Chapter 1: Accept
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The year 1696 of the Second Age saw the world apparently rushing down into darkness, as across Middle-earth the elves prepared for war with the forces of he who finally stood revealed as Sauron the Maia. Eregion stood on the brink, the high king of the Noldor mustered his armies and counted his allies, and there was a hush throughout nature as though all the world held its breath and waited.
It was in the midst of these preparations that an event occurred of almost mystical wonder. Early one morning a small boat of unknown design, a vessel that could only have come from out of the Uttermost West, was driven by an unseasonal wind into the Bay of Lhûn. The boat carried only one passenger, a tall, wirily-built elf with long hair, gold as sunlight, and friendly blue-grey eyes. To the disbelief of the young mariners who guided his boat into the harbour, he gave his name as Glorfindel of Gondolin.
Had not Lord Círdan himself identified the elf as being exactly who he claimed, they might have believed him to be either deluded or even possibly an agent of the Enemy. Gift of the Valar as he was deemed, he was given lodgings in the high king’s palace and was welcomed with deferent joy.
Such a thing had never occurred before, and truth to tell Gil-galad had no idea what else to do with him. It would have helped if Glorfindel had known why the Mighty had seen fit to send him back to Endor, but as this piece of information had been kept from the rehoused lord, it was up to the high king to decide what, if any, part the returned warrior was to play in the approaching cataclysm.
War came to Eregion, and in response Ereinion Gil-galad sent out his army under the command of his kinsman and heir, Elrond Half-elven, son of Eärendil the Mariner. After much thought and due consultation with his advisors, he decided not to include the newly arrived lord amongst their number. The gifts of the Mighty were not to be needlessly squandered, he explained to Glorfindel - and anyhow there was no time to assimilate someone trained to fight in another Age and against a different enemy into the modern, streamlined army being sent to confront Sauron’s forces.
Months later, in full retreat and with a party of refugees in his care, Elrond Eärendilion came upon an unknown valley in the foothills of the Misty Mountains. Almost completely defensible against outside assault, it was also sufficiently convenient to Lindon to serve as a possible fall back position should matters go from bad to worse for the high king’s forces. Engaged at the time in running battles across Eriador and Eregion, Elrond requested that his cousin the king appoint someone suitable who, in his absence, could take charge of the valley which he had tentatively named Imladris.
After some deliberation it occurred to one of the king's advisors that Gondolin, too, had been an inaccessible valley. What better choice, he asked, than a warrior lord, one of the Hidden City’s most famous sons, to oversee the creation of this new stronghold.
To: Glorfindel, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower, formerly of Gondolin.
Dear Lord Glorfindel.
Please find enclosed full and complete instructions written in his majesty, Ereinion Gil-galad’s, own hand outlining the terms of the position envisioned for yourself in the proposed refuge at Imladris. Please note: this is not to be viewed as a conscripted posting, but rather as a request that you determine whether you feel yourself competent to meet the presumed needs of the envisioned community.
May I take this opportunity to wish you a safe journey and to assure you of my goodwill should you have any specific requests, not necessarily of a military nature, that you might wish brought to his majesty’s attention outside of the more formal channels.
Erestor, Administrative Assistant to Senior Military Advisor Pathenien.
To Administrative Assistant Erestor.
Enclosed please find a letter of acceptance to his majesty, with my agreement to the terms and conditions presented in his communication. I have taken the liberty of adding a few small details I feel may have been overlooked in the original draft.
Thank you for your good wishes. The journey through Eriador was uneventful, and the terrain through which we passed has a certain wild beauty, although the devastation wrought by the Enemy’s forces has been considerable. Several water sources seem to have been deliberately contaminated, and we passed a number of burnt-out hamlets and farms formerly inhabited by both elves and mortals (details enclosed)
There are a number of unattended domestic animals in these areas, and I was wondering if anything could be done to perhaps – round them up? Feed the dogs, milk the cows? Perhaps you might have some thoughts on the matter, or could bring it to the attention of some relevant party?
We reached Imladris in good time and I have spent the past two days familiarising myself with the valley’s geography (see enclosed map) and find that I am in almost full agreement with lord Elrond’s enthusiastic first assessment. Although the valley is larger than I had been led to believe, the view from above suggests nothing beyond an inaccessible, tree-filled ravine. As the valley lies deep within the foothills of the Misty Mountains, the topography is such that the open land further down the vale remains completely hidden from view.
Lord Elrond clearly identified the strategic importance of this valley, but he possibly has no previous experience with large scale building projects. The refugees have erected temporary housing against the cliff face, giving them both shelter and access to the river water. This has been sufficient for the summer months, but is already inadequate to meet autumn’s needs and I have been told to expect heavy snowfalls in winter. My personal experience of life in a valley at a high altitude is that the climate might well be milder than in the surrounding, unprotected area, but snow once fallen will take longer to melt. Rain and cold are a given.
I enclose a list of building supplies not available to us here, such as nails and mortar, which I require almost immediately. No provision seems to have been made for anything but the most basic supplies to be sent out here, but as you have offered to facilitate such requests to the king, I hope I can I leave the resolution of this oversight in your capable hands?
I think it is clear that, as a matter of urgency, we need a mechanism in place for me to use to requisition building and other materials from Lindon.
We will need to bridge the river in one, possibly two places to open the valley up and facilitate the creation of and access to settlements on both sides of the Bruinen. Someone with engineering experience will be required to assist with this project. I also urgently need an elf who is able to communicate with the local trees to explain to them why we need to clear part of the land to make space for crops, it being a matter of urgency that we become self sufficient. To which end, would it be possible to send me someone who understands agriculture? I confess this area is a little outside of my experience.
Thank you very much in advance for all your assistance, I greatly appreciate it. You are most kind.
Glorfindel of Gondolin.
Beta: Red :Lasbelin.
Chapter 2: Clean
To do list
1. Encrypt signal to commander, lower Baranduin crossing.
2. Decrypt signal from Captain Balien.
Copies to :
3. Have quartermaster at Gaernaith explain requisition note for 200 arrows, both heads and shafts. Gaernaith has remained free of enemy action.
4. Lord Glorfindel re:
additions to terms of service
5. Complete essay for class; Harad, history and language.
6. Buy lamp oil
To: Glorfindel, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower, formerly of Gondolin.
Dear Lord Glorfindel,
I was impressed at the speed with which your letter reached Mithlond. This suggests it will be possible to maintain a more direct line of communication than I had first imagined.
His majesty’s council envisages the valley primarily as a military refuge and stronghold, with only transient accommodation for refugees. This being the case, the necessity for settlements on both sides of the Bruinen might not be seen as a priority sufficiently pressing as to require the redeployment of one of the army’s engineers. If, however, the need for a bridge has a solid military basis, I will draw my superior’s attention to the matter and see what can be arranged.
Your list of building requirements is impressive in its length. Unfortunately it would require a small caravan to transport all these items, something difficult to conceal and likely to compromise the secrecy surrounding the valley’s location. I will make what arrangements I can. Small items such as sacks of nails should pose little problem but you will need to start producing bricks and suchlike in sita.
To my knowledge, Lord Elrond has no previous experience with any major construction projects, no.
I believe his majesty expressed some surprise at the additional points raised in your acceptance of his terms of service. The choice of second in command usually falls within the discretion of the head of the army (Lord Elrond) or becomes a personal appointment of his majesty’s choosing. One assumes this was not the case in Gondolin?
I would find it difficult to justify the additional expense of an agricultural expert. I could perhaps forward to you some literature on the subject? I am also surprised to hear there is no one in the refugee population able to communicate with the local flora. I would have assumed the presence of a number of silvan elves?
Forgive the question, but I have no experience in such matters - how would one go about asking a tree’s permission before cutting it down?
I have sent out a general directive regarding the domestic animal population of Eriador, asking that they be fed and cared for where practical. Rounding them up, as you expressed it, would be desirable but begs the question of where they could be kept. I share your concern for the cows, but were they to be formed into a herd, there would still be no safe refuge for them. Were there many calves? Having spent a few years on a farm in my youth, I know that cows need to be milked regularly, otherwise they become ill.
Erestor, Administrative Assistant to Senior Military Advisor Pathenien.
To admin assistant Erestor.
My thanks for your prompt response to my letter. I hope everything goes well in Lindon. We hear very little about the progress of the war here, although we have just been inspected by an envoy from Lord Elrond and from him we learned something of our recent losses. On a personal note, has there been any word from my cousin Artanis Galadriel? When I left Lindon, her whereabouts had become a matter of concern to the king.
It is a fact that the hostilities in Eregion and Eriador have created a not inconsiderable refugee population with nowhere to go. I have command of a large, secure valley, and I refuse to turn away anyone my patrols might find fleeing aimlessly across Eriador. In this I follow the precedent set for me by Lord Elrond. These people need to be fed and housed, and to this end it seems practical to utilise the land across the Bruinen, creating a small, permanent community for those wishing to make a home here. In return for this, it is my hope that they will cultivate the yet to be planted crops.
I should explain at this point that the area we currently occupy is on an outcrop of land hard against the cliff face, close to the steep trail down from the high lands. We face sheer rock across swift-flowing water. Further down, this strip of land merges back into rock, but across the river gorge and around a small bend, the valley opens up. The river continues to follow the cliff, its course broken by a number of waterfalls, while on the opposite side the valley widens into a broad expanse of forest, thick brush and occasional open land.
If I have understood my brief correctly, our primary objective is to create a well-defended military strongpoint in Eriador. It needs to serve as both a base from which to launch operations against the enemy, and as a place where wounded warriors can rest and recuperate, thus avoiding the arduous and potentially dangerous journey back to Lindon. With all this in mind, the military justification both for two settlements and for a bridge to connect them is as follows…
With the refugees settled on the far side of the Bruinen, there will be more space here for the garrison, a desirable outcome as we have swift access to the open lands near the ford. (I enclose a rough diagram for clarification) As our crops will be planted (and harvested) on the far side of the river – attached to the proposed civilian settlement – we need a more enduring structure than the current rope bridge so that we can convey goods over to this side of the river. I assume food remains a recognised priority?
I do not request the services of an ‘expert’, merely an experienced farmer who can tell me which crops would do best in this valley and how to utilise the narrow strip of arable land along this side of the gorge. The soil here looks rich but the area is very moist due to the mist from the waterfalls. I find it hard to believe this would require any great expenditure on the crown’s part. I asked if we had someone amongst us skilled in such matters, but it appears not. People are still traumatised by their recent experiences, but I think will be enthusiastic about the challenges Imladris poses once they are assured they will not be ‘moved on’ as soon as some faceless bureaucrat deems it expedient.
I find it constantly frustrating that decisions of such magnitude are taken from a distance by people who have no concept of how it feels to be attacked, hunted, to have nowhere to shelter
On the matter of building supplies; it is all very well and good, Administrative Assistant Erestor, to say that we must manufacture our own bricks and mortar. I am properly sensitive to the need for secrecy – until we have the valley properly secured, all our lives depend upon it. However, until I have a suitably skilled person at my disposal to explain the process and recruit brick-makers, the building of permanent structures will have to wait. Equally, mortar. What exactly does mortar consist of? All I know, forgive my ignorance, is that it is a substance, usually grey, that holds bricks together. Do you have any suggestions?
In the matter of my second in command, I told his majesty that I want someone I can work with, not an elf who holds his position purely because his mother is related by marriage – distantly – to someone important. And yes, things were managed in much the same manner in Gondolin. And yes, I argued against it then, too, though with less expectation of a fair hearing than I had – justifiably – with his majesty. When I find someone suitable, I will of course consult with Lord Elrond before appointing him. Until then, I undertake to avoid doing anything inconvenient like getting myself killed - Lord Námo might be under-impressed to find me back in his Halls so soon.
Your question about the trees… I just wanted to do the right thing. It seemed churlish to invade their valley and chop them down without so much as a by your leave. The few silvan elves in our company have, in fact, been most helpful in pointing out potential sites where the trees are fairly thin, the area is protected and convenient to water, and the soil appears arable. I must thank you for your suggestion in this regard.
We have our first small flock of sheep. They were wandering around on the high ground beyond the valley and two of my warriors showed exceptional enterprise (and patience, to say nothing of perseverance) in getting them down the steep trail to the valley floor. They mark a beginning, small but encouraging. Eventually when their numbers have increased they will provide wool for weaving and, very occasionally, mutton for the table. I no longer eat meat, but I am told roast lamb is very popular in Eriador.
We – the refugee community and I – have discussed cows, but feel they would provide a somewhat greater challenge to introduce. There are disadvantages to life in an inaccessible valley.
Thank you so much for your efforts on behalf of the stray animals I mentioned. One of the dogs followed us and seems to have attached himself to me. He is a large creature, possibly, I am told, bred to work with cattle. He follows me everywhere, possibly fearing that I too will disappear as did his previous two-legged companions. I have named him Háran.
Glorfindel of Gondolin.
To do list
2. Decrypt signal from Balien.
Copies to :
3. Suggest Pathenien demands full audit of stores at Gaernaith.
4. Lord Glorfindel - bricks
5. Complete essay for class; Harad, history and language.
6. Buy lamp oil!!!
To: Glorfindel, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower, formerly of Gondolin.
Dear Lord Glorfindel,
The messenger had already left, but I am sending a rider after him with this packet. Please find enclosed a treatise on Basic Agriculture in Northern Regions, and a step by step guide to brick making, including diagrams of a simple kiln. I thought both works might be of some assistance. I note that for the processing of both bricks and mortar, the presence of materials such as clay and limestone appears necessary.
Chapter 3: Explain
To do list.
Letter to Gildor – thanks and request further information. (love to Brennil)
Encrypt and send command communication, Lord Elrond, Captain Balien
Lord Círdan re. complaint, naval rations. Not my job.
Lord Glorfindel re.:
description... motivation for bridge - clever
planting things, food
Find beget. day gift – Gil-galad. (
book about dogs? Khandian Tales of Horror and the Supernatural!)
Study notes – Harad, 3rd intermediate period.
To: Glorfindel, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower of Gondolin.
Dear Lord Glorfindel,
I am glad that my last enquiry found you well. You will be relieved to hear that your cousin, Lady Galadriel, is in Lórien, a predominantly Silvan realm that lies to the south of Mirkwood. She and her daughter left Ost-in-Edhil shortly before the arrival of the Enemy’s forces. They passed through Moria to reach the Wood, a thing to my knowledge never before permitted by the Dwarves. His majesty has given permission for me to include a copy of her communication to him, sent via Lord Celeborn. (enclosed).
I have taken it upon myself to write to the Lady expressing your concern. Should she have opportunity to reply, I will forward the same to you.
Easy access to food proved a most telling point in favour of bridge building, my lord. Therefore, my superior has judged that a bridge across the Bruinen would in fact make a pertinent addition to your resources. I have requested Lord Círdan to make available an engineer with the necessary skills – the navy has an over abundance of experts and minimal deployment in the current conflict. Hopefully I will be able to send someone back with the messenger.
My mother and I lived near a mortal farming community after the War and, as I recall, their habit was to use a field for several years as pasture for the sheep and cows before planting. They would then sow a different crop each season: barley, oats, potatoes, root vegetables, and sometimes flax seed. This way the soil was first fertilised, after which a single field yielded a good variety over the course of a year. The narrow strips you mention might suit herbs and vegetables. You need to determine how much sunshine the planting area receives and know something about the probable rainfall. Is there much grass or open space? Is the soil rich and dark, dry and sandy? Different crops have very different requirements, as I’m sure you realise.
And no, that is not wholly based on childhood memories - I have always liked finding out how things work.
The sheep are an excellent beginning. Cows for milk and to fertilise the land would also make a useful addition. The beginnings of a herd could perhaps be brought down to the valley as young calves. Is there perhaps open land above Imladris where a small herd could be maintained? In your previous letter you made mention of the number of strays throughout Eriador, and cattle will instinctively herd together without intervention. I am quite certain their presence would in no way indicate your whereabouts.
It will take time for you to produce your own straw for bricks; therefore, I assume you are seeking an alternate source? In the interim, could I offer a building method much favoured by mortals which involves wood and a type of mud? They refer to it as wattle and daub. I enclose a text containing a description of the basic practice, with illustrations.
My lord, a personal note about this ‘faceless bureaucrat’, if you don't mind? I was separated from my mother during the chaos of the evacuation from Sirion at the end of the last Age. I was ten at the time. I ended up at sea for over a week in a boat with strangers – one of whom happened to be his majesty – and thought I would never see her again. I was one of the fortunate; we were reunited later - many never saw their families again because there were too few boats.
I can remember the land rumbling, the rocks falling, people screaming. We sat out to sea and watched the water rushing into the Gap until there was nothing left, and Sirion lay under the sea. After, we walked for months before we reached what is now Lindon. I still remember the fear. I am unlikely to tell someone seeking refuge from war to move on from their haven without a good reason and a sound explanation. I hope you will convey this assurance to those in your care.
Háran is a good name for a dog. What colour is he? Does he have short fur?
Erestor, Assistant to Senior Advisor Pathenien.
P.S. I might be able to persuade someone who is indeed an expert on the subject of farming to travel to Imladris to advise you. As he is mortal, I would need both yours and the king’s permission before I could issue an invitation. I believe that elves are not natural farmers as we are disinclined by nature to force the land to our will. Serious farming requires that a field produce, in precise rows, a crop not native to it, a very mortal kind of concept.
(attached copy of letter from Lady Galadriel to Ereinion Gil-galad – with permission)
So sorry to have caused concern all round. I hear Celeborn is furious at me for vanishing – shouting can be expected when next we meet. I sensed Sauron's army was close, so Rian and I left in a hurry under cover of darkness – against Celebrimbor’s will, I might add. We literally had to sneak out of Ost-in-Edhil. Rian impressed me - pure Noldor steel in the face of danger. I think she quite liked hiding in the undergrowth during the day to avoid His spies.
The dwarves allowed us passage through Khazad-dûm as the passes were held against us. I always knew some good would come of maintaining friendly relations with Durin's folk - Celeborn is not always right! My first thought had been to ride for Lindon, but we always head for the sea at the first hint of trouble, and I knew the road would be watched. I hear horror stories of the slaughter that took place at the Mitheithel Crossing.
As to why I chose Lorien - it can best be described as a peaceful backwater, (in other words, primitive with questionable ablution facilities) and King Amdir seems to like it that way. He has no love for us Exiles, but I think we respect one another. I have visited before with Celeborn – some of Doriath’s survivors made their home here, including one of his kinsmen. In any event, with luck Rian and I can sit out the hostilities in comparative safety here (if in some physical discomfort). I needed a safe haven for my charge.
Keep well and keep safe, my dear.
To admin assistant Erestor.
