The secret way to Nargothrond was well-guarded.
The guards were not obvious, of course—retinues of elves in shining armor would rather help to reveal than conceal the way to the capital city. But the Noldor had learned much since their arrival in Beleriand so many years prior, both from their own insight and experiences and from their Sindar cousins. So Finrod the King set rangers to guard his doorstep rather than knights.
The rangers were tasked with the safety and secrecy of the city. They were to be subtle, discerning, and decisive—to choose which travelers to let be, which to guard, which to guide to the city, which to bring as captives before their King's judgement, which to slay.
So it was that when an elf and her small retinue of guards and handmaids rode through the fertile valleys, their presence was not so dismissed as it appeared. Farmers and settlers called greetings, but the rangers followed them closely. And when thee travelers appeared to be heading directly for the Gates of Nargothrond, the ranger captain chose to confront them.
"My lady," he said, for though a long, flowing veil covered her features, the richness of her clothing proclaimed her status, "Where are you bound?"
"To Nargothrond, Captain," she replied, her voice grave and weary. "I seek an audience with my kinsman the King. Here," she fumbled for a moment at her breast, then drew out a necklace of gold filigree and blue teardrop stones, "this was once the King's, before he gifted it to me. My errand is urgent—would you take me to him?"
The captain considered a moment, then acquiesced with a nod. At a signal his rangers melted back into the trees while he turned toward the Narog river and the city's gate.
Upon arrival, the lady was shown to a waiting room while the ranger spoke with the captain of the King's guards, who at length went in search of the King. By the time they returned, the lady was staring pensively at the carven walls, her thoughts far from the exquisite craftmanship worked into the stone. But at the King's entrance she stood, and Finrod, recognizing her heart's-song, dismissed the attendants and closed the door before striding forward with a glad smile.
"Cousin! This is joy unlooked-for. What…"
But his voice trailed off in bewilderment, for the lady, not contenting herself with a mere obeisance, knelt at the King's feet and lowered her eyes in supplication.
"My Lord," she whispered, "Please. I ask your help."
"My dear!" he cried, crouching down to place his hands on her shoulders, raising her up again to her feet. "There is no need for all that! Of course I will assist you in any way I can. Come! Sit, and tell me what I can do."
"My lord…Findaráto…there is no good way to explain this," she began, before drawing back her veil and signaling forward one of her handmaidens who placed in her arms a sleeping child, barely a few months old.
Finrod drew in a breath, reaching gingerly to stroke the baby's cheek. Grey eyes blinked open and stared at him solemnly, and Finrod smiled in amazement.
"He is mine," she said tenderly, "mine and Makalaurë's. But," and she was suddenly fervent, reaching to grasp Finrod's wrist with an urgent hand, "you must take him. Take him and raise him—he will be far better with you than with us. Far better."
"Take him? I do not understand."
"Findaráto…we thought…our lands have been peaceful for all these years. The Gap is well defended, and there has been no strife for a long time now. We thought it the perfect time to raise a child. But…" She bit her lip, shook her head, and fell silent, and in her silence Finrod recognized a familiar experience.
"But then you Saw something."
"Cousin?" he asked when the silence continued unbroken.
"I Saw…blood. Blood and darkness and screams in the night. And not I only—Makalaurë dreamed the same thing that night, and we woke together, hardly able to breath for the horror of those visions. His oath…I did not understand. He," she laughed, bitterly, "did not understand. But the Doom of Mandos is on us, and death will be our lot."
Finrod wrinkled his brow, laying a gentle hand on the baby's forehead. "The Doom is on all of us, I fear, all who turned not back to Valinor. Why should he be safer with me?"
"Because we shall not merely be subjected to evil, but do its workings!" she cried, eyes flashing in sudden passion. "I will stand by my husband as long as I may, and I will hope to fall at his side before those dreadful visions come to pass, but I will not condemn my son to the same fate! 'To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well' but maybe…maybe…if we give him up in time he will be free of our fate. Makalaurë," she choked back a sob, "would not even give him a father-name, that he may have no ties to the House of Fëanor and all its fell deeds—past and future."
"Of course I will take him," Finrod said quietly. "It is the least I can do. But will you not stay, at least for a time? A child should know his mother, though his father be taken from him."
"No!" she said, sharp and vehement. "Do not tempt me, cousin! He is my dearest joy, my star of radiance…but please, Findaráto! He must grow far from the shadow of his heritage. He must grow with your light and wisdom, not our oaths of madness and vengeance. Please."
"Gil-galad? Is that his mother-name?"
Slowly, the King of Nargothrond nodded. "Very well, if that be your wish and your husband's. After all, there is no dearth of Finwë's descendants from whom his parentage could be assumed! He will be known as my kinsman and a ward of my house. Let the people think what they will! And, when he is old enough, I will tell him of his true lineage, and he will choose the path that seems best to him. But let him grow in peace."
"Yes." Her eyes filled with tears. "Peace."
"Come now!" Finrod said briskly, rising from his chair and laying a hand on the lady's shoulder. "Rest here at a few days, and I will show you and young Gil-galad the beauty of Nargothrond."
She shook her head, smiling wanly. "No, cousin. Thank you, but we must leave at dawn. Let few know I was here, and even fewer who I was, and I pray my son will escape the Doom of my House."
"Very well. I will call for supper here, then, and leave you alone with Gil-galad in peace for one last night."
"Thank you," she whispered. But as Finrod turned toward the door, she tentatively called, "Cousin…wait."
He turned back.
"Will you…will you give him his father-name, Findaráto?"
Finrod nodded, pensive. "I will think on it tonight and Name him tomorrow. Good night, my lady."
That night, Finrod Dreamed. He saw blood and shadow, glimpses of the terrors that had brought the travelers so far, caused her and Maglor to give up their only son to a half-cousin. He saw great waves, drowning friend and foe alike, sinking the great Elf-kingdoms to nothing more than memory. He saw Doom on all the works of the Noldor, Death as their final end.
But Gil-galad would survive.
He woke, suddenly, his mind full images of a kingdom rising from the ashes of the First Age, and on its throne a great Scion of Kings, fair in peace and deadly in war, shining like a star on the fields of battle and wielding a spear that none could withstand.
This he Saw, and he knew what the child's father-name should be.
"Ereinion?" the lady asked, puzzled, as Finrod came to her just before dawn. "His father is not a king."
"Perhaps not, but his grandfather was, as well as his great-grandfather. And will it not further confound the mystery of his parentage? Some will take it to mean he is mine, the result of a tragic romance on one of my long journeys. Some will assume Findekáno or another of the High King's line. And the name has the further benefit of implying his connection to the royal house through his father rather than his mother—for I would not cast intimations on my sister or fair cousins, if I can avoid it. No, it will be true, and he will live up to it—surpassing us all, I foresee—but it will not give away his secret until he can choose his own path."
"So be it," she returned quietly. And with that, she kissed the newly-christened Ereinion's cheek one last time, handed the giggling, squirming baby to his new foster-father, and, with many a backward glance, returned to her husband and the Doom of her people.
A/N: This story was inspired by Drag0st0rm's Scion of Somebody, Probably; the premise is a bit similar, but the play-out rather different. And I'd like to note that I don't actually consider this to be Gil-galad's parentage—it's just an interesting idea that I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing!