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The Golden and the Black

Chapter Text

Námo stands in a radiant pool of light at the centre of his halls, shrouded in his hooded cloak, looking at the innumerable rooms and chambers spiralling around and above him into the heavens in many layers. His halls lie to the west of the Blessed Realm. Large as the soaring white structure may seem from without, it gives no clue as to the vast, almost infinite space that lies within.

The air amid the swirling light and shadows is heavy with the voices of multitudes—cries and laments and sobs and sighs, blending together into a heartrending chorus, sorrowful yet strangely melodious, for the voices of the Eldar are fair.

Across Belegaer, the Great Sea, a white city encircled by high mountains has fallen. The souls of slain Eldar are flooding into the halls of the dead. The Lord of Mandos watches them float in through the white dome above, each with their own light, some dimmer, some brighter. His maiar guide each soul into its own appointed space, some higher and nearer the brilliance of the white dome above, some lower.

Námo waits for one. It comes finally. A small, dark, swirling shape. The vala catches the dark fëa in his hand as it sinks heavily downwards to where he stands. He hears its wail of torment and hate and despair as its shadowy form swirls wildly across his palm.

It is almost black… almost, but not quite. At its heart, still a dim golden glow, flickering and fading. Compassion sits with judgement on the brow of Námo.

A portal in the ground yawns open before him, to a vast dark space where many chambers lay. He descends below, gliding down upon the voices of the wretched who sojourn there. He breathes upon his palm, and sends the dark soul floating into a chamber where it takes form. The form of a broken body fallen from a great height, its edges blurred and shadowy. Where the heart should be, the faint light. He breathes again, over the glowing heart.

“Let the release of pain begin.”

Vairë the Weaver, consort of Námo, raises a hand as anguished sobs come from the form, its black edges eddy and shift. Upon the walls of the chamber various images of a life begin to appear in rapid succession. A dark forest. A dark, angry face. A woman falling with a spear in her shoulder. A golden-haired beauty. A torture chamber. Dragon fire on darkened mountain heights.

Small wisps of shadow float forth from the dark soul like smoke, and are sucked down into a black abyss below Námo’s feet, the pool of all the pain and grief of the Eldar.

The pain and guilt is deep,” the vala says to the grey-robed maia who tends the souls at this level. “Let it purge for a millennium.”

The Lord of the Dead then ascends towards the dome of his halls, the rooms brighter and whiter the higher he rises. At the top levels, the souls of the innocent glow, the bright blossoms in his garden. Children and infants, cruelly slain. Their small forms are white and gold, but at their hearts, the crimson stain of their violent deaths.

The vala is waiting again. It comes. He receives in his palm a white, shimmering shape that floats lightly into the dome. It lies there, swirling white and gold, flecked with crimson. He cradles it in his hand, feeling it warm and restless, admiring its radiance.  He breathes the love of Eru upon it and wafts it into a chamber near the bright dome. A form takes shape. Though shining bright, it seems as broken as the dark one had been. Vivid streaks of crimson flicker through the form, like terrible lacerations.

The Weaver has arrived. On the walls of the bright soul’s chamber she shapes images of white towers falling, of a mountain path along a ravine, and a vast black-winged demon with a fiery whip.

Heal,” Námo commands the shining soul. “Rest.”

His spirit is strong, thinks the Lord of Mandos. He will not be long in these halls.

 

On the walls of the chamber, images appear of a mountain pass. A backdrop of high peaks topped with snow.

A vast eagle bears a broken body in once-bright elven armour in its claws. He lifts it up from the chasm, beating his mighty wings. From the claws, still-bright golden hair hangs down, scorched and dark with blood.

A fair elven lady, her hair a lighter gold, receives the bloodied and burned body into her arms, weeping the terrible, rending tears of a mother bereft. She rocks back and forth on her knees in grief, clutching the slain knight to herself. The group of elves encircling the two weep inconsolably.

A mortal man tenderly loosens the lady’s arms and coaxes the body away from her with gentle whispers in her ear.

The refugees of Gondolin leave behind a cairn of stone, hurriedly raised. On it, the stems of golden celandine, plucked from the wayside and laid with loving hands, tremble in the mountain breeze.

Chapter Text

A white horse galloped swiftly across the sunlit meadow under a clear azure sky. On its back was a rider clothed in white tunic and leggings, golden hair streaming bright in the wind, bow and a quiver of arrows on his back. A series of archery targets were lined up to his left, and he had done this so often with so many different configurations of target that his eyes were dreamy and he could almost have done this run with his eyes shut.

“Faster, Asfaloth!” He nocked an arrow in his bow.

Oromë the Hunter and Manwë watched as the rider hit each target dead centre.

“He is an excellent archer, and Tulkas and Eonwë say that as a swordsman and a warrior he is unsurpassed among the Firstborn,” Oromë was saying. “A little restless at times, but a bright and joyous spirit withal.” He added with the deep rumbling sound like thunder that was a Vala’s laugh, “He leaps from the backs of eagles onto his horse, dives off waterfalls, and teases Huan mercilessly. If you wish to send him, do so before he kills himself or gets killed by my hound, and you have to wait a century to get him back from Námo.” A low growl came from Huan, who lay by his master’s side like a small hill, but his huge tail thumped the ground in amusement.

The elf in white, riding full tilt in the opposite direction, got gracefully to his feet on Asfaloth’s back and was shooting at the targets from that standing position, his golden hair whipping in the wind. His shots split the first arrows cleanly into two. He was of necessity using his other, weaker arm, however, and thinking about what to hunt for lunch besides, and the result was that the second target was off centre by a fraction. He shook his golden head self-deprecatingly. He went back and did a third, flawless run, splitting all the second arrows straight down the lengths of their shafts.

“Show-off. Needlessly destroying good arrows,” grumbled Oromë. “I shall put him to work making new ones for the rest of the day.”

“Call him hence,” said the King of the Valar.

Oromë blew on his horn, and the elf rode up to the Valar, dismounted, and bowed low and reverentially on his knee before them. “Rise, child,” said Manwë.

The elf rose and looked up at the Valar, for they towered over him. He would be counted tall among his kind, and very fair. The hair which gave him his name fell in waves to his waist. It was a rich and radiant gold which seemed to capture the light of the sun. His bright eyes were at that moment the same azure blue as the sky, but they could darken to violet with anger or emotion, and turn blue-grey when he was deep in thought. His form, lithe and slender as his kind were wont to be, held a coiled power, and there was strength in his shoulders. His face was open and true, and its expression was frank and curious rather than awestruck as he gazed into the face of the Elder King.

“Laurefindil of Gondolin, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower. In days of old there was a motto writ on your shield. Tell me of it,” said the Lord of the Winds.

“It was ’To serve and to protect,’ herunya.”

“Indeed. And the time has come once again for you to serve and protect. For the dark rises again in the lands beyond the Sundering Seas. And one of the line of Turakáno, to whom you did swear allegiance, is in need of your help.”

The elf’s eyes flashed with white fire, and his whole being glowed. His smile made the sunlit meadow seem even brighter. “I shall be glad to go! When shall I depart?”

“Such eagerness.” Manwë smiled upon him. “In this land of bliss where there is no fading, you have felt still a restlessness in your spirit, have you not?”

Glorfindel’s smile faded a little. “Yes.” It had seemed to him that he alone of all the Eldar in Eldamar experienced this discontent, this lack of purpose. It had drawn him into the mountains to train with Tulkas, to the Gardens of Estë to learn healing, to the forests and fields south to hunt with Oromë. And to the shores to gaze east over the waves and dream of the lands where he had been born, and had been slain. Then, to his surprise, whenever he had sought to return to Eldamar to find a means of service – either in the courts of Finarfin King of the Noldor, or with the fleets of Olwë King of the Teleri—the Valar had found various distractions for him. Years herding for Yavanna, or riding with the horses and hounds of Oromë, or sparring with Eonwë or with Tulkas, oft roaming the rugged mountains with the Strong One.

“A voice within speaks to your fëa. Of things undone, of a work unfinished.” The Vala leaned over and touched him on the breast. “And here, the merest whisper of a void. We bless you in this, reborn servant of light – in the lands over the sea, there shall be an answer to your deepest question, and there shall be found the missing piece for your soul.”

His brow creased by a slightly puzzled frown, the elf swept a deep and graceful bow to the King of the Valar. “May it be as you have spoken, herunya.”

Manwë raised a hand and called over a silver-haired maia with brilliant grey eyes. “Olórin shall be your tutor and companion for a season, till the appointed time to sail, and he shall explain many things to you of the lands to which you shall return.”

They had seen each other, in the Gardens of Estë, but had not spoken. There had always been a warm twinkle in the maia’s grey eyes that Glorfindel liked, and as they smiled at each other now, a friendship was born.

“Almost a millennium has passed since your rebodiment,” Manwë was saying, “And much of it you have spent in training with Tulkas, in the gardens of Estë, or here with Oromë. Go now to Eldamar. Olórin shall journey with you, and you may be with those you love and say your farewells.”

“I thank you, Lord Manwë.” The elf bowed deeply again. He glanced sheepishly at Oromë. “I shall fashion new arrows ere I depart.”

“Good,” huffed Oromë sternly. But the eyes of the Lord of the Hunt rested fondly enough on the elf.

“It is said that you didst once persuade the Strong One to leave his mountains for some days of leisure by the sea,” said Manwë.

“Ye-es,” admitted the elf. “But I can assure you that Lord Tulkas enjoyed it as much as I did. We rode on the waves with the Teleri, and he wrestled with a kraken. Lord Ulmo will vouch for it.”

The thunder of the Valar’s laughter was heard again.

Emboldened, the elf smiled and added, “Heruvinya, may I have one request?”

“Ask it,” said Oromë with a smile, for the elf’s eyes were upon the Lord of the Hunt.

There was a brighter sparkle in the blue eyes. “May Asfaloth go with me?”

 

Glorfindel had few belongings after a thousand years in Valinor. So much of his time had been spent in the forests of the Lord of the Hunt, in the mountains training with Tulkas the Strong, or travelling remote parts of the undying lands, that his room in Idril’s house at Tol Eressëa did not have a lived-in feel. He packed everything in ten minutes. One bag for all his clothes and personal items, another larger one for his weapons.

He felt Idril’s presence before he actually turned and saw her at the bedchamber door. Her beauty lit up the doorway. A beauty that had once stirred a darkened heart to forbidden desire. A beauty that had incited that dark heart to treachery and brought the hosts of Angband upon a white city hidden in the mountains.

Idril Celebrindal held out a long, slender sword whose hilt and scabbard glittered with crystals and were inlaid with gold. “Take this, pitya.”

“Your sword, Ammë? But why?”

In Ennor, they had not used these childhood terms of address since he came of age, when she was the daughter of the king and he was the Lord of the House of the Golden Flower. But strangely, since he had been rebodied, they had fallen back into the habit of his early years.

He made no move to take the sword, but gave her a mock-wounded look. “You would return my gift to me, Ammë of mine?”

She smiled. “Precious as it is to me, it is a shame to keep so fine a sword idle here, where there is no use for it.” She unsheathed the sword and admired the shining blade. “There will be more use for it where you are going.” She slid it back into its scabbard.

“But what should I do with a lady’s sword, too small for me?”

She stooped and slipped her sword into the bag which held his own two magnificent swords, crafted by no other than Aulë himself.

“You may find someone to give it to,” she said as she straightened. “Someone who can use it as it deserves. Someone…” she arranged the collar of his tunic and smoothed out the creases in its front, in that proprietary way mothers seem to have. “…special.”

“You never do give up hoping,” he laughed.

“Well, I have a feeling…” she began playfully but then her voice trailed off. Their eyes met and abruptly she looked away, the smile dying from her face as she seated herself in a chair by the window.

Glorfindel awkwardly stood by her. What could he say that might lift her spirits and make the parting easier? Outside, the sea was dark and vast in the night, and the resonant sound of the waves rolling in reminded them of the distance that would soon yawn between them again. A brilliant white star burned in the heavens, as Idril’s other son, the son of her blood, sailed the night skies in his white ship.

And Glorfindel said the only thing that came to his head at that moment. “Tell me again, Ammë, the story of how you found me.”

A long time ago, in another bedchamber, across the ocean, when Idril’s foster son had barely reached her knee, he had sat on her lap and listened to the sound of the waves at Nevrast as she told him that tale.

The princess raised her eyebrows and looked up at the tall warrior, leaning her cheek on a slender hand. They both knew he could remember every word she had ever said. “Why would you want to hear it again, now?” She laughed lightly, but looked a little discomfited.

He had no idea why he did. With a small shrug and his boyish smile, he said lightly, “A silly whim, is it not? But I just do.”

“Well then, come and sit here, yonya,”she said in the indulgent, caressing voice she had used for him when he had been tiny.

So with a smile he sat his tall frame on the floor by her, leaning his back against the leg of the chair. She combed her slender fingers through the soft waves of his golden mane, darker and richer than hers, and began in a singsong storytelling voice:

“It was an autumn evening in Nevrast, just after the feast of starlight. I was running, running, running home. I had spent the day dancing along the beach and picking shells, as I often did, and the time had flown away on swift wings. ‘Oh Varda!’ thought I to myself: ‘How cross Atto will be that I am late for dinner again!’

“The stars glittered bright in the sky, and already a light autumn frost sparkled on the ground. I heard a sound some way before I reached the palace steps—a sound, like an angry kitten mewing,” she pulled his earlobe teasingly. “And there—there at the top of the stairs, was a white bundle of cloth, and it was moving.

“I caught it ere it could fall down the stairs and saw, peeking out at me from swathes of white linen, the littlest, brightest, summer-blue eyes. You were so tiny, pitya, no more than a month or two old, but already such a little charmer. I was yours from the moment you smiled at me.

“Your white linen cloth was of the finest quality, woven with a pattern of leaves in the border, such as we used to have in Valinor in the palace of my grandfather, the King of the Noldor. And pinned in the cloth was a golden brooch, shaped like a flower with eight fair petals, a sunburst like the yellow flowers that blossom in the gardens of Estë.”

Both cloth and brooch had been lost in the fall of Gondolin, he thought with some regret. They had yielded no clue to his parentage then, but here in Aman he might have traced their origins…

“And I thought, surely this babe is of high-elven and noble birth,” Idril said. “And surely his parents must have loved him so, to leave him at the doors of Prince Turakáno’s palace. They must have wished him to be well-cared for… and safe…” Her voice trailed off a second time.

Glorfindel turned to look up at her, and saw in her eyes the dark haunted look she always had when she remembered. Remembered the day he had been dragged down into the depths of a chasm by his hair.

Kneeling before the chair, he wrapped his arms tightly round her and held her. “Hush, amya, hush,” he murmured. She sobbed and clung to him, recalling the horror of empty blue eyes and a scorched body covered in blood. He frowned as his mind caught wisps of images from her memories. “No, no, not that. Look at me. Ammë, look at me!” Once he succeeded in possessing her gaze, his luminous smile dispelled the horrors. “See? Here I am. Very much alive.”

Her sobs subsided, and she was able to speak in a level voice. “Yonya, do not go. Let them send another. Why need it be you?”

“I know not why I was chosen, but ai! How my heart leapt as Manwë spoke! Forgive me—I would not turn aside from this path. It calls to me. And all shall be well, I know it, have no fears.” He added lightly, “You did always long to have news of your grandson, did you not? I wonder if he be more like unto Eärendil, or unto Elwing? When I find him, I shall tell him all the tales of Gondolin. About his grandparents, the peerless Princess of the Silver Foot and the valiant Lord of the Wing. About his august great-grand sire, King Turukáno. And what his imp of a father was like as a boy.”

