. When he shifted the pair of them, her breasts slid free of her loose garments, which slithered down to her waist.

Balanced above her, Maeglin felt her from her collar-bone to her loins. She did not shift away, frozen with terror as he stroked and petted. Curious, Maeglin took one of her nipples in her fingers, and twisted it. This made her shriek and writhe back, but Maeglin did not let go, pinching harder instead. She continued to cry out in desperate pain, shedding tears. "How weak you are!" said Maeglin, and the girl heard the disapproval in his words and wailed in fear.  Maeglin slapped her small face. It would have been a mere love-tap between elf-men, but it flung the girl back, and she raised both her hands, trembling in desperation.

Maeglin sighed in exasperated disgust. This girl would never endure his idea of sport. It only proved the superiority of the Eldar, for the elf-women, while as tempting as this mortal, would have greater strength to endure and heal. He might as well take the wench and have done with her. It was easy to pin her down with one hand and his legs. Maeglin released the most intimate plate of his armour and lifted the edge of his ring-mail. Her sheer garments ripped easily. He shivered at the sound; Idril was often clad in fine silks, and they might tear thus. His victim did not try to free herself, but lay still and shaking, eyes clenched shut. "Easy meat," hissed Maeglin, his cock hard in his hand as he got ready to ram into her. He sought her opening, and gasped aloud at the sensation that came to him when he stabbed in.

Between her legs was the core of all the girl's tenderness, and she screamed thinly at Maeglin's violation. Maeglin hardly heard her, although she shrilled in his ears, so rapt was he at these unknown sensations. So easy to enter, even in force! So hot and fluid! As tight as an elf-man's nethers, yet incredibly soft and silky. Maeglin turned and bit her shoulder as he arched over her, thrusting into her again and again. "You are no maiden, to be so ripe for the taking," Maeglin said. The girl shook her head from side to side, whimpering, whether in pleasure of pain Maeglin could not tell. He hoped it was the latter, but could not be sure, so he speared her hard, and harder again. This time he heard the girl's shriek, and felt her try to scramble away, and was satisfied.

Maeglin closed his eyes as he continued to thrust into her deeply. Her insides were becoming even tighter around him, and less wet, as if pain reduced that nectar-like moistness. He groaned at the thought that if this was the pleasure given by a mere mortal wench, then taking Idril so would be a bliss supreme.  For the first time in hundreds of years, Maeglin spoke as he came. "Idril!" he cried out, and the girl he covered knew not if it was praise or curse or even a proper word that he spoke.

Maeglin pulled back and stood up. He watched her with anticipation as she backed up against the cave wall, still sniffling, looking at him with glazed eyes. She was bleeding between her legs. After a moment, he realized that her gaze, though upset, was undimmed, and she showed no signs of imminently dying. He tilted his head as he looked and waited, and the girl shivered again. Long minutes passed, and still her cheeks were flushed with life. "Well, curse you to the very depths of Angband, wench," said Maeglin. "Is it possible that being forced is not the death of mortals? If so, how like beasts you are!" Maybe she would crawl off later, and weep and perish when she felt her heart break? Maeglin looked uneasily at the blood between her legs. Perhaps she would bleed to death? Knowing little of women, he thought she would not bear a child, if she was wounded there by his hard use.

Maeglin realized that he had only deferred his earlier choice; to slay the girl or abandon her to the cruel mountain wilds. He drew his sword, and weighed how the metal hummed in his hands, as if he took counsel from the blade. The girl covered her eyes with both arms and froze. With no word or sound of voice, he smote Anguirel upon the chain of the gyves that bound her legs, and the metal flew apart. She looked down astonished. "Go!" cried Maeglin, pointing at the mouth of the cave. "If you can live in these hard wilds, then you deserve your life. Go!" She did not move, so he turned and left instead, eager to return to Gondolin and look on Idril once again.

Chapter Text

"My lord Ecthelion, I meant naught ill by it! I only sought to speak as was right," Glorfindel protested.

Ecthelion looked at the second in command of his guard and shook his head. He was fond of Glorfindel, but he spoke crossly to his friend as they crossed the main plaza of Gondolin. They paused on the white stone pavement before a tiered fountain, sparkling like crystal in the sunlight. "You might have looked about before you spoke to Maeglin. Our prince is gravely offended, that you said he was too harsh in ansereg within the hearing of our king, Turgon."

"What he did to that fellow is far beyond what is meet for ansereg's trials," Glorfindel said, his face stubborn with the expression of one who knows he is good and right.

"That is the purpose of ansereg -- to deal out pain so that warriors may be strengthened and hardened. Maeglin was surpassing harsh, but he did not exceed its laws, for that hapless smith shall heal. And by your words Maeglin has taken against our Guard, the Company of the Gate of Steel. You must make such amends with him as content him. Otherwise, good luck for our Guard's soldiers getting so much as an iron pocket-knife out of the mines. Let alone having anything repaired by the smiths," grumbled Ecthelion. 

"For the Guard's sake, then," said Glorfindel, resigned. He did not think it was right that Maeglin would let a grudge between two elves stand between the work of the smiths and those who might use it. However, such was Maeglin's power in the city, through his kinship to the King and through his metal-craft, that to say so even to Ecthelion would make matters worse.

Under his steel helm, Ecthelion smiled in relief. "Well said. The news of the day will be your chance. Our King asked me to choose a messenger to ride to the mine of Anghabar with the tidings. Maeglin is there now. You are kin to Idril, and thus distant kin to him as well. It is very seemly that you be the one to tell him that Idril is affianced to good Tuor."

"As it please you," said Glorfindel. They came to the edge of the plaza, and parted with elaborate courtesy.

Glorfindel went along with a heavy heart. He was not happy with most of the changes in the Hidden City since Turgon had commanded that the gates be shut to all passage, even to messengers. Ritual and etiquette, gossip and keen tales increasingly preoccupied the safety-trapped elves. In the absence of chances for battle, the guard soldiers had turned more and more to the painful, lust-laced trials of ansereg. Glorfindel had hoped that mortal Tuor, the messenger of Ulmo, would change things with the news he brought, and lead to the city being opened to the world again. With grace, Tuor's wedding to Idril might give Tuor the power to do so. Maeglin, as prince of the city, might have swayed Turgon. But Maeglin was pleased with the status quo, for he had much power thereby.

Once Glorfindel had arrayed himself in green and taken up his flowered shield, he rode up the mountain-paths of Gondolin's valley to the iron mine of Anghabar. He saw it from well away, a broad dark pit bowled out from a foothill and paths leading up into cliff-faces beyond. The mine had been delved deep, following the seams of metal that laced stone and earth. For Gondolin hungered for steel. Maeglin's craft of divining iron and its alloys from the mountains about had made the city rich in metals. Turgon ruled Gondolin, and Maeglin bode by his law there. But Maeglin ruled Anghabar. The mine was worked in shifts by all elf-men of the city. And if Maeglin was displeased by you, you might find your name drawn for Anghabar anon.

Glorfindel drew up to the pit-opening carefully, regretting the bright mantle he had donned. The stone of Anghabar was dark and crumbling; sooty black dust spread about from the pit's rock-heaps. The miner Glorfindel queried said that Maeglin was within the greatest cave. Glorfindel tied his horse well away from the darkened water that ran in thin falls from some of the cave-mouths, and went within.

By the time Glorfindel's eyes adjusted to the dimness of cave-shadow and elven-lamp, he realized Maeglin was nearby, giving orders to the workers. Like all who worked in Anghabar, Maeglin was dressed in tall dusty boots, with no sign of office save the dark panel of his smith's leather apron. Maeglin's rough work clothes emphasized his haughty beauty, his skin as fair as Glorfindel's, his eyes and hair as black as the night of the mines around them. Glorfindel went to him, and waited to be acknowledged by the busy smith.

