“You will sever your fingers – or worse, if you continue as you are.”
Írimion sighed and wiped his hands on his pants, rock dust wafting up into his face. Coughing as it entered his lungs, he got up on his knees and surveyed the work he already had done. It almost seemed futile – he had been working for days and he could see hardly any progress. The rock still sat, silently taunting him.
And now this. Who would dare? He turned his face toward the voice, arching an eyebrow as he spied his antagonist. A tall man, a large man loomed over him, a practiced gaze studying the line of rock that Írimion had already laid. His eyes were critically assessing and his lips were pursed in a frown.
“And you are?”
“I am Minardil Gonhiriôn. And I have brought some of the rock that you requisitioned from my father’s quarry. What are you building?”
“Not much, or so it would seem,” answered Írimion. “I am building a tower.”
“Here? Is not Sorontil high enough?”
“It is high enough, but not level enough,” answered Írimion, looking out over the wide expanse of land and water he could see from the near peak of the shear cliff.
“Hm. Well at least you know the first principle of building with rock, though it seems that you know little else.”
Írimion frowned and balled his hands into fists. Who was this impudent brute to talk to him so? Did this Minardil not know that he was the grandson of the King? He checked the impulse to put the man in his place, and bit the inside of his mouth to hold back his tongue. It was only too true, he really had no idea what he was doing. He assessed the man before him.
Minardil was built as solidly as the mineral in which he worked and Írimion judged him to be his own age, or slightly younger. There was no spare flesh on him and his muscular arms and taut thighs told the tale of long hours – years? – spent working on the hewing and moving of stone. Calluses and lacerations, both old and new lined the fingers and palms of his large hands. Surely, the marks of his trade. His face was not unpleasant, though the dirt of the journey from Gonhir’s quarry lined it. His hair was barely held back by a thong and the strands that hove to his checks and neck appeared almost russet in the fading light of the day. His eyes were a steely dark grey. All in all, an appearance of competence, strength and determination.
Swallowing his pride, Írimion stood and faced Minardil, hands on his hips. While conceding that Minardil probably knew more than he did, he was not going to give an inch to the rugged man.
“Do tell,” said Írimion slowly. “What else would you have me know?”
“First,” answered Minardil, “how tall will this tower be? Would you have it reach to the stars?”
“I would,” replied Írimion, in all seriousness. “But alas, I know that it could not be, so my answer is, as tall as I can make it.”
Minardil eyed him warily, wondering just what the man was about. Admittedly, he was the grandson of the King and in line for the throne himself, but surely he could not be so taken with such flights of fancy. Had he not a realm to learn of? Oversee? Things of import to do?
“I know what you are thinking,” posited Írimion, noting the quizzical look on Minardil’s face. “But even my father has not yet received the sceptre. It will be years before I gain sight of Armenelos. What am I to do until then, but forward my own pursuits? Just as my father does with his books. I would have a place to study the heavens.”
“Hmpf,” answered Minardil “Well. If you would have a tower as high as that, then first you must dig a trench.”
“You cannot expect a tower to stand without a firm foundation. Even a much smaller building starts with a trench.”
Írimion looked around, at the work he had already done, let out a deep breath and if only for a moment, rued the day he had begun on such a vanity. But his gaze moved upward, to the darkening sky where the first star had made its appearance and he forgot that Minardil was even there. Enrapt, he stared hard at the twinkling light and his mind wandered.
Minardil watched the young scion and followed his eyes, waiting for him to answer, but when none was forthcoming and he saw that Írimion was lost, he cleared his throat.
Írimion turned his head and smiled, the first such that had crossed his face since Minardil had arrived and gave his answer.
“I will dig a trench then. A deep one. I would have this tower reach as high as it could and I would have it last. And you need not call me Lord. Just Írimion will suffice. Will you help? Could your father spare you, and some men? I will pay.”
Minardil considered the offer, surveying the fits and starts that Írimion had already made. Clearly the man needed the knowledge that he possessed and it was certainly better than cleaving stone in his father’s quarry all the day long. If it paid well enough, he supposed his father would allow it – getting into the royal family’s good graces could serve them all very well indeed.
“I will talk to my father. I imagine his name appended to such a project would serve his interests. And the thing about your fingers? Be careful about that. Second thing you should know about building with rock is that you drop the stones, you do not place them. I will show you in the morning. For now, may we camp here for the night? My men are tired from their trek – heaving rock up a mountainside is no small feat.”