With a small smile, the Princess said in her crystalline voice, “And tell Elrond that we await him here.”

Glorfindel nodded, and added blithely, “Together he and I shall vanquish this Shadow that is said to arise, and before you know it, I shall be back—with him.”

Idril did not believe this optimistic prophecy in the least, but she smiled bravely. Taking her foster son’s face in her hands, she kissed his forehead, then pushed back his heavy, famous golden mane from his face, and said huskily, “Take care not to wear your hair too long”.

“Yes, my princess. I am relieved you do not insist I shear it off or bun it up,” he joked.

Idril shook her head and smiled wryly. “Knowing you? You’d return to Mandos first,” she said with a catch in her voice.

And abruptly, she embraced him as though a balrog sought to wrest him from her again.

 

 

Late that night, Glorfindel sat on the ledge of his window and stared out across the vast darkness of sky and ocean. His hair, as it streamed in the strong sea breeze, seemed to gather the cold, silver starlight and weave it into the golden glow of a sunrise.

Your deepest question.

Ever since Manwë had spoken, Glorfindel had pondered that. He had been seeking for a purpose to his second life, and the Valar seemed to have finally given it to him. The only other deep question that he might have was the one he had buried so deep within his heart that he had refused to even think of it for almost one and a half millennia. The question of his parentage.

That must have been what prompted him to ask Idril once more for the tale. And now he had heard it a second time, it disturbed him. Every detail was as she had told him when he was a child. Yet something in her voice, now he heard it as a grown elf, had not rung true.

That Idril could lie to him was inconceivable. But he could not shake it – the conviction that something in the story was false. Or being withheld. Yet she had been so upset just now, that he had not wished to question her further—this remarkable foster Amil, who had loved him more than any mother of his flesh and blood could possibly have.

The answer, said Manwë, lay back there, in the mortal lands beyond the great ocean.

Much of his first life in Ennor had been spent hidden away in a secret mountain kingdom. Now, he might have a chance to search those lands—at least, the parts of them not sunk beneath the waves in the War of Wrath. He allowed himself, for the first time since childhood, to wonder about the ones who had given him life. Leaning his golden head against the hard stones of the tower window, he began to dream as he drowsed. Of being a treasured son lost, stolen away by enemies, and mourned and sought for long years. Of being an unwanted child, discarded, and rejected once more on his return.

He was awakened by a gentle touch on his arm, and saw the first rays of Arien as she lighted the horizon with the blazing fruit of Laurelin she bore. He looked over his shoulder to see a silver-haired maia standing behind him.

“I am glad you did not manage to kill yourself last night by falling out of the window,” said Olórin with a smile. “The ship awaits.”

And with a smile as dazzling as the sunrise, Glorfindel shrugged off the heartache and hopes of his dreams. Jumping down from the window ledge, he picked up his bags and followed the maia.

 

 


 

Glossary

Herunya (Q) – my lord

Heruvinya (Q) – my lords

Pitya (Q) – little one

Ammë (Q) – Mom/Mommy

Yonya (Q) – my son

Atto (Q) – Dad/Daddy

Amil (Q) – mother

Amya (Q) – my mother

 

Chapter Text

In the Halls of Mandos, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. The Lord of the Dead moves unceasingly through his realm tending souls. To heal. Cleanse. Make whole. That is his end. And how intricate the innermost workings of these children of Eru Ilúvatar, how complex the workings of their hearts and wills. In each fëa itself lies the key to its own healing, and no labour of Aulë, thought Námo, was ever fraught with more challenge than this mending of souls.

The dark fëa of the traitor of Gondolin troubles Námo. Outside the halls, four millennia have flown by… yet still the traitor remains mired in much darkness. Unable, or unwilling, to relinquish it.

The souls of the dead do not consort with each other. But for this one, Námo brings in two other fëar who still abide in his halls. He deposits them at their son’s side. Then the vala and Vairë his consort stand by to watch what unfolds.

The one whose brightness and a stain of scarlet dances over darker depths says softly in Quenya, “We are here, yonya. . . We love you.”

Speak for yourself,” the other says gruffly in Sindarin, a soul dark as the traitor’s. In him, shadows swirl almost violently.

I thought you understand no Quenya,” says the first in Sindarin.

There are many things you never knew, woman.”

Arrogant prick. You have not changed a whit.”

“Huil.”

“Shut up. Both of you,” mutters the traitor. “Go away. Leave me alone.”

Vairë forms scenes upon the wall. A tender glance between two figures, one dark and one white, in a dark wood. A passionate kiss. A smile exchanged over a newborn child. A father’s proud look as a boy forged his first knife.

Silence lies heavy in the chamber for a long while.

“Ill-mannered ruffian,” says one, tenderly.

Snobby golodhrin wench,” says the other softly, at last.

“I love you too.”

A sound of deep scorn comes from the dark one. “You left.” The pain of the two words reverberates through the chamber.

“Get him out of here,” snarls the younger fëa at the valar.

A boy appears on the chamber walls. The sullenness of the young face is lit with a fleeting moment of eager joy as the father turns a new-made knife in his large, strong hands and nods approval.

Not till the two of you talk to each other,” says Námo.

There is naught to say.”

“Naught to say to him, brute and murderer that he is… but to me, my little mole?”

There is a small, choking sound. “Ammë… do not call me that. Please.”

In one image in the chamber is the great courtyard of a House in Gondolin where black banners are flown and “noldarë” is inscribed over a high and wide entrance. The mother observes it.

 “It cannot embarrass you so greatly, yonya. Why else did you name your House for the mole?”

“The colour.”

“I never knew you to like black.”

A long silence ensues. Then the son says, “You should not have taken the javelin for me. You should not have died.

He had mourned her for the rest of his life.

My death is not on you, yonya. It was my choice. I would do it again a hundred times over.”

“Even knowing what was to come?”

“Hush,” says Námo.

Be free of my death, yonya. It was not your fault. It was his.” She turns to the dark one by her. “And even so I forgive you. Crazy, stiff-necked, pig-headed Moriquendë.”

What have you to say to your son?” Námo says to the dark one.

You waste your time, Vala.” The fëa folds its arms and turns its back on all present, in as far as it is possible to turn one’s back on the Valar. “Send me back to my chamber.”

“You shall stay here till you decide to speak.” And Námo departs with the mother and with Vairë.

There is nothing in the Halls of Mandos if not time. Years roll past. Father and son staunchly maintain silence. The scenes of their lives play over and over, flitting across the walls. Travelling. Smithing. Quarrelling. Coming to blows. An evening of song around the fire with dwarves, the father’s eyes resting on his son with pride. A curse echoing off shining white stone as the father plummets to his death. The two fëar move restlessly around the chamber, but there is no way to shut any of it out. There is naught they can do but face their lives. Moment by interminable moment.

Vairë freezes one of those moments. The time the dark one first learns he would be a father. On his face, as he takes his wife into his arms, a rare expression of wonder and joy and tenderness.

The discomfiture, the awkwardness and embarrassment of both fëar trapped in that chamber is beyond description. “Damnation!” mutters the father in frustration. If a fëa could pound its fists on the walls, he would. “This is intolerable.”

“They want us to talk. Fine. Let us talk,” the son mutters back.

“Anything to end this.”

“Would that I had never been begotten.”

Silence hangs over them again for a while.

“I never wished that,” says the father, almost inaudibly.

“Liar. You wanted me dead. You tried to slay me. You hated me.”

“I never hated you!! I knew I was a dead man the moment I spoke to that stinking golodh of a law-brother! Nay—” A muttered curse. “I was a dead man from the time I lost you to their accursed golodhrin ways. When you turned against me. I would have taken you with me. He should not have you. He should not have what was mine. Mine.”

Both of them are shaken, the silence reverberating with the intensity of his words.

“You may look like her. But you are all me, within. Your mind—all me. Your heart—me. Your gifts—me. You would have become the best elven smith in Beleriand had you stayed—”

“Rot!! I was not good enough for you. You made that clear.”

“You were more than good enough. You were brilliant! But you—you were restless, like her. She stole you from me. Seduced you with their words, their ways.”

And the son knows then. The son understands. Understands jealousy, fear of loss that propels a poisoned javelin across a throne room. Understands crazed despair and dark possessive love expressed in the curse of a condemned and damned murderer. Your death shall be as mine. Then you shall be mine in death.

A twisted, tainted love. A megalomaniacal, homicidal love. But… love all the same. The only kind of love the dark ruler of Nan Elmoth had been capable of.

Námo returns.

Ion-nín,” mutters the dark fëa as he is led out of the chamber. “You are Maeglin. Not Lómion. Maeglin. My son.”

Alone again at last, the son discovers emptiness where hatred for the father had once been. Discovers he can no longer hate him.

His father’s eyes stare down at him from the walls all around him, but in them he now sees fierce pride.

“You were more than good enough. . .”

“Ada,” murmurs the son to the empty chamber.

And the son weeps. Plumes of darkness float forth from him and vanish into the depths of the abyss below. Námo lays a hand over him, and sings healing as the hurt is released.

And for a while, the vala is hopeful for the traitor. But another two millennia pass. Other souls rise past the traitor, reach the white brilliance of restoration, and are released into the Blessed Realm. Light and shadow contending in him, the traitor remains far from the white dome above. Certainly much better than one black and fiery fëa still mired in the depths of Mandos’ Halls, who after six and a half millennia remains fiercely unrepentant of an oath. But as the fiery one is slated for incarceration till the Second Music, Námo has not been too perturbed by his recalcitrance. The vala would channel his care to the six sons. And this traitor.

And today, a visitor.

But my Lord, he is not ready,” pleads Námo.

Before them, the chamber of the treacherous fëa.

We have never before released one who has not completed the cycles of healing and restoration,” Námo says to his Lord. “Give us more time.”

A wind stirs the robes of Námo, and a great, deep voice rumbles like thunder and the roar of ocean depths.

And Námo sighs and bows before the will of Eru Ilúvatar, which sometimes makes no sense, none, even to a vala.

He takes the troubled half-dark soul from the chamber and lays it upon his palm.

He looks upon it thoughtfully, and, with a hint of a smile, breathes on it once again.

 


 

Glossary

Yonya (Q) – my son

Huil (S) – bitch

Golodhrin (S) – Noldorin (derogatory)

Moriquendë (Q) – Dark elf (singular)

Golodh (S) – Noldo (derogatory)

Noldarë (Q) - mole

Ion-nín (S) – my son

Chapter Text

Lightning crackles through the air and illuminates the darkness.

I am suddenly shocked into consciousness. Lightning blinds my eyes, and a deafening roll of thunder reverberates through my frame. It is freezing cold. Rain lashes at my bare skin.

Through a veil of mist I see the tall black shapes of trees looming around me.

I am gasping. I am gulping cold air into hurting lungs.

I am breathing. I live.

I was born into one forest. I am reborn in one again.

Hair blacker than the surrounding night falls across my face. I raise a hand to push it back. My elbows and knees scrape on wet gravel below. 

Then another sound, surreal, as though heard through water. The familiar howl of something wild and dark, bringing a chill of fear.

I scramble up and plunge forward, every move done with agonizing slowness… stumble through the rain and forest, brush against low branches that snag my dark hair, bare feet racing over grass, twigs, gravel.

I hear it. It is right behind me. I pick up a fallen branch as a weapon. It is so heavy.

I turn to see the lithe, black form with yellow eyes bounding closer. It leaps. A swing of the branch, and a cracking sound on impact. But I am weak. So weak. The beast should have been dead, or at least stunned; instead, it merely stumbles with a yelp. Then with a snarl and bared fangs, it leaps upon me again. I jam the broken, jagged end of the branch into its jaws with all my strength as it knocks me upon the ground, and it shrieks. Its claws rake my arms. I clench my teeth at the pain and utter no cry.

The warg, wounded by the branch stabbed into the tender parts of its mouth, falls writhing to the ground.

The black bark of the nearest tree is rough against my bare palms and soles and scrapes my shins. As I pull myself up, I see below another set of yellow eyes and black fur leaping at the trunk, fangs bared. Its jaws close on my ankle. I cry out at the pain, and am so startled at the sound of my own voice, I almost let go of the branch I am clinging to.

A whistling sound and a thud.

The beast releases my foot, falls with a whine, a long shaft in its side.

The warg I had injured with the branch is whimpering and getting to its feet. Lithe figures edged with starlight drop from above or leap in from the right. An elven blade flashes and plunges into the beast’s throat.

I am shivering as I cling to the branches of the tree with numbed, trembling hands, angry at my weakness. My vision swims.

Voices. Sindarin voices. The accent is strange, unfamiliar to me.

“An elleth…”

“A child…”

“Not quite a child…”

Who are they talking about? I feel so weary, so heavy. So weak.

“Are you hurt…?”

“I shall climb up and bring her down…”

“Varda, not a thread on her…”

In a moment, the face of a female elf in a green hood and cloak is near mine, grey eyes glittering. “Suilad, young one. Fear not. I shall help you down.” She smiles gentle reassurance at me as she reaches out a hand.

I glare at her in shock, any gratitude I might have had for my rescue eclipsed by the magnitude of this condescension.

“I have no need of help, woman,” I say through gritted teeth, and almost fall out of the tree at the sound of my voice.

Not my voice. No. That is not my voice.

With the wave of bewilderment and panic comes a surge of weakness. In the end, I am carried, half-fainting, down from the tree. By an elleth.

On solid ground, my vision is swimming. I feel hands wrap a cloak around me. The rain has settled to a light drizzle.

“Child, where are you from?” A male elf’s voice.

I push away the two ellith holding me to stand alone, but sway and fall to my knees. Arms go around me to lift me.

“No, let her rest.”

I am leaned against a tree. My vision still swims, but I make out a fair face in a hood as it draws level with mine. Keen grey eyes the colour of slate scrutinize my face.

“What is your name, child?”

Child? My lips tighten with annoyance. I am no child, I try to retort. But now no sound comes forth but a faint squeak which mortifies me. A flask is lifted to my lips, and a warm, smooth liquid courses down my throat and spreads its warmth from my belly right to my fingertips and toes.

I open my eyes and see a circle of five elven faces around me, all hooded in grey and green.

What is my name?

Suddenly, my mind is a blank. A wave of horror and panic sweeps over me.

“Where did you come from?”

I come from… from… I see in my mind a dark forest, and high mountains capped with snow. I can only gaze dumbly at my questioners.

“Are you badly hurt?”

“There are scratches on her arms and face, and the left ankle has suffered some mauling, but none of the wounds look deep.”

“Once the rest return, let’s get her back to the house.”

Almost as soon as he has spoken, four other elves run up swiftly.

“We killed six in the pack. The rest have escaped.”

“Where there are wargs, there may be yrch nearby. Let us hurry home.”

Strong arms lift and carry me. I could not even protest if I wanted to. The sensation of helplessness infuriates me, but whatever drink they gave me takes effect. My eyes shut, and all goes dark.

 

Half-waking, I hear more Sindarin voices.

“Watch the ankle for infection. Aside from that, she should be fine. Call me if there is a fever.” A low voice, calm and authoritative.

“How old do you think she is, hîr-nín?” A lighter, higher voice, lilting and sweet.

“Hmm… Forty perhaps. Hard to say. Still a child.”

The voices come from behind me. I am lying on a bed, half-facing the wall.

“Forty years… yet what soft hands and feet she has, soft as a newborn babe’s. As though she has never worked, never even walked much. Might she be high-born?”