Firstly, thank you for the news about my cousins. Someone has taken the trouble to show me where Lorien is relative to both us and Ost-in-Edhil - it must have been a hard journey, especially for Celebrían. It seems an unlikely haven, but I understand from her letter why she felt Lindon would not be a safe destination.
I had no idea you were in Sirion at the end of the war. That must have been a terrifying experience for a child, especially being separated from your mother. I know very little about the last days of the Age, and most I have read or been told tends to be quite contradictory. It is very unsettling to know less of our recent history than the youngest child. How did people know they had to leave Sirion, was there a warning?
Your suggestions re. farming were appreciated and most insightful. It had not occurred to me that formal farming would be something at which we elves would be less proficient than mortals, but it makes a great deal of sense. In Gondolin, of course, we had to farm intensively to provide sufficient food for all, though personally I had nothing to do with such matters. All I know is there was far less variety than the stories I have since heard would suggest. Gondolin was in many ways a city under siege, and our lifestyle reflected this.
I would be - I think the word I want is 'delighted' - if you could persuade the person you mention to travel all the way out here to offer us advice. I have met very few mortals --- well, only one in fact, Tuor - but several of the refugees had close dealings with them prior to the war and speak well of the experience. Please convey my interest to his majesty in the form of a request, if you feel it might simplify matters.
The sheep seem content. They have a shelter quite near where our tents are pitched, and I enjoy the sound of them calling in the early morning when they are sent out to graze. Later, when the river has been bridged, we will move them down to the valley proper.
Did I describe Imladris in my last letter? We live in a narrow gorge below the trail up to the high lands, but where the river curves out of sight, the land opens into a broad crescent within the shelter of the mountains. The main valley is forested, with a few small, rolling hills and, despite the mountains, receives a fair amount of sunshine. We have not been here long enough to be sure about rainfall, though the land seems fertile. There is even some kind of wild grain – a form of barley? - growing on the slopes of one of the hills (sample enclosed)
This is a good point to thank you profusely for sending Sael to train us in the art of bridge building. He seems to have fallen in love with Imladris and is currently making plans to divert water off the river to create a small lake that will supply fresh water for the proposed livestock – the first of many projects he thinks we should tackle. I thought several of my long term ideas were no more than vain daydreams, but he seems to find them perfectly achievable with a little hard work and effort. He tells me he likes a challenge.
Re. brick making. I had no idea this was so complicated! Thank you for the information, it was – educational. We have clay deposits further down the river, and one of my patrols found and transported straw back here from a deserted farm, so we’ve made a (shaky) start. We have a mould, we’ve begun making and drying bricks, and Tholinnas and Lachol our smiths, have built a kiln of sorts. Soon we’ll have enough bricks to build – oh, at least a small storeroom. Not, as you can imagine, very satisfactory, but we’ll get better at it.
Lack of bricks means the instructions for building with more readily available materials (wattle and daub) were more welcome than you might have realised when you sent the text. We have wood in abundance for frames and made a daub by mixing the stalks of the local grain mentioned above into generous quantities of mud. We considered adding cow dung as recommended, but are not yet quite ready for that step. I regret you are unable to see our first ‘house’ – it bears very little resemblance to the diagrams. I found working with the mud daub unexpectedly relaxing… not a word that applies to the thorough scrub in the ice-cold river that followed, of course. For your amusement I include a sketch of the result of our endeavours.
We have a small limestone outcrop below the main waterfall, and our next step will be an attempt to create whitewash.
I have put together a volunteer building crew, and once they have more practice, they will use this technique for civilian homes on the far side of the river, plus a few structures over here to house my warriors until we have sufficient bricks to commence building. Sael and I are drafting (ambitious) plans for a complex large enough to house a full garrison, an armoury, and a kitchen. It should also provide a suitable residence for Lord Elrond when he returns here on a more permanent basis, as I understand is his intention.
Your idea of driving the cattle to a place on the high ground near us is quite brilliant. We are in the process of doing so and already have a herd of some twenty cows and three evil-tempered bulls. I think we are meant to keep them separate from the cows but have no idea how. The silvan elves assure me they will sort themselves out exactly as was the case in wild herds before they became domesticated. These same elves have begun taking it in turns to sleep up there, make sure the cows are milked as needed, and keep a watch for possible predators – not sure what would prey on cattle. Wolves? And I have heard rumours of things called Trolls though none have been seen. Anyhow, they have a defensible corner where a stream running off the Bruinen can provide water and the grass grows high and green.
You like cows, don’t you?
I hope I can persuade you not take my comment about ‘faceless bureaucrats’ personally; nothing was further from my thoughts. It was no more than a general observation based upon sentiments I have overheard on numerous occasions since I arrived here. I have assured everyone that I am reporting to someone who has a personal understanding of their situation, and they need have no fears that a sudden order to proceed to Lindon will be forthcoming – apparently there is a rumour they will be sent to one of the under-populated northern regions and left to fend for themselves.
I hope I am correct in my assumption that you agree a small, motivated civilian population will not only be an asset to the valley but will also be the means of making this a comfortable, well-run garrison rather than a rough rest post?
Háran is dark brown with a few white patches and has a shaggy coat. He has droopy ears, a medium-length tail, and strongly disapproves of birds and squirrels. He tries, with limited success, to intimidate the sheep.
I have enclosed a minimum list of seed required to begin our vegetable and herb garden. As it takes the courier around ten days to cover the distance between us, we should have adequate time to dig over and prepare the soil close to our current accommodation. (The civilians have structures made of rough poles draped with cloth and branches while we warriors live in simple tents – I am undecided as to which of us is less comfortable.) With this undertaking in mind, I have devised a new task for the junior members of the garrison – conveying manure down from the cow pasture on the highlands. The chore, as you might imagine, is vastly unpopular.
Oh yes – what is flax seed and what are its uses?
I spent some time talking with the courier. If he had three horses, we think he could make the trip from Mithlond in around seven days. I mention this in case there is ever something you wish sent with more urgency than our usual exchanges.
Hoping this finds you well.
Glorfindel of Gondolin.
Chapter 4: Encourage
Finalise council agenda, strategy and resources.
Copies = 10
Lord Círdan re. complaint, naval rations. Suggest refer D. Not my job. Motivate.
Hillside grain, seeds, veg and herb
Sketch, trolls, cows, dog, Gondolin.
Finish notes - Stone working after the Manner of the Dwarves.
Learn: Harad, 3rd intermediate period, part 2!!!
Kitchen scraps for cat.
To: Glorfindel, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower of Gondolin.
Dear Lord Glorfindel,
I hope my letter finds you well, and that there was no problem accommodating a slightly larger party than normal. I would have preferred to send a mule-drawn cart, but this idea was rejected by Lord Pathenien for security reasons. A few well-laden mules seemed an acceptable alternative both to me and to Amalek, who you will already have met.
Amalek’s family has farmed for many centuries in the region of Harlindon where I grew up. I have cousins who live there still, and my sister and I are regular Beltane guests. Amalek and I met at the local midsummer fair which, falling concurrent with Beltane, is one of the main events enjoyed by both the elven and mortal sides of the community. On my last visit he mentioned he intended to hand over the running of his farm to his sons – he has two - and wondered what he would do with his days. He was delighted when I approached him with the prospect of being a part of this venture. He is a good person, is in his middle years (as they reckon time’s passage), honest to the point of bluntness, and very hard working.
The grain sample turns out to be a form of wild barley, not a first choice for elven consumption, but edible, and its presence implies fertile soil. Amalek will have thoughts on the subject. I have filled most of your seed order as best I can and have also included flax seeds, to which you referred in your last letter. Flax is an amazingly useful plant. The seeds can be eaten and used for cattle fodder, the fibres can be woven into fine cloth, rope, even paper, and the straw can be used for brick-making or in house daub. I found a fascinating paper on the subject, which I enclose for your attention.
The illustrations also indicate it produces very pretty blue flowers. Strangely, I do not recall ever having seen them, although I have a clear memory of the stench of the stalks soaking in the local pond.
I think you might want to pursue a variety of building methods in the project you have outlined to me. It would be possible, if the limestone outcrop is of a sufficient size, to make use of it in places that require strengthening, but there may be sufficient loose stones for dry walling – perhaps near the river? Collecting stones is far less arduous than cropping limestone, a task to which I think you might be reluctant to set your civilian population as it has implications of punishment and hard labour… and your warriors will plainly be otherwise occupied. Besides stone, you could also include wattle and daub, logs, wood frames… the possibilities are endless. The result may not be of uniform design and appearance, but would make for a uniquely eclectic mix, and be less restricted by a possible scarcity of resources and labour.
On that subject – we have a huge influx of refugees here in Lindon, and the Council has expressed itself in favour of sending the more adventurous of these to Imladris. The northern lands, as you have no doubt been told, cannot support a large population as the soil tends to be rocky and barren and the winter temperatures extreme. As I understand it, an increase in your population would mean expanded skills and, of course, more hands for your farming and building projects. It would also relieve the pressure on our over-stretched resources here. (The price of lamp oil has more than tripled in the last two months, due to the uneven balance between supply and demand.) Assuming your interest, how best could we go about making Imladris appear an attractive resettlement prospect?
I enjoyed your sketch – it was more talented than your remark led me to expect. I thought the sharply sloping roof an excellent idea. Is that thatch? I considered asking if the elf scrubbing himself in the nearby stream was a self portrait, but, as there is no dog in attendance, I assume not.
I suppose trolls could attack cows? I admit I never had cause to give the matter much thought before. I was never entirely sure trolls existed, but not believing in the existence of something simply because one has not seen it is a narrow-sighted view to take of the world, one with potentially disastrous consequences. I trust the herd is doing well, and that the bulls have settled down and are behaving themselves? As you gathered, I have always had a fondness for cows – such big and yet peaceful, contented creatures. And they have beautiful eyes, too.
In answer to your question, Lord Círdan received the warning that we should leave Sirion – it is said that in those days he talked often with Lord Ulmo himself. He sent a messenger ahead and then he, his majesty, and others came with boats to help evacuate us as we did not have anywhere near enough vessels in Sirion for the entire population. I know I look back through a child’s eyes, but it was a huge settlement - the survivors of the coast cities, of Nargothrond, Doriath, and Gondolin, were all living there. By the time they arrived from Balar, we needed no warning. The land was moving and groaning under our feet, and the sea was higher and angrier than we had ever seen it. When I became separated from my mother and sister, I thought I would never see them alive again. His majesty found me as he was leaving. I was alone and crying, so he picked me up under his arm and took me on board his ship. Apparently I bit him.
My strongest memory, strangely, is of a house roof being blown across a field, and of the wind howling.
Your reference to the stories we hear about your city was quite interesting. Those who lived in Gondolin have always claimed it was a city of immense beauty, a copy of fabled Tirion, and that life was the epitome of the way it should be lived by elven kind on this shore. Stories are told of food fit for kings being served even to the lowliest stoneworker, such as roast pheasant, delicately grilled trout, intricate desserts, and of arts and culture that make our modern attempts pale in comparison. These and much more are outlined in a book called Fabled Gondolin, written by Demmion, one of King Turgon’s councillors, which is regarded as a standard work on the subject.
I have read poetry that spoke of the ‘fair walls and gleaming spires of doomed Sirion’ too, which, to state it politely, is a vast exaggeration. I suppose people like to look back kindly on that which they have lost?
Have you thought of trying to teach Háran to herd sheep, or would he be too rough with them? I know that some mortals have dogs specially trained to help work with them.
I enclose notes taken from a book I found on stone working as perfected by the dwarves. How reliable the bulk of the information is, I could not say, but I found the suggestions about drywall building in particular very interesting. Much of this was first applied to cities in the great cavern realms, but should be equally applicable outside.
If Lord Elrond should happen to pass through Imladris at any point before the messenger returns here, could you please let me know, and ask him to send word to his majesty of his current whereabouts? We seem to have mislaid him. Otherwise, I look forward to hearing how matters progress.
Grilled trout? Bred in a fully enclosed valley high in the mountains where the water supply froze over in winter? I am sure my mother would have been overjoyed; she often lamented the lack of fish in our diet. People talk the most amazing nonsense. I vaguely remember a court scribe by the name of Demmion. Could you send me a copy of his book? I dined at the Palace on numerous occasions, and would love to learn more about these wondrous delicacies I somehow seem to have missed out on.
Forgive my poor attempt at humour, but at any moment I expect the tent to be whipped up from above me and carried off. This is our first acquaintance here with the east wind, and after three days it shows no sign of abating. It is currently late afternoon, the air is dust-filled and damp with spray from the waterfall, and anything not stringently secured has already found its way into the river or else down the valley. Tempers are, understandably, frayed. Háran hates it. He is sitting behind me with his nose covered by his tail and looks as miserable as most of us feel.
The only people going about their day with any kind of comfort are those already living across the river in the new houses – built originally as experiments before we began more serious work here. Which will teach us, I suppose. The need for haste in creating permanent structures has never been more apparent. I insisted that those with small children be given first choice of these homes, and currently they house several adults and a horde of small children, including Sael’s wife and his young son, Lindir. I have parted with both of my good winter cloaks and several other items of clothing and bedding to help make life easier over there and have encouraged the better-provisioned of my warriors to do the same.
The way the wind funnels through here means we urgently need to create windbreaks of some kind if we are to go on living in the gorge. This whole experience brings to mind a certain rock passage high in the Encircling Mountains, an important watch area, almost a pass. When the north wind blew, patrols drew lots to see who would brave it. I joined them on occasion – good for morale – and cordially hated every moment. I have been sketching ideas for frames --- I think I need to show them to Sael, see what he thinks. (example enclosed)
I really like your idea of several building methods being used on the main house and garrison. Not only will it speed work up considerably, but I think it might fit well into the surroundings. I somehow don’t see Imladris as suited to gleaming limestone facades or even to something as warmly solid as his majesty’s rose granite palace, though I like the permanence it suggests. The only granite I had ever seen before was grey – part of Vinyamar was built of granite, and very grim it looked to newcomers accustomed to the softer shades of Tirion.
I liked Vinyamar though. I enjoyed being beside the sea.
Amalek declared our efforts to prepare beds for the vegetables to be ‘barely adequate’, but he has recruited a group of young girls who are planting and weeding with great enthusiasm. It is his contention that vegetables grow better for women. Would this be a mortal superstition, do you think? He also insists planting be done during the waxing moon. He feels the hillsides further down the valley will benefit from a thorough clearing, turning over, and the addition of fertiliser… heavy work, but necessary. You will be pleased to hear he echoes your idea of driving calves down into the valley to form a ‘local herd’. He also seems to like my proposal that we terrace the steeper areas, something we did to great effect along the western slopes in Gondolin.
Some of the trees have to be cleared. Although the concept of felling trees is foreign to their way of life, even the Silvans understand the need for this and, once we decide where, they have agreed to --- do what has to be done. We need more space for crops, for homes, for grazing. I pray we will be able to find a good balance between our needs and that of the forest. Amalek tells me land that has supported trees for centuries would need several years and a degree of care to bring it to the point where it will be useful to us, and this is why he wants cows in the valley. He plans to plant grass in those areas and let them graze, incidentally fertilising the newly cleared land.
I assume we can keep the mules? It was two days’ work to get them down here, and no one wants anything to do with a repeat performance in the opposite direction. Anyhow, Amalek has plans for them. We need to give more thought to that trail actually. A sure-footed horse can easily be led down if it trusts the person doing the leading, but we need to clear it and also make it more defensible. I think if we could build in a couple of very sharp turns and keep watchers stationed at all times, it would suffice.
The Council’s decision to send new arrivals in Lindon back east to Imladris - does this mean the valley would officially become something more than a military stronghold? As you know, I have been advocating the garrison be coupled with a more or less permanent civilian settlement, a sort of outpost of the King’s power, so you certainly find me in favour. I cannot imagine why anyone would not find the idea of living in Imladris appealing. It is a place of great beauty, with woods and waterfalls, sheltering mountains, arable land, and it is completely secure. The fact that development costs are funded by His Majesty should also appeal to those many unfortunates who lost everything to the Enemy’s advances.
No need to mention the east wind, nor the current lack of anything more than the most primitive ablution and cooking facilities. Those things will come – in time. The more people, the easier to expand. Right?
That Lord Ulmo might have been in contact with Círdan hardly surprises me. Lord Ulmo seems to quite enjoy involving himself in our affairs, for good or for ill. The whole experience of seeing the world turned upside down must have been appalling, and not just for a child. I had not realised you knew His Majesty for most of your life. Did he keep in touch while you and your family lived in Harlindon, or did you only meet him again once you moved to Mithlond? And – you mention a sister. Does she live with you in Mithlond?
Yes, I can be quite annoyingly curious. I apologise in advance.
I am not certain Háran would be much use at herding sheep. He seems to see them as playmates, lacking other dogs, and is trying to make friends with them. Also I admit I have no idea where one would begin with such lessons – perhaps Amalek might know? We have talked of little beyond farming so far, but I look forward to getting to know him better. His Sindarin is almost as strange as my own, according to Sael. Amazing how much a language can change in less than two millennia - though of course we spoke Quenya in society in Gondolin, while the Sindarin we learned was from the coast dwellers who travelled with us into the mountains. Probably unlike anything else spoken in Middle-earth after a while. I find if people speak quickly I still need to concentrate to follow what they are saying.
I have told everyone to keep alert for signs of Lord Elrond during their patrols, and I will send word if we learn anything. We seldom see him, but he regularly sends his wounded and any homeless war victims he finds to us down here.
I hope you are well, and that things remain peaceful in Lindon itself. I hear very little of the overall progress of the war down here, a fact that sometimes leaves me feeling rather cut off from events that my warrior training instinctively tells me I should be a part of. I suppose we each have our own responsibility, and developing this valley is mine. Thank you very much for the notes, the books, and all the very sound and helpful advice you are so generous in offering me. I find myself looking forward to the courier producing the mail pouch with as much enthusiasm as the rest of the warriors, even though I have no family or close friends over here. I’m grateful, also, for your ongoing encouragement, which I appreciate perhaps more than you realise. Other than your letters and the occasional note from Lord Elrond, I seem to have been left to get on with things here, which can be a little intimidating at times.
Glorfindel of Gondolin.
PS. No, the elf in the illustration is not a self portrait. My hair is longer and I sadly lack the modesty to bathe in a river with half my clothes on. And, as you so astutely noted – no dog.
Chapter 5: Similar
Lord Círdan re. complaint, naval rations. Explain in small words – not my job. Copy P. Copy E G-g? Encrypt and send signal, Lord Celeborn. Rephrase commands as requests. Make arrangements, surprise inspection, Gaernaith
Draft outline – progress report for P to present, full Council.
Lord Glorfindel re:
Status of Imladris
Kitchen scraps, kittens.
Lamp oil, small flask.