“Of course,” answered Írimion, almost absently. His gaze had turned heavenward once more and Minardil left him there, turning back to join his men.
Their first meeting had been inauspicious, at best. But Minardil had returned, with several strong men and another load of rock, carrying with them the tools of their trade. They brought levers and shims and batter. Shovels and posts and pulleys and rope. They carried wood to make ash, along with finely crushed limestone – combining the two along with some water would make a decent mortar.
Following Minardil’s direction, Írimion worked hard and the quarry-master’s son became steadily impressed with Írimion’s work ethic. Not at all did he seem the pampered scion. The sweat poured down Írimion’s back the same as any other man, and he learned quickly, becoming more of a help than hindrance in no time.
And, thought Minardil, the man was surely easy on the eyes. Írimion had clearly retained much of the elven inheritance of his ancestor, the peredhil, Tar-Minyatur. Though he had never seen a real elf, at least that is how he imagined it must be.
Írimion’s body was lither than a normal man’s, his legs that much longer. His skin was paler and he noticed that Írimion made sure that he was covered while out in the sun. And his hair was a lustrous near-black, much darker than he had ever seen, and straight. He wore it long, but tied it back while he worked, the ends swinging over a comely and tight backside. Minardil gulped. Írimion’s eyes. Oh, his eyes were lightest of greys and shown almost silver at times, seemingly reflecting the very light of the stars that he so loved.
Minardil shook himself out of his thoughts. He would not despoil the heir to the throne with his own secret vice - should not ever think of him in such a way. Minardil went back to work, pounding the rock that much harder in remonstrance for his unseemly thoughts.
Days turned into weeks and the tower grew ever stronger, as did the easy camaraderie between Minardil and Írimion. They now worked in tandem, sometimes barely speaking at all, each knowing the other’s thought and movement.
On a day when the sky was as clear as the finest adamant, when the eagles wheeled overhead, catching the air on their wings, and the men had finished the second tier of the tower, the ground started to rumble under their feet. The call went out, “Clear away! Clear away from the tower!”
Startled, Írimion’s eyes went to Minardil and before he could even reach out to touch him, to ask what was happening, Minardil simply disappeared from his sight. The earth and rock below them had parted, opening a crevice into which Minardil was swallowed.
Panicked, Írimion ran to the place where Minardil had stood, frantically calling his name. The other men gathered, rapidly moving rock and stone and shoveling the earth where their leader had fallen.
On his knees, Írimion dug with his hands, scraping at the dirt, nearly breaking his fingers with the effort. Soon they uncovered a hand, which, without even thinking, Írimion grasped tightly.
“Hurry, hurry, please!”
Soon Minardil’s head was above ground and though coughing with ingested dust, the man breathed. Working quickly, the men dug and slowly but surely pulled Minardil out of the hole, laying him gently on his back.
“Water! Get some water,” called Írimion, bending over Minardil’s still body.
“Min, Min,” he crooned, using the diminutive that he had begun using as they grew closer. “Please. Min.”
Írimion began at Minardil’s head, gently checking for injuries. His hands moved down over Minardil’s body, examining first his arms, and then his chest. All seemed to be well. As he inched lower, limning over Minardil’s torso and moving to his legs, a startled Minardil suddenly seemed to awake, grabbing Írimion’s arm by the wrist and wresting it off of his body.
“No! Íri, don’t touch me there. It is my leg,” he gasped, “my right leg.”
“Oh, Min. I do not know. I do not know what to do. Who here knows of healing?”
Fortunately there was a man with them who knew of such things and bent to examine Minardil’s body. He tore the cloth and examined the leg, twisting it minutely to assess the damage. Minardil bit back the pain, and breathed shallowly, all the while held in Írimion’s arms.
“It is broken, but fortunately the bones have not pierced the skin. I think I can set it, but it will hurt. Get a thick leather thong for his mouth and some wood – a few of the posts that we use for the leveling lines will do – and some of the smaller gauge rope. Have we any wine?”
One of the men pulled a skin from his cloak, and Írimion offered it to Minardil’s mouth.
“Drink this,” he said, trying to hold back the wince. Írimion had no stomach for pain and especially in one he held dear. And that was a revelation in and of itself. Since when had he held Minardil dear? He looked down at Minardil as if he had never seen him before, and his mind began to wander. Soon enough though, the man had returned with the necessary items and the healer set to work.
