Packed to the rafters with grim-faced lords, captains and potential heroes, Barad Eithel waited impatiently for the Midsummer signal from Maedhros to join battle against the forces of Angband. Neither an enemy army nor the signal fire had yet materialised, what arrived instead was a breathless messenger for the king to tell Fingon the unthinkable: Gondolin had answered the call to arms. Even as they crowded onto the battlements, looking instinctively to the south, they heard the single sounding of a horn – faintly in the distance, not sufficiently brazen to arouse the Enemy’s suspicions, but it was enough.
“My brother’s hunting horn,” Fingon said quietly, wonder battling relief in his face. “He came. How did he even know...?”
But of course, they all knew Maedhros had his ways, seldom discussed with outsiders. Gildor kept quiet rather than imply there may be forces at work Fingon knew nothing about, which was likely to lead to one of their more acrimonious family discussions. Fingon, who must have guessed what he was thinking, gave him a searching look that went straight back to their childhood before choosing him – the irresponsible cousin whose lone journeys through unguarded lands had been the cause of more than one argument - to go and pass along the order of battle to the King of Gondolin.
Gildor urged the horse along as fast as the small trails and near invisible animal tracks on the lower slopes of the Ered Wethrin allowed. He was tense, alert, and the horse had caught his mood and needed a firm hand and some soft talking. Where the trees thinned he could see Anfauglith, the Gasping Dust, and was uncomfortably aware that if he could see the desert stretching brown and bare into the east and north to the towering mass of the Ered Engrin, an enemy might see him in turn.
The woods were quiet, yet there were thousands of elves concealed among the mountain’s foothills. He had been stopped briefly several times by small companies, waiting, ready and looking south for the beacon that would call them to action. Even the smoke that rose in the north, darkening the air, could not quell their sense of expectation at Maedhros’ promise of a last chance to break the dark power that lurked beneath Thangorodrim’s fastness.
He skirted the Fen of Serech until the slope grew too steep and he was forced down to the ill-omened stretch of land that lay between him and the Pass of Sirion. The fen sprawled ominously around him, a place of marshy wetness overgrown with dull reeds and misshapen trees, the ground permanently swamped by the overflow from the Sirion and Rivil. He went slowly now, for the horse’s safety. He let her pick her way, lifting feet delicately out of the damp squelch with an attitude of distaste that made him smile. A misstep in one of the bogs and there’d be a broken leg to worry about, a threat more immediate than the irrational fear of hostile eyes capable of watching him from distant Thangorodrim.
Shaking the feeling as best he could, he supposed there were worse ways to spend a summer’s day, like waiting in the midst of all that pent-up tension for a signal that was a long time coming. He turned the horse’s head towards his destination, a thicket of tall trees with dark, needled leaves that kept their colour year round, and caught a glimpse through jagged branches across the scarred wasteland of the Anfauglith. Nothing moved, only the smoke billowing above Thangorodrim. Somehow he found the absence of life more unsettling than a stray Orc company that might or might not spot him and report his presence.
He wondered how much Morgoth knew, or guessed. He could not believe the waiting stillness had not spoken to the Iron Lord. Still, perhaps Fingon was right; perhaps the smoke was meant only as a threat to the forces Maedhros was bringing openly down from Himring.
Nearing the edge of the Fen, he shifted the shaft that was hooked through a ring hastily stitched to the edge of his war saddle, unfurled the High King’s banner and set it up against his shoulder. It was time to announce himself. The trees closed around him as he guided the horse towards the gash between the Ered Wethrin and the Crissaegrimm, which opened into the Pass of Sirion, a broad ravine where the already mighty Sirion flowed swift and urgent along the side of the Ered Wethrin. It was unnaturally still under the trees, with no sound but his horse’s hooves and the rush of water. He had heard one or two fluted whistles as he crossed the corner of the Fen, but realised abruptly there was no birdsong. What did the Sindar warriors, veterans of these lands say? Look for the thing that is not there.
They seemed to materialise out of the trees, half a dozen archers with arrows aimed steadily at his chest, their unfamiliar armour partly covered by black tunics bearing an emblem he had not seen before, an arrowhead in a circle of purple. Gildor shrugged, smiling to himself. No use in having a sentry who was too quick to call ‘friend’. He shook the banner a little so that a stray sunbeam caught it and the silver on the device sparked back like a lone star.
“Well met, men of Gondolin,” he said easily, keeping the horse still with firm hands and grip of knee. “The High King sent me to greet his brother, your king, and tell him our plans. My name is Gildor, Lalwen’s son. Could someone take me to my cousin, please.”
They had taken advantage of the cover offered by the pines and set up camp both there and for some distance along the Pass. The layout of their camp was unlike anything Gildor had ever seen, with rows of neat shelters outside the Pass, each grouped around a more elaborate tent with an emblem displayed out front. He had a brief look at these as he was ushered along to the Pass itself, where he found a small mobile city with the same grouped shelters, a smith’s station, a kitchen, and Turgon’s impressive tent set up a short distance from the mouth. Everyone looked busy and everyone seemed to know where they belonged.
His interview with Turgon was just that, an interview, not a reunion, because the king was surrounded by his lords and very much on his regal dignity. Turgon had always been touchy about people taking him seriously, the grave boy who worried too much had grown into a man who liked to have control of his surroundings. With Elenwë no longer there offering her fierce but practical support, the intervening years and sole authority had entrenched these traits. Gildor, who had teased him mercilessly in their youth, resisted the urge to tweak his tail to see if a blood relative and emissary of the High King might still get away with it. Later he was glad he had listened to his instincts.
Once this was over, he went for a walk. His horse needed a rest, it was getting late, and Turgon had no problem with him staying overnight if he could find a corner out of the way of camp business. The Pass was really too narrow for what was being asked of it and in places he was close to walking in the river, so after a look at some of the more intriguing emblems on display and greeting a few familiar faces, he set off back to the forest where he had left his horse. Somehow the gorge with its mountain-high walls felt over-full and airless.
There was one spot just beyond the entrance to the Pass that offered a breathless view of forested mountains, the fen drying abruptly into ugly thorn scrub that faded in turn into desert, and in the distance the hovering horror of Thangorodrim, the tallest peaks in the world. The smoke had grown heavier. He remembered Sudden Fire and shivered.
A group of warriors were stacking long poles against the rock and as a distraction he stopped to watch, intrigued. Someone behind him said, “The sticks are for a barrier if we need to hold the Pass. If that’s what you were wondering.”
