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The Harad Expedition

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HIRAETH: (noun) A homesickness for a home you can't return to, or that never was.

 

There had been a great many missteps in the weavings of Arda’s history. Bringing the elves over the sea to Valinor was widely regarded as a mistake, and the return of a doomed few to the lands of their ancestors was an even greater one. The idea that any elf would journey across the Sundering Sea yet again, defying death to do so, must be the height of folly.

. . .

It would be highly inappropriate for the King of Arda, Highest Amongst the Valar, to play favorites. That is why when he bestowed upon the Vanyar his gifts of music and poetry, it was not preferential treatment, it was simply his duty to pass along these talents

Now with these gifts, which were in no way proof of favoritism, it reasonably followed that the Vanyar also had a prodigious vocabulary. This wasn’t the Noldor’s vocabulary, with a hundred or more specific terms to describe the color, clarity, and composition of a gem or for orderly designations to classify the world around them. These were beautiful, flowing words that painted masterpieces with the pen and captured the feelings of the elfin soul.

There was one such word that described the subtle and elusive feeling of a homesickness for a home that you could never return to, or maybe was never your home at all. Glorfindel felt this way now.

To the Vanyar, homesickness was more of a wistful longing for a past self, for a younger, more care-free time. The Vanyar has never truly lost a home to mourn. They had followed Orome to Valinor with their whole heart, and never looked back.

Glorfindel had, of course, lost his home. He had lost his home in the most spectacular and public of fashions. Multiple times. He always had been a terrible Vanyar, he supposed.

One would think life after rebirth would be colorful, yet it seemed to Glorfindel he was still trapped in the fogs of Mandos. He stood alone in the center of the grand council hall, kneeling now before a new king.

Everything was new now, from the languages to the lay of the land. Gone were the ornate armors and rich velvets of Beleriand’s Noldor. Instead, unknown lords of a new age draped in light, gauzy robes gazed down at him from around the room. Their expressions ranged from awestruck to incredulous, a few bordering on hostile. All were equally uncomfortable for Glorfindel.

“Glorfindel of Gondolin, you say?” echoed the new king - well, perhaps not so new anymore.

“Yes, your Grace,” stuttered Glorfindel, never before feeling such pressure to be himself.

The tension in the room was smothering. “He would not be the first fair face claiming to be an emissary from the West,” murmured one lord nervously. A rumble of agreement swept the room, and Glorfindel began to worry he was loosing his identity battle.

“Nay, I can vouch for this ellon,” came a voice from the back, “but as for why he is standing before us now, I am as much in the dark as you.”

“Galdor!” Glorfindel’s eyes lit with hope, clinging to the familiarity of his old friend like and anchor. His gaze flitted back and forth between his old friend and the king as he steeled himself to deliver the lines he practiced at nauseam during the journey East. “It is by the grace of the Valar that I stand before you now. It would seem that they are not ready to let me rest quite yet.”

“By the grace of the Valar?” demanded another lord incredulously, fixing Glorfindel with a piercing gaze. “What grace have the Valar ever shown the dispossessed and those born free of their rule? Tell me, in their infinite wisdom, why have the Valar deigned to send you back to us?”

Glorfindel was taken back by the venom in the other's voice. “I cannot tell you why it was I who was sent back, for that I do not know, but I can tell you for what purpose I stand before you now. The Valar have given me a great gift in this second life, but I fear in exchange I come before you now bearing dark tidings. Sauron has returned. He sits now on his throne in Mordor gathering old allies back to his side.”

“You are mistaken,” declared another. Elrond—Glorfindel realized—for he would recognize Eärendil’s son anywhere even had the Valar not told him of the boy’s place at the King’s right hand. “Sauron was destroyed in the Fall of Númenor, one of the few blessings that came about from the destruction of my brother’s kingdom.”

“Elrond, son of Eärendil,” Glorfindel addressed him, reveling in the kind gaze so reminiscent of his father, his grandmother, “I am truly sorry, both for your loss and for the message I bring, but it is you who is mistaken. Sauron is very much alive, and is once again turning his gaze toward dominion over Middle Earth.”

“This is grave news indeed. Disastrous, even, had we not been forwarded,” mused the king.

“And what aid are the Valar prepared to send to dispose of one of their own who seeks to enslave the children of Eru on Middle Earth?” asked the sharp-eyed elf who had questioned him earlier.

Glorfindel stared blankly, unsure how to answer. He, too, had questioned the Valar’s wisdom in sending just him back, but that did not mean he was ready to admit it aloud to an audience.

“How many forces will they be sending? What other elves have been reborn? Surely you cannot be the only one who desired to return to Middle Earth,” the elf pressed.

“That is enough,” demanded the king. Annoyance flickered across the king’s face as his antagonist turned Elrond for confirmation. Elrond raised a hand, silencing his agitated companion.

"It would appear that we are, again, alone,” Elrond concluded. A flicker of emotion passed between the two, some ulterior message in his words meant just for knowing ears. "Friends," Elrond said, rising to address the small council, "the Valar, in their, ah, grace, have thought to warn us of this new threat, but it will fall to us to fight for this land that we will not abandon."

From the king's other side, another advisor nodded in agreement - Cirdan, Glorfindel recognized, from reputation if not personal acquaintance. When the shipwright spoke, his voice was soft, but carried a commanding lure that Glorfindel felt himself gravitating toward. Glorfindel noticed with interest the gleam of a large, red, gem worn on his ring finger.