Írimion wanted nothing more than to absent himself from the scene. But he steeled himself and placed the leather between Minardil’s lips. If dear Min could stand the pain, then he would surely find the fortitude to withstand it with him. He held Minardil tightly and soon it was done, though Minardil’s cry would stay with Írimion for the rest of his life.
After a while, when Minardil was resting comfortably, the damage was assessed. Fortunately the walls of the tower had inexplicably remained sound, though some of the foundation showed separation from the walls. A good bit of fill and small stone would shore it up.
That night Írimion would not allow Minardil out of his sight. He made sure that Min was situated near his own fire inside the tower’s walls and fussed over him, continually bringing water and foodstuffs, stoking the fire, tucking blankets under his damaged leg. The attention was near embarrassing to the stoic man, and each time Írimion touched him, Minardil seemed to inch away.
“What is the matter?” asked Írimion, “I am only trying to help you - make you more comfortable, but you move away from me.”
“I am fine,” answered Minardil, scrambling for an answer. How could he tell Írimion that every touch, every look of concern from that beautiful face awakened in him a desire so strong that he could but barely hold it back? That even in his distress his body would betray him if just another light skim of Írimion’s fingers slid over his flesh?
“Stop it,” said Írimion, “You will let me care for you. Now turn back here and let me loosen your clothes so that you may sleep comfortably.”
“No! Íri, don’t touch me!”
Írimion sat back, startled at the sharp tone of Minardil’s words. He tried to rationalize it by telling himself that Min was in pain, that he did not really know what he was saying, but he was hurt by it nonetheless. Softening his gaze, he reached out his hand, but saw that Minardil’s eyes would not meet his own.
“What is it?” asked Írimion, “why will you not look at me and why is it that twice now you have not allowed my touch?”
“I am sorry,” whispered Minardil, turning his body away from Írimion.
“I am sorry.”
Írimion sat back, perplexed. He had thought that he and Minardil had formed a friendship – a close and lasting one. What was it that Min was not telling him? He mulled it over for half of the night, tossing and turning, and coming awake at every groan that Minardil made in his sleep. He wanted nothing more than to assuage himself that their relation was intact, and wavered between awakening Minardil and edging him toward conversation, and waiting until the morning.
His indecision cost him, for late in the night a messenger had come with news for Írimion. His father had written and he was to leave the site of the tower immediately. The young scion packed his bag and hastily wrote a short note. He was loathe to leave Minardil and the unresolved tension between them troubled him, but he did not want to disturb him when he saw that his friend had finally fallen into a deep sleep.
When the sun rose, Minardil woke, rubbing the dirt and sleep from his eyes. He shivered, though he was not cold – he thought it must be the residual effects from his injury. He sat up and tentatively moved his leg, wincing when the pain hit. He saw that the men were busy at work and called out to them.
“Why did you not wake me? And where is Írimion?”
“He left,” responded one of the crew. “Took off, bent for leather, earlier this morning.”
Minardil felt the bile rise in his throat and took a quick swig of water. He felt sick. And not only from the pain in his leg. Had he so alienated Írimion that his friend had left? In his delirium had he confessed his attraction? Had he – Valar forbid - touched him inappropriately?
His whole body ached, but his spirit was utterly bereft. Írimion. Gone. Because of something that he had done, either inadvertently or more directly. He pounded the dirt next to his hand and recoiled when a stone embedded itself in his palm. He quickly brought it to his mouth and sucked, drawing the blood into his mouth. Hoping he could purge his feeling of self-recrimination and doubt. Wishing that he could take back whatever it was that had happened in the night.
It was then that he spied the paper, lying across his pack, his own name scrawled hastily on its face. He took it into his hand and read:
I am so sorry to leave you thus. Amandil has resigned the sceptre to my father and I must go to Armenelos with my family. It may be some time before I can return. I entrust the completion of the tower to you. When you can – if you will – please write and let me know of your progress. Also, I wish you well in the healing of your leg. I am distressed and regret that we were unable to resolve our disaffection and hope, with all of my heart, that when we meet again you will allow me to make amends.
Minardil turned and propped his head up with his elbow, considering Írimion’s note. Now, he really felt terrible. Írimion thought that their falling-out was his own fault? He could not allow that, so he called for paper and scribbled a reply.
I am sorry that you had to leave also, but please know that our differences are not your fault. The fault is all mine. Perhaps someday I will be able to explain. I am sure that now that you are the heir, you will find yourself quite busy. Do not think of us here, we will do as you bid, and trust that you will find our work acceptable. Hail to the new King. What name will he take?