Maeglin saw Glorfindel from the moment he entered the cave, and his mouth curled at the irony. After Glorfindel's insult (for so he considered it) before Turgon, he had been tempted to call Glorfindel to suffer Anghabar's travails. However, there was a handful he dared not summon. Idril's kinsman had been one of them. And here the golden-haired elf had come to the iron mine on his own behalf, to stand bewildered and half-glimmering in its darkness. Amused by this, Maeglin stood silent, arms folded tight, waiting for Glorfindel to speak first.

Glorfindel, after waiting for a greeting and receiving none, knelt to speak his piece. "Lord Maeglin, well met. I come with a message for you from the city and court, having heard that you were at your valued labours here." Maeglin tilted his head, listening, so Glorfindel spoke on. "Your kinswoman, our lady Idril, is engaged to be trothplighted to the mortal lord Tuor, messenger of Ulmo and kinsman to ---"

Maeglin interrupted. "Engaged to be wed?"

"Yes, with Turgon's blessing. They will be wed less than a year hence, when…" Maeglin quit listening, sickened with shock. He had lusted for his cousin Idril long. She was ever cool to him, but she had taken no lover, and this had helped him endure his forbidden desire. At times he had wondered if she, too, had hidden a dark secret in her heart. He had seen her spending time with Tuor, but counted it at little. Idril had all but made pets of the young mortals H ú rin and Huor when they had dwelt a while in Gondolin. But this! This was perverse. All his restraint, his courting of her favour, was dashed to naught by Idril's vile choice. He realized Glorfindel was speaking to him directly, and snapped, "Repeat yourself, Glorfindel: your voice is not as clear as such a messenger's should be."

"I asked if I might talk with you of a matter between us." Glorfindel eyed the curious mine-workers and smiths standing by, and said, "In private?" Maeglin turned and gestured to be followed. Glorfindel obeyed. The two walked down into the dark, then through an iron gate into a second cave. Chains hung from pulleys beside a trapdoor, with canny weights and balances to draw the iron-ore up from the depths. Two shallow trolleys sat by. This cave, unlike the other, was lit by a skylight to the open air, and the chains had a dark gleam in the thin light. As Glorfindel wandered in to stand near the slight sunlight, Maeglin closed and bolted the cave's gate. "This is the most privacy Anghabar has. Speak," he commanded.

Glorfindel cleared his throat. "I must apologize for speaking of your work of ansereg before our king, Turgon. I have heard that you are displeased thereby, and I would make amends."

Maeglin strode up and faced off with Glorfindel, the faint square of sun grey on the black floor between them. They were the same height. "You say hard words in public, Lord Glorfindel, then take them away in private. I can tell that you have little love for me, but that you love well your Guard, and would have them armed well." Glorfindel was abashed at the truth of this.

"Knave of Ecthelion! You are too goodly to be shrewd. Do not meddle in games you cannot master." Maeglin saw his shamed look, and smiled for the first time. Glorfindel waited with composed grace for Maeglin to scold him further, reddened with embarrassment, his golden hair the same hue as Idril's. Idril was lost to Maeglin, now - but Glorfindel was beholden. And there was no longer any reason to spare him. Perhaps he might succour his destroyed heart by using Glorfindel as he had pictured, in his darkest dreams, conquering Idril.

Maeglin smiled, and his look was fiery. "But be cheered. My goodwill may be regained, with deeds, not words. If you truly mean your apology, give yourself to me in ansereg. You shall not be tried beyond your measure. I will show you that from my mastery I give to each what they can bear. Then you may take fair message to Ecthelion, that our quarrel is resolved. Is it well?"

Glorfindel drew in the humid air of the cave sharply. Was this right? There was an air of punishment to Maeglin's demand. Maeglin hid his true spirit deeply, but he was telling the truth beyond doubt. Ever turned towards the good, Glorfindel thought what might be set right by his submission. Maeglin's pride would be assuaged and his beloved Guard would have what they needed. It might even bring him some new wisdom. "As you wish it, Lord Maeglin. When I ride back to the city, I shall reserve one of the chambers of ansereg, and -"

Maeglin laughed.  "When we take that sport here, Glorfindel, we do it in this very chamber. The forges of Anghabar anneal more than steel! Submit to me now," he said, eyes glittering.

"Who will be the second, for the trial's honour?" asked Glorfindel.

"I prefer this to be intimate. And I am stealing time from labour as it is. My trial, and a message, or leave now and say to Ecthelion what you will. Make yourself willing or go!" 

Glorfindel decided to trust Maeglin and his own courage. He knelt before Maeglin for the second time. "I am willing. I give myself to you in ansereg," he said, bowing his head gracefully.

Maeglin caught his breath as Glorfindel's thick braid fell forward, gleaming in the sun. The faint light set a glow to Glorfindel's face. He wondered if the rest of the elf-lord's skin was as fine and fair. "Very well. Let us begin." In the absence of a circle on the floor to create a space for the rite, Maeglin slowly paced around Glorfindel three times, encompassing most of the bare floor in the round cave. "Now be you bound by this hour!"

"Yes, my lord," said Glorfindel. He swallowed as quietly as he could. Expecting to take off some clothes, he reached up to undo his gold cloak-pin.

"A good start," Maeglin admitted. He took a few steps back into the shadows. "Strip to the skin. I want you nude." Glorfindel undressed, setting his clothes aside neatly, never meeting Maeglin's eyes. His body was lean and strapped with muscle from training daily as good soldiers should, skin glowing, sensitive to the flush of the blood beneath. But Glorfindel's body was not as perfect as his face. He was marred with several scars of honour from battle. Looking on the naked elf-man, fair, strong, and brave, Maeglin decided what he would do to avenge his dishonour.

"Shall I clasp the chains that hang yonder, my lord?" Near where Glorfindel stood, within the span of the circle Maeglin had walked, two chains hung from pulleys on the ceiling. They were not matched. One chain was only as wide as two fingers, made of fine links, and the other was thicker.

"No," said Maeglin. "Get on your knees and cover your head with your arms." Unbalanced by this strange demand, Glorfindel obeyed, kneeling with his legs closed for modesty.  He peered up as Maeglin, to his surprise, took the chains himself. Maeglin drew the clanking lengths onto the floor until the chains' ends fell from the pulleys, and they tumbled into two piles on the floor.

"But - the clasping of the chains -" Glorfindel protested.

"You will not need that signal," said Maeglin. "I swore that I would not exceed your measure. You will not be tormented beyond what you can bear."  He walked to one side and placed some iron clips in his apron's pocket. Then he lifted the coarser of the fallen chains, many pounds in its full length, and threw it to the stone again before Glorfindel, who flinched back involuntarily. "Stay kneeling, and put your arms behind your back." Muscles rippled as Glorfindel complied, pulling his chest taut and setting off his lean waist. "Spread your limbs." After that, Maeglin touched him at last, lifting his precious braid before draping the first length of chain around his neck.

The unexpected weight of it dragged Glorfindel's shoulders forward, and he braced anew. Maeglin dragged the doubled chain through the space between his legs, up the divide of his arse, and back over his shoulders again. The smith's strong hands wove and pulled the chain into a harness around Glorfindel's body. Maeglin used the clips he had taken to fasten his work in place, leaving one long end of the chain unbound, draping from Glorfindel's neck like a hound's leash. Then Maeglin hauled over the second, finer chain. With this, he bound and weighed Glorfindel's arms behind his back. The chains slid down but not over his hands, and were woven into the body-harness. A great length remained, and Maeglin wrapped it around the front, then down to bind Glorfindel's ankles to each other. He could not rise from kneeling, now.

Maeglin stood back to admire his work of woven iron and flesh. He decided to make one last adjustment and came forward to undo Glorfindel's thick braid, combing the waved, brilliant hair out over the chained shoulders, a few locks drawn forward. He liked how that softened Glorfindel's resolute face, whether Glorfindel would or no. The dark iron chains were grease-coated to endure the damps of the mine without rusting. Glorfindel's heat was already melting the grease to oil. Brown stains were streaking down his skin, like dried blood or bistre.

