Chapter 1: Cover Art
Chapter 2: Prologue: The Hidden City
Gliding on a draught of hot air as he took off from his eyrie on the Crissaegrim, sharp eyes flitted over the people on the plains below as they worked in the fields in the fashions of their kind. Some were tending to neat rows of vegetables, gathering fruits from orchards or, at this time of the year, cutting hay where the grass had grown long. He made note of their actions, the Eldar who had long years ago made this place their home. Their voices carried up to him, although he did not understand them from where he flew, for his hearing was not as well-honed as his sight and he was several leagues above the great plains of Tumladin, made smooth through years of labour.
He wheeled about, taking wing now over the white city of Ondolindë, named Gondolin in the Sindarin tongue. It shimmered in the summer light that Arien blazed down, unhindered in her goal today by the grey clouds that oft rode over the encircling mountains. Many more people were visible there amidst the many tall shining towers and turrets and the open spaces of hewn stone. Many fountains had been wrought, making good use of the waters from deep within the mountain from which the city was named. Here it was much noisier, the height of the city bringing its inhabitants closer to where the great eagle flew.
A flash caught his attention and he looked with idle curiosity as at the same time a sound of joyous music came to him. He spied a figure in the southern district sat one leg across the other on the rim of the largest stone fountain; the light he’d noticed coming from a shining silver instrument held to the musicians’ lips and the tune he played mingled in harmony with the music of the water behind him.
Being of very little interest to the eagle, he turned and swooped down into the plains once more and turned his attention back to his reason for alighting; a hunt for coney.
Chapter 3: Of Lords and Letters
“Ah ha! Finished for the day, I assume? I thought I might find you out here.”
The playing faded on a final note as Lord Ecthelion of the House of the Silver Fountain lowered his flute and stood with a smile and nod of deference. The newcomer approached him with a smile of greeting in return and he sat back down as she came to perch beside him.
“What can I do for you Írissë? I am honoured to have you seek me out, but I won’t deny that it makes me more than a little suspicious.” He gave her an amused yet knowing look, adding, “and before you feign shock, I would remind you that it is not without warrant I am wary!”
She laughed, a bright tinkling sound, with no denial coming forth because they both knew it was true. Case in point being not a few weeks previous when he had been talked, or bribed being a better word, into playing at a particularly tedious dinner party full of gossiping ladies. Ecthelion had endured merciless teasing for the entire evening and was none too keen on a repeat performance. They could be quite unnerving when in large groups. He shuddered.
She leaned her head back, face upturned to the warmth of the bright day and closed her eyes for a moment, humming. She was clearly in no hurry to let Ecthelion continue with his playing and he suspected she rather enjoyed dragging out whatever her reason for this visit was. He shook his head. They all knew she was bored of being cooped up within the kingdom and truth be told many here were, so trying to annoy the Lords was one of her favourite ways to find amusement. Clearly, he thought he had been singled out for this afternoon.
“My brother asked that I might give you this.”
Ecthelion had just about decided that if she wasn’t going to proffer an answer he might as well start the piece he was working on again when she interrupted him at the sound of the first note blown. Suppressing a sigh, he lowered the flute. She had fished out a roll of parchment which he took as she watched expectantly and with a shrug he cracked open Turgon’s wax seal and unrolled the letter, turning it right-way up to read. Scanning the missive, he glanced up at Aredhel and back, a crease to his brow as he read between the lines before rolling it back up and tucking it away inside his robes.
Aredhel deflated a little and he couldn’t help but give a single soft breath of laughter.
“Are you that starved for new gossip that you thought a letter from Turukáno might provide some new chatter if I had reacted in a more animated fashion? Perhaps you expected I might have toppled back in shock into the waters?” He guessed that she had indeed been expecting more of a reaction regarding the contents and while he was quite surprised in honesty, he didn’t think it best to make remarks or discuss it within potential hearing of the many pairs of ears around the square.
He lifted a brow in amusement, calmly watching her and Aredhel rolled her eyes and unfolded her arms to swat him on the shoulder lightly.
Ecthelion let out another soft breath. “So, the latter then. I take it this was your doing?”
“If you would prefer that I ask for another to take your place?” she challenged, looking him in the eye with a glint.
“I suspect Salgant would be most pleased! He could regale you with many tales of bravery and songs of- eating contests-” He swallowed his grin as he spoke, for Ecthelion was very good at keeping a straight face. Just a hint of his amusement in the turn of his lips and the creases of his eyes, as Aredhel looked aghast and offended at the very idea.
“You do and I shall recommend you for sewer duties instead! Besides, Turukáno had chosen our cousin already and I didn’t wish for him to refuse so-“
“Yes. Quite.” Ecthelion abruptly sobered and nodded, cheeks flushing high with colour for a moment before returning to his normal pale shade.
“In that case it is settled.” She looked smug. “I shall expect you in council tomorrow evening- But Ehtelë,” she had stood, brushing invisible dust from the fountain’s stone rim from her white dress, “not a word, apart from with Egalmoth and Laurë? You understand.”
He nodded and smiled tightly, it starting to dawn on him just what lay ahead. “Do they know yet?” He guessed not; he would have at least had an inkling.
She tapped the pouch on her hip. “Nay, so stay a while longer with your flute my Lord. It may be a time before your people hear music played again by such talented hands and it would be cruel of you to leave them bereft of such memories of a beautiful day.”
With that she nodded in parting, a knowing smile on her lips and looking every part the proud princess she was as she left, people making way for her as she crossed the relatively crowded square of the fountain district towards the East of the city.
He thought that should be the case, that it would make the most sense if her next letter was headed for the House of the Golden Flower. She wouldn’t want Ecthelion to spoil her afternoon of surprising her Lords, but he wasn’t about to do any such thing. For as much as Aredhel could irk them all at times and certainly he’d felt the sharp side of her tongue too, she was beloved as their king’s sister and as family.
He would indulge her her fun in seeing the other Lords and breaking the news without interfering, although he was already anticipating the conversation he’d be having with them later, as he couldn’t help wondering how she’d managed to convince Turgon.
So instead, as she disappeared through the archway through to the King’s Tower he sat back down, bringing his flute back up to his lips and slotting slender fingers over the holes in their familiar places. The one sure way he knew he could loose himself for a while and not brood on the affairs he was to become part of, and soon he had gathered a small crowd to listen to him play.
“Írissë! To what honour do I owe this visit!”
“It’s been less than a week, Laurefindil,” she chided with a smile as she found herself enveloped in a gentle hug by the golden-haired elf who had entered the drawing room where she waited for his arrival. He stepped back but held her hands for a moment still, squeezing them lightly before letting her go.
“Ah, but much can happen in a week. You might have news of a suitor. Do you have news of a suitor?”
She laughed and he joined her, this being somewhat of an inside joke between them; for Aredhel often and quite loudly made it known that no-one eligible in Gondolin was her equal and therefore she wouldn’t be accepting of any offers made. A bold statement when the numbers had grown to be that of almost thirty-five thousand in recent years and many were born of high-standing.
He gestured for her to sit and she did, taking the most comfortable chair near to the window, where the view looked out towards the Himring and their white peaks, capped with snow even in the heights of summer. Her gaze and expression were distant and Glorfindel mused as he looked on her, a secret smile playing on her lips.
“What are you up to?” his tone was curious and looking back at him her smile widened in a flash of teeth and quickly she drew out a roll of parchment identical to the first she had given out, save for a yellow silk ribbon tied neatly around the middle and held it towards him. Cocking his head to one side and watching her suspiciously he took it and pulling the ribbon free he opened the seal with care, noting the king’s mark rather than her own.
So, this is official business then?
Seeing Turgon’s neat handwriting gave him cause to think before he’d even taken in a word; for him to write his own correspondence, even to his chief lords, surely meant something bigger than the usual fair they had all come to accept as being the responsibility of running a largely populated city such as Gondolin? Even whilst remaining ever vigilant of the threat that was ever at the back of their minds. With interest he sat to read, eyes widening and lips parting in surprise.
‘…along with the Lords Ehtelë and Egalmoth, shall ride forth with the Lady Írissë Ar-Feiniel as her escort, to lead her into to the kingdom of Ñolofinwë and there seek Findekáno in Hithlum, by the safest route….’
Of course he, as Ecthelion had already done, read between the lines of the orders as they were spelt out, knowing the king all too well and almost hearing his misgivings and supreme irritation through the formal language as if he spoke them directly.
‘…Lord Laurefindil, are requested to present yourself alone and with discretion tomorrow afternoon at the third ringing of the bells, before the briefing…’
A small knot of heaviness settled itself in the pit of his stomach and he swallowed, looking serious as he read the last line before rolling the parchment back up and tucking it safely away into an inner pocket. It would not do to have one of his household pick it up.
Standing, he paced over to the window next to where Aredhel sat, feeling her eyes follow him but not paying mind to her for now. Hands clasped at his back, he looked out on the mountains, but his thoughts turned inwards.
“I can almost hear the wheels turning up there. Be careful you do not do yourself an injury.” There was a hint of amusement in her voice when Aredhel spoke up after Glorfindel had been a long moment in silence.
“Then you should know that if I agree to this, the decision isn’t being made lightly. Although, given that I am being summoned to council for a briefing, not for discussion, I’m going to assume that Turukáno has already tried and failed to sway you from this path. And failed most miserably it would seem, if he’s sending the three of us with you.”
He sighed and passed a hand over his face, taking a moment to compose himself before his bright countenance returned and he turned to lean his hands on the back of the princess’s chair. She twisted and reached behind to take one of them and squeezed in the same gesture he had shown her earlier and at least had the decency to look apologetic. The relief was evident in the slight relaxation of her features upon realising that she wasn’t going to have a fight on her hands to convince him to join her. Turgon wasn’t to know and neither was she going to volunteer the truth of the matter; that whilst it might well have been at her brothers’ insistence that she was not to travel alone, she had wanted the three he had decided would form her guard to join her in any case. That it had been at Turgon’s command, just made her life easier.
It was clear to Glorfindel that she was genuine, the façade dropped which she wore so often as that of a fierce warrior Noldor; never wanting to appear less than any of the Lords she was surrounded by, tall and upright in every aspect, she often cut an imposing figure. Aredhel had garnered as much respect as any of them amongst the Gondolindrim however, for she had much skill with a sword and even more so a bow. Her only failing, not that he would venture to suggest any such thing, was her naivety. He didn’t need to wonder why Turgon had chosen the three captains he had for this excursion.
Removing his hands he came around and sat in the chair opposite fixing her with an earnest expression. He hesitated just a little, leaning forwards and he let out his breath, a small shake of his head.
“I don’t suppose I would fare any better than your brother in dissuading you from this idea of yours?” he asked with small hope, although he felt it his duty to give it a shot. “It’s foolish, you must know that? You’ve spoken with those from the Hammer…you know what your fate will be if you are taken…”
The elves in the House of the Hammer of Wrath were the strongest and hardiest by far of all of the twelve Houses in Gondolin, but with good reason. Many amongst their rank had been forged in the fires of Angband where they had been forced to work the mines and the tales told when they were in the ale houses brought shudders to those who stayed to hear them.
Her eyes flashed, lips parting with a curl, rising a little from her seat and even bringing up a finger to point, but she thought better of it after a seconds’ thought and sank back down again with a noise of distinct annoyance. To give him his due, Glorfindel was true to form in his bravery and managed not to fall back where others would certainly have done. Though it was a close thing and his shoulders relaxed as she deflated some.
“I will tell you what I told Turukáno,” she harrumphed and turned her nose up slightly in a haughty fashion, “I am not a bird to be caged within this city and will not be held here without leave to depart if I wish. My brother may be king but he is not my keeper. I shall go, whether with his permission or not. I have greater skill in my little finger than the filth that Morgoth sends out to do his bidding. Let them try anything; they will find themselves at the pointy end of my arrows.”
Despite the brevity of the situation Glorfindel couldn’t help but feel slightly amused at this display, though wasn’t foolish enough to show it openly and he bit the inside of his cheek to stay any smile. This didn’t escape her attention however. “Urgh, you-” She huffed but relented, not furthering the argument.
He held up both hands in supplication and shrugged in a ‘what can you do?’ manor and she shook her own head slowly at him and rolled her eyes.
“Between you and my brother it’s honestly a wonder I’ve managed to stay here so long. I pity poor aunt Írimë for having to put up with you both,” she complained, but in spite of herself softened and a small smile curved her lips. She folded her arms across her chest but that playful spark was back in her eyes. “Anyhow, I would have thought to find you grateful to be given the honour of being my guardsman, Lord Laurefindil. There may be opportunities to perhaps stay a little on the road? Some time away from the watchful eyes of the city and perhaps to indulge in some more relaxing pastimes than can be afforded here-“
“Írissë …” his tone carried warning, though there was little in it and he sighed in resignation as she laughed and stood abruptly, clapping her hands together. She always did seem to get things her way.
“Wonderful! That’s settled then! I am most looking forwards to this trip. Do try to contain your excitement with telling everyone the news until Turukáno has made his announcement. I will leave you to the rest of your afternoon, cousin and go to deliver the news to Egalmoth. I’m sure he will be equally as delighted as yourself and Ehtelë have been.”
“I’m sure he will…” Glorfindel muttered but without much heart, for he had already accepted his fate and whilst between now and the moment of their departure he would be no doubt mulling over the whole affair; he couldn’t deny it to himself at least that there was more than a little excitement mixed with apprehension of what lay ahead.
“Írissë, my dear! I didn’t know you would be visiting today! Laurefindil, why wasn’t I called?”
“Oh forgive me but I can’t stop, another fair lord to see, but perhaps I could return this evening? Unless you think I would be interrupting anything?”
Glorfindel suppressed a sigh in the manor of the long suffering as his mother came down the wide staircase just as he was showing Aredhel to the door.
“Not this evening. Sorry.” Glorfindel shot her a pointed look and she smiled innocently and sighed.
“Then another night, of course. My Lord, my Lady, I will bid you both good-day.”
With that she took her leave and Glorfindel was left to watch her pass over the courtyard and through the archway that would take her to the northern quarter; the Lady Lalwen looking rather bemused as she waited patiently for an explanation of what she had come in on. Aredhel’s white dress flashed out of sight and he turned with some resignation to answer her questioning gaze.
So it was that at last the Lady Aredhel came to the House of the Heavenly Arch, which sat before the Northern walls of the city. It was the largest of the houses by virtue of the number of those who called the district their home. Along with its neighbouring house, the Swallow of Lord Duilin, many of their people had joined the Noldor from the ranks of those Sindar, who had long since taken Turgon for their king when they had dwelt in Nevrast together.
Egalmoth was their lord and he currently stood upon the outer walls which overlooked the plains below and the mountains above; bow in hand as was his custom as he took his place on the watch. Day and night, it was always kept and from time to time an arrow would be loosed to bring down a spy of the enemy who might dare to fly over the plain, or any other creature who might crawl over the encircling mountains and was spotted from afar. For though the enemy might enter, none should be allowed to leave.
“My Lord.” A young guard approached and bowed his head before his captain. “I would relieve you of your post, if you will. The Lady Aredhel is here and seeks an audience.”
“Does she now? Don’t let her intimidate you, she’s really very nice.” He paused. “When she wants to be.”
He had turned with a smile noting the nervousness in the messenger, suspecting that Aredhel had had some fun in ordering him about; it would explain the extreme formalness. He patted him on the shoulder in comradery as he passed, heading for the stairs. The crystals embroidered on his tunic glittered as he went in every colour in the late afternoon light.
“Tondil! Please show the Lady through to the gardens if you would? Aredhel! It’s lovely to see you but you will excuse me whilst I go and seek some refreshments? I will be with you quite shortly.”
Egalmoth was not known for pandering to many and to most that made him delightful company and he endeared himself to them. Others though found him too informal, especially the prouder of the Noldor, particularly in appearance. He had a fondness for all things bright and colourful and had brought with him a great wealth of gems from Menegroth, which was his first home. Some more unkind people might have called him garish, but he didn’t care a jot.
By the time he stepped out into the formal gardens adjoining his house, Arien was beginning to sink down below the mountains to the West and Aredhel was standing quietly turned towards her, watching as the sky turned from blue to orange. He came to stand beside her.
“It’s beautiful, but rather sad, don’t you think?” she asked, not turning away from the sunset.
“Why would that be?” he asked in a quiet tone, for the lady seemed lost in thought and he didn’t wish to disturb her.
“I remember playing on the plains around the hill on which Laurelin and Telperion stood in my childhood. To think that never again will we see their light, save for the ships which sail the sky…” She shook herself lightly and it seemed to Egalmoth that she caught herself as in a waking dream, returning to the present with an over-bright gleam in her eyes. He had not been born in Valinor and neither had he travelled there, so he was not so moved as he knew those who had seen the darkening of the world could be, so he said nothing but gave her a sympathetic smile.
“Look at me! And here I was come to give you good news, not become maudlin at the sight of the setting sun!” She laughed a note and took hold of her senses, dipping her hand into the pouch on her hip and she pulled out the final roll of parchment it contained and handed it over to Egalmoth. He took it with a raise of brows and opened it straight away.
“Hmm. I see. Well,” he rolled up the orders and tucked it into his belt, “I suppose it will be nice to get a bit more of a stretch of legs for a while and a change of scenery. I wonder if I should have time to meet with friends?” He smiled brightly.
His reaction was markedly different to that of the two Noldor she had already seen that afternoon and Aredhel laughed in delight. Yes, Turgon had chosen the three most suited to this expedition indeed. For where Glorfindel was of the highest rank amongst his captains, his being the king’s cousin and of the house of Finwë and Ecthelion the second; with Egalmoth’s heritage amongst the noblest of his people, he was the obvious third person to have with them to travel through lands where the Sindarin elves made their homes. She hoped his being there would secure them safe passage.
She didn’t admit, even to herself, that it was also because her mastery of Sindarin still left a bit to be desired.
This had all certainly occurred to him, as much as the other two had reached the same conclusion just as quickly, but unlike them he equally as quickly decided to look upon this as a fortunate opportunity to step outside into the wider lands once more and he suddenly felt a longing to walk again under the trees. A certain lady who dwelt still with the host may also have come to mind.
“Glorfindel and Ecthelion already know,” she told him, “but no-one else just yet. Please do keep it that way.” She gave him the same parting after her short visit as she had his peers but turned back to him as she began to walk slowly towards the garden’s entrance and added, “perhaps you may want to see them tomorrow to celebrate the good news though rather than this evening?”
He frowned in response with a pointed look to the squires who hovered nearby.
“My Lady? I don’t believe I catch your meaning?”
“Oh well, only that you know them,” she said airily, opting to let him feign ignorance, “I don’t think they’re as keen to leave the city, rather more full of foreboding and such. Hopefully your enthusiasm will rub off on them.”
Egalmoth merely blinked and smiled, not rising to the bait. “As you wish my Lady. No doubt I will see you in counsel tomorrow. Let me walk you out.”
“How did they take it? I don’t hear any shouting in the hallways, so I shall assume that they aren’t about to storm over here in immediate protest?”
Turgon sat back in an easy chair in his drawing room and thought about how like their half-cousins she could be at times as he watched his sister making herself comfortable. A rather pleased look on her face, as of a cat that had captured a large mouse for supper.
“Did you underestimate me, my king?” she asked, “or the loyalty of your captains to the crown?”
“No, only that I thought at least one of them might have had the common sense to try to talk you out of this madness. I still don’t know what you’re thinking. This reckless-“
“No. We’ve been through this enough and the decision is made,” she cut him off, her tone brokering no argument, “and yes, you’ll likely be pleased to hear that Laurefindil did attempt to make his case. My case however is stronger. That is that.”
Turgon didn’t look like that was that at all but managed to hold his tongue and with a “hmph,” decided that furthering the conversation was fruitless. Besides, he was rather set on his own plans now too, not that Aredhel had any business in knowing them.
He drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair and brooded quietly, hoping that he was doing the right thing.
The words of Lord Ulmo weighed heavy in his heart.
“I don’t understand, there must be some reason behind this? You can’t just shrug and feign ignorance, you know-something.”
Ecthelion narrowed his eyes at Glorfindel’s overly-innocent expression and made a displeased noise. Clearly, he wasn’t buying whatever Glorfindel was selling. Clearly Glorfindel was a complete fool if he even thought for a moment that he would.
“Look, you’ve obviously more information than myself, why else should your missive have been marked out otherwise? And why lie to me about it? Surely it would be expected you would share this information with me at least!”
“Maybe expected by Írissë, yes,” Glorfindel countered, “but Turukáno would be less than happy if he thought I shared with you half as much as I do. Especially the personal details. You know that.”
Ecthelion’s indignation at this perceived slight was evident and Glorfindel wasn’t doing much in the way of assuaging it. It rankled him all the more when all he did in response was steeple his hands underneath his chin and hum, fore fingers on his lips. He marched over to where Glorfindel sat, one leg crossed over the other knee and went to pick up the letter which sat on the table at his side where, it had been tied again with the gold ribbon. Before he could do anything however, Glorfindel neatly plucked it from his fingers and tapped his arm with the roll. Ecthelion huffed again and folded his arms.
“I wouldn’t lie to you,” Glorfindel admonished him, seemingly coming around from whatever had him in deep thought. “I’m a bit offended at that as well.” He frowned and Ecthelion at least had the decency to look contrite.
No, he knew that Glorfindel wasn’t lying; it took a deal of effort to keep things hidden from someone who knew your every mood, even when carefully hidden from the outside world and he sighed, chastened.
“Sorry. That was uncalled for,” he said and sat in the arm-chair that Aredhel had occupied earlier and looked distractedly out of the window. It was dark now, but Glorfindel seldom drew the drapes across, preferring instead to see the stars, when lack of cloud cover permitted it.
“Ai, Elbereth…” Ecthelion slumped back some, not his usual relaxed self at all and rubbed at his brow, feeling the beginnings of a tension headache forming. “Why now? I mean,” he glanced over at his companion, who was sipping his wine and watching Ecthelion carefully, “we all know that Írissë’s been bored here for decades, it’s hardly a new thing for her to petition for leave outside of the gates, but what could have changed to have Turukáno agree now when he hasn’t before? We all know his edict. So-” The laws was plain on the matter, no-one who knew the location of the city was to leave. No exceptions and it had been that way for the last hundred years or more.
He pursed his lips and frowned then blew out a loud breath. “No. I can’t think of a good enough reason. He can’t just have been so worn down by his sisters’ bargaining. There has to be more to this than that and I believe you know something of it.”
He took up his own glass and stared into the depths as if it might hold the answers, before taking a large sip and giving Glorfindel an accusatory glare. Although there was no longer any heat to it.