The people wish to see the new King, so we have taken the long route and have already progressed through Ondosto (I am sorry that we had no time to stop and see your family there) and Andúnië. We are off to Eldalondë next and father tells me that I will meet elves there who will tell us of the making of the Sun and Moon and of many of the stars in the sky. I am more than excited about that, but it means only that it will be much longer than I originally thought before I can return.
I do think about you and the tower – nearly every day. How are things going? How is your leg? And of the other, do not worry. I will listen to whatever you have to tell me. Remember that I am and always will be your friend.
After Eldalondë, we will go east and stop at Rómenna before entering Armenelos. It is a tiring thing, this – most of the time I find myself looking at the night sky and wishing nothing more that I was there, at the tower with you, and in peace.
P.S. My father will take the name Tar-Elendil.
I have met some elves from Tol Eressëa and they are as beautiful and as mysterious as you would think. So formal in their address. Some will attend the coronation with us and oh, the stories they have told. One of them even knew Eärendil, albeit briefly. Can you believe it?
I have so much to tell you when I return. I cannot say when that will be, but I am already tired of the road and oh, so many, many people. Often I long for the solitude and your quiet presence at Sorontil. Write when you get a chance.
Are you alright? I worry since I have not heard from you. How is the tower coming along? Is your leg fully healed?
We are, at last, in Armenelos and the coronation is tomorrow. There are revels and feasts a plenty. Too many, I think. I am full up with food and people. What a dizzying pace is set here. Of course, that may be because of the coronation, but I do not think so. Though it is amazingly beautiful, Armenelos seems to me so large. There are great houses and towers here and I have studied their composition. None, I deem are as beautiful as the one we have built at Sorontil.
I do not think I am for the city. Alas I will have to get used to it, I am afraid.
My sisters dither over dresses and jewels – are all women that way? And I have seen things – oh, my eyes have been opened to so much. Some of which intrigue and delight and some of which cause outright revulsion. I cannot wait until I tell you of all that I have seen.
Tomorrow we ascend to the summit of Meneltarma and my father will assume the crown, and he will say the words of the Erulaitalë. It will be during the daytime, so I will not see the stars from there, but I believe I will go up the mountain some night while I am here.
Please write, Min and tell me of your doings. I miss you.
I am pleased to report that the tower at Sorontil has reached the fifth level and the exterior is nearly complete. We have sustained no further injuries and my leg is healing nicely. I still walk with a stick, but it does not ache so much anymore. I am sorry that you were unable to visit with my parents in Ondosto – they would have welcomed you with open arms. I miss you, too. I look forward to your return – when will that be, do you suppose? The stars do not like it when you are gone. Their luster wanes.
Well, it is done. My father is King and I am now in the unenviable position of heir. Fortunately, Valar willing, it will be many years yet until I have to contemplate anything else. I am permitted to return home, for a time, and will leave before the next full Moon. I am greatly relieved by this. I cannot wait to tell you of all that I have seen and learned on this journey and am so anxious to see the tower at Sorontil – and you.
It was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that Minardil contemplated Írimion’s return. He had missed him, ached for his presence, and was eager for Írimion to see the finished tower. But he knew that there was unfinished business between them and did not relish the conversation that would inevitably have to take place. He wondered too if Írimion had changed. It had to be so. He had now seen nearly all of Númenor, taken in the life of the city, met elves, become the heir. “His” Írimion probably existed no more. What matter could a stone-mason be to the one who would be King?
Minardil heard the sound of the horse picking its way up the craggy stone hillside, and tried to still his rapidly beating heart. The men had long since left the site and he would meet Írimion alone. Show him the work of his hands and, truth be told, all of his affection as well. He had poured every bit of himself into constructing the tower just as Írimion had instructed. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, only opening them when he heard the horse round the corner and knew Írimion was in sight.
Minardil looked up and was greeted by the most beautiful smile imaginable. He did look different. Older maybe? Wiser? A little more settled in his own person? Minardil smiled back, reaching for the reins and holding the horse while Írimion dismounted.
“Oh Min. It is…you are…Oh. I am so very glad to see you – the tower!” Írimion grasped Minardil in a strong embrace, turning them both so that they faced it.
“It is so tall. So – perfect!” Írimion walked toward the edifice and moved his hand over the stone, smile broadening with every rock that he touched. “Tell me - was it difficult? “When did you finish it? Is the interior complete? Can you touch the stars from its pinnacle?”