Glorfindel arched beneath the heavy chains, feeling the weight pulling the skin on his neck. The chains' cold was fading, and he felt the oil trickling, slowly running down between his legs. His muscles were starting to ache already. The only way to bear it was to spread his thighs more. He peered up at Maeglin, wondering, as he had throughout his binding, what would happen next.

Several minutes passed.

Maeglin did not move or speak.

In the cool cave, Glorfindel began to sweat. He cleared his throat, appallingly conscious about speaking. "My lord. You have bound me. When comes the next part of this trial?"

"This is the trial," said Maeglin.

"What?" cried Glorfindel.

"Bear you the chains!" Maeglin shouted. "And bear them long! I need not lift my hands against you, when the chains will torment you. Well might you be bound if captured by orcs; thus might you expect to bide in the hands of Morgoth."

Glorfindel burned with humiliation that this was to be the trial. Maeglin was completely right about the uses of this bondage. Still, it was not by enduring such bindings that the devotees of ansereg won praise and honour, but by bearing the lash and more inventive torments. Glorfindel quelled his rising anger and his stung pride by thinking again on why he endured, for the sake of the Guards of the Great Gate. Breathing deeply, he concentrated on honour, doing his utmost to shut out the waxing pain in his muscles and bones, the feel of the sliding metal pulled tight in his most intimate crevices. He did not meet Maeglin's eyes.

Maeglin's eyes never left Glorfindel, gloating in the sight of the one who had insulted him, bound, besmirched, and nigh shaking with humiliation. He thought again about his restraint for Idril's sake and how it had all been useless. What good was virtue when vengeance was so sweet? He had been hard, he knew, even ruthless at times - sometimes it was what was needsome, to complete a great work. And he had chafed at the restraints of propriety and tact, just as Glorfindel chafed now in the chains. As he watched more hair fall forward around Glorfindel's face, he bethought how far he might free himself of his own bonds, and what it might bring him. He looked on what it had brought him now, a treasure of beauty given over to his hands and his iron.

Trapped in his body's suffering and shame, Glorfindel lost track of time's passage. The silence in the cave seemed unreal, broken only by distant booming, echoes from the mines. His thighs were screaming now. One of the chains between his legs had slipped to one side; the other was pulled tight along his crack, and his least move sent it sliding, maddeningly. He had heard tell of the trial of binding going for a full night. Longing to moan with pain, he forced himself to be silent. Maeglin would shame him, but he would not shame himself. I can bear this, moment by moment; I have given myself to this hour for my boon companions' sake. Thinking of it that way helped him surrender to what was happening to him. Husbanding his strength, he relaxed within the chains, letting himself slump within their weight, and looked directly at Maeglin for the first time.

Maeglin smiled, lips closed and tight, as he saw Glorfindel finally realize how to endure the trial of the chains. He had hoped that Glorfindel's pride would lead him to quiver and break, resisting the pounds of metal beyond endurance. Still, watching his bound prize, he'd had had plenty of time to plot what to do next.

"I have not exceeded you yet, have I, Glorfindel?"

Glorfindel blinked in astonishment at being addressed, then said, "No."

Maeglin picked up a pair of long iron tongs from the cave's mining equipment. "If I put you to pain, could you take it?"

"Yes," said Glorfindel, soft and courteous.

Maeglin stepped close to Glorfindel again. The tongs were such a length that he did not need to bend to nip and snip at Glorfindel's chest, where flesh was exposed between the chains. Glorfindel rocked back and hissed at the wicked pinches. Pain, yes, but a tiny pain with each nip.

"So you are willing to be tormented further?"

"Yes!" Glorfindel said, loud and clear.

"Do you think you can take it?"

Glorfindel gazed up at him, blue eyes blazing with pride and truth. "I know I can, my lord." 

Maeglin nipped at him further with the tongs. Though Glorfindel tilted his head back, he did not shift his torso, meeting the pain.

"You are sure you can suffer more?"

"Yes!" cried Glorfindel, adding, "My measure is more than you credit."

Using the tongs, Maeglin plucked up the chain's end that hung from Glorfindel's neck and brought it to his hand. He tossed the tongs aside, and they clanged on the stone. "Well, I shall plumb your measure, then."  Maeglin jerked on the chain, dragging Glorfindel forward by his throat, and he choked. "Bend over," Maeglin said, stern and hard.

Glorfindel found that he could bend forwards in the chain harness, doubling at his waist. "All the way," Maeglin insisted, reaching forwards and shoving his head towards the floor. Glorfindel felt the cold stone against his cheek as a shock, then froze at a worse one.  He had bent expecting to be beaten. Instead, Maeglin's hand was touching the back of his thighs, moving aside the chain jammed along the lines of his crotch, so that everything was helplessly exposed.

"Like to untried," Maeglin mulled aloud. "You favour women, don't you?"

"Yes, women I love. Why do you ask - Ah!" He was embarrased twice, by his helpless cry of discomfort, and by his arse being pierced by a calloused finger.

"Then it will be a trial cruel for you to be taken, Glorfindel. As you requested."

Pinned, Glorfindel fought down the urge to writhe away. He had never felt desire for elf-men, never chosen that indulgence, let alone thought to be blackmailed to it. Thinking fast, he gasped, "My lord, I thought you had a favourite?"

Maeglin's laugh was cruel. "That does not matter at times like this." Reeling with lust and power, he thought perhaps he might have a new favourite by the time they were done. The sight of Glorfindel bent over, flushed beneath the stains and chains, face lost behind the silken, golden hair, made his cock rise. Did he want the fellow for his own sake, or because he was so like Idril? He'd find out. "You said you could bear torment, Glorfindel. Is that not true?" he asked, treasuring the way his victim squirmed at the question.

Glorfindel could see no escape. "Do as you will, and I shall bear it," he growled. He heard Maeglin's soft chuckle, then the sound of leather and fabric being shifted. His gut convulsed when he felt, for the first time in his long life, a hard, hot cock slid against his arse-cleft. He felt a vague, heavy bluntness press against his opening, the sensations sharp and confusing. Part of Glorfindel's pride had always been that he was above petty likes and dislikes, but to be disgraced for the third time - by Ecthelion's chiding, by the chains, and by this sodomy - made him burn tight with resentment.

Maeglin gritted his teeth as he felt the other elf-man's flesh resistant to the core. He still had some honour then, twisted and fading though it was; he knew that to force himself utterly would push Glorfindel beyond what he could take. He palmed along Glorfindel's stained back and slicked up more of the dirty grease, using it to lubricate himself. "It is like the chains," Maeglin said. "Do not resist, and the pain is eased."

Glorfindel learned the bitter truth of those words as Maeglin forced his tool inside. Tearing, piercing agony caught him for an instant. He said his Guard's battle-cry to himself, then exhaled deeply, hating himself for softening and relaxing, hating Maeglin for being right. Maeglin dragged his torso up from the floor by the chain harness, until he was half-kneeling upwards again, and the change in posture drove Maeglin's cock deeper inside him.

Now Maeglin grasped some of the chain on each side, and used the harness to pull Glorfindel's body in time with his thrusts. Pressing against the hard chains pained Maeglin as well, but he liked the contrast between the bruising jabs of metal and the deliciously tight channel he took, all pleasure.  He indulged until Glorfindel slackened minutely, used at last to being penetrated - and there was another change as well.

As Maeglin pulled the chains, Glorfindel felt the links passed through his legs stroke against his vulnerable scrotum, and stray oil slid along his own exposed shaft. No-one had ever touched Glorfindel intimately against his will; he had only known love's caresses. But his confused body did not know the difference. With the new sensations added to the long teasing of the chains between his legs, he was roused, though his heart was cold. He thought himself fortunate that Maeglin ignored this. Then the smith's hand came down on his erection, and Maeglin's harsh breathing broke into a laugh.