“Yes, I do,” Glorfindel admitted which gained him a ‘ha!’ from Ecthelion, to which he rolled his eyes and continued. “I do know that Turukáno wants me to meet with him privately to discuss a matter concerning this order before the council meeting. And that,” he stared pointedly, “is all. I swear.”
“Careful, no swearing, remember-” Ecthelion muttered darkly.
“I swear I’ll be petitioning Lord Manwë to release me from putting up with you at this rate!” he returned hotly. “Honestly Ehtelë, what has gotten into you? And yes, I do realise that this is a most unusual mission we’re being sent on but, I’m sure there'll be a reasonable explanation. Besides, you have been going on yourself about how much you would give for a change of scenery. Well, now you’ve got your wish. And you’ll get to see Findekáno too. You always were closer to him than our king.”
He leaned forwards and tapped the rim of his glass thoughtfully where he balanced it on his knee. Glorfindel had spoken with his mother after Aredhel had left that afternoon and whilst he wasn’t happy with what was being asked of them; he thought it was exceedingly risky with little to be gained, other than satisfying his head-strong cousins’ desire for adventure and to get one over on her brother, she had pointed out that Turgon never did anything without good reason and he should trust to his judgement. Reluctantly he had to agree. Weighing up the evidence of Turgon’s actions over the years, he had done nothing without great calculation and out of all of the kingdoms that had been established in Arda since their arrival, Gondolin was by far the most secure and peaceful. It was highly unlikely that he was about to jeopardise the safety of the city and all its inhabitants just for the sake of Aredhel’s bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t come and go as she pleased.
He had asked the lady herself once why she had chosen to join them in the hidden kingdom if she appeared to despise it so much. She’d simply given him a wry smile and told him that the truth was, that she did not. Not really. She had always been closest to Turgon out of her brothers and as her Aunt Lalwen and thus her sons Aranwë and Glorfindel had decided to follow him here out of their own loyalty, with a little reluctance she had agreed to follow too. Which had also meant that she had by default agreed to the Laws as they had been decreed. It didn’t stop her from complaining but no-one had actually thought that Turgon might one day grant her her wish; but in that it seemed, they had all been wrong.
Admittedly he was more than a little curious himself as to why he had been called to a secret meeting and what it could mean, so he could forgive Ecthelion his disgruntlement at being left out of the loop.
“Family business, I suppose…” Ecthelion grumbled and Glorfindel looked up at him, eyebrows lifted and lips parting to start countering whatever was coming.
“No, don’t worry, I’m not about to start complaining so you needn’t look at me like that. It’s just-” He ran a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry. Truly. I know that this isn’t your fault and I’m taking it out on you.”
“Yes, you are.“
“Well, then you know that it’s because we have a duty to protect our people; who are here and need us to remain here in order to do so. I know other matters of governance can be given out for a time more easily, but not that of military lead. Whilst yes, I admit the prospect of spending some time outside of the mountains and having more freedom in certain matters is very much appealing,” he noted Glorfindel’s warm smile at that statement and rose a brow in his direction, “it would be very poor form if any of us were to find ourselves languishing in Námo’s company for the sake of it.”
He finished his impassioned speech with high colour in his cheeks.
“You do have a point,” Glorfindel agreed, “but it wouldn’t do for Írissë to go alone either and surely you wouldn’t be suggesting that any of the other houses would be more suitable to accompany her? How would that look when she arrives in Mithrim? I’ve already thought about our respective houses and I’m certain Aranwë will make sure the Golden Flower doesn’t go to pot without me here.
“This is the only way that makes sense. You and I both know Írissë only too well; once she’s set her mind to a thing there’s no stopping her and it seems that Turukáno has lost this particular battle. Now he needs to make his play so as to make the best of a bad lot, is what I’m assuming. So, I will go, naturally,” he shrugged without self-agrandment and standing, walked over to perch himself on the arm of Ecthelion’s chair, reaching one arm over his shoulders and leaning in. He rubbed his arm placatingly.
“And Egalmoth will come because we may have need to travel through the northern reaches of Doriath and Eru knows that neither of us has managed to master enough Sindarin yet to get us through that without fear of causing upset and offence. It would be nice to have their hospitality seeing as we’ll be sleeping under the stars for a while.”
He made a face then smiled warmly at Ecthelion as he tried to lighten the mood. “And you will come because you are the highest ranking of the remaining houses, an excellent swordsman, give sound council and will be able to keep our spirits up with your music on the road. As well as being family and I’m not going without you.”
“I suppose you are right,” Ecthelion nodded slowly, the compliments warming him and he leaned into Glorfindel’s side with a soft sigh. His hair was loose and soft waves tickled the side of his face lightly. “Trust a Vanya to be so optimistic about travelling through lands full of spies of the enemy.”
“That’s the spirit! And only quarter Vanya, if you will,” he encouraged and Ecthelion could feel the tension leaving him through their shared bond. He relaxed too.
“Best then to, how did you put it? Make the best of a bad lot? If we’re going to have to go, we should at least try to look forward to it; we won’t have to worry about anything from Egalmoth or Írissë.”
“No, although maybe avoiding spending too much time with my uncle would be for the best. It’ll be good to catch up with Findekáno too, I’ve sorely missed his company, even if his choices are somewhat questionable.”
“Might be best to keep that opinion to yourself when we arrive? I don’t really fancy having to defend your honour against either your cousin or a Fëanorian.” Ecthelion gave Glorfindel’s leg an affectionate pat and reached for his wine. “Best to enjoy this too,” he said with a smile returning to his lips, “and a comfortable bed. We may not be getting either again for a while.”
“I can defend my own honour well enough, thank you and yes, I quite agree.” Glorfindel took the cup from his hand and Ecthelion only watched with open amusement as he drained it in a draught and stood. “I do believe we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Time to retire?”
Placing the cup down he took Ecthelion’s hand and pulled him willingly to his feet, unhooked the lamp near to the door and they headed out together.
“I suppose I might stay the night here then?” Ecthelion enquired innocently, a much more relaxed smile now on his lips as they walked together a very respectable distance apart.
They passed one of the members of the house who paid them no more attention than was usual; a nod and a polite greeting.
Turgon was out on the balcony of the top floor of his tower; the highest point in the city and therefore the best view. Or it would have been, if the storm clouds were not rolling in from the north. He watched idly, the breeze picking up and stirring his hair. It was dramatic from this distance and if he were more artistic, perhaps he would have thought to capture it in oils, but he wasn’t and instead he just thought about how ironic it was that the weather had decided to reflect his current mood. He thought that Lord Ulmo must be finding this whole thing rather amusing.
A knock came and he sighed, straightened up and walked back into his office.
“Lord Laurefindil, my liege.” A young squire bowed before him and Glorfindel stood a little way behind in the corridor still, awaiting entry.
“Send him in.” Turgon stood behind the large desk that sat before the open balcony doors and waited for his captain to come in before he bade him sit and did so himself.
Glorfindel was tall, even by elven standards and was almost level with Turgon himself. He wore the colours of his house; the customary white linen with green accents and shining gold brocade. He had the well-honed physique of one who spent the majority of their time in training with a sword and as such, cut a striking figure. That paired with his long golden tresses and there was no mistaking him in a crowd. Nay, he almost shone.
Turgon thought all of this, not for the first time and with a slight prickling of irritation, bemoaning the fact that he could not be sending him on a different mission, one much more personal. For surely he would have made a greater impression, as well as being higher in the line of Finwë as to hold a more compelling argument…but alas, this would have to do.
Glorfindel sat through this scrutiny patiently, seeing the intense look that he was being given and wondering yet again if he had done something wrong to have been called in separately, but waiting for Turgon to start the conversation before speaking up.
“Laurefindil, I trust all is well? How goes it in the House of the Flower? Do your men like their new armour?” The smiths had only recently finished kitting out Glorfindel’s house, making the adjustments so as each suit was custom fit to his owner as to allow maximum movement in combat whilst accommodating Glorfindel’s precise design aesthetics. Rog was very proud of his house’s work, as he might be.
“Very well my king, thank you. And yes, they like them very much; I can already see that the new recruits have more discipline than previously now that they look the part. Plus, it means we are that much better prepared for any- eventuality.” He swallowed on the last word, eyes glancing to the open doors behind the king and the rapidly darkening sky. He hoped it wasn’t a foreshadowing, for he had an ill feeling creep over him, as sometimes happened, of fire and darkness enveloping them from the same direction, but he shook it off momentarily.
“Good. That’s good to hear.” He was stalling and they both were aware of this fact. Presently, Turgon let out a sigh of the long-suffering and sat back in his chair, one hand reaching to tap out a staccato on his desk.
“Look, Laurefindil, you know why I asked you here-”
“Actually, my King, I don’t.” He looked a bit awkward.
“No, well…” He sighed again.
It wasn’t like Turgon to be this coy and Glorfindel’s over-active imagination was working ten to the dozen as to what this could be about. Of course, his thoughts went straight to the usual topic, being the only real thing that actually gave him cause for concern. He didn’t believe he’d done anything else to warrant any form of punishment. Watching him carefully he blinked and on instinct braced himself for the worst.
“My king-“ he started but Turgon seemed to make a decision and cut him off.
“Enough with the formalities,” he rolled his eyes and withdrew his hand from the tapping, sitting more upright. “Your mother calls me by my name and has no issue with it; it feels odd to have you speak to me as one of the ordinary citizens.”
“With all due respect, it might seem well, disrespectful to the citizens not to, don’t you think?” Glorfindel countered, now becoming a might confused as to where this rather odd conversation was leading. “They pay no mind to my mother doing so for it’s the right of an elder relative, is it not?”
“Perhaps.” He paused, “but we are not within earshot of anyone now, so let us be open with one another, shall we?”
“As you wish my- Turukáno,” he said, the familiar name sounding somehow foreign to his ears and he had a sudden flashback to days long since passed when they perhaps were not easier, but simpler. He never had been a fan of politics, an artist and proficient at athletic pursuits and wielding a sword, Glorfindel much preferred to leave the games of power to others who were higher in position than himself and perform his duties in ways that suited him better. Thankfully he had managed to do just that, being fairly happy with his lot, but he had a distinct feeling that that was now about to change and it filled him with a strong sense of foreboding.
Turgon offered him a small smile which Glorfindel supposed was intended to put him at ease, but if anything it did the exact opposite. Never before had he questioned his decision to follow his cousin into hiding, despite how angry Findekáno had been with all of them. They hadn’t parted on the best of terms and he was hoping that this visit could go some ways at least to repairing some of the rift that had been created.
“I have been thinking for a while now, as you know is my sworn duty as the King, on the safety of our city, of our people and on how long we may remain hidden. I have sought the counsel of Lord Ulmo, but he has not come forward with more than he has already previously revealed. I would, therefore, seek to bring about an… allegiance. One which might, ere the end, if what has been foretold is one day to come to fruition, bring us aid and perhaps even enhanced protection. That all should not be lost.”
Glorfindel didn’t miss the emphasis he placed, but managed to keep his expression carefully neutral. It would be best, he thought, to keep all objections and opinions to himself, for now.
“Now, you know that I would have yourself along with Lord Ehtelë and lord Egalmoth escort my headstrong sister to visit with Findekáno. Long has she been needling me to allow her passage outside of Ondolindë and long have I refused her. However, a thought that had come to me some time ago has been weighing on my mind and I have come to a decision. A decision which, I hope, will secure our futures and bring about a longer lasting peace and unity to these beleaguered lands.”
He fixed Glorfindel with a piercing look, hands spread flat upon one another on his desk. “You are to escort Írissë to Findekáno and whilst she makes her visit I would that you travel into Doriath to seek audience with King Elwë Singolo and the Lady Melian and,” he smiled and nodded to himself to confirm his own thoughts, “their daughter, the Lady Lúthien.”
Glorfindel’s sense of unease was growing and he wished for a strong drink. This, he thought, was Not Good. In fact, it was so very Not Good that he was already jumping ahead to conclusions as to just what the intention of this royal visit might be and frankly, he would much rather go and spend the rest of his days down one of Rog’s mines than go to Menegroth if he was correct.
“You wish for me to seek out the Lady Lúthien and you speak of an alliance. Is it then that you think she might hold some power that might bring aid to Ondolindë?”
Glorfindel thought that if he stated the fact boldly enough that it would work better and the truth of the matter would out more quickly, for he feared that if Turgon did not soon come to the point he would end up saying something that he would regret. Painfully, it reminded him of just how much he was not cut out for the necessary parlay of political life and he wished fervently that Turgon would speak plainly so as the matter might be done, even if it were unwelcome.
Glorfindel’s heart lightened.
Turgon seemed to hesitate for a split second but his eyes did not leave Glorfindel’s and he nodded to himself as if making a final decision.
“I would have you petition for an alliance between our people through kinship, as a union between the house of Finwë and the house of Elwë would be strong indeed, would you not say? And I believe that were such a force as has been foretold ever be sent forth and we are discovered, were we able to protect ourselves from without as well as within, surely it would be all the better. For is it not said that the Lady Melian holds such enchantment as to bewitch all those that dare to tread upon her girdle? What then if her daughter might favour us here with an enchantment in kind as like to it?”
“I am not sure I follow your thoughts,” Glorfindel said, frowning, “for you cannot be asking that I petition for the fair Lady’s hand? Such a thing is impossible-”
Turgon huffed loudly and rolled his eyes. “No no,” he dismissed his question quickly, a wave of his hand, “though I cannot say that I have not bitterly lamented that the possibility is closed to us. A fine chance that would have been and stronger than any other, if you had not already taken a spouse. Alas also that both Elwë, as well as I, have borne daughters; for had one been a son would not it have been also a good match? But nay, there is but one other and therefore I put it to you Laurefindil, that the honour be given to your nephew. I would hope you may speak to him in such ways that he would find it a great blessing to be named as suitor.”
Glorfindel steeled himself and set a resolve. He reminded himself sternly that he had vowed to follow his kinsman as king and thus his duty was to carry out his will. His principles would not let him do anything against the will of the Valar, and the laws he also set upon himself, but otherwise he had no case to make a refusal. However, it was set out in the beginning that no elf should marry save for love or at the least of free consent. He felt great anticipation of the danger laid before him and not a small amount of protectiveness towards Voronwë, who was innocent in the knowledge of all Turgon was planning for him, without consultation. Voronwë was so young, barely three hundred years of the sun passed since his birth was such a short time in comparison to the slow coming of age under the trees in Valinor. His heart went out to him, though he knew nothing of this talk.
A gust of wind from the impending storm blew in and rustled through the papers stacked before him and Turgon rose and shut the doors tight. It broke some of the tension in the room.
“What say you?” Turgon remained standing with his hands upon the back of his chair, leaning in and studying Glorfindel with keen interest.
“In what way do you envisage this being agreed upon?” Glorfindel asked, “for I do not think that Elwë will agree to give away his daughter’s hand lightly, if at all and not without seeing and speaking at long length with Voronwë. Believe me. You have not met him; I am not entirely sure I would that my nephew had to… Elwë is not one to be trifled with.” He did not mention his brother and sister-in-law’s almost certain wrath, for he felt it would be dismissed out of hand.
“I would go myself, you know this much,” Turgon countered, “but I have duty to my people.”
“With all due respect, that does not answer the question,” Glorfindel countered, not letting the duty card take top draw in this round.
Turgon smiled. “Not is it without reason that you are beloved of the city, for you are ever the voice of reason and diplomacy. If it is not meant to be, if he would not be willing to broker such a beneficial joining of our peoples, then your visit will be that of an emissary looking to secure deeper relations with a neighboring kingdom. And if he would be in agreement, with his daughter’s own free will, naturally, then I have faith in yours and your companion’s strength and valour to be able to bring the fair lady safely to us.”
“You make it sound so simple, yet there has ever been rumour amongst those who hail from his people that Elwë holds little love for the Noldor. That he has suspicion, even though he has held friendship with Artanis and Findaráto. That there are those who would speak to him of Alqualondë-“
A widening of eyes in warning brought Glorfindel’s argument up short and he stopped, shaking his head slowly. Again, he bit his tongue for want of speaking out. He wanted naught to do with this, yet he could see when he was backed into a corner with little hope of escape. He was in check, one more move and the game would be over.
He’d thought himself somewhat immune to it all, that the part he played already was enough, but he wasn’t in the slightest. He might not have raised a hand in Alqualondë, but he’d been there before and afterwards too. Had stood and felt the righteous anger of his uncle and cousins as it had risen in himself. He’d grown up fast and had been part of the fabric of life in Vinyamar. Staying with Turgon even when his mother had left for a time with her brother, already men loyal to him after leading them to battle. Thrown in at the deep end as most of them were, mostly surviving through sheer force of will and gut reaction rather than any great skill in war. That had necessarily needed to change, swiftly and thankfully he was bright and a very fast learner. He might have seen himself as just a captain then, another lord in the host, but he wasn’t.
“This is bigger than you or I, this is the fate of all of our people. Would you deny that Laurefindil? Is it not the line of Finwë, not Elwë, who is most persecuted of the peoples of this land? Have we not redeemed ourselves many times over since our arrival, doing naught but protect and all of those who have need in Beleriand, including those of the King of Doriath?”
This was deteriorating fast and Glorfindel groaned inwardly, recognising when Turgon was going down the rabbit-hole, as he tended to when his blood was high.
“No, I don’t deny it, but I counsel you to perhaps seek not to garner his allegiance unless you can make a better argument than one such as that you have put to me now. That Elwë has great power and is beloved amongst his people, who stayed behind and denied the call of the Valar, only for their loyalty to their King. If we make a mistake, if we anger him and he turns against us seeing either a slight, or worse a deception and an attempt to usurp his kingdom, then it could indeed hasten our doom.”
Turgon’s expression spoke of displeasure and Glorfindel would have wavered if he wasn’t so convinced of the need to at least try to dissuade him from this path. No-other was in council and he knew it was likely fruitless but the burden to try had fallen squarely upon his shoulders.
“Perhaps,” he said carefully, before Turgon had had chance to interject, “there is another who would be more fitting a husband for the Lady. Findekáno is of higher rank than Voronwë and he is not yet wed. Would such a match not aid us still? I will have need to return for Írissë in any regards and as such I could arrange for them to meet, if it was agreed upon. Still it would be a union and still it might be agreed that we would be afforded protection and aid at such a time as it would be needed.”
Turgon’s lip curled and he blinked slowly. “Hmm.” Glorfindel felt a small flare of hope, though it was dashed quickly.
“I fear that my brother would not be in such an agreement in this matter,” he said, “no matter how much my father would delight in it. You know just as well as anyone, for it is an open secret, he has too close relations with Nelyafinwë. Even if this might be his saving grace, that he could repent of his ways before he has crossed the line that would seal his fate, I believe he would not be willing. If little love, you say, would Elwë Singolo hold for the host of Ñolofinwë if such talk of our strife has indeed reached his ear, then less still would he hold for the host of Curufinwë. For I do not hold myself foolish enough to believe that they would willingly give up their friendship. This, I will not do. He has brought this strange fate upon himself. Had he wed properly already, it may have been different.”
He looked Glorfindel squarely in the eye, expression unreadable. “Those who take such paths must necessarily accept the consequences. Which means bending to the will of others and accepting their charity if they wish to retain their positions of good standing. In my brother’s case, his place is at our father’s side to do his bidding. Would you not agree, Laurefindil?”
Glorfindel’s blood ran cold and his stomach dropped like a stone. The judgement against Findekáno was chilling to hear and he wondered if the brothers had spoken on the matter and if the bitterness at Turgon’s leaving had not been worsened by it. He felt the familiar stab of fear strike his core and an echo answered in his soul.
Worry not, I am well he thought and sighed.
Turgon had called checkmate, whether he knew it or not and his final piece was defeated. He had lost the heart to go on with the debate when all it did was bring him close to dangerous territories, which would be best dealt with at a much later date. Now was certainly not the time to come to the defense of Fingon either, when there were more pressing matters at hand.
He stood and nodded. “Then, my King, all that is left is to make the arrangements.”
“Chin up you two, anyone would think that you were being sent into exile the way you’re treating this! I mean, wasn’t it you, Glorfindel, who told me you wished for more adventure? I don’t know, there’s no pleasing some folk. Personally, I’m quite looking forward to it, even if you’re not.”
Can we leave him with Findekáno? He liked it there. He could do with someone so optimistic around the place. He wouldn’t even need to convince his Lady into leaving then…
Glorfindel hid a snort of laughter into his mug of ale and Egalmoth slow blinked at him across the table.
“You know, that’s rather rude,” he said with a quirk of brows towards Ecthelion, whom he guessed to be the source of Glorfindel’s mirth, “do share with the table what’s so funny?”
“I was just remarking upon how wonderful your enthusiasm for this journey is Egalmoth, nothing more. Peace, my friend.”
“Besides,” Glorfindel chimed in, “it’s actually true. I can’t say as I’m looking forwards to this as much as I might have thought I would be,” for reasons he wasn’t about to share where they could be overheard in any case, “but we’ve made the same journey before and managed to do so without being discovered. And there were a great deal more of us going back and forth then than four riders.”
Ecthelion hummed and eyed him suspiciously, whilst Glorfindel studiously kept his own eyes on his drink and pointedly ignored the probing looks. He knew that was not going to be a fun conversation.
“Move over, make some room!”
All three looked up as they were joined at the table by Duilin and Penlod on one side, sliding onto the wooden bench and pushing Glorfindel and Ecthelion together, then Galdor and Rog, who swung his legs over to sit beside Egalmoth. He set down a pitcher of ale and four mugs before proceeding to fill them and top up the others already there.
“So, Turukáno finally gave in then and you three get the pleasure of keeping the fair princess company. Some of us get all the luck and I expect I can make a good guess as to why too.”
“Do tell then Rog,” Penlod said, “because it’s really very hard to work out why he would send his cousin, his highest-ranking captain and…well why is he sending you, Egalmoth?” He smirked at him and raised a brow.
Rog laughed and knocked his mug against Egalmoth’s, slinging his free arm around his friend’s shoulder before taking a drink.
The Lord of the Hammer cut quite the imposing figure. He was broad and tall with powerfully muscular forearms from countless hours at the forge, but it was his short-cut hair that made him stand out amongst his companions; sensible for his given profession. Though for all his brawn he was quick to laugh and his was the most tolerant house out of all in the city.
“Come now Penlod, you’re making him blush!” he laughed and they all chuckled.