“It is possible. Yet I would have thought I knew virtually all the noble families in the elven realms and settlements across Ennor. She might be from Mirkwood. Or a remote tribe of the Nandor or Avari. She spoke a strangely accented Sindarin, says the patrol, and seemed disoriented and a little hostile.”

Are they truly talking about me?

“Well, the poor thing. Eru knows what she has been through. To be naked and alone.”

“I think our patient might be awake,” says the calm, measured voice. “Young maiden, can you hear me?”

That is someone else. That is not me.

Gweneth?” says the elleth healer softly, and lays a gentle hand on my shoulder.

I stiffen and pull away. Every fibre of my being is in revolt, in denial. This must be a dream. My next thought: There are no dreams in Mandos. And then, as I wince from the pain of my sudden movement: There is no pain in Mandos. My arms and my left foot are swathed in bandages. As I turn in bed to glare at the elleth, she attempts to help me. I give her a withering look that would have caused many a man of my House to turn pale and quake in their boots. She smiles sweetly at me.

“Let her be, Thalanes. She can turn on her own.”

I look about the room, then at the ellon. He is tall, grave, dark-haired. His maroon robes are of a rich fabric, a simple silver circlet on his head. His face is calm and stern and he holds himself like a king. He reminds me of my king. I flinch from the memory. He smiles kindly at me.

I have many pressing questions. Where is this? When is this? But I wait warily for him to speak first.

Mae l’ovannen, gweneth. Hail and well met, young maiden. How are you feeling?”

“Fine.” I try not to react at the sound of this new voice, so much lighter and higher than mine had been. I stare down at my fingers, peeping out from under the bandages on my arms. White, pale, slender fingers. Ridiculously delicate fingers, with shapely oval fingernails. I want to scream and weep and curse and bludgeon someone to death. Like a Vala named Námo.

The maroon-robed elflord is looking at me with disturbingly familiar piercing grey eyes. If he calls me “young maiden” once more, I am going to call violent curses down upon him and his family line.

“You are in Imladris. It is a place of safety, and a place of rest and healing,” he says kindly, anticipating my question. “And I am Elrond, its lord. What is your name?”

I open, then close my mouth. I remember now. I had two names, in that first life. Neither will do now, nor does any feminine name come to mind. I give a small shrug. “I… know not,” I mumble in stilted Sindarin. I do not wish to speak this tongue. I have hated speaking it ever since my father’s death.

The grey eyes give me a penetrating, searching look that makes me uneasy. “Did you travel alone? Can you recall aught of what befell you?”

I jump a little. His lips had not moved. To my mind had he spoken, and in a form of Quenya.

I am silent for a while. His eyes hold mine.

“I recall naught,” I say aloud, calmly and fluently in Quenya. “Save that I awakened in the darkness and the rain. I heard the howl of the ráca… and ran.”

He catches his breath and stares at me as I speak. I realize how unwise I might have been. Perhaps I should have pretended not to understand Quenya, but my pride in my mother’s blood had asserted itself. Did he trick me? Is there a penalty for speaking Quenya here, among these Sindar? But the look on his face is not censure, but compassion.

“What said she?” murmurs the elleth healer to her lord, looking bewildered.

A knock at the door. “Come in,” calls Elrond, and the head of a tall elf appears. His shining golden hair spills over his shoulder, his blue eyes sparkle in the lamplight.

Oh. No. Not him. Not again.

I turn my face away to the wall.

“Lord Elrond, pardon the interruption. A word, please, once you are done?”

He speaks in Sindarin as well, his accent, matching theirs, altered from what it had been of yore. His voice has not changed, though. Confident, cheerful, courteous. Annoying.

“I… I am weary. I wish to rest,” I mumble, also in Sindarin. And it is true. I feel a wave of weakness overcome me.

Elrond reaches out a hand to touch my forehead and looks grave.

“Rest then. We shall speak later.”

There is an inaudible murmur of voices. The door shuts. I am alone.

This is happening. This is real. I give vent to my anger and helplessness. I curse the Valar as they have cursed me. I clench my fists till the delicate nails draw blood from the soft white skin on my new palms. Hard, dry sobs of sheer rage wrack me as I lie on the bed. Weak. Feverish. And female.

Thalanes returns and slides her arm under my shoulders to lift me, puts a cup to my lips. I strike out at it and send it flying.

Leave me be!!” I snarl.

The healer’s eyes, golden-green, are wide with shock. I watch weakly as, without a word, she cleans up the mess on the floor, goes out, and comes back with another cup. There is neither anger nor annoyance in her face, only kindness. “You have a fever. Please, drink this to grow well and strong again.”

“Very well. Give it to me,” I growl. I hold out my hand for it, but my hand is shaking. She hesitates, then gives it to me. I manage to bring it to my lips and swallow it. The empty cup falls onto the sheets as I sink back onto the bed.

Losto vae,” she says gently as she picks up the cup.

And I surprise myself by mumbling, as I drift into sleep, “Le athae.”

 


Glossary

elleth / ellith (S) – elf woman, elf women

suilad (S) – hello

yrch (S) – orcs

hîr-nín (S) – my lord

mae l’ovannen (S) – you are well met (formal)

gweneth (S) – young maiden

ráca (Q) – wolf

losto vae (S) – sleep well

le athae (S) – thank you (chosen over the usual form for thank you, “le hannon”, because “le athae” has the additional meaning of “you are kind”)

Chapter Text

Elrond closed the door of the treatment room behind him. “Give her the draught for fever; athelas again for the foot tonight. And keep a watch on her,” he said to Thalanes.

As the healer hurried away to prepare the draught, Elrond walked with Glorfindel to the door of the hall of healing.

The Commander of the warriors of Imladris was dressed for battle, his sword hanging by his side, and his helmet under his arm. His armour gleamed less from the dim lamp light than from the radiance of his famed hair, which fell in golden waves down his back to his waist. Regardless of what had happened with the balrog in his last life, elven vanity ran deep and it would never have occurred to him to tie his tresses up. No self-respecting elf would.

As they strode down the lamp-lit corridor, before the warrior could speak, Elrond said to him, “Does that child look familiar to you? And tell me in Quenya.”

“Why?”

“Humour me. In Quenya, please.”

Glorfindel looked quizzically at Elrond, but obediently replied in Quenya, “Perhaps… I cannot quite place her, though.”

“That’s the very accent!” said Elrond in Sindarin. “Now, how is it that a child of forty in our times should speak Quenya—and not any Quenya, but the elegant, quaint Quenya of my great-grandfather’s court?”

“There is nothing odd about my accent!”

“My foster fathers would have begged to differ,” said Elrond drily in Quenya, emphasizing the lisp.

“Did you find out what in Eä she was doing, wandering naked in the southern woods of the Rhudaur?” said Glorfindel, reverting to Sindarin. Quenya was by this time a language of ritual and ceremonies and ancient song, and he had never before conversed in it with Elrond.

 “She cannot remember. Yet she looked at you rather strangely when you entered. You may have reminded her of someone.” Before she had quickly turned her face away to the wall, Elrond had caught the expression that had flashed across it. The disgusted look of an elf who had just seen a squat, warty toad or a troll. Not the usual reaction of most maidens to his gloriously beautiful, golden-haired friend.

Glorfindel gave a small shrug. “I did not get a good look at her, but I don’t believe she’s anyone I have met on my travels.” He averted his face. “She seemed rather agitated. I shall speak to her when she is well again.”

“She is a strange child. Very strange,” said Elrond. “She certainly does not behave like a youngling.”

Glorfindel shook off the shadow that had touched him and briskly changed the subject. “The patrol that just returned saw the wargs that Gildor and his company encountered, and a band of orcs. About twenty. I am heading out with a party to hunt them down…”

 

The sky was grey and overcast. Riding out in the dim light of early morning with his company of eight, the golden-haired elflord was more silent than he was wont to be, and his warriors left him to his thoughts

The girl in the healing halls. Black hair, white skin. And suddenly he was transported back to a beloved city with tall white towers surrounded by seven gates, protected by the sheer cliffs of the Echoriad, the Encircling Mountains: Gondolin the fair, last secret stronghold of the Noldorin exiles in Beleriand. For that one fleeting glimpse of a young, fair face had reminded him of Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, sister to King Turgon the white lady of the Noldor. It had been a dark day when Glorfindel had lost the king’s sister in Nan Dungortheb, and a darker day still, a day of doom, when she had at last returned to Gondolin.

Glorfindel remembered her pale, stricken face as she had sunk to the cold flagstones with her husband’s poisoned javelin in her shoulder. He had been standing just a little too far to save her. Had a second time in her life failed her, and that second time had been fatal.

The failures of his life…

The highs and lows of service in the mortal lands over two ages. The bitter victory of the Last Alliance. Facing down and defeating the Witch King of Angmar. Establishing a safe haven for the Eldar and for the Dúnedain in Imladris. As commander of the valley’s armed forces, Glorfindel’s duty was to keep it and its surrounding region safe. Few orcs or wargs or trolls that wandered west across the Misty Mountains survived to tell the tale. The men and hobbits of Eriador never realized how much of their peace and security they owed to the vigilance of the elves of Imladris and the Men of the West.

But the darkness was growing. Both orcs and wargs were becoming larger and bolder and their incursions more frequent. The Lady of Imladris, Celebrían, had been captured by Orcs a number of years back while travelling home from a visit to her parents.

And where had Glorfindel been, when Elrond had staggered and fallen to his knees one twilight in Imladris, as his lady's pain and terror smote him across a hundred leagues?

The balrog slayer had been several hundred miles away at Mithlond, seeing off some friends as they took ship west. By the time he had returned to Imladris, Celebrían had been brought home, a shadow of her former self. She had taken a morgûl wound, and never recovered, despite all Elrond’s efforts to heal her. She had begun to fade, and had sailed for Aman leaving her grieving husband and her three children.

Glorfindel had been sent to help and serve the descendants of Turgon, and in the moment the family had needed him most deeply…

But now, with a flash of his eyes and a leap of his heart, he saw the orcs in the distance.

Glorfindel and his company of elven warriors and Rangers of the North descended swiftly upon the orcs and wargs. The skirmish was brief but brutal. Some of the foul creatures fled in fear before the white light shining from the golden-haired warrior, which seared their eyes with the purity of its radiance. His sword cleaved through the orc ranks as the white horse Asfaloth ran through them. The cowardly orc commander and some of its creatures fled into the dense woods where Asfaloth could not follow. Leaping from Asfaloth’s back Glorfindel gave chase, decapitated one warg, thrust through an orc, came face to face with the commander and slashed through its armour and its torso as through butter. Thought and act and instinct were one as his sword sang, and Glorfindel, for those moments, felt fully alive.

This had been one of the easier ones. With their leader gone the enemy had all tried to flee and were picked off relatively easily.

The Commander returned to his men and whistled for Asfaloth, the white battle-light still flickering in his blue eyes and shining in his face. He sang healing softly to his trusty steed as he bandaged a flesh wound on Asfaloth’s right foreleg—might need a couple of stitches, nothing serious—and checked on his company: three ellyn, two ellith, and three young Dunedain aged sixteen, nineteen, and twenty. No casualties, minor wounds. Between the nine of them, they did the tally. All twenty-three orcs and nine wargs had been killed, almost half by Glorfindel alone. The golden-haired lord’s armour was spattered with orc blood, but he himself looked as fresh as the morning.

The three Rangers looked warily at the elven warrior, in awe of the fluid grace that had carved a path of destruction with such swiftness and ease through the orcish company. Shining like a star, his beautiful face stern and terrible, Glorfindel had looked to them like one of the Valar. They could feel power still emanating from the bright-haired elflord as he approached them, prickling their skin like lightning in the air.

The Rangers were young ones, new to Imladris and had been training with Glorfindel’s captains. He, just returned from Lothlórien, had not had time to break the ice with them. Yet. He patted Asfaloth’s flank and smiled at the edain, and his expression transformed into boyish friendliness. It was as though the sun had come out. They smiled back.

“Well done, lads,” Glorfindel said with a grin. He glanced up at the skies. They had cleared. “It’s going to be a beautiful May morning! Let’s go home for breakfast.”

 

After breakfast with his men and a good bath, Glorfindel went out onto the terrace with his bright hair still damp, whistling cheerfully, a large tray balanced on one hand. He slid down the balustrade of the steps leading to the gardens, the tray still perfectly balanced, and set it down with a flourish on a small table next to a chair where a grey-robed wizard was sitting, enjoying the morning sun.

“Breakfast is served, mellon-nin!” Glorfindel poured out some tea for the wizard. “I met the maid as I passed by the kitchen,” he added by way of explanation, before throwing himself gracefully into a chair. “From the distant snores my elven ears discern from the guest wing, our good hobbit is still asleep.”

“All tuckered out by his adventures,” said the wizard with a chuckle. “And he’s had aplenty for a little fellow.”

“Yes, adventures.” Glorfindel sighed and looked balefully at the wizard. “It will be a long while before I forgive you for packing me off to Lothlórien after Dol Guldur. And causing me to miss the biggest battle since the Last Alliance.”

“You were too injured to take part in another battle. You have only yourself to blame for taking such wild risks with your life in the assault on the Necromancer.”

“There’s gratitude. I saved your lives.”

“I am not ungrateful. But you were careless.” The wizard raised an eyebrow at the elf as he ate. “I should like to know why you appear so bent on sending yourself back to the Halls of Mandos.”

Glorfindel reached for a piece of bread and laughed musically, but for once it did not sound particularly merry. “Would that be a loss? I’ve fought the good fight for five thousand years. I’m ready for retirement.”

“Glorfindel, you were sent here. No one has given you leave to return yet.”

“What real purpose do I serve now? I keep myself busy, but the truth is the guard of Imladris is so well-trained it can run without me. The captains can train the Dúnedain without me. My warriors could have handled that orc company we slew this morning—without me there—and not even broken a sweat. The population of the valley is down to below eight hundred, and I’m not involved at all in administration. Erestor and I keep getting on each other’s nerves, and Elrond keeps fabricating excuses to send me to Lothlórien and Mirkwood. But all I really do in the Golden Woods is have an extended holiday.”

“Galadriel, Celeborn and Arwen are very fond of you.”

“So is half the single female population. It gets tiresome, you know, politely telling ellith to get out of my bed and off my talan. And in the Woodland Realm, all Thranduil and I do is annoy each other. I’m not a diplomat, I’m a warrior. Erestor should be the one to go on these diplomatic trips, but all he wants to do is bury himself in the library. There’s next to no work for him to do here. In fact, since the house steward sailed west, Erestor has not even looked for a replacement. He’s simply assumed the duties to stave off boredom.”

“Maybe one of your purposes here has been to keep Erestor amused.” The wizard chuckled.

“Maybe if I annoy him enough he’ll kill me.” The elf poured a fresh cup of tea for the wizard.

The wizard had finished his breakfast and now lit his pipe. Glorfindel wrinkled his nose and quickly swung himself away from the smoke into the nearest tree upwind.

“It is a lovely blend, this particular mix of weed. You should try it one day.”

“The beard and the old man incarnation, I could get used to. This stinking dwarven habit, never. Manwë would disapprove.”

“I shall plant pipeweed in Yavanna’s fields one day. It shall be a new fad in Aman.”

Halfway up the tree, the elf looked out over the valley a little dreamily. “There was a time this valley housed twenty-thousand elves. And in the days of the gathering of the Last Alliance, there must have been a hundred thousand at least camped here, and a hundred thousand more in the surrounding lands. A sea of tents and temporary dwellings. But almost all have passed west. Taken ship, or been taken to Mandos. For the tale of the Firstborn in the mortal lands, is the tale of our woe and our long defeat. These are the days of our fading. To diminish in numbers, to dwindle in power, and at long last to depart.”