"Lust makes liars of us all," said Maeglin. "But it is a good thing you find some pleasure in being taken. This trial has its uses, too. Pray to the Valar our foes never bind you like this. They'd use you as I do."

"They? Who?" Glorfindel whispered, resisting Maeglin's meaning.

"Orcs. The were-wargs that walk on two feet. And crude, cruel Mortals, such as should never lay hands on our fair kin. They'd rape you, disgrace you, try and break you. Use you one after the other. They might even spare you other thraldom to keep you as their leman." Glorfindel felt Maeglin's cock swell thicker and harder inside him, the thrusts pulsing again. He sickened and chilled to feel how the cruel ideas roused Maeglin.

"Perhaps you'd like that." Maeglin's hand reached to brush Glorfindel's cock again, and he asked, "Would you prefer the mortals to the others?" His voice was sibilant with lust and malice.

Glorfindel was silent. Maeglin jerked at the chains around his throat. "Answer!"

"I would prefer none," said Glorfindel. Especially not you, he thought.

Maeglin pressed as close as he could with Glorfindel's bound arms between them. He buried his face in Glorfindel's loose hair, laughing, and there was a reckless note to it "Well spoken."  He forced himself as deep as possible inside Glorfindel, pressed thigh to thigh. Glorfindel breathed sharply, opened to the fullest. Before the pain hit, Maeglin leaned forwards and took Glorfindel's cock in his hand, firmly.  "I shall reward you for that," Maeglin said, rolling his grip.

The forceful caress was smooth and swift along Glorfindel's oiled shaft. Pleasure swelled and burned as he groaned, denying the warmed oil, the hand, the hardness filling him. It was too much for thought, it stifled rebellion. Mounted behind him, Maeglin began to move again. It seemed like the thrusts were what sent the shot of orgasm arcing through him, although Maeglin worked him until he cried out, his cock hanging drained, achingly sensitive. 

Glorfindel shook his head as pain and thought returned to him. Was this really as vile as he felt it to be? Doubt fled as Maeglin shoved his chained torso to the floor again and hammered at him from behind, hard and fast, dead silent. 

Maeglin was revelling in the power and heat of it, especially thrilled by his success in coaxing Glorfindel to share his lust. He looked down to feast his eyes on his victim. But the sight of Glorfindel's golden hair cut him to the heart, reminding him of Idril again. The idea of Idril being taken by her crude chosen spouse set him burning, roused, jealous, and hateful. If that was what she wanted, he could show her, he thought, and his mind was turned to evil as he came.

Glorfindel knew relief and humiliation as Maeglin withdrew. Relief that the pain was stopped at last; humiliation at the feel of hot fluids dripping from him, at the throbbing awareness of his nether channel. He tried to lever himself up, and Maeglin cuffed him hard - the first time he had been struck for all the trial. "So, you want to show me how roused you are still? Did I say you could straighten up? Back on the floor." Glorfindel obeyed, not wanting to offend Maeglin anew.

Pressed to the floor, Glorfindel was sensitive to any hint of what Maeglin might do next. He saw Maeglin's boots enter his vision, heard him above rearranging his clothing. One boot's toe tapped for a moment. Glorfindel winced at a touch, then realized Maeglin was undoing the clamps that held the chains. One by one, the clamps jingled into Maeglin's apron pocket. Then he heard words that he had not hoped to hear after Maeglin's taunting and contempt: "The trial is borne." 

Glorfindel sat up within the loosened chains, letting them drape to his half-hard cock- he would not stand and be exposed in front of Maeglin. Maeglin reached for him again and dragged up one of his wrists, rubbing at the chains' marks. Then he released it and spoke calmly. "As you see, there is more than one kind of trial. You are not harmed, not even the lightest bruise. Now that I am done tormenting you, you are still as hale and fine as when you came to me. And I have shown you that such trials are not without their consolations." This fast return to reason made the hour of agony seem unreal, and for the first time in all the torment, Glorfindel shivered.

"Was I too harsh? Was there anything you might not bear?" queried Maeglin.

"No," Glorfindel muttered.

"You are not as grateful as you should be," said Maeglin. "Nonetheless, you may tell our good Ecthelion I accepted your apology, and that I will speak to him soon about new forging for the Guard of the Steel Gate. I will be sure to let Turgon know how accommodating you are." He picked up the tongs he had cast aside before, and his smile was fell. "I may be seeing you here again soon. For you have never served in Anghabar."

Glorfindel's spine straightened as he knelt among the chains, and he snapped, "With good grace, if my lord Tuor says I may be spared. For I have sworn my fealty to him - as one of our princes." By the pained snarl on Maeglin's face, Glorfindel knew his barb had struck home.

Saying nothing, Maeglin threw the tongs aside with a clatter and left, leaving Glorfindel still downed and nude. He turned back for one last look. Possessing the beautiful elf-man had been little consolation. Having Glorfindel had only sharpened his lust for Idril. Neither virtue nor vice, continence nor distraction, could cure his desire, and he was lost in his black plight. Angry and despairing, he slammed the iron gate as he departed.

Still on the floor, Glorfindel felt his body still unwholesomely alive, though his heart was numb. He stood up, surprised at how he staggered, and shook himself free of the tangled chains. For a moment, he rubbed at the stickiness of oil, sweat, and seed-fluid against his skin, then gave up and simply dressed again. He felt stained to his bones. Despite Maeglin's words, he did not feel his success for the Guard redeemed him. In his despise of Maeglin, he had sunk to something he had never done; to a falsehood. He had lied to Maeglin about his fealty to Tuor, knowing it would dismay him.

Glorfindel took up his shield. The feel of it against his arm reassured him. So he had carried it when he had walked along the plaza that morning; he was still that same Glorfindel. On a sudden he knew what he had gained from the dark hour. Holding his shield, he swore a deep oath to himself. Not that he would not be taken and ravished, but that those he loved would not suffer so at the hands of evil. If one elf could be so disgraced and pained within the bounds of what was willing - something he had not thought possible - then to be forced by their evil foemen would be the worst of deaths. It was worth sword, shield, every sacrifice to spare others the degradation he had tasted.

The square of sunlight on the floor grew more bright and sure as the clouds changed, and Glorfindel felt his heart live again. He would amend his lie by making it truth. Glorfindel would give his fealty to Tuor, and count it well done, for even the dank hollow of Anghabar was brighter without Maeglin there.  

Chapter Text

None were supposed to leave the Hidden City, by the command of its king. But Maeglin, prince and nephew to the king, knew how to elude its guards and leave its leaguer. He had grown so confident in this deceit that at times he took smiths who were his followers with him, to prospect for rare ores. So it was that in the dimness of dawn, Maeglin and one of his followers were slipping towards the border of the valley that cupped Gondolin. The pair, clad in cloaks grey as stone, trod a path newly freed from winter's fastness. The first week of spring was the season for prospecting. The mountain snows had melted and exposed the rocks, but alpine verdure had not hidden them again. 

As they went upwards into the Encircling Mountains, they paused to glance back upon the city in the valley's bowl. In the rising dawn, the city's lights still glowed on walls of white and roofs of gold. Maeglin's vassal, Aranwë, smiled a little at the sight, finding it fair, then looked to Maeglin. He had been the chief of smiths before Maeglin came to Gondolin. Maeglin had wanted that role for himself, and had seduced Aranwë into surrendering it to him. But he had not lost the smith's alliance by this; far from it. Aranwë's eyes lingered with hunger on Maeglin's beauty. The elf-lord had thrown his hood back, revealing a straight profile framed in black hair cut as the smiths of Gondolin wore it, scarcely long enough to brush the shoulders. 