It was well known that Egalmoth had designs on one of the ladies of the palace in Barad Eithel. He had courted her for quite a time and had been fair distraught when she had decided to move with Fingolfin and Fingon with her parents, whilst he had left with his brethren and friends with Turgon’s host. He was far from being the only one who had loved ones beyond the borders of their valley; so many husbands and wives, children and extended family as well as those betrothed were separated, but dwelling on it in sorrow did no good at all.
“I’m going because it would be unfair on Aredhel to have to bear the only bow and because these two mangle Sindarin so badly that they would be as good as no use at all should we have need to seek shelter or passage.”
“Well that’s not exactly fair,” Ecthelion frowned, a bit put out, “I think I’ve improved quite a bit in the last few years.” Glorfindel chuckled and patted his arm.
“Be that as it may, you’re the most Noldorin looking Noldo I’ve ever met and Glorfindel here,” Egalmoth gave him a beaming smile, “well he managed to butcher translating his own name, so I hardly think he can be trusted to get us through!”
Glorfindel harrumphed. “Ha ha. Very funny. It’s not my fault that your language is less expressive. You don’t have enough words to describe things properly.”
“And you have too many,” Duilin countered, also being Sindar, “and I’m certain that you could have come up with something better than Gold-Locks if you’d given the slightest bit of thought to it.”
“Now boys,” Salgant interrupted, appearing behind Egalmoth and smiling at them all with a sly look upon his face, “play nicely.”
“Salgant. Good of you to join us. Please, I’m sure we can find some room.” Rog’s smile was all pearly whites and the effect was as intended, for Salgant visibly paled. Though to give him his due he didn’t back away as many might if Rog looked at them in that way.
“Thank you but no, I was on my way to call on a friend for supper and I wouldn’t want to be late.”
“No, Eru forbid…” Ecthelion mumbled and Glorfindel was left again hiding a snigger in his mug as Salgant glared at them both and huffed indignantly.
“Quite,” he said loudly, “but I was passing this way and guessed where you all would be and quite predictably I was right. You know, as Lords you ought to be frequenting higher-class establishments, but there’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.”
“It’s good for our people that we are not seen as so far above them in station that they do not feel unable to be open around us and trust in our leadership,” Glorfindel said, matching him in tone, “or would you not agree?”
“Oh, I quite agree in some aspects, but I would not think that should include rabble-rousing with them also. You can be respected well enough, I find, without needing lower yourself to their level. Although, I can see how some of us might have a greater need than others to ingratiate themselves to gain favour, given other inadequacies…”
He smiled in Glorfindel’s, then Ecthelion’s direction, whose postures both stiffened. Galdor, never one to care for what anyone thought of him and ready to flatten the pompous buffoon given half a chance, rose and pointed a finger into Salgant’s ample chest.
“You’re out of line in speaking about anyone in such a way, be it any of us or the good people of this city. Never have I heard it said that the qualities of the food and drink at one’s table were of higher import than being in the company of fair and honest people.”
“Honest!” Salgant spluttered, outraged and turning red in the face.
“Yes, honest!” Galdor countered angrily, “as if you would know! You’ve never known an honest day’s hard work in your life!”
Glorfindel had stood and placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder, pressed him to sit back down before turning to Salgant himself and shook his head
The contrast between Glorfindel and the squat and portly figure that Salgant cut before him was indeed as comical as it was striking. Salgant might well have been turned out in the blue and silver fineries of his house, hair in intricate braiding and ornate clasps, but it didn’t do much to make up for his sneering expression and lack of the good figure that should have been afforded to him as one of the Eldar.
He placed one hand on his hip and straightened before the Lord of the Golden Flower, as if he could make himself taller.
Glorfindel couldn’t rightly understand anyone who didn’t delight in movement and strength, comradery and all of the good things that Eru had provided them, instead preferring gluttony, the gathering of wealth and influence, and jibes at others expense; who let themselves become lesser for it. So instead of anger he looked upon him with a measure of pity.
“Your opinions are quite well known,” Glorfindel said in a measured voice, “and we have no wish to hear them again this evening. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be thought of as lowering yourself as we do by being here, so perhaps you shouldn’t keep your friend waiting any longer. Unless there was something else you needed?”
“Oh no, Lord Laurefindil, no I won’t stay, you’re quite right.” He smiled slyly again, a tightness to his eyes that belied his simmering anger at being insulted. “Do excuse my interrupting, I merely wanted to wish the three of you good fortunes for being chosen to guard our fair princess on such a dangerous journey and let you know how sorely you’ll be missed. Particularly yourself and Lord Ehtelë; I don’t know how we will hold the city’s defense and morale without the command of two such paragons of virtue. Though how fortuitous it is for you too! I realise how much you must miss the company of Lord Findekáno, you always did have so much in common.”
There was a line. They all knew of the line and sometimes they crossed it, though never too far. Then there was Salgant. Who was so far over the line that it was but a shadow in the distance.
The surrounding tables went silent as the other six lords stood too and Salgant, being Salgant, didn’t even attempt to hold his ground.
Glorfindel held out an arm that stopped Ecthelion in his advance and had to fair shout at him silently to stop, receiving a low growl in return. He glared from behind Glorfindel’s shoulder and Salgant’s eyes bulged as he took a hasty step back, fearing the worst.
“Oh, don’t piss your pants,” Rog chimed in with all the aplomb of his own folk, as he pushed past and folded his arms with a look of derision on his face. The contrast between them was even starker.
“No-one cares. Lord Egalmoth, Lord Laurefindil and Lord Ehtelë will all be missed, for they bring more to this city than someone like you could even dream of. What do you offer, Salgant? Apart from sullying what should be good music with distasteful verse and spreading negativity wherever you go? You squander your own Eru-given talents and scorn those who choose to nurture their own. If it were not for your wealth, you would not have your own house and everyone knows it.”
“Rog!” Glorfindel admonished with a measure of shock, his voice commanding enough that even Rog jumped. Salgant was puce with barely contained rage at the public drubbing and when Glorfindel turned his glare on him he didn’t need to be told; he left hastily with his nose in the air. Glorfindel internally groaned, knowing there would be come-back from this in the future.
The people around them seemed to realise they had more important conversations to hold rather than eavesdrop on their captains and the chatter rose up around them again as the tension slowly left, along with the Lord of the Harp.
All but Rog and Glorfindel sat back down, now more subdued but making an attempt to regain their earlier good mood, whilst the two remaining stood close and spoke in low tones that no-one was close enough to hear who shouldn’t. Ecthelion shot them a glance and Glorfindel noted the stiffness in his shoulders even whilst his fair face was smooth and without concern as he turned back to the conversation.
“No-one cares,” Rog repeated and rose his brows at Glorfindel, who pursed his lips then sighed.
“No, not everyone thinks that way and you know that damn well!” Glorfindel hissed in a low tone, leaning in. “Willful ignorance on the parts of many isn’t the same as acceptance and it doesn’t do to draw attention. Salgant can be counted on to run his mouth, people expect it of him. Whilst I’m grateful that you’re willing to defend– us, my friend, I fear that if you push him too far he’ll upset the whole balance. Turukáno is still labouring under his own illusions, in spite of crass verses that might reach his ear and I would that it stays that way a while longer.”
Rog looked Glorfindel square in the eye. “If you want to believe that, then I will not interfere, but I would that you consider your position. Perhaps not now, but it could be the opportune moment to sort this out when you return. Perhaps you might discuss it with Findekáno whilst you are there. He might be able to offer some advice.”
Laurë, be careful, there are those who have hearing better than your voices are lowered enough for and this is dangerous…
Glorfindel shook his head and passed a hand over his face. “This is neither the time nor the place, as you know full well. What would you have me do? Even if we didn’t have to worry about ourselves, there is my mother, our King-“
Too much is at stake…
“My Lord, as much as we hold love for you, we would all rather not have to go through this farce time and time again. No matter how you play it, it cannot hold out. I’m sorry to say this and I hope you’ll forgive me; but you decided on your fate and you need to deal with the consequences.” He glanced Ecthelion’s way, who was sitting silent amongst their friends and could tell by the set of his jaw and tightness around his eyes that he had known the speech was not meant for Glorfindel alone.
“Come now though!” he clapped Glorfindel heartily on the shoulder and smiled, a genuine smile. ”Let’s speak no more of this tonight. Time to see if Egalmoth has it in him to bring a bride back!”
Do come and let me know what you think so far or just flail at me if you prefer! As always you can catch me here or on Tumblr - see you in a couple of weeks!
Chapter 5: Things Best Left Unsaid
Youngsters discovering themselves and the importance of talking instead of making assumptions
Of the two Lords, Ecthelion was far more likely to be called serious, although those who were closer knew him differently. He had been changed deeply from the young elf who left Valinor on that fateful journey, barely past his majority, or was as the years had been counted then. Loosing almost all of his family had taken the joy from his music and haunted his smiles for a long time. So many pieces he played were tinged with the edge of sorrow and somber were the notes in their early days in Vinyamar.
No-one had questioned the closeness between Glorfindel and Ecthelion at all. Too many people were deep within their own suffering; friends and families were devastated and many who had made it across the ice faded still ere the first few years had passed in Arda. Finding comfort as best they might, they were not the only ones who found themselves in positions of responsibility, in spite of their relative youth, and it was therefore seen as natural that they should come together to aid one another in the building back up of their respective houses, now that they were their Lords, not heirs.
The two had been thrown together from an early age in Tirion, as many of them had been. Born within a few years of one another and along with their peers, it was common to have spied a band of noisy little lords and ladies running amok about the palace, then further afield when older and allowed to roam freely.
Then, in unfamiliar lands they’d only heard tales of, Glorfindel held the house of the Golden Flower as his father had in Tirion and Ecthelion the Fountain. Quickly they gained respect as Lords in their own rights and gathered many to them who had not before belonged to any house. They worked tirelessly and held reputations as being just and fair to all.
They were both natural leaders; whether from birth or from upbringing it was difficult to say, but never the less it meant that as war came upon the host right from their first days, they played their parts in victory upon the battlefield. Each had been trained from an early age in such disciplines as use of the sword and horsemanship, mostly for ceremony and tournament. It was strange to them now, to have need of such things against real enemies, but the blood of the Noldor ran hot through all the host and they did not shy from defending themselves and asailing them as they attacked. They learned fast and it was well they did, for great was the number of foes from the North and they needed captains who could keep level heads and bring back their men to fight another day. Captains who knew that retreat was not cowardice.
In the beginning of the new age, as Fingolfin was establishing his kingdom, there was much grief amongst the exiled and as such there were more than a few who wed without ceremony at that time. Blind eyes were turned, as the customs that had been long held as necessary and proper were cast aside and things such as betrothal periods and proper asking of hands from parents were ignored. Such things as kept society together, the laws and traditions that were so important in times of peace and well order, were of less import as that of finding happiness and holding onto loved ones when all the world had shifted under your feet and nothing was now certain. When those who had thought themselves eternal, felt death and loss. The joining of souls through union helped to hold many in the world who may have heeded the calling of Lord Namo if they had not had anchor to hold them back.
It was in this way that Aranwë, younger brother to Glorfindel, had wed Ilmarien. A year later they welcomed their son, Voronwë, who’s birth had helped to bring some light back to his grandmother, the Lady Lalwen’s eyes. Glorfindel had looked upon the child and was greatly taken with him too, but his heart had sorely hurt, for he had by then realised that his fate lay elsewhere and he would not beget children of his own.
“You do not know that Laurefindil! You're young, there's no reason you should not wed!”
Ecthelion had found him in his chambers, offering to look for him when all were still celebrating his brother’s good fortune. He’d known he would be missed; for Voronwë was the first born since their flight and he represented hope for the Noldor in their exile and all were finding happiness in his safe arrival. Glorfindel had been weeping softly, silently and Ecthelion had sat down beside him and held him carefully and with reverence when he made his quiet confession.
“I do know that,” he'd countered sadly, but would not look up to meet Ecthelion’s eyes. He feared greatly that if he did not stay his tongue that he would loose his closest friend and his life would be so much poorer for it.
“Have you had visions of this from Lord Lórien? For often have I dreamed of strange things and I don't believe that they can all be true. They are but dreams, my friend.” A memory of flame and shadow and a lack of breath flickered across his mind; something he’d thought on more than once and he blinked to clear his head.
“Nay, not dreams. It's what is in my heart, but don't worry about me. I've accepted it for what it is and this shall pass.” Glorfindel took in a fortifying breath and looked up with wet lashes, apologetic and feeling shameful.
Caught in a moment, Ecthelion looked upon his friend and felt his own heart clench at the sight of someone so generous of spirit and beloved in such obvious pain. He wanted nothing more than to take it away, to reassure Glorfindel that he was wrong, but he found that he could not.
“I-“ He paused and swallowed past the sudden lump in his throat and when he spoke his voice was low and touched by sadness. “I too do not think I will sire children, but I have known this for much longer than you, I believe.”
He watched as Glorfindel’s eyes widened and his expression changed, comprehension dawning only as Ecthelion reached up and gently tucked the hair hanging in his face behind an ear and cupped his cheek.
“Is this why?” Ecthelion asked quietly, holding his gaze. Glorfindel hesitated, fear flicking across his face and he held his breath, closed his eyes against those soft grey ones that saw too much.
“Yes.” The shame in his barely whispered confession was enough to almost break Ecthelion’s heart.
“I am so sorry.” There was nothing more he could say, for it was not a fate he would have chosen for Glorfindel, brave and strong and well-loved amongst all who knew him. It had been many years since he had surrendered his own dreams of finding another to give his love; for his beautiful friend had taken pride of place even before his majority, before the darkening of Aman.
That night, somewhere deep inside, hope kindled twin flames within them, though it was not spoken of. Ecthelion had held Glorfindel whilst he regained his composure then both had returned to the celebration. Although, if their glances towards one another had become warmer and touches had lingered, neither had made any comment.
Over the next few years the Noldor had settled into life in Nevrast and the Sindar who dwelt there had mingled with their people. Friendships had blossomed and families had been joined and all was well between the long-sundered kin. They fought many battles together against the forces of Morgoth, told and untold in their histories and through both happiness and grief their alliance was strengthened. The houses of the Golden Flower and the Fountain and others from Tirion had continued to grow in their followings, as well as that of other houses who had newly appointed Lords from those who had shown courage and leadership.
Glorfindel and Ecthelion’s friendship had only strengthened through them too; seeking one another’s counsel and sharing of resources, or simply quiet evenings spent together, not needing or looking for excuse. There were some who had begun to question, a rumour or two whispered, but nothing came of them and they mostly died away quickly, for truly, there was nothing to tell. For even if each harboured wishes that there could be more between them, neither spoke of it, for such things were not the way of the Noldor. And if those who were closer to them had any confidences or thoughts of their own, they kept them to themselves, or at least only between those who were the closest of their friends and family.
“How goes it my Lord?” A Sinda by the name of Egalmoth who had settled years past with his house, the Heavenly Arch approached, accompanied by a beautiful lady with hand upon his elbow. Glorfindel smiled widely, for they were good friends.
“Well enough, thank you. I hope all is so in your house too,” he nodded to Egalmoth and turned to his companion, “and it's wonderful to see you once again my Lady. Greetings.” He bowed his head low and gave a flourish of his arm and she laughed.
“Such formalities!” she said, “Egalmoth! You should have brought me here earlier than now, it is such a pleasant change. And to think that the talk in Menegroth is always of Noldorin pride and arrogance; I’ve yet to see such behaviour.”
“Laurefindil, do forgive my sister,” Egalmoth rolled his eyes. Clearly, he had been indulging her for a while.
“Do not make apology for me,” she said and swatted him on the arm, “if I wanted to seek forgiveness, I would ask for it myself.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. There are plenty with far too much of both traits. I’m glad you’ve found company with those who’ve not exhibited them thus far,” Glorfindel said with a smile, then rose his brows at Egalmoth. “Perhaps I would have expected an apology forthcoming from you though for springing an unexpected partner upon me in front of the entire nobility. Which could have gone horribly wrong, I might add.”
He’d not had chance to collar Egalmoth since the ball held at Yule, when he’d met the Lady Istin, a few weeks before. Egalmoth merely shrugged and waved a hand at his quelling look.
“Apologise for making sure a friend had an enjoyable evening and looking out for my sister at the same time? What an odd request. I rather would have expected your thanks. How is Lord Ehtelë, by the way? I’ve not seen him since, either.”
Glorfindel blinked at him and paused before shaking his head with a light sigh.
“Well, I believe. I’ve been quite busy and so has he so perhaps you might seek him out yourself,” he said. “Come on inside, I’ll have refreshments brought.”
Lady Istin had the long brown hair that was typical of her kin and was tall and slender as a willow and her beauty along with her almost constant smile had her never lacking in company. Although they’d not known one another for long, Glorfindel already knew that they would be fast friends. It was not difficult so see why; for she was quick to laugh and had the spirit of youth still about her, although she was well into adulthood. With a pang he’d realised she was a sharp reminder of how they all had been in years past and still might be now, had their doom not been lain down. Her intelligent sense of wit had them spending the afternoon in laughter and his heart felt lighter than it had in a good while.
Without even realising it he found himself spending much time in her company over the coming months. She had delighted in showing him how to better hunt with a bow, honing his skills in the forests around the city and she in return had found a talent for the use of a sword, which Glorfindel was only too happy to teach.
There was the added bonus that he was free from the weight of any expectation too. He had realised quickly on their first meeting that Egalmoth must have sought to arrange from the outset, although they’d had no such conversation about it. Never once had he felt any pressure from her that she sought more than friendship and for that he was exceedingly grateful, simply laughing off comments alluding to anything else from others. He felt more like his old self in Tirion than he had ever in the years since leaving and many smiled to see him looking so joyful, spreading his good mood amongst them.
“Ehtelë! Ho! Come join us, why don’t you!”
Glorfindel and Istin had been leaving the stables one morning in early summer, when Ecthelion had met them on the path, headed the other way. Glorfindel had instantly dismounted to greet his friend in warm embrace, as was their want, but found him stiff and unyielding. He stepped back in confusion, arms dropping to his sides.
“Well met Glorfindel,” Ecthelion gave a wan smile, using his Sindarised name deliberately. “Istin.” He nodded in her direction.
“Ehtelë!” Glorfindel was somewhat shocked, “whatever is the matter with you?”
“Nothing at all, my friend. Are you out for a ride?” he glanced over at the Lady Istin very briefly and nodded as if to himself. “I see you have your gear, I hope your hunt is successful. Good day.”
He had already turned on his heel to leave, such that Glorfindel had to jog forwards to place a hand upon his arm as he bade him stop. Ecthelion didn’t shake him off, but he pursed his lips and looked to all intents and purposes like staying was a great effort.
This wasn’t the first time recently that their meetings had been sour, but it was the first time Ecthelion had displayed almost open hostility. Increasingly he’d found that after council meetings, when he’d thought to catch him for a drink afterwards, or sought to call on him in the evening, Ecthelion had had other plans. He had hurried off before he could speak with him, had caught someone to become engrossed in conversation with and not given Glorfindel a way in, or he had been simply informed that the lord was not up for visitors when he’d arrived at his home. He had tried his best to remain ever as cheerful with him when they did have time together, although now it was almost exclusively around friends. He’d told himself that it was better this way, less room for rumors to start up, doing his best to quell the upset that threatened to take him at the turn in their long standing closeness and telling himself that it would pass.
He had the distinct impression that Ecthelion disliked the Lady Istin very much and it hurt, deeply. If that was the cause of the cooling between them, he didn’t wish to have to choose between the two. He just couldn’t fathom the cause though, as he didn’t believe they’d even spent any time together.
“What’s happened? Please, tell me what’s wrong?” Glorfindel spoke low, a beseeching look on his face and Istin had had the courtesy to lead her mount away where they could talk without eavesdropping. Ecthelion glanced her way and Glorfindel turned to her too, watching with a sigh as she stroked the horse's mane whilst he cropped happily on the sweet spring grass.
“Nothing has happened,” Ecthelion repeated and such was the pain clear in his voice that Glorfindel snapped his gaze back in a second. “Nothing that should not have and truly, I am very happy for you. For you both.”
“You’re happy for us?” he asked slowly, frowning in confusion as he was sure he’d already extended an invitation. “You could join us too, if you wanted? Not just today, but at other times. It would be wonderful if you would and I’m certain Istin would be in agreement. If you just got to know her-“
“Join you?!” Ecthelion barked a humourless laugh, cutting in and looking at him as if appalled at the notion then leaned in to hiss in a low tone, eyes ablaze. “Are you mad? No, I cannot believe you’d even suggest- but no, no I see. You wish for me to play third wheel and I’m not interested-“
Upset turned to surprise quickly and Glorfindel’s eyes widened as he realised Ecthelion’s misunderstanding. He wasn’t ordinarily one to be so slow on the uptake and he felt his face flushing rapidly.
“Oh, but it’s not like that at all! You must realise…but no. You don’t. I can see- I’m sorry…”
He bit his lip and dropped his head, heat flooding his cheeks. How had he not noticed this before? How it all must seem from Ecthelion’s point of view, he would have almost certainly reached the same conclusion the other way around. All at once the previous month’s moods hit him in the face and he could have cheerfully kicked himself.
He reached again for Ecthelion’s arm and this time he did move it away, a shake of his head, the sharpness gone from his tone.
“No Laurë, do not- do not hide this. It’s as things should be. I won’t lie to you, you know me too well. I will be happy for you.” He forced out a smile. “I’m coming to accept it already. Just–“ he swallowed and pain creased his fair features before he could school them back into a careful mask of calm, “give me time and space…”
“Ehtelë, no,” Glorfindel tried again, shaking his own head and a pang of desperation evident in his voice, for Ecthelion was already backing away. “Please, you’ve got it all wrong…”
“Have a good day Laurefindil.”
He turned and Glorfindel was left standing as he walked away, unsure of what had just happened and of whether it could be salvaged. He took in a breath and it hitched in his throat, vision blurring at the edges.
“Go after him, you dolt!” Istin was striding over with a look of utter consternation on her face, whilst Glorfindel dared not blink for fear of shedding a tear.
“I shall never understand you Noldor, honestly!” she huffed, “so full of emotion, but always so formal. If you perhaps spoke more plainly then there would be less confusion and you could have all saved yourselves a great deal of trouble!”
Glorfindel was quite unprepared for any of this, having left the house cheerful and looking forward to the day, it had completely taken him off guard. His head was spinning with the barrage of emotions he was going through and he was struggling to keep up with the sudden turn of events. Istin rolled her eyes at his inaction, hands on her hips.
“Well? What are you waiting for?” she asked and shooed him away. “I’ll sort the horses, you go and explain yourself. Using your words. Or anything else that might work, in this case.”