There was no need to turn, he recognised the voice at once. “You brought sticks all the way from Gondolin?”
The laugh that followed could best be described as grimly amused. “Oh yes. That’s a specialised unit, they carry the sticks with them and are in charge of building and manning a barricade if one’s needed. Not that it would slow an Orc down much, but it’s the idea of a barrier, a line to defend, that matters.”
Gildor thought about this. “It’s all – very organised,” he conceded at last. “Not very elven, or at least not like the usual way of doing things, but efficient.”
“We spent years practicing putting up a camp in all kinds of terrain, taking advantage of the lie of the land while still keeping a shape we’d all recognise. In theory I should be able to reach the smith with his replacement armoury with my eyes closed.”
“And can you?” Gildor turned, meeting blue eyes and a half smile under a shining mane of golden hair.
“Oh, I doubt it,” Glorfindel admitted cheerfully, “but there’s no need to share that bit of information with anyone. I hardly believed my eyes when I saw you ride up, for all the world as though you were on a holiday outing, but then I thought, well, who else would they send?”
“Sent, yes,” Gildor agreed, grinning. “Not a volunteer. The joys of family.” His eyes were searching as he spoke, looking for marks of change after more than three hundred sun years locked away from the world. All he could tell was Glorfindel looked older, not in his face but around his eyes, in the firmer set of his mouth.
“See anything interesting? Tattoos, extra orifice?” Glorfindel finally asked politely.
“No, nothing worth gossiping about. Same old Findel, tall, blond and blue eyed. Is that your emblem, the flower?” he asked, pointing to the design on Glorfindel’s chest.
“House of the Golden Flower, yes. Turgon divided us into twelve houses for his twelve senior lords and gave each a name that appealed to him.”
“Golden Flower.” Gildor mused on this. “And...?”
“Oh, the Swallow, the Lute, the Arch....”
Gildor stared, waited.
“No one wanted to question the process too closely.” Glorfindel dropped his voice when he said this, then placed a hand too casually on Gildor’s arm. “Come on, I’ll show you where they have me and there’s a few people you’ll want to say hello to again. When do you start back?”
“Káno never said turn straight round and come back, so I asked if I could stay till morning, give the horse a rest, not deal with the fen side of the mountain after dark. That place has already claimed enough lives.”
Glorfindel glanced at him. “You still call him Káno, even though he’s High King now?”
Gildor shrugged. “Blood is blood, I’ve been calling him that all our lives. Don’t worry, my instincts are still good. I managed to avoid calling your king anything other than Cousin.”
Glorfindel sputtered with laughter then pulled his face straight. “Good instincts yes. As always. Here’s Galdor - you remember one another, right?”
Glorfindel had a tent, which meant an amount of comfort, not just a shelter from the elements. He also had a horse, the right of commanders, messengers and the king’s guard. He walked Gildor down the lines of shelters housing the men of the House of the Golden Flower as though presenting them for inspection while asking general questions about things in Hithlum and those friends and relatives they had in common. No one he met asked him anything potentially controversial, possibly to avoid him reciprocating. He let it go. If the signal fire stayed unlit, there would be more time later to invade people’s privacy.
Dinner was a very civilised affair with the king, his lords and senior warriors. It all felt a little surreal, sitting on the grass beside the river eating something he identified as a quail while a harpist played and sang and the dull red light from Thangorodrim kissed the northern sky. There was even wine and fresh baked bread, which was more than he’d seen the previous day at the fortress where all energies had gone into final preparations for the army and meals had been an informal business that involved hopeful visits to the kitchen.
He made polite conversation, laughed at Turgon’s little jokes, avoided making any of his own, and tried unsuccessfully to read the faces around him. The questions he kept for later, for Glorfindel.
After dinner and a walk through the camp, Glorfindel had a few questions of his own.
“Where’s Maedhros? Midsummer, that’s what we were told and you’ve confirmed. Shouldn’t we be moving by now?”
They were a short climb above the camp, sitting on a flat rock that offered a view of the desert and the Ered Engrin during the day. There was another, broader ledge below that was being utilised as a watch station. The stone was still sun-warm and he noticed Glorfindel sat with his back up against the cliff as though drawing in heat. “He said he’d be ready at Midsummer, said it over and over – I was present for about half the meetings. But things happen, people don’t always fit with what’s on paper, they’re slower to move into position – it could be any number of things. I don’t like his Easterling allies much myself, there’s more likely to be bickering going on there than anything else. Maglor loathes the bunch of them.”
“Still talking then, are you? After everything.”
Glorfindel sounded amused. Gildor leaned a little closer, not wholly accidentally, and their arms brushed. “We always got along, I like his vile sense of humour. He makes more sense than most, doesn’t trot out excuses. I respect a pragmatist. So anyhow, yes, this should have begun already but tomorrow’s as good as today. I know it took us longer than expected to get ours in place among the foothills and out of sight. Doing that in full view of Angband wasn’t simple.”
Neither of them moved away, but neither of them moved closer either. “I can’t believe he doesn’t know,” Glorfindel said finally. “You can feel the world waiting, the trees are silent and there’s hardly a bird in sight.”
“They’re coming back slowly,” Gildor said, “but yes, I was thinking the same on my way here. The quiet before the storm - or during it, that moment when the wind drops just before it takes the roof off your house.”
Glorfindel huffed soft laughter. “Yes, probably. All we can do is be ready – and we are. Manwë knows, we’ve had nothing else to do but prepare for something like this, we should be quite good by now.”
Gildor tried to find a careful way to ask the obvious. “You’ve spent all this time perfecting the army then?”
“Everyone not a vital artisan has to train – you see the result here. I have less time for it than my second, being head of my House means I have other responsibilities. But we all train, we all patrol, we all take our turn at watch on the gates and in the mountains.”
Whether this was a good thing or not was impossible to tell from his expression or tone, and they were too close to the makeshift watch station for Gildor to press it. Instead he moved them to safer ground. “How’s your mother? It must be hard for her without your father.” Glorfindel’s father had been killed fighting shortly before Turgon’s people had left, a major battle that had decided many not originally of a mind to follow his dream.
“She has her garden, she entertains – it’s expected because I’m unmarried. She spends a lot of time alone though. Waiting to sense his rebirth over there... she says she’ll know.”
“They say that, yes.” Gildor remembered his friend’s cheerful, vivacious mother and suppressed a shiver. Not safer ground after all. “Idril? Tanis worries about her, even though Aredhel’s there to watch out for her.”