Learn: Harad, 2nd Kingdom genealogy, both lines. Language exercises 87 – 92.
To: Glorfindel, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower of Gondolin.
Dear Lord Glorfindel,
I hope that you are all well. The courier tells me it started to snow shortly after she left Imladris, and I assume that, like us, you are now deep in the throes of winter. We had a violent storm last night with waves so high that several of the fishing boats at the public harbour were badly damaged, and the wind caused one of the trees on the border of the palace garden to split in two. Tonight another storm has come in off the sea - thunder, lightning, driving rain - and I wondered if you were all under shelter and able to keep warm and dry.
I am writing this while sitting on my bed so that I can look out the window and watch the lightning. I saw it raining out at sea from the dining hall earlier, but of course I do not have an ocean view as those rooms are reserved for the use of senior members of government and his majesty's relatives. Instead, I am on the second floor and look out over the town, which is a more homely scene and makes me feel part of Mithlond and connected to all those elves whose lanterns I see shining in windows all the way up the hill. In its way I think this is a better outlook than the front rooms offer, far more peaceful and … comfortable.
I hope winter has been kinder to Imladris than you assumed when you wrote to me. I found your ideas for screens very interesting and enjoyed the detail of your sketches. Are there any young trees – not much above seedlings - that could be taken from the valley and planted in rows to form wind breaks? You could plant something like holly bushes between them, perhaps? Otherwise, well anchored structures such as you propose would not only be helpful but could also make an attractive addition to the architecture.
I am sad to hear that trees will have to be cut down, but if the Silvan elves are in agreement it must indeed be necessary. I assume the logs provided will be used in your building efforts? I love wood, and agree with you that stone offers a rather solid, determined kind of appearance. In Harlindon they build a lot with that grey granite you mentioned, and I find it oppressive.
The formal status of Imladris has been upgraded from ‘military provision and medical refuge’ to ‘secure settlement’. His Majesty likes the concept of a civilian community attached to a garrison in what is fast becoming enemy territory. Recruitment is being conducted by someone other than myself, but if you supply me with a list of the skills you most lack, I can try to persuade the relevant official to prioritise them. The first settlers were meant to reach you within the next two months, but many are rightly reluctant to travel such a distance at this time of year. Perhaps early spring would be more likely, especially as they will need to travel in smallish parties to evade the Enemy's forces.
My sister, Brennil, does not live in Mithlond although she occasionally visits. She chose not to sail with our mother and instead joined one of the wandering companies loosely affiliated to Gildor Inglorion. She is skilled in medical matters like burns and setting broken bones, plus she helps with her company’s horses. No doubt you are aware that the Sindarin word ‘Brennil’ means ‘lady’ – well, my sister is the most inappropriately named elf I have ever met. In appearance we have very little in common as she favours my father’s light brown hair and green eyes, but we share a sense of humour and both love reading.
Did Amalek explain anything about the customs you referred to in your previous letter? Mortals have many interesting beliefs about the moon which, unlike us, they regard as female, a symbol of their mother goddess. Sowing and planting, the start of new ventures, and all legal undertakings commence at the waxing of the moon to encourage strength and prosperity, while conclusions and things like weeding and spring cleaning are left for its waning. In the dark of the moon - what they call the Dead Days - they swear no oaths, nor do they marry or take any decisions that will affect the common good.
As the ones who bring forth new life and nurture it, they see women as representatives of the Earth Mother and believe they, rather than warlike men, are best suited to ensure fertility in nature. The concept is similar to our own conviction that a warrior cannot also be a true healer, perhaps? Women tend to have defter hands and more patience than is the case with most men, which strikes me as an equally sound reason to leave such matters in their care. I think if we trust in something strongly enough, we can make it so? For that reason, I would not dispute or mock the value of their customs, as I sometimes saw done during my childhood. My uncle was in the habit of dismissing all mortal traditions as primitive superstition, which I think was very judgmental.
I enjoyed your description of Imladris, which sounds like a potential paradise - minus the east wind, of course. His Majesty is extremely busy right now, naturally, but after I read it to him, he expressed a wish to one day visit and see ‘Lord Elrond’s valley’ for himself. You might be amused to learn that a slightly expanded version is also now being used as an aid in recruiting further settlers.
In answer to your question about what happened at Sirion, His Majesty took care of me for nearly two weeks, and I was reunited with my mother and sister on Balar – my older brother died during the evacuation. His Majesty used to write my mother a few times a year to ask after us, and when she decided to sail, she inquired if he could perhaps find a position for me in his household. The end result was that I spent ten years in the army as he felt I needed experience before he could offer me an administrative position of any sensitivity. I was stationed at several of the smaller garrisons and for the final seven months commanded a little-used border post up in the Ered Luin. I have been part of his staff for slightly more than a year now, and am only just starting to feel at home in Mithlond.
As requested, I enclose a copy of the book Fabled Gondolin by Demmion, an elf who has acquired a formidable reputation as Gondolin’s primary historian. I think this might, in part, be due to the fact that most of those who survived the destruction of your city as well as the turmoil of the War of Wrath accepted the pardon and sailed almost as soon as Lord Eönwë issued the invitation, leaving no one here with an inclination to naysay his claims. I await your response to it with a great deal of curiosity.
It had not occurred to me that Quenya was spoken extensively in Gondolin although it certainly makes sense. I can well understand that King Turgon would feel his city fell outside of Elu Thingol’s jurisdiction. Your use of the Sindarin form of your name caused me to assume this was also the tongue in which you were most at ease. I am familiar with the accent from my childhood in Sirion where our near neighbours were from Gondolin, but gave no thought as to its basis. My spoken Quenya is confined to such things as the New Year’s Hymn to Varda, but I read it adequately and could attempt to continue our correspondence in it, should you so wish – although I warn you in advance, my grasp of tense and gender are less than scholarly.
Reading back, this letter seems to have developed a tone that is rather more personal than formal. At the risk of seeming forward, I wonder if you would be willing for us to continue along these lines as well as dealing with official matters? Imladris sounds like an amazingly beautiful place, and I very much enjoy hearing about your activities there, and about Háran, and the cows, and -- everything else. I note you have also asked quite a few questions about my life, which leads me to hope this request might not be wholly unwelcome. Should you find it inappropriate, I will quite understand and apologise in advance.
On a final, more practical note. Would Imladris benefit from the introduction of more mules? I know you found it difficult to get them down the trail, but I thought you might like a few more for heavier work and later for ploughing? Or perhaps a couple of those big farm horses would be a better choice, as you could breed them? Also… how about goats? Goats can provide milk, goats’ milk cheese has a lovely, delicate flavour, and the fur of the long-haired variety can be spun into a yarn of amazing softness. They can also be eaten but tend to be tough, and I recall you mentioned you no longer eat meat. They can live almost anywhere, eat anything, and I think the slopes of a deep valley might suit them rather well.
PS. I have taken the liberty of sending you a new winter cloak. As it is a gift, I hope that, unlike its predecessor, it will not be passed on to someone else but kept for your own use as I imagine the nights are quite cold now. Are there any other personal items you need replaced? I would be happy to see to such matters for you, if you like.
To admin assistant Erestor.
Thank you so much for the cloak. I was at a loss for words when Cyllon gave me not just a letter but a parcel as well. Your gift was both unexpected and very well timed. The weather has closed in, snow fell yesterday, and the air is so cold that our breath mists it, even in the middle of the day. I have not been fond of winter since we crossed the Helcaraxé - that biting iciness stays with one forever after. This is wonderfully large and warm, and blue happens to be one of my favourite shades. Thank you again for your thoughtfulness.
Be assured, nothing would make me happier than for us to share a correspondence that is more friendly than official. I believe I mentioned before how much I enjoy hearing from you and look forward to the mail delivery. Anyhow, I think our exchanges have been getting progressively less official over the months, which probably had a lot to do with you kindly filling in many of the gaps in my knowledge of more recent events. I am regularly struck by how similar our views seem to be, and how often your thinking appears to mirror my own.
One gap that I might have preferred to leave unfilled relates to this so-called History of Gondolin. Erestor, yes, the city was modelled to a large extent on Tirion, and a certain standard of behaviour was adhered to that resembled the manner of life across the sea, but that was on the surface only. We were to all intents and purposes under siege, and needed to be totally self-sufficient. Population growth was strictly controlled, as was access to food, clothing - almost any commodity that you might care to name. We lived most frugally; display was kept purely for public show, one of the means King Turgon used to keep morale high.
As for his tale of my passing… all I can say is that is not how I recall the event. I am quite certain I neither uttered a rousing speech before speeding to attack our pursuers, nor did I have a conversation of any shape or form with the Balrog. I recall doing any amount of swearing, I recall knowing I was about to die, I recall the smoke making me cough and my eyes tear up… but no actual dialogue.
Though it spoke Quenya. And it knew my name.
I'm glad you liked my ideas for wind screens. Sael feels they have some merit as well, although he says, as you did, that natural means like trees and bushes would also serve well. However, the ground is quite rocky, and actually I like the idea of trees near the main house - they always feel welcoming. I begin to suspect the architectural style of Imladris will be so chaotic that it will eventually be a thing in and of itself, ‘Imladrian = a jumbled hodge-podge masquerading as eclectic’. And yes, I am smiling as I write this.
Tree clearing went on until the weather rendered it impossible. I can mention it almost casually now, but at the time it was a deeply emotional matter, very upsetting for all of us no matter how necessary. For each tree sacrificed, we have agreed to plant a sapling either here on the garrison side of the river or to form breaks in the proposed farm land. We have a goodly supply of firewood now, neatly chopped and stored in our only brick structure to date, along with salted meat and dried vegetables. It is generally referred to as The Store, because anything you want is probably stacked in there somewhere.
The larger logs have been put to building use as you suggested. I agree with you about wood being warmer looking and more inviting than stone, although stone certainly gives an impression of permanence and reliability. We have access to some limestone, so I was thinking we should at least use it for the entrance façade of the main building. What do you think?
Our change in status to 'secure settlement' was greeted with a great deal of excitement, in fact, we had quite a feast last night - although being careful not to over-indulge in our carefully stored winter fare. We even opened one of the few barrels of wine we have managed to salvage from the deserted homesteads my patrols at times pass. (I always make them leave a note under my name offering to replace what has been taken when the owners return at the end of the war.) The entire community was present for the celebration, even the two babies, Due to the awful weather, the cooking area has been expanded into a communal kitchen and eating place. The coals of the great fire pit never die back totally and form the only fire I allow on a permanent basis as the area is very well concealed. It is the one place that is consistently warm, which means it has become a popular gathering place for all, both soldier and civilian alike.
You ask what skills we have most need of here? In truth, the answer is anything and everything, from candle makers to cobblers. We keep finding simple but vital tasks for which we lack expertise. My only stipulation, which I cannot emphasise enough, is that they be willing to work, because building a new settlement takes a great deal of application. Young families would be perfect - I love the fact that we have so many children here, although its effect on children is also one of the saddest aspects of war. I suppose though that if I were newly married and had a young child, I would be in no hurry to take my chances in a place that might one day be discovered by the Enemy’s forces. Still, Imladris can and will be held. While everyone else has been involved in creativity with wood, mud and brick, I have been busy tightening control of the few access points to our valley. By now I think I can state with a great deal of confidence that no one can enter Imladris without our knowledge and goodwill.
I found what you told me about mortal customs interesting, especially the fact that they place such importance on the phases of the moon, the symbolism of which makes a lot of sense. I really liked what you said about belief taking on shape and form if it is strong enough. I suspect thoughts - faith - like that form part of the way we are starting to view this valley.
A few more mules would be most useful. I mentioned your idea of 'farm horses' to Amalek, and he expressed a hope that it was more than just a passing thought on your part. Apparently they would be every bit as useful as mules and, as you say, they can be bred. I am unfamiliar with working horses, but he speaks well of a breed that is exceptionally hardy, big boned and muscled and having immense stamina. Sounded like the average war-horse to me, but I do not pretend to be an expert in such matters. Mules, horses, we accept either or both with gratitude.
Amalek is not fond of goats. He says they will eat our vegetables. I liked the idea of milk and cheese, but he says this is why we have cows. He is difficult to argue with as he understands clearly that he is the farming expert and that it is my place to defer to him. I rather enjoy that -- he gives respect where it is earned, I think, with little regard to rank. There are not enough people like that, or if there are I seem not to meet them.
I have no idea why your military background should have come as a surprise to me, after all, your current position would assume someone with an understanding of army life. Did you enjoy your mountain posting? I would have thought a border post would have been fairly busy? Were you high up in the mountains or just in the foothills as we are here? I used to like taking part in the patrols up into the Encircling Mountains, I love mountains, like the feeling of being so high above the world. The air tastes different, doesn't it?
If you need to practice your Quenya, I am more than willing to oblige, but if your offer was made purely as a courtesy to me, as I think it was, then we should continue writing to one another in Sindarin, because mine badly needs improvement. I write it well enough - well, I think I do, I studied it for years - but I need to get used to thinking in it as well, not Quenya. Only then will I become completely at ease with speaking it, I think.
Although I admit to being tempted.
I was astonished to learn your sister is with Gildor. I had no idea what had become of him and never thought to ask when I was in Lindon. I think I just assumed that if he had survived he would have gone home by now. Not that it seems likely, now I consider it - he always had a love of adventure and of doing things his own way. I think we are fourth cousins or something along those lines - I suspect you may have realised by now that I have a huge extended family.
I asked casually here about the wandering companies and was almost inundated with information - I get the impression it is a lifestyle that appeals vastly to people who have no urge to try it themselves but still love hearing about it? What decided your sister to join them? I assume a relationship of some kind - this is the usual reason people make big changes in their lives. I gather the companies are a collection of loosely-related groups under Gildor's overall leadership? This being the case, I suppose your sister seldom sees my cousin, but if she should, please ask her to convey my greetings. It has been a long, long time, even for me. For him it would be nigh on two thousand years since last we met.
Right now it is quite early in the morning. A few not very happy birds are singing, the sun is trying to make herself seen from between the clouds, and I am sitting on a flat rock overlooking our camp. The bushes and trees are all dusted with white, and they make a beautiful sight in the pale sunlight. The river is rushing past loudly, and I think we will need to keep an eye on its level for fear of flooding when the snows melt at the beginning of spring. Beyond this haven, I know that war rages, that people are fighting and dying, but here - here, life is hard but at the same time it feels so peaceful and secure. It is as though nothing from outside, no matter how bad, could ever reach in and touch us here. And if we just put sufficient effort into it, Imladris cannot fail to grow and prosper.
I can see across the river to the houses, and I pause every so often in my writing to watch the morning activity there. The scouts on the high ground have given the all clear, there are no strangers in the vicinity, and fires have been lit. I can smell smoke as breakfast is prepared, that wonderfully sharp, woody scent that is never quite so pleasing at any other time of the year – something about cold air and wood fire, they just fit together. It makes me think of your remark about watching the lamps and feeling connected to all those other elves in Mithlond. That seems to be yet another thing we have in common, because I have a very similar feeling here, of a sense of community in a place of hope. My job is to make certain that hope is never threatened, and I pray I will never fail these people who have been so willing to put their trust in me.
Háran has a new friend, a young elf called Níngabel who mainly works in the kitchen. Did I mention that, as well as being good looking and loyal, he is also a most intelligent dog?
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
PS – I think you can drop the ‘Lord’, don’t you?
Chapter 6: Hope
Request details, naval rations – Forlond. Compare Mithlond standard rations.
Discuss nutrition - ? someone.
Palace cook? Healer? Itinerary for Pathenien – inspection, border posts, Harlindon. Decrypt signal - Captain Balien. Send response. Put up thank you note re. donations.
Letter - Lord Glorfindel.
Kitchen scraps – kittens.
Look over: Harad, 2nd matriarchy.
Language exercises 156 – 172.
Decide essay topic: Harad - myths and customs? The role of women in society?
Your written Sindarin is far superior to my Quenya, so I would be the one in need of practice. I had thought to begin this letter with a few paragraphs, but you will be relieved to find I soon abandoned the attempt as it looked embarrassingly stilted and formal.
Firstly, belated Midwinter greetings. I have no idea whether you celebrate the Festival of Hope personally - Brennil tells me some of the older elves in her company still regard it as an eccentricity completely unsuited to good, Aman-born Noldor. Still, I’m sure there was some kind of celebration in Imladris, and hope you enjoyed it, even if the holiday was unfamiliar.
Your description of early morning Imladris was wonderful. Reading it was almost like being there, particularly your mention of things like the smell of wood smoke and the sound of the river. I can see the similarity to my own sense of connection to elves lighting their lanterns here as darkness falls. I imagine you are no longer able to sit outside to write, as the courier tells me the snow now lies thick on the ground, and that it was extremely cold while he was with you. He also spoke of the kitchen/dining area with affection and appears to have spent some time there.
We are in the midst of a three day break from work here, because so many of us have family visiting for the holiday. My sister is staying with me and will remain for another week. So far we have enjoyed one another’s company, although I suspect a week will be quite long enough for us to amicably share a room.
Last night the traditional bonfire to mark the Longest Night was lit in the square down near the public harbour, and there were dancers, musicians, and some novelty performers like jugglers to entertain us. Last Midwinter I had only recently arrived here and knew hardly anyone, so passing the night with the friends I’ve made in the past year – and my sister - made a pleasant contrast. Food and a seemingly endless supply of wine were provided, and dancing followed the more formal activities and went on till late. I discovered that dancing with one’s sister becomes less embarrassing as the night grows older
I gave Brennil some ladylike earrings, (which were a joke between us for the whole evening, though they do suit her), and her gift to me was a beaded wrist guard - a bit unexpected as archery is not a strength of mine, but much appreciated. His majesty surprised me with a book of Haradaic poetry, the cover of which has a very colourful picture of a man/god with about fifty arms wrestling a crocodile. I have not yet had a chance to read the multi-page epic this illustrates.
Brennil will convey your good wishes to Gildor on her return. You were half right, she was persuaded to become one of the wanderers by a close friend, not a potential lover (so far as I know). She and Aravilui grew up together and planned this when they realised our parents had grown serious in their talk of sailing. Like many of us born over here, myself included, they wanted more time to travel and explore before crossing to what is a strange land, known only from our parents or grandparents' tales. Since then, she has seen places I can only imagine and seems content with her choice.
I think 'Imladrian style' has quite a ring to it. Over time it might even become a trend, one which would render the décor in my rooms almost fashionable. I think limestone for the main entrance could be quite interesting, although I have a hard time visualising it combined with logs and dry stonewalling… stone pillars to front the entrance might look rather impressive, of course? I suppose building activities have been curtailed by the weather, and that life is currently rather slow and quiet for everyone save the patrols?