He gaped and she had the audacity to laugh. “Oh, don’t give me that look,” she said, “I have eyes and ears and am not ignorant to these things. You apparently are though, not to have noticed my friendship with Elanoriel.”
“You…You are going to explain that statement,” Glorfindel pointed his finger at her and huffed in complete frustration with himself, with Ecthelion and with Istin too, for not having said aught before. “Right after I return.”
“Take your time,” she said with a fond roll of her eyes.
With that he turned and ran after Ecthelion, not knowing what he was going to do but knowing somehow that things were about to change.
“Laurefindil, you shouldn’t have followed me, please go back.”
“No.” He caught up with him and stepped in front, stopping him in his path. Ecthelion was weeping. Something he’d not borne witness to since the Ice and he sucked in a breath of shock.
“Oh, Eru damn it!” Glorfindel swore in a low voice, angry at himself and shame coloured his features. Ecthelion’s over-bright eyes widened at his blaspheming and he wiped at his cheeks in haste.
“Ehtelë, I am so sorry. I’m a fool, I didn’t notice…”
“Yes, you’ve said,” he said shortly and folded his arms and held his posture, trying to regain some dignity.
“I’m not with Istin,” Glorfindel said, finally deciding to be plain in speech. “There’s nothing but friendship, I assure you. Besides, she’s just as good as told me a moment ago that she is with another.”
“Then I am sorry for your loss,” Ecthelion said and set his jaw, clearly not understanding still and he made as if to push past. “If you’ll excuse me-“
“I don’t want to be with her! I have no heart to wed Istin! Or any other lady I might have friendship with!” Glorfindel was growing increasingly frustrated with his lack of understanding and his voice rose so as Ecthelion grabbed him roughly by the arm and pulled him away towards the nearby stables.
“Do you want to be found out? You might wish to lower your tone on the open road!” Ecthelion let him go with a shove and stood glaring in his direction, whilst Glorfindel stumbled a little before regaining his footing.
“Sorry-“ he began and Ecthelion cut him off, clearly not finished now he had decided he was going to talk to him after all.
“And stop apologising! Damn you Laurë! You’ve eschewed my company in favour of hers for months now! Then every instance you did spend time with me, all you’ve talked of is what you’ve been doing together! What did you expect me to think? What do you think everyone thinks! All the gossip is of as to when you will announce the betrothal and how do you think that makes me feel?”
Apparently realising he had said far more than he had intended, Ecthelion ran out of steam, breathing deeply as he calmed himself down, a hand over his mouth and holding himself very still.
“I didn’t think-“
“No, you didn’t.”
“No and I’ve hurt you. I’ve…If I’d thought there was any chance…but you have never said anything. Not since- Well.” Glorfindel felt spots of heat high on his cheeks but he stole himself so as not to shy away and approached Ecthelion carefully, as one would a frightened animal; wanting to comfort but half afraid of being attacked.
Ecthelion lowered his arm and looked sadly at Glorfindel, fresh tears upon his cheek, so unlike the calm and collected person he always presented to the outside world. Glorfindel reached up, intending to wipe them away but Ecthelion moved his head away sharply.
“Don’t. It’s not like there’s another option,” he said, with a bitter note colouring his his words. Glorfindel winced and moved back his hand as if he’d been stung.
“There might be, you don’t know that,” he countered, “I’ve been thinking-“
“You’ve been thinking? Thinking of- What? Exactly?” Ecthelion barked out a harsh laugh, gesturing towards the open stable entrance. “Nay, there’s nothing to think about here, let alone discussing it where anyone could walk in. Just-“
He ran a hand through his hair, upset and agitated, his usually carefully braided locks beginning to loosen and tangle. Glorfindel automatically reached to tidy a strand, so used to being tactile around him and not even thinking, but before he could, Ecthelion caught his wrist.
Ecthelion felt himself crack inside as the fight all but drained away. For so long he’d fought against this; everything all bottled up and pushed down deep, not allowing himself to think upon it lest his carefully controlled emotions might spill over and he be made to feel the pain of them proper. This had been brewing for years, long before Istin had shown up on the scene and today had simply been the final push to tip the balance.
He’d thrown himself into his work. He’d spent hours in training, many more than necessary and he’d come home exhausted and sore and then spent more time still pouring over the drawings and plans he was creating for the new city for Turgon. It had worked, to a point, and he’d thought it would be alright, and he’d thought he was going to get through it, somehow. He would be happy for Glorfindel and he was determined not to make him feel guilty for being able to move past his unnatural leanings, when he himself hadn’t.
Now though, when he realised how badly he’d misread the situation, he was right back to where he’d been previously. With Glorfindel before him, the same person he’d ever been and everything he wanted, still there and reaching for him- what was he to do? He wasn’t strong enough. Not when he was so close, so achingly beautiful and so utterly sad. He wanted nothing more than to make him smile again, even though he knew he should leave, for everyone’s sake.
“Laurë…” Alhough his voice held warning it was weak even to his own ears. He looked into Glorfindel’s overbright eyes, seeing nothing but openness and vulnerability and he could feel his will, which he had thought was of honed-steel, ebbing away now that they were as close as they had ever been to actually naming what was between them.
Glorfindel’s gaze had dropped to his lips, a light blush across his cheeks. Ecthelion wasn’t sure if he even realised he was doing it. It wouldn’t take much; just a few inches of space and he knew that his life would be irrevocably changed. He knew in his heart that once they had made that step, there would be no going back. Not for himself, at least. How could he ever think to take another once he had known the sweetness of being loved by one who already held his heart?
Closing the gap between them Ecthelion surprised himself; his body taking initiative unbidden by its owner, even as his mind had tried to hold him back. As soon as their lips met, he thought of naught else but the swooping in his stomach and the blessed relief and sheer delight that finally, finally, he had what he’d needed for so long. The tension fell away from him in one long sigh.
Glorfindel’s lips were full and soft, not urgent but gentle with him, as if he were precious and might break. He wasn’t so fragile as needing such delicacy, however much a part of him ached at the loveliness. Emotions overtook his senses and he dropped Glorfindel’s wrist to instead bury his fingers into silken hair and pull them together more firmly. Their honed and strong bodies fitting against one another, as with his other hand he sought his waist, delighting at the noise he wrought from him.
As both were inexperienced there was little in the way of grace in this first expression between them and soon a clashing of teeth had them break apart, breathless laughter and shocked expressions as they caught one-another’s eye. Faintly Ecthelion tasted the sweetness of strawberries, for it must have been Glorfindel’s breakfast.
A small part of his mind was already trying to surface above the madness that had overtaken him, but he didn’t want to listen to it, not yet. There would be all the time in the world to agonise over the perils that inevitably awaited them in the future and so he kissed him again, desperate for the moment to last as long as it might. He was fearful that it might be their only time together and that this would all end, as it should, in a permanent parting.
What he didn’t realise, couldn’t conceive, was that Glorfindel’s heart was soaring too and he had little intention of this being the first and only time that they should be as they were. It was true that he had been distraught once he had acknowledged what was between them but he had, over the years that had since passed, come to an acceptance and had quietly made peace with himself.
At last, Ecthelion dropped his head onto Glorfindel’s shoulder and closed his eyes, emotions completely overwhelming him. They said naught for a long moment, hearts returning to their normal rhythm. The horses quietened past their soft whinnying at their appearance within the stables, as the emotionally charged atmosphere that had come with them was now dissipating.
“I’m s-“ he started but Glorfindel cut him off immediately.
“Oh no you don’t,” he said softly and wrapped his arms around him more tightly, as if he might be about to make a run for freedom. “I’m not going to let you apologise for giving me the best experience of my life so far. I’m not going to let you go off and beat yourself over it either.”
“This isn’t right though, we shouldn’t-“ he protested, even though his heart gave a lurch at Glorfindel’s words.
“Says who?” Glorfindel had quite clearly woken up to the entire situation, for gone was the bumbling elf that had needed to chase Ecthelion down. He had finally realised that he might actually be able to have what he thought had been unattainable and was going to fight to keep it, however much pain and hardship that was inevitably going to bring about.
“Says everybody!” Ecthelion lifted his head to look him in the eye, brows raised high. “You know the Laws as well as I do! And the feelings of our entire people! Clearly they state that union is for the begetting of children and seeing as that is never going to happen-“
“That may be true, but it’s not expressly stated as forbidden and there are those who choose not to conceive. Besides, that’s a might presumptuous of you. I didn’t ask for your hand, yet.”
Ecthelion looked at Glorfindel, who offered a small, lopsided smile and reached to brush his thumb over his cheek, still slightly damp, in an intimate gesture which he leaned into.
“Omission is not the same as acceptance and looking for loopholes in the Laws of the Valar- that’s hardly safe given the precarious position our people already stand in. We will be shunned…” he tried, although the argument felt hollow and he had little heart to remove himself from the path that he was setting out on, the dangers still needed stating. “What if we’re banished? Or worse; what if only one of us is banished?”
“Let them try,” Glorfindel said confidently, though the thought did send a spark of panic shooting through him, which he quelled lest it took hold.
“You may be the king’s nephew, but I’m far more expendable,” Ecthelion said, “I can see them blaming me for corrupting you. Perhaps they’re right; perhaps I should leave before this comes to light. I can go to Barad Eithel and ask Ñolofinwë to take me into his service.”
Glorfindel’s hand clenched in his shirt at his waist as he spoke of leaving. “And who are they? My mother? Who loves you as her own son? My brother, who likes you more than me most days? Turukáno, who has already asked that you lead the Fountain to follow him to Tumladen and has you designing half the city? Nay Ehtelë, you do yourself and them a disservice; you’re well-loved and very much respected.”
As for his position as the king’s nephew, that troubled him the most, but he was careful not to think upon it now so as it did not colour his words whilst he was trying to retain some hope in their perceived doom.
“I do not think that either of us should be as well-loved once this becomes apparent,” Ecthelion shook his head and lowered his gaze, feeling sorrow for the inevitability of it all. “I would that it could be different, so much so.”
“Then what do you suggest? I do not wish to be separated, but can we still remain as we are? Or stay as only friends? I don’t know that I wish to, not any longer. I’ve already been trying for too many years to push this aside and look at where that’s led. For to follow things to their natural conclusion…” Glorfindel flushed and was glad that Ecthelion was not at that moment looking at him.
“There’s nothing natural about us,” Ecthelion tried and sighed, sagging a little against Glorfindel and sliding his arm more securely around his neck, as his gestures made lie to the arguments he was setting out.
Glorfindel rubbed a hand over his back and pressed a light kiss to his hair. “Does this not feel natural?” Ecthelion looked up and groaned, the last of his resistance leaving as his heart won out over reason. He knew their talks were far from over but for now at least, he knew the direction in which his future lay.
He smiled, gently and nodded once.
A blinding smile split Glorfindel’s face in spite of the brevity of their situation and as predicted, their fate was indeed sealed.
Chapter 6: The Forest
A warning for violence and death in this chapter.
“That’s hardly fair! You’re much more practiced than we are!”
“Not at all! You're far more proficient in the trees than either of us; I would say that at best it’s even chances for both sides and at worst the odds are in your favour.”
Istin laughed and reached over to pick another grape from the bowl on the low table before them and leaned back, lounging as she was against Elanoriel’s leg, who resumed braiding her hair once she was settled.
After the morning of the aborted ride Glorfindel had indeed sought out Istin, dragging a somewhat reluctant and still in shock Ecthelion along with him and had demanded she explain herself. She had found the whole thing extremely amusing, much to Glorfindel’s chagrin. She had also been rather flippant about both of their attitudes towards any relationship between them causing them so much anguish; but she knew the laws and customs of their people from her brother and had been compassionate enough. It had plainly hurt her heart to see how such laws could hurt those who fell afoul of them.
As she explained, in her own folk she had been witness to unions other than that of man and woman. Granted, it was uncommon and not sought out, for it was seen as ill omen for their futures and such pairs were not encouraged and didn’t make big public showings of their relations either. She’d scoffed at that, for she couldn’t see how the love that she held for Elanoriel could be anything other than good, although having been subject to the pains and sorrows the choices of who you loved could bring, Glorfindel and Ecthelion made no comment. Glorfindel’s thoughts went to his grandfather, whom he wondered if he would ever see again.
As two who had known naught but the ways of the Noldor, this seemed inconceivable to the two young lords, who had plied her with questions as their eyes had been opened to a future which until that moment had seemed filled with fear and judgement, not only from their families but from the Valar themselves.
The four elves; Glorfindel and Ecthelion on one bench chair and the ladies opposite, now spent much time in one another’s company. The anguish Ecthelion had had regarding the nature of Glorfindel's and Istin’s friendship which had threatened to separate them, now a source of gentle amusement. Both parties had realised just how fortuitous their friendship could prove to be, situated as they were within a Noldorian city.
If others, friends and family of both sets of lords, had seen the four and drawn conclusions from observing them together so often and in such happiness? They were not corrected. The rumours reached them, naturally and some asked outright with smiles and knowing looks when the betrothals were to be announced, but all they received were shrugs and vague comments, nothing of commitment and so the anticipation grew.
Out of them all, this bothered Ecthelion the most and he voiced it fairly often to Glorfindel in private.
“How long do you expect we can keep this up for?” he'd sighed, throwing himself down beside Glorfindel, “even your mother is talking of what flowers will be growing in the spring, were she needing to prepare arrangements. We have to think about the future. Seriously.”
Glorfindel had bitten his lip, knowing that he was right, just as he had been on all of the other occasions he’d brought it up already, although he wasn’t any closer to an answer as previously either. He looked at Ecthelion who met his gaze and both knew what was on each other's mind, for it was far from their first discussion.
“What choice is there?” Glorfindel had asked, twisting about to look at him proper, “it would seem mighty suspicious for us both to declare that there will be no betrothals forthcoming with either lady and there would go our way of spending as much time in one another’s company without question too.” He shook his head and tilted it to one side, with a look of anguish. “I simply cannot stomach the thought of ending this. I hate the lies too but-“
Ecthelion had taken his hand and brought it to his lips, a gentle kiss and had softened, pulling him against himself with a sigh.
“I know,” he’d said, stroking through Glorfindel’s hair and placing another kiss amidst the locks, “but this is more than just us. It would need so many lies and eventually, you know the truth would out. Even if it were possible, which I have my doubts about-“
The only solution that any of them had was fraught with danger and most uncertain to work, in any case; which was for the two couples to wed and then perpetuate that which was already believed of them. It would mean Istin and Elanoriel removing to the new city when built, though as Egalmoth had already sworn fealty to Turgon, it was little sacrifice for either.
The ladies hadn’t been able to offer much help in answering their questions of if it were even an option open to them; it seemed that those they knew hadn’t tried, or at least weren’t open about it if they had. The Sindar might have not held to the same frame of thought as the Noldor, but they still revered Eru above all else and any knowledge of him was not spoken lightly, even if they didn't hold to quite the same level of reverence and fear of the Valar.
Would he grant such a union? They struggled to see any reason why he would. The binding of spirits, as was the way of the Eldar in marriage, was for eternity after all and it made very little sense that it would be possible between any but man and woman, to either Glorfindel or Ecthelion. Although the thought greatly saddened both of their hearts.
“I would still wish to. To try,” Glorfindel spoke quietly, “if you would have me. I will never take another, in any case.”
Ecthelion had sighed deeply but knew there was no way of knowing anything unless they took action, which he was still too hesitant to risk. No matter how much he might have wanted to. Glorfindel had looked so earnest, so lovely and yet so sad and he’d been at pains to deny him aught.
“Our positions,” he said, pain clear in his voice, “your family- you would risk everything for me. No, I would not have you do that. You're meant for such greatness and I would not have you held back for love of me.”
“The same argument you have used before and I have said then and will say again now; you are as well loved as I and neither of us would be holding the other back, I believe. I cannot see how this could be anything but good.”
“Perhaps, but perhaps not. It is a great risk and I’m not sure it’s one that would be right to take. Not when we’re both needed; our people look to us and we cannot show weakness.”
“You are not my weakness, you are my strength. You who’ve lost more than most and yet,” Glorfindel dropped his voice and shook his head, a sad smile, “yet you still put all others before your own happiness. I would that I could share such virtue. I do know that you’re right though. I should think to my family and to my people, but there is time. No-one is forcing our hands on this.”
Yet was the unspoken word that hung in the air, because time would not hold out forever; not with their families expecting weddings to be forthcoming. Heir’s were needed now for all the nobility, in this place where the deathless were no longer immune to need for succession.
Glorfindel cupped his jaw before leaning to kiss him properly and once again, the subject was dropped. Deliberately set aside, as they lost themselves in one another, choosing to live in the moment rather than dwell on what was yet to come.
They might have been unhappy about their situation, but it certainly hadn’t stopped them from being together. Stolen moments at one another’s houses in the main, years of pining being made up for. They weren’t so reckless as to take things too far, but often it was a close thing, the folly of youth being upon them in those days. So, in spite of the fear and uncertainty that plagued them, they would later look back on those tentative early months with fond memories and quiet laughter at their younger selves.
Winter almost upon them, the four were gathered at Egalmoth’s house, secluded away in the front parlour and discussing the visit planed to Doriath and the fun they could make of the hunt on the journey.
“I still think we will have to postpone the trip in any case. There’s snow on the way, I could smell it in the air coming down from the north when I was out this morning. I would prefer to be in front of a warm fire when it hits.” Glorfindel shivered lightly at the thought and Ecthelion rubbed his arm soothingly. It sobered them both and the ladies gave them looks of sympathy.
Elanoriel smiled over at them and gave an elegant shrug of one shoulder. “My grandfather has a house. Well, more of a shelter really, but it will be warm and dry and he keeps it well stocked with enough provisions that we might stay a while in comfort. It is in the woods of Núath, so we will be passing through anyhow.”
“I’m not so sure-” Glorfindel looked apprehensive and glanced out of the window as if he half expected to see flakes already falling.
“It will be fine Laurë, at this time of year I doubt it will be much more than a sprinkling even if it does come and I would that you would come with us; I know you will love the yule festivities in the Halls.” Istin reached to pat his leg reassuringly, though Glorfindel still remained uncertain.
It was true that he very much wanted to join them there, for he missed the dances and the laughter and feasting that came with them that he had known in Valinor. There had been seldom chance for such times since their exile and little cause for celebration.The constant threat from the north; battles fought with heavy casualties and the host that dwelt in Vinyamar had found themselves oftentimes sorely lacking in cheer.
The last ball had been almost two years ago when Fingolfin and Fingon had travelled to the coast, and for a while, there had been peace enough to enjoy time spent in good company. Many more Sindar had joined them in the last few years too; word from friends and family who had already settled with Turgon bringing them to the Noldorian city and finding welcome, as well as the promise of protection for all the free peoples who sought it.
The horrors of the Helcaraxë weighed heavy upon them all however and Glorfindel and Ecthelion no less than any other. They had lost so much on the Grinding Ice and it had changed them profoundly. From that that there would be no going back and ever they held deep dread in their hearts for the snow and ice of winter. Ecthelion had said naught but Glorfindel could feel the tense line of his torso against him. He hesitated; another glance out of the window, not knowing how to answer Istin.
“Don’t worry, we’ll come.” Glorfindel looked round with some surprise as Ecthelion spoke up and he received a tight smile in return before Ecthelion looked over at the ladies opposite them. “I’m sure you’re right, it won’t be a problem and we’re very much looking forwards to it. I’ve been composing a new piece I’m hoping you'll like, if your King would allow me to play.”
“Oh, I’m sure he will!” Elenoriel clapped her hands, clearly delighted. “I’ll speak with Lúthien, she will surely sing with you too. Can we have a preview?”
Ecthelion rolled his eyes in the pretense of being put upon and shifted away from Glorfindel with a more genuine smile replacing the previous one. He could feel Glorfindel watching him carefully and deliberately kept any doubt from both his voice and face. He had a sense of ill portent for the journey, but he was good at not making a show of it and decided to push it aside in favour of living without allowing fear holding him back.
“One minute, I will go to retrieve my flute.”
The horses were making steady headway through the trees; their trunks looming up through the grey-white that had the party squinting from beneath their hooded cloaks as the snow fell in an unending curtain of white dust. Had it begun falling earlier into their journey then it would have been almost a certainty that they would have turned back, Glorfindel and Ecthelion least, though Istin and Elanoriel took no issue with the turn in the weather and seemed still in high spirits. They were doing their best to cheer their companions, who they had much sympathy for, as they knew well of their previous plight and it gave them cause for much sorrow. Even so, the pain was not their own and so the cold was no burden to them. Being of the Eldar, it took extremes for them to feel discomfort in such a way as would the bodies of Men and so without the memory of pain and suffering to accompany the onset of winter, it was no hardship to continue through whilst it was not hindering them on the road.
“Come on now Laurë, it’s really not so bad-“ Ecthelion wasn’t exactly best pleased with the situation either, but decided that he wasn’t going to get anywhere by allowing himself to become morose over it, so he was doing his very best to bolster Glorfindel’s spirits too. After the look that he received, however, he said no more, for now. For whilst sullenness was one thing to be overcome with coaxing and some jest, there was a look of the haunted behind Glorfindel’s eyes and the echoing pain of memories both physical and in mind threatened to bring him into the same attitude, should he allow it.
Watching their exchange with a measure of pity, Istin asked Ecthelion for a song to rouse their spirits, hoping it would help. The day had grown dark much earlier than it might, the night coming fast through the storm that was upon them. As Ecthelion brought out his instrument he looked about at the sparkling blanket that was settling throughout the forest. It brought to his mind a song composed for the Lady Varda as he glanced skywards, knowing the stars were still shining above through the thick cloud cover, even though they could not be seen.
Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear!
O Queen beyond the Western Seas!
O light to us that wander here
Amid the world of woven trees!
Gilthoniel! O Elbereth!
Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath!
Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee
In a far land beyond the sea.1
The irony of the words that Glorfindel sang to the well-loved tune was not lost on him or Glorfindel either, for the soft noise he made as the last note faded had him lower his flute.
“Oh, I would that you would translate such pretty verse to sing for our King. I might not know all of the words, but the images-” Istin was smiling over at Glorfindel when he finished and he laughed softly, trying hard to keep his spirits up, in spite of his misgivings.
“Fair Lady, I would that you might aid in that, ere I would make a poor job of it and your King would think I was making a mockery of him in his own Halls!”
Ecthelion’s music never failed to help. Putting more of himself into the playing than most; it was a talent that few people could match and he indeed put it to good use. He could rouse the hearts of those who heard him to great deeds of valour or indeed, put fear and dread into his enemy. Their eyes met momentarily now and Glorfindel nodded very slightly in thanks.