Minardil laughed. Perhaps Írimion was not so changed after all. Still the youthful exuberance that had been so much a part of him and still the fascination with the heavens.
“No, it was not difficult once we shored up the foundation. We finished within the last fortnight. Yes, the interior is complete – as least to your specifications before you left, though I am sure you will want to put your own stamp on it. Do you wish to enter?”
Írimion’s eyes were alight, as if a very miracle had taken place right before him. And Minardil was pleased. Thrilled that Írimion had judged his work soundly and well. He felt himself relax as he opened the door, though if anything, Írimion’s enthusiasm had reminded him of and enhanced his attraction to the man. He wanted to enfold Írimion into his arms and share his excitement. But he fought the urge and endeavored to put that part of him aside as they entered the interior.
A great stairway took up much of the room at the lower entrance to the tower and immediately Írimion was drawn to it, taking the stairs two at a time as he began the journey to its apex.
“Come on, Min. Show me! I cannot wait to see the view from the top.”
It was a lengthy climb – Minardil had managed to top it off at six stories before he had concluded that the foundation would bear no more and they were winded when they reached the entrance to the summit. Minardil barred the door with his body, allowing them to catch their breath.
“Are you ready to see it?” asked Minardil, teasing a little. He could not resist making Írimion wait a little longer, to see the anticipation in his eyes.
“Please,” said Írimion, taking a deep breath.
Minardil opened the door and allowed Írimion to enter, leaning against the lintel as he watched him walk out onto the platform. Almost immediately, he saw a sense of awe overtake his friend. Írimion released the thong in his hair and let it flow freely, opened his arms, and seemed to gather all within his sight toward him. A majestic and almost other-worldly sight to Minardil’s eyes and he stood silently and watched, totally enrapt.
“It is the most magnificent place in all of Númenor,” stated Írimion.
“Surely you have seen greater, Íri. You have been to Eldalondë and you have seen the King’s house and the very top of Meneltarma. How could this rough piece of stone compare to the magnificence and greater meaning of those?”
“Oh, Min,” answered Írimion, turning towards him, shaking his head and gracing him with a smile of near bewilderment.
“It is truly as I have said. Even as wondrous as the King’s house and the very top of Meneltarma are, they are no match for this place. This is my place – my own. And yours. Built with your very own hands.”
Írimion strode toward him and took Minardil’s hands into his own. Looking straight into Minardil’s eyes, he appended “Our place.”
Minardil fought it, trying to avert his eyes from Írimion’s steely gaze. For a moment they were lost in time, but Minardil grew uncomfortable at such uncanny intimacy and though he answered with a press against Írimion’s hands, let them drop in order to move past him.
“Wait until you see it at night, Írimion,” easing back into the formality of the use of his friend’s full name. He faced outward, smiled ruefully, before he turned back to Írimion.
“The stars do reel overhead, and now that you have returned, they will shine even more brightly. I do not doubt the top of this turret will catch the very sails of mighty Vingilot.”
“I wish to see it. Stay the night up here. Can we? I see that you have placed a brazier here, and there is wood downstairs. I have brought food from home that will last for a time. I have yet to tell you of my adventures beyond. Besides, who will wrest mighty Earendil’s sails from the turret and set him free, if we are not here?"
Minardil closed his eyes, and though he had wished to avoid such proximity, he could not but accede to Írimion’s wish.
“Yes,” he said, “we can stay here.”
They made their way back down the stairs and secured the horses. Two trips each, carrying supplies and wood. As night fell, they were ensconced comfortably back at the platform. Minardil had created a half-wall around the top, so there was no fear of falling. Írimion leaned over it, watching the cresting waves of the sea as Minardil set the fire.
“So, tell me about your journey, Íri,” said Minardil as he set the meat on the brazier to roast.
“It was long and mostly tedious though there were some highlights. The elves that we met at Eldalondë were the best part, I think. Look what they gave to me, Min,” said Írimion, taking a few things from his pack.
“It is a book, in tengwar, which I can barely read, but it tells the tales of Varda Elentári and Yavanna and the two trees and the making of the constellations, and how the sparks from Aulë’s forge set the seven stars – the Valacirca, in the sky – it is remarkable. It will take me years to unlock its secrets. And also, see this? It is a looking glass. You pull it open thusly, and it brings the stars closer to one’s eyes.”
“All that time away, the whole of Númenor gathered for your father’s coronation, the great city of Kings and Meneltarma and all you can talk about is the stars?”