The expression on Glorfindel’s face was about as promising as it had been when they began this question and answer routine. “Idril is well,” he said finally. “She’s strong and beautiful and I am proud to call her cousin.”
“But? What’s Aredhel done now?” Aredhel had usually done something; it was a tenet of their growing years. And even if she hadn’t, she was easy to blame because her pride got in the way of declaring her innocence.
“I thought he would find a way to get word to Fingon at least,” Glorfindel said softly. “You mean no one knows?”
Gildor’s skin crawled with foreknowledge. “Apparently not. Can you tell me, or...?” He gestured just slightly with his head towards the watch station. Glorfindel followed his direction and pulled a face
“Aredhel’s dead,” he said quietly. “Long story. She left Gondolin – she was always headstrong, yes. There was a dark elf, a smith named Eöl. They married, had a son – I noticed he gave you no time to speak with Maeglin - and there was a falling out, so she came home.” He looked at Gildor. “Yes, I know. So far it’s almost predictable. Then it gets complicated. Eöl followed her. There was trouble, a confrontation. Aredhel took a poisoned dart meant for the boy.”
“He tried to kill his own son?” The evening went quiet around him as he looked at this new horror.
Glorfindel, who was keeping his voice low, put a hand firmly on his wrist to remind him to talk softly. “He told the boy to come with him, was enraged when he refused to leave his mother’s side. She would have been next, they say. He died for it, of course.”
Gildor could feel ears listening below and remembered belatedly they were talking about the king’s sister and nephew. “Artanis will be saddened by the news,” he said, bringing his voice up to a normal conversational pitch. “I’ll try and tell her myself, it’s better than a message from Fingon. She’s hard to find as a rule anyhow.”
“Not back in Doriath?” Glorfindel sounded surprised, also relieved to have help in turning the conversation. His hand still rested on Gildor’s wrist. “I’d have thought that the safest place right now.”
“They don’t take the safe alternative very often. Last I heard, they were off the coast on Balar. Tanis seems to like it there.”
“She has the Sight,” Glorfindel laughed. “Perhaps we should all relocate there. It might be the safest place on Endórë. You still call her Artanis? Isn’t it Alatarielnow? Or something along those lines? We still speak the Tongue at court but the new names we took seem to have stuck.”
“Galadriel, yes. I’m quite good about everyone else, but somehow it’s never suited her. It’s become a joke between us, even her husband’s amused by it, so no harm done.”
“I miss her,” Glorfindel said quietly. “It’s… Some of the people I was closest to stayed behind in Nevrast. I don’t think I understood what that would mean at the time. Anyhow. Where are you sleeping tonight, any idea?”
Gildor grinned. “I think it’s a matter of if I want to stay here, I need to look after myself and not get in anybody’s way.”
Glorfindel tried and failed to sound serious and outraged. “You’re blood kin to kings, the least he could do was throw someone out of their tent for you.”
“Are you offering to vacate yours?” Gildor asked, an eyebrow tilting rakishly.
“Not a chance, it would confuse my men if they came to me for orders and found some stray prince in my place.”
“Can’t have confusion on the eve of battle, no,” Gildor said, laughing. “I suppose yet another night under the stars won’t do me any harm. You’ll just have to find somewhere no one will trip over me. I’ll be out of your way tomorrow, it’s just for the night.”
Glorfindel was quiet for so long Gildor almost repeated the question without the humour, but then he turned, golden hair drifting like gossamer against Gildor’s arm, and blue eyes, grey under starlight, studied his face. “I could find you somewhere,” he said. “Or you could just share my tent. As you say, it’s only for the night.”
Glorfindel insisted on taking him along while he walked the rows where the men of the House of the Golden Flower – which sounded better in Quenya than it ever would in Sindarin – were camped, then pointed him towards his tent before going off to have a few words with his officers. Gildor made his way over to the command tent, still impressed in spite of himself by how well organised everything looked. He hoped the discipline would all hold up in battle, he had seen perfect veneers crack and splinter before.
He had also seen a lot more real combat than Turgon’s highly polished army. He tried not to let that make him too uneasy. They had come out of their hiding place unlooked for, a gift, and it was crass to assess a gift for flaws and try and estimate a price.
The tent was small inside and almost circular, made of a fabric that he failed to identify. It seemed a quite solid structure and even with the lamp lit offered a degree of privacy. There was a bowl of water for washing and most amazingly, fruit in a basket on a table where it shared space with a rolled parchment, presumably a map, and some writing utensils. A travel trunk lay beside the table, but Gildor restrained his curiosity and instead washed away the day’s dust.
There was space on the floor for someone to sleep should they wish, but no spare covers. He waited on the bed instead, relaxing for the first time in days atop warm furs, his head on a feather pillow. He thought Glorfindel’s campaign bed might be more comfortable than Fingon’s back in Barad Eithel.
By the time Glorfindel came in, he felt safe enough in the midst of Turgon’s army to be drifting towards sleep with disjointed, unhappy thoughts of Aredhel whispering at him. The door curtain opened letting in cool night air and then dropped back into place. Moving quietly Glorfindel divested himself of the lightweight half armour he wore, stripped to the waist, then went over to the bowl to wash. Lamplight caught his hair and made it glow soft gold as though lit from within and etched the lines of his body in light and shadow, finding an arm muscle, the length of him from midriff to thigh, shading his face into anonymity. Gildor became aware of himself watching as though from outside his body, seeing himself lying on the bed, the silent form at the basin, hearing the splash of water, the louder leap of the Sirion beyond the camp.
“I’ll sleep on the floor,” he said finally, quietly. “Just let me have a cloak if you can and I’ll be fine.”
Glorfindel hesitated and then continued washing selected areas, like a big cat. “I can do that, yes,” he said. “Sorry, I thought you were asleep. Tried not to wake you.”
“I should hope you’d wake me long enough to turf me out of your bed.”
Glorfindel turned away from him, reaching for the towel. The light showed the ripple of muscle under skin, gilded his hair now to pale, moonlit yellow. Gildor’s mouth went dry and there was a sharp stirring in his groin that was neither unexpected nor unwelcome.
“I have no problem with you being in my bed.” Glorfindel replied evenly, facing him, towel in hand. The lamplight flickered, steadied, outlined his sex hardening to fullness against his undergarment.