“How much farther to the cottage?” Ecthelion called to Elanoriel, “I would rather we stop for the day in a place that’s dry and warm than find shelter under the trees. I don’t fancy waking up buried under a drift and I don’t think it’s fair to make the horses ride all through the night.”
“Quite! It’s not far now, just a mile or so more.”
Istin laughed, brightly at that, “come on, I’ll race you!” She turned to drop Elanorial a cheeky smile and pressing her heels to her horse’s deep chestnut flank the two sped up and soon joined the grey-white shadows in the trees.
Glorfindel groaned quietly and Ecthelion gave him a sympathetic look. “Come on,” he encouraged him with a nod of his head in the direction the ladies had vanished into, “you were saying you wanted to improve your riding skills. Now’s your chance.”
“I wasn’t exactly thinking of needing to navigate through a snowstorm,” he grumbled.
“No, but we’ll get there more quickly this way in any case. I can light a fire and warm some of the spiced wine I brought when we’re there.” Glorfindel looked a little brighter at that. “That’s the spirit, come on then.”
Ecthelion had, as the rest of them, a layer of white covering his clothing and his mare’s rump and as he urged her into a canter it blew off them in a stream, so to Glorfindel it looked as if it were a shower of glittering diamonds as caught in the last of the light. He took a moment to admire the beauty of the moment, for even though he could not entertain the thought of enjoying the weather he could still admit there was much to be appreciated.
Taking off himself, his own stallion's hooves thudded dull upon the ground, dampened as his steps were by the forest floor. Head forwards and ears flat, Glorfindel leaned over his neck to hide his face some against the cold stinging onslaught, narrowing his eyes. Elanoriel had shot off with a bright laugh after Istin and with Ecthelion gone too, Glorfindel was back of the pack. Through the ethereal light of the drawing evening in the quickly snow covered surroundings, he had lost sight of the others already, although with good sense of direction and hearing, he hoped it would mean he would not loose the way.
A number of quite colourful curse words were muttered through gritted teeth as saplings, unseen until the last moment, whipped at him as he rode on. He didn’t dare to take such a speed as the others had done, for out of all of them he was not the best of riders and it was very much true that he knew he needed more practice. Saddle-time Istin had called it and laughed at his blush when she had made mention of bruising becoming less of an issue.
He could hear that laughter now and turned his horse towards it, the bright sound muted but loud enough to follow as it carried back to him through the trees. He knew he needed to snap out of his maudlin, that he was bringing down the mood of the party and determined to try to not let whatever had a sense of dread creeping over him take the fore. Ecthelion seemed to have much less issue with the turn in the weather, whilst he had been through as much as he had himself. Still, he couldn’t shake the growing shadow in his mind, fear prickling over him and he shook his head sharply in an attempt to clear it.
Then, just as he had made the commitment, a loud howl rent the air some ways ahead, followed by another to his left and answering calls followed in succession all around. His heart jumped in fear and it spiked his blood; all thoughts of past hardships fleeing in an instant as horse and rider as one picked up momentum.
The forest was home to all manner of creatures and not all were friendly. The enemy had corrupted many beasts of the land and air and it was often not possible to tell which was fair and which was foul before they were upon you. The Wargs however, twisted forms of wolves, taken and bred by Morgoth in his fortress and released to do his bidding; they could not be missed. Larger in size than any wolf born of natural birth they were broad but swift and carried a mouth full of razor sharp fangs, hideous to behold. Thankfully Glorfindel had not had the misfortune to come across them before and had no wish to now, but it seemed that fate had other ideas.
Torn for a moment he hesitated to call out to his companions for fear of discovery by the pack and being picked out as a lone rider, but he was no coward and so drew his sword and took the reins in one hand, trusting his horse to keep his footing and not let him fall.
“Ehtelë!” He shouted out in a voice which was whipped away by the wind, hopefully still loud enough for them to hear him. “Istin! Elanoriel!”
He listened hard with held breath for a reply, shouting again lest they hadn’t heard him. It was a long moment, too long, before he heard anything back other than the howls, which had increased in tempo as the chase was clearly on.
Then, a female scream echoed through the trees and Glorfindel's heart dropped into his stomach.
“Laurë!” Ecthelion’s voice did naught to help as he could hear the terror it held. His horse was brave and he carried him on without fault in his footing, for which he would ever be grateful and so whilst it seemed like it took an age to reach them, it was thankfully only a few moments more before he came upon the others and was immediately thrown into the fight.
He barely had time to register what he saw. Two forms on the snow-covered ground and Istin’s horse lay dead from great wounds beside them. There was no time to go to them yet however, for he counted quickly five in his sight of the great creatures, working together to overcome Ecthelion in a circle around him. He was dismounted and valiantly holding them back, yet more, Glorfindel knew, were likely to be hidden close by, shrouded in darkness. He could feel them watching, though he had no time to look to them
Galloping into the clearing and he could watched as Ecthelion’s long pale blade sliced through the air. As graceful as he was deadly, he slashed a great rent across the haunch of one who had tried to leap at him and it fell dead at his feet. He lept over it, fair voice loud and echoing through the forest, as another took his place and Glorfindel charged, still mounted, with a great cry to stop the beast who was coming in from behind.
Swinging his own blade around and it came down hard on the creature’s neck as he rode past, black blood covering his sword as it followed its arc through and sliced its head cleanly off, where it fell and rolled out of sight. He wheeled around, ready to drive forwards into its fellows as its body dropped like a sack in his wake.
The wargs were in disarray following his entry to the fray and there now came forward those who had been holding back from the line of trees, who came at Glorfindel, aiming for his horse. The stallion reared and with a loud squeal that rent through the air, came crashing down to turn and kick out with his hind legs, sending one of them flying into a trunk where it fell broken in a heap.
Glorfindel, hood fallen back and with golden braids whipping around slashed at another who had lept towards him with claws extended. Having slain one, another came to replace the first and he dismounted in a smooth leap, dispatching it as quickly as he could whilst his horse took off in the other direction. He hoped he wouldn’t be pursued.
Together Glorfindel and Ecthelion danced; they were frightening to behold in their strength and beauty, the fierce Noldorian anger well and truly firing their fight and terrible was the light in their eyes. The snow was coming down heavier and heavier and the visibility was lowering along with the night drawing in, yet still they were unrelenting in their task. For all the while, they were acutely aware of the two who lay behind them and the soft weeping that reached their ears in spite of the growls and cries renting the air around them.
As the last beast fell, it’s brethren deciding to retreat as they finally realised that they stood no chance of survival in this fight, Ecthelion stood breathing hard, eyes blazing. Glorfindel reached and grasped his arm tightly, whether in reassurance that Ecthelion was still standing or of his own survival he wasn’t sure.
Roughly he palmed his hair out of his eyes, now soaked through with both snow and blood and turning from the scene he ran back, dropping to his knees with deeper dread still unfurling in his chest.
Elanoriel cradled Istin on her lap and the tears streamed down her face, clutching her lifeless body to her chest, looking beseechingly at him. Glorfindel didn’t need to check or ask the question, it was painfully clear that her spirit had left for the call of Námo some time during the fight and there was nothing that could be done to bring her back. He shook his head mutely as he stared back at Elanorial, unable to say anything at all.
Glorfindel didn’t realise how hard he was shaking until he felt himself being helped back to his feet, strong arms wrapping around him and he choked on a breath.
“Come on, we need to leave this place.” Ecthelion’s voice was low and thick with emotion by his ear and he held Glorfindel as if by doing so he would hold himself together and prevent his own breaking. Not for long though, for he was acutely aware that the storm was growing steadily worse and the risk was high that the wargs would re-group, possibly with orcs on their tail. “We cannot linger.”
Glorfindel pulled himself free and with a single long look before squaring his shoulders, he bent and retrieved his sword from beside Istin. Grimly he wiped the blade with a handful of snow before sheathing it at his side. He had to remain strong, now was not the time for allowing grief to take hold, for he knew that before long, it would. For now, the walls were up and he held it all back, feeling oddly devoid of very much emotion.
“Let me-“ he said quietly and reached to unhook his cloak from under his pauldrons, Ecthelion immediately moving to help.
He shook it out then laid it over Istin,covering her over and as gently as he could took her from Elanorial's arms and gathered her reverently in his own. Ecthelion helped Elanoriel to her feet and she stumbled against him where he caught her. A loud sob escaped and she clapped a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide and not leaving Istin for a second.
The two Lords looked silently at one another, faces set and solemn with a silent understanding passing between them before Ecthelion carefully guided Elanoriel over to Glorfindel, where she instantly clung to his side and he ran quickly to gather the remaining horses.
He returned with just two; his own and Elanoriel’s.
No-one spoke as they mounted. Two per horse; Glorfindel taking utmost care with Istin, whilst Elanoriel was coherent enough to get them to her grandfather’s cottage, but no more. By the time they reached it the visibility was barely enough to see the trees before they were upon them and it was a wonder that they made it at all. Only the fact that Elanoriel knew the lands so intimately being their saving grace.
Glorfindel laid Istin in her make-shift shroud with the horses in the small stable, a firm set to his jaw and a twitch in his cheek as a tear fell, before he covered the firm hand that was laid on his shoulder and they turned for the house. Inside, door closed and they found themselves cold and wet through and shock was beginning to set in for the two lords also.
“Get a fire going,” Ecthelion told Glorfindel as he bade Elanoriel to sit before him and took off her riding cloak and boots, finding blankets and pelts and anything to help; for she was frozen to the touch and no longer responding. He worked automatically, thinking only of the practical steps and keeping a mask of utter calm about him; the only way he had of making it through.
Glorfindel did as he was asked, hands shaking as he lit the fire, taking strength from Ecthelion, even while his mind, no longer able to keep the walls in place, reeled from the tragedy and couldn't help reminding him of the comparison to some of the deaths on the ice.
All through the night the two tried valiantly to bring Elanoriel round as best as they might. The cottage was warmed through and they made a fortifying broth of herbs from their packs and commodities found in cupboards. It revived their own spirits enough to allow them to carry on, although it could not take away the pain of loss.
The same could not be said for the lady Elanoriel.
“Laurë, we have to get her to help, this isn’t going to be enough.” Ecthelion rubbed her arm through the layers of coverings they had lain upon her on the bed, although she was growing colder whilst they had thawed out and it was clear there wasn’t much time.
“We’re more than a week’s fast ride from Vinyamar and it will still take another two to Menegroth,” Glorfindel said through gritted teeth, anxiety running deeply, “and the storm isn’t abating; we would never make it.”
“We can’t just let her fade-“
“I know, but-“ Glorfindel shook his head at Ecthelion and blinked, a tear spilling over and running silently down his cheek.
They had seen this too many times. Too many had been lost since they left Valinor and it was almost too much to bear to find themselves loosing two of their closest friends so unexpectedly, so fast. They might not have known one another for very long, but that didn’t make it any easier. It wasn’t the natural way of things for the Eldar and each passing affected them very deeply. Immortal as elves were and as robust and hale as they might be under all but the most difficult of circumstances, they were not immune to death and indeed, neither Glorfindel nor Ecthelion were strangers to it. The soul deep pain of loosing those closest was too much for some who couldn't find the heart to continue in the waking world when loved ones were not there. It seemed cruel that fate had again brought more sorrow upon them, especially in times of relative peace in these shadowed lands.
They clutched one another’s hands tightly whilst trying to provide what body heat and comfort to Elanoriel that they might and stayed by her side, unmoving.
By morning, as pale gloom filtered in through the windows to join the light provided by lamps and the fire, Elanoriel had joined Istin in the Halls of Mandos. Lord Námo would have presented the choices to her and both had known from the outset that it was almost certain she was going to take his offer of rest and healing; joining her spirit with the person she cherished most of all. The two had been as close as any they had ever known, in spite of not being bound and it was inevitable that neither would be long in the realm of the living without the other.
The fight and grief had left Glorfindel and Ecthelion exhausted and without speaking they covered their friend and took her body with care to lay beside Istin in the stables, knowing that they were in a place where they could find peace. They made prayer to the Valar to keep them until they might walk the fair lands once more and returned to the house.
“Come.” Ecthelion tugged Glorfindel’s hand gently where he stood before the fire, unmoving and unseeing, pulling him away. “Come and sleep. We can do naught else. I would not have you give in to grief too, my heart.”
“How are you so strong?” Glorfindel asked in a whisper and turned into him with wide and shining eyes.
“I’m not,” Ecthelion said with a press of his lips and Glorfindel just nodded once.
Willingly he let himself be led away and they curled up together on a pile of pelts on one of the cots and pulled woolen blankets atop. Wrapped tightly in one another’s embrace, they both fell into deep sleep.
1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Three is Company" Elven Hymn to Elbereth
I'm so sorry
Chapter 7: No Turning Back
The one where the rating jumps up.
The storm lasted far longer than they had been prepared for and the two elves stayed in the cottage as the snow grew deeper all around them. The path through the trees would be virtually impassable to ride, even if they had had the mind or strength to start out on the journey ahead. They ventured out to see to the horses, making sure they were warm enough and with food, but nothing more.
Conversation was sparse, each in his own head as the events that had passed sank in and they came to terms with the loss of more loved ones, speaking in quiet tones when they did talk, as if each were afraid of breaking the other.
Peeling his breeches back with a wince from his thigh as they had washed the dirt and ichor of the battle away, Glorfindel had found he had been injured without even noticing, the dried blood sticking them to him where claws had rent a gash. It bled a little again as the fabric was moved away and Ecthelion had helped him clean it and apply poultice with gentle fingers, making sure the wound wouldn’t become infected, and had bound it with a strip of torn cloth.
“We'll have to make a move soon. The provisions are starting to run low.”
Ecthelion came to sit beside Glorfindel, who was cross legged on the bed, watching the snow as it fell, unrelenting, outside the window.
“Yes,” he replied quietly, without looking around, “I know but-“
Neither wanted to make the journey, it felt incredibly wrong and they’d been shying away from discussing it. They knew that they should take the ladies to Menegroth, that their people would expect it of them and deserved to know what had happened. They would have been missed already. The thought of carrying them there though was almost too hard to bear and then there was the fact that Glorfindel, at least, held himself to account for not insisting they postpone their journey.
“There was nothing anyone could have done. Please, Laurë-“ Ecthelion shifted closer and tentatively put his arm around his chest to pull Glorfindel back against him, who twisted and curled on his side, tucking his head under Ecthelion’s chin. “Stop blaming yourself, it's not your fault.”
“I knew something was coming, I could feel it. I should have-“
“No.” Ecthelion cut him off in a louder voice then softened again. “No Laurë, no. We’ve been over this already. The fault lies with Morgoth and Morgoth alone. He’s the only one to blame here. To think, it could have been us too-“
He reached and gently placed his fingers over the spot of the mostly healed wound on Glorfindel’s leg and held his breath, clearly forcing back the tidal surge of emotions. He let it out slowly and Glorfindel took his hand and turned in fully, dipping his head onto his chest. Ecthelion dropped kisses into his hair, loose and thick rather than his usual neat braiding.
Shifting his limbs into more comfortable positions, Ecthelion found himself with a lap full of Glorfindel, who looked up at him with pain-filled, overbright eyes. He reached out to smooth the locks from his face, hating to see him so sorrowful when he was almost always full of cheer and the quickest to laughter. He found himself missing the sound of it greatly.
“Don’t leave?” he asked sadly, heart aching as he cupped his cheek. He didn’t think he would actually depart, but he needed to be certain. Glorfindel just closed his eyes and shook his head very slightly, then turned to kiss the palm of his hand as he covered it with his own.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said and looked at him again, his expression intense. “I’m not fading, I’m still very much here.” He took his hand and placed it over his own chest, that Ecthelion might feel his heart beating. ”I need you though. So much.”
It also wasn’t like him to show such a vulnerable side either; both as seasoned warriors as any of the Noldor host and used to showing stoicism and wearing brave faces.
Not here, however and not now. Glorfindel held his gaze and was only thinking of one thing; what if he lost him? How would he have carried on? It didn’t stomach thinking about and his mind rejected it outright, filling him with a need to be close, seeking reassurance.
A huff of breath and surging forwards, Glorfindel kissed him, hard, eyes squeezing shut. Ecthelion made a noise of surprise but didn’t object, kissing him back after a second’s pause, whilst Glorfindel clutched at him in what felt like desperation. The kiss turned forceful as he found himself pushed onto his back.
Glorfindel wasn’t thinking at all. He was acting all on instinct; a desire to feel alive and to know Ecthelion was still with him, that they were together and they had one another. He broke away only to move to his jaw, his neck; kissing a line across to where he could feel Ecthelion’s pulse beating fast and strong and took full advantage when he rolled back his head and bared his throat, Glorfindel’s breath hot against his skin.
Quickly what had been at first a one-sided burst of passion, became very much mutual with no word of protest and Ecthelion’s hands pushed under his shirt, smoothing down flanks and holding him about the waist.
Lips met again and they kissed passionately, neither considering where they were headed as they were taken with the overwhelming urgency to be close and feel loved. They might have been an unusual couple, but they held their Laws in as much regard as they might and as such, until now had been very careful. The circumstances that brought them to this point, however, had broken the carefully built walls they had held up for so long and each found he had no inclination to bade the other stop.
Kneeling astride Ecthelion’s hips, Glorfindel pulled his shirt over his head before throwing it aside, then reaching and pulling open the lacing of Ecthelion’s too, tugged him up to rid him of his also. They sat holding one another for a moment, chest to chest, finding anchor in a beat of calm as they rested on each other’s shoulders. Pulling back a small way, Glorfindel ran graceful hands slowly over Ecthelion's chest, warm and smooth skin under his fingers.
Ecthelion watched him as he held him about the waist, staying still as his skin tingled under his touch. The high colour in his cheeks and the full curve of his lips, the bright light in his eyes, all had Ecthelion biting his lip, his chest tightening.
“So beautiful,” Ecthelion murmured, mesmerised by his attentiveness, and took one of his hands up, kissing the fingertips one by one.
In spite of himself and the hurt that was barely held at bay, Glorfindel smiled and leaned into him to lay them back down again, resuming where they were before.
Shifting about, Ecthelion slipped one leg between Glorfindel’s thighs and both elves groaned softly as their hips came together and they moved against one another. Glorfindel buried his face into Ecthelion’s neck, clearly very much enjoying the sensation.
Neither was ignorant of bodily pleasures. They knew of the intimacy between male and female and there was no shame in it, for it was a gift of Eru Ilúvatar whom had made them able to feel such things. The intimacy between two males however was almost unspoken of - almost, but not entirely so. They had heard of such things, voiced usually in hushed tones and in secrecy between youths having learned of strange and unlooked for acts and speaking between one another as curiosity took them. They’d heard later the bawdy songs in company of common folk, laughter a plenty accompanying them as they mocked the unnatural desires of those who might partake.
So therefore tentative explorations were all they had yet to experience; weary of more, not because of shame, but fear. There was always an escape possible, should either need to take it. A way out towards a relation that would be seen as more proper. Not that either had thought it for himself, only ever the other and such thoughts remained unvoiced. Although even then, they had not been able to keep from such things entirely, desire and want running strong, but never taking the final step. That was the reserve of the bonded alone, which all took as a given, regardless of gender.
“We should stop. Ehtelë-“ Glorfindel lifted up, hair curtaining them in soft waves, but he bit his lip and was torn; not actually wanting to stop on the path they were on, but knowing how dangerous it was also with the mood about them.
Ecthelion seemed equally torn in his expression and he closed his eyes. “I don’t want to,” he whispered and opened them again, looking up at him with a heat rising in his cheeks and his ardor urging him to act. Any lingering resolve to remain chaste disappeared and he pulled Glorfindel back down upon him. Glorfindel, whose voice in pleasure came equally as loudly as they arched against one another, seeking friction.
Taking charge of the situation, Ecthelion pushed on Glorfindel’s shoulder and rolled them onto their sides. He hooked his leg over his thigh and they rolled their hips together, kissing hungrily. Soon frustration took hold and Glorfindel fumbled with the lacing on first his own then Ecthelion’s breeches, tugging them open and releasing the pressure. He palmed his crotch as they kissed and Ecthelion moaned wantonly, which only made to spur them on.
As one mind they broke apart to remove the remainder of their clothing, tossing trousers the same way as shirts and coming back together, only to pause in their passion for a moment. So few chances had they had to be intimate before, without the fear of discovery and with the need for haste. The last shreds of restraint had left them and they were free to take in one another’s forms. Reverent and slowly, the reality of their position; in seclusion and with time standing still, settled upon them.
Glorfindel looked up with naked adoration as Ecthelion hovered over him, reaching to play with the hanging strands of his silken black hair. Ecthelion smiled, eyes bright, before they darkened and flicked away down his torso and lower. He shifted as he dipped his head to kiss down his broad chest, causing Glorfindel to gasp quietly at the new sensations. Soft lips and the tip of a tongue brushed over a nipple and he drew in a sharp breath, hand tightening momentarily in Ecthelion’s hair.
Their bodies were equal in strength and tone, matched as they were as dark and light, with Glorfindel’s sun-kissed skin against Ecthelion’s pale and fair. They explored one another slowly as they hadn’t had chance to before, as the room grew darker and the afternoon turned to dusk. The Fëanorian lamps they had brought grew bright as the light outside failed, casting shadows over them.
Gently, Glorfindel took Ecthelion in hand, biting his own lip as he had moaned deeply as he stroked him, hip thrusting into his touch. It was mere moments before he had been moved away though, Ecthelion rolling them over in a swift motion and pushed his hips down into Glorfindel’s own strongly, causing them both to gasp. They watched one another, rapt, before the building sensations had Glorfindel roll his head back into the pillow under him, closing his eyes in pleasure and Ecthelion immediately latched his lips onto his neck.
It felt wonderful, bodies firmly together and he held tightly to Ecthelion’s back as his thoughts turned towards that which still lay undiscovered between them, his body flushing with want.
“Ehtelë.” His voice was horse and low and he swallowed and paused, reaching up to touch his cheek tentatively.
His whole being ached for him. Not just the physical; that was merely pushing him forward in this moment, hastening them on the road. The thought of ever being with anyone else in such a way, loving anyone else so deeply; he wanted to surround himself with him forever and never let him go. The feeling was almost overwhelming and had been building steadily since their arrival.
“Marry me, please.”
Ecthelion looked upon him, eyes flickering over his ernest and pleading expression and Glorfindel leaned up to capture his lips in a searing kiss; quick and hard. “I know your arguments, but-“ he hesitated, heart quickening further as he paused and bit back any onslaught of words.