I will wait until after the spring thaw to send the mules. I recall the problem you had getting them down the trail in fine weather and imagine it would be significantly more awkward now. Work horses will have to wait until then, too - young ones, I suppose, although I will need to take advice there. Like you, this is a subject about which I know little. I'm sorry Amalek feels as he does about goats –I have always liked the look of them. Still, there might be some wild ones in the area? In which case, if they were ‘encouraged’ to settle in Imladris, he would just have to put up with them.
The courier has agreed to take three extra horses this time instead of two and will convey a few items it occurs to me could be useful. These include bolts of cloth suitable for clothing, coils of good rope, and a quantity of string – there can never be too much string, my mother used to say. And, finally, full instructions on how to build a loom. I realise your flax crop will take time to establish, but I hope the spring shearing of the sheep will provide you with sufficient wool to weave into blankets or possibly even robes. Pure wool against my skin makes me itch, though I know it does not affect everyone in this manner.
In your letter you mention spending time tightening up security. You will be pleased to know we received a report originating from one of Lord Elrond's patrols, which speaks very highly of the measures you have put in place. Apparently they made several attempts to enter the valley unnoticed, and on all three occasions were spotted and turned back. Lord Elrond is apparently well satisfied, as is His Majesty. I thought I should pass that on.
The border post I commanded was not a major crossing, so most of the time there was very little to do. I had previously served under a commander who left us to our own devices when we were not on watch duty, and, recalling how lax discipline had been, I tried my best to keep everyone busy. It made for an interesting challenge.
Mountains – I like climbing them, I like the sense of achievement that comes from conquering a difficult slope, but being in the middle of nowhere in the Ered Luin was a bit monotonous at times. Rocks, scrubby bushes, and no view to speak of. The experience has proved very helpful though, as I currently have to oversee a couple of similar watch stations. That is in addition to my new assignment, which appears to involve standardising naval rations throughout the Fleet. I was volunteered by Lord P. on the grounds that it will make us both look good when I sort this out to Lord Círdan’s satisfaction. He says it will be interesting, and I will learn all sorts of new things about diet, food preservation and the like. Supposedly, knowledge is never wasted.
I was in two minds about sending you the book. I was worried it would make you feel a little like I do when people who have never encountered a dragon speak dismissively of them. We saw one once, near the end of the war - it flew overhead breathing fire and was the most immense and terrifying sight I have ever seen. There are several accounts of the War that reduce them to nothing more than big lizards, and it always makes me very angry. To be charitable, I suppose Demmion just got carried away and wrote what he thought people would like to read?
Having first heard of your battle with the Balrog from someone who witnessed it at first hand – most of the survivors of Gondolin settled in Sirion, after all - I know there was no long speech exhorting everyone to flee and ‘carry the spirit of Gondolin and her fallen to all the corners of Arda’. I cannot get your almost casual mention of knowing you were about to die out of my mind – I think the truly brave are those who do what they have to even when hope is gone. I would love to ask you about the Balrog, also about some of the other heroes of that last day, but have no wish to pry if you would prefer not to discuss it. At first I assumed they would have taken the memory from you, but I suppose, terrible though it must be to remember, its loss would have made you – less, somehow, than who you are?
I hope you do not find that as forward as I suspect it is.
Due to the holiday, everything is very quiet here, which is why this letter contains so little formal business. Even the war seems to move slowly, thanks to the foul weather which hampers the Enemy's forces as much as our own, possibly more so as many of them are Men from the east and unused to the rigours of a northern winter. I cannot understand why so many Men march under his banner? All those I have known were always honorable and decent, the least likely to ally themselves to the forces of darkness. It seems very strange and more than a little sad.
I’m glad you received the cloak in good order and that it pleases you. I hope all is well, and that everyone has been able to keep warm and dry. How are the sheep dealing with the cold weather? And are the cows thriving. Three bulls, you said? That must be chaotic. Is there much fighting? Does Háran like snow any better than he did the east wind? I still smile at the image of him lying with his tail over his nose, singularly unhappy with his circumstances.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Midwinter greetings to you as well, belated though they are. Your holidays are all so new to me that when someone asked if we should slaughter one of the cows for the community feast, I had no idea what they were talking about. In Gondolin we recognised the shortest and longest nights and the equal days, but used the knowledge mainly as a guide to the seasons. There were no festivals like those with which we marked the beginnings of summer and winter.
I learned the meaning of the Festival of Hope by eavesdropping on Sael’s wife as she reminded the children that we exchange gifts to remind us that all elves are part of one large family, and that the passing of the longest night signals the lifting of darkness and the promise of hope and new beginnings. Emotionally I am still close to the events of Alqualondë and our early years in Middle-earth, so the original intent of the Festival speaks directly to me, while its deeper symbolism is, I think, not lost on anyone here in Imladris… we are again living through a time of great darkness, but after the rigours of winter comes spring.
I think that anyone who looks down on ideas originating on this side of the Sea as being somehow unworthy of the Aman-born should stretch his or her tired old mind back and try to remember how they felt when they witnessed another ‘new innovation’ -- the first moonrise. Setting aside certain times of the year to encourage introspection or gratitude, and using the journey of the Valar’s gifts of Sun and Moon to mark those times can only be a good thing, surely?
I'm glad Brennil was able to spend some time with you. You must be missing her now that she has gone back to her people? I remember my friend Ecthelion saying much the same about dancing with one’s sister - and insisting it bore only a passing connection to how much wine had been consumed. Of course, festivities in Gondolin were fairly staid and formal affairs, and very unlike your description, which I must say appealed to me.
Spring’s approach seems very far away when I look around. I was surprised the courier got through, because we are all but snowed in. She said had she not carried gifts and season's wishes, she would have turned back – we were all deeply grateful for her dedication. Yesterday the whole of Imladris was blanketed in white, the trees bowed down beneath their load and the few small paths invisible, but today we live in a sodden, dangerously slippery mess because it has been raining since last night. Still snow everywhere, but now we are that much wetter and colder.
The usual passage of elves back and forth across the river has slowed in recent weeks. The Bruinen is high and the wind treacherous, making the bridge largely unsafe. Sael wanted to track the water levels after the thaw before beginning work on a stone bridge, very wisely of course, so we are still using a contraption of ropes and planks. Your promise of mules and horses in the spring will hasten our efforts - we will need to get them down to the main valley and, as not even the most optimistic amongst us thinks it likely that anyone could persuade a mule to attempt the present crossing, we will at least need to strengthen and expand what we now have.
Liked your thoughts on Imladris as a stylistic trend setter. Limestone pillars would lend dignity and authority, I agree. And it could serve as flooring for the entrance, too, I thought. Sael just shook his head when I mentioned it and said this will be the funniest looking garrison he's ever seen. Having spent years surrounded by pristine buildings and carefully manicured gardens, I think I might be ready for something less 'planned'.
I thought the winter months might be very quiet and that, like you in the Ered Luin, I would need to search for ways to keep my men occupied when not on patrol, but we seem busier now than previously. Building and activity on the land took up almost everyone’s time before, and now we can finally attend to things like general repairs and other time-consuming tasks that can be pursued indoors, like carpentry - we already have a growing assortment of tables, chairs and the like.
You might be surprised to learn that the winter’s primary leisure occupation is basketry. During autumn we collected and set reeds and grasses to dry, and now everywhere you look you find people attempting to weave baskets and containers of various shapes and sizes – no one is exempt, including the ‘warrior class’, and when I tried my hand at it, I found it unexpectedly relaxing. Háran seemed puzzled at first – I suppose I seldom spend much time in one place, at least not during the day. The children help plait the basic materials into broader strips, and do their part by weaving seats for chairs, a simple task not requiring a complicated frame.
The cloth you sent vanished almost as soon as it was unloaded, and a sewing circle now exists beside the community hearth. Many arrived here with little more than the clothes on their backs, although some managed to salvage a few things before fleeing, all of which have long since been shared out. Winter was already seen as a good time to patch and repair, particularly the children’s garments, and now of course new clothing can be added to the communal wardrobe. As far as I can ascertain, there is a list of those most in need, and they receive priority.
We are all immensely grateful to you for your wonderfully intuitive grasp of our needs here. Your gifts – rope and string – were perfectly timed for the season’s repair work, and the template for the loom was greeted with a great deal of excitement. The first one is already under construction in the tent where I normally debrief my men or inflict motivational speeches on them. I have put a group of convalescent warriors to work as loom builders, and they work with a degree of oversight from a couple of the older ladies who naturally know what they expect of a good loom. More than one
victim has compared this to being supervised by his mother.
Your mention of wool set me to wondering - I hope someone here actually knows how to shear a sheep.
Before you ask, no, no one wanted to kill one of the cows for the Longest Night gathering – they all have names by now and histories. The sheep would have been even more traumatic as they live right next to our camp, but two of my men impressed us all by not just finding and bringing down a boar, but also managing to wrestle it down into the valley. It spent several days cooking over the firepit, during which time we had to make do as best we could for meals.
We all gathered around the hearth - in this case our cooking fire - and ate a rather unconventional meal of onion soup, roast boar, winter squash, cabbage, fresh baked bread, nuts, berries, apples, and dried apricots. Then, over the wine, we took turns to share our memories – either about family no longer with us, or of Midwinters past. When it was my turn, I told them about my mother. It felt so strange to speak of her in the past, Erestor, but - comforting too, because now all these people know her name, and that she loved her garden, and that she, not my father, taught me to ride.
It was a very special experience, to sit under shelter with the snow falling outside and share precious moments out of our past with one another. I hope we can keep this as a tradition here in future years. It also feels good to tell you about it. Háran was allowed to join us, but had to lie very quiet, which he seemed to understand.
After reading your letter, I rather wish I had thought to mention dragons, too – talking as though they are nothing more than giant lizards takes no account of their immense intelligence and their malice, and makes small the efforts of my friend, who fought their lord to the death. I am starting to realise that the end result of not sharing the things you have lived through is that people make things up because they know no better. That was probably the case with Demmion too. He might well have imagined what he saw at court was the way people such as myself dressed and ate daily in our own homes, and reported it as such.
Gondolin was home to me and to those I loved, of course, our haven in a darkly dangerous world, if you will - but comfortable and opulent, it most assuredly was not. Some things about life there were far from perfect. I would so much rather the truth be known about it than this type of fantasy. It diminishes the difficulties we endured while trying to make ourselves into a force strong enough to confront the Enemy. I never thought properly about that till your comment about dragons.
I rather assumed Lord Námo felt there was a lesson for me either to learn or to pass on to someone else, and that was why I retained full memory of the fight and how it ended. Perhaps though you are right, and it has a part in shaping who I am. I don’t think I was especially brave. I stood between the balrog and everyone Idril had managed to help escape, someone had to try and stop it or at least hold it up, and that someone had to be me. I think it may have been tired – I never for a moment expected to kill it.
What happened in the end – was my own fault. I was too busy marvelling that I was still alive to pay attention to what was happening behind me. Lesson learned.
Anyhow, no, you were not forward, and yes, please feel free to ask anything that comes to mind. I will do my best to answer, though I know less about what happened on that final day than I should.
Thank you for passing on the commendations following the security check. I would have appreciated it had Lord Elrond sent us some kind of official comment, which I could have passed on to my men. They work hard to keep our borders safe and were wondering why that same patrol kept turning up in such unexpected places. I assume it will be in order for me to mention this to them? I'm sure you know the effect this kind of praise has on morale.
Indirectly related, I was approached by a small group of warriors with a question I am unable to answer and therefore pass to you, as has become my habit. As this is now officially a settlement and not just a garrison, they were wondering if their families would be allowed to join them if their posting here is to be long-term. I said I seriously doubted anyone had given this much thought up till now, but that I would get back to them when I hear from you. Curious to hear your thoughts on the matter.
I was intrigued to hear about your new career as a rations expert. Do you feel as scathing about the assignment as you sound? There was a distinct edge to your sharing of that piece of information. I suppose volunteering the best and brightest on one’s staff is a universal bad habit of those in authority. What precisely does the job entail? I had no idea the navy and army fell under one authority (other than His Majesty, of course) Do you have experience with organising rations?
You enjoy climbing mountains? That was unexpected. In Gondolin we went up into the mountains on patrol, nothing more, and were not allowed past certain points, and Tirion did not lend itself to mountaineering. I wonder if I would like it?
I find you make me think about things that would not otherwise have occurred to me, like why Men would be so willing to march under the Enemy’s banner. I know very little about Men, but perhaps because they are so short lived by our terms they might be more open to fear and - anger? Envy? Emotions that could be played upon, even encouraged. Having so little time, they might see this as a way to build something for their children to inherit? And of course, to them the Maia must be a glittering, god-like being – giving them yet another reason to follow him perhaps? I don't know - those are the only things that seem to make sense. As you say, puzzling and very sad.
Háran is unimpressed by snow, but truly hates rain. When necessity calls, he stares out of the tent at the water coming down out of the sky for the longest time, then rushes out, does what has to be done, and comes charging back in again. He then shakes himself violently, wetting everything in range if I am not quick enough to grab hold of him and dry him with a cloth. He also smells less than pleasant, but that is hardly his fault and no reason to banish him to sleep with the horses as someone suggested. None of us is any too clean at the moment - we just get along as best we can.
I think I have just painted you a less than charming picture of the other side of life in Imladris - cold, wet and malodourous.
I have seen goats in the area, by the way, in fact I suspect there are a few within the valley itself. Do you suggest I risk Amalek's wrath by encouraging them? What do goats particularly like to eat? The bulls are doing--- as well as can be expected, I think would be the correct term? We only have a pair now, the third was driven off by the other two. They seem to get along and possibly started life in the same herd, but the Silvans tell me - darkly - to wait until spring.
The sheep seem permanently miserable – I think they hate winter. And the smell from their pen means we intend moving them further away as soon as the weather improves.
One final question --- Haradaic is the language of the people in the south-east who are currently allied with the enemy, correct? I wondered what made you decide to study their language? Which brings me (smoothly, I hope) to His Majesty’s gift. Have you read the epic poem about the many-armed being and the crocodile yet? I confess to an irresistible curiosity --- who won? And why were they fighting?
I have no doubt this finds you drier, warmer and cleaner than I have been in some time, and I hope the new assignment proved less troublesome than expected.
Enclosed please find one very ineptly woven trinket container, the lid decorated with a sprig of ‘holly’ made from round stones painted red, and wood-carved leaves, rendered (bright) green by Sael’s son Lindir. Happy Midwinter, Erestor.
Chapter 7: Sing
His Majesty – pre-breakfast hunt. Find excuse!!!!!
Report for P. Enclose family letter.
3. Compare tenders, dried fruit supplier - Fleet.
Meet with working group, re: supply list
Report from lord Elrond – edit undiplomatic comments re. military council.
6. Military council meeting: take notes for P. Present report – Lord Elrond.
7. Letter to Glorfindel – also mention:
Sheep, goats, BULLS
8. 2 kittens to new homes: after work. b/w and grey striped.
9. For essay - read: Haradaic Rites for the Dead, by Irig Khenjet Mak.
It was good to hear from you, out there in the cold, wet, malodourous east. I fully agree with your remark about the dedication of the members of the courier service to their work - they manage to keep our communications lines open even under the most trying of circumstances. I know Aereth quite well, her husband is serving in Eregion with Lord Elrond’s forces, so she has a most personal understanding of how much regular letters mean to the warriors and their families.
On that point, I spoke with Lord Pathenien before he left on a tour of inspection across Harlindon, and he was doubtful about the likelihood of families being permitted to join warriors deployed to Imladris. However, as I am acting in his stead while he is away, I took it upon myself to place the request before His Majesty. He thought it an excellent idea that would give the settlement stability as well as strengthening both the resolve of the garrison and the attractiveness of the posting. The formal notification is included in this package, complete with a copy of the request for volunteers signed by His Majesty.
Those personnel who wish to take advantage of the opportunity must undertake to remain attached to the Imladris garrison for ten years, but His Majesty feels this will be less of a hardship for career soldiers than it might first appear.
I had no expectation of finding a Midwinter gift included with your letter, so the trinket box was a wonderful surprise. It is the perfect size and shape for hair ties and the like, and the holly sprig on the lid is a lovely seasonal touch. Please convey my thanks to Sael’s son for his help. How old is he, did you mention? It was also really interesting to see an example of the basket work you mentioned in your letter. You seem rather more expert at it than you imply, and I liked the pattern effects the different colour reeds create. How does one make a chair seat? Is it a square fitted into the open frame of the bottom of the chair? I would really love to see some of the things you describe. Perhaps when you are a larger community, Imladrian basket work will be exported across the kingdom, rather like lace work from South Haven?
I remember how simply we were forced to live during the winter months when I was growing up. I suspect here in the city we risk losing touch with the cycle of life. Hothouses provide us with food that would otherwise be unseasonable, and there are craftsmen whose sole employment is to manufacture their wares in answer to our needs. Were it not for the snow on the ground, I would hardly know it was winter, although I was intensely aware of it this morning. An invitation to one of His Majesty’s early morning hunts in the woods above the city is regarded as a social coup, but personally I am less than convinced of the joys of galloping through the snow at sunrise, as I was called upon to do in Lord Pathenien’s absence. I know that for His Majesty these excursions are mainly about fresh air and exercise, but I have uncertainties about hunting for any reason other than seeking food for survival. Was this why you stopped eating meat, I wonder?
Thank you for your interest in my additional duties. Briefly - well, I’ll try to be brief - there has been an ongoing dispute within the Fleet regarding significant differences in the rations received by sailors in the three main ports. Someone mistakenly believed this fell within my area of responsibility, which it most definitely did not. However, in my eagerness to make this clear, I made the mistake of raising it with Lord Pathenien, who as I told you thought it was a very good idea. So, despite my best efforts, I have been forced to catalogue the differences, eat sample meals, discuss nutritional needs with a healer and am now trying to draw up a uniform menu. I also have to find suppliers in the various ports who have the capacity to fill high volume orders while meeting a specific standard.
A Fleet problem, a monumental waste of my time, but I suppose someone has to do it, and they seem singularly unable to come to any kind of agreement amongst themselves.
Thank you for sharing your Midwinter gathering with me. It sounds like a wonderful evening, and far closer in spirit to the original intent than most of us experience. I love the idea of sharing memories of other people and places and truly hope it grows into a tradition there. I think telling them about your mother was quite the perfect choice - Men say that no one is lost whose name is still remembered, and I think that should count for us as much as for them. I noted your comment about perfectly manicured gardens. I suppose there is a vast difference between public gardens with not a single blade of grass out of place, and a loved and cared for private garden such as I am sure your mother had. Will Imladris have gardens one day, do you think? On your side of the river, I mean.