“Three hundred years,” Gildor said and his voice caught. He held out his hand and Glorfindel walked to him, dropping the towel, his hands busy with fastenings. He was naked when he reached the bed.
There was kissing, but less than when they were younger, less touched by the world. There was a lot of grasping and tasting, disconnected words, demands. Their bodies twisted and strained together as though in conflict, with harsh breathing, heated, sweat-filmed skin. Gildor had a moment of absolute clarity that afterwards stood out for him, defining the night: Glorfindel holding his head back with a hand twisted painfully in his hair, his mouth marking that place where neck meets shoulder, a knee shoved between his thighs and his erection grinding against Gildor’s stomach. Somewhere beyond their sobbing breath he could hear footsteps, soft horse-sounds, and the river.
The bed stood up to them well, absorbing the weight as they twisted and turned, first one on top, then the other. Gildor found his way down Glorfindel’s chest and abdomen to take his prick in his mouth, sucking hungrily, tasting familiar bittersweet musk, a hand on Glorfindel’s hip holding him still. There was some jostling and searching for dominance but Glorfindel decided it for them: they lay facing one another, kissing and gasping while his hand closed around them both, dragging them along the ragged edge of need and finally over.
They lay together, limbs twined, covers drawn tight against the night. Glorfindel had his head on Gildor’s shoulder, a hand roving casually over his body as though relearning it. “It’s been a long drought,” he said quietly, breaking the warm silence that had settled over the tent.
“No one over there?” Gildor asked, because it was what one asked. For years they had been close friends who drank and fought side by side, delighting in one another’s bodies when place and time allowed. There had been no promises, therefore no place for jealousies or pointed questions.
Glorfindel gave a brief laugh. “Oh no, no. Not a chance I’d take. There are rules about this as about everything else. I would need to be in love indeed to indulge in that amount of creeping around and hiding in shadows.”
“Actual rules rather than just social conventions? That’s a bit – extreme.”
“It’s a small city with a big population. There have to be rules.”
His voice was neutral and an instinct told Gildor not to push. Instead he stroked loose golden curls and listened to the night. After a while he asked quietly, “Aredhel. There was more, wasn’t there?” Fingon’s sister, his cousin, and Turgon had done nothing to let them know of her passing. He found it unbelievable, something that he must surely have misunderstood, though he knew he hadn’t.
Glorfindel’s hand continued its journey across Gildor’s chest, down his arm, around his waist where the skin was soft and sensitive. “Thel was there – you remember Ecthelion. He told me it was one of those rows between father and son. Eöl told the boy to come with him and Maeglin just stared at him, refused to answer, and he was furious and was shouting things about the boy having ideas above his worth and – Maeglin laughed at him. He threw the dart in anger, Thel said he doubted he realised what he was doing till it was too late. Aredhel tried to push her son out the way and it struck her. A family fight gone bad.”
Gildor moved his hand from the tangled hair to rub Glorfindel’s back and shoulder, keeping his touch gentle but firm. “She swore with her last breath he’d meant her no harm,” Glorfindel said against his shoulder. “Swore to Idril who told me. Said that he loved her, it had just been – one of those fights. And that Maeglin always defied him... Turgon had him thrown to his death - he killed Aredhel of the Noldor, nothing mattered after that, not his intent, not her dying wish... though Thel said Eöl had the look of a man who’d have sought the dark by his own hand had he been shown mercy.”
His arm tightened round Gildor and they stayed like that, without words, for a long time. Gildor’s hand had slowed and almost stopped moving when Glorfindel said in a ragged voice barely above a whisper, “She left because Gondolin is a cage, a cold, beautiful cage hedged around with rules to govern everything and nothing. She only came back to show her son the city, she’d have left after, gone home to her man. All he had to do was wait.”
“I told you to stay with us.” Gildor had been determined not to say it, but the words were impossible to bite back. “You aren’t happy, I can hear it in your voice. It’s not just Aredhel, it’s more than that. It’s Turgon’s city itself, isn’t it?”
“And I told you I had to go so Idril would have someone from her mother’s family. And after my father died, there was no one else to lead the people who followed him from Tirion. Just me, for them and for her. Unlike Mother, I never have to deal with being alone, there’s always something or someone that needs my time. ”
Gildor nodded into the dark and tightened his arms. They lay quiet and Glorfindel slowly relaxed against him again. He was on the verge of sleep when Glorfindel said in a low, drowsy voice, “Never alone. Just – always lonely. Never realised how much before tonight.”
Gildor slept later than he had for years and woke to unfamiliar sounds around him. This in itself was enough of a regular occurrence not to bother him much; he had still not claimed any particular corner of the new world as home and moved around a lot. He opened his eyes just enough to take in his surroundings while his brain woke up sufficiently to supply him with where he was and whose bed he was in.
He was alone, but he supposed Glorfindel would have business to get him out early. Sitting up, he saw there was food on the table: bread, cheese, a bowl of something that turned out to be stewed fruit. His clothes had been picked up from the floor and a quick look around showed them folded neatly on top of the trunk. He remembered Glorfindel’s hint that love between men was against Turgon’s law and hastily got his naked body out of bed. Gondolin’s rules held no sway over him, but Findel deserved better of him than embarrassment.
There was fresh water in the wash basin, cold and clean, and he washed quickly and dressed in shirt and pants. He was good at finding his way around new places and remembered where the privy was, passing no one he knew on his way there or back, though there were a few curious looks. He was half way through breakfast, which he hoped was meant for him, when the timbre of the camp around him changed. The steady buzz and movement grew louder, there were raised voices, running feet.
Ingrained habit sent him to shrug his way into chainmail and strap on his sword, then outside to take a look. The row of shelters facing the commander’s tent had emptied; everyone was heading for the open space between the trees and the Fen. He was about to follow when one of Glorfindel’s men, identifiable by the golden flower on his tunic, hurried up.
“Lord Glorfindel says you’re to join them up at the watch station, my lord,” he said, a little breathless. “Right this way...”
Gildor, about to follow him, remembered the bread and cheese and stopped. In his experience, a meal deferred was usually a meal lost. “Just a moment,” he said. “Something I need inside.”
To put a good face on it he got his cloak, then topped a thick slice of bread with cheese, and ducked back out the low door. “All right, let’s go. What’s happening anyhow?” It was all too informal and this army too well drilled for this to be the signal beacon Maedhros had promised.
“It’s an army of Orcs, my lord,” his guide said grimly. “Out of Angband. They’re marching on Barad Eithel.”