“Well, yes,” answered Írimion, somewhat chastened. “There were a lot of other things, too, of course, but as I said, I have come to the conclusion that I find such formality and politics tedious. Such bowing and scraping, Min. Such high-minded talk. Try as I might, I do not think I like it much. And yes, I know it is my fate to be amidst it, but at least for now I do not have to think of such things. Is the meat ready?”
They ate quietly and after Minardil banked the fire to embers, creating warmth but not too much light, they lay next to one another, watching the stars begin to peak through the dark sky.
“Look, Min. There is Wilwarin, the butterfly and over there, Soronúmë, the eagle. Did you know that the eagles are Manwë’s vassals, and sacred? Our hill here, Sorontil, takes their name, too.”
“I know it, Íri. They kept me company while I built it, wheeling and calling overhead. They seem to have approved, as they have neither sundered it with their great talons nor fouled it.”
Írimion smiled at the thought. The Valar approved of their tower, perhaps. It felt that way to him, sacred and apart from anywhere else in the wide world.
“Soon, Eärendil my forefather will make his journey across the sky and we will be able to see Menelmacar and the Valacirca to the north. The view was not so good, even atop Meneltarma. The lights of the city below interfere. This is truly the best place to see the stars, Min – the whole sky opens wide for us.”
“There he is Íri, bright Eärendil – use your spyglass, maybe you can see him salute you from the bow.”
“The light of the Silmaril shines so brightly that I can see nothing else,” answered Írimion, squinting through the eyepiece. “But oh, it is the light of a thousand stars to be sure, all in one place. The two trees must have been glorious in their day and yet I do not think I would trade the Sun and the Moon for them. And look, over there – Menelmacar makes his appearance. You know that he is there to guard us from the darkness that lives in the void. I will not mention the foul name of he who dwells there, and there – see? The Valacirca, which serves as a warning to the evil one.”
“The last battle,” said Minardil, “Dagor Dagorath. Yes, I have heard the tales.”
“I have no stomach for war, Min,” answered Írimion, “I am so glad the Valar gifted us with Elenna and we have no need of it here.”
“Yes, someday. But not in my lifetime. And not in my reign, should it come to that.”
Írimion turned toward Minardil and rested his hand on his cheek, considering the man who lay next to him. How stalwart he was. Constant as the bright star in Helluin, the north star that never moved and never waned. He thought for a moment about the next words he would say and could find none other than to say them quickly and hope that he had rightly guessed Minardil’s secret from long ago.
“While I was in Eldalondë, I met Vëantur. He is a mariner and has a great ship called Entulessë and has sailed many times, even to the Havens of Middle Earth. Ah, yes. He loves the sea as my father loves his books. As I love the stars. Men can be so different from one another. Some men - and elves, I have learned, love women, and some love… other men. Granted, it is not spoken of forthrightly – the men who prefer their own gender.”
Minardil felt as if a great hand had come down from the heavens and cinched itself around his throat. His whole body tensed as Írimion spoke and he closed his eyes, willing himself to continue breath. His heart thudded so resonantly that he could feel every beat within.
“Írimion, you need not continue.” Minardil’s gaze was riveted to the sky. He dared not look over at his friend.
“But, I do, Min,” answered Írimion, as he reached out and touched Minardil’s arm.
“I have learned that I am such a man.”
Minardil’s sat up and grasped Írimion’s hand, plucking it from his body almost as if to throw it off, but found that once he had it in his grasp could not let it go.
“How have you learned such a thing? It cannot be. You must wed – beget an heir. You will be King!”
“Yes,” said Írimion, sitting up and meeting Minardil’s flashing eyes. “Yes, I will wed. The very daughter of the mariner that I have named. Almarien. It is already arranged. But the marriage will not take place for some time and she and I have come to an agreement. She is quite aware of her place in society and understands well the politics of alliances. She will enhance her family’s name and her father’s profession by such a union. And I will do as I ought and beget an heir.”
“But you will be miserable. She will be miserable. How can…?”
“Oh Min, it is not bad as all that. She is beautiful, to be sure, and is facile with clever conversation. We get along well. But alas, her father’s venturing and its effect on her mother has soured her on men. Now, do not take that wrongly. I do not think that she has other predilections, only that she seems to have not much interest in the physical aspects of marriage. We have agreed. A son, maybe one or two more for the sake of Númenor. That is all.”
Minardil tried to wrap his mind around Írimion’s revelation. Surely, he was buoyed by what Írimion had told him, and the expectation in his eyes was telling, but no, it could not be.