Your reference to Gondolin as somewhere you could build up the strength necessary to confront the Enemy was something that had never occurred to me before. It has always been this wonderful city, hidden away from the world, but whose purpose I had difficulty understanding. You had all gone through so much horror to reach this shore, it seemed strange that you would then go and hide yourselves away. However, your explanation is something I can understand. It was a very big city, I imagine? Stupid question – it must have been, to be able to raise an army of ten thousand to fight in the battle of Unnumbered Tears.
I heard you were on some kind of a ledge or pinnacle of rock, and lost your balance when the balrog caught your hair – you can surely not believe it was your own fault that you failed to see it or react in time? I remember when I was a child, everyone who came to Sirion from Gondolin said had you not held off the Enemy’s servants, there would have been wholesale slaughter on the pass. As it was, your actions gave people time to move further along, and for the Lord of Eagles to arrive and bring his kindred. I always hoped you had time to be aware of that.
You said I could ask questions – did you often see the giant eagles while you lived in Gondolin? That must have been amazing! And… something that is a complete liberty, but I have always wondered – how was it, when the Moon first rose? I always thought I would have been afraid, not awe-filled, as we are told was the case.
I read your thoughts on why so many Men may have joined the Enemy’s ranks with a great deal of interest. I had not considered they might want to build something for their children, or that the Giver of Gifts would seem almost god-like to them. If I am honest, I suppose in their place I might be tempted by such things, but so far as I know they, like us, believe it is never right to take what is not yours, or to kill unless it is in defense of your own.
I am studying Haradaic customs at the moment, and their gods require a great deal of propriety from them in their dealings with 'outsiders', as they term everyone who does not live under their rule. There are strict religious laws governing things such as declaring war – both the actions that justify such a course, and how warfare should be conducted. Very little of this bears any resemblance to what has been happening in Eregion, which has led me to wonder if they take their gods less seriously than their writings would seem to imply. Does that seem likely to you?
Originally I thought that learning Haradaic would be useful if we managed to intercept their communications lines, and that if I learned a little about their customs, I could contribute something to strategy discussions, but I admit I find what I am discovering about their culture fascinating in its own right. They have a very rich history (bloodthirsty, too) and a satisfyingly extensive body of literature.
I have not yet finished the saga of the Hero and the crocodile. It deserves a book in its own right (and possibly has one) as it covers a number of adventures including a quest for the pomegranate that will bring eternal life, and there are at least two love triangles. I would be happy to write an outline for your amusement later, should you still be interested.
I am told goats will eat almost anything, including vegetables, young grain, and – whatever their teeth can manage. Of course, there is a breed of long-haired goat, the coat of which makes a wonderfully soft yarn – I think I might have mentioned this before? They could be very useful, and if they were persuaded to live in the lower part of the valley, there would surely be less disruption. As for those goats that might currently be in the area, I think so long as they are not actively dissuaded they would almost certainly seek to make a sheltered, food-rich place like Imladris their home.
As for the bulls, I agree with the Silvans. Spring should be interesting. Bulls that get along amicably during winter see one another as bitter rivals when the season changes. I think you will have to keep them apart later. because otherwise each will think all the cows are his, and feel obliged to prove it.
Sheep always look miserable to me, even when they are content. I suspect an undiscriminating dislike for all two-footed creatures.
Poor Háran, he is not having a good time at all. Rain, wind, snow --- it is difficult being a dog, I think. My personal dislike right now is for snow, but that would be due to this morning’s hunt. Normally I think It looks quite beautiful. I liked what you said about him being confused at your sitting still for any length of time. It adds to my picture of how your life is normally lived. Do you go out regularly on patrol with your men? I have never thought to ask, but suddenly it seems very likely.
Finally – as you will have discovered, I have sent a design for a second style of loom, this time a flat one, not an upright. Something to keep your convalescent warriors busy and properly supervised. And I will try to send more cloth when the terrain is less treacherous – currently the courier felt the less he had to carry, the better for the horses’ safety.
I hope everything is going well for you all, and look forward to hearing from you soon.
Before anything, I need to thank you for your help in getting permission for family members to join the warriors stationed here. You give no details of your conversation with His Majesty, but you must have been very convincing to get this passed so quickly. On behalf of the men (and women) involved, I thank you for your good offices. Ten year contracts seem a minor detail to most of those intending to take advantage of the opportunity; they all feel it is a small price to pay to have their loved ones close by.
When the weather lifts, we will start building family accommodation on this side of the river, loosely attached to the garrison. We did something similar at Vinyamar, and it was very successful. Of course back then the idea of people dedicating themselves to fighting was very new, so there was far more pressure not to separate families, which might be why it has always felt right to me.
I am delighted you enjoyed your gift. I wracked my brains for something to send you, but in the end all I could offer was my best effort at something a little more intricate than the usual product of my leisure activity. I wanted to put a dried flower on the lid if I could find such a thing, something that would represent Imladris, but there was nothing suitable, and young Lindir said it would fall apart eventually anyway. I have, of course, passed on your thanks to him for his aid.
I wonder if you would be interested in hearing how we spend our evenings. We still rise with the sun, of course, (even if we can't see it), but as night falls so early we need to find ways to fill the dark hours between late afternoon and bedtime. Most of us eventually find our way to the community hearth and either seek out a quiet corner to read or write letters, or else look for some other means of entertainment. The sewing circle I mentioned previously is still very much in evidence and has not yet run out of cloth (although they will be thrilled to hear they can expect more later in the year). Several are currently sewing rabbit skins together to make bed covers, and I believe deerskin will soon be available for coats and pants. They all leave before dinner to see to children and other domestic concerns, but they come back to occupy their place for at least a part of the evening.
Most people like to spend their leisure time talking in small groups, or playing games like Red Stone or Balefire. For those who prefer a quieter, more considered alternative, we now have two chess sets carved by Celaran, who has just finished inlaying and staining boards for them. There are also some who pursue more solitary interests while enjoying both the company and the warmth of the fire, in fact I am writing this from the spot not far from the hearth which has informally become ‘my’ corner. And then of course there is always a bunch of off-duty warriors near the back, sitting along the wall drinking and swapping (unlikely) stories. Those on duty are to be found either deployed above the valley, on watch in the cave where we cure skins, or guarding the few remaining access points.
Why was I telling you all this? Oh yes, I wanted to explain about Lindir, who is around thirty-five years old (I must remember to ask his exact age) and already shows a great deal of promise as a singer and musician. About an hour after dinner, when everything has been cleared away, the music starts. Nothing formal, of course. We have no trained musicians in our midst, which is a pity but is as it is. Perhaps later. Instead we take turns to share a song or a poem as the spirit moves us, or a tale of times past with some kind of (occasionally appropriate) background music. We have two lap harps, a couple of flutes, some interesting looking pipes, one large and one very small drum, and a contraption of metal strips of varying size on a wooden frame, which are struck with two sticks. The sound is unexpectedly melodious. And something they tell me is called a tambourine.
Of the regular singers, Lindir is the most noteworthy, and often brings conversation to a temporary halt. He has one of those pure, immensely clear voices that carry well, and he has an exceptional range for one so young. He is also quite good with the flute, can beat quite an intricate rhythm on the drums and is trying to teach himself the harp. He needs proper training to hone his skill, of course, and were it not that time has wrought such dramatic changes to music, I would offer to do so myself. I hope someone with the necessary expertise eventually finds his or her way to Imladris, because Sael seems intent on settling here for at least as long as the army will allow.
Your question about the chair seat amused me for some reason, therefore I include one for you to examine, assess, and even possibly use as you think best. Yes, I made this myself. There are three standard sizes, of which this one is medium, and they are tied securely to the chair frame, forming quite q comfortable seat. I have doubts about how long the reeds will last, but a sealant has been created, (I have no idea from what), which is painted on as a preserver, after which they have to be rubbed with lavender oil to disguise the smell. It all seems like rather a lot of extra work, so I hope it adds substantially to the chair’s lifespan.
How many long-haired goats do you think we would need before they would produce enough fur to make it worth our while? Do you shear them like sheep? I am familiar with neither the animal nor the yarn. Amalek says he will teach a few of the more sensible civilians to shear sheep, which is a relief. He currently has Lachol producing the correct implements for the task. You are quite right about the sheep, of course. They do always look miserable. Perhaps they will seem happier without their thick coats.
Another voice telling me the bulls are going to fight. Someone thought it would be an excellent idea to bring one of them plus half the cows down here. If anyone can find a way to do so without endangering either their own life or that of the cattle, I am more than happy to give my permission. So far, no one has come forward. I suppose we will just have to wait and see, and hope for the best.
I do that rather a lot, you might have noticed. Hope for the best. So far it seems to pay off more often than not.
We should hunt to eat, yes. I was taken on one such social jaunt before I left Mithlond, although I have never been at ease with the idea of hunting for pleasure either. The need to get out in the fresh air and take some exercise is something I recall from Gondolin, where fortunately someone in my position seldom lacked the opportunity to do so. Currently we hunt mainly deer and rabbit. I have no part in this personally, but I know the traditions are adhered to: the spirit of the animal they seek is greeted in brotherhood, the hunting party explains that we need meat to help us stay strong in the cold months, and older animals are always the preferred target. After the kill, thanks is given, both to the animal's clan and to Lord Oromë and Lady Vána for their bounty. That should be sufficient, shouldn’t it?
Since my rebirth I find I am loathe to take life without good reason, which is why I now avoid meat although I still eat fish. In fact, I quite enjoy fishing. It is a very restful way to pass the time, and they somehow seem less 'sentient' than four-legged beasts. Some might find that a little hypocritical, I suppose. I have no problem with anyone else eating meat, by the way, but just feel it is no longer for me.
Yes, I go out on patrol with my men. I used to do that in Gondolin too, even when not strictly necessary. They need to see I do not think myself too good for the work I set them, and that all duties are shared fairly. This way they know there is nothing I am not prepared to do myself, and have in fact done at least once. As our primary duty is to keep the valley secure and protected, we do not stray far from Imladris. Decent skirmishes with orcs are few and far between, although I have been involved in two. On both occasions, we saw tracks and I insisted we chase them down. That is slightly at odds with my standing orders, of course, but no one seemed to mind.
Gondolin was a large city, but seemed less so when you were approaching from the mountains. I think the fact that it was built up on the rock made it seem smaller, but of course the buildings spread down almost to the plain. City might be too strong a word, but it was a fair sized town, in fact it was larger than really necessary because a lot of the buildings and open spaces were modelled on those we had left behind. It made some people happy, made them feel more secure. And of course it was very beautiful, very like Tirion at a glance. White marble and such. Very tidy.
We used to see the eagles when we were on guard in the foothills, keeping watch in case something somehow managed to slide in through the gates. You could scarcely miss the creatures, they were immense. Occasionally one of them would bring messages. I was present when the Wind Lord brought the High King's body to his son for burial. It made some of us realise how very far we had cut ourselves off from what was happening beyond the mountains.
The Moon was a gift from the Valar, a promise we had not been utterly deserted. Or so we chose to believe. It seemed very bright after so much darkness.
I had little time to assess how successful my fight with the balrog had been, but I was conscious of having done my duty, of course, which is all any of us can reasonably expect to do. This is something I tell my warriors regularly. No one should expect the impossible, just that everyone will do his best.
Learning about the Haradrim must be, as you say, fascinating. I would also like to read something about their country and way of life someday. I think when people write about their gods and the duty owed to them, they probably reflect an idealised situation; there are often vast differences between how we know we should behave and what happens in practice. Premarital chastity springs to mind. And of course, rules can change with time. It might depend too on how their religious laws are interpreted to them by those whose place it is to do so. Perhaps their actions under the Dark Lord's flag seem justifiable to them, though how that can be I am not sure as Eregion is a far way from Harad.
And yes, I would love to read a summary of the Epic once you finally have time to finish it. After your brief description, I find myself even more curious. Everything including love triangles? Excellent.
Thank you very much for the second loom template. I am informed this one is good for rug making, which might have to take its place behind other more pressing needs, but some faces still lit up at the thought. Apparently it will be better for wool too. When we have wool. At any rate, the loom builders seem quite pleased with the design, as they say it will be far simpler to put together and less demanding with regard to the type of wood used. I do not pretend to understand one word in five on the subject, so I just nod my head and try to look intelligent.
I know you are completely inconvenienced and put out by your new duties, Erestor, but I think you have been paid a large and almost certainly well-deserved compliment by being asked to see to this. It sounds quite complicated, requiring research into several normally unrelated topics plus the ability to find and motivate the right people, something I tend to regard as a gift. Sadly, I have no self control. I have to ask how the sample meals taste? No need to spoil the Fleet after all, now is there?
I hope the weather is improving for you. Háran is sitting here with me (and pretending not to be inside where people can point at him and say 'out'). I am sure if I were to ask he would want me to send greetings to you. After all, you are always careful to ask after him. He is, by the way, very well, just sleeps rather a lot because there is little for a dog to amuse himself with at this time of year. I suspect you were right, as usual, and that he would love a few canine friends.
PS. Later. Just finished a second letter, imaginatively labeled Part Two. Thoughts, memories, random self-pity. Please feel under no obligation to read past the first paragraph.
Chapter 8: Safety
The rain is still beating down, but I think it might snow again before the courier leaves. My tent has sprung two leaks, which need to be patched when the weather clears enough to take it down for a while. I suppose I could ask one of my men to see to it, but it hardly seems right; this is a matter of my own comfort and should not be made their concern.
I brought a cup of wine back with me tonight, something I seldom do, and drank it while reading over what I had written to you earlier, words penned back where the fire was warm and voices surrounded me. At the time I gave very brief answers to a couple of your questions, although now I suddenly find I have so much more to add. Something insists that I could sit over wine with you on a night like this and share the things I have kept to myself for too long, and you would understand. You might even prod me to tell you about dragons once I finished my mental wanderings.
I know we were introduced before I left for Eriador, but I met so many and (embarrassingly) cannot put a face to your name. Yet I feel I know you well, because your personality shines through even the most formal of your communications. The questions you ask, your willingness to offer ideas and listen to my enthusiasms, and the thoughtful way you approach discussion are at one with someone who knows the family situation of a courier and would think to send me a new cloak just ahead of winter. Therefore, before the thoughts scuttle back into their shadowed corners, I will chance writing them down.
You asked about moonrise and Gondolin. Be warned, you are about to receive several pages more than you bargained for. Remember how we agreed that people start to make up stories if the facts are not known, and those stories make the reality small? That idea has sat with me and grown into this need, almost a compulsion, to explain how things really were, to lay out my thoughts and memories, keep them fresh and alive. And share them, because what use is the truth if it is not shared? And if I am to share this with anyone, I want it to be you.
Moonrise. All our festivals on this side of the Great Sea are based on a solar calendar, on the turning of the seasons, and yet there was a time before Sun or even Moon when we walked under the stars. I often hear voices lifted here to greet the rising moon with odes to his beauty, but the oldest of us were not born children of the moonlight, and his first appearance received no such welcome.
No one really knows how long we spent crossing the Ice, though Finrod always maintained it took years. There had been no tally of supplies when we set out, otherwise we could have tried to estimate how many people would have eaten what amount of lembas wafers or dried fruit in how many weeks, months, years. The food ran out before we arrived, of course, although by then our numbers were not what they had been at our departing. However, I digress. Moonrise.
The sky changed. Whenever the mists lifted, it was always the same velvet dark studded with stars, but now the stars grew faint and we sensed something new approaching. We stopped our march to talk about it, drawing close together, fearing some ruse of the Enemy and us exposed and vulnerable. One point on the horizon grew brighter, brighter still, and then suddenly a ball of purest silver rose into view.
No one spoke, I think some of us stopped breathing. The light threw shadow where none had been before, ice glittered diamond-bright and at first the snow-whiteness was near blinding. Some, like Artanis and Aegnor, wanted to try and shoot it down, others insisted we should hide (I remember wondering where) while we tracked its path and estimated its menace. That would have been Fingon, he was very fond of watching and waiting, often until it was too late and events finally overtook him. Whatever it was, it made an already cruel landscape appear harsher still and hurt eyes grown accustomed to nothing brighter than starlight and the gleam of the occasional, jealously preserved lantern.
Fingolfin finally told us to start walking again, that this was a sign from the Mighty. He pointed out the light had appeared at almost the same instant we left the Ice behind us and that solid land now lay beneath the snow. This was news to most of us, although we had seen the mountains drawing closer and knew we were almost at journey’s end. The light was similar to lost Telperion, he said, what further proof did we need? And he ordered trumpets sounded, as much to put heart into those who remained uncertain as to announce our arrival. I suspect half the job of command involves appearing confident in unlikely circumstances. He did it well.
At least Rána’s softer light gave our eyes time to grow accustomed to something brighter than the stars before Vása rose in golden fire. By then we were more ready to expect the unusual, though it took me days to convince my mother that the fire above was not an agent of the Enemy, and the heat and brilliance would not suddenly swoop down and incinerate us all. I know many myths have grown up around the making of Sun and Moon, and that this probably answers none of them, but I know only what I saw. The sky lights are what they are.
You also asked about Gondolin.
We were told that no return to Nevrast would ever be possible while the Enemy lived, that those of us who knew the way could never leave again lest we accidentally betray its whereabouts. Of course, this turned out not to be strictly true. In the early days messengers went between us and the High King and returned with replies, but those who trod that path did so with the knowledge that their wives and children resided within the king’s tower and at his command. We learned fast that one of the things Turgon looked for in his emissaries to the outside world was a happy family life. No one in that service was likely to linger at the High King’s court a day longer than was necessary. Later of course, their place was taken by a flock of carefully trained homing pigeons.
The city itself was beautiful. White marble, coloured quartz, mosaics, exquisite tiling… much of it copied from Tirion, the rest a variation on similar themes. What we saw first, however, was a broad plain laid out for farming, with sections for crops, pasture for our horses, and fenced-off areas for pigs, chickens, goats and ducks. There were pools of water that bubbled to the surface from below ground, and this was channelled into a great reservoir, from where pipes carried it to the hill that dominated the plain, a hill we soon began referring to as the Rock. And on the Rock stood the city, looking out towards the mountains over the careful order we were about to inherit.
Every resource was counted. So many chickens, so many pigs, so much barley for a family in a year. So many lengths of carefully spun cloth for clothing and bedding. Adults received two pairs of shoes every five years, one stout pair for walking, the other for court wear. Firewood was rationed literally by the stick, while lamp oil was measured out as a monthly allowance dependant upon status and profession. Not even the king’s household burnt lamps indiscriminately. Candles were precious, wine was drunk only by royalty and by nobles like the heads of houses. Yes, I always had wine available. For the rest, a kind of ale was made from grain, and there was a colourless liquor distilled from, of all things, potatoes. I have not seen mention of it in Demmion’s book. I wonder if anyone makes it still? We drank it chilled on ice, and it had a kick like a recalcitrant mule.