He settled himself on a bough. The wizard smoked his pipe, and waited.

“After five millennia here, what have I really achieved?” said the musical voice from the branches above. “Think about it. I did not succeed in stopping Annatar. I protected Lindon, but I could not protect Eregion.”

“Eregion refused your intervention.”

“Yet that was where it was most needed. And so, the rings were made. Celebrimbor got slaughtered.”

“He made his choices. He would not listen to you, or Elrond, or Gil-galad.”

“Gil-Galad.” A sigh from the tree. “I could not save my king. Or Elendil. I was not even there for the end of the siege of Barad-dûr. The most important battle in the Second Age, and I missed it.”

“Because you were fighting for your life in the infirmary. I heard the tale from Elrond. And you omit to mention that you saved Thranduil’s life.”

“For which he has never been grateful. I failed to save his father.”

“And if you had not been in the skirmish that almost killed you, neither Gil-Galad nor Elendil might have lived to see that final battle with Sauron. The darkness rises again. We saw it, at Dol Guldur. We have vanquished it but for a while. There may be other battles for you still to fight.”

“The Istari are here to fight them, Olórin. I wonder if you truly needed me at Dol Guldur. Perhaps you summoned me there because you felt sorry for me twiddling my thumbs here.”

“If you really need to hear me say it, of course you were needed.”

Glorfindel was restlessly climbing higher and higher in the tree. Lying back and gazing at the sky, he let the tree cradle him in its branches. “I see no great battles in my future.” Prophecy was a gift he sometimes had, but for others, never himself. “I see… nothing.”

The wizard’s face grew stern. “Bitterness does not become you, Glorfindel,” he said in reprimand. “Since when have you been so cynical? This is not like you at all. You forget that your mission was specific. You were sent here to serve Elrond.”

“Apart from playing chess with him and letting him beat me, I cannot see how I am serving.”

“He is your friend as well as your assignment. And for as long as he and his family are here, the greatest warrior in Middle Earth should be at his side.”

Do not call me that!” Glorfindel sat up straight and looked down at the wizard with flashing eyes. “I hate being called that. And the so-called ‘greatest warrior in Middle Earth’ was not even there when Elrond needed him most.” Standing up, he balanced impossibly on the slenderest, swaying branches at the top of the tree without using his hands.

The wizard pulled on his pipe and blew a few beautiful smoke rings. “So that is what this is all about.”

The tree was silent except for leaves rustling in the wind.

“Come, come. Come on down here before you fall and hurt yourself. Whatever you do, Námo will not let you back into his halls. You’ll merely be miserable and suffer horribly for nothing.”

“Námo told you that?”

“I know for a fact that all of us are wherever we are for a reason, and until the appointed time. And your appointed time to go home has not come yet. The truth is, I have no idea how you may yet serve Elrond and his family. But you have done so, faithfully and well, and this self-flagellation over Celebrían is needless. It was Elrond himself who suggested you accompany Gwestor and his family to the Havens. And even had you been here, you could not have prevented the tragedy, or reached Celebrían much faster than her sons did. So, stop being silly and come down. I want to say something.”

Glorfindel lightly descended to a lower bough and sat on it. “Speak. I’ll stay here till you finish that pipe.”

The wizard puffed on his pipe and looked at him with deep eyes. “An answer to your deepest question... the missing piece of your soul. Surely you are not done yet in Ennor until you have found what was promised you.”

Glorfindel gave a light laugh. “I never understood what Manwë meant by that, and still do not. I cannot seek when I know not what to seek.”

Gandalf smiled. “Or in other words, there is no disappointment for one who does not hope.”

Glorfindel glared at the wizard. “I had no need to hope for anything. I had no questions and no missing pieces before the Lord of the Winds proposed to me that I did. I was perfectly happy.”

“And restless.”

Glorfindel shifted on his bough. “To seek for myself is... selfish.”

“And trying to get yourself killed and leave your friends bereft is not?”

Glorfindel said nothing for a while.

“My deepest question right now is… have I been enough? Have I done enough?” He looked away towards the west. “And, Olórin, old friend… ”

Just then, a small figure with curly hair and furry feet emerged onto the terrace. The elf broke off whatever he had been about to say, waved at the hobbit with a cheerful smile that he did not feel, and leapt lightly down from the tree.

“I’ll ask the kitchen to prepare a hobbit-sized tray of breakfast.”

“They may be small, but they have impressive appetites.”

“That was what I meant!”

And with his golden hair shining in the late morning sun, Glorfindel ran up the steps, and exchanged a few words with Bilbo before disappearing into the house.

“Good morning, Baggins.”

“And a good morning to you, Gandalf!”

Bilbo lit his pipe as he settled into the chair next to the wizard’s. “Such a charming fellow, that Glorfindel! Do you know what he said he’d get me for my breakfast? Mushrooms! And an omelette. And a bit of a steak and kidney pie.” The halfling sighed blissfully as he leaned back in his chair, pulled on his pipe, and blew out a few smoke rings. “Ah, elves! Always so merry, and fair, and full of song! One cannot be weary in a place like this. I feel like a new hobbit already.”

Chapter Text

In that first moment between sleep and dreaming, after a calamity has struck, you wish, you hope, you pray, that you will awaken to find that it was, after all, only a nightmare. That it is not real.

I no longer pray. Not since my petitions were futile and my mother died; not since I begged all the powers that be for mercy, for an end to my torment, and remained condemned to a love that destroyed me.

But I do cling to hope, as I stir to consciousness. Hope that it was a cruel joke of the Vala, and that I am myself again.

I have a body. I am truly no longer in the Halls of the Dead. I feel myself tentatively through the shapeless sleeping gown I am clothed in, and with a curse and a groan I bury my face miserably in the pillow. I continue to mutter heartfelt curses into it until I hear a familiar feminine voice.

“I rejoice to see you awake, mellon. How do you feel now?”

Go away. Leave me alone. Let me die—but that last thought shrivels at the realization that death would mean nothing but another few cosy millennia in Mandos. And probably some new, tasteless Valian joke at the end of it.

I keep silence, but turn my face to glower at the kindly healer standing by my bed.

I think back on the royal healer at Gondolin who, regardless of my status, would have drawled, “My, my, aren’t we chipper this morning, my lord prince?” as he checked on my battle injuries. I had rather liked him for it. This elleth has neither the wit nor the nature for such sarcasm. She continues to smile sweetly, and with a light touch to my brow and my pulse finds out what she seeks to know. She looks pleased.

“Splendid!” And before I can even protest, she has deftly sat me up in bed and fluffed my pillows.

How does she do that?

“I am Thalanes. You have been in my care since your arrival. Are you hungry? I shall get you something to eat.”

And ignoring my angry scowl, she flits away blithely, and returns shortly with a small plate of food and a cup of drink on a tray. “Just a little morsel to refresh you before dinner. I shall send word to Lord Elrond that you are much better.”

And she flits away again.

I eye the plate, and I realize that I am hungry. I try not to look at my slender hands as I butter bread and peel off the orange skin of an unknown fruit. I focus on taste, texture, sensations. The crispness of a salad leaf. The chewiness of warm, soft, bread with a hint of salt. The sweet, warming trickle of wine down my throat. I find myself savouring the food with gratitude, as I never had in another life when eating had been more of an obligation than a pleasure. After several moments, as I stare at the empty plate of what had been very simple fare, I am conscious of having enjoyed it.

I am astonished by this. I feel different. Perhaps I am different.

Feeling refreshed and strengthened, I am curious about everything. I have so many questions. Where? When? What? The name Imladris that I heard the other night means nothing to me.

I look around at the small chamber. I take in the stonework of the walls, the graceful curves and flourishes of the carvings and designs on the cornices, echoed in the carvings on the wood of my bed. There is beauty and elegance, and a certain simplicity. It pleases me. It is nothing like the magnificence of Gondolin’s architecture, but then I had always thought that excessive.

On the wall opposite my bed, two tall windows. Their arches are decorated with similar carvings of flowers and trees. Their stained-glass casements are opened to let in the fresh air of what looks like a warm day in late spring. The soft breeze blowing in brings the fragrance of flowers and beckons to me.

I set my bandaged foot down on the cool stone floor. There is no more pain. I wonder how long I have slept; how long it took for my foot to heal. I walk slowly to the window, feeling a little giddy and unsteady on my feet. I clutch the window sill and look out.

It is late in the afternoon, and the sun is low in the sky. Mountains encircle a green valley—a valley much smaller than the other. Neither are the mountains as high as the Echoriad, where the majestic high peaks had been white with snow all year round. And here, too, are waterfalls; the distant sound of cascading water carries to me on the breeze. At the foot of the mountains are gently rolling hills, and before them orchards and fields through which a river runs, and lush meadows starred with flowers. And I see habitations, and something that looks like a village next to a curve in the river. From here, I can see that the building I am in appears to be part of a grand, sprawling house several floors high, and the healing halls seem to be on the ground floor. I see a couple of towers, and a dome. Below me is a fountain, and beyond it stretch terraces and gardens verdant with trees, flowers and running streams.

There are not many people in sight. In the gardens are two dark-haired elflords who are mirrors of each other, and sitting studiously between them is a young mortal boy poring over a large book. Far in the distance, on a green lawn, archery targets are set up, and warriors are riding and shooting at them. There are farmers in the fruit orchards and fields of grain beyond.

On a white horse far away is a rider with a head of bright flowing golden hair. Something in my stomach tightens, irked just at the sight of him. Some things have not changed. I must find out what this place is, and if there are others from Gondolin here.

But overall, it seems a pleasant enough place to start over again with a new identity and a new form. For no one knows who I am, no one could conceivably guess who I am, and I shall be sure to keep it thus. Surely no one could guess, and I concede some wisdom in the Valar’s plan. I am not grateful. But I am beginning to feel some… appreciation of what has been given to me. A new beginning. A second chance. Very well then; I shall make the best of it. And live free of a curse that, already fulfilled, surely has no more power to touch me.

A friend will be useful. This healer, Thalanes, seems to be the kind and guileless sort. She will do well for my purposes.

I am feeling weak, and turn to make my way back to the bed when the healer opens the door, holding a dress and a pair of shoes in her hands.

“Ooh,” Thalanes coos delightedly. “You are strong enough to walk! Wonderful! But I wish you had waited for me. You could have fallen.” And setting dress and shoes down on a chair by the door, she quickly comes to aid me back to the bed. I allow her to without protest, even lean on her a little. I am an elfmaid. I shall learn to act the part. Self-conscious about my accent, I am reluctant to speak Sindarin. I hear echoes of my father’s voice each time I do. But I need information.

“How long was I asleep?” I try my best to imitate her inflections. The vowels are shorter. Some consonants are articulated differently.

“Two days. It is normal. The draught is strong.”

More fluffing of pillows as I sit up in bed. She begins to unwrap the bandages on my arms.

“I have changed the bandages once since the night you arrived here. It was healing very well. Normal, for young ones like you—” I try not to wince at that. I tell myself that youth is an advantage for me. They say I look forty. I have about ten years to my majority. Ten years to learn and to think; to plan what to do and where to go.

“I hope you do not mind, but we gave you a name, since you could not recall yours. We did not wish to refer to you as ‘the patient’.”

A name. Of course, I need a name. “Who is we?”

“Me and the other healers.”

“And what name might that be?”

“Bainwen.”

“What?” I sputter. “Absolutely not! I am NOT going to answer to Bainwen!”

“Why, what then?” says Thalanes, not put out by the rejection of the name. “Hmmm. How about ‘Lothel’? That’s a pretty one.”

“No!!”

“Dúlinneth? You have a sweet voice.”

Oh, hammer of Aulë. “No! Nothing sweet, nothing pretty. Please.”

Thalanes looks at me helplessly. “What then? Hmmm. . . let me think. What flowers do you like? Stars? A graceful deer? Arasneth?”

“No, no, no!” Damnation!! I had only ever named horses and weapons and crafted objects in my life. Never had I ever needed to think of names for a maiden. Suddenly, I understand why my father took twelve years to think of a name for me. For those first twelve years I was just “the boy” or “son”. Finding a female name I could answer to is causing me to break out in a cold sweat.

“Lómiel,” I say hurriedly, before Thalanes makes me cringe with any further suggestions. “Call me Lómiel.”

The moment I utter it, misgiving twists deep in my belly. Lómion, son of twilight. The Quenya name my mother gave me. The name of a traitor.

But the healer’s face is unclouded. In fact, it brightens. “Lómiel! It is pretty enough. Lómiel!”

And as she utters it in Sindarin, I quietly exhale in relief. Daughter of echoes. There have been names far stranger than that. It will serve.

All the bandages have been removed. She applies ointment to the scratches on my arms, which have healed well. I am startled to behold the ugly ankle wounds, a pattern of fine stitches. The numbing sensation from the ointment she spreads upon it explains my lack of pain.

“We may remove the stitches in two days, I think, Lómiel,” says the healer as she gently winds a fresh bandage around the ankle. “But you need not stay here. I have asked Lord Erestor to let you have another room. And Lord Elrond says that if you feel well enough, you may join us for dinner. Would you wish to?”

A chance to explore the surroundings, find out more about this place.

“Will there be a lot of people at dinner?”

“Oh, the whole household.” She thinks for a moment. “About a hundred of us. It grows smaller with each year.”

“Why?”

“Because of those who sail west.”

“West?” I venture.

“To Aman, the Blessed Realm.”

As I slowly digest that, I say, and it is easy for me to be mournful as I say it, “I wish I could remember something. Anything. I know not even where this is.”

“Imladris?”

“I remember naught of an ‘Imladris’.”

“It is west of the Hithaeglir—the Misty Mountains. East of Eriador.”

“Is there a book or a map I could look at? Mayhap it will jolt my memory.”

“Oh, I will find one for you!” It is hard not to like her. She is so eager to help and show kindness. “But first, would you wish to join us for dinner?”

“Yes.”

“That is well, mellon! I brought this dress for you.” She holds up a dark forest-green dress, trimmed with just a touch of gold embroidery at the hem and at the fitted bodice. “It is simple, but I hope it will serve.”

Simple? I frown at the gold embroidery. Still, it is far better than the ostentatious, jewel-encrusted gowns of some of the courtiers at Gondolin. I will endeavour to be grateful. And not make a demand for black, which would unnecessarily cause suspicion.

“You like it not?” She looks crestfallen. “There is a store room in the basement full of clothes and other belongings left by those who have departed west. If you wish, you may come with me one day to choose a few. The prettiest ones have been taken. It is mostly plain dresses such as these that are left.”

“I like plain.”

She holds up a dainty pair of green silk slippers. “And there are these to match! You may slip them on even with the bandage on your foot.”

“They will serve,” I say. After a pause, I add as an afterthought, “Le hannon.”

Glassen,” she replies, beaming brightly.  “We have no other patients at present, so I am available to help you any way I may.” She flits out of the room, and returns in a while pushing in a mirror on wheels and balancing a basin and a washcloth in her other hand. “Take your time to freshen and dress yourself. In the meantime, I will seek a book in the library for you.”

I make an effort to smile in return at her. I hope it looks civil and pleasant, and not like a grimace or a smirk.

On my own again, I cross over warily to the mirror, bracing myself for what I will see in it. Even as a man, I had hardly ever liked to look into a mirror. But I must see what I am now, what the Valar have done to me. What I have to live with.

The girl in the mirror stares back at me with piercing black eyes. Her long, black hair falls in a mass to her thighs. Her body is swathed still in the long white sleeping gown. Delicate hands and one bare, delicate foot peep out from under it. Her hair half-veils her face. A hand lifts to sweep it out of the way.

