I Will be Waiting by Moondragon

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When the messenger came to me with the news, I nearly slew him in my wrath. How could this happen? HOW? Even as I raised my hand to strike him down, my heart misgave me and I began to shake. I bade him enter,sit and tell me all, for I knew this was the last I would ever hear of my love.

"Beleg is slain, Mablung. 'Twas Turin's own hand that struck the fatal blow. My Lord Gwindor gave me the telling of it and the King bade me tell you." I could feel a cry of sorrow as it tried to claw its way from my throat, but I would not allow it. Beleg would have thought it unseemly to be mourned so, therefore I drew a shuddering breath and nodded for him to continue. "My Lord Gwindor was witness as Beleg cut loose the bonds which held Turin captive, yet fatefully, his sword slipped and cut Turin's foot. Wildly he then leapt to his feet with a wild cry. Beleg had stood as though rooted to the spot in surprise and Turin wrested Anglachel from his hand, slaying him where he stood."

The messenger spoke on, telling me of the treacherous journey and praised Beleg highly for saving both Gwindor and Turin, but I heard not his words, for my mind was cast down in shadow. He went after Turin...Ah, Manwe...where did his wits go that he should wish to remain among thieves and brigands rather than with...me... Tears filled my eyes and I rose without thought from my seat. Beleg, my Captain, truest and dearest of friends, never will we tread the Northern Marches again, nor hunt the swift stags of Doriath. Behind me, I heard mumbled condolences, then a door shut behind me. Anger, grief, pain...they tore through me all at once and I snarled as I hurled my bow and quiver across the main room of my quarters to slam against the far wall. I wept then bitter, scalding tears of loss. He would pay, this Turin Turambar, the love of my Captain's heart. He would pay in full for slaying the one whom I held most dear.

I hated him. No, I hated both of them.

Where once I had been the favoured, the beloved...there came one of the Secondborn to steal my love away. Surely Beleg knew that I loved him, not only for his skill with the bow, but for his wisdom and his beauty?

Thoughts of revenge and desolation brought with them memories of my friend. His easy smile and hearty embrace after returning from a long patrol. Back they took me and I relived again the first time we met....

It was Autumn and Queen Melian had decreed a feast to honour the newest Captain of the Northern Marches. Many of us who guarded the Marches against Melkor's foul creatures wondered who would be joining our ranks and soon our curiosity was satisfied. King Thingol stood, his raiment and jewels ablaze in the torchlight of Menegroth's Long Hall and raised his hands for silence. A hush fell as he beckoned to a tall figure who stood at the back of the Hall to come forward. All eyes turned to see who it was and my breath caught a moment, for he was tall and fair to look upon. His hair was the colour of honey and his eyes blue as the sky above the mountains. He strode the length of the Hall with confidence, grinning at those whom he recognised. Upon reaching the dais, he bowed the knee before Thingol, who raised him and kissed him solemnly on both cheeks. A stab of longing went through me and I wondered at it.

Thingol turned him to face us, his voice strong and clear as it rang out in declaration. "Elves of Doriath, behold now your new Captain, Beleg Cuthalion! He has served our House well and has asked of us a boon...to serve us as march warden on the borders. Many rumours have reached our ears of late regarding increased Orcish encroachment on the northern outskirts of the Girdle. Therefore, our Queen has persuaded us to use Beleg's talents to their fullest. Praise him!"

A roar erupted from many parts of the Hall and I gladly cheered him as well. He stood smiling next to Thingol for a moment, then he turned to the Queen and bowed low, took her hand and kissed it reverently. "My Lady..." he whispered. She bestowed a radiant smile on him, then withdrew her hand. Proudly, Beleg stood for a moment, his face a shining beacon amidst the clamour. I have no idea to this day what possessed me, but I stood and called out to him, "Cuthalion! Join us!" Never having been known to be very assertive, the rest of my fellow wardens gaped at me in surprise, but I had no thought for them any longer. I only knew I wanted to be near him, to be his companion.