Maeglin ignored Aranwë's glances as he peered down at the city. The sight brought Maeglin no joy. Was this, then, all there was for him? Yes, he had lordship and power; yes, he and the smiths had wrought a thousand marvels; yes, he sat at the King's right hand. Many feared him for it, and some fawned on him. He might fulfil his lusts as warriors did, with one of several admirers or vassals. But he might not have the woman he desired. Idril Celebrindal was beyond his reach. She had been barred from him by the laws of the Eldar because of their closeness of kin. The pain of that had been bearable - until she had wed another. 

Maeglin half-turned to Aranwë. "I could swear that a light still shines in Idril's chambers, nigh the tallest tower of Turgon's palace," he said, and his voice was a snarl of resentment. "Does that wretched mortal she wed never let her sleep for all his lusts?"

Aranwë quietly replied, "More likely that she tends her babe, my lord."

Maeglin still looked down the valley. "At this hour?"

"Children do not watch sun nor stars for the time; they will have what they will have, without regard," said Aranwë. Since Idril had wedded, Maeglin had turned to him more - and yet, for all that, Aranwë felt his presence less, for ever did he speak of Idril. In the face of that, he felt like a lantern without fuel, burned out and empty, even as he admired his lord in the greying dawn. It was time to say what he had been holding back for some weeks. He allowed himself a last glance at Maeglin before he said, "My lord. Why don't you set all this aside, the pleasures of warriors and your yearning for Idril, and get married yourself?"

To cover his surprise, Maeglin snapped, "I can scarce believe that you of all would say such a thing, Aranwë."

With a bleak look, Aranwë sighed, "I think desire between elf-men has pleased you for as long as it might. I no longer ease your sorrows, my lord, this I see." He pressed his lips together, then spoke more. "What about the maiden Pennwen? She is swift-minded and fair, with the looks you favour." And just come of age, thought Aranwë, young enough to be in awe of you for some years yet, and bide by your every word; for I cannot see you happy, otherwise.

Maeglin's mouth curled. "She is not noble." 

"You are noble enough for two," said Aranwë. 

"Nor is she half as fair as Idril." Maeglin folded his arms over his chest and turned away. "There will never be any other woman for me."

Aranwë took a deep breath, then added another thought he had hidden. "Even if you might have Idril, she would not be a good match for you. She has a will of steel, despite her beauty." 

Maeglin snapped around, furious and cold. There was a terrible moment of silence. If Aranwë had had any defiance in his eyes, it would have gone ill with him, but Maeglin saw him cowed, and struck only with words. His voice was icy with contempt. "Just because you are - shall we say - easily swayed, does not make such a one any more of a match for me." Maeglin stepped close to Aranwë, who winced back. But the black-eyed elf only snatched a satchel of supplies from the tall smith's nerveless hands. "Since you value my confidences so little, leave me be! I shall prospect alone." 

The smith blanched beneath his hood. "My lord, you have not—"

Maeglin cut him off with a hard gesture. "Am I your lord? You do not act like it, today. Return or go your own way! Fend off Turgon's queries of me, if you would serve!" He whirled around and devoured the angled pathway in long strides. One listening pause revealed that his vassal, heeding his words, did not follow him. He went on his way, only slightly less vexed.

Maeglin's temper had not cooled by noon. He had threaded his way through the low peaks of the northern mountains until he stood outside the sheltering valley. Behind the mountains, Gondolin was hidden indeed. He hiked for a further hour, until he looked on the mountains outside the valley that were parallel to the mine of Anghabar, opened inside the valley. As he walked, taking care to leave no track, Maeglin decided that Aranwë was wrong. It was the very fact that Idril held such a strong will within her slender frame, the enticing contrast of it that held his desire. Unfortunately, Aranwë was also right. Even after Tuor died, he could not have Idril. For a moment, he felt lost in an abyss of sorrow, but he hardened himself again. 

Better to be angry about it than to weep, he thought. Anger was fire and fuel to his strength. Was it not for the anger that moved him to flee his father's halls, he would not have the many things he did today; and he grasped the hilt of his sword Anguirel with a bitter smile.

Touching leather and steel reminded him of his errand. Forcing himself to set thoughts of Idril aside, he focused on prospecting. He turned himself to scan the cliffs for stone that was redder or darker, showing that metal-ore was buried near. If he was lucky, he would come upon another vein that might be mined from the inner vales. Perhaps he would take two or three days to look amongst the rocks; he was in no mood to tolerate Turgon's elaborate court. 

Maeglin was intent upon examining a cliff when he heard the sounds behind him. He cast his cloak around him and slunk behind a cluster of boulders as tall as he was. With ears keen as his eyes, he picked out marching feet. At times Men traversed these mountains; this sounded like more of a company than usual. He gripped the hilt of Anguirel again, waiting to see if he would be able to strike. 

Soon Maeglin saw stooped marchers; two, three, ten. He was outnumbered. Ten, twenty, thirty, all marching slow and peering about, as if the light pained them. One took off his helm to scratch his ears. Maeglin had to force himself to stay still instead of leaping out to fight; for it was no mortal man, but an Orc. Now he saw that some of the orcs were clad in armour, even to iron-nailed boots, and some in rags, and some in plunder in-between. Maeglin's lips curled in hatred as he recognized a chest-plate of one of Gondolin's guards strapped to an orc's foul torso, plunder of the Nirnaeth Aenordiad. 

Maeglin calmed himself. Never before had evil's creatures come so near Gondolin's boundaries. This probably meant, he thought, that the vaunted sons of Fëanor were not doing so well in their endless battle with Morgoth. He wondered if they had fallen to the forces commanded by that evil god, or if they had fled their lands to go south. Still hidden, he watched the orcs explore the stony vale for a time, then turn around to go back the way they came. 

After the last dark shape shambled off, he lifted from crouching behind the stones. Courtly misery and impertinent vassals be damned, he thought. The hope of riding out to war again cheered him like nothing else would have - he could have sworn that Anguirel sensed his bloodlust and rang in anticipation. He smiled when he realized that Tuor, Idril's husband, would also stand forth to defend Gondolin. Maeglin could arrange for Tuor to have armour that was more elegant than functional. The mortal knew nothing of smith-work. Would not such a gift be fitting for Idril's husband? First, he had to persuade Turgon to open the city's leaguer without revealing that he himself had broken it. It was the opposite of the counsel he usually advised, so it might take some persuasion. But he was used to having his way within Gondolin, one way or another. Plotting and planning, he turned around. 

Three orcs, silent on rag-wrapped feet, had come behind him as he hid, and stood there grinning. 

No tale told of his fight then. He never spoke of his anger as he slew and wounded them, followed by his despair as, the rest of the orc-march returning, he was taken. Nor, even the one time that he later confessed his treachery, did he ever speak of the journey whence they dragged him; several days' forced march through lands increasingly wild and hard. The horrors of the orcs' company, vile though they were, faded in memory before what awaited him within Angband.

The looming darkness of Thangorodrim dominated the sere grey plain before it. That sheer mountain concealed evil's stronghold in Middle Earth, the delved halls of Angband. Since Beren and Lúthien had had their triumph in Angband, Morgoth's wrath made it always night about Angband's gate, the skies laden with fume and cloud. As the orcs and their prisoner drew near, the plain fissured into evil canyons and chasms. The path the orcs dragged Maeglin along tilted downwards. Thus they came to the gate of Angband, set beneath a thousand feet of precipice. 

Maeglin looked on Angband's gate, sealed with two solid iron doors, tall enough for a Balrog or winged fire-drake to pass. It was more massive than any of the Seven Gates of Gondolin. Numbly, he wondered how the work had been wrought. Then the orcs drew him within, and drove him down stairs upon stairs, into the depths of hell upon earth.