I scrutinise the face with as much critical detachment as I can. It is aesthetically pleasing in its symmetry. The face shape is oval, and the features are fine enough. The skin is pale and flawless. The long black eyes with the sharp glance are familiar. Like your father’s eyes, says a voice within. But I brush it away. Only the colour of the eyes, obsidian and opaque, is like my father’s. Their shape, their expression, are all my own. Maeglin Lómion’s.

With a deep breath, I pull the sleeping gown over my head, toss it aside, and look at the girl in the mirror as coolly as if she were one of the stone sculptures lining the Hall of Council at Gondolin. Breasts. Slender waist. Gently rounded hips. Slender long legs. Not bad at all.

For the first time since my awakening, I remember another face and body, one which I never saw unclothed except in my imagination. My memories paint, in every vivid detail, a vision of beauty with luminescent golden hair and brilliant grey sea eyes, the curve of a long throat, the womanly fullness of a soft white bosom, a tiny waist spreading to full hips.

How excruciatingly this beauty had filled my days and nights with longing, tormented me endlessly with burning lust. How despairingly I had loved, knowing with a rage that bordered on madness, that I could never, would never, be loved in return.

Then, it hits me.

I have not thought of Itarillë at all till this moment. She who had haunted my waking hours almost ceaselessly in another life.

And now, now that I am thinking of her, I feel. . . I feel. . .

Nothing.

My entire world shifts and tilts.

I replay my memories deliberately, moment by moment. Itarillë. Dancing in the white-silver dress I loved the most. Leaning close to me to whisper a joke, her breath against my ear, back in the early days when she did not yet fear me. The scent of her perfume. This takes a while. There are over a century of memories and moments, each of which had always driven me to intense despair with aching need and desire.

Still. . . nothing.

A strange emptiness fills me for a moment.

And out of that emptiness, another alien sensation awakens in my heart and begins to wash over me until, at last, it breaks over me like a tidal wave. I gasp with sudden amazement and elation. Lighthearted, lightheaded, relieved. . . there are not words enough to express it. . .

I am free. Free at last. Free of the madness of almost two centuries.

Free.

I feel light, so light that I might float away like a bubble.

It is so overwhelming that as I stand rooted before the mirror I barely see myself anymore, revelling, exulting, in this new lightness of being.

So overwhelming that when the knock comes at the door, I forget that I am standing there without a thread upon me and say absently: “Yes?”

The door opens, and an elflord stands there dressed for dinner in a dark blue robe bordered with golden embroidery, his golden hair flowing over one shoulder down to his waist.

I turn towards my visitor.

He freezes and stares, and his mouth falls slightly open.

In the same moment I realize that one, I am smiling, and two, who my visitor is. My smile vanishes at once. I glare at him, place my hands on my hips, and my lips part to speak. But before I can say, in Quenya, “Yes, Laurefindil. What do you want?” the realization hits me.

Where I am. What I am now. And what I am not wearing.

Ai, muk,” I mumble in confusion. I am astonished by a hitherto unknown instinct of maidenly modesty which causes me to lift an arm to shield my chest, and place the other hand over the triangle between my thighs.

“My apologies,” the Lord of the Golden Flower says in a barely audible voice. And quickly and quietly closes the door behind him.

I stare at the closed door. The image of the elflord’s shocked face and how the tips of his pointed ears had begun to turn red is branded in my mind.

Something warm gathers in the pit of my belly. Something that tickles.

Perhaps I should be embarrassed. But it is hard to be after years of common baths with fellow warriors at Gondolin, and answering the call of nature in the open air while on the march to and from battle with twelve thousand warriors.  

When it comes to that, I can remember quite clearly what his looks like. An impressive enough package. But honestly, I think mine was bigger.

I turn my head to look back at the girl in the mirror. She is smiling broadly.

When was the last time I smiled?

Had I ever smiled that widely before, even as an elfling in the cool shadows of Nan Elmoth?

The girl in the mirror continues to smile. A comely wench. She has excellent teeth.

I am still thinking of the Golden Flower’s blushing face. I have reduced a mighty elven warrior of great renown to blushes and helplessness. This is power of a kind. One I am wholly unfamiliar with.

And it feels good.

The sensation in my belly has been building. The shoulders of the smiling girl in the mirror begin to shake. I feel unfamiliar muscles in my cheeks work, and hear a musical sound in my ears as the girl tosses her head back and gives way to laughter.

And ah, yes indeed, it feels. . . very good.

 


Glossary

Bainwen (S) – fair/beautiful maiden

Lothel (S) – flower maiden

Dúlinneth (S) – nightingale maiden/girl

Arasneth (S) – deer maiden/girl

Lómiel (Q) – daughter of twilight (the feminine version of Lómion). I adopted this from EbonyKitty552's Silmarillion Prompts (which inspired this story), but tried to find a reason why Maeglin couldn't come up with a cleverer and less obvious name.

Lómiel (S) – daughter of echoes (which is how all the Imladrim will interpret it)

Le hannon (S) – thank you

Glassen (S) – my joy (you are welcome)

Muk (Q) – crap/shit

Chapter Text

Stupid, stupid, stupid. . .

His face still burning, Glorfindel marched down the hallway and out onto a terrace facing the garden. He leaned against a pillar, pulling fresh, cool air into his lungs.

She had not been trying to seduce him. Her direct, man-like gaze as she looked at him in the doorway and her genuine confusion when she realized her nakedness assured him of that.

What upset the warrior was his response. The heat that had flowed through him as he gazed on her white, bare flesh and into her obsidian eyes. The way he had gawked at her like a green youngling. The shock of sudden need and longing that had violently wrenched through him at her smile—an incandescent, secret smile, as though she had just received tidings of great joy. How strangely his longing for her had not waned even as her smile had abruptly faded, and as the mouth had curled in a scowl that was oddly familiar.

It was not as though he had not had plenty of experience with women over the ages, one-sided though it had always been. Even before he reached his majority, they had flocked after him, and almost not a week had gone by without at least one besotted female throwing herself at him. He had quickly learned to deal with it. It had not been too hard; his main concern was to ensure no one got hurt. Keep it friendly and light, and get out of every tricky situation with a mix of playful banter and knightly gallantry. There were occasions when some ellith made their way into his private chamber and presented themselves to him in various stages of undress, beseeching him to marry them. Somehow, he always managed to talk to each of them gently and reasonably, and eventually manoeuvre each of them out of his bed and chamber without hurting her ego or vanity.

That amounted over his two lifetimes to quite a number of encounters with very fair, unclothed ellith, and not one had awakened his heart or his body. As the skies darkened and lanterns began to glow in the trees, he prowled the gardens below the terrace like a restless lion, wracked with confusion and shame at the heat and unfamiliar emotions that were surging through him for the first time in his long life. How could this be happening to him? Why after seven thousand years? And why this one?

And he could not say what upset him more.

That he had felt heat flood him even as he had looked at a body that he knew was clearly under-aged. Breasts still ripening. Hips slightly curved. A baby in comparison to himself, for Eru’s sake! He was so appalled and aghast that he barely knew himself.

Or that he had felt himself go weak with utter longing and abject adoration even as he looked into familiar obsidian eyes and at an arched, haughty eyebrow and scowl he had seen a hundred times before. She had stood there with her hands on her hips, for all the world as though the annoying Lord of the House of the Golden Flower had just interrupted her in her study or forge at Gondolin to bother her with some tiresome business. He had almost expected to hear a familiar, gruff voice snap out, “Yes, Lord Laurefindil. What may I do for you?”

He had looked into the face of the traitor of Gondolin, and desired it.

He was so upset that later at the dining table, he needed to have five cups of strong wine before dinner was even served. Trying not to think of familiar black eyes and young, white flesh. Trying not to think about the mystery of how the eyes of a traitor from six millennia past could look back at him from the face of this young maiden.

And he had not even got down to the business that had taken him to the healing halls. Erestor had asked him to inform the newcomer of arrangements for her to move out of the healing halls and to another room. And he, thinking of how he had wanted to investigate her resemblance to Aredhel, had accepted.

At the dining table, as Erestor chided him testily for his failure in carrying out such a simple task, Glorfindel remained uncharacteristically silent and poured another goblet of wine.

 

It took her longer to put on the unfamiliar garments than she might have thought. Any moron could figure out the logic of the design, but actually donning it had been something else. A lot of hooks and eyes, and adjustments and fidgeting and re-adjusting. Then a layer of clothing over, and a lot of lacing and more re-adjustments.

Why must lacing be at the back of the dress? Were all ellith required to be contortionists? She made a mental note to head down to the basement store room as soon as she could to search for clothes of more sensible design.

She tugged and tied bows and cursed and fussed until the figure in the mirror looked presentably neat and tidy. By then the face that looked back at her was scowling darkly. She attempted a smile, and the face in the mirror at once became winsome.

The healer entered the room with half a dozen large books piled in her arms. “I had such trouble deciding, that in the end Idhren the librarian gave me leave to take all of these.”

Maeglin’s black eyes glinted eagerly as she looked through the books that Thalanes spilled onto her bed. Geography and history books. Two atlases.

“You look very pretty,” said Thalanes approvingly. “Let me braid your hair—”

“Oh no,” said Maeglin hurriedly, stepping away. “No time for that.” She took one of the hair clips Thalanes had provided for her, pulled back some hair and clipped it at the back of her head. Her glossy hair, well-brushed, fell in a silken black mantle down her back. “Let us go.”

 

Glorfindel turned pale in the lamplight as Maeglin stepped into the hall at the side of the healer. She was a luminous vision of loveliness, the dark green dress and raven-black hair throwing into relief alabaster white skin and delicately rosy lips. Her slight figure, and the careful way she moved with her wounded foot, made her appear fragile and vulnerable. A surging desire to protect and cherish her washed through the warrior like a tidal wave, even as he stared at the long, obsidian eyes, in whose opaque depths he saw still the eyes of the traitor. He tore away his gaze and examined the goblet in his hand very closely, and struggled to calm the tempest within him.

Thalanes made her way to another part of the table. Maeglin bowed to Elrond at the head of the table, rethought it halfway and sank into a curtsey. She ventured a small smile at the Lord of Rivendell, as he gestured her to take a seat near him, between two identical ellyn, and introduced them to her as his sons.

Listen well, speak little, she reminded herself.

“How are you feeling, young lady?” asked Elrond in Quenya.

There was a brief moment’s hesitation, as she pondered whether to reply in Quenya. Hearing the other voices speaking Sindarin around the table decided her. “Much better. Le hannon, hîr-nín,” she replied softly in her oddly-accented Sindarin. “Please, call me Lómiel.”

Further down the table, Glorfindel almost choked on a mouthful of his dinner. He was grateful, as Erestor thumped him on the back and he gulped down some water, that the girl’s head was turned away towards Elladan, who was heaping roast pheasant onto her plate.

“Lómiel,” Elrond repeated thoughtfully.

“For want of a better name, lord.”

“So you do not recall your true name? Or your family?” asked Elrond.

She paused over a morsel of pheasant, frowned, and looked troubled.

“Nothing of your history?”

The long black lashes lowered with what she hoped looked like maidenly distress. “Flashes. Images. Nothing more.” She bit her lower lip as she remembered Penlod’s daughter doing forlornly each time the Lord of the Mole had curtly ordered her to stop following him around.

“Well, let us not speak of this now,” said her host gently, for he was a father, and he thought for a moment of Arwen. “Enjoy your dinner, and regain strength and wellness.” He turned to one of the twins. “Elrohir, pass our guest some of that stew.”

Elrohir helped her to a spoonful of stew and bestowed on her a broad grin.

Le hannon.” She smiled at him with what she hoped was maidenly gratitude. It came across as a tentative, lopsided little smile. Shy even.

Glorfindel’s heart lurched at that shy smile. Again. He felt his insides twist, felt for a moment he could not breathe. Was everything this maiden did going to cause seismological shifts in his world?

Maeglin ate quietly and listened attentively to Elrond and his sons talk about a battle involving dwarves, orcs, elves and men, and filed away in her mind names like Dale, Erebor, Mirkwood, Dain, and Thranduil. In the meantime, her eyes discreetly roamed over the others at the table. They lingered curiously on an aged, bearded one too tall to be a dwarf, and a small, beardless one too mature in face to be a young dwarf. Her eyes hardened as they rested on several mortals scattered among the elves around the table, for her hatred for the Secondborn lingered.

She counted a hundred and nine in total, including the servers who went to and from the kitchen. She never forgot a face, and she felt reassured that no one else in this room was known to her apart from Glorfindel. From Thalanes, she had learned that another seven hundred or so lived in dwellings scattered across the valley. No matter. For now, she could feel reasonably secure in this house.

She caught a number of people looking at her.

From most, ellyn or ellith, it was a curious look, accompanied by a friendly nod and welcoming smile as their eyes met. She schooled her face to smile back.

From some ellyn, it was a look which, though unfamiliar to her experience, she quickly understood. She knew the way some Gondolindrin ellith had gazed at her when she had been their prince, and unattainable: a certain mix of admiration, wistful yearning and coyness; an appeal to be seen, and admired, and desired. At this table, it was different. She saw appreciative glances thrown her way, an occasional murmur discussing her looks as though she were a fine painting or piece of jewellery. And when their eyes met hers frankly, the smiles ranged from the kindly and admiring to the graciously charming. At least the Valar had sent her back in a form that was appealing, and not ugly as a troll. All these looks testified to the simple love of beauty deep in the souls of all the Eldar. There was nothing that smelled of desire, and she remembered that she was still but a child to them.

And, just once, she caught Glorfindel gazing at her as he sat halfway down the table. Saw, in his face, a brief moment of confusion and embarrassment; the way he hurriedly looked away; the pretended indifference.

“Glorfindel, you have not been listening to a word I said,” she heard Lord Erestor say testily to the warrior.

Glorfindel did not recognize Maeglin Lómion, then. That gaze did not possess the shrewd scrutiny of one who suspects or seeks to penetrate a disguise. Maeglin, having for so long desired and struggled not to desire, recognized it. A corner of her mouth curled in a smirk as she ate a mouth-watering spoonful of wild berry mousse for dessert. Who would ever have guessed it? That the Lord of the Golden Flower, charming, confident, carefree, linked with so many ladies in gossip, yet settling down with none, might have a weakness for under-aged maidens? And to think that he, in all other things, had always been the epitome of such integrity, such nobility, such high-mindedness.

To know your enemy’s weakness is power. To be your enemy’s weakness is a source of gleeful triumph like no other.

Such irony. To be desired as she might once have desired, and to reject that desire as she had once been rejected. For, of one thing she was certain: she was done with love, done with desire. She would not have the Lord of the Golden Flower if he was the last ellon in and grovelled abjectly at her feet.

As she laid down her spoon and dabbed her lips daintily with a corner of her napkin (she was warming to her role), Elrond summoned Erestor and Glorfindel and they made their way with her to his study for a private chat.

She sat in a comfortable armchair, careful to set her knees together and fold her hands in her lap in the most maidenly fashion. Then she looked coolly at the three ellyn before her. Elrond sat in a large chair across from her, Erestor stood on his right, and Glorfindel leaned against a bookcase somewhere to her right, his face shielded and expressionless, his eyes looking anywhere but at her.

“You mentioned you could recall images,” said Elrond. “Could you describe these to us? Perhaps we could help you.”

“I sometimes see a dark forest with tall trees growing so close, no light could shine through their branches.” Nan Elmoth.

“Mirkwood, perhaps,” said Erestor.