His head turned in my direction and he began to make his way across to our table. "Mablung, it seems the new Captain likes the look of you." "Shut it, Saeros!" snapped Morgil, one of my closest comrades. None of us loved the King's advisor very dearly, so I grinned to myself when he turned, mumbling darkly, back to his meal. The others shoved over as Beleg approached. "Who called out to me? Was it..." Suddenly his eyes found mine and my heart froze within my breast. Without another word, the way was cleared and he was at my side. "Your name, mellon?" I was fairly certain I had heard wrong...my name? "I...that is..." I could feel my ear-tips flush scarlet as a low chuckle rippled down the table. "What our highly articulate Captain is trying to say is...his name is Mablung." I turned and caught Morgil's eye gratefully. Beleg's brow creased suddenly. "It was you that brought the Lady Morwen here and are her guard, are you not?"

"Aye, that I am, though she seldom requires my services." Thank the Valar I had found my voice again! I laid my hand on his arm, squeezing it firmly. "The Queen is wise to grant you this boon, Beleg. I am an excellent tracker and a deadly shot with a bow, but we have stood in desperate need of strong leaders that can instill confidence when confronting such deadly foes as we have encountered along the borders of late and I have found it increasingly difficult on my own." Several dissenting voices rose at my words, but I raised my hand for silence. "It is necessary that we have leaders we will all follow, those who are brave, stealthy and wise. Serve with us now, against the evil that lies to the North!" A loud murmur of approval washed over me, yet I barely heard it, all I could see were his shining eyes as they looked into my soul, capturing it for all time.

The rest of the feasting passed without incident. All along the table, my comrades were toasting him, questioning him, trying to find out what sort of leader this Elf would be. By the early hours of the morning, they were satisfied and with a final toast, all of us filed out of the largely deserted Hall and began to make our way to our separate dwellings. Morgil waited ahead for me on the path, since he and I shared rooms with another of the march-wardens who had left earlier. I was mometarily torn. I wanted badly to walk with Beleg, but I had never kept Morgil waiting when suddenly, my path was chosen for me. A firm grasp on my shoulder made me hesitate, then Beleg spoke. "Come, Mablung. I see your friend awaits and my home is not far beyond yours. If it pleases you, I will walk with you and Morgil." My tongue clove to the roof of my mouth so that all I could do was nod my assent. He smiled, his eyes never leaving mine. "I am glad. Your presence is very pleasing to me." he murmured. Morgil raised an eyebrow as he saw us both coming to join him, but, discreet as ever, he didn't mention anything until we had bidden farewell to Beleg and gone inside.

Tirion was drowsing by the fire as we entered. "He'll make a fine Captain, Mablung. I like him." Morgil sat down on the edge of his bed and pulled off his boots. "So do I. His mind is very quick and he has compassion, much compassion..." His voice trailed off when he noticed that both of us were looking at him curiously. "What makes you say that, Morgil?" Again the sardonic eyebrow rose. "Come, Mablung. We all saw what happened between the two of you. He locked eyes with you as though you were a lover out of his deepest dreams!"

My face flushed at his words. I was unsure whether I should be offended or not. It was well-known that I had never taken a serious lover, having had only a few moon-lit dalliances in my early years. My duty had been my life and until now, I had never taken thought for anything else. I cleared my throat, then asked, "Why do you say 'too much compassion'? How is that wrong?" Morgil shifted slightly. "Not wrong perhaps, but something to be wary of. I've not heard that he's given to seduction, nothing so ordinary. But I have heard that where he gives his loyalty, there it remains. Imagine if he should give his love? Would it not cloud his judgement...or yours?" I sank down onto my bed, deep in thought. Was Morgil right? Could I allow Beleg to feel anything for me that might at a later time prove to be a detriment to him, to all of us? I raised my head and looked at them. "Let us rest. Some things are better faced in the daylight and Anor will find us all too soon, I fear.."

A knock on our door only a short time later was greeted with groans from Morgil and Tirion as they pulled on their tunics. I went to the door, all the while berating the others for being so slow. The door opened to reveal Beleg stood there, bow in hand. After pausing a moment, I beckoned him inside and to my discomfort, the others made hasty excuses and left us alone. I waved him to a seat, but before I could speak, Beleg looked at me with a mixture of elation and embarrassment. Before I was aware of what I was doing, I took him by the shoulders. "Is something amiss, what is it?" He took a deep breath, then turned away from me. "Nothing is amiss, mellon. At least...not yet." I bade him sit with me by the dying fire. "I-Mablung...did you sense, yestereve..." I bowed my head. So, Morgil had been correct. "Yes, Beleg, I did. My companions said it was...obvious. I was going to come to you myself." He looked at me very directly then, glad, I was sure that he had not been alone in his thoughts. "Beleg, we need your wisdom to lead us, but...there can be nothing between you and I. I would not wish for you to make decisions based on what we..." He held up his hand for silence. "You are mistaken, Mablung."