“So,” he asked, “you will take lovers? Other men?”
Írimion laughed, and then stilled, looking straight into Minardil’s eyes.
“Now why would I need to do that? Do I not already have the love of the most exquisite stone-mason in all of Númenor? Or have I read it wrongly?”
Minardil gulped and lowered his head, but when he looked up and saw the expectation and hope in Írimion’s eyes, he could do naught but tell the truth.
“It is just so, Írimion. But…”
“Ssh,” Írimion crooned, and placed his hand, oh so gently over Minardil’s mouth.
And there, under the Írimion’s beloved stars, did Minardil take what he had longed for all these many years, He took Írimion’s hair into his hands and placed his mouth over his lover’s and hovered there for a moment, looked deeply into Írimion’s eyes with all the pent up love and long wait glittering in his own liquid gaze. Minardil’s mouth descended and touched Írimion’s – a kiss marvelous and delicious in its restraint. Gentle and soft against Írimion’s parted lips.
Írimion grasped the back of Minardil’s shirt, pulling the man into him, a sighing moan echoing into the mouth that lightly touched his own. And Írimion felt Minardil’s answering smile as it broadened over his lips.
“Yes, I want it all, Min. All of it. All of you.”
Minardil would have loved nothing more than to take, simply take, quickly and voraciously. He was hard, so very hard and his swollen erection pressed deeply into Írimion’s groin. Deliberately and not without strain, he slowed the pace, passing his lips over Írimion’s face and nestling them into the nape of Írimion’s neck. He kissed, kissed and licked there and Írimion moved under him, baring his neck to Minardil’s mouth.
“More and more. I want you, Min,” said Írimion, thrusting upward, hands moving over Minardil’s back, around his stomach and to the lacings on his leggings.
Minardil grasped Írimion’s wrists, pulled his arms up, and laid them on either side of Írimion’s face, holding them there.
“Oh, Íri, I want you, too. So much. But I have no wish to harm you. I must know your experience with such things before I…”
“I want you to do it, Min. I have done some, but not all. I wanted it to be you. But do not think that I am as the petals on a flower, to be plucked gently. If I wanted to be with a woman, I would be with a woman. I want you. Now.”
And as if to prove his intent, Írimion overturned them, grinding his nethers into Minardil’s, taking Min’s wrists and strongly pinning them to the ground.
“You see? Feel that. I am no woman. I have even brought some salve to ease the way – the same such as the men use in Eldalondë. Here,” he said, turning to his pack and retrieving the small tin. “Here. I want to feel you move over me – in me. Please.”
Minardil grabbed the tin from Írimion’s fingers and smiled down him, shaking his head.
“If you insist, Íri. But we will do it my way. In a way that will not hurt so much – you do know it burns? At least at first.”
“I do know,” answered Írimion, “and I want to feel that. Feel that burn deep inside, caused by our joining. And then they say, comes the pleasure. I would feel that, too, at your hands.”
“Lie on your side, then”
Írimion complied, easing himself over. Minardil still harbored an astonished near disbelief at all that was happening. Even though he had permission, no, it was nearly an order to take what he wanted, he wanted to use as much time as Írimion would allow.
He slid his hands down Írimion’s body, limning the slim waist and over his thighs before drawing them back up on the inside, over Írimion’s tumid shaft. He felt Írimion quiver under his touch and grasp his hand, moving it to the opening of his trousers. Minardil’s fingers worked the laces, and once opened, eased Írimion’s leggings over his thighs and down and off of his legs.
Instinct took him and Írimion turned his body over and lay on his back, thighs parted. Minardil licked his lips, oh, what a beautiful sight Írimion presented, so open, so needful. Minardil had to taste and he swirled his lips over Írimion’s loins, leaving a slick trail before he took the head of Írimion’s straining cock into his mouth.
Írimion barely breathed and when he did his stomach heaved with it. Deep, stuttering breaths and an unintelligible moan, as he thrust into Minardil’s mouth.
Minardil could not get enough and he nestled his face into Írimion’s groin, slurping and licking, taking Írimion’s balls into his mouth and rolling them. Using his tongue to make long strokes up and down Írimion’s now moistened cock. Tasting. He groaned as the very flavor of Írimion hit the back of his throat.
“Please, Min, please. I will not… please. I want to come when you are inside of me. Please. What should I do?”
Minardil made a ring of his fingers and squeezed at the base of Írimion’s shaft, the other making quick work of the placket on his own trousers.