Turgon and his lords had gathered at the watch station above the camp. Gildor tried to find his way unobtrusively over to Glorfindel, but people made space for him beside his cousin instead and the assembled lords and captains, who almost filled the ledge, closed back around him. They were strangely quiet, with just the occasional cough or shuffle of feet. He could hear the river below and a few squirrels having a conversation in a nearby tree. Somewhere high above an eagle called. No one said anything, but there was no need.
Turgon’s lips were compressed as he glared at the view. The edge of the desert plain up near Barad Eithel seethed with movement, some of it spreading down towards the Fen and their more sheltered position. There were flags and banners, a few of which he even recognised from other bad experiences.
“How in the Void did they...?” he muttered, shading his eyes for a better view.
“Dressed to blend with the sand, banners concealed, travelled most of the way by night,” Turgon said briefly, not looking round. “That’s my brother’s fortress up there, isn’t it?”
Gildor nodded. “Fingon’s there, yes, with several of the leaders, or they were there when I left.”
Turgon nodded. “They’re not moving though, still waiting for the signal as arranged. Not taking the bait. Good.”
“Bait?” Gildor was only half listening, scanning the west, looking for smoke, dust, anything to suggest Maedhros was on the move, but the only dust was what blew naturally off the desert and the smoke he could see hung above Thangorodrim.
“My uncle means that Fingon’s army have not been drawn out by this display.”
The accented voice was polite but cool. Gildor, who mainly got along with people and was not quick to rush to judgement, felt his hackles rise like a hunting dog hearing a boar’s squealing. “His Majesty’s army, you mean, yes?” he said before he had even thought it. A part of his mind said ‘this is Aredhel’s son, Aredhel who you knew all her life, and Fingon is his uncle’, but it made no impact, there was nothing of her in that voice or stance or those dark, brooding eyes, and Fingon was the High King, someone this boy had never met and had no business speaking of with familiarity.
“There’s absolutely no sign of Maedhros,” he said, glancing briefly at Maeglin’s closed expression before looking back to Turgon. “I can’t understand it, he was so definite.”
Turgon was distracted and had ignored the short exchange. “As you said last night, perhaps some problem with one of his allies. You mentioned my brother had forces from - Hithlum, Mithrim, the Falas, Nargothrond, Hurin’s people, Men from Brethil... no likely problems there, are there? Gentlemen? Call your forces back under cover. No need to let them know where to find us before we must.”
Several lords, those whose followers were camped at the mouth of the Pass, turned to leave immediately. Glorfindel touched his arm briefly in greeting as he passed. Gildor nodded to him, then spoke to Turgon. “No trouble there, no. At least I think not.”
Turgon was looking at him, grey eyes light and intense. He was shorter than his brother, broader, not so aristocratic. Even his hair had less fullness and depth of colour. However, what he lacked in looks, he made up for with a quick, perceptive mind. Rather like Artanis. “Something troubles you?”
Gildor shrugged. “Not comfortable with the way Gwindor and his company went against Orodreth’s wishes, that’s all. Too independent, if that makes sense?”
“Hmph. Well, I’m sure Káno can keep them in order. All we have to do, all of us, is hold a defensive line and not be drawn out till Maedhros starts closing in. A single battle on one front has no chance. Not here.”
Murmurs of assent met his words. Gildor, watching the men stream back up against the mountain or down the pass, quick and orderly, remembered the noisy jostling for good positions he had left behind and crossed his fingers. Fingon was no fool - he and Maedhros had spent hours hammering out an order of battle, but Maedhros had his brothers and unity, while Fingon had a broad assortment of smaller forces, and his authority was not accepted as unquestioningly as his father’s had been.
But then, Gildor had seen his uncle ride out to his death. There were better roads open for a man to prove himself a good king.
“I need to find a way to get back,” Gildor said moodily, his eye tracing the route he had taken to the Pass. It was clear it would be too dangerous to go back the same way.
“You’ve left it too late,” Glorfindel pointed out. “You’d have to go right up into the hills, which would take too long. Rather stay with us. It’d be good to fight side by side again. It feels the longest time since the days in Nevrast.”
“A horseman and a sword fighter in an army of spear-armed foot soldiers? That will be interesting. What would you do with me?”
They exchanged easy grins. “Oh, I could put you to work as a messenger,” Glorfindel suggested. “It would do wonders for my status, having a prince at my beck and call. The rest of what I would do with you, I leave to your imagination.”
“Turgon would die of shame,” Gildor said cheerfully.
They were up on the rock again, looking out over the trees at the mass of Orcs facing Fingon’s army across the Sirion, which did not yet have its full width but still formed a barrier, a demarcation line. Nothing had happened for hours. The Orcs were drawn up in untidy ranks and had spent time shouting insults across the river, the echoes of which had drifted down to the tree-filled mouth of the Pass of Sirion. They could just make out the sun glinting on the shields, armour and spears facing the might of Angband across the river; Fingon had chosen not to keep his army hidden.
“Honestly, I can’t see a simple way back for you and Fingon isn’t short of swords, is he? Do you have a command there, waiting for you to come back and lead them?” He was more concerned now; Glorfindel had always taken responsibilities seriously.
“The entire western front won’t collapse without me, no. But I told him I’d deliver greetings and information and come straight back...”
“I’m sure he isn’t expecting you now.”
Gildor grunted. He was probably right. He still had no idea what use he would be to anyone here. “Still no smoke. I’m starting to worry.”
Glorfindel frowned. “We can’t move without him, there’s no point. The best we could do is push them back to Angband, and who knows what’s skulking behind those gates.”
Turgon had been very clear about this and the camp, standing to arms and battle-ready, had firm instructions about waiting for the right moment. Gildor made a sound of agreement. “That’s what they want, clearly. Why else are they up so close?”
“Well, it hasn’t worked. What did you think of Maeglin? He found your bad side with no effort.”
“Just – made my teeth itch for some reason. Told myself he’s Aredhel’s boy, but it was no help. I think it’s the arrogance. He’s...”
“What are they doing?”
Glorfindel had been sitting with his back against the rock again but now he was on his feet. Gildor followed suit. Even from there, they could hear the shouting coming from up the river. “Can’t see,” he said. “Something’s got them upset.”