Maeglin stumbled in his weariness, sensing fragments of Angband amidst its sooty darkness. A rough arch opened into a chamber of fire. Some creature, foul and unseen, howled in agony, cries echoing in the pitiless halls. On the stairs, he was shoved past a figure as grey as a shade, an elvish thrall. He glimpsed the thrall's face; haggard, and hollow-eyed, and spiritless. Then he was forced on, fighting terror at every step. The shadow of unease to the north of Gondolin had been a bare echo of the wrath at the heart of Angband. The imprisoned elf sensed the malice in the depths. Powerful. Waiting. Named with a name of fear. Maeglin steeled himself.

Jabbering with anticipation, the orcs hauled him into a deep hall and flung him on his face before he could see aught. A raw voice roared, "Cower, earth-spawn, cower before the Lord of Arda!" Thoughtlessly defiant, Maeglin looked up, and found courage unexpected. 

The horror of Morgoth was undeniable. The cruel Vala's form was that of a giant. He sat on a massive throne of black rock, clad in black mail and shadow, his massive weapons at hand on the wall behind. Morgoth was never alone. A guard of Balrogs stood by the throne, their cracked stone skin terribly luminous. Yet more splendid was the light of the Silmarils, sparkling white and rainbow amidst the red-lit hall. Their cool glimmer made Maeglin think of Idril and his long endurance. The strength he took in that was not diminished even when the voice of Morgoth boomed out.

"Well hunted," Morgoth intoned, extending a hand to his creatures in black benediction. "Throw down his gear. Go you to the pits of the thralls, and choose there your rewards." The orcs, bowing and scraping, fled. 

Maeglin marvelled at the Vala's tone. The giant being's face was hideous and skull-like, but his voice was deep and rich, as if he was the Lord of Arda he claimed to be. 

"Elf of Turgon's host," Morgoth said. "One of the captains of Turgon at battle before my gates, upon a time, be the tale aright." 

Maeglin stood up, but said naught. He watched as a demon scooped up the discarded gear and proffered it for his lord's perusal. Morgoth glanced upon it and turned the items; a pack, some of his half-armour, and his treasured sword Anguirel, all small as a child's toys in Morgoth's hands. Then Morgoth continued. "Black armour, black hair, black eyes - yea, there was one like to you at that battle, who even bore a black shield. Like my own," said Morgoth, and he smiled. "You were no coward, I was told."

Maeglin, uncertain before that horrible grin, said nothing. 

"And no fool," Morgoth continued, the amusement in his voice at terrible odds with his skull-sere, hate-filled face. "Well do I know the warriors of the Eldar." One of the attending Balrogs stepped forwards, and silently lifted a huge brazier and its stand, placing it nigh Morgoth's right hand. Its flames flared high. "It shall take some time to break you." A second Balrog stepped up to Morgoth's left, unwinding a lash from his back, proffering it at the ready. The scourge seemed edged with fire. "But broken you shall be." Sweat began to slide beneath Maeglin's clothes and armour. Without thinking, he took a step back, only to hear a creature hiss behind him. He glanced back, and then froze, understanding why there was no need for bonds in Morgoth's deepest hall. 

Morgoth's voice fell. "There is another way." He leaned forward, letting his eagerness show. "Give me news of your Hidden City, and keep your life and freedom."

Maeglin looked again on the light of the Silmarils, blue and cool. "Slay me, then!" he cried. The Vala unfolded himself from his black throne to stand, tall as a tower, and his laugh rang from the stone walls. The Balrogs covered their ears and cowered.

"Death is easy, so easy," the Vala hissed, looking down. "Death from the form that chains you is escape. I do not think you will call the life that is left to you worth the labour of breathing, when my torment of you is done."

More terrible than Morgoth's arising was what he did next. He knelt before Maeglin and raised a hand, larger than a shield, to brush against him. Maeglin was still, expecting to be crushed, or lifted and dashed to the stone floor. But all Morgoth did was to tap against his armoured calves. "Your legs shall be shattered." 

Mere threats, thought Maeglin, when he is so powerful. Maeglin tilted his head up, with a scornful exhalation. "Such I have suffered," he sneered, and it was true, for mines and rock-faces were perilous.

The hand brushed up to the chest-plate Maeglin still wore. "Your hands will be wrung beyond hope of healing."

Maeglin laughed a little. "I dare being maimed or burned every day I take to my forges."

"So you are a craftsman." Morgoth moved his hand up over Maeglin's face, hovering without touching, blocking out the sight of anything else. Maeglin saw that the Vala's fingers were wrapped in a web of angry red skin, scarred as if by burning. "Only one torment is needed for you, then; to blind you."

Ah! Cried Maeglin, his gut cold with terror at last. Morgoth's chuckle was more dread than his exultant laugh, for it held a note of victory. Maeglin knew his shield and his bluff were lost.

"You would be fair no longer, with suppurating scar-pits for eyes. I might send you back to the Elves, that they take pity upon you…or watch as you starve in the wilds…or toy with you further." One of the dark god's finger-tips caressed Maeglin's face, his skin. 

"Yea, your eyes will be seared out with hot iron. My vassals will do it. For you are nothing to me. And you could be all. I can read much of you, elf-man." Maeglin felt the wide hand placed on his chest, the Vala's fingers caging him. "And you burn." The heavy, hot touch dominated, enflamed, lured. All Maeglin's anger and his desire flared up in him. To be so exposed was as if all the torments that he had dealt out, or spoken of to terrify others, came back to him. 

Morgoth's lipless grin was wide before Maeglin's eyes. Then the Vala swung back into anger, pulling his hand back to form a boulder-sized fist and roaring, "MAKE YOUR CHOICE!"

Maeglin staggered back, shieldless in terror. "SPEAK!" Morgoth shouted. Even the light of the Silmarils waned before Morgoth's anger.

"I -" Maeglin said. He swallowed. It seemed, for a moment, that salvation might match his own malice. Had he seen his own face, he would have known that his grin mirrored Morgoth's. "News you ask, news you shall have. I have some news of one who survived the Nirnaeth. We hear that you hate the Edain, the Second Comers. Know you the mortal Húrin, son of Huor? Who fought with the forces of Gondolin before your gates " 

"Yea, I know of him." The lightless sockets of Morgoth's eyes stayed dark. 

"You know he still lives, then? The Eagles saw him amongst the hills, crying like a madman to the cliffs. Surely you will want to hunt your foeman down," said Maeglin, self-serving to the last; for he had hated Húrin. "You may yet find him in the North, near where I was - found."

Slowly, Morgoth stood again. Wondering if this had been enough, Maeglin found himself facing Morgoth's mail-draped knees, and felt the terrible regard on him from above. "Stale news will buy nothing. I know this already. I am not easily blinded!" cried Morgoth. "Unlike you." And Maeglin was cowed at that threat renewed. "Fairer news would I have of you; news of where the Hidden City lies. That, and that alone, will see you spared and more. Tell me, and you shall be allowed to live unmarred, the only way any elf is; as my servant."

A vision of the elf-thrall he had glimpsed flashed into Maeglin's mind, and he shouted, "I saw how you reward your servants! With living death, as walking shells of beings in your halls!" 

Morgoth laughed again, the cruel laugh so ready to him. "What makes you think the thralls here are all my servants? They are lesser ones. Many Elves now walk the lands about as my vassals." Maeglin was appalled and hopeful at the same time. Lost to Morgoth's dominance, he did not think that the Vala might be lying. Morgoth's voice was rich again as he said, "Think you all my rights over Arda are regained by the hands of Orcs? I reward my servants based on obedience and kind." 

Seeing Maeglin waver, Morgoth was well pleased. The twin Silmarils in his crown flickered as he spoke. "Be you my vassal, bring the Hidden City under my power, and you shall have the lordship of Gondolin. All you have to do is tell me. Tell me where it is. If you do not tell me, another will. It is inevitable. Why should you not be the one to gain?"

"The lordship of Gondolin…" Maeglin mused. 

"Yea. Thou must be of high kin to stand among Turgon's captains, and I would have such as thee for my lieutenants," said Morgoth, smoothly.

"I am the city's prince," said Maeglin. 