Everyone had their assigned tasks, even if it was simply to be a gracious lady like my mother, who hosted well-planned dinner parties, just as she had back in Aman. We had need of artists as well as artisans, because the arts had to be seen to be pursued, and boys were trained as gold and silversmiths even if their preference lay elsewhere. Marriage was a matter arranged between families, and over a certain social level was only entered into with the king’s sanction, sometimes indeed at his insistence. I managed to avoid the incessant match making with a little aid from my mother and a lot from my cousin Idril, who was well-placed to come to my rescue.
Well, I am sure my attempts at matrimonial avoidance can be of no interest to you. I apologise. It would look worse if I crossed it out, so I will let it stand. Are you laughing?
Were we happy? Erestor, I have no idea. How do you define happy? By the time we had been on this shore long enough to understand the dangers we faced, it was too late to go home. Yet this had not started out purely as an excursion of warriors; whole families had made that crossing with the intention of setting up a new realm on this side of the sea. Mothers looked at their children, husbands at their wives, and all eyes turned to the king. Fingolfin was busy setting up a capital and creating an army, so they looked instead to Turgon, whose wife had been taken by the Ice, who had a daughter in his care. Then he claimed Lord Ulmo came whispering to him in dreams, and after that he did the best he could.
I suppose Ulmo really did talk to him. After all, Finrod was sensible enough, and he went off and started delving an underground realm, and on a rare visit to Vinyamar, Artanis told me he had also been guided in his decision by the Lord of Waters.
What I am trying to say is that people were afraid, and the grey stone town growing up beside the sea had not set their minds at rest. They wanted strong walls around them, security from an enemy they could barely imagine. What they really wanted was to go home, of course. My mother spoke of it often. But the road back was barred against us, so Turgon did the next best thing. He attempted to take us out of the world and recreate home within a mountain fastness, locked around by a system of walls and gates.
I loved being close to the sea. I missed Vinyamar. And only a very few of us admitted to a concern that seemed not to have crossed Turgon’s mind, that the walls that kept out danger also sealed us in. Gondolin’s boundaries were patrolled day and night. Every wolf's passage, every goat's trail was noted and assessed for malice, and yet when the end came, it was without warning. All those gates, all those watch stations, were to no avail. It has left me with a sense that security should be less oppressive, less fanatical. We lived as though under siege all those years, and for what? When the end came, we were trapped.
I am trying to do something very different here in Imladris. I suppose that is why I was upset when Elrond failed to comment on our security measures. I, not my men, was the one who needed reassurance that the new approach we are trying works.
I was not surprised when they attacked. They came with fire and thunder on one of the rare festival days when there was no work, when we all turned out in our best clothes with flowers in our hair. They seemed to pour down the sides of the mountain and across the plain towards us, and it was as though I had already lived through those moments, as though I knew each crest, each banner, each roared threat with prior familiarity. I had always known one day they would come, and we would not be able to get out in time.
How do you describe how it feels to be fighting not just for your life but for the lives of everyone you hold dear, for the very existence of your home? I have no words for that, in fact most of it is one long, desperate blur of effort. The books say I wore my armour. Actually it was more like half-armour, enough to protect my chest and stomach. I had to send someone for it, and that was all he could carry at a run. Plus he brought my sword. People died around me, the screaming never stopped. I tried so hard to prevent the fools from sending their women and children into hiding. I knew there was no hole dark enough, but no one was listening and I had no time. I had orcs to fight.
When I and what was left of the fighters of my house withdrew to Idril’s secret exit, no longer so secret, I saw I had been right, there were far more men than women, hardly any children. No one had time to go back, the killing was well underway. The screams will ring in my ears for all eternity, a part of my personal music, the song of our failure to keep safe those who looked to us for protection. Had I left wife or child back there in some less than secure hiding place, I could no more have gone through that tunnel than I could have flown, but there were those who were quite prepared to save themselves. I will never forgive that.
I wonder if Demmion had a family? He must have been amongst them.
We were strung out along the cliff path, smoke and flame rising from darkness into darkness, when they came: orcs, other fell creatures, and in their midst was a balrog. Life narrowed. I could see them so clearly, could tell for the first time that orcs, just like elves, have features that distinguish them one from another, they do not all look the same. There was even one I had a notion felt pity for us, something about the eyes, the way it looked down the line of fleeing elves and back briefly to its captain. And then down, as though not wanting its thoughts perceived.
They kept their distance from the balrog. It might have been almost as much a trouble to them as it was to us. That whip went everywhere.
My mother was on the path ahead, my cousin Idril, dear as a sister, and a few young survivors of my own House. I never saw a choice, just that it had to be stopped, or at least held back. There was nowhere to run, the path was really not much more than a narrow ledge along the face of a cliff. If they could get to the pass, they could hold it, perhaps. At least I thought so. That was as far as thinking took me; I shouted at those closest to me to keep moving, and then I just stood there and waited for it. And yes, I was fairly sure I was going to die. And I was afraid, Erestor, so afraid. Dying by fire has always seemed so horrific to me, and this thing approaching me was fire personified.
It walked in smoke and flame, its sound was like an approaching storm, it was more than twice my height. And its eyes were not those of an animal, it was a sentient being, one of the Maiar who had followed the Enemy and taken this form for its pleasure. I do not remember the fight, just that I was faster and fear added to my speed, and I kept telling myself that every minute I could hold it back, and the orcs milling behind it, gave my mother and the rest time to reach the pass, and maybe Idril could get her son to safety. I lasted longer than it expected, long enough for it to give vent to its frustration. That was when it spoke to me, calling me by name, mocking me for my lack of height, for my pitiful armour, for the way my sword arm tired, for the fear it could smell on me.
After it was over, I looked down towards the pass, my eyes burning from smoke and dazzled by flame, and saw people had moved further along than I would have expected. It had all felt so quick and yet at the same time as though it had gone on forever. I knew I had done what I could, which was what we were drilled always to do, our best for the city, our best for our people. No one thanked you for doing your best, and no one would have thanked me for what I had just done, only my family, or so I thought. I felt lonely then. It would have been so good to have someone special outside of that circle to tell me I had done well, though there would not have been time because the orcs were making up their minds to charge, and I knew I could not fight them all.
And then I was falling, and that seemed to last a very long time. And no, I do not eat meat, Erestor. I respect life, all life, as a great and glorious gift, but also I have a deep aversion to the stench of burning, cooking flesh. I have sometimes wondered if its flame was doused when it struck the ground or if it continued burning, but only the Wind Lord could answer that, and I have nothing to say to Manwë’s feathered watchers.
The eagles could have come before then. I assume they decided it was not their war or some such. They must have been watching, only arriving after the balrog fell. Perhaps great Manwë sent the Wind Lord to retrieve my body as an encouragement to Idril, or a sign, or something of the like. I have no way of knowing. Just that we traversed their path in what was their territory, and they waited until the fire being had fallen before coming out to help. They had not been willing to face it, they had not dared.
I told you we used to see them sometimes on patrol. Huge birds, bigger than any bird has a right to be. Creatures of the Valar. My mother thought they might really be Maiar, and my mother was a very wise woman. Raucous cries, huge beating wings. They kept us from certain parts of the mountains, we assumed at Turgon’s wish, but perhaps there were reasons outside of our knowledge. If you climbed too high, they would fly at you. More than one unwary warrior fell to his death before we learned to keep our distance.
I never liked them. All right, I was always a little afraid of them. They never gave me the sense that they would protect us, rather that in some nameless way they were our jailors until such time as Turgon received a sign that we could leave. When we rode out to aid his brother and Maedhros, I half expected them to fly at us as we went through the pass and chase us back. I remember only starting to breathe when we were quite a way down the mountain.
Does that all sound as paranoid as it looks? To be afraid of Manwë’s servants? But I was, and I assure you I was not alone. Ecthelion would not go near their nesting place for any price. I think he would have disobeyed a direct order from the king, had it been necessary.
So, there you have it. The first moonrise, the city of Gondolin, and the giant eagles. No dragons, I fear. Perhaps another day we could share thoughts on the possible nature of dragons, why people think it appropriate to write of these creatures of immense, malevolent intellect as though they are no more than over-sized reptiles, but not tonight. The lamp grows low, and we have to be as careful of lamp oil here as ever we did in Gondolin. Strange, I feel less alone now, almost as though you were sitting here talking to me. The wine and the rain make me fanciful, I fear.
I would normally read through what I have written, correct it where necessary, and in this case decide if the letter should even be sent, but an instinct says to let it go. If you have read this far, I can only hope you do not think less of me for having shone the light of truth on what may be dearly held fantasies.
I wonder if I would like mountaineering. Perhaps, when the war is over, you would consider teaching me? We have many mountains here.
You have not lost touch with the land or the lessons of your childhood, so enjoy the comforts of city life, they too serve their purpose. It gives my heart pleasure to know you are safe in that green land between the mountains and the sea. Go well, Erestor.
Chapter 9: Peace
The courier had to take shelter along the road and spent several days waiting out the bad weather, but the mail arrived none the worse for that. Thank you for your letters, both of which I will treasure for what they tell me of your life in Imladris and your memories of the past.
We only met once, briefly, shortly before you left. You had been to see the scale model of Eregion and Eriador that His Majesty is so pleased with, and later he stopped to introduce you to Thalahir, who they originally planned to have deal with matters relating to Imladris. I was called over briefly and introduced as Lord Pathenien’s assistant, but only had time to say ‘Welcome to Mithlond’ or something equally clichéd before you were whisked off to meet someone else. In case that isn’t enough of a reminder, I was the short elf with the straight black hair and brown eyes who couldn’t stop staring at you.
The only other time I saw you and know for certain that you saw me was at the event to mark Lord Elrond’s begetting day. You were with a crowd of admirers, and I was looking around for a familiar face, not certain why I had received an invitation. Our eyes met and you smiled at me. I recall thinking you looked as lonely as I felt, and I wondered how that could be when you were the centre of everyone’s attention. After, I realised that had been unthinking of me – how else should you feel, surrounded by strangers who were more interested in what you had done than in who you are? I am sorry now that I lacked the courage to go over and greet you, but you were in such exalted company it hardly occurred to me.
It’s early morning here. I am sitting on the public terrace overlooking the gardens and the sea, shivering a little from the chill air. This is my quiet time, the only part of the day that is truly my own before nightfall. When I finish writing to you, I will change into work clothes, have breakfast in the main hall, and then go to my work area and diarize my day. With luck I will manage to avoid His Majesty while I am doing all this, as he seems to have decided I am good company on the hunt. Somehow, after your letters I have little taste for chasing down poor, defenseless animals for sport.
Sometimes your letters remind me so much of home that, if I close my eyes, I can almost smell the forest greenness behind me. I loved how the air felt back then, especially in summer, the sounds of the insects, and the smell of growing things. We lived on the edge of farmland, and I liked going to look at the animals and crops, and seeing all the new innovation Men were forever experimenting with. At sunset, when the day’s work was over, we would sometimes hear them singing on their way home and maybe give them a song back in response. We seldom mingled, but we got along well enough. Like us, they had lost everything during the War and had to start over again and being so short lived meant hard work over many generations.
Miss it sometimes so badly, but it does not do to say so here, as country life tends to be disdained by those more at home with stone walls around them. I have been asked more than once if I am Sindarin.
I love the woven seat you gifted me with. Thank you. I like the way the colours fade in and out, naturally blending and contrasting. I like more that you made it, because it’s almost as though our hands touch across the distance. After some thought, I threaded a leather thong through it and hung it on my wall, in the open space near the window that was begging for – something – to fill it. Looks nice. I think that if you made one a little bigger and attached it to a wooden frame, you would have a very attractive indoor screen. Have you experimented with dying the fibres yet? That would work well for a screen or wall hanging --- or even a mat for the floor. I assume you are making those already?
You would like the goats I told you about in my previous letter, the ones with the long hair. They look really shaggy before they’re sheared and they really have quite good natures. Also, goats have interesting personalities and are far more intelligent than sheep. I suppose it would take a fair number to be useful, I can find out if you wish? They farm with them to the north of here, up near Lake Evendim. Lady Galadriel is very partial to shawls made of the yarn spun from their hair and sends yearly with her order. Apparently this is a tradition that began when she lived there before they moved to Eregion.
I don’t know that I was exceptionally persuasive with His Majesty, I just explained why I thought it was a good idea to let the warriors have their families there and smiled a lot. He was quite interested and asked a lot of questions, and it’s my experience when someone does that they eventually end up feeling the idea is at least part theirs. If that person is the King, it means whatever was being discussed will almost certainly get done. Not that he has a name for acting without regard to the wishes of his Council, of course, but he has a great deal of charm and a reputation for being able to talk anyone into almost anything.
Something you mentioned almost in passing roused my curiosity. You said you would have helped Lindir learn the harp had music not changed so much over the centuries. Does this mean you were a proficient harper yourself? I know they speak of Lord Ecthelion as a musician, and I have also heard that a well-bred elf back in the first age was taught a love of music and poetry along with sword skills. How dramatically has music changed? Traditionally elves are said to be slow to embrace new ideas, something I previously doubted, but not since trying to explain why more vegetables and less lembas would provide a better diet for the navy.
It must have been so strange to be exposed to all that light after years of darkness. Moonlight on snow can be harsh and almost sinister at times, and I imagine it must have been eerie and not at all comforting that first night. I always wondered how the plants grew, and how the animals survived and stayed healthy without sunlight, but I suppose that would be one of my more pedantic questions. I asked our tutor once, and was sharply reprimanded. He said that the ways of creation were as they were, and all things are possible by the power and will of the Valar. Which raises more questions than it answers, but I had enough sense to keep them to myself.
The way you involve yourself with everything that affects Imladris and her people, even something you have no part in like hunting, is very true to who you are, I think. What you told me about the way permission is asked for and thanks given before and after the hunt sounds exactly right. It shows respect for the animals, the land, and the Shining Ones themselves, and I am quite sure nothing else would be necessary. Of course the Silvan elves would be the best people to ask about this. They know far more about such matters than we Noldor who came late to Endor, more even than the Sindar who were less inclined to roam the land as they did.
I never thought of Gondolin as a trap, but reading your letter makes the lesson clear: always make sure you can get out, no matter where you are or what you are doing. I recall there was once a suggestion that all but one exit from Imladris be blocked off, and how strongly you spoke out against this – that was in correspondence between yourself, Lord Elrond and Lord Pathenien, of course, but the letters somehow ended up in my Imladris file. At the time I wondered, but now I understand why you were so tenacious on the subject. We hear the things people tell us, listen to the songs, and often overlook the obvious.
I was in two minds about asking the following question, but as you opened the subject I have to assume you will not be averse to discussing it, at least superficially. Therefore – I keep wondering why you were so eager to avoid marriage when you were in Gondolin. Did you perhaps leave someone special behind in Aman, as they say King Finrod did? Or am I right in thinking it was rather a more personal preference?
Perhaps we could combine fishing and mountaineering when the war is over? I could introduce you to rock climbing, then we could find a stream to camp beside and you could teach me how to catch our dinner. There were no edible fish in the local river where I grew up, so I never learned this skill. We could count the stars, listen to the trees, and talk about important things like finding Háran a friend and the merits of goats versus sheep. And of course dragons. That conversation is already long overdue.
You did far more than your duty, you faced death to protect those you love, and that goes well beyond any requirement to king or city. Thinking of you alone on that pass, preparing to face death, makes me long to have been there to tell you so before you fell. Trying to picture you now, sitting in your tent with the rain falling outside, writing by lamplight, sharing your thoughts. Want to be there, hear the words, ask the questions.
I am very proud to know you, Fin. Your friendship honours me.
My love to Háran.
PS. I have a book you might like - something you could read beside the fire while everyone else is talking and playing games. It’s called Gods and Goddesses of Harad and is by Athradon, a merchant who trades with the mortal cities to the south. He has made several trips into the east to purchase silks and spices from the Haradrim. This book was the one that first sparked my interest in their culture and beliefs. The illustrations are a little exaggerated, I suppose, but the artwork is very well done. The artist has accompanied him on several of his ventures and has a wonderful eye for detail. Just thought you might like to read it.
My mother used to call me Res.
To Do list
1. Avoid pre-breakfast hunt.
2. Confirm travel arrangements to Forlond naval base
3. Present request for budget increase re naval rations to his Majesty. Triple check motivation!
4. Encrypt request for confirmation of whereabouts: Balien, Celeborn, Elrond.
5. Include enquiry Balien re request for engineer. What happened this time?
6. Short note to Gildor, request information re orc movements. Enclose letter for Brennil
7. Final edits, essay, 'Haradaic Customs with Reference to the Role of Women in Society'.
8. Make peace with housekeeper re kitchen scraps for cats.
Not very tall. Eyes the colour of mountain water flowing over stones. Shining black hair. Yes, I remember you. I understand now why His Majesty was so easily persuaded to make his ruling about families moving to Imladris; you mentioned that you smiled a lot while explaining it to him, and you have an irresistible smile. We were introduced and then I was dragged off elsewhere before I had a chance to ask you to repeat your name. All this time I have been getting to know you without even realizing it. How very strange.
Strange in a good kind of way, of course.
There are few gifts more meaningful than a book that has been loved and well read, so thank you very much for sharing this with me. I like that I can guess at a few of your favourite parts, or possibly your favourite illustrations because the book falls comfortably open to those pages. I look forward to reading it over the next few evenings, but intend to ration myself carefully to make it last. There are very few books in Imladris, and I am already receiving hopeful glances from several directions. I enjoyed the introduction; they sound like a very interesting couple. I think I would like to travel some day.
Music, in answer to your question, was part of our education. We learned to read and write, we were taught the history of our people, we were exposed to art and music and trained to appreciate both and practice whichever came easiest. We were also free to pursue mathematics or the smith’s craft, and to study plants and trees. Alongside that, we had physical training, things like running, wrestling, archery, and swimming. Not sword work. Not when I grew up. We bore no weapons in Aman, not until shortly before the King was killed. Once we crossed the sea though, that became a major part of life. Once we settled in Vinyamar, everyone learned a defensive skill, and those of us with any aptitude trained intensively. We moved from paradise to war in a matter of years, from possessing eternity to knowing that life could be snuffed out at any time. Some adapted faster than others, some never adapted at all.
Poor Res. You asked about music and received a lecture on education in Aman. Yes, I play the harp, not brilliantly but with competence. However, our taste was more formal back then, nothing like the intricate, emotive tunes I have returned to. I suppose I could give Lindir the basics, but he will manage that well enough without me. I confess I prefer the current style to the extent that I would rather not risk imposing the structures of a bygone age on a boy who looks up to me and might be inclined to assume something is right simply because I say so.