“Something’s happening there...” Glorfindel was gripping his arm hard enough to bruise, possibly not realising it. They watched as the distant mass of people roiled and moved, as shouts and chanting grew louder. An open space formed on Angband’s side of the river, and then whatever was happening reached its shouted conclusion and the effect was cataclysmic. The disciplined ranks of Fingon’s army broke like an ant hill shattered by a stone; men surged across the rushing river, charging at the Orc army, just a small group at first and then more, and then the entire army seemed to rouse up and follow, like a vast wave breaking over the shore and pouring inland.
Glorfindel left their ledge in a blur of blond hair, one of several commanders rushing to stop the more hot-headed from joining the pursuit. The sight of Orcs running for their lives was an almost irresistible temptation, but their training was good and only a few broke ranks. In the end they managed to get almost everyone rounded up and to attention in time for Turgon, on a temporary platform in the mouth of the Pass, to speak to them. He was in full armour with a solid looking crown on his head in place of his helm and his sister’s son stood nearby holding his shield, rather like a squire.
He had always been a good speaker with a firm, carrying voice and a way of summarising his thoughts that made them easy to follow. Gildor, who was Finwë’s grandson and had as much right to be up there with him as Maeglin, chose to stay beside Glorfindel instead, who stood with the men of his house formed up behind him.
“... and it is late afternoon, we would be hunting Orcs after dark if we were to break faith and join in the chase. They have the night advantage. I believe the High King will bring the west wing back before they get too spread out, because now is not yet the time. We have to hold our position, wait for Maedhros to set the signal, and above all keep the Pass secure for the sakes of all those thousands living beyond it in the south.”
“He’ll not be reining that lot in and bringing them back any time soon,” Gildor said very quietly. Glorfindel turned his head just enough and raised an eyebrow. “Those men were angry, and angry men under several leaders do not rein in until their anger is slaked. All he could do was go with them – it wasn’t the time to test his authority and find it wanting.”
“Any idea what that was all about, who crossed the river first? And I think you’re right, it was a while before I saw Fingon’s banner or heard the advance blown.” He kept his voice very low.
Gildor shrugged. “The men from Nargothrond would have been more or less where the trouble started. That might just be my own prejudice ...”
“But you were worried about them from the start, yes. Well, it solves one thing anyhow.” Glorfindel’s smile was unexpectedly light-hearted as Gildor looked a question. “What I was saying earlier. You have no choice now. We really will be fighting shoulder to shoulder again. I’ll have to find you a spear.”
Turgon sent out scouts on horseback to find out what was going on. He spoke searching for Maedhros too, but it would take too long and it was clear something had gone badly wrong in the east, rendering the sons of Fëanor unable to play their part. The waiting lasted through the following day and night; the camp slept in shifts with more on watch than abed; the commanders hardly slept at all, Glorfindel slept in brief snatches, falling into bed beside him for an hour or two at most before going back out to his men.
Gildor spent the day keeping out of the way. He watched the men practice putting up and tearing down the barricade at the mouth of the Pass, he walked down the Pass itself, a world of its own with its green grass, rushing river and steep, tree-lined slopes and took lunch with Turgon and his inner circle. Several times his wanderings took him up to the shelf of rock above the watch station, looking east for the beacon that was never lit or trying to make sense of the distant clouds of dust and indistinct movement.
On the final visit he found the spot already occupied by Maeglin. The sun had just set, the sky still carried the colours of dusk, and he was sitting with his knees drawn up, pensively looking not towards Thangorodrim but at the slopes of the Ered Wethrin. He had been raised in a forest in the south, Glorfindel had said. Perhaps he missed the trees. Turgon had refused to discuss Aredhel’s fate once he heard Glorfindel had shared the basic facts. It took a while before Gildor realised the avoidance might be because he found the subject too painful.
“I just came up for a final look before the light goes,” Gildor said. “No signal, obviously.”
“Nothing. And the fighting goes on with no way to tell if that’s a good thing or bad.”
Gildor nodded. “While they’re still that dust cloud at the foot of Thangorodrim, it’s a hopeful sign. It means they have the strength to stand their ground.” Until Morgoth sent out his full force, which was certainly more than that Orc rabble Fingon had chased across the desert.
Maeglin looked at him carefully. “You’ve been in a proper battle before?”
About to make some glib remark, Gildor remembered the boy was still very young and trying to hold his own in a culture not his from birth. And he was family. “I’ve fought in every major battle since we got here,” he said, not boasting. “Somehow I’ve been lucky, I’m still here.”
“Do they sing songs about you? My mother said great warriors had songs made of them.
Gildor shrugged. “Usually that happens after you die,” he said. “Though Maedhros has his share, and there are a few about his brothers, not all of them lewd.”
“I will have songs sung of me while I live,” Maeglin said, his voice intense, dark eyes inscrutable. “I will do great things, like my grandfather, the king.”
Aredhel had adored her father. He wondered what tales she had told her son in their forest home. He would never know now. “He was a good man, your grandfather, and a great king. Very concerned about his people, their safety. Everything he did was with them in mind.” Mostly.
“He is buried on top of a mountain peak above the city. The eagles brought him. He was not ordinary. Nor am I.”
“We do not come from an ordinary family,” Gildor said briskly. “None of us are ordinary, though I’d like to try it someday. It sounds peaceful.”
He left Maeglin to his thoughts up above the camp and went in search of Glorfindel and dinner. Orphan. Not a natural state for a child of the Quendi. The boy had seen both his parents die under circumstances of horror and it had left its mark
When the scouts returned, Turgon ordered camp struck almost before they finished their report. A portion of the army remained to hold the Pass ‘at all costs’, but the rest set off after Fingon’s beleaguered forces who were in retreat from Angband, crossing the desert at a speed unlike anything Gildor had experienced before in a large, armoured force. They came upon the fighting in the early hours of the next morning and Gildor, within the steel ring of Turgon’s guard, had a chance to see and appreciate the polished skill and cold efficiency of the phalanx. These were units, five rows deep, armed with spears, who shattered enemy ranks with ruthless efficiency and opened the way for Turgon to fight through to his brother just as it looked as though the High King's banner might be taken and Fingon fall.
It was a grim place for a family reunion. His cousins were seldom openly affectionate with one another, but Fingon stared hard at his brother and then drew him into a tight embrace. Gildor even merited a one armed hug. The surprising part was Turgon greeting Hurin and his brother like a father meeting his sons somewhere unexpected but welcome. Gildor knew there was a good story there, but if he had heard it, the details had gone out of his head.