With calculated softness, in an illusion of mighty mercy after anger, Morgoth asked, "Wouldst thou be king?"

A vision came to Maeglin's mind of Gondolin, the Song of Stone, the Hidden City, as he had last seen it, pale in the dawn, the sight tainted by his bitter yearning. Was that all there was, he had thought. And his grief at that was answered by this offer. If he ruled Gondolin, who would gainsay him - anything? "King and more," breathed Maeglin. "I will tell you where it lies if you will not gainsay me claiming the woman of that city I desire. Her name," he gasped, feeling Morgoth's regard weighing his will down, "her name is Idril."

Maeglin was frozen as Morgoth knelt before him once more. If the evil Vala knew or cared that Maeglin was Idril's cousin, that Maeglin would have the sin of incest, Morgoth gave no sign. Morgoth touched him again, then, tapping one finger on Maeglin's chest-plate, thoughtfully. Maeglin stayed still before the being more powerful and angry than he would ever be. "So it shall be," said Morgoth, in the voice of doom. "Tell us how the city may be found and taken. Then describe your Idril to me, so that we may spare her." 

Their gazes met. And they laughed together.

Maeglin's return nigh the mountains around Gondolin was swift. A strange rider on a fell beast of the air bore him from Angband back through the airs in half a night, coming as close to Gondolin as they dared for fear of the Eagles. It turned out that he was left almost where he had been taken. After the foul wings flapped away, he stood for a moment. 

So that he might return to Gondolin as he had left it, with no sign of his treachery, his gear had been returned to him. Nigh disbelieving, he slid Anguirel partway out of its sheath, reassured by its weight on his hip. He tore open his pack - everything was there, the orcs must have been commanded to leave it alone - but decided he did not feel like eating any rations that had been amongst the fumes of Angband. Scooping up a mouthful of snow from a half-melted drift to freshen his mouth, he took the path that led to the valley of Gondolin. 

Soon, he had reached the brim of the Tumlauden. He had been gone four days, in total, dawn to dawn. He paused at the brink; for after the horror of Angband, Gondolin was as beautiful as if he had beheld it for the first time. It had been one thing to come through the city's gates hoping he would be its prince. It was a darker thrill to gaze at it, knowing its ways, its treasures and beauty, and to know he would be its king. He closed his eyes to savour the idea, trying to banish the horror it would take to make it so. 

The doubt that shadowed him grew stronger when he came to the city. It seemed Aranwë had been true, for the guards hailed Maeglin as if he had been treading amongst the lawful side of the Encircling Mountains. He entered Gondolin amidst the bustle of high morning. For once, the city's crowds, often so irritating, soothed him. The bright throng could not be further from Angband. He gazed at the faces around him, bright and fair, and could not forget that the coming of Morgoth's forces would still bring death to many in the city. Sunk in darkness before Morgoth's throne, he had even asked the Vala to seek out certain ones to slay. If the Dark Lord kept his leaguer, Glorfindel and Ecthelion would have prices on their heads - Tuor and Idril's half-breed son Eärendil bringing richest bounties of all. He thought of their pride and cloudless joys (for so they seemed to him after his dark yearnings), and felt his regret start to evaporate.

But he had drawn nigh to the city's heart, and the royal citadel that stood there, red banners lifting gently in the spring morning breeze. He looked on the sigil of his uncle, Turgon, the King of the city; and was troubled. Maeglin was as honestly fond of Turgon as he could be of anyone. He had liked Turgon well from the hour Turgon had finally decreed that his own father, murderous Eöl, should be slain. Pleased by the strength of this choice, made in defiance of what Maeglin considered weaker counsels, he had sworn fealty to his uncle. Turgon had repaid that fealty with as much power as he might give to Maeglin - while still remaining King himself. That gave Maeglin pause. What other way was there for a prince of the Eldar to gain true power than by clearing away those of eld? 

Maeglin reminded himself, in the halls of that palace, that he would have been a fool not to take what the Dark Lord had offered. Faced with Morgoth's might, there had been nothing else he could do. True evil had been but a name to him, the ill deeds in his past but shadows of it. There was no withstanding its full might. Its victory was inevitable. Better sooner than later; better that Morgoth's new way leave Gondolin still standing, and Elves alive in it. More fool those who let themselves be put to torment and chained in thraldom, instead of gaining what chance had given them. Surely, Maeglin thought, anyone offered the chance to gain their heart's desire would have succumbed, even at the cost of cruelty.

Reaching his chambers within the heart of Gondolin, Maeglin was greeted by his esquire. "Well met, my lord. Did you have fortune amidst the hills?"

"No," said Maeglin, and the esquire dropped his eyes, ready to be cautious of Maeglin's temper. "Bring me water for washing - a full bath's worth," said Maeglin. His skin itched with filth. "Have a meal brought for me." He felt hungry; and he realized the ache in his gut was more than one kind of hunger. "Then find you Aranwë, and bring him to me here." Carefully concealing his own relief at being back, he sat on one of his blood-coloured couches to await these services. 

By the time Aranwë arrived, Maeglin had sent away his esquire with the empty dishes of his repast. He heard the hesitant knock at his chamber's door, and answered it himself. This, he saw, threw Aranwë nicely off balance. "My lord," the smith said, "you…wished to speak with me? Am I come too soon?" For Maeglin, though clad in a chamber-robe of midnight velvet, was clearly wearing naught beneath it. His black hair was still waved and damp after his ablutions.

"Not at all," said Maeglin. "Enter, and we shall talk." After Aranwë came in, Maeglin sealed the door. Aranwë did not sit down, nor turn his back to Maeglin; and Maeglin marked this. They stood and looked at each other for a moment.

"I am sorry you did not come with me," said Maeglin, evenly. 

Aranwë gave Maeglin a careful look; this was not the mood he had expected. "What was your luck?" asked Aranwë.

Maeglin shook his head, shadowed for a moment. "Not good." Although Maeglin was tall, his vassal was taller, and he had to look upwards to meet Aranwë's eyes. Maeglin saw deep. He realized that Aranwë did not, failing to perceive Maeglin's new darkness, and he felt stronger for carrying off his deceit. "You were daring with your words to me, before we parted."

"My lord, it seems I grieved you further," Aranwë whispered. 

Maeglin narrowed his sharp eyes. "'Tis certain I do not confide in you so that you may bring me more misery. Still, I have been thinking. Perchance you said something you did not mean to say, when you spoke." Maeglin was directly in front of Aranwë now. He brushed his black curls away from his face as he looked up. "You said you did not please me. But I can guess your mind; it is you who are not full pleased with me. You have never had what you truly wanted from me, have you?"

Astonished, Aranwë said, "I know not what you mean! You have given me -" Aranwë paused, considering the acts of lust, both low and high, Maeglin dealt out to him. "Much, my lord," he concluded.

"You desire me," said Maeglin. 

"Yes," Aranwë admitted. 

Maeglin was close enough to whisper. "You wish to take me, do you not?"

"Maeglin - my lord - I -" Aranwë turned away, flushed deeply. The way his breathing quickened as he clenched his hands was all the answer Maeglin needed, and inside himself, he laughed.

"You wish it. Do not lie to me," Maeglin said, voice still even and light. He watched his man, reeling with shame and fear at having Maeglin speak out a desire thought hidden. Maeglin was not surprised that Aranwë braced himself as if he expected to be struck.

"What would you do…if you might have me?" Maeglin slid the robe's sash away. The robe, unfastened, dropped from his shoulders, folding onto the floor to reveal his nudity. He ran the sash through his hands, expectantly.

"But - you said you never wanted -"

Maeglin, with nothing but a tilted, sly smile, stepped before the taller elf-man. With the hand that clasped the sash, he reached and stroked the silk along Aranwë's cheek. "I had much thought among the mountains." He did not say which mountains. "If I shall be wedded someday, would you not have me while you can?"