“And high mountains. Shrouded with mist and topped with snow.” The Echoriad.

“That sounds like the Hithaeglir,” murmured Elrond.

“And blue mountains surrounded by forests,” she added.

“The Ered Luin,” said Glorfindel quietly. He had got that one right, she thought.

“Or both,” said Erestor.

“Anything else?”

“No.” Of course, she would skip Angband.

“Do you recall travelling a great deal?” asked Elrond.

“No.”

“Any faces? People?”

“No,” she lied.

Elrond frowned as he gazed into those opaque, obsidian eyes beneath their long lashes. Their depths were unreadable, inscrutable. He could usually smell a lie from a mile off, but this child’s pale, oval face and immobile, perfect features told him nothing. He touched Vilya on his hand. The gem on the ring was gently warm to his touch, saying there was no danger or evil here.

“You should of course rest here till you are fully healed, but you are most welcome to stay on, if you wish,” Elrond said.

“You are most kind. I am grateful for your hospitality.” She inclined her head gracefully.

“Hopefully you will recall more soon.”

“Yes, hopefully,” she said neutrally.

“Till you regain your memory, or wish to depart, this house shall be as your home,” said Elrond.

“Le athae, hîr-nín.”

 

The Hall of Fire rang with the clear, melodious notes of Lindir’s voice as they entered and were seated. Elrond sat in his great chair, Erestor at his side, and Maeglin was beckoned to an empty seat next to Thalanes. Glorfindel went to the back of the hall and poured himself another goblet of wine. It took a great deal to get him drunk and he was nowhere near it, he knew, but he just needed that comforting warmth to obscure the new confusion and ache in his spirit.

“For the next piece,” Lindir was now saying, “My lute shall accompany young Estel, who has composed a ballad in the Common Tongue for the entertainment of our dear elf-friend of the Shire, Bilbo Baggins.”

“Splendid,” said Elrond, beaming with pride at the eleven-year-old mortal boy standing solemnly at Lindir’s side on the hearth. “And what is your ballad about, my boy?”

“What language is this?” murmured Maeglin quietly to Thalanes.

“Oh, Westron! I shall translate for you,” said the healer.

“Ladies and lords, elves, men, wizard, and hobbit,” said the boy with a bow, “I give you—The Ballad of Glorfindel the Brave!” And Lindir strummed his lute with a dramatic flourish.

“What??” Glorfindel protested from the back of the hall. “No!! Estel, please—” His face was pained as he looked at his sword-fighting student. Not now. Especially not in front of her.

“And I invite the esteemed subject of my song to take this seat of honour here,” said the boy airily, with a flourish of his hand towards a cushioned chair by the hearth.

“Estel, people don’t want to hear this!” Glorfindel pleaded, turning red. “It’s been done to death!”

“But not in the Common Tongue, Glorfindel!” called one person from a corner of the room.

“And not by Estel!” said another.

“And I’ve not heard your tale before, Glorfindel my good fellow,” said Bilbo.

“Well then, by all means carry on, Estel. But if you will excuse me—” And Glorfindel took a step towards the door at the back.

“Come, come, Glorfindel! Be a good sport!” said Gandalf.

“Glorfindel, how could you miss a ballad composed by me in your honour?” said Estel, folding his arms and giving Glorfindel his most wounded look.

“Oh, Eru. . .very well.” He sighed, drained his wine cup, set it down, made his way to the chair in front, and avoided looking at anyone in the hall.

The Ballad of Glorfindel the Brave,” Estel began.

“Sing hey! for Glorfindel, the fair, the brave!
The survivors of Gondolin he didst save!
Oh sing of his deeds and his face so fair,
Sing of his valour and his golden hair.”

 “Kill me. Kill me now,” said Glorfindel in a barely audible voice, hiding his face in his hand.

“Oh, don’t worry. That will be coming soon enough,” said Erestor with an evil smile.

 “High through the mountain crags did their way
Weave treacherous on that fateful day.
A narrow, perilous path they didst tread,
Their brave warriors forging the way ahead.

  “Sudden descended the balrog wreath’d in smoke!
His flaming whip smiting with deadly stroke!
High as a hill was the demon of dread,
Fiery flames flew from its whip and its head!

"The wounded and women did dearly pay—
On them, at the rear, did the balrog prey—”

“Hold it! We did not leave the women and wounded at the rear without protection!” protested Glorfindel indignantly. “We placed the women and the sick in the middle. My men and I were at the rear!”

“It’s more dramatic this way, Glorfindel,” said Estel. “It’s called ‘poetic licence’!”

“It’s called ‘distorting history’! Erestor should have taught you better than that.”

Estel grinned and carried on.

“The women all raised a cry of great fear—”

“Estel, Princess Idril and the women were very brave and did not scream any more than the men did.”

“Very well then, that’s easily changed—

 “The people all raised a cry of great fear!
Then charged he, Glorfindel the brave, to the rear—”

 “I was already at the rear!” protested Glorfindel in despair.

 “And the balrog’s flames his fair eyes did sear.”

 “If you sear my eyes, Estel, how do you expect me to fight?”

 “It’s figurative, not literal. I just needed a rhyme with ‘rear’. Oh, all right. How about: At the balrog’s flames, his fair eyes did peer.”

 Glorfindel leaned back in his chair with a groan. Gandalf was chuckling and wiping tears from his eyes.

Estel continued with a smile: “The sun beat down—”

“It was night,” said Glorfindel in a very small voice, without moving.

“The moon shone down—” sang Estel without missing a beat:

“The moon shone down on his armour of gold
As he leapt on the balrog with ardour bold!
So drave he the demon from rock to rock,
Now hamm’ring its helm, now hewing its hock.

“Shrieked loud the fiend as its arm was snagged
And grappling they wrestled high on a crag—”

 “I have no recollection of hewing any hocks. And I didn’t ‘snag’ the arm. I cut it right off at the elbow.”

“Glorfindel, if you can find me a better word that rhymes with ‘crag’, I’ll take it.”

Glorfindel closed his mouth and looked resigned.

“Then Glorfindel’s heart did dauntless swell,
And thrust he deep with his sword so fell!”

 “My dirk. I used my dirk. It’s a foot long. I lost my sword when it got stuck in the creature’s shoulder.”

“Oh, good. It alliterates better,” said Estel, unfazed.

“And stabbed he deep with his dirk so fell!
Then blackest balrog blood did spurt!
Bellowed the fiend at its fatal hurt!  

“Glorfindel’s eyes burned with victory bright
As down his foe plummeted from the height.
But falling, the fiend grasped his golden hair,
And falling, it dragged down Glorfindel fair!”

Glorfindel had slouched so low into his chair by now that only the top of his golden head could be seen by those at the back.

“Then grievously didst the people weep
When the eagle didst from the ravine deep,
With strong wings beating an ascent steep,
Our brave-heart’s body bear.

“Great wailing and sorrow did abound
As they buried their hero in a mound.
Golden flowers still flourish in the ground
Where lies Glorfindel fair.

“Sing hey! for Glorfindel, the fair, the brave!
The survivors of Gondolin he didst save!
Forever his deeds and his face so fair
Shall be sung, and of course—his golden hair!”

The room thundered with laughter and applause. Smiling triumphantly, Estel pulled Glorfindel out of his chair to join him to take a bow. The tall warrior and the mortal boy exchanged friendly punches in the shoulder, hugged each other with a grin, and swept extravagant bows to the gathering in the hall.

Someone in the hall was not quite laughing.

Maeglin had not known till now that survivors had escaped, that Idril had escaped, nor that Glorfindel had perished protecting them from the balrog.

Glorfindel and Maeglin. They had both died in the fall of Gondolin, and both fallen to their deaths from a great height. They had both been reborn. And there the similarity ended.

One was a hero, one a traitor; one a saviour, one a destroyer. The reborn golden warrior would be forever beloved, gloriously sung of in the histories of elves and men for all time. For the other, there would only be curses and hate. A past so heinous it must be buried, hidden, kept locked in the most secret places of her being, and never, ever breathed to any that walked the earth.

She sat very still and silent as Lindir launched into a soulful rendition of Gil-Galad was an Elven-king and many joined in the chorus till few eyes in the hall were dry.

Only one small detail alleviated Maeglin’s heartache somewhat.

When she thought of how the glorious elflord’s famed golden tresses had ultimately been his downfall, she could almost smirk.

 

***************************************************************************

Glossary

Hîr-nín (S) – my lord

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Glorfindel tossed in his bed, buried his face again in his pillow with a groan, and prayed to Irmo for sleep.

After most of the household had retired for the night, Glorfindel had remained in the Hall of Fire with Lindir and a handful of elves, singing and talking and drinking more wine. But it had been futile. The balrog slayer could not shake the strange girl’s eyes and face—and body—from his thoughts, nor the feelings that came with them.  

Shortly past midnight, he had headed to his room. It was only his third night without sleep, and he did not physically require it, but he sought it, longed for it, fervently. It offered him the only escape possible from thoughts of obsidian eyes and bare white skin: the blissful oblivion of slumber, which, for him, was usually so deep that he seldom ever recalled his dreams once he woke. And he normally fell asleep almost as soon as his head touched the pillow.

Not this night.

It was almost two hours before he began to drift into sleep. And just then, a bloodcurdling shriek pierced the silence of the night and shocked him awake again. A scream of such imaginable torment that he leaped out of bed, quickly pulled on his leggings and ran out into the corridor with his sword drawn, anticipating an attack.

The corridor was dark and empty. And silent.

Had he been dreaming? The other five bedchambers in this wing would be empty, all of his neighbours having sailed west over the past millennium. He sighed, and pushed back his golden hair from his face. His head was throbbing slightly from the amount of wine he had ingested earlier. He was turning back to his door when a second shriek rang out.

The room two doors away from his. Glorfindel threw open the door, entered with his sword raised and ready, and froze.

In one glance he saw that there was only one person in the room—a slender figure in a white shift lying upon the bed, thrashing wildly. Another of those terrible cries of torment rended the air. Even before he saw the face that was obscured by the curtain of black hair, he knew who it was. Dropping his sword next to the bed, he quickly went to her and caught her by the shoulders, his heart wrenching with sympathetic pain.

Echuio, meleth-nín!” Glorfindel said loudly as he grasped her shoulders and shook her. Stars of Varda, he thought, stunned, what did I just call her? He was in such shock at what he had uttered, that when she lashed out with a furious snarl, her fist caught the side of his face, and she kicked him so powerfully in the guts with her good foot that he was momentarily winded. Catching the flailing arms, he gathered her tightly against himself and sat on the bed, pinning her arms to her side, her back against his chest so that her thrashing legs could not kick him again. In a voice shaking with rage, she was spitting out Quenya expletives of such vitriol that Glorfindel was stupefied.

Glorfindel drew a deep breath. “Rainë,” he said as he held her, his voice calm and commanding. Closing his eyes, he called upon the healing of the fëa he had learned in Estë’s halls.

And found himself pulled into her mind.

Felt shackles on his hands, felt excruciating pain twisting through his guts. Smelt the dank, foul, fetid smell of a dungeon. Saw two molten red eyes in a dark visage beneath the incongruous strangeness of a pure, blinding radiance that held at bay the oppressive darkness that lay all around. And heard a form of Black Speech in a terrible deep voice like an earthquake:

Where is it, slave – the secret city? I grow weary of your insolence.

And a familiar, low voice growling out an enraged, exhausted reply, barely audible, in Quenya: “Never, filth-face. Go *@#*#@ —”

A string of colourful curses followed by another excruciating spasm of torment. And the screaming.

Into the darkness Glorfindel began to sing: a song learned across the ocean, into which was woven notes of the First Music and phrases of the Eldest Speech that few among the Quendi knew. A gentle, golden light emanated from him and danced over the form of the girl in his arms. The dark visage in the nightmare faded, the foul stench receded, and the white brilliance mounted in the Iron Crown swallowed up the darkness.

Then he was back in the room, and opened his eyes. The girl lay still in his arms. He cradled her gently for a moment and gazed down at her with both tenderness and dread, still overwhelmed by what he had witnessed. Who, and what, are you? he thought.

Looking at the bed, he saw that she had fallen asleep on top of the covers. Books lay scattered on the floor, and a burnt-out lamp sat on a table near the bed. She had been reading then, and fallen asleep, probably, as she read. The white shift she wore was not a night gown but the under-garment of the dress she had worn at dinner, which was carelessly draped over a chair by the window.

He turned back the bed covers, laid her gently down, and covered her with the blanket. He was picking up the books from the floor and looking at their titles when her eyes began to focus and scan the room in confusion, still glazed from their terrible dreams.

She gasped in shock at the sight of Glorfindel and sat bolt upright in bed, glaring at him with huge, dazed black eyes. The curtain of black hair, slightly damp with sweat, fell over half her face. Her hand had reached under the pillow instinctively, as though it expected to find a dagger there.

What are—”she blurted out in Quenya, then hurriedly switched to Sindarin. “What are you doing here?” she managed in a ragged, accusing voice.

Glorfindel had been in numerous other situations which involved a bedchamber in the middle of the night, a skimpily clad maiden, and himself shirtless and barefoot. In no other situation, however, had the maiden been so displeased to see him. He set the books down on the bedside table, and noted how her fists clenched and her mouth set hard as he drew too close. Taking a step back away from her, he said calmly, as though all of this were perfectly normal, “You were having a nightmare, and I heard the screams and came. Please don’t be alarmed.” He observed her dilated pupils and the clammy sweat on her brow, and how heavily she was breathing. “Does your foot hurt? How are you feeling?”

“Fine.”

“You’re trembling.”

“I’m fine,” she said between her teeth.

“I am a healer… and… it is clear to me you have had a great shock. Please let me prepare something that will help you recover. I shall return shortly.”

And Glorfindel picked up his sword and left before she could say anything. He went briefly to his room. Set down the sword. Snatched up a tunic. Pulled it on as he ran down the stairs to the healing halls. Prepared a calming draught. When he returned, she was sitting at the foot of the bed, wrapped in a dark-grey, long-sleeved robe. She watched him warily as he entered, as though suspicious that he might pounce on her. Her breathing had evened out somewhat, but there were deep shadows under her eyes and she looked exhausted.

“Please have this,” he said, holding out the cup to her. “It will calm you and help you to sleep without dreams.”

She made no move to take it. “Le hannon, hîr-nín. But I shall not be in need of it.”

“As it pleases you. I shall leave it here all the same, in case you might need it later,” he said, and set it down on the table. “Forgive me for intruding upon you. I wish you a good night and dreams more pleasant than the last you had. Losto vae.” And with a deep bow to her, he left, closing the door quietly behind him.

Maeglin went to the door, pushed a chair against it, then returned to the bed and collapsed upon it.

It had taken all her pride, strength and will to contain her trembling and weakness before him. Now he was gone, her wounded foot throbbed with pain, and she could barely move for weariness.

She still felt the aftermath of the nightmare in her body and her mind. To combat it, she focused her attention on Glorfindel.

If that idiot thought that she was going to consume anything prepared by him, he was sadly mistaken. His reputation as a prankster had been foremost on her mind as he held out that cup. He had placed a special herb in Penlod’s cup at Galdor’s wedding, so that when the grave and lofty Lord of the Pillar and the Snow had risen to toast the happy couple, half his tongue had gone numb and he had uttered perfect nonsense in the most solemn of voices. And who could forget the time Glorfindel had dyed Salgant’s face blue as the Lord of the Harp had lain in a drunken slumber at Yestarë? It did not matter to her that Glorfindel’s behaviour in her room had been perfectly proper, and even subdued. He had always been most dangerous when he looked most innocent.