"It will take all of our strength, all of our courage, and likely old alliances and new for us to make a stand. I have marched on the Gates of Hell before, I shall do it again. To the jaws of death I shall charge with our king, hopefully but likely not for the last time, for I still believe in the power of the Eldar. I hold hope, who is with me?"

Rumbles of assent vibrated throughout the room, accompanied by a few more enthusiastic shouts of 'for the glory of the High King.' Gil-Galad smiled, nodding at the display of deference. "We will need to send diplomats to the far realms of elves and men. I am hesitant to invite these leaders to our capitol for fear of Sauron realizing we are gathering powers to plot against him. Best not to show our hand so soon. Cirdan, you will send emissaries to Oropher in the Greenwood. Hopefully he will be reminded of your distant kinship to his former king and more inclined to listen."

Cirdan nodded. "That would be for the best, your Grace."

The king turned then to Elrond's agitated companion but, seeming to think better of it, then turned to an elleth at the far end of the room. "Narien, you will seek King Amdir along with Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel in the Golden Wood."

"I will leave at first light, your Grace," replied Narien, taking her leave of the small council room.

Gil-Galad tasked Galdor with assembling a team of ambassadors to send to the Kingdoms of Men, after which many of the other advisors filtered out of the chamber. Glorfindel stayed. Having never been given a chair, he shuffled awkwardly from foot to foot. Elrond had stayed as well, accompanied by his grumpy shadow.

"You would not have been wrong to trust me to take this message to Galadriel. We were friends once, you know," the other elf accused, not quite meeting the king's eye.

"Oh?" asked Gil-Galad, some of his formality melting away in the empty chamber. "What was it you once called her? A second-rate witch with a Sindar-kink hiding her rotten-heart behind a tarnished, fool's gold façade?"

Glorfindel's eyes widened, half expecting Finwe's granddaughter to materialize in the small chamber to strike down the two elves who dared speak of her thusly. The others did not seem half as worried.

"Well, we always did have an odd relationship. Besides, if I recall correctly I was bereaved when I said that and grief always did bring out the worst in me."

"Everything brings out the worst in you, Erestor," admonished Elrond. The other elf - Erestor - shrugged and smiled conspiratorially at his friend.

"Besides," Gil-Galad continued, "It is Amdir we need to convince. Given old alliances, I think we can agree that a refugee of Nargothrond would make the better representative than the alternative."

For once, Erestor did not have a snappish response, allowing Gil-Galad to continue. "There is something else," he said tentatively, turning toward Elrond. The other had been standing at the window, arms folded, gazing down at the bay below. Glorfindel wondered if his mother used to stand thusly in her tower, eyes searching for signs of Earendil on the horizon. Glorfindel had not been given a full account of history after his death, but he knew enough to know that young Earendil and his wife had not led a life free of heartbreak and strife.

Gil-Galad clasped Elrond's elbow, turning the other elf to face him. Glorfindel stiffened at that casual touch, feeling oddly protective of his princess' progeny. Across the room, Glorfindel noticed Erestor's eyes narrow at the touch as well. It struck Glorfindel that where Elrond went, Erestor seemed to follow with sharp eyes and sharp tongue. He wondered how much that irritated the High King.

"I want you and your people to return to the capitol," Gil-Galad demanded.

"What?" exclaimed Elrond. If he had been expecting anything to come from this conversation, the king's request clearly was not it. "You can't be serious, Gil!"

"Imladris is too remote to be defensible. I want you here, where it is safe."

"Imladris is more important than ever," argued Elrond. "There is strategic value in not having all of our power in one place. Furthermore, I am closer to Moria and Lothlorien."

"Moria has closed it's gates to us since - well, since long ago - and the road to Lothlorien is not an easy one. What if Sauron were to come upon your canyon and cut Imladris off from the remainder of the realm."

"That depends," said Erestor spitefully, "would you send your armies to Elrond's aid, or only one small company?"

"I would never send my full army forth and leave the city open to attack, regardless of the circumstances," replied Gil-Galad coolly. "Furthermore, if Sauron was marching on Imladris and you had knowledge of the threat, I would expect Elrond to notify me or retreat. Preferably both.”

Glorfindel watched the exchange with curiosity. Animosity simmered in the air between the king and Elrond's advisor, both ready to snap.

Elrond sighed and took Gil-Galad's hand to cradle it in his own. "I appreciate your concern, but I am not leaving my home. Imladris is important, Gil. I can feel it."

The king opened his mouth, but Elrond quickly cut off the protest.

“It’s not worth your time to argue, Gil.”

"Very well," sighed the king, "in that case, Lord Glorfindel will accompany you."

Glorfindel started, until that point not entirely sure that the others remembered him.

Elrond turned then to Glorfindel. "Would that be amenable to you?" he asked with that kind smile that conjured memories of childish laughter and willow whistles in a far-away home where celandine bloomed on sharp, snow-covered peaks.

"I admit,” he continued “I am overwhelmed, perhaps even shy, upon coming face to face with a hero from my childhood. Though I was raised on tales of your deeds and the sacrifice you made for my family, now that you stand before me I cannot conjure the right words to thank you or to welcome you."

"Very amenable," replied Glorfindel, blushing, "and no words of thanks are necessary. Seeing with my own eyes that your father survived and started a family of his own is reward beyond what I could ever imagine."

"It is settled then," grinned Elrond, appearing younger than his years. "To Imladris we will go, the last homely house east of the sea, and what excitement will follow in our wake I am eager to see!"

Glorfindel smiled, finding his new lord’s joy infectious. What excitement indeed?