Holding his breath, Ecthelion stared down at him. He tipped his head to one side and said nothing for a long and agonising moment, whilst Glorfindel remained silent. Unusual for him not to aim to persuade, not to try to use his charm and logic to get his way. Now wasn’t the time for that, he knew; for all of their talks and all of their hopes and fears alike had come to this moment. He felt deeply that given all that had passed, not just in the previous few weeks, this now was the real crossroads.
Ecthelion was unreadable apart from his eyes, their light was bright and searching. Glorfindel looked back at him, unwavering and resolute and chest aching with hope, before without a word, Ecthelion moved away. Standing, he walked over to the small kitchen area.
Glorfindel held his breath, his eyes downcast and bit his lip hard to ground himself, willing back tears forcefully. His mind was already working to shield itself from the bitter sorrow that loomed as a wave and he was reaching for a sheet to cover himself with when Ecthelion returned and pulled it gently away.
“No,” he said and leaned to kiss him, holding his jaw with gentle fingers, though his gaze was fiery with passion. “It’s been on my mind also and I would not turn back now. If Eru permits our union then let anyone else take issue with him.”
“You’re certain in this?” Glorfindel asked, guarded after the small scare and needing to be sure, as he could hardly believe that he had actually agreed.
“I am,” he said seriously, whilst fingers gently combed through Glorfindel’s hair, leaning in, intimate and close and nuzzled at his cheek.
“And of duty and family?” Glorfindel whispered. It wasn’t as if it could be hidden; all whom they met would instantly know from one look, one word.
“We’ve proven our worth already and we will do again; more so even.”
His breath tickled Glorfindel’s skin and his treacherous body, over sensitive, shivered and leaned in closer and he nodded mutely, unable to speak.
Ecthelion drew back to look upon him again and Glorfindel’s stomach lurched. Smiles bloomed on their faces slowly, realisation sinking in and Glorfindel couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled out.
“Careful,” Ecthelion said quietly, “we’ve yet to try and it still mightn’t be possible.” Although, in spite of his words his smile was just as clear and a small chuckle escaped. Glorfindel’s joy was ever infectious and no circumstance yet had sent it away for too long.
There would be no ceremony and no feasting, but they would have time to mourn the fact, especially that there would be none to give them away. There only remained to them the act of union and seeking blessing, if it would be their fate.
“How…” Glorfindel trailed off, face heating as his mind went to the implications that a marriage warranted, the act they were about to perform. Ecthelion dropped his gaze and held out a small clay pot; the salve that they had been using on Glorfindel’s leg. He offered it to him now with a shy smile. Unusual for him, though perhaps not so at that point, given the situation.
“I trust you to be gentle,” he said simply, and Glorfindel took it, a knot of anticipation tightening in his stomach. He turned it about in his hands as he thought things over, sobering somewhat.
“How would you have me?” Ecthelion asked quietly.
Glorfindel’s gaze snapped up and Ecthelion laughed low. “My golden love, do you want to do this now? I will promise not to take the decision back, but we can wait, if you would prefer. I would want you to enjoy this, not be afraid.”
“I am, just a little,” he admitted but smiled in return and took his hand up and squeezed, “but not about this,” he gestured to the pot with a flush to his cheeks and a brief flash of a smile. “I have no desire to wait. I’ve been wanting this for years and now, not after-“ He bit his lip and held his breath, “no. No matter what comes next I would not be parted. Not even in death.”
He held his gaze with a serious expression and Ecthelion nodded. “Come, lay with me.”
Settling on the bed, side by side and face to face, now that they both knew where this was leading, they were in no rush. Reaching out and enfolding each other in soft embrace, suddenly each felt more shy than before, nervous in spite of being closer than ever. An unspoken agreement that they wanted to make the moment last meant their kisses were softer and touches more hesitant at first, but being young and in love, very soon their ardor returned in full and quiet moans and whispers filled the air. Almost forgetting where it was supposed to be heading, they delighted as they found new places and sensations that brought pleasure, with lips and hands alike.
Gasping and biting down on his lip, Glorfindel pulled away, needing to stop and reaching to lay his hand over Ecthelion’s to stay his touch. He blinked at him, breathing as steadily as he could but hesitating, even though he ached for him to continue, with need and desire filling his mind.
Ecthelion made a small sound of protest but stopped, sat and reached for the salve that he’d fetched, feeling that the time was right. There was a heat in his cheeks as he offered it out to him, the anticipation making his stomach turn over and leaning in, he kissed him softly on the corner of his mouth and held his gaze. What he saw was only the bright openness that was ever Glorfindel and it made him smile.
Hand closing around the small clay pot, Glorfindel smiled back then swallowed, whet his lips and ducked his head. He chuckled one nervous breath and moved over him to settle between his thighs.
“Is this-?” he looked up to see he was being watched keenly and Ecthelion touched his hair, stroking over and nodded encouragingly.
Taking a little salve on his fingers, he leaned down and kissed him deeply as at the same time he reached to pull one of his legs up around his waist. It wasn’t graceful and they took a while to find a comfortable fit, but it took some of the tension out of the moment too as they looked at one another, laughter in their faces.
“This is not as easy as those songs made out,” Glorfindel muttered and Ecthelion chuckled next to his ear, shifting his hips and trying to help as he fumbled to find where he might reach easily where he needed to.
“I doubt the people singing those songs actually tried this themselves,” he laughed low, though was cut off with a gasp as Glorfindel had found his mark and fingers touched upon very sensitive places.
Gently and tentatively, he applied the salve in the way it had been described, marvelling all the while at the expression Ecthelion wore, laughter dying away as the reality and the moment settled into them and bodily desires took over.
It was an odd sensation, Ecthelion found, but not unwelcome. In fact, quite the opposite. He didn’t feel ashamed of the small noises he was making, for this was Glorfindel, with whom he felt the safest in the whole of Eä. He settled back, soon finding that his breathing came heavy as he became overwhelmed with the new feelings such a small intrusion brought, eyes closing, even as he’d wanted to keep them on him.
Suddenly he cried out, the noise wrought from him as a pleasure sparked that he’d not been expecting. Glorfindel withdrew his hand swiftly, concern colouring his features but Ecthelion was quick to stop him, grasping at his arm.
“Nay,” he blinked and pulled him back down, “don’t- don’t stop.”
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Glorfindel said softly and turning his head, kissed his ear.
“You’re not, I can assure you. It’s-“ he swallowed. “It’s good. I promise.”
Raising on one elbow and with an assessing look Glorfindel tentatively resumed and soon Ecthelion cried out again, although this time Glorfindel didn’t pull away. He pressed his fingers gently and his stomach flipped at the look of sheer pleasure on Ecthelion’s face; high cheekbones deep with colour and open mouthed, breath coming in irregular bursts. He wondered what it must be like, a heat flooding his own body at just the thought and excitement at the future of possibilities.
“Do you think you’re ready?” Glorfindel asked a short time later. By now Ecthelion was arching up and that, along with the small gasps and moans had him feeling his own impatience, biting his lip and keeping himself from seeking friction against him.
“I am, very much so,” came the quick reply, then paused, “are you? This is-“ Ecthelion reached up a hand to Glorfindel’s thick golden waves by his ear, searching his eyes for any hint of uncertainty, “this is forever, you know. Are you sure you want to be tied to me? I know that sometimes I’m not the easiest of people to be around.”
Glorfindel’s answering smile and bark of laughter were bright as the sun, despite the darkness they were now bathed in, despite the dark circumstances that had brought them to this point, hastening them on the journey they had already set out on, now years previously.
“Yes,” he said emphatically, “a thousand times yes. My beautiful Ehtelë, I love you and only you and will never love another, nor ever want to.”
Ecthelion pulled him down into a bruising kiss, letting him go and answering his smile with one as wide in return. “Then I am yours, as I’ve always been.”
Taking the salve again Glorfindel smoothed some over himself, biting his lip as he did so and dropping his head, as he was very over sensitive by this point. Ecthelion watched with darkened eyes and made a soft noise before he brought his other leg up and around his waist. They settled and found their fit again, Glorfindel positioning himself on one arm and holding steady. They both held their breaths and looked in one another’s eyes and reaching up, Ecthelion placed a hand lightly on his neck, threading fingers into his hair as Glorfindel pushed forwards as gently as he could manage.
Ecthelion’s lips parted softly from where he was biting them and his eyes fluttered closed, not daring to breathe. The rush of sensations sent shivers over his skin and instinctively his whole body tightened at the greater intrusion. Glorfindel stilled and concentrated on steadying his own breathing, as difficult as that was at that moment, for he too felt overwhelmed. The heat and tightness, in spite of his careful ministrations was wonderful and almost too much in the same instance.
“Keep going, my love, don’t worry about me,” Ecthelion murmured without opening his eyes, fingers digging into Glorfindel’s forearms where he held onto him and a small frown between his brows.
“I- I didn’t know it would feel like this,” he said horsely and swallowed the lump in his dry throat. “You have to try to relax.” He knew enough that they needed to take care; as strong as their bodies might be the last thing he wanted to do was cause him pain.
Clearly it was with an effort, but Ecthelion willed his body to bend more to his control, fingers and thighs both un-clenching from their powerful hold and taking a deep breath, let it out slowly. It took a few good moments before Glorfindel felt able to try to move again, head dipping low and his hair falling in soft waves about his shoulders. He made a small noise, unbidden and a soft cry from Ecthelion echoed too as skin met skin and he stilled again.
It felt like a long time before their hearts slowed enough that both were able to open their eyes, each seeing the darkened and lust filled gaze of the other and the deep colouring on their cheeks.
Glorfindel swallowed thickly, still breathing heavily and reaching up, propped on one elbow, he smoothed the hair back from Ecthelion’s forehead and reverently pressed a kiss upon his brow. He was nervous, clearly and his body was protesting, and he had to push back instinct in order to focus. This was it though; to go any further without the vows would be something he wasn’t willing to contemplate and he knew Ecthelion was of the same mind simply from the look he was holding him with.
Shakily, he smiled.
“May the blessing of Eru Ilúvatar be upon us and keep us together, always.”
He spoke the words so quietly, that none might have heard even were they present, save the two of them and Eru himself. How he managed it he would never know, but there was no hesitation, no quaver in his voice and his heart was filled with nothing but abject joy.
Ecthelion cupped his cheek tenderly, only the slightest tremble in his hand giving him away. Always, as ever, able to keep his composure. Glorfindel would have laughed, if he weren’t currently about to cry with happiness.
“May the blessing of Eru Ilúvatar be upon us and keep us together, always.” He repeated the same words, the invocation made and regardless of whether Eru granted a bonding, in their hearts they were wedded and would be for all time.
“Do you feel anything?” Glorfindel asked, but before they could contemplate anything more his elbow slipped and the movement made Ecthelion shift slightly under him. He gasped as it brought him back into his body instantly, the small motion enough to send a jolt of pleasure through him and he dropped his forehead down onto his shoulder, a small whimper escaping.
With great care he pulled back before thrusting slowly forwards again, the salve doing its job and easing the way and it completely overwhelmed all other thoughts.
The same was plainly true for Ecthelion, for he once more held onto Glorfindel’s forearms, fingers tight enough to leave bruises. His head turned to the side and he groaned softly on each forward movement.
They had a slow rhythm going and heat coiled low, his hips canted almost of their own accord, his hardness seeking friction against Glorfindel’s stomach. He bit his lip hard as he found what he needed, whilst the changed angle let Glorfindel push deeper than before. He hit the same spot which had caused him to cry out before their joining; arching upwards as it wrought a loud moan of pleasure from him.
Somewhere deep inside Glorfindel felt…something. It registered as intense pleasure but not of his own, slightly out of time with the sensations he was feeling. He didn’t have time to contemplate it, not properly, but his heart beat a stumbling stacato as he realised what it likely meant. Want and instincts and the powerful consuming need of his body were driving him on though and his whole being burned now, with face buried into Ecthelions shoulder. Even the brushing of his hair against his skin was heightening the pleasure he felt. He was so over sensitive, he had given himself over entirely to it.
“So perfect,” he breathed, “so beautiful-“ then pressing his mouth to Ecthelion’s neck, further loud moans were muffled. The constriction and heat surrounding him was overpowering his mind to one track, only able to think of the moment and how happy he was. Although, he was still aware enough not to be so forceful as to hurt him, and he held him reverently and stayed his hips from too much force, whilst Ecthelion’s legs were locked tightly about his waist, holding him in place.
It was all too soon that waves of pleasure began to build, the rolling heat in his stomach growing intense and that place deep inside again registered too, where echoes joined in, a little out of sync but heightening his own sensations and spurring him on as a wordless plea.
Ecthelion gasped loudly and pressed up into him even more, turning his head towards Glorfindel and seeking his lips. “I love you so much,” he moaned in a rush and brushed his hair hastily aside to make way for messy and deep kisses. He moved to push his hand between their bodies, now helplessly tight against one another and he struggled with what he needed, whining in frustration.
As the feelings came stronger and quicker and Ecthelion moaned wantonly, clearly long past any thought to how he might sound and not a shred of his composure remaining, Glorfindel realised through his own daze what he sought.
He paused just to get his elbow back under him, giving just enough space to reach down between them and grasped Ecthelion to stroke in time with his renewed thrusts. Ecthelion cried out against his lips, both of their voices dampened, but it was clearly now too intense for their first joining to last much longer.
“Ah!” He called out, and with a last few strong thrusts Glorfindel felt his release and gave a long, low cry, gasping as he pressed his forehead into the pillow, eyes closed. The waves overtook all thinking, mind blissfully blanking out, before a second wave hit within him moments later with Ecthelion’s own release; hot against them and tightening around him as he heard his own name called out in a breath. He held him through his silent shuddering before he collapsed, helpless to hold himself up any longer and they wrapped arms around one another as tight as could be for several long minutes.
With a small groan Ecthelion began to uncurl himself, all of his muscles protesting from being held so tense. Glorfindel relaxed his arms too, letting him shift, then hissed sharply as he pulled away, slowly and as gently as he might, for both of their sakes.
He grabbed a discarded garment, not checking what it was and quickly wiped them both and tossed it away before curling into Ecthelion’s side, arm over his chest and head ducked into his shoulder, very unwilling to move. Ecthelion wriggled to get comfortable, biting his lip and wincing slightly as the sensations of being so loved had left him feeling very strange and rather overwhelmed. Glorfindel had a good sense of this, marvelling at it still but not voicing anything yet and simply pressed a kiss to the skin beneath his lips.
Neither spoke. Closing their eyes, they lay in quiet, both lost in drifting thoughts and reliving the experience they had shared, each within his own head. Heart rates slowing, synchronising without even realising, as deep contentment and rapture held them in silence. Only small soft kisses and gentle caresses were shared, which slowed and stopped as they drifted into sleep. The night drew on, the snow growing deeper still in the forest around them, whilst they lay in the warm that they had created.
The light was slanting in across the bed when Glorfindel was woken by a loss of contact, a coolness against his side and he blinked several times and groaned softly, shaking off his reverie.
“Ehtelë, come back here,” he grumbled very quietly and sleepily reached out; the side of the bed where he had lain still warm and he rolled into it, pulling the sheets over himself in the process. He didn’t want to wake yet, for he had been having the most wonderful dream, of the wide plains beneath Tirion whilst Laurelin was still blooming and was loathe to leave it behind.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Ecthelion replied with a small amused chuckle and Glorfindel lifted his head to peek out at him from under the covers. Something had struck him and his still cloudy mind pondered over what was so strange. Ecthelion had turned and was heading back over, two cups of water in his hands and laughed at the sight of him, buried under blankets.
Glorfindel immediately sat up, sleep fleeing quickly, a look of complete shock on his face as he stared.
“What is it?” Ecthelion closed the distance immediately, kneeling before him, drinks abandoned and worried as to what was wrong, but then his own face fell into a mirror of Glorfindel’s as he took him in.
Each stared at the other, twin expressions turning from surprise, to dawning realisation. Then brilliant smiles broke out with bursts of joyous laughter as they clamored to speak, words tumbling over one another in haste.
“Oh! It is really done!”
Glorfindel beamed and tentatively reached to touch Ecthelion’s cheek, seeing him anew as his own spirit reflected back at him and his vision swam with tears of happiness. “I love you, so damn much,” he said fiercely, a smile so wide it almost hurt. Reality was sinking in and he choked on a breath then held it, not trusting himself not to breakdown completely.
Turning his head and taking his hand, Ecthelion kissed his palm and then wrapped his arms about his back tightly, toppling them both onto the bed with noises of delight.
Kissing him soundly, Ecthelion looked down on him; all sleep ruffled hair and rosey cheeks. He thought how he’d never been happier as everything became real and willed himself to live in the moment, to be sure he would remember this feeling, no matter what came next, for all of his long days. Then he dipped his head and whispered “I love you too,” against his lips.
Chapter 8: To Join The Stars
A first visit to Menegroth and then return to Nevrast
Apologies for being a week late on this one but it was holiday time - this is a little bit of a filler chapter, but very necessary
Long were those first days that they lay together in bliss, not thinking of the outside world. They left the things that had passed behind them for that time, the grief and the loss. The months wore on, but still time was short, as being but the blink of an eye in their new-founded marriage. Too soon the days had worn on and it came to them that they must not linger any longer. The food was now grown very short and the heavy fall of snow had finally abated. It was the end of winter still, though they would not have trouble in making the path.
There were duties to be done and they knew they must do right by their friends, for Istin and Elanoriel lay still in their frozen shrouds. Their bodies may have been but shells, their spirits having heeded the call would be across the waters in the Halls of Mandos, but they still needed to be returned to their kin, as was the only proper way. It may have seemed uncaring and selfish perhaps to an outsider to hear laughter and happiness in such a sad situation, but for those who had walked the ice and fought upon the new shores of Nevrast, not so. Hard lessons had taught the host of the Noldor to hold onto joy and hope in dire times and Glorfindel and Ecthelion were no different to any others in that respect.
Still, they stayed as long as they might in the small cottage. It was safe there and returning to the real world was a step into what they knew would be difficult at best and dangerous at worst.
“We will be banished,” Glorfindel sighed, not for the first time, his eyes downcast even as he packed his small riding bag with what meagre provisions there were left to carry. They would have need to forage whilst travelling, but it was little hardship to bear.
Ecthelion felt the pang of it in his chest and echoed his sigh, buckling his own pack and dropping it onto the table in readiness. “It’s a possibility, we know that, but it will be together or not at all.” He hoped to convince himself as well with his assertion and approaching him he placed a hand on his arm.
“Come, my love. We will manage. They cannot be so harsh as you fear.” His voice was soft and kind as he perched by his side. “For one, I have fair reason to believe that your mother would not stand for it. Ñolofinwë loves her - and therefore you too - far too much to cause so much pain to order such a thing. There’s been enough strife in your family already, I don’t believe he would willingly be the cause of more.”
“Your family now too,” Glorfindel corrected him with a quirk of a smile. “Apologies for that. At least you wed to the less troublesome side.”
Ecthelion raised a brow at him and snorted softly, pleased that Glorfindel hadn’t completely fallen prey to his melancholy again. “Yes, quite,” he said, “I’m sure Fëanáro would have had a fair amount to say about this union. All of it rather unsavory too, I’m certain. Perhaps it might have even involved swords…Best we try not to cross paths with your cousins for a while, just in case they have the same ideas.”
“I’m glad you find it amusing at least,” Glorfindel grouched but he looked up at him with a spark back in his eyes. “And we’d probably be alright with Nelyafinwë around. Not that I would recommend it.”
“In all seriousness though,” Ecthelion took his hand and held his gaze, “it will turn out alright in the end, I’m sure of it.”
“You can’t know that.” Glorfindel sighed heavily with a slow shake of his head.
“I have faith,” Ecthelion shrugged, “I know you do too, deep down. You haven’t changed so much. Not essentially, at least.”
Glorfindel had spent much time in his youth in the Years of the Trees in the city at the slopes of Taniquetil, the holy Mountain where dwelt the Great Lord Manwë and Lady Varda. His grandmothers’ people loved the Valar most of all the elves and thus had heard a great many poems and been to many ceremonies. Still, he was very much of the Noldor and as a Noldo he couldn’t help feeling the loss of some of the faith of his earlier days, after all that had been lain upon them. He looked at Ecthelion now with a degree of skepticism.
“Don’t you give me that look,” Ecthelion chided and pulling Glorfindel’s hand into his lap in both of his own, he looked at him earnestly.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “about this. About us. Granted we aren’t a traditional pair. We know there won’t be children given to us and that- Well. It’s hard to accept but I think we both have. Besides, we’re both Lords of our houses and are expected to lead them too when we remove with Turukáno.”
“I don’t see what you’re getting at,” Glorfindel frowned, “we’ve already spoken of all those things, a great many times. Do you suddenly have the answers? We could do all of that regardless. A good deal of our friends already are.”
“Yes, we could,” Ecthelion conceded, “but would it be so well? Separately, we might be decent warriors and our people respect us and our opinions. Together we’ll be stronger still, for we won’t be passing our strength into children but to one another.”
“I’m not certain people will see it that way,” Glorfindel countered, “it’s not the natural order of things. Besides, look at Fëanáro! That argument won’t hold much water, certainly not with Ñolofinwë. I’d like to see you suggest to him that he’s weaker for having children.”
“Alright, point taken,” Ecthelion said, “so we’ll just have to make them see that this union is nothing but good. Through our actions if not by words. Given time, I know they will concede the point; for us, in our positions, at least.”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our people are not well renowned for thinking long on matters before making hasty judgment,” Glorfindel said pointedly. “We’ll need a better argument than that, at least at the beginning if we don’t want to be banished. Or worse.”
Ecthelion shook his head in frustration. He did see that his thinking had huge holes in it but he hadn’t yet come up with anything better. Not that he was going to stop trying. He wasn’t just going to roll over and live the rest of his life with the reality that they’d never be accepted. Granted it might take a very long time to get there, but then it was a good job they had a very long time with which to work.
“Eru would not have bound us were it not right and our fate,” he insisted, “there’s a reason you and I have one another, whether we or anyone else knows what that is or not.”
“Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?” Glorfindel asked, giving him a long look.
They both went quiet for a while.
Ecthelion took the moment to take him in, not for the first time wondering at how they had been brought together. Why he had fallen so helplessly and irreversibly for him, instead of any of the fair and very worthy maidens who had crossed his path. Glorfindel was beautiful, no doubt about that. His hair was now neatly braided in readiness to travel and whilst his clothing had seen better days, even though they’d done as best as they might in making repair, he still wore them well. The gold embroidery set off his complexion and even after spending the better part of the winter indoors he still held a tanned glow, so much deeper than his own pale skin. Ecthelion became lost in thought, so much so that when Glorfindel spoke, he jumped a little, and Glorfindel chuckled.