Not long after, while plans were being improvised to deploy the various forces together, they finally heard war horns in the distance announcing the arrival of Maedhros, his brothers and their allies. That moment stood out for Gildor years after, clear etched against the confusion. He could recall the beginnings of triumph as Orc companies started falling back, turning half uncertain towards home as the attack thundered in from the east. But the taste of hope was barely in his mouth when the gates of Angband opened. After that, Gildor’s memories were a series of fragments: the plain blackened with hordes of Orcs; great wolves, the were-kin of those that had taken Finrod Spell-song from their midst; smoke and fire and the crack of whips from what looked to be a battalion of Balrogs. And then the Dragon came, and even the Balrogs paled into insignificance.
Gildor stood where he was, heedless of danger. Somewhere beyond the smoke he knew was Maedhros’ banner, which should have been getting closer but wasn’t. Somewhere else, nearer to hand, was Fingon, his cousin and king, and he needed to stay close. But right at that moment he could not take his eyes off the vast beast that exited the gates of Angband, too large for common sense to believe it had lurked in those halls, a trail of smaller kindred following in its wake. The massive head lifted and swung, and then a burst of flame stormed along the ground and those in its path died, screaming.
Someone walked into him from behind. It was Maeglin, somehow separated from his company, also staring open-mouthed at the enormous, scaled worm that was now rearing up high above the ground, silhouetted against the smoke-darkened sky. “What is it?” He spoke very calmly, as though they were contemplating an artwork.
“That’s Glaurung, the first of the firedrakes,” Gildor replied, matching his tone. “I’ve seen him twice, the last time was during Sudden Flame. He’s grown.” Around them the sounds of battle continued unrelenting: the clash of arms and men dying, and over it all the roar and howl of the denizens of Angband unleashed. The whole thing was surreal, not least that it was Maeglin he shared it with.
“How can anything grow to that size?” Maeglin pushed back his helm and rubbed a blood-spattered hand across his forehead. “How does it lift up like that, the head’s too big for its body?”
“Only a smith would ask something like that,” Gildor said, almost smiling. For the first time he saw Aredhel in her son, all that boundless curiosity, the complete absence of fear. “Upper body strength and maybe those little winglets or whatever they are help it balance.”
“And the body’s big, but not bulky. It’s long. I wonder if the tail helps it…”
His words were lost as another belch of flame struck the ground, blasting almost directly at them. Men, Orcs, wolves, even the Balrogs, scattered in all directions, though some part of Gildor was aware the enemy forces seemed to be dividing up in ways that looked unsettlingly pre-arranged. He was trying to see through the sting of smoke and pockets of fire when a voice rose above the noise: “What the fuck is the matter with you two? Maeglin, your company’s looking for you. Gildor – with me. Run!”
He saw Maeglin flush a dull red, but his training held and he looked around for his men. Gildor, with nothing to prove, just grinned. “I’m not so sure about running, the last thing I want is to draw his attention. They say he can spot a mouse a league away. I’ve heard it’s safer to see where he’s aiming and just walk away briskly.”
Glorfindel was grim, bloodied, his eyes like flint. He had left his sense of humour back at the Pass. “He doesn’t care what we do so long as we’re not doing it with Maedhros. They’re trying to separate us – the Dragon’s keeping us from joining up with Maedhros, and those Balrogs are working to stay between us and Fingon. Ever fight a Balrog? Watch out for the whip.”
“I avoid them where I can,” Gildor retorted looking around. They were shouting to make themselves heard above the din. “Wolves too. I think I’ll try and find me a few more Orcs before I get ambitious.”
Glorfindel glared at him. Then the situation asserted itself and grudgingly he laughed. “You never change,” he said, and there was admiration in his eyes and something like love. Then he was off, shouting at his men to stand firm, tighten up, spears advanced, and Gildor found his Orc sooner than he would have liked.
At a point when it felt as though he had been swinging and slashing with his sword for days, he realised he could no longer see Fingon, nor his banner. And in the part of his mind not fully focused on staying alive while dealing death, he was not surprised. With the deep certainty that was the closest he came to his family’s gift of foreknowledge, he knew.
He wound up alongside the Men of Dor-lomin, where his fighting style – sword, dagger – was more easily assimilated than beside Glorfindel, whose command responsibilities rather than the currents of battle dictated where he would be found. They struggled to reach Fingon or the position where he had last been seen, where the smoke was thickest and the lowering roar of the Balrog host loudest, but found themselves blocked at every turn. Even Gondolin’s infantry in their tight, almost unassailable formations had no chance. Between Balrog and dragon fire, there was no way across that line.
There was a moment near the end when he thought he saw Fingon, as they were being pushed back and back while word of the High King’s death was spreading. It was hot and airless, the clouds of smoke and dust hovering thick and close to the ground but a stray breeze momentarily parted the smoke. In the distance he could see something lying crumpled on the ground and a Balrog, the largest he had ever seen, parading up and down, sparks flicking off its whip while it roared its triumph. Then the smoke rolled back and reality asserted itself and he was decapitating an Orc. He would mourn later.
The Balrogs and their ilk followed Glaurung when he finally withdrew, leaving the field to Orcs and a handful of wolves. Gildor hadn’t seen what happened there, but he thought the Dragon was hurt and was grimly pleased. It was too much to hope that whoever was responsible had survived. Without Maedhros to bolster their numbers, what remained of Angband’s army still outnumbered them many times to one. That was another thing he had been unable to follow properly, but he thought the brothers had been attacked from the rear; they had retreated into the east barely after they arrived, fighting for their lives. There would be no help from that quarter.
They fell back fighting every step of the way until they were on the edge of the Fen of Serech, where long ago Finrod had almost lost his life and incurred the debt that led in the end to his death. They trampled through the marshland, the water becoming mired and stained with blood, and all around men were cursing at roots and reeds and unseen pitfalls. Gondolin’s army had lost its shape, the well-drilled formations showing huge holes where Balrogs and wolves had made their mark and the Dragon had roared. The remnant of Fingon’s force were with them, there had been no need to keep them apart once the enemy’s main work of the day was done. The king was dead – long live the king!
On the far side of the Fen, the noise almost rivalled a battlefield. The men who had been holding the Pass were begging for a chance to fight and avenge their brothers; survivors from Fingon’s army tried to band together or find places in Gondolin’s ranks. The training the men from the Hidden City had undergone made it difficult to include outsiders, but equally hard to adjust to the gaps left by their losses. The Men from Brethil had almost all been lost in the retreat, but those from Dor-lomin had gathered in groups talking urgently amongst themselves, the result of which was Hurin and Huor talking over each other as they tried to persuade Turgon to do the sane thing and retreat.