Could you find out more about the goats for me? Despite Amalek’s growling on the subject, I feel that if they would do well here we should consider it, especially if the yarn is as popular as you imply, We need to be thinking beyond simple survival to having goods to offer for trade with Lindon and possibly other places in a few years from now. I asked Sael’s wife about it, and she says she has never owned anything made from goat’s hair (she used another name, which I now forget), but that it is wondrously soft and warm and takes dye well.
Talking about crops and livestock makes you a little homesick, doesn’t it? I noticed it in your letters occasionally and wondered if it was the place you missed, or being with your family? The way you describe it sounds rather as I hope Imladris will seem in a few summers from now. People can be unthinking sometimes, hence the less than sympathetic comments which you need to put down to ignorance and misplaced humour. I really like Mithlond and suspect I am a city person by nature, but Imladris has very quickly become my home. I miss Gondolin and Tirion purely for the people I loved and lost. Actually Tirion feels such a long time ago, it is almost like looking back on a beautiful but unlikely dream.
It might also be sailing a little close to the wind to make jokes about Sindar versus Noldor considering His Majesty’s family history. I find I am learning a very different way of looking at life and the world from my Sindarin companions, one which makes me a little less assertively Noldor these days, a lesson those who tease you would do well to learn.
Gondolin’s marriage trap went against my personal inclinations and nature, which is why I avoided it as best I could. I enjoy female company very much, but not in the way that would eventually lead to an eternal bond. I find attitudes have changed quite dramatically in the last thousand and a half years; at the time this type of honesty would have been ill-advised.
I can only hope the above in no way embarrassed you or left you feeling uncomfortable. Your own feelings on the subject are naturally unknown to me, but I have shared so much else about myself with you that I suppose it is only right that you have the full picture.
How did things grow in the dark before sun and moon? This question made me smile. My dear Res, I have no idea. Like you, I have to assume all things are possible through the power of the Mighty. Or something along those lines. All I can tell you is that we arrived in a land with plants and animals and a thriving elven population, many living within Melian’s girdle in Doriath, and at the time it never occurred to me to ask how this was possible. I do know that the Sindar told us the plants changed with the coming of the sun, and many things that had previously slept or not been visible, particularly insects, appeared shortly after.
There was a theory that the world had been bathed in light before, and that when it was withdrawn for whatever reason the flora and fauna that had depended upon it did not die but simply became dormant until the sun roused it again. Would that make any sense, do you think? It was fashionable in Gondolin and even before to mock at such concepts as Sindarin superstition, but perhaps they half-understood things we knew nothing about.
I went out with one of the patrols earlier in the week, crossing the Ford and riding almost as far as the nearest abandoned mortal settlement. We kept an eye for signs of Orc or other outriders of the Enemy and found nothing to cause concern save for a few wolf tracks that our Silvan tracker was quite convinced were unexceptional. We always include at least one Silvan elf with a patrol because their eye and sense for anything out of the ordinary in nature is far more accurate than our own. They have a connection to the land and all things in it that is almost uncanny. On the way back we stopped off at the winter pasture we have found for the cows, which offers a deep cave to give them shelter at night. They are all doing fairly well though they are a little thin due to the lack of grazing. The dry fodder that was stored up during autumn has all but run out, although their guardians did the best they could, and spring cannot come fast enough for them.
I came back to a scene of near disaster. The snow is melting, and the Bruinen has been flowing exceptionally fast for days, making enough noise to keep the lighter sleepers amongst us awake at night. While I was away the bridge, the only connection between the two sides of our settlement, was completely flooded. I barely had time to see to my horse before I was taken down to the crossing point, where the water had risen so high that it reached almost up to the first houses. We need to rethink how close we have built to the bank, perhaps use those houses for some other purpose and build further back and a good deal higher than the river.
You mentioned you were writing your letter on the terrace, and I quite enjoyed being able to picture you there. I am currently sitting on a fallen branch overlooking the water and watching Háran bark at a group of off duty warriors who are trying (with limited success) to anchor a simple rope bridge across the river. This will serve as a temporary measure until the waters subside, after which we can use the normal bridge again while Sael gets on with building a more permanent stone structure. I made some pretence at overseeing things for a while, but it was obvious that what I know about this work is probably dangerous so I retired gracefully, probably much to everyone’s relief.
I was thinking about your idea of combining fishing with me learning something about mountain climbing. I suppose anything too adventurous is out of the question while the war continues, but fishing on its own and a little exploration are easily arranged. Despite the terrible events unfolding about us, Imladris is still a haven of peace and safety. I look around and cannot believe we are in territory largely overrun by the Enemy. The snow still lies thick in the more sheltered corners of the valley, but otherwise it is beginning to melt. The mess is unsightly and will no doubt get worse as the mud spreads, but the sounds of voices calling one to the other and of children laughing underlines the all-pervasive sense of peace, confidence, and optimism for the future. Our warriors watch for us from the heights, all is well here in our hidden corner of Eriador.
What I am nervously building up to is a tentative invitation to you. If you are able to take time off from your work, would you consider coming out here for a visit? I can wax on about the wonders of Imladris for another two pages in an effort to persuade you, but there will be little you have not heard before and it can all be summed up in two words: please come. Partly because no one has a greater right than you to see what we have wrought here, so much of it having grown out of your interest and advice, and partly because Háran and I would so enjoy the chance to spend some time showing you all the things I have been writing about, and getting to know you better in person. Think on it, let me know. Please.
Finally, your closing words. Thank you, I will hold them in my heart. As I find I do you.
Chapter 10: Pleasure
To do list
Confirm delivery dried fruit, Forlond
2. Private note Cpt Balien re bridge building, ref Turin.
Meeting - Thalahir - after lunch.
Order oil for Imladris
Create schedule, start sorting files.
6. Rosemary and black pepper hair oil.
7. Price body lotion.
Take boots to be re-heeled.
9. Remember catnip!
10. Language exercises, 231 - 245. Irregular verbs, list 3, learn!!!
Where to start? I am so glad you liked the book. I hoped you wouldn’t think it strange that I sent my own instead of having a copy made, but there was no time – you would still be waiting for it. What you said about being able to see my favourite sections makes it more personal anyway, doesn’t it? Almost as though I was there to point them out to you (look, there’s the narwhale, and here’s the temple to the war god, decorated with skulls…)
I know you are interested in faraway places and was not surprised when you said you would like to travel when the opportunity presented. Since getting to know you, I have tried to imagine what it must be like to have a second chance at life, and I think I would want to experience as much as possible and try to make every minute count. Is that how it is for you?
The first group will soon be leaving for Imladris, all related to members of the garrison. Seven wives, eleven children, someone’s parents, in fact I think there are two sets of parents. (list will be enclosed) After a great deal of begging, combined with promises that Thalahir will keep my work up to date, I persuaded His Majesty to let me go along with them. For security reasons they will naturally have a well-armed escort, and he has seen fit to give me command of this. The warriors will join your force until Lord Elrond has decided where to deploy them, whereas I have permission to stay for a month, returning with the next courier. I would have liked longer, but I was grateful for what I could get. Pathenien is not very happy about it, but can hardly argue with the king.
When I made my case for being allowed to visit, I was careful to emphasize how useful it would be were I familiar with Imladris, and only mentioned your invitation in passing. However, His Majesty gave me a very long look before saying “You and Glorfindel have been corresponding for nearly a year now, right? Probably time to share a cup of wine, yes.” He has a reputation for being very perceptive, though I had no idea I was so transparent. I think I blushed, which is not a habit of mine.
We leave in just under a month, which should give me ample time to bring my work up to date, delegate various responsibilities, complete the requirements of the current section of my studies, and – possibly the most difficult – find someone to look after the three cats that live with me. We need to keep our luggage to a bare minimum, obviously, as we cannot risk passing through enemy territory with something resembling a trade caravan in size, but if Imladris has any urgent needs, we can transport far more than the regular courier can manage. That applies to any personal requests you might have, too. Send me a list.
It never occurred to me before that of course there was no enemy in Aman, no need for weapons. That’s fascinating. How did weaponry begin, how could you know where to start, what to make, how it would work? We are introduced to the sword, spear and bow when we are very young and concentrate on whichever best suits us, but your only use for knives or bows would surely have been hunting? To make the leap from that to using them as offensive weapons, and from the knife to the sword – how was that done? And I suppose the next obvious question would be - who taught the first elf to fight? And why?
I should warn you that I ask even more questions in person. You raise some interesting ones yourself, though. Dormant vegetation? Like spores and seeds, you mean? Buried in the ground, just waiting for heat and light to bring them to life? That sounds a little like something I had to learn by rote as a child, about how flowers sprung up beneath the feet of the Noldor as they marched into Middle-earth. Did that really happen? I always wondered. There is even a famous painting that purports to depict it, except the Noldor are all armed to the teeth and wearing really modern-looking clothing.
I suppose the insects that pollinate the plants slept too. And the bees, bees don’t come out when there is no sunshine, or at least they seldom do so because they use the sun to check their direction. Are there beehives in Imladris? If not, you really should look into doing something about that.
I have written to the head of the settlement at Lake Evendim, asking if they would be able to supply you with a few goats. I thought perhaps two males and six or seven females to start with? I took the precaution of first raising this with His Majesty, who suggested I send the letter in his name. This makes it somewhat less a request, and means you should have goats arriving as soon as is practical. He thinks it is a very good idea, and has even given me an item made of mohair to send to you. I think it must be a knee rug, but many people would drape it decoratively across a chest or over the back or arm of a chair.
When trade with the rest of the realm is finally possible, both this and basket work could prove very profitable for Imladris. I could easily have sold that chair bottom you sent me, and which I am passing off as a wall hanging. It has already received a great deal of interested comment. Of course, I would never part with it, for it is a gift from you and precious to me. My earlier idea of dying some of the reeds different colours still stands - I think it would prove very popular.
I wondered how the cows fared during the heavy winter you experienced, and was glad to hear they came through it well and that safe winter pasture was found for them. Did the elves who normally care for them remain out there as well, or were they left to fend for themselves? I suppose it would have been difficult for elves to find adequate shelter from the weather.
I recall you mentioned Sael thought it best not to start work on a permanent bridge until he could see the effects of the spring thaw on the river. Was there much damage? This seems to have been an exceptionally severe winter, particularly in Eriador, so perhaps flooding is not usual for the Bruinen. Hopefully, all will be well next winter. How long does Sael think it will take to build the stone bridge? Which reminds me – we will somehow need to get our carts down into the valley and possibly across the river. Will this be a problem?
I never expected you to notice me. I grew up thinking myself imminently forgettable, mainly due to the way I was teased about my hair being so dark. And of course I longed to have grey eyes like most of my friends – I suppose we all need to feel we fit in, especially when we are very young? Over time I realised some people, for good or ill, found my looks exotic, but l certainly never, ever expected you to notice, much less remember me. And thank you for what you said about my smile, I am smiling again now as I reread it.
When you get to know me better, you will find I do not embarrass easily. His Majesty feels very strongly about all kinds of intolerance, and his attitude has encouraged many people to rethink opinions they often took for granted all their lives. It gives me such pleasure to realize you finally have the freedom to live in the way that is truest to your heart. I know enough about the way things were in the past to be aware that I was truly blessed to grow up in a time and place where prejudice is officially frowned upon.
Of course prejudice still exists, and many elves, especially the older ones like my uncle, tend to be rather conservative. If, as often happens, I am asked when I plan to marry, I normally say I am still looking for my soul mate and leave them to draw their own conclusions. Courtesy aside, people are probably happiest not having to listen to the details of my mainly disastrous love life.
Looking forward to being in Imladris soon, and hope to hear from you before I leave. This will be a very long month.
Dear Res, with the beautiful smile and endless questions,
Háran and I are making a list of places and things we think will interest you during your visit. So far, we want to show you the looms and our first attempts at spinning and weaving, introduce you to the sheep, the cattle, our family of chickens that someone found wandering around a deserted farm, and take you to look at our beehive. Actually, beehives in the plural, as the bees swarmed and we now have two groups plus a wild colony at the far end of the valley. I notice you write about them with a great deal of warmth, so this news should give you pleasure.
Probably one of the first places you will see is our communal gathering place, grandiosely named the Hall of Fire (there was alcohol involved, of course), but more personal to me is the spot overlooking the river where I often go and sit when I write to you. We have a fine pool amongst the rocks if you are fond of swimming, and Háran will also want to point out his favourite vantage to watch for squirrels --- in other words, all those places I have spent months wishing I could share with you. To say I am thrilled that you will soon be here is an understatement
We spent the past month creating terraces on the north side of the valley, hard work but immensely satisfying. The north gets the best of the sun and is protected from the worst weather, plus it is relatively tree-free and covered mainly in little shrubby bushes and grass. The process has been fascinating to watch. First, steps had to be carved into the slope, then the sand had to be held securely in place with barriers made from split logs and the smooth, flat stones found along the river bank. The ground that will serve as paths separating the crops had to be stamped down, and then the earth in the future beds had to be turned over and cow manure, bat droppings, and the like dug in. Nothing containing leaves though. Leaves are bad. I have no idea why.
Water is a problem because it has to be brought up from the river in buckets, but an irrigation system is apparently next on Sael’s list. Whether or not all this effort proves successful is something we will only discover next year, which is when Amalek says the soil should be ready for us to start planting. He sends you his best regards, by the way, and looks forward to seeing you again.
If that all sounds rather detailed, perhaps you can guess how I spent the last few days? The division of labour is simple, civilians supply manure, sticks, stones and water, warriors dig. We were told with great sincerity that this was because no one wanted the valley’s protectors to feel they were being taken advantage of by having to haul water or chop wood. More likely, I suspect they thought digging was the kind of task best suited to the average warrior; uncomplicated and offering little room for confusion.
I put the list of those who will make up your party on the notice board in the Hall of Fire, and was almost trampled in the rush to read the names. You might be surprised at how many people look forward to making your acquaintance, not just Háran and me. Your part in making this all possible has resulted in you being thought of as quite a hero here. The fact that you will have charge of the escort has even served to reassure those concerned regarding matters of safety. Personally I feel it would have been wiser to set out during winter, taking advantage of reduced enemy activity, but that would have raised other, more practical problems. As long as your numbers are sufficiently intimidating, I am sure all will be well, and I have every confidence in you and those under your command.
The greens and blues in this knee rug (or throw, or whatever you feel it should be called) are quite beautiful. I had no idea it would be this warm, and Sael’s wife says it is strong and wears well, too. I need to ask around and see if I can find someone who knows about dyes. No matter the question, someone here usually has an answer. I liked your suggestion of wall hangings, screens and mats to trade, and of adding colour to the natural shade variations. When you are here we can talk more about this, and you can see for yourself what we have made for our own use thus far.
We are moving the cows down here from the high ground, and had to use branches and sand to give the trail a more secure footing. It seems to be working well, so we can do the same when you arrive with the carts. The project was unplanned, but two cows wandered off and were later killed by orcs who, as you will know, have a streak of gratuitous cruelty. This was very evident from what remained of the poor animals, and their caretakers were devastated. After some discussion, I decided we should try and bring them all down here. I suspect Sael thinks I lost my mind, but I think this is what you would do in my place.
So far there have only been minor mishaps, but the cows trust their minders and seem willing to follow them, and they are being moved in small groups of no more than four at a time. Once down the trail, we send them across the river into the safety of the valley. The much-discussed stone bridge is still a long way from completion, but the current one has been suitably reinforced with extra wooden beams and careful use of the rope you sent us earlier, and is more than adequate for carts and the occasional (rather confused) cow.
Talking about animals, we are having a problem with mice in the storage areas. None of us likes the idea of traps, and Lord Elrond said some time back that the best solution would be to bring in a few cats. That is how we managed things in Gondolin, although the method favoured there to control the size of the feline population would certainly never be employed here. Would you consider allowing a couple of yours or their extended family to join our community? You have my word they would be extremely well cared for, and I am sure Háran can be made to understand not to chase them. I have no idea what would be involved in transporting cats to Imladris, so please tell me if the idea is unworkable (or downright stupid).
Your questions are always unexpected and insightful, and I really enjoy them. Weapons in Aman? Well yes, we had spears and bows for hunting, though knives were more for carving wood or for skinning a carcass. Feanor it was who perfected the sword, and I can only assume he was moved by one of the Valar, perhaps Aulë, to do so. As the days grew darker, some of the highest born began to wear them as symbols of strength and status, although there was no thought of using them to bring harm to another. At least, so I believe. Certainly my friends and I had no thought of killing back then, it was outside of our experience.
It was probably a different matter for the Valar. I believe they better understood the approaching darkness, but lacked the terms that would explain it to us, prepare us. It was only after Alqualondé that we all knew just how much damage a sword could cause. As for fighting, once we had crossed the Ice, those with natural talent taught their skill to those who were willing to learn. And so it went on.
Flowers springing up under our feet? So they say, yes. But if I answer all your questions, there will be no need for you to visit. That one can wait for a time when we are sitting under the trees with the fish not biting. Remind me then, and I will tell you about our arrival in Endor, how it really was. Including the flowers.
Travel? Oh yes, one day when the war is over I would love to see Harad, and to visit the ice lands in the north that I hear so many strange tales of. Those two extremes are at the top of my list. I know you are curious about Harad, so perhaps I can persuade you to share that adventure with me? Something else to discuss one afternoon beside the river when we finally have the pleasure of sharing thoughts and wishes without the barriers imposed by distance and carefully chosen words on parchment. It might also be a good time to expand on your reference to romantic disasters. I admit to having had one or two of my own.
What would we like you to bring, besides our families? Well, more cloth if you can. Good needles for sewing. Vegetables, either seeds or young plants, would be very welcome. More oil, please, our supplies are running low again. And books, any books, would be greatly appreciated. What do I need? Another question perhaps best left to be answered in person.
Háran and I will be counting the days till we finally meet. Travel safely, Res. Take care.
Chapter 11: Family
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
In case you think I am already home -- no, my dear sister, still in Imladris. Of course, we have no idea if the first courier got through, so you may not know we are all effectively imprisoned here. A second messenger is being sent, and this time he will carry not just a report to His Majesty, but also news to family and friends. Lord Elrond said that as I hold a senior staff position in Mithlond (news to me, but not arguing), and as I meant to stay no longer than a month, he felt it only fair that I be allowed to add a personal letter to the package, a privilege extended only to the most senior members of the garrison.
I have no idea when next I will be able to write, so this could end up being quite long. Everyone else had to content themselves with a few lines in a general communication, which will be shared amongst families and friends once His Majesty has seen the report. I doubt individual messages would be copied out and forwarded, so I suppose people will have to come to the palace to read the few words in a familiar hand saying ‘I am well, do not be concerned’.
Where to begin? The journey across Eriador was as uneventful as the personalities involved allowed. In other words, there were any number of small dramas, but they were the kinds that happen when families travel together and soon blew over. However, we were attacked by a well-armed orc band when we were less than a day’s ride from the Ford, and it was quite a scramble in the end to get here. We would have struggled to fight them off had not Lord Elrond and some of his men also been on their way to pay a rare visit to Imladris. We took a few injuries but no one was killed on our side – cannot say the same for the orcs.