“That Eru has granted this cannot be disputed,” Glorfindel conceded, “and I think that’s the best argument we have. Although I don’t think it will do to flaunt our union at all. I know my uncle; he will likely see that if Eru wills it then he should accept it, even if unwillingly. I’d, in seriousness, prefer not to invoke any more wrath from the Fëanorians though, if it can be helped. I can’t predict their reactions, even though they’re already scattered and it’s unlikely we’ll meet them unless looked for. Nelyafinwë wouldn’t have room to judge, but after everything and seeing as we’re not exactly close, I doubt he’d stand up for us unless there was a good reason.”
They knew the rumours were true of the closeness between Maedhros and Fingon, some of the few who did, but they didn’t see how it was going to be any help. Glorfindel would not admit it out loud, but his cousin intimidated him a fair bit and had done since early childhood, although Ecthelion was well aware. Maedhros was imposing before the Oath; he was even more so now after Thangorodrim and there was an unspoken unwillingness to show weakness before him.
“We’ll be removed soon, it’ll be easier then,” Ecthelion said, hoping this circular conversation they had been having for days on end would be finished soon.
“Yes,” Glorfindel huffed, “yes, we will, but I’m not sure how being in a confined area with the same people for the foreseeable future will aid us in keeping this private. We’ll have to come up with something. It’s not as if we can just not look anyone in the eye ever again and remain mute.” The matter of married Eldar being plain for any of their people to see through their bonded spirits was a blessing and a hinderance all at once for them.
Glorfindel turned away to look out of the window where a few flakes of snow were fluttering past and sighed. “Come on, it’s time to go. I would that this were over.”
Ecthelion squeezed his hand and rose. “I know,” he said and pulling him onto his feet and into his arms, he kissed Glorfindel’s forehead, his lips lingering. He wasn’t exactly feeling wonderfully positive about leaving either and an air of dread sat heavy at the thought of having to face Thingol, let alone their own people. He so badly wanted to make Glorfindel happy though, for it hurt his heart even more deeply that someone usually so bright and cheerful had spent so long being so sad.
“I want to see you smile properly again and have you being annoyingly optimistic about everything too,” he said quietly, a small smile as he pulled back to look at him. “It feels very odd to be the one taking that position and I’ve a reputation to uphold.”
A ghost of a smile played on Glorfindel’s lips and Ecthelion felt his heart clench just slightly, happy to see some semblance of his old self surfacing. Stepping back, he turned and picked up both packs from the table and held Glorfindel’s out to him.
“Can’t have you taking my crown from me as being the annoying one,” Glorfindel said as he took it from him, clearly steeling himself and trying hard for Ecthelion’s sake, if nothing else, “and you’re right. It’s time to go, before we end up with a search party happening upon us instead.”
“Two stand before me, one clearly of the Noldor and one- I think a Noldo too, but something of our Vanyar brethren also, having arrived in my Kingdom, bearing two of our own. Slain, in what ways we know not. Were it by your own hands I would not think you would be here now, so I would assume there is to be an explanation forthcoming. Firstly, I would know of who you are. Secondly, I would that you stand and tell us your tale in full, leaving naught out, regardless of how small the details. Do not spare us, for it will bode better for yourselves if you do not withhold any of the facts of the matter. A lie by omission is still a lie, my young Lords, so please bear that in mind.”
Glorfindel and Ecthelion stood in solemn silence before Elu Thingol; High King of Doriath in the Halls of Menegroth. The palace had been built like a fortress, deep underground beyond the banks of the river Esgalduin, with but one way in through grand gates high above them and they had been escorted to the throne room by armed guards. They’d approached with more than a little trepidation as they had entered the borders of the great forest, traveling with heavy sorrow afresh in their hearts, for each carried one of the fair ladies shrouded before them as reverently as they could manage.
Thingol sat upon a grand throne carved from a single oak and polished so that it gleamed in the light of the lamps that were strung all about them. They were not the same as those the Noldor used, for they were of a design made by the Lady Melian who numbered amongst the Maiar and burned white rather than the soft blue they were accustomed to. The king wore a shining crown of green and silver atop long pale hair that flowed almost to his waist and he wore robes of a shimmering grey, intricately embroidered with hundreds of silver flowers.
Meliian stood beside Thingol, one hand upon his shoulder and whilst he spoke, his eyes piercing and his expression stony as he looked as to pronounce judgement at the first sign upon the two before him, her own expression was almost impossible to read. Glorfindel glanced at her and she looked to him as though she had already discerned what had happened and was only now waiting for them to give confirmation; although they hadn’t said anything since their arrival.
He didn’t know whether it was in his head he heard the sounds or whether it truly echoed about the shining cavern that they stood within, but Glorfindel discerned the calling song of birds as he looked upon her face. Beautiful and fairer than any of the Children, she held his gaze and her lips turned in the faintest of smiles.
Around the king and queen sat the Marchwardens and their guards. They were clad in dark forest hues of green and brown, their armour as of leaves and were leather in the main, with little plate. Very different to that the elves from Valinor had brought with them and had newly forged; bright polished plate that shone in the new light of unfamiliar lands. Although, somehow they too shone, in spite of their raiment, but it was with an unearthly light.
One of their number stood close behind the royal couple and he held in one hand a long and stout bow. He gave naught away in his expression but it was clear that he was wary of their visitors, for he held his bow-string in his forefingers.
Seeing them all there, hard and fathomless expressions and so unnerving in their appearance, Glorfindel couldn’t help but wonder at whether the Sindar they knew in Nevrast and these were indeed of the same people.
Do any of them have feelings? Are they all made of the same stone as their halls?
Ecthelion spoke with Sanwë, made much easier and more natural now that there was very little barrier to one another’s minds. Glorfindel glanced at him and rose one brow very lightly, for clearly they had been thinking the exact same thought.
The two Noldor, by contrast, were much travel worn and were decidedly not in the finery they would have chosen to meet them with, nor did they hold their faces nearly so impassive. Their shirts and riding breeches showed much wear from battle and travel alike and from months of having few sets to change into. They may have been nobles, Glorfindel a prince in his own right, but a glance at them then would have them taken for the weary warriors they were.
Two of the Sindar clad in the uniform of the guard, one on either side, moved to escort them to stand before their king, where they remained next to them, long spears at their sides. What they thought either Glorfindel or Ecthelion were going to do was anyone’s guess, but it was clear that Thingol’s court was a much stricter place than they were used to in Vinyamar, which was really saying something. One look at any of the guards’ faces told them they were certainly not welcome, but then, neither would they have welcomed anyone who had shown up in the manner that they had, so it was hardly a surprise.
“Well?” Thingol’s question broke through the silence and demanded attention. Glorfindel and Ecthelion looked at one another, clearly wondering where to begin.
Ecthelion nodded shortly and turned to Thingol. Let me, he thought towards Glorfindel.
Keeping his expression calm and composed as he straightened his shoulders, Ecthelion lifted his chin towards the proud king to meet his penetrating gaze. Swallowing his own nerves, particularly at speaking in a tongue he had only recently mastered, he hoped their explanation would be enough.
“Your grace,” he began, “I am Ecthelion and I am of the House of the Fountain, from Tirion upon Túna. My- companion, is Glorfindel of the Golden Flower, also of Tirion upon Túna, but also too of the Vanyar of Taniquetil and we have travelled from Vinyamar on the shores of Nevrast. It is with great sorrow that we are here in these circumstances, for I believe the ladies whom we have borne back to you had sent message of our coming. We were to be guests at your yuletide celebrations and I would that this were still the case.”
Surprised at the steadiness of his own voice he continued on to recount to the court the sorry tale of their journey from the coast and the consequences thereof.
Thingol did not interject, sitting with his hand beneath his chin and an elbow on one arm of his great throne, he looked down on them both and listened. For his own part Glorfindel wasn’t able to hold back his tears at the telling of the passing of their dear friends, an echoing pain reminding him that he was not alone in his grief. He blinked to clear his vision as the Lady Melion looked upon him and he thought he saw a measure of sadness reflected in her own eyes too, the bird song changing and weaving in greater grief now, softer and with less of a disturbance.
“We would for ask your forgiveness ere we depart to our own people,” Ecthelion said with a heaviness colouring his clear voice, “for it will forever be with bitter sorrow that we will both regret not being enough to have brought our companions to their families, whole and hale to enjoy the hospitality offered to us, instead visiting sorrow and pain upon you all.”
A quiet descended. The only sounds in the hall now were that of the distant echo of water running in the river above and through the rocks around them and the quiet music of Melian. It remained so for what seemed like the longest time.
Glorfindel ached to reach out to Ecthelion, to take his hand at the least, but remained still and reverent, not daring to make a move. Even after so short a time, it had become second nature to seek one another for comfort.
Do you think we shall be allowed to leave? he asked him.
He was somewhat concerned, for it seemed that the King and Queen were in silent conversation, looking at one another with drawn faces and flickering nuances to their expressions.
I think we will find out soon enough, Ecthelion said.
Ecthelion quirked the smallest of sad smiles in his direction before Melian stirred and Glorfindel’s eyes snapped from Ecthelion to her, bracing for whatever was to come.
“You have been through much and have shown bravery in coming here. I sense that there is more which you do not speak of, although I do not think that you have been false and that perhaps what is not said is private and not for us to know. It is evident that you are both grieving for your losses as much as any of us.”
Her voice was soothing and musical, bringing to mind a garden of light and filled with song, even in the deep cavernous halls. Glorfindel had met those of the Mair before in the Blessed Realm and he was reminded forcefully of the home he had left behind.
It stirred him now to speak where he had lacked the courage before.
“We have brought ill news to you all and for that we are truly sorry.” He dipped his head in respect. “However, the fault is not our own but of the Dark Lord Morgoth Bauglir. I do not need to recount to you, I’m certain, all of which he has wrought; tainting everything he has touched and taking many from us who should still walk this fair earth.”
He turned his gaze on Thingol and whet his lips before going on, voice quiet yet ernest. “You knew of my grandfather, Lord Finwë and he spoke of you in terms of great friendship and of an elf as mighty and fair as any who has ever walked these lands. We have vowed to avenge his death and the deaths of all who are innocent and have fallen prey to the Dark Lord’s wickedness. For my own part, I would that I would be bound to my word until such time as the world is changed and he and all of those he has corrupted beneath him are a danger no more. I would offer you nothing but respect, and hope that you would accept our deepest sympathies for this loss to your people.”
Ecthelion gasped very softly beside him with a small Laurë, no! but Glorfindel stood tall, not looking in his direction. He did not falter, even under Thingol and Melian’s deeply appraising gazes.
“I can see that you mean every word you speak,” Melian said slowly, “but know this Glorfindel Los’Lóriol, Eru will hold you to your promise, just as your people are already bound to their doom. More may well be asked of you than you would be willing to give, ere the end.”
He swallowed but didn’t falter. A strange sense of knowing settled on him and it was both terrifying and comforting at the same time; for at that moment somehow he knew that she was right. Iinstead of shying away, he stepped forwards to yet again embrace his fate.
He felt Ecthelion crack inside, but not break. They were in this together, come what may.
After their time in Thingol’s court they had been permitted to stay on to join in bidding their farewells to Istin and Elanoriel. They took their places beside their families, who had not placed any blame upon the two Noldor. They shared in their tears with hands clasped together tightly and had joined them with their own songs as they had been asked to sing. Not the songs they had been preparing and not the ones they wanted to be singing.
Words were spoken too to Lord Námo; to hold and care for them, until such a time as they would be healed and whole. To be re-born unto the world, as was the way of the Eldar and walk the Blessed Lands, or even to return to their home in Arda, where they would be seen again by those who loved them.
Then the pyres had been lit the time had come to send their bodies into the sky in ashes, to join the stars.
Later, when in the privacy afforded to them behind closed doors, it was not lustful need that had found them in one another’s arms. They lay with salt laden kisses where tears mingled and they whispered affirmations; over and over giving declarations of love. They each held the other together.
Then they had spent time amongst the people for a while, finding wariness from most for their being outsiders, but welcome enough and kindness too. Galadriel was there with her betrothed, Thingol’s kin, Lord Celeborn and they had spent many hours in their company, finding comfort in family and reunion. Galadriel had been far too perceptive and had looked at each of them long and hard with the most unreadable expression, but she made no comment on what she thought. She had just nodded once and the conversation had moved on. If it was acceptance or her uncanny perception of things yet to come, neither could afterwards decide, but they took it for good either way and it eased their minds, if just a little. It was odd seeing her there, not at all as they’d known her in Valinor, but then they had the good sense not to ask questions for the reasons whilst in Thingol’s kingdom.
When finally they found themselves set out upon the road back to Nevrast, the snows were receding and the river through Doriath was high with melt water. They came to the Great Gate with the guards in their green armour either side, waiting to close them as soon as they had passed through. The air was scented with the freshness of the new growth of the forest all around them and in spite of all that had passed during the long winter months, they felt renewed in spirits with the coming of the spring and hopeful that all might be well, at least for a while.
Of course, they knew that they had to face the questions that were ahead in Vinyamar and there was no doubt that there would be a great many of them. No doubt they were bringing back a measure of grief too and they didn’t look forwards to the inevitable re-telling of all that had happened. Especially not facing Lord Egalmoth, who they knew would be devastated at the loss of his dear sister.
Just as they were leaving Thingol stopped them, with Melian ever present at his side. It was only the two of them, alone.
"You may not be of our people,” he said, “but whilst you are both young and have seen much which has been hard for you to bear, you have shown courage and respect and have done the right thing, even though you must have known the perils that could have brought. I see in you both that you are wedded and although we have not spoken of this, I believe I know the truth here, for you have not hidden your feelings.”
Glorfindel’s heart jumped hard and hammered in his chest and Ecthelion’s mirrored it, both feeling dread wash over them. It seemed then that the fears they both harboured were about to become reality and they held their breaths, awaiting judgement and both on alert.
“There is no need for your apprehension,” Thingol said, in a softer tone than they had heard him use till that moment and he laid his hands upon each of their shoulders. “Your wives will not think unkindly on you and will be proud that you’ve not hid away from your duties. You will be reunited once your time in Arda has passed, or if they are permitted to return to us. This my wife has told me of Mandos Halls, for they are but a place of waiting and healing. Your separation will not be easy, granted, but you must keep faith. You have good hearts. I would that the blessing of Eru be upon you both in your futures.”
They nodded mutely, scarcely believing that he had made the error but not thinking for a moment to correct him, for they were suddenly aware of Melian’s gaze, which with a blink told them that she knew her husband was mistaken. However, she did not say anything.
A small smile curved her lips as Thingol stepped back, allowing them passage and they bowed with their respects to them both, murmuring thanks as they finally left their kingdom.
They dared not speak aloud whilst they were still within the Girdle of the forest, for they knew they were followed by a good number of the Sindarin guard ere they crossed the border. Unseen, but ever present as the feeling of eyes upon them on either side through the dense trees.
Do you think it might work? Ecthelion glanced across at Glorfindel, a troubled look upon his face.
I honestly see no reason why it would not
But if we’re caught out on a lie-
Then we don’t lie. Perhaps the omission will allow them to come to the same conclusion as Elwë? Already people have been making the assumption of a forthcoming betrothal and would it not be logical for them to make the leap? Glorfindel gave him a hopeful look.
Aye- but your family also? Your mother, Laurë?
And so they went on, discussing the solution that Thingol had unwittingly laid before them; knowing it would not be a good idea but both succumbing to the convenient cover it allowed them. Neither was comfortable with it, feeling very wrong, but the alternative they knew may well cost them dearly and putting it off for a later point was very appealing.
“I’ll speak to my mother. I’ll not hold the truth from her.” Glorfindel shook his head as he stared into the fire they had built one evening. They were all but a day’s ride from home and still they hadn’t reached a consensus. Ecthelion was growing weary and Glorfindel was agitated with the thought of not being able to share his happiness of being wedded to someone whom he loved so deeply from his mother, especially as they were very close.
“But what of your uncle?” Ecthelion asked, for what seemed like the hundredth time, “she won’t want to withhold it from him and asking her to do so would be equally as wrong. We should either tell them all or none at all.”
“I don’t want to tell him and besides, he’s in Barad Eithel and doesn’t need to know! I’m more worried about Turukáno, who will be there and won’t want to have either of us as leaders of his new city.” Glorfindel threw out passionately, folding his arms tightly over his chest.
“The deceit and lies we’re bringing with us are not right!” Ecthelion threw back, equally as impassioned. “If our argument is going to be that Eru’s given his blessing then how will lying about it look if we’re caught out? I don’t like it, it doesn’t sit right and will bring far more shame than if we’re just open from the beginning. At least then, whatever happens, we’ll have clear consciences.”
Glorfindel groaned in frustration, knowing Ecthelion spoke honourably and he felt wretched for being a coward. Although, he still felt sick to his stomach at the thought of speaking to either his uncle or cousin. He didn’t want to admit it, but a fair bit of him was also upset at the thought of not being accepted as he was by all of their people too. It was vain and selfish and he was angry at himself. He dropped his head into his hands, hair dropping over his shoulders and hiding him from sight. Tired and in an ill mood, when Ecthelion reached a hand to his arm he shrugged him off.
“Well.” Ecthelion huffed and folded his arms over his chest now instead, shaking his head in Glorfindel’s direction and feeling equally as annoyed. “I suppose if we are not much on speaking terms when we arrive it will make this easier.”
Neither said anything more that night, each choosing to roll out his mat on opposite sides of the fire. They were feeling the pain of what they knew was going to be much more difficult than it had been in Thingol’s palace by the time the next evening arrived.
They both knew that the other was not actually upset with him; it was almost impossible now to hide their feelings with their union, which was a blessing and a curse all at once. So, it was only inevitable that when morning came it was a contrite pair of elves who made apologies and carefully wrapped one another in soft embrace, admitting they were scared and knowing they needed to be strong.
Even so, it didn’t solve anything and they knew that they had fundamental differences to reconcile, which they could no longer put off doing.
Chapter 9: Judgement
Returning to Nevrast to face the music.
Before them now loomed Mount Taras, where upon sat the city of Vinyamar looking out towards the sea, where Turgon ruled those of the Noldor who had given him their allegiance and the Sindar who had joined them. Outside the city walls they were greeted upon the road by riders, the guards who were out patrolling the parmeters around the settlement, who had spied them coming from afar.
“Ho! Is that you Laurefindil? Ehtelë? We had thought you might be lost to us; that Elwë had seduced you into staying in Menegroth with his Maia Queen!” It was Lord Penlod and another that they hadn’t met before, a Sindar by his look and he eyed the two curiously whilst Penlod rode ahead to greet them.
“Aye, we’re back,” Glorfindel stopped his mare and patted her neck as the two approached. He had a knot of apprehension in his stomach but smiled nonetheless, for he was relieved to be home no matter the circumstance.
“What on Arda happened to you?” The newcomer had joined them and wore an expression of open confusion as he stared at one, then the other. “It might not be entirely my place to say, but you do rather look as if you’ve been wrestling with thorn bushes, the pair of you. Had you not spare uniform when you left?” He looked to Penlod for explanation. “They are guards of the city, I take it? I recognise the insignias on their cloaks at least, although they don’t look as if they should be and you say they’ve been to Elu Thingol’s Halls? I would call that poor form, myself, but I suspect their own lords will have comment enough.”
“Forgive me, but you are?” Ecthelion cleared his throat loudly and interrupted the rather blunt assessment with a raised eyebrow, whilst Penlod stifled a laugh by coughing into his fist. Glorfindel had gone a little pink, for he rather took pride in his appearance if he could help it, squaring his shoulders and he surreptitiously combed his fingers through his tangled and wayward hair, as if that might help. Yes, they had been gifted clothing whilst in Menegroth and they wore those now, very distinctly Sindar in design and not at all their usual attire, being in the dark greens and browns of the woodland folk. Both though had their own travelling cloaks over the top, Ecthelion in deep blue with silver gilt and Glorfindel in pale green damascened with gold celandine, each baring the insignias of their respective houses. Neither were in good condition. That coupled with the fact they’d been on the road for the last few weeks and they were rather in need of baths; however much they rankled at being brought up short as such, the newcomer did have a point.
“Lord Duilin, perhaps it would be wise not to throw insult at the High King’s nephew and his best friend, hmm?” Penlod suggested lightly with a smile and it was Ecthelion and Glorfindel’s turns to chuckle as Duilin quickly turned red. Penlod laughed too, then looking both Glorfindel and Ecthelion over with an appraising eye he raised a brow pointedly, “but he’s quite right, you both look terrible.” He squinted, adding “and do not think that I have missed that there have been weddings, with no brides in tow.”
Glorfindel sucked in a fortifying breath and held it, looking out over the coast to their right-hand side whilst he gathered his wits. His horse clearly felt the sudden tension through her reins, for she dropped her head low and shifted on her feet. Beside him, Ecthelion glanced his way and let out a loud exhale. The humour had vanished from the moment and Penlod and Duilin both had the common sense to notice and not make further light of the matter.
“I see,” said Penlod in an understanding tone, “well, in that case, perhaps we can ride on ahead of you and have them know you are arrived. I’ll ask your houses to have food and warm baths prepared.”
“Thank you.” Glorfindel managed a small smile and with a last glance between them both and a nod Penlod turned, Duilin looking most uncomfortable with the whole thing joining him and they pushed their horses on to a canter towards Vinyamar.
“Come on,” Ecthelion spoke up, pulling Glorfindel out of his thoughts, “a hot bath and food sound very good right now. Last push?” Glorfindel nodded and they followed.
Reaching the gates to the city they were opened for them without question and the horses were led away by two squires as they dismounted.
“Take care of them, they’ve been through much,” Glorfindel gave his mare a last pat as they departed, finding his legs again as he’d been riding for so long.
They took it slowly as they made their way through the winding streets towards their respective homes, it feeling much more than one season since they had last been there. They received some greetings and many looks of open surprise; it wasn’t a common thing for two well-respected lords to be seen in public so weather-worn and in foreign clothing. Congratulations were given by more than one too when they were accosted and they spoke and soon they had picked up their pace, wishing they lived closer to the outer wall.
Glorfindel stopped at the divergence of paths, looking up the cobbled streets from one side to the other. One would lead him up to his home, the house of the Golden Flower, built more recently as they’d removed from the rooms afforded them in Turgon’s palace, where no doubt his family was already waiting for him to arrive. The path to the right would lead down to where Ecthelion’s home was set closer to the harbour. Here they would be separated for the first time since their bonding. That part didn’t bother him overly, but the surge of panic on facing his family certainly did.