Gildor’s sword arm ached up into the shoulder and his head hurt from a glancing blow that he was lucky hadn’t done more damage. He supposed he should go over and add his voice to the common sense valour of the two Men, but all he really wanted to do right then was sit down on the muddy grass and breathe.
“I sent my wounded down the Pass and borrowed a few volunteers to fill out the phalanx. Won’t be popular when everyone else thinks of it, but you do what you have to.” Glorfindel said, coming up beside him. “This should be an even worse mess once it starts.”
“Huor’s trying to get him to retreat. Some stuff about fate – he knows his audience, Turgon likes symbolism – and the rest is common sense. He’s right – yours is the last cohesive force that has any chance of holding Morgoth. Hithlum is,” he waved a tired hand, “what you see around you, and Maedhros… that was a rout. You need to go back, rebuild your fighting strength.”
“There’s no point in a High King who isn’t there for his people.” Glorfindel’s face went stubborn and he suddenly looked worn out. Gildor had an urge to wipe away the dirt and the blood and give him a hug.
“Yes, Turgon also said that earlier. I told him rather a live king in hiding than another dead in battle. He couldn’t argue that. Then he tried to offer the high kingship to me, which was a bit desperate. Had to remind him I have the blood through the female line and no army. I’d spend the first hundred years trying to convince people to take me seriously. After him, Idril being a girl, the only other possible heir is Orodreth's child.”
Glorfindel leaned on the spear he was carrying. They stood together looking at the barely contained chaos under the clear afternoon sky, moving aside once as wounded men were carried past into the mouth of the Pass of Sirion which would not remain a secure place for much longer. “Well, Mother will be happy to see you,” he said at last. “She was always fond of you.”
Gildor was looking up at the mountains that were already lying in shadow, living up to their name, and sighed. “I won’t be coming, Findel.”
Glorfindel gave him a glum look. “It’s not that bad. It would be much better with you there. And you’re Finwë’s grandson, you’d have the kind of freedom Aredhel did.”
“It’s not about that. I’m as happy as the next man to find a secure haven right now.” Even though Turgon himself had just said Gondolin could not stay hidden for much longer. “It’s like you said though. I don’t make much of it, but I am Finwë’s grandson and that means I have work to do beyond the mountain.”
“They’ll be pouring over those mountains as soon as they’re finished here, there’ll be nothing left when they’re done…”
“Yes,” Gildor said simply.
The heated discussion between Turgon and his allies seemed to be coming to an end. Hurin had already moved away and was shouting orders to his people. Gildor knew enough of their tongue to understand they were to spread out at the edge of the Fen and be ready to stand and fight. What they would be fighting was an Orc army many times their number, but no one objected. It had already been agreed.
“You can’t cross the whole of Hithlum and Mithrim warning people…”
“No,” Gildor agreed, “but there are warning beacons. I just need to pass the word to a few, reach the main beacon, light that, and --- they’ll know what it means. They should follow the river to the coast, I think you might be right about Tanis staying down there because she senses something. Otherwise – those who escape might find a secure place in Beleriand. Still plenty of forest to get lost in.”
“Where would you go? It will only be a matter of time ….” Glorfindel stopped, not wanting to say the words. Instead he beckoned over one of his men and spoke quietly. The warrior looked surprised but nodded and jogged off towards the pass.
“There’s a Noldor princeling, being raised by Círdan in one of the Falas cities. I need to take word there and to Artanis on Balar. After that – I’ll see what she and her husband have to say.”
Glorfindel’s eyes searched his face almost hungrily and finally he nodded. Turgon was calling for his signalman and was speaking to Maeglin and one of his lords whose name Gildor couldn’t remember. Maeglin seemed to be pleading. They did not sing songs about warriors who ran from battle.
“Aredhel’s boy,” he said impulsively. “He needs friends who won’t just see the advantage of him being the king’s nephew.”
“He’s an arrogant, grasping little shit,” Glorfindel said succinctly. “Follows Idril around like a stray, plays on Turgon’s guilt…”
“Probably. He’s not much more than a child, both his parents are dead, and he has too much privilege in a city of strangers. What he needs is kindness, and you are one of the kindest people I know. Please? As I can’t be there?”
Their eyes held and it was like being alone on an island in the middle of shouted commands and increased activity. The shelters, all the furnishings of the camp, had been dismantled and piled together and someone was about to start a fire. The Gondolindrim would be travelling light. Glorfindel nodded once, briefly. “For you, not for him. And for her.”
The warrior he had spoken to came up leading Gildor’s horse. She was battle trained and, rather than being spooked, was looking at the sights around her with speculative interest. Glorfindel took the reins and handed them to Gildor. “Well, you didn’t mean to walk, did you?”
Their hands brushed. Gildor stepped forward and put his arms around Glorfindel, pulling him close. Strong arms closed around his waist. Glorfindel smelt of sweat and blood and dirt and summer by the sea. Their lips met, lingered, then released slowly. They stayed close a moment longer, then stepped back. Gildor’s hand slid from Glorfindel’s shoulder down his arm, hesitated on his wrist and then clasped his hand and squeezed. Then he swung himself up onto the horse, settling his balance.
“Till later, you,” he said and received a smile that lit tired blue eyes.
Glorfindel slapped the horse on the rump and stood back as she started off. “There’s a life after this - I’ll look for you. Tell the sea I miss her. I loved Vinyamar.”
Turgon’s signalman began blowing the retreat as Gildor made for the trees, and the host of Gondolin started for the Pass, forming up with practiced ease, their numbers almost what they were when they left, because their dead had been replaced by survivors from the lands to the west. The Men of Dor-lomin started forward to the edge of marshland, where they lined up with the kind of determination Gildor had seen in a bull guarding his herd. They had promised to hold the Pass until the last effective fighting force left in Endórë had made good its escape, and he never doubted they would be true to their word.
He found he was crying as he made his way up into the Ered Wethrin, and could not tell if it was for Fingon or for Maedhros and his crushed hopes or for the blue eyed warrior his instincts said he would not see again unless beyond the Sea, or Aredhel’s damaged son, or for serious, careful Turgon, who had fought like a man possessed and found it had not been enough to save his brother. Wiping a filthy hand across his eyes, Gildor drew in a ragged breath and urged the horse on a little faster. Leaving history to be made, he turned west to Hithlum.