Also on her mind, and she reluctantly and angrily faced it now, had been an awareness of her vulnerability, in this accursed female body.

There had been too much marketplace gossip in Gondolin about all the women seen leaving the golden lord’s chambers late at night. For all the high and lofty morals of the Calaquendi in Gondolin, Maeglin, raised with very different values in the Nandorin realm of Nan Elmoth, had always been sceptical of the claims by both Glorfindel and the various ellith that nothing had ever happened. His easy charm with the ellith had always reeked of womanizer to Maeglin, and now that she was herself one, she had feared he might actually make some attempt at seduction. Looking at him as he had towered over her, shirtless and muscled, she had been painfully aware of how much weaker this stupid female body was. She knew how to fight, but she had to concede her poor chances against the very master who had trained her to fight. Had he wanted to, he could have easily overpowered her and had his way—as her own father had with her mother at their first meeting—and her mother had been one strong woman. The result had been Maeglin’s birth a year later. And had Maeglin not, as the prince of Gondolin, wanted the same with Idril? And had Maeglin not recognized that look in Glorfindel’s eyes at dinner?  

When he had left, Maeglin had felt a tiny twinge of disappointment, which she quickly denied. Relieved. She was relieved. What a relief to be rid of that dolt. She would leave the chair against the door, and if none of the doors in this house had bolts, no matter, she knew how to easily fashion one herself. It was not just about avoiding being deflowered; with that idiot around, Maeglin wanted to ensure she did not end up with her face blue or with itching powder in her shoes. For that latter reason alone, her chambers in Gondolin had been locked and bolted.

She un-bandaged her foot and swore. It was red and swollen. She would be limping back to the halls of healing for treatment that day.

Desperately weary as she was, after that horrible nightmare she did not dare go back to sleep.

Maeglin re-filled and lit the lamp, and continued to read about the reign of Gil-galad in the Second Age.

 

Glorfindel shut the door of his own room behind him. He leaned his back against it. And slowly slid down till he was sitting on the floor.

And suddenly the mightiest elven-warrior in Ennor was shaking, shaking uncontrollably. Only by the grace of the Valar, he thought, had he managed to speak to her and behave with such self-control and composure.

He had been struggling, ever since before dinner, not to think. Not to think about this girl. Why she was familiar. How he felt about her. But now, it all came down upon him, and everything in him was in complete chaos.

At the edges of Glorfindel’s mind throughout dinner and the talk in Elrond’s study had been the thought that this elfmaid might possibly be the distant descendant of some kin of Eöl the Moriquendë, or maybe even of Maeglin, who might have fathered a child in Nan Elmoth he never spoke of, since the laws of the Laegrim were not as those of the Calaquendi.

But that nightmare. Oh, Eru, that nightmare changed everything.

As one born in Beleriand and highly favoured by the Valar, the pure-hearted warrior of light had not been counted by them among the rebellious. He had been permitted to fight in the War of Wrath, as even Finrod the beloved had not been. Assigned by Eonwë to fight under Ingwë’s banner, Glorfindel had stood with the Vanyarin host, following the fall of Thangorodrim, and looked on the face of the Great Enemy, now bound in chains. He recognized what had been in that girl’s nightmare. The stench of Angband was still in his nostrils, the pain of the torture in his very bones, and the sound of Morgoth’s voice echoed in his mind. He wanted to deny it, wanted to explain it away, but he could not. The exchange of words between the dark lord and his prisoner. The prisoner’s voice.

Yes, that voice. It could be none other but Maeglin Lómion.

That Maeglin had resisted Morgoth, had fought back, earned him a measure of respect from Glorfindel. It painted him in a far better light than Pengolodh’s history did. But the horror that lay before Glorfindel was this: that if he accepted that this was Maeglin, by some special dispensation of the Valar reborn in Ennor in the body of an elfmaid... then… Oh, Eru, then…

Glorfindel could still feel her warmth against his body, her fragile bones as she had struggled so wildly in his arms, and now, as he remembered it, he was wracked with longing and lust. Now, he fought to suppress memories of the prince of Gondolin as he had once been: strong of shoulder, almost as tall as Glorfindel in frame, with a long stride that recalled the feline grace of a mountain cat. Glorfindel could see him standing sharp-eyed and silent next to the King’s throne dressed all in black, or sparring with a demonic fury in the training room, or wielding hammer at his anvil, his muscles rippling and gleaming with sweat… Glorfindel pressed his palms against his eyes until he saw stars, desire and repulsion warring within him. Eru, have mercy, deliver me.

If this was Maeglin—his despairing heart clung to the “if”—why would the Valar have sent the traitor back to Ennor, and not just anywhere in Ennor, but close to Imladris? And why, why as an elleth? So dark was Glorfindel’s torment that he could not believe this was not a scheme born of darkness to bring ruin on Imladris, or at the very least on him. It was destroying him now. It had happened before that Aman had not been as secure as the Valar had thought. As the Necromancer’s power rose in the East, had Mandos’ own halls over in Aman been breached? And was the return of Maeglin a plot to bring evil into this haven of light? It must be so. Mandos would not release a soul from his halls without the approval of Ilúvatar the all-wise, or who had not completed the cycle of cleansing and restoration. The screams he had heard just now and the dream he had witnessed were not from a soul who had been cleansed and restored.

And if this was Maeglin, did she know her host was the half-elven descendant of the mortal she had hated so deeply in her last life? Or that Estel was as well? Glorfindel remained the protector of the descendants of Turgon, and of Tuor: Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, and Estel. He would watch her closely, watch her like a hawk. Sent back as an elfmaid, if she meant mischief, her weapons might be stealth, and poison. Yes, he must keep her very close…

And at once a yearning to hold her again consumed him.

His resolve to take her down could not be trusted, if she were an enemy, so compromised was his heart. He had to share this with someone. He could not do it alone, not in this pathetic state.

Erestor? Elrond?

No, no, no, Glorfindel too easily persuaded himself. They would put down the dream to an excess of wine at dinnertime. And truly, it was a crazy, far-fetched tale. Better to keep this a secret, and watch how it unfolds.

And, whispered a quiet voice in his breast, mayhap this has been done by the merciful will of the Valar and of Eru Ilúvatar. Mayhap a remorseful traitor is simply being given the grace of a second chance, a fresh start in a new world…

So eagerly did Glorfindel listen to that voice that he could barely trust it. Immediately he recalled how impeccably Maeglin had always carried out his duties. He may not have been likeable, but nothing would have led anyone to think him evil. He had been heroic and brave in battle, and, one could tell from the dream, he had been obviously strong under torture. Up to a point.

Glorfindel stared across his room in the darkness, troubled, feeling the agony of the torture wrench through his body again. How would he have fared, in Maeglin Lómion’s place?

Would he have been resolute, as Maedhros Fëanorion had been?

Would he have had a breaking point, as Maeglin had his?

He liked to believe that he would have held strong, but honestly, he did not know.

But if he believed all this to be an act of Eru, why should the reborn traitor be sent here? And why was this happening to him? And suddenly the whispers in his mind were of a divine punishment for his failings, and they said that he was no longer the favoured of the Valar, that he had fallen from grace.

Exhausted in fëa more than in body, his mind wandered to the scent of her black hair and its silken feel against his cheek and mouth as he had struggled with her. He wanted to comfort her through all her future nightmares, every night from henceforth. He wanted to flee from Imladris, and never look into her black eyes again. He groaned in anguish, and leaned his head back against the oak door.

He knew that if he lay down now, he would not find sleep. He would have given much for the oblivion to be found in a cup of that sleeping draught. He should have taken it when she declined.

The sky was already lightening in the east. With a sigh, Glorfindel dragged himself to his feet.

Two rooms away, Maeglin flung the undrunk draught out onto the beds of flowers below her window.

 

Glossary

Echuio, meleth-nín (S) – wake up, my love

Rainë (Q) - peace

Chapter Text

Maeglin stiffened when her keen elven ears heard, through the heavy oak doors of the library, voices in the corridor outside.

“What are you doing skulking out here?”

“I am not skulking. I am, uh... on my way to get a book on... on Gondolin.”

“Uh huh. You. Read. A book on Gondolin.”

Maeglin could imagine the counsellor’s raised eyebrow.

“I want to borrow Pengolodh’s book for Estel, since you have obviously been teaching the boy inaccuracies.”

Their exchange gave Maeglin time to replace the two books she had been reading on their shelves. And no—neither of them had been The Fall of Gondolin; one glance at her former teacher Pengolodh’s tome and she had recoiled from the shelf with an involuntary shiver. One of her chosen books had been on weapons of Ennor, written by a smith of the Last Alliance. The other had been a book on the dwarves of Beleriand by Finrod Felagund that she had felt oddly and nostalgically drawn to, despite the fact that she associated dwarves with her father Eöl’s oppressive and sullen presence. Those visits to Nogrod remained, in her memory, a time of relative innocence. And of less misery.

“It was not I who taught him about Gondolin!” the indignant voice outside the library was saying. “It was the twins! It has fallen to me to cover the first two thousand years of Númenorean history over the past three years.”

“That makes no sense. The twins are teaching Estel Firstborn history and you are covering the Secondborn?”

“Elrohir said, and I quote, ‘We’ll take the fun stuff.’ So take it up with them, be less quick with your accusations, and stick to teaching Estel geography and swordfighting. Are you not supposed to be having a lesson with him now?”

The heavy double doors swung open, and Erestor and Glorfindel entered, glowering at each other.

Maeglin had unhurriedly picked out an innocuous volume on the flora and fauna of Eriador, and calmly walked to a window seat. The library was empty save for her and Idhren the librarian, who was humming as he shelved books in the astronomy section. She lifted her head to look casually at the two lords as the doors opened.

The two lords and the librarian greeted each other, then the lords turned to look at her. The golden-haired lord wore an air of studied nonchalance. An expression of mild surprise crossed his fair face as his eyes met hers. Maeglin had seen it better feigned.

“Lord Erestor, Lord Glorfindel.” The black-eyed maiden set her book down and made to rise from her seat.

“Maiden Lómiel,” murmured the balrog slayer with a bow, and vanished into the history aisle as his ears turned slightly red.

“Well met. No, no, pray do not rise, maiden Lómiel,” said Erestor. “It gladdens my heart to see a lass who loves learning. How does your foot?”

“Healing very well, I thank you.”

“Most of the maidens are in the gardens, gathering blossoms and dancing and singing the songs of spring. Once your foot is healed, you might join them, instead of being cooped up in the house.”

Maeglin managed to keep her expression deadpan. “That sounds delightful, Lord Erestor.” She could think of few things more nauseating than sitting in a tree with giggling elfmaids, putting flowers in her hair and singing silly songs. “Would you know of some useful occupation I might undertake whilst I am here? I dislike having idle hands.”

Erestor smiled approvingly at her. “Well, that could most certainly be arranged. Would your hands like to assist the chefs in our kitchens?”

A book fell with a loud thud in the history aisle. Idhren’s head turned sharply in alarm, and Glorfindel emerged with his face slightly flushed, looking as though he would have liked to bash Erestor with the large book he held in his hand.

“It is hot and hard work in the kitchens, Erestor!” said the golden-haired warrior. And there were knives. . .and access to the food of the household. “Surely not suited to. . .to a lass with such. . .such fine hands!”

Erestor eyed Maeglin’s delicate features and slender white hands, fine and patrician even by the standards of the elves. “Hmmm. Do you like sewing or embroidery, my dear?” the councillor asked, without acknowledging that Glorfindel had spoken.

“Well—no,” she demurred.

“Ah, I know just the thing!” said Erestor. “Since Nestaloth returns to Lothlórien in a week, there will be need for another healer in the halls. What say you to that, Lómiel?”

Glorfindel went pale. Access to scalpels, and to every herb and poison known to the Quendi. “Erestor, after spending so much time as a patient of the halls, Lómiel surely does not want to spend more days cooped up there!”

“Your reasoning astounds me, Glorfindel. You have been a patient there often enough yourself. By your logic, you should not wish to serve there as a healer either.”

“Surely there is something else,” said Glorfindel. “Weaving. Or. . .or playing the harp. Or the flute.”

“I should be glad to learn the ways of a healer,” Maeglin cut in abruptly, and with finality.

Glorfindel was only partially able to hide his dismay.

“Excellent. I shall let Lord Elrond know, and we shall arrange for your apprenticeship. Rest well tomorrow, child. On the day after, you may report to the healing halls.” Erestor turned to Glorfindel with a glare. “Should you not be going? It has been time for Estel’s lesson since ten minutes past.”

With an incoherent murmur and a graceful bow, Glorfindel turned to go, showing the book he was borrowing to Idhren before he exited.

 

Maeglin was still silently seething with anger when Erestor left sometime later. Anger at this fragile body. Anger at both Glorfindel and Erestor for the choices they had offered—and for those that they had withheld. There were a number of ellith in the guard, yet both lords had taken one look at her dainty frame and not even thought to offer her training as a warrior. There was a smithy out at the back, next to the stables. That would never be offered to her either.

And Glorfindel had enraged her by the way he had interrupted. Who was he, to speak for her, instead of letting her speak for herself? But she had bitten back her indignation, mindful of the disguise she needed to preserve.

Her first impulse, the morning after Glorfindel had barged into her bedchamber, had been to imperiously demand that Erestor give her a chamber elsewhere, anywhere, just nowhere near the balrog-slayer. But on what grounds? Glorfindel had not done anything objectionable besides enter her room out of concern and prepare medicine for her. She did not wish to call attention to her nightmare, or indeed to herself in any way. For the same reason, she would meekly accept the offer of an apprenticeship in the halls of healing.

She gave a small sigh, as she stared unseeing at drawings of varieties of moss and dogwood in her book.

Maeglin was starting over. Again.

This time, the greatest struggle lay in adapting to this new body.

There had been another time, in another valley, when all had also been strange and new. In the space of a day, a young ellon had lost both parents and had been smitten by the forbidden beauty of a cousin with grey eyes and golden hair. In comparison with the intense grief and despair of that time, this new season of adjustment was nothing. At least here, in Imladris, Maeglin could comprehend what was spoken—how amazing, that the language of the Quendi had varied less over millennia than between its tribes in Beleriand. And whereas the new prince of Gondolin had had every eye upon him as he took his place by Turgon’s throne, being a slender elf-maid of no great stature and no status allowed her to wander freely, unremarked, through this house, attracting friendly and admiring glances but no great interest. In Gondolin, for Maeglin’s first two years there, two or three lords or attendants had been assigned to the young prince from the moment he emerged from his chambers to the time he retired, giving him no space to mourn or indeed breathe. Fighting lessons, language lessons, history lessons, sciences, mathematics, literature, etiquette, hunts, war games, mountain hikes. His every sigh or frown or utterance had been noted and waited on. One of those lords in attendance in Gondolin had often been Glorfindel.

For the next two hours, the annoying golden-haired lord would be busy with Estel, and Maeglin would be free of his shadow trailing after her, thank Eru. 

Two days ago, Glorfindel had loitered in the healing halls while Thalanes tended Maeglin’s foot, ostensibly checking on the stocks of dried herbs, or poring in frowning concentration over the pages of a book on herbal lore. During meals, the balrog slayer sat himself across from the traitor at the great table and pretended not to watch her as she ate and talked to the twins. As Maeglin slowly walked in the house or ventured out onto the terrace, she had become aware of her stalker—not because of any noise he made, for he was a skilled and silent hunter, but because of a variety of other voices which would suddenly pipe up in his vicinity and give him away.

Suilad, Glorfindel!”