"I ask you not to reject me out-of-hand without letting me speak, Mablung. I applaud you for thinking as you do, but think further! We would not be the only ones, I can assure you, who feel more than a comrade's love for each another." He reached out and touched my arm, tightening his fingers around it with an archer's grip. "Hear me, Mablung. Take what I offer you, freely and without reservation." My mind reeled. "But, how is it you feel this way about me, I, whom you do not even know?" A sly smile lit his face. "I ask you the same question, mellon. I saw the glint in your eyes when I looked at you. You wanted me as much more than a brother-in-arms. Or am I mistaken?" "Beleg, is this true? That you...care for me? I...can scarcely believe, but how..." The next instant Beleg stood and pulled me close. I could feel his heart hammering against his chest even through the clothing separating us, though in truth, it was probably only echoing mine. "Is that evidence enough for you?" he whispered fiercely. There was only one way I could answer. With a searing kiss.

A strangled cry ripped me awake as I felt hands, comforting hands easing me back down in the bed. I had awakened from my dreams to find Morgil staring down at me with eyes full of concern. Guiltly, I let disappointment flash across my face at the sight of him. He squeezed my shoulder, then sat down beside me. "I know, Mabling...I'm not him. But we all thought you did not need to be alone just now." I thanked him, then absently drank some water he gave me. A voice that sounded only vaguely like my own said, "I can not believe he is gone, Morgil." I could feel tears gather in my eyes again and I scrubbed them away savagely. Morgil grasped my arm to stop me. "I beg you to give in to your grief, Mablung. It is not wrong to mourn for him." I laughed bitterly. "I do not wish to mourn! He should not be dead! He should be here...with us, not out trailing after Turin like a love-struck fool. He should be sitting over there in the corner, fletching arrows,not...not wandering in Mandos'hall..." I bowed my head as Morgil's arms came around me, his body wracked with silent sobs. Reflexively, I held him and stroked his hair, as I done for Beleg so many times in the past.

It was night and we were hunting a large pack of Orcs that had crept too near the Girdle's north-eastern border for our liking. Beleg had split us into three main groups with the sole aim of leading the Orcs into an ambush. Tirion, Beleg and I lead each group their separate ways, keeping in contact constantly. Before we had parted, Beleg and I had looked long into each other's eyes. Few words were ever needed between us, for our souls has become knit together, forming an unbreakable bond of loyalty and love. We wished each other well and good hunting, then melted into the darkness of the trees.

It seemed to take forever, this patient game of luring the Orcs into the center of our deadly trap. Yet patience won out and we nearly had them. All we needed was Beleg's word to strike when several of the Orcs caught our scent. In the ensuing mayhem, every Orc was indeed slain, but not without cost. As we buried the offal, Tirion returned from taking a tally of our own dead and injured. His face was drawn and haggard as he approached. Behind him, borne in the arms of two Elves, was Beleg. His breathing was shallow, for he had a deep slash in his side and another, less grievous cut down the side of his face. I wasted no time. I couldn't allow myself to think anything beyond getting him into the hands of our healers. Little did I know I had taken a near-mortal wound myself.

Morgil had raced on ahead to alert the healers that we had casualties and I praised him highly for his devotion, for not only were there beds and healers ready to care for the wounded, but our Queen had arrived herself to see to us. "Wait but a moment, Mablung." She told me calmly. "Let them see how Beleg fares before you go to him." I nodded my assent wearily, then sank slowly onto a bench outside the large rooms where the wounded now lay. Morgil and Tirion came to me, to boast of their own slight wounds in an attempt to keep my mind from the only thing that filled my thoughts. Will he live? He MUST live! I stood stiffly, for my left side and shoulder ached dully. I had not even loosened the leather cuirass I had worn into the foray. As I reached for the buckles, a young Elf slipped up beside me. "Cuthalion asks for you, Mablung."