“Alright then? Turn to your side, Íri, it will hurt less.”
After he had stripped off his leggings, Minardil nestled behind Írimion, letting him know of his own desire, allowing his rigid cock to skim up and down the crevice at Írimion’s backside.
He slathered his fingers with the salve and brought them to Írimion’s opening, circling the pulsing aperture with a slick finger. He dipped in, just a tad and Írimion’s moan compelled him to go farther. He embedded his finger and worked it slowly in and out of Írimion’s channel.
Oh, it felt so good and Írimion backed into Minardil’s finger, asking, near pleading for more. Opening up to him, drawing him in. Minardil added another and more salve, gently separating his fingers, stretching Írimion’s entrance, making him ready.
Minardil removed his fingers and coated his enflamed cock with as much salve as he could, adding to his own essence that leaked from the tip. He eased Írimion’s leg upward and leaned into him, just barely placing the tip of his cock at Írimion’s entrance. Though he needed his right hand as guide, he reached up with the left and took Írimion’s own left hand, entwined their fingers and squeezed hard.
“Are you ready, Íri?”
Nearly speechless with need, Írimion muttered an indecipherable, “Umhmm,” and felt Minardil’s cock enter, the heat of it, the steel of it, the slick velvet skin of it pushing through the small hole. Oh Valar, yes it burned, and oh so deliciously. He held his breath as Minardil slid slowly inward and then blossomed like a flower, opening fully to his lover, welcoming the pulse of Minardil’s very life into his own.
Minardil groaned when he was fully seated, the luscious grip of Írimion’s clenching hole nearly strangling him, the culmination of all he had wanted, and for so long, centered now at the juncture of their coupled bodies. He nestled his head into Írimion’s back and took Írimion’s right hand, joining them together and folding them over Írimion’s heart, embracing him fully from behind. He was as deeply immersed in Írimion’s body as he could be and he held them there for a moment, allowing them both to feel the unfathomable connection between them.
Minardil moved then, inching backward and the thrill of it, the very feel of Minardil moving within him sent deep tingles down Írimion’s spine and through his nethers. He could not help but move with him and then the starburst, the bright flash of white light, when Minardil touched that very part of him. The nub of flesh deep within, over and over again.
Their movement became increasingly erratic, Minardil sliding behind him, through him, until Írimion felt Minardil’s hand leave his and snake down his belly, grasping his oh, so hard and oh so wet shaft in his fingers. He stroked, once, and the combination of Minardil’s thrusting cock, the deep pounding within and then another stroke and a thrust right into that place, that place, and Írimion cried out as his orgasm shook through him and his essence poured over Minardil’s fingers.
Minardil felt him come, felt Írimion burst over him and the clench of Írimion’s passage around him, the convulsion of Írimion’s body and the cry of satisfaction that exploded out of his lover’s lips caused his own release to crest over him, pouring forth. With a guttural groan he emptied himself deep into Írimion’s body.
For a time, neither could speak and Minardil clutched Írimion to him, until he inevitably softened and had to withdraw. Írimion sighed as Minardil left him, and turned in his arms, gazing at him through glittering eyes, smiling in deep contentment.
Minardil answered Írimion’s smile with one of his own, matching his lover’s fulfillment though his smile was tinged with an edge of concern. He cupped Írimion’s face with a large hand, holding him gently.
“Are you alright, Íri?”
“Oh beloved, Min, can you not tell? I am more than well. I am…” he struggled for the word, closing his eyes. “I am…replete.”
Minardil poured some water from his flask onto a cloth and gently cleansed both of them, then took Írimion into his arms. They lay together silently for a while, watching the stars glisten above them.
“I will not, you know, Íri. I will not marry,” said Minardil and then he chuckled, “imagine that, a quarry-man’s son – me – a kept-boy of the King.
“Say rather paramour, Min. And I tell you truly, all that glitters is not gold. Believe me, I have seen enough to make that claim. I know where my heart lies.”
“And I pledge you mine. I am for you and you only, for the rest of my days.”
“Look, Min, the stars dance for us.”
And sure enough, the summer shower of falling stars was upon them, and the glittering orbs rocketed through the darkened sky, waxing, then waning with their fall. A thousand of them or more. Varda’s own dragon fire, lighting up the night.
“When I cannot be with you, remember this Min. Remember that I love you, and that you are my very own. I will ever face the north, and come to you as I can. You are my strength, Min, my very compass. My lodestar.”