Ohhh, Lord Glorfindel! May I walk with you?” (flirty giggle)

Le suilannon, hir-nín. Is it not a lovely day?” (flirty laugh)

 “Ah, there you are, Glorfindel! I have been looking for you!”

“Glor-fin-del!!! Are we having our lesson today? Can we go for a swim?”

“What in Ennor are you doing, Glorfindel? Did you lose something?”

Thus alerted, Maeglin’s sharp eyes began to catch occasional glimpses of him— a tell-tale gleam of gold. A shimmer at the corner of her eye, a ghostly reflection in a suit of armour along a hallway, or shining in a windowpane, or in a mirror.

The irony was not lost on the one who had perfected the art of stalking Idril for more than a hundred years at Gondolin. Maeglin’s black hair and garb had been eminently suited to that purpose. It isn’t tremendously effective stalking someone as silently as a shadow, she thought wryly, if you are a shadow with luminous golden hair.

Does he suspect? Maeglin had at first wondered, but Glorfindel had never been skilled at dissembling, and all she saw in his clear blue eyes whenever their eyes chanced to meet, was the same guilty, abashed yearning she had seen on that first evening in the dining hall.

Maeglin went out of the library and onto a garden terrace. In the distance, she saw Glorfindel running with Estel over a bridge and heading towards a waterfall. Away from the house. Good.

With a small, sardonic smile, Maeglin wondered how tiresome Idril had found her dark stalker in Gondolin. Nay, never was I as ham-fisted as this golden dolt, she thought, even as the memory of wariness and pity in iridescent grey eyes brought an unexpected pang of remembered anguish. Maeglin frowned as she pushed her black hair back from her face. If the mere thought of Idril no longer evoked longing or lust, it still had the power to bring pain. With a shrug of slender shoulders, she seemed to shake herself free of the past. Never again. I am done with love and all that rot.

With a sigh of relief, she seated herself on one of the comfortable cushioned chairs on the terrace. This was her present. A valley basking in warm spring sunlight. The breeze brought to her the sweet harmony of elven voices singing in the trees, and the scent of the flowers of late spring. Elladan and Elrohir were riding out, dressed for the hunt. They smiled and waved when they saw her, and when Maeglin waved back, she was surprised by how naturally her smile came.

For one brief, fleeting moment, Lómiel who had once been Lómion felt her fëa expand within her. A soft voice within whispered that the world was in order, and that life was good. She had never felt this way before, and as she sought to fathom it, the moment slipped away.

But if it had a name, Maeglin thought, maybe it was peace.

Chapter Text

Ow!! Watch it, peredhel!” said Glorfindel, wincing.  

“You felt that? Hmmm. Sorry,” said Elrond, continuing his needlework unperturbed. Glorfindel had come in with a nasty shoulder wound from an orc blade, and Elrond was stitching him up.

Ow! Felt that? Elrond, what happened to the painkiller?”

“Did Lómiel not give you any?”

“She applied something—Ow!”

“That smells like wound disinfectant rather than anaesthetic ointment,” said Elrond, giving it a sniff.

“Well, apply it now.”

“It is too late for an anaesthetic. Might as well just finish it off.”

“It is never too late for painkillers!”

“You can take this. It is merely like ant bites.”

Why do they always say that? I’d like to know what kind of ant bites like that! Fire ants from the Harad?”

“Come, come, be a hero.”

“Elrond, I have just had twenty stitches with no painkiller. I have had enough of being heroic for one day!”

Eighteen stitches. It is your fault. Whatever possessed you to go out riding alone into the Rhudaur without armour?”

“It was a hot day.”

“You would give a verbal lashing to any of your warriors who used that as an excuse to wander into dangerous territory without armour.”

“Keep stitching, Elrond. Please. Let’s get this over with.”

“I thought balrog slayers were tough.”

Peredhel, the balrog killed me in far less time than you are taking—Oww!”

Lord Elrond was not being a sadist. He had been patching up the elf sitting in the chair before him for five thousand years, and had seen the warrior take injuries far much more horrendous with unflinching stoicism. Glorfindel would have kept fighting through pain many times more excruciating than this, but sitting still in a chair and being stitched always tried his patience so sorely—especially without painkillers—that he tended to indulge his inner child and whinge like a big baby.

Most ellith healers would have fought each other for the privilege of stitching the golden lord’s wound, but the Lord of Imladris usually opted to do it himself, out of affection and friendship. Elrond and his Commander were fairly formal with each other in public, but in the treatment room, the familiarity of five thousand years of friendship kicked in, and they fell into a colloquial variant of Sindarin with a smattering of Westron thrown in, and Glorfindel would jokingly call Elrond “peredhel”.

Around the corner from the treatment room, in the preparation area of the healing hall, a black-haired young maiden sat rolling bandages, her shoulders shaking with silent mirth as she listened to the voices carrying loud and clear from the treatment room, an unholy smile on her lovely face. It was so delicious hearing the Lord of the Golden Flower being tortured.

This was the first time Maeglin had heard Glorfindel and Elrond converse in this informal manner, and she did sit up and take notice of one word. Peredhel.

Half-elf?

Maeglin knew of one half-elf.

Maeglin had tried to throw him down from a city wall.

 

It was summer. Maeglin had been in Imladris for almost a month now. If she was still sullenly resentful of her new body, she had adapted to it fairly well. Though she still cursed and grumbled under her breath whenever she had to take a piss, there had been no accidents in the privy. She still walked with a long, manly stride if she was certain none were looking, but she had quickly mastered the dainty, gliding steps of the other ellith in the house.

Thalanes had welcomed the foundling maiden at the healing hall as an apprentice gladly. Maeglin learned how to gather and prepare herbs, measure and prepare them for medicines, bandage wounds, and do simple suturing. Enough minor injuries came in each week to give the apprentice practice for her new skills. In addition to the occasional kitchen help with a burned hand, broken fingers from swordfighting practice, or elves who had fallen out of trees or twisted an ankle dancing, there were not-too-infrequent skirmishes with orcs and wargs in the surrounding countryside. There were also daily hunting expeditions sent out, on which accidents could happen.

Unfortunately for Maeglin, Glorfindel came into the hall frequently. Sometimes it was to tend warriors who were wounded. Once or twice, he himself was wounded. When Estel came to learn herbal lore and wound dressing, Glorfindel always accompanied him. Whenever Elrond came by to treat patients, Glorfindel would be at his side as well. The golden lord would extend to Maeglin only the most commonplace of courtesies, then keep his distance from her.

Maeglin yawned. There are few things more mind-numbingly boring than rolling bandages, and she had been glad of the entertainment from the treatment room. Still, boring is peaceful. She would endure all this a while longer, till she could figure out her next move.

Anyway… Peredhel?

Maeglin felt uneasy. Rather than comb through history books, she took a simpler route.

“Lord Elrond and Glorfindel have known each other a long time, it seems,” Maeglin remarked to Thalanes, as she ground herbs to powder.

“Oh yes, ever since the year 961 in the Second Age. Glorfindel was sent by the Valar, you know,” –there was a reverent hush in the healer’s voice—“to serve and help Lord Elrond. Just as he once served Lord Elrond’s great-grandfather, many years before.”

That was the beauty of asking Thalanes any question; she kept going with little prompting. Because of Maeglin’s youth, and because it was assumed by most that she might be of one of the Nandorin tribes from some remote forest or mountain region, the healer was eager to inform her about everything. Rather than ask the obvious follow-up question, Maeglin simply waited. She already anticipated the answer.

“That was in Gondolin, of course. Glorfindel not only served King Turgon, he was the adopted son of the King’s daughter, Princess Idril. That makes him the adopted brother of Lord Elrond’s father.”

Maeglin was silent and kept grinding her herbs.

The brat’s son. Elrond was that brat’s son.

Maeglin should have guessed; that sense of the familiar that had haunted her when she first saw Elrond was now explained. She would never have thought of Eärendil when she looked at Elrond, but she could see the likeness to King Turgon: the dark-haired dignity and aura of authority, the calm strength. Even the shadow in the eyes from the loss of a beloved wife.

Should Maeglin leave? She looked out of the windows of the healing halls at the fair green valley, the cascading waterfalls, and the early summer blossoms in the meadows. Imladris. An unfamiliar emotion swept through her as she looked at this place. A sense of rest and rightness at being here that she had felt nowhere else. She did not want to leave. At least for now.

As long as Glorfindel kept out of her way.

 

The beds of herbs looked as though marauding orcs had rampaged through them.

“Most likely elflings enacting a battle with a balrog,” said Elrond with a sigh, surveying the devastation.

“No—apparently it was the Dagor Bragollach,” said Glorfindel, swinging the garden gate open and herding in Estel and twelve elflings aged between ten and twenty-five: all the children left in Imladris. There had been no new elven births in the past ten years, and an average birth rate of one elfling per year in Imladris in the years before that. The thirteen of them formed a close-knit circle of friends. Inspired by the tales in the great Hall of Fire, they would act out the great deeds of yore for days afterwards. On this morning, the Battle of the Sudden Flame had been waged through the precious beds of athelas and lissuin and other healing herb essentials.

Díheno ammen, Hîr Elrond,” chorused Estel and the elflings penitently.

The ten-year-old, who barely reached Glorfindel’s knee, clung on to the golden lord’s leg and refused to let go. “Come on, pen dithen, time to clean up this mess you made,” said Glorfindel, gently detaching the tot.  Soon all the children were at work under the supervision of Maeglin, who was a stern taskmaster.

“We need a taller fence and a lock on the garden gate. We’ve been saying that for the last few centuries. It’s time to do it,” said Glorfindel to Elrond.

“It is a sad thing, but the days of elflings in the valley are numbered. Within twenty years, there will be need for neither fence nor lock. I would rather teach them to do right than shut them out.”

Thalanes frowned. “We don’t have the seeds for some of these herbs. And some of them grow best from cuttings. It is time to go out of the valley to gather.”

“Wait a few days. Patrols report some orc and warg activity outside the borders,” said Glorfindel.

“We may miss the season for planting. And our stocks for some of these are running lower than they should.”

“All right. You will go with a few warriors,” said Elrond. “And bring Lómiel with you.”

Glorfindel decided that he would accompany them himself, together with two of the guard, Emlindir and Beril. As much of the terrain would be too mountainous or the growth would be too dense for horses, they went on foot. He guarded the rear in his white tunic and grey leggings, his two great swords strapped to his back, and as they hiked, besides scanning the area for danger he was looking at Maeglin’s back, the shining waterfall of black hair, and occasional glimpses of her profile.

The past two months had been torture.

In the first few days, Glorfindel had attempted to watch Maeglin closely. The strain on him had been tremendous, because of the effect she always had on him. His heart would race, he would go weak with longing and hot with desire, and often he would begin to blush, beginning with the tips of his ears. Dismayed as he had been when Maeglin began to work at the healing halls, at least he knew where she would be for much of each day. He told himself he would focus on guarding Idril’s four descendants, and keep away from her.

Yet he found himself drawn to the halls. He would bring in snacks for the healers from the kitchens. He would help prepare herbal mixes and chat with everyone except Maeglin. Though he kept his distance, just knowing she was in the same room gave him both comfort and torture. For the first two weeks, he watched her like a hawk during mealtimes as he still feared poison, especially once she had full access to a whole range of herbs and knowledge of how to use them.

The ability to rationalize and believe what one wants to believe is tremendous, however. Elven memory does not fade, but interpretation of memory can alter.

After three days of following Maeglin down corridors and gazing adoringly at her over the dining table, he began to doubt. At times she would smile. On a few occasions a joke from Elrohir even caused her to laugh (causing him to feel a darkly murderous impulse towards the younger peredhel twin that shocked himself). How could this possibly be the dour traitor, who had worn a perpetual frown or a scowl for much of his time in Gondolin? How could this delicate and lovely maid be Maeglin Lómion? As for the name, the name must be a coincidence. And perhaps, in some remote Avarin tribes cut off from the Eldar since Cuiviénen, such mysterious, long black eyes were commonplace, and hardly unique to a certain murderous smith and his son.

Then there was the nightmare. . .Glorfindel had lain awake each night for the first week, wondering if it would recur. But there had been no more screams in the night, and each morning, Maeglin’s impassive face told him nothing. And Glorfindel began to convince himself, over time, that the dream must have been his own fantasy: his own dark memories of Gondolin’s fall combined with his memories of the War of Wrath, and the tales of horror related to him in the gardens of Estë by some of the thralls released from the pits.

Watching Lómiel quietly grinding medicines and bandaging patients, he told himself, I must have been insane. This is not the prince of Gondolin, this is just a maid.

And he began to hope and dream. He would be patient. His maiden would come of age. Then he would court her, and make her his. The mystery of her origins still haunted him. He had ridden out alone into the dark southern forests of the Rhudaur, hoping to uncover some clue. But there had been no trace of her in the woods beyond the area where the warg had attacked her. Attacked by a band of ten orcs, he had returned with nothing to show for his expedition but a shoulder wound.

 

 

Their foraging for herbs went well. Following a map that detailed where each type grew, they managed to collect seeds, uproot several good specimens, and get cuttings of others. Their bags were quite full as they turned back home.

“We should be home before dusk,” said Glorfindel. Then his senses warned him of danger. A well-known scent on the wind, a familiar prickling at the nape of his neck. “Yrch! Hurry, run! Now!”

The ambush was quick and vicious.

The orcs came down upon them from both sides, about twenty of them. “Keep close to me!” Glorfindel commanded Maeglin, while Emlindir and Beril protected Thalanes. Pushing Maeglin behind him, Glorfindel slashed through an orc to his right, cleaving it open from throat to groin. One down.

The most recent breed of orc to enter this region was far more aggressive and fearless, and his light seemed to act like a magnet to them. Two down. Three. So now he found himself up against a horde of them. Having to keep Maeglin close to him was a handicap, for he could not use one of his greatest advantages, his nimble swiftness of movement, to evade and attack his foes. Five.

He was ringed by orcs and Maeglin had disappeared from his side. Sudden fear seized him. “Lómiel!” he shouted as he slashed at the orcs about him, scanning the surroundings desperately for her. Eight.

He spun round to slash at two large orcs leaping upon him from behind. As he thrust through the first, to his surprise the other began to crumple even before his blade struck it.

The orc’s body toppled to the ground, and Maeglin stood behind, a golden battle fire flickering in her black eyes. In her two hands she wielded an orcish sword. Her eyes were already searching for the next orc, feet planted apart, knees slightly bent, blade raised and ready.

Two ages ago, in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, the Houses of the Golden Flower and the Mole had been pushed together as the battle raged. As he fought, Glorfindel had seen the black blade Anguirel go flying, and the Lord of the Mole, weaponless, was using all his agility and speed to dodge the blades of the orcs attacking him, slashing at them with his dirk whilst he tried futilely to retrieve his sword. But the orcs were only pushing him further away from where it lay.

“Lómion! Catch!”

Glorfindel often fought with two swords, one in each hand. In that split-second, Lómion turned, their eyes met, and Glorfindel flung the blade in his right hand to him, which Lómion skillfully caught by the hilt, just in time to parry a blow by an orcish axe that would have severed his princely neck.

Glorfindel eyes met the black ones of his maiden. “Catch!” He threw one of his swords to Maeglin. Casting away the orcish blade in disgust, she caught his sword with ease. They fought side by side, back to back, and what she lacked of the grace and power of his strokes, she made up for with sheer ferocity.

When the last orc had fallen, they stood side by side, blood-spattered, and exchanged looks, seeing the battle light die down in each other’s eyes, hers golden, his white.

Glorfindel’s