“Likely as not, Turukáno will not be there,” Ecthelion said, knowing the reason behind his hesitation, “but if he is then he won’t blame you for wanting to rest before talking.”
“My mother-“ Glorfindel started, glancing worriedly at Ecthelion and biting his lip. Ecthelion couldn’t help but drop his gaze to them and they both felt the pull to comfort one another, not daring to do so.
He placed a hand on Glorfindel’s arm lightly. It was a small gesture of affection and much less than either of them would have liked. It would, however, have been seen as much odder they reckoned if they ceased all contact, as they had ever been noted for their close friendship. Glorfindel covered his hand with his own.
“We’ve been through this-“ Ecthelion sighed quietly, glancing around and making sure no-one was listening. He frowned. “If you need me there then I’ll come right away, but our best bet is you seeing them on your own this evening.”
“Yes, yes I know.” Glorfindel nodded releasing his lip and he shook his head, waves framing his face where they were loose, “but I cannot-“
He was starting to feel irrational panic and blew out a shaky breath, Ecthelion not saying aught but giving him the time to calm. He wasn’t feeling exactly happy either and Glorfindel’s rising dread was coursing through him as an echo, but one of them needed to be strong.
“Where’s that faith that you always seem to hold?” Ecthelion coaxed gently, “after everything we’ve been through, all of us, it’s going to be alright. Come now, it’s usually you telling me.”
Glorfindel closed his eyes and took a moment to compose himself, searching for inner strength and straightening. “You’re right, I’m sorry.” He found it so much easier to be the calming and positive influence for others, but when it came to himself he was at a loss.
“No need to be,” Ecthelion said and squeezed his arm before releasing him, stealing himself to part and go to face his own people. “I would that our positions were reversed,” he said with a curve of a small smile, sadness in his eyes.
“No, you don’t,” Glorfindel’s lips curved similarly, “you said it yourself; my family are a nightmare.”
“I like your immediate family well enough,” Ecthelion shrugged and looked over towards the path he needed to take, the lamps starting to glow as the light failed for the evening.
Glorfindel nodded, a press of lips, “let’s hope the feeling stays mutual.”
“You doubt me? No-one can resist my charm, you certainly cannot.”
He was about to retort, falling so easily into soft banter, when they were spotted with a call and a lady approached. Glorfindel, catching himself in the moment, greeted her with pleasantries enough that it would not be a long conversation.
They both then took it as their cue to part and alone they made their ways to face the music.
His mother had wept for a long time when he had entered the house. As soon as he’d come into sight she’d pulled him away to retire behind closed doors. Glorfindel hadn’t been able to hold back his own tears and with them his years receded and she had held him and stroked his hair; all of the months of pain and grief were released as a flood. He need not have worried, for even as she beheld his face and her eyes belied the shock of knowing what she saw there, she asked no questions of him that night. She simply allowed her beloved first born to take his comfort in her embrace, without the need to relive his troubles.
As Ecthelion had predicted, his cousin was not there, only his close family. Aranwë and Ilmarien with Voronwë holding her hand, hiding behind his mother’s skirts with wide eyes as Glorfindel did his best to pull himself together before his young nephew.
“It’s good to see you, Laurefindil,” Aranwë greeted him with a sad smile and clasped his arm, patting him on the back, “we were wondering if you would return to us, or if you had decided to stay with Elwë Singolo instead.”
“Yes, you and others too it seems,” Glorfindel said, stepping back, “do you all think I would depart on a whim as such? Or is it wishful thinking?”
Aranwë laughed, though there was pity in his eyes. “It’s good to see that you haven’t lost your sense of humour whilst you were gone. Although-“ He stopped himself and glanced at his wife; Ilmarien reaching to squeeze her husband’s arm in solidarity. “I am sorry for your loss. I’m sure you don’t wish to talk about it tonight, but you know you have my ear, brother.”
“Thank you,” Glorfindel managed, dropping his head and pressing his lips together, his vision shimmering and not holding out any longer. It was less easy to do so, he found, now he was within his own four walls. Lalwen pulled Glorfindel away then and chivvied him towards the stairs that he could bathe and rest as he just nodded, unable to speak more, for exhaustion was taking hold.
In his own house Ecthelion had found comfort from his extended family there; cousins, aunts and uncles who fussed over him and probed with questions. They were not so reserved as Glorfindel’s kin and wanted to know what had happened, but he was able to hold them off with insistence that he needed sustenance, to wash and sleep; which was not at all false.
In this way he found himself in his bed and only then did he reach out to Glorfindel, finding much relief in feeling him not happy perhaps but sleeping, which was enough for tonight.
Fingolfin paced back and forth before the two young lords, tall and imposing and not at all pleased. They were the only three in the room; Fingolfin had called them for a private audience, for which they were very grateful. As it turned out, he’d arrived only a few days before they had returned and had they been just a little sooner setting out or quicker on the road, they would have met outside the city, which was something they were very grateful not to have happened. He had come visiting family and friends as well as asserting rules for his son, seeing as he was High King after all, now that the snows had cleared from the pass and before they all removed from Vinyamar.
Needless to say, they would have preferred an audience with Turukáno.
Glorfindel watched him as he waited for the questioning that was coming their way; deep blue robes with silver edging, not unlike those Ecthelion favoured, trailing floor length behind him as he turned again, now heading over to the throne in the centre between them where he sat to observe them both.
A glance over at Ecthelion and Glorfindel noted how he looked completely composed, as usual; serious expression and straight back. Yes, he looked tired, dark circles beneath his eyes betraying their weary state of not having had time yet to rest, but that was only to be expected. He could feel an undercurrent of stress emanating from him and felt sick with nerves himself, but was hoping he looked as put together, whilst fearing he did not.
A very small twitch from Ecthelion’s lips, the only indication of his having noticed anything at all.
Fingolfin cleared his throat and Glorfindel’s attention snapped back to his uncle, who gave him an appraising look before sighing and addressing them at last.
“I am most displeased, with both of you,” he said in his deep voice. Glorfindel’s heart sank through the floor. This was it, he feared.
“Before I go on, I would hear what you have to say for yourselves,” he continued, “for I will assume there is explanation behind this; that you wouldn’t have deliberately disgraced your families without very good reasoning.” His tone brokered no argument. It said very clearly that if they weren’t extremely careful, they were soon to be in deep waters; although, it seemed from what he eluded to he knew what was between them already. At least, however, it looked like they were going to be able to say their piece first.
Before they would be banished. Most likely.
Somehow however, Glorfindel found himself feeling much calmer at his words and with the stress and deep unease of needing to lie gone from the equation he found his courage. He had great love and respect for his uncle and as forthright and serious as he was, he’d also heard him laugh, long and loud. He called on those memories now, of the person he knew who cared deeply about the need for love and respect and most of all, the importance of family. No matter what form that took. If he could still love Feanor after everything they’d been through, there was hope.
So, lifting his eyes to meet Fingolfin’s he spoke with a steady and clear voice, albeit a quiet one, feeling Ecthelion turn to him in surprise.
“Your Highness,” he started, “of course, neither of us had any intent of laying disrepute or disgrace upon our families, however much that is the case. I would- nay, we both would humbly ask that you hear our reasoning and the story in full before passing final judgement. You’ve known both of us all of our lives and you know how much reverence we both hold in duty and loyalties.”
“Laurefindil,” Fingolfin said slowly and steepled his hands under his chin, reminding him of being stood before Thingol previously in similar circumstances. The difference here being that his gaze was not guarded and there was a depth to his eyes that showed he was not bereft of feelings. “So as like my fair sister, yet I sense in you a deal of the fire of my brother, also. You are young and speak with the earnestness of youth. Yes, I would hear of all that has passed before you have returned to us. I can only assume that your time in Elwë Singolo’s court must have been…fruitful.”
Glorfindel coloured at the implication of his statement, but he held his nerve and Fingolfin’s eye, knowing the King was usually kind and fair. He had to trust that at least some measure of each would be granted to them today.
He shook his head, sadly, cheeks cooling. “Nay, it was not,” he said and began to recount the sorry tale of their travel and encounter with the wargs, feeling somewhat detached from himself as he did so, for it was as like watching another speak. It was not wholly un-welcome a feeling, for it meant his voice remained steady.
Before he had finished however, with a note of surprise, Fingolfin interjected. “Ah, then I understand,” he exclaimed and his hands came down from his chin to rest on his knees and he nodded to himself.
“You are not the first to find yourselves in this predicament, even though I would still call it foolhardy of you, given your journey across the Grinding Ice. I would have thought you both would have learned then that it is unwise to seek to heal one’s beloved by binding in such dire circumstances, when on the cusp of fading.”
Glorfindel froze and just about managed to retain his composure somewhat at Fingolfin’s misunderstanding, the exact same as Thingol. At his side however, Ecthelion was less than pleased.
We cannot! If we lie now and are found out later, we’ll never be trusted again! We’ll be thrown out on our ears!
This buys us time! It’s not long term, I’m not suggesting that. I feel awful too but-
“There is no need to look so worried,” Fingolfin said, thankfully not seeming to notice their silent conversation, “I am still not happy about this, not at all, but now I can see what has happened I do not think it would be fair or right to lay fault or chastisement upon either of you; for I understand as well as any what it is to be sundered from the one you love most dearly in your heart. I had thought, it seems wrongly, that you had slighted us by choosing to wed in Doriath. Without your families to give blessing and without the ceremonies that should have been due to two of your rank and standing amongst our people.”
He looked at Glorfindel and his voice softened some, which only served to drive the guilt at the deception deeper.
“I know that I speak for many when I say that we had all hoped soon to see your betrothal, Laurefindil, for it has been long since there has been a royal wedding and you made a fine couple. Alas, that it is not to be, but fate has taken much from many of us and you have my deepest sympathies.” Glorfindel nodded, mutely.
“And you too, Ehtelë,” he turned to Ecthelion, “you, who are as close as kin to Laurefindil and therefore to me also, I would offer my sincere condolences too, for I would that you could know such happiness. I hope that it may be the will of Eru, for you both as for us all, that you are reunited one day, once the curse laid upon us has passed and Lord Námo has released their fëa from his care.”
Glorfindel didn’t even dare glance across at Ecthelion, for he knew he was upset and perhaps angry too that they were allowing Fingolfin to believe his false conclusions, even though he hadn’t spoken up. So both sat silent, not quite knowing how to respond, for even though they knew that this was wrong, they were indeed young and had not the courage in those days that they would possess in later years; when the world had hardened them and they would care much less of the opinions of others on their moral compasses. Glorfindel in particular.
They had therefore left Fingolfin that morning with their chief feelings being shame and confusion. Finding themselves later in a secluded cove on the beach, looking out over the calm waters that sparkled in the afternoon sunlight, they were subdued and melancholy for what had passed. It was now truly behind and what was ahead was not overly promising, which they feared was to be to be many years of hiding.
Only when they had assured themselves that they could not be spied upon, for the rocks surrounding them afforded them such cover as they might, did they lean against one another. Ecthelion wraped an arm tight about Glorfindel’s shoulders as he rested his head against him.
“What’s done is done,” Ecthelion said quietly, answering the unasked question that he knew full well was in Glorfindel’s mind. His anger had abated quickly, realising that it wasn’t going to aid them at all and really, if he admitted it to no-one but himself, he was glad of the reprieve. If only for a while. “We must move forwards now. In whatever way that might be.”
Glorfindel didn’t disagree. “Tomorrow I’ll speak to Turukáno, I believe there is already a council put together so as we can plan the removal of goods to Tumladen. I would like to make sure that my house sends its fair share of aid.” It was easier to start to think on practical matters, of jumping straight back into duty.
“I’ll come too. I was starting to wonder whether it might be better to stay, that removing ourselves wouldn’t be right and I know your mother would have been happier- but I think now it’s our best option. I don’t think I trust in going instead to Ñolofinwë now.”
Glorfindel looked surprised at the admission and was about to question him over it, but then it was no longer on the cards, so a moot point best left behind. “No. Quite.”
He closed his eyes and nestled in closer against Ecthelion’s side, reaching to lace their fingers together. Quietly he mourned that he could not have given him a ring and that the ceremony his uncle had spoken of could never have been. It hurt his heart and Ecthelion squeezed his hand, turning so as he could press a kiss into his hair.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I did not want this for you.”
“Don’t. Please- please don’t.” Glorfindel whispered back and twisted about in his embrace to look him in the eyes. It was surprising still seeing his own soul reflected back in the soft grey, but not in a bad way and he smiled, in spite of everything.
“I’m not sorry. Not for loving you, not for marrying you, not for any of it. The only thing to be sorry for is that it has to be this way and I can only hope that one day we will see the reason why Eru has made it so. But I wouldn’t change if given the option, I would still that you were here. With me.”
“Such passionate words. You should wield a quill, not a sword.” Ecthelion smiled ruefully and touched a soft hand to his cheek.
He leaned in and with a small sigh pressed forwards for a kiss and they both cared not for a while of the incoming tide or the slowly failing light. Their breath came hot and it was good for a time not to think, only to find comfort and safety in one another. For in those days they were still very young and had the passion of youth also, which gave them longing in one another beyond just the sharing of pleasant company. They ignored then also the spots of rain that began to fall until it became a steady downpour that caused them to part, blinking up to the skies, clothing beginning to soak through.
“Let's go to speak with my mother, I want to do it sooner rather than later. I know you still hold reservation, but if there’s any chance at all of us not being found out within days, she’s it.”
“Must you speak of your mother now, Laurë? Really? I could think of other things that would be more preferable,” Ecthelion grumbled, rather worked up and decidedly of a mind to go back to something other than see Glorfindel’s family. Glorfindel however only laughed, his face already flushed and feeling in better spirits as he stood and began brushing his trousers and shirt down from the sand that clung onto them.
“If anyone will be happy for us, it will be her. I’m confident in that, at least,” he smiled and reached to help pull Ecthelion to his feet and helped him with brushing sand off too, blinking rain out of his eyes.
“Well, I hope you’re right about that. You do seem awfully confident.”
“Oh, I think she likely knew this was coming before either of us did.”
Ecthelion raised a brow and caught Glorfindel’s hand up where it was swatting at his leg still. “And you only mention this now?”
“Well-“ He blushed and looked at him through his lashes, “sorry?”
“Yes. You do look very sorry,” Ecthelion said with a short laugh and a shake of his head, wet strands of hair sticking to his face.
Glorfindel moved them and kissed his cheek in recompense. “I will make it up to you later. I promise.”
“If your mother approves.”
Ecthelion laughed, the rain coming down harder now and he narrowed his eyes into it. “Come on, if we don’t wish to be drowned then I suggest we go now!” and they both hurried to clamber over the rocks and headed back up the path.
By the time they reached Glorfindel’s home they were soaked through and much of their exuberance had faded, the reality of their forthcoming confession hitting home and despite the turn of weather and their being the only ones on the street they walked slowly to the gate.
Voronwë was in the hall running in circles with a hobby-horse as they entered and he stopped to stare at them.
“Grandmother will be mad at you for making the floors dirty,” he told them very seriously, in the way that only a child can.
“How about you go and fetch her for us?” Glorfindel asked with a small smile and off he ran on his important errand.
“He’s the image of your brother at the same age,” Ecthelion remarked as they took the stairs to Glorfindel’s chambers and entered his room, going to change into dry clothing.
Pulling open the wardrobe Glorfindel rummaged through and tossed back a shirt, pulling one out for himself.
“He is, and of my father also,” he replied, whilst pulling trousers from a dresser and handing those over too. “Not altogether a bad thing.”
They were both stripped down and busying themselves with re-dressing and talking as such, so preoccupied that the soft knock upon the door went unnoticed and Lalwen came in before they were fully decent. Ecthelion was helping Glorfindel with buttoning one of his cuffs, shirt still open and distracted as they were, he was leaning in in a manner not becoming of mere friendship as she coughed politely and they both jumped.
“I’m sorry, I can come back-“ she looked between them both and smiled whilst they hurried to part.
“No! No- I mean-.” Glorfindel let out a breath noisily and quickly finished doing up his shirt, stealing a glance at Ecthelion who had turned away to do the same but looked decidedly composed. Lalwen in the meantime had just shaken her head at them both with a smile, closed the door softly behind her and seated herself in the window to wait.
How do you do that?
Ecthelion raised a brow at Glorfindel who was looking annoyed at him, but before they could continue Lalwen interjected.
“Voronwë told me you had asked to see me?” she said lightly, “might I assume you didn’t mean in your rooms?”
Glorfindel made a face and she laughed at him. “Oh, come now Laurefindil, I’m your mother. There’s nothing you need be embarrassed about in your own home. Besides, I believe it’s best we’re in private to talk, don’t you?”
Her tone was still light and her smile soft, whilst Glorfindel’s stomach rolled and he couldn’t quite meet her eye as he nodded and sat on his bed to face her. It dipped down when Ecthelion sat beside him.
“Laurë-“ she said quietly and he looked up, seeing a touch of sadness in her as she looked back at him and he pressed his lips together. She reached over and took one of each of their hands and held them firmly, looking at them seriously in turn.
“I know,” she said firmly, leaving no room for doubt on what she meant, “and I’m sorry. I know how hard this must be for you, but I love you. We love you and I promise to be here for you, as much as I can be. I would that the circumstances had not been as such, that it was not at this time but-“ she blinked and a tear spilled over, which Glorfindel immediately went to wipe away and she shook her head, leaning back and stopping him.
“No, I’m fine. This is just- well. Not what I would have wished for you,” she said, echoing their own words. It was a recurring theme, one that was filled with sadness and as it seemed, unavoidable.
“How did you know?” Glorfindel asked quietly, feeling quite miserable more than anything else, knowing he had brought sorrow upon her, even though he still couldn’t find it in himself to hold any regret.
However, instead of falling into becoming upset she laughed once more, dropping their hands and wiping her cheek as she gave them both a rueful smile. For as ever, the Lady Lalwen was the lightest of heart of all the house of Finwë and even though she had lost much already, including her own husband upon the ice, always she was still able to find cause for joy in most things.
“I have eyes,” she said simply and Ecthelion’s mouth fell open, a look of deep concern on his face.
“Then what would you council?” he asked, “for I can’t think for a moment that all will be as accepting as yourself, my Lady, however grateful I am that you haven’t tried before to prevent this and forbade me from your house.”
“Forbid you? Really, Ehtelë, you do have the musicians’ flare for drama. I could no more send you away than Laurefindil, for would either of you go alone? I don’t believe you would have, even if you had not bound yourselves to one another. I also don’t think this would be a great shock to many others, either. Have you not had great friendship from the very beginning of your meeting?”
She spoke plainly and they were grateful for it, for it saved their fumbling, which would have been no doubt inevitable. However, that she believed them to be so plain in the sight of so many as she indicated had them both feeling sickness in the pits of their stomachs, knowing that they would have even greater need for careful behavior from now on.
“The same is said about others too,” Glorfindel muttered, “is that not the exact same phrasing that Ñolofinwë despises regarding Findekáno and Nelyafinwë?” Ecthelion snorted in spite of himself, covering his nervous outburst quickly. Lalwen just gave him a stern stare.
“Yes and I’m not suggesting this union be made known to him either,” she said firmly, “and seeing as he’s not here demanding to speak to you or to me, I’m assuming you haven’t been so foolish.”
“No. He assumed that we wedded Lady Istin and Lady Elanoriel,” Glorfindel admitted uncomfortably and ducked his head. Ecthelion reached and touched his finger tips to his arm softly.
Lalwen just rolled her eyes. “As fond as I am of my brother, he never has been able to recognise what is in front of him for what it is,” she commented, “always seeing what he would prefer instead. ‘Tis half the reason we all sit here rather than in the palace in Túna, but in this case, it is for the best. For now, at least, let us keep it that way.”
Glorfindel’s gaze snapped back up and she sighed with the tired exasperation of a long-suffering parent.
Both Ecthelion and Glorfindel both looked so young in that moment her heart hurt and she was painfully reminded of them in their childhood; two young lords of their houses running amok whilst both sets of parents perceived more than either of them would come to realise for many more years.
As close as brothers most would remark with smiles, but somehow something inside told her differently. Watching them grow to maturity, when neither was fully themselves unless the other was near. It was only through long years had she come to acceptance of what would be Eru’s will. Long had she argued with her husband, who did not share her thoughts, until he too had come around in the end, seeing how his son was grown into a kind and generous person, Ecthelion gracious and fair in all his deeds. Dark and light, both strong and loyal, complimenting one another and seeing his wife’s wisdom in observation, that indeed they were but two halves of a whole.
They hadn’t left Ecthelion’s parents out of the conversation either, approaching them and discussing the matter for long hours, behind closed doors. Whilst it was not the way of the Noldor for such a pairing to be tolerated, let alone accepted and knowing that the risk of discovery carried the penalty being disowned and loosing all standing in reputation; they were united in not wishing such a fate for the two. It showed something of the strength and generosity in spirit from both sets of families that Glorfindel and Ecthelion had been accepted, even before they had realisation themselves that they had need of any such thing.
Scant time passed between that moment however before fate had taken both Glorfindel’s father Arindil and Ecthelion’s parents too from them upon the Helcaraxë and Lalwen had sworn then that she would always support her family as best she might for all of them. For Lalwendë, daughter of Finwë was strong of heart and mind as any of her brothers.
Her eyes shone brightly and she blinked to clear her vision, smiling upon them and shaking her head from of her thoughts.
“The lie does not sit comfortably,” Ecthelion said with a short sharp huff, looking to his hands and an unhappy frown between his brows.
“With me, neither,” Glorfindel agreed and he glanced at Ecthelion and sighed deeply before looking to his mother for guidance.
“No, but it took your father and I, and your parents too Ehtelë, some years to see the good in this and accept what we knew it might mean, and that was in years of peace and plenty. Here, now, when things change so quickly and emotions run high, I fear quick judgement if you were to say aught outright. Our people need you both, very much, and it would do no good to anyone for public scandal to be made. I say this not because I don’t have faith in you because I do, but let Ñolofinwë and Turukáno both come to see the truth of the matter in their own time. I can’t be certain, for everything that’s happened proves that nothing at all is, but I believe in my heart, deeply, that all will be well, in the end.”
She spoke plainly and with conviction and neither Glorfindel or Ecthelion had words then to express enough gratitude to her, though they tried, as faltering as they might have been when taken so off guard.
They rose only to bend and embrace her warmly and she laughed and chided them for their own tears; each crying in sheer relief at finding such love being shown to them. They had a lot to discuss and a long road ahead, but knowing they were accepted by their parents if no-one else gave them such hope and the resolve to make them proud.
Lalwen is a wonderful person and I have a special place for her in my heart.
Love your children no matter who they are.
Happy Pride month everyone <3