We arrived in a confusion of carts, horses, over-excited children and angry cats – did I mention before I left that Fin told me Imladris badly needed cats to keep the rodent population in check? I had told him I was trying to find someone to feed Nutmeg and her (now half grown) kittens, and this seemed the perfect solution all round. And yes, I can hear you saying they could fend for themselves for a month or two, but she got used to me feeding her, the kittens never knew any different, and Fin promised they would be cared for, not just left to live wild.
In any event, Lord Elrond’s warriors had to help us get the carts down the only possible path, which is literally cut into the side of the gorge. The way is incredibly steep and treacherous, with a series of sharp bends overlooked by watch stations so that no enemy could pass down unnoticed. Some places had been prepared for us with the addition of branches and sand over the trail’s loose gravel, but even so, everyone had to walk, the animals had to be led, and in places the carts had to be almost physically carried. One cart lost a wheel, and two of the younger members of our party deserted us when they caught sight of their father at one of the watch stations and climbed up to join him.
As we moved lower, we caught glimpses through the trees of the river far below. There is one bend that offers a brief, spectacular view through to the valley that opens off the gorge and which is otherwise invisible, and that was where I had my first real sight of Imladris. Broad sweep of forested hills enclosed within the mountain’s rocky embrace, patches of planted fields, the terraces Fin told me about already extending up one slope, sunlight glinting on swift-flowing water.
The trail took us through trees and over a stream on what I found later was a temporary bridge originally put in place for the cattle and left there for us. Further down the stream fell away in a narrow ribbon of silver water to meet the river below, while the trail itself narrowed to little more than a track with rock on one side and a sheer drop on the other. Then we rounded the final bend and came abruptly out onto a stretch of rough grass leading up to a hodge-podge of structures built against the wall of the gorge. Most of the garrison and others who were clearly civilians waited to greet us, including one young man who was unaware his promised had petitioned His Majesty (who would deny it but is a romantic) for permission to join her love and start their life together in the east. The expression on his face when first he saw her is something I will never forget.
And behind them, waiting so that reunions would not be constrained by the necessary formality between himself and Lord Elrond, was Fin. He stood straight and tall, his hair glinting gold in the sunlight, and was dressed all in grey.
After a moment I remembered my training, found the duty officer, and handed my men over to him. Predictably, he wanted a full report of our encounter with the orcs, with details about strength, weapons, and the like. Some things are best dealt with now rather than later, so I asked for pen and parchment, found a convenient rock to sit on, and got on with it. While I was busy with this, I could see Lord Elrond and Fin talking, then going over to look at the horses that had pulled the carts and would remain in Imladris.
Everything looked slightly unreal, and I found it hard to concentrate. The air was filled with the sound of the Bruinen leaping down rocks on its way through the gorge, and a myriad rainbows sparkled in the spray above the waterfalls - you can see them from the trail, and Fin told me later the Silvans call this the Valley of Rainbows. People were all over the place, necessities were being unpacked from the carts, and I knew I should be helping. When a voice behind me said ‘Res?’, I’m afraid I jumped. Yes, still good at embarrassing myself. I rose and looked up – quite a way up, I had forgotten how tall he is – and Fin and I just stood there smiling at one another until finally he said, “Welcome to Imladris,” and we both started laughing because it was such an unoriginal greeting.
We talked while I finished the report, then he took me over to greet Sael, who had his son, Lindir, with him. Next I was introduced to a crowd of people who I later recalled as a jumble of faces, skills, names and former homes – most were from Ost-in-Edhil. I did a lot of smiling and nodding and wondered if a month would be enough time for me to memorize everyone’s names. It turns out that, thanks to circumstances beyond my control, I need not have worried. I will be here more than long enough.
The Enemy’s forces arrived nine days later. Lord Elrond feared he had been followed, I was sure my party had led them here, but Fin and Arasiel, his de facto second in command, both insisted this had been coming for a while, and that the disappearance of the cattle may have been the final clue to Imladris’ existence. An entire army is now camped above the valley: orcs, men (yes, Easterners too), and other creatures that no one can name for certain, although there are riding wargs and I have heard wolves calling after dark. Their outriders came in the quiet time before dawn, but there have been watchers on the high ground since the valley was first settled, so we were warned and the entrance to the gorge was successfully held against them.
For now, we are at an impasse; they cannot reach us down here, but equally it would be impossible for us to mount any kind of an attack up such a steep incline. Our warriors know every inch of the gorge, and, once the first few attempts to send orcs down the cliff ended in instant death, they stopped trying to breach us. The trees also keep their own vigil, and nothing will escape their notice. They know this valley is a place of refuge and have chosen to accept elves as part of their world. We are cut off from the outside, living out our days in a place that, despite the circumstances, still feels distanced from war and fear. Sometimes when the air is still and the river calm, we can hear them high above us, and at night we see and smell their cooking fires. Otherwise we remain as separate as though we lived in different countries.
Lord Elrond worries that Eriador is now without defense, but with the majority of Sauron’s soldiers on the high ground above us. I suspect the rest of Eriador is probably a safer place than it has been for some time. I am more concerned that feeding all these extra mouths might prove problematic later, as Imladris is not yet fully self sufficient and had been supplementing the little it produces with what could be found in the surrounding countryside. Fin has already introduced rationing, and food is being preserved and stored for winter. Hopefully the siege will have been lifted before then.
I wanted to take my turn watching, but as I do not know the area, it will be a while before I am more than a liability. Where I have been more useful is as a climber. Fin suggested I try some of the sheerer sections of the gorge to see how far I could get and where additional surveillance is necessary. He even joined me on a few of the simpler climbs, which was not what either of us had in mind when we discussed mountaineering. I get the impression he prefers his feet on the ground though, so perhaps we will stick to fishing when he has time.
Otherwise, life goes on almost normally. Not that anyone here is blind to the horror camped literally above us, or to the cold twist of fear at the thought that soon, very soon, Sauron might turn his attention towards Lindon itself, but there is nothing more we can do except watch, wait and prepare for winter.
There are more hands available for field work now the garrison no longer patrols beyond Imladris, so farming activity has increased. New fields are being cleared to lie fallow like the terraces until next year, and the garrison’s kitchen garden, a long strip of vegetables and herbs growing in the arable soil above the river, is weeded and checked for parasites daily. Most of the vegetables originated from seed I sent out here, which makes me feel a part of all this, even though I am so newly arrived. There are vegetable patches over the river, too, in the village, barley grows on hill slopes along with flax and oats, while the cows and sheep each have their own pasture. It feels almost like being back home if you ignore the orcs.
I have my own ‘room’, despite the lack of space and my willingness to share one of the communal tents, each of which is home to eight warriors. Now that there are houses across the river, some of the cliffside shelters have fallen vacant. Most were commandeered by the senior ranks, but there were a couple being used for storage, and one of these was transformed into a sleeping space for me. Picture a shallow cave, bare rock walls on two sides with a screen of branches and hide dividing you off from the next occupant. The front is enclosed in similar fashion, a leather door flap opens onto a broad, stone ledge with twelve steps cut ladder-like into the cliff, leading from the ledge down to the ground. Quite a contrast to my room in the palace, I know, but I am very comfortable.
I have woven hangings to brighten the walls with their blues, reds and greens, and a drawing of the main waterfall, a gift from Fin. There is a reed mat on the floor, and my bed has a collection of covers that range from a thin summer blanket to my good cloak. Fin says if I am still here in winter, I can have his bearskin. In the morning I open the door and lie in bed listening to the river and the birds, the sounds of breakfast cooking for the garrison, and the horses whickering further down river. Háran comes looking for me if I am slow to leave my nest; he sits at the foot of the steps and barks. I think Fin sent him the first few times, but it grew into a habit. Once I go out and say good morning, he is satisfied and leaves.
By the time I went to bed on my first day here, I had already met nearly half the community as many still cross the river for the evening meal in the Hall of Fire (a fancy name for the communal hearth), and then spend an hour or two before going home. We were given a welcoming feast on the third night: roast boar and goose, potatoes, summer squash and a selection of greens, plus a dessert made from a kind of cake topped with berries and served with cream and a drizzle of honey. The fire was built up after we finished eating, the wine was sent round, and we sat talking and occasionally singing till the moon was low in the sky. I heard Lindir sing then for the first time, and Fin was right, he is an exceptional talent. When things are back to normal, perhaps he could spend a few years in Mithlond for training. I can ask His Majesty, if his parents agree.
Fin joined me after dinner, though of course Lord Elrond and Arasiel sat beside him during the meal. Because of the music, we listened more than we talked, and it was so like the evenings he had written me about that we could not help but glance at one another every so often and smile. His eyes sparkle - you can tell he is smiling even if his face is still or half-hidden in shadow. When I met him in Mithlond I thought he seemed grave and serious, which I suppose one expects of a reborn hero, but although he can seem a bit reserved at times, he is as warm and friendly as his letters. From the start I felt as though we had known one another for years.
You might wonder how I cope with having nothing to do after years of always being busy, but in fact there is an unwritten rule here that everyone pitches in and helps wherever they can. My main achievement so far has been to create a corner in the Hall of Fire for the books I managed to beg and borrow before I left Mithlond. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the idea caught on, more books have quietly appeared and been added, and one shelf has already been extended to two. Lord Elrond jokes that we have the beginnings of our library, though if the siege continues for any length of time we may need to write our own books if we wish it to grow.
Fin introduced me to the sheep, all of whom seem to have names (as I suspected), and we rode down the valley to the cow pasture where I got to meet their Silvan herders. They have claimed their own, more traditional, space within Imladris and even sleep on covered platforms in the trees, a thing I have heard of but never seen before. I love the ambience of their corner of the valley, and how at one they are with the natural world. I will never learn to connect with trees and animals as absolutely as they do, but I would love to try. As a first step, I am trying to learn their dialect which pre-dates and is very unlike Sindarin.
I have also spent quite a lot of time with Amalek– you will recall him from home and that I told you about arranging for him to come here and advise on farming methods. Did I mention that his wife, one son, a daughter, their partners and children came through with us to join him? It was all arranged at the last minute, and I was quite surprised His Majesty was so agreeable to it. Mortals cannot be apart as long as we can, their life span does not allow for it, and I suppose he had that in mind when he gave his consent.
In any event, he (Amalek) seems to feel I might remember something about farming from my youth and has spent days showing me around and explaining what has been done and what he would like to attempt in the future. I get the impression Fin’s quaint idea that warriors should be out hunting orcs rather than working the land puzzles him. I suspect Amalek sees the current surplus of available labour less as a calamity than a gift god-sent (goddess-sent?) and is taking full advantage of the situation. His main project at the moment is a channel to carry water to the cattle as there are only a few places along the bank where the river is shallow enough for them to drink. He and Sael are also discussing a complex-sounding irrigation system.
I never had a chance to meet Lord Elrond socially in Mithlond, but Imladris is not a place that stands much on formality. I find him extremely interesting and very easy to talk to. He dismisses his reputation as a master of lore as the result of his family being central to so many of the tales of elder years. He says that, having grown up without knowing much about them, he did a lot of reading once he joined His Majesty’s household, that he quite enjoys history, and has a good memory for obscure facts. All in all, he maintains he is probably well-informed by accident rather than design. I have my own opinion on the subject.
You would never think he had spent so little time in Imladris, he fits into the ways of the valley as though he had been here from the beginning. He visits the village across the river several times a week, is getting to know the people, and seems to take an interest in everything. He and Fin have struck up a really good rapport, and where there might have been conflict over authority and responsibilities, they came to a quick and easy accord. Fin continues to oversee the day to day business of garrison and settlement, but he never overlooks nor allows anyone else to overlook the fact that Lord Elrond is master of this valley, that he holds it in the king’s name and that he is Gil-galad’s heir. I doubt though that anyone would dispute who controls the garrison, which has increased dramatically in size with the arrival of him and his men.
Lord Elrond also has the gift for healing, something given to only a few of us. Healers do not normally go to war, nor do warriors try to heal as the energies are at odds with one another, so he has put aside this skill until after the war. Of course, in the absence of a true healer, he still does what he can to aid the wounded. Only two healers travel with the army, one with the main group who are now here in Imladris, and the other moves from one scouting party to the next as the need arises. Yet another reason why Lord Elrond being trapped here bodes ill for operations against the enemy. I hope the captains of those small groups currently spread out across the province obey their standing orders when they realise what has happened and head back to Lindon.
That puts me in mind of Captain B, about whom I am more worried than I like to admit, even to myself. I really hope that he and Thalahir are getting along. We had a good relationship and I developed a sense for when he was about to do something --- imaginative and potentially dangerous. This is the thing I find most difficult about the current situation - I enjoy my job, I do it to the best of my ability, and I worry about whether the people I looked after are all right, if Thalahir will ever care about them on the same level that I do --- I feel as though I am letting them down by disappearing like this. Stupid I know, there are others far more competent than I on His Majesty’s administrative staff, but I feel as though I have walked away from them.
Fin understands. In fact, I think we are as alike in that way as we are in others. He makes commitments to people, not causes, and feels his responsibilities deeply and personally. He says it was not always so, but I think maybe it just took that lonely stand on the pass for him to finally see what was truly important. He is as I remembered him in looks, and in person he is exactly the same as in his letters, except in person I can see the way a smile starts first in his eyes, hear his laugh, and have a sense of his strength, both physical and mental.
He has been the centre of this valley from the beginning, and while Lord Elrond is already well-liked and respected, people are used to coming to Fin with even the smallest problem. He always seems to find time, and if he does not understand something at first, he asks questions until he does. His enthusiasm for Imladris is boundless and at times makes him seem very young, despite his age and having experienced death and rebirth. I had trouble remembering his voice as we had barely spoken before - it is light and clear, but strong too, and he still speaks with the accent I associate with Gondolin. A good voice for reading aloud or reciting ancient poetry. A good voice for late night conversations beside an almost deserted hearth, coals glowing in the gloom, the sounds of wind and river whispering outside.
When I first told you I was attracted to men rather than women, you were so unsurprised and accepting that I think I probably forgot to thank you. You have been the best sister anyone could ever hope for. There are so many others like me who never had that kind of support, never knew what it was like to be able to share dreams, desires and youthful crushes. You told me once that dreams do sometimes come true, though not always as we imagine them, and it seems once more you were right. Sometimes reality can far outstrip imagination - I certainly never imagined anything quite like the turn my life has taken.
Only time will tell if this is forever for Fin or for me, but right now it is all new and overwhelming and feels very right. We compliment each other very well, in our likes and dislikes, when we talk or when we are silent, when we kiss --- yes, there has been a kiss. Or two. And yes, I am about to confide in you yet again.
The first was as perfect as I suppose only first kisses can be. We had already gone riding down the valley several times, following the little trails that have started to form through the trees and along the river bank, but this time Fin suggested we leave the horses behind and the three of us, him, me and Háran, go for a hike. We started early in the morning, and Fin brought food along for us. The siege was already an established fact, and he had faith enough in Arasiel to leave command of the garrison to her for the day. We crossed the river, went past the houses, then followed a stream that branched off the Bruinen into the forest. Háran went on ahead, barking to let us know when he found something interesting, sometimes falling back to see what was taking us so long.
We took out time, talking as we went and making regular stops along the way, Fin even tried (unsuccessfully) to make friends with a frog. Birds sang, the sun slanted down through the trees, the air carried the scents of chestnut and honeysuckle, ramsons and the sweet briars that compete with the brambles for space, leaf rot and early summer’s green growth. It would have been idyllic had we not suddenly heard, faint on the air, the sound of rough speech from somewhere far above us.
Strange how fast you can start taking something for granted, after less than two weeks I sometimes almost forgot they were there. I saw Fin glance up once or twice, determining our position in relation to the high land, and once he was sure the orcs were no closer than they ought to be and that we were well out of sight, he smiled and nodded to me. After that, we ignored them.
Near midday, we came across a sun-dappled clearing amongst the trees. A small stand of beeches grew near the water, their trunks silver green and silky to touch and eye, while an ancient oak spread his branches low and inviting. Between them lay a patch of soft, flower-studded grass, while close to the stream grew purple irises and a dark green carpet of ramsons. A huddle of cowslips, strayed from the beginnings of a meadow, nodded beneath a beech.
We had picked some of the tiny, sweet strawberries that grow over tree roots and along the bank, and added these to the meal Fin had packed: fresh bread, a tiny jar of sweet oil, shavings of cheese (which we brought from Mithlond, although we plan to start making cheese here), tomato, fennel, little honeyed oatcakes, gooseberries, a handful of nuts, and a flask of wine, pale gold, tasting of sunshine. Simple fare, but satisfying.
Háran saw us settled and then went off on one of his eternal quests for slow squirrels, and we joked about what he might do were he to catch one. The cats had been a harsh surprise, a lesson swiftly learned. We shared our feast, talking and laughing between mouthfuls. Fin toasted me with our second cup of wine, saying that I am good for him, that he was too serious before. He touched his cup to mine, looking into my eyes, and the kiss happened without forethought, without the insecurity that comes with anticipation. The world went on unnoticed, his arms were round me, he was warm and strong, his mouth tasted of summer wine and honey.
We kissed, we stopped to look at one another, we kissed again, my arm about his neck, his hand in my hair. I have no idea where things would have gone from there had Háran not come charging back barking, making us separate, laughing at his timing. We talked after that, leaning together with Fin’s arm around me, sharing wine and small kisses. We agreed in the end on two things, that we would move slowly with this, take time to get to know one another properly, and that some things, like our meeting, are plainly meant to be.
And that is probably far more information than you ever wanted or needed about your brother’s love life.
I take life one day at a time, as do we all here. The siege will last for as long as it lasts, and after that I will have to see what life brings, whether or not I can persuade His Majesty to let me remain. Meanwhile, the cats are doing well and have made a whole host of friends, and I am settled, well and, despite my concerns for the darkness that surrounds us, happy. I try very hard not to worry too much about you. I tell myself the wandering companies have roamed since the days of Fingolfin’s kingship, that you will all have gone where it is safe, that most probably you have crossed into Lindon and enjoy the High King’s protection. As I have no way of knowing for sure where you are or what you are doing, this is what I choose to believe. Were you truly in danger, I think I would know.
Take care, dearest Brennil. Walk in light and safety, be your sweet, free self, and never let anyone force you to conform to their idea of what makes a lady.
Beta: Red Lasbelin
Special thanks to Erfan for always having the answers and to Red for talking, listening, and hand-holding.
Won First Place in Races: Elves: Featuring Glorfindel or Erestor in the Middle-earth Fanfiction Awards 2009.