As I entered the room where the wounded were being treated, I saw with relief that most of the hurts seemed to be light and that those who had sustained injury would be back on duty by morning, except for one. Beleg's cot had been placed at the far end, away from the others. The reason for which became all too apparent when I reached his side. His face was bone-white, as though his skin had been stretched too tight. He was awake, but his eyes roamed feverishly, unfocussed. I grabbed one of the healers and asked him what was wrong. He told me that the Orcs had smeared a foul concoction on their arrowheads and sword-edges, thus causing any wounds inflicted to become infected, supperating sores. I was appalled. It was obvious that he was becoming more and more ill even as I looked at him. I went to his side and knelt there, brushing the hair from his face gently with my fingers.

His eyelids fluttered and he looked at me. "Mablung, ah, Valar, you are safe!" He smiled then and he fumbled for my hand. I gasped sharply, for when I had knelt down, I felt a warmth begin to run down my side. A glance downward confirmed my suspicions, that I too had sustained an injury. But even as blood began to drip slowly to the floor, I smiled back at him, willing all my strength into him. He was strong, but so was I and I would make certain that he survived. I stayed with him for a short while, then he seemed to want to rest for a time. The healer nearest me had seen my plight and stood near to help me to my feet, but I waved him away. Beleg must not suspect I was wounded as well, for he would attempt to rise to my aid. My lips brushed his brow and he sighed, then closed his eyes in peaceful repose. Grimly I rose, my jaw clenched tight against the pain and swiftly left the room before collapsing against the wall outside. Tirion gasped and caught me even as Morgil called frantically for a healer. When they removed my cuirass it was seen that I had received a very deep thrust from a narrow-bladed dagger and only the pressure of my leathers had kept it staunched, which was why my wound had only seeped slowly instead of bursting open. Within moments I lost track of what was happening and lost consciousness.

When next I woke, it was to a soft voice, calling my name over and over again. I opened my leaden eyelids to see my Cuthalion sitting on the edge of my cot. "Never hide a wound from me again, Mablung." he said, his voice deadly serious. "You might have died..." I turned my face from him. "I did not wish you to spend your strength." "Nor do I wish you to spend yours, now swear to me that this will never happen again!" He took hold of my jaw and, none too gently, forced me to look at him. His eyes were the grey of an impending storm, fierce and violent. I knew I could not refuse. "Aye, Beleg. I swear on our love." Tears fell from his eyes then and I felt deep remorse for having caused him such sorrow. Our hands met and clasped as he kissed me, bathing my face with his tears.

Damn Morgil! He must have drugged me somehow. How else can I explain this dull pounding in my skull? Why is it so important that I remain here, in this bed so full of memories, empty memories that taunt me in the night, driving me ever deeper into darkness and despair? Let me instead hunt down the thief, the murderer, the cause of my anguish and throw him from the highest peak of the Calacirya! My wild laughter was heard outside and the door to our...my dwelling opened. Interesting...am I guarded now? Against whom? Morgil came to me, having the grace to blush when my angry gaze swept over him. "I had to, Mablung! You were exhausted, nearly raving. The King..." I rose swiftly from the bed, heedless of my nudity before him. "I care nothing for the King any longer! Can he bring me peace? Will he send out a company to bring back his precious Turin? No! He will not!" I began pulling on my clothes, snatching them up and yanking them on hurriedly lest Morgil attempt to stop me again.

It seemed I had shocked my friend, for he merely stood quietly, watching my every move. "Then let me come with you." My head came up and he met my gaze. "What did you say?" I could hardly credit it. "Let Tirion and I join you!" he said, his voice eager now as he crouched at my side. "Mablung, hear me. Do not go searching for Turin alone, he is too cunning and has learned far too much from Beleg. Take us with you!" The honesty in his eyes finally broke through my misgivings and I nodded slowly. It would not do to approach such an enemy alone and I was never known for acting rashly. "Aye, Morgil, you may both come. This will be my final hunt. Let us make certain it ends with a sure kill!" If the light in his eyes mirrored mine, then I must have appeared savage indeed, for Morgil's gentle mouth curled in a sneer of feral glee as he sprang to his feet with a cry. "We will avenge Beleg's death, Mablung! This I swear!"

Cuthalion, why do haunt me so? Could it be that you regret leaving me now? Even as we set out in pursuit of our elusive quarry, it seemed I could feel Beleg at my side, warmth radiating from his body that always remained so near to mine. Without thought, I reached out to touch his sleeve and felt only the night air caress my fingers. Suddenly I was so lost in reverie that I had to stop, letting the others scout on ahead through the trees to the west of Doriath.

Once again, sunlight and shadow blended to form images at the corner of my sight. Golden hair, a knowing smile, the echo of soft footfalls...Beleg was everywhere around me it seemed and I fell in with the illusion, giving in to it because the pain of loss had become too much to bear. I turned to face my shadow-love and found him leaning against a tall elm, eyes gleaming with desire. He extended his hand to me, entreating me nearer. When I hesitated, the rational part of my mind telling me that Beleg was dead, Beleg had betrayed me, Beleg had...I turned away, breathing hard. This can't be true! Then, the voice I had loved called to me softly. "Mablung, why do you not come to me?" Unbidden, the image of him lying in Turin's arms was in my mind and I whirled to glare at him.

Why!? How can you ask, Beleg? I loved you! I would have given my life for you and you...you...chose this Man over me? my mind screamed at him as he calmly walked toward me. "Mablung, come to me, warm me with your love." I was struck dumb. Was he alive indeed? I reached out my hand to touch him and he pulled me into a crushing embrace. I clung to him, my body shaking. How can this be, my lover was dead! He loosened his hold on me and I moved away from him to look at him more closely. A lock of hair fell across his face as he bowed his head. "It is true, beloved. All of it. I was slain by one to whom I had given my trust and friendship, but I...Mablung...no!" I was struggling now in his grip but he held me fast.

"Damn you, Mablung, listen to me!" Never had Beleg spoken to me in anger, only with warmth and affection, so I stood still, fighting the urge to tear myself from him. "Yes, I loved Turin, but never as I loved you. You have been mine since the moment we first touched. I cared for Turin as one would care for a wayward child, wanting only to protect and teach him." A warm wetness filled my eyes at his words. So he does love me! my heart rejoiced, but then the enormity seemed to strike us both. For the sake of a head-strong youth, my Cuthalion and I were lost to each other. I gazed at him then through my tears. "How is it you are here with me now?" I asked, my voice heavy with sorrow. He smiled at me as he moved closer. "Namo has granted me a boon, for so great was my grief at being thus torn from you that he has allowed me to be here with you one last time ere you join me in his Hall."

"Let me use my dagger and I will join you there now!" I cried, but he stayed my hand. "Nay, beloved, you must not take your own life, there is much yet you will accomplish and at the end, I will be there waiting to love you once more." My heart broke then, letting loose the flood that had been straining against my control. He gathered me close and we knelt together in the grass as our lips met hungrily. With all the care and patience of skilled lovers, we disrobed each other, revelling in the sight of each other's bodies. Each touch burned itself into my soul, never to be relived...or forgotten. Never again would I ever feel that kiss, or that caress again. Our tears mingled as we tasted each other, our souls entwined even as our bodies merged, so effortlessly we were hardly aware of it.

I cried out in my despair even as he took me, fiercely as was he wont, for in that moment we both sensed that our time was over and he must depart. There were no words as I turned to face him. We clung together, our breath coming hard from our exertions. Finally, I found the courage to look in his eyes. Again, no words would come. The painful knot in my throat would allow nothing to pass. I could see the pain in his eyes that surely mirrored my own. I leaned down to kiss him one last time and he was gone.

I cannot describe the loss, the emptiness, the open wound which had once been my heart. I no longer cared if the others returned, wondering what had become of me. I no longer cared about Turin, or anything else. All I could feel were Beleg's lips against mine. I felt like howling, tearing at the ground like a wounded, maddened animal that has seen it's mate killed by an uncaring hunter.

Many years have passed and they are both long dead, my Cuthalion and the murderer Turin. I did not slay him, though with every day that dawned I wished to. Instead, I recalled something I had thought at the time Beleg's death was made known to me. That I had hated Beleg and Turin, the one for leaving me, the other for taking that which was mine. As I relived that moment, it occurred to me that the feelings had not been true for a long time, in fact, Beleg's return had made certain that I would never hate either of them again. He had given me the gift of his love and faithfulness, which, over time, had allowed me to pity Turin for what must have become an unbearble burden of guilt.

Indeed, I found in the end that fate had dealt Turin a far more painful life than any slow death I ever could have devised and I am the one who walks with Cuthalion under the stars, amid the tapestried Halls of Mandos, his favoured and beloved.
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