Aranwë's expression was both pained and pleased at that. Very slowly, he sank to his knees before Maeglin, and reached up tentatively, resting a hand against the bones of Maeglin's hip. "My lord. My fair lord," he whispered, lifting his second hand. 

From kneeling, Aranwë stroked Maeglin's thighs and croup. Maeglin, who normally despised such caresses, did not stop him. After Morgoth's caress that had cracked open his spirit, it was nothing. But memory cut through his numbness. The more closely the other elf-man touched him, the more it reminded him of Morgoth's touch, which had revealed desire and evil. A morass of hatred and fear, the desire to be spared, all came back to him. This, he understood, was the price of his treachery fired by lust. There would be no touch of desire, be it embrace or homage, that was not tainted by the fire of Angband. 

Maeglin forced his voice to be sweet. "Come. I had you for the first time on the floor, but I would like more comfort for myself." He tilted Aranwë's head up. "Unless you would be revenged on me for it?"

Maeglin was gratified at the ambiguous look that came over his kneeling supplicant's face, as if that idea had a fierce appeal. It was true, then; any would fall, given the chance to free their hidden lust. So much for the vaunted continence of the Elves! But Aranwë's expression gentled. Maeglin wrested with disappointment and profound relief as his elf-man stood. 

Maeglin's relief fled as Aranwë drew him into a lover's embrace. The hateful tracery of Angband's fire in Maeglin's own body made it into a burning cage; made a light kiss a soul-probing violation. He tore his face away. "Come, I bid you," Maeglin whispered, and drew the besotted elf-man into his bedchamber. Maeglin locked a second door. 

He draped himself over the edge of his low bed. "Was this what you wanted, when you first offered yourself to me, Aranwë?" asked Maeglin, still tracing the sash through his hands.

Aranwë knelt before him again, caressing Maeglin's hard white thighs, reaching up to stroke his member into life. Maeglin twitched back, nigh overwhelmed at the sense of being lost to shadow and flame that brought on. He flung the sash aside. "Answer me!" he commanded. 

"Ai, my lord, it was," rasped Aranwë . The floodgates open, he went on. "You were scarce more than a lad then, so lithe and beautiful, I shouldn't have wanted to - I never would have thought of it had I known why you dislike -"

Maeglin stilled the confession with a touch to Aranwë's lips. "I have my answer; I need no more." He slid half-onto the floor to twine around his vassal. "Here's to desire fulfilled." For the first time, knowing the dark fire it would bring, Maeglin initiated a kiss. This time, he surrendered to the welling sense of evil inside him. 

Aranwë drank the kiss long. Maeglin's mouth was sweet, demanding, his tongue clean and darting. When Maeglin broke the kiss, he slid his arms around the elf-man again. "You are no less beautiful now, though you be strong as steel," said Aranwë , stroking both of Maeglin's shoulders, hard-muscled and wide after centuries of smith-work. "Yet you are softened, if you can be so giving."

Maeglin's eyes shone. As before Morgoth's throne, dark hope arose in him. It seemed that he would be able to keep Morgoth's secrets after all, until the time came. It must be impatience, the yearning for fulfilment, which made the evil he had given himself to burn. Smoothly, he sat up on the edge of his bed again. "You are more than ready, Aranwë. Get you the oil from yon shelf. Then delay no more; come and have me."

Aranwë did come to him, but he did not seem aware that those words too had been a command. For he did not move to oil and use Maeglin. Instead, he stripped off his own clothes, then returned to sleek over his lord's white skin with feathery caresses and hungry kisses, even gentle bites. Maeglin writhed. His own flesh poisoned the sense of those lovers' touches with dread fire and fell memory. Unbidden, he recalled the moment when Morgoth had touched his skin, and groaned to think on it, even as Aranwë stroked soft-touching oiled fingers along his arse. As before Morgoth's throne, Maeglin froze as he was probed, then moved to co-operate in his own shame. The sooner the act was begun, the sooner it was over with. 

Maeglin, inviolate for years uncounted, still managed not to scream as he was entered. He threw back his head and hissed. Whether Aranwë was minded for revenge or no, with his endowment, he was having it. Maeglin unscrewed his eyes, and looked up at the elf-man taking him. The bliss of Aranwë's expression was clouded by concern. "Are you all right?" Aranwë gasped.

And at the kind words Maeglin hated him. Self-serving knave. You never saw how I suffered for Idril, and you see it not now, he thought. Then be blind and deceived. "I will be in a moment," Maeglin purred. "Just let me shift up." Lightly, he cast the sash over Aranwë's shoulders, behind his neck, and pulled himself up a touch, using the sash like a rein. "Bend and kiss me," he urged. 

Aranwë obeyed with a good will, and also started to shift his hips, beginning to take Maeglin slowly. Caught between two pleasures, Aranwë did not notice Maeglin's hands busy about the sash. When Maeglin started to lie back against the bed, Aranwë stilled his hard breathing to say, "You clench me less. Does it feel better—" Maeglin jerked on the sash he had turned into a noose, garrotting Aranwë's throat, and his words cut out with a strangled cry. 

Pulling hard on the noose, Maeglin's eyes blazed. "Aye, this is better," he said, feeling Morgoth's power cease tormenting him, its sense shifting to swell his own might and virility. Aranwë coughed and lifted a hand to the cruel silk, the soft fabric now drawn to a ropelike strand, tight and treacherous. Maeglin said, "Leave it be. This is my game if you would have me." He drew on the silken leash, and Aranwë leaned into him, coughing a little as the noose was infinitesimally loosened. "Feel how good it is. Go on, thrust in me." 

Maeglin watched, lying back as the strong smith half-fell towards him, desperately trying to lessen the noose's pull. Maeglin jerked it tight again, then said languorously, "It makes your cock harder - I can feel it. And I grow harder as well." He watched Aranwë's face flush dark as he thrust and shivered. Maeglin, still watching, crossed his legs behind the smith's strong, broad back, feeling Aranwë tight and breathless. "If I am your lord, your life is mine. I could kill you," Maeglin whispered, his hand grasping the silk hotter than his stretched arse-channel. "Make you spend your very life inside me, as you come." With a pleading expression, Aranwë shook his head. Yet, watching as Maeglin used his free hand to stroke his own straining erection, Aranwë let the noose stay around his neck.

"I think I like you silent," Maeglin murmured. "And maybe I like this too well to slay you. Spend inside me, and find out!" Arcing his back, he both pulled on the sash and clenched inside himself to tighten around the rod that tormented him. Even as Aranwë choked, nigh strangled, Maeglin felt him lose control, bucking and shivering as he came.

Instantly, Maeglin slid free, his gut spasming with relief. He reached up and hooked two fingers under the sash, loosening it so that Aranwë could cough. "Breathe, but leave it on," said Maeglin. The look his reeling vassal gave him, terrified and even more deeply entranced than before, was like balm.

Serenely, Maeglin leaned back again, angling one leg. He had not spent. His cock still sprung as hard as the steel of his forging, and he was proud that his steel was obedient to his will. 

"You can guess what I want," said Maeglin, softly.

Aranwë coughed, then said, "Yes, my lord." He moved his mouth down over Maeglin's cock.

"Not yet. Further down. Clean me, first, with your mouth." Maeglin waited to see if he needed to twitch the silken noose, but Aranwë was obedient, as many a time before. 

He melted back as Aranwë knelt deeper to service him, truly calm for the first time since his return. Ah, he had known it; all this city would use him, if he allowed it. Now his heart knew as well as his mind that it was better to give in to the inevitable, to win power onto his side. Having hidden his changed heart from this one who knew him so well, and turned that use into his own triumph, he felt far more confident. Thanks to the Dark Lord, he could bear the burning want of Idril, knowing he would have her soon. He found himself enjoying his consolations once more, and thought of gratitude to Morgoth. Maeglin's smile flowered, then sharpened, as he reached down and tightened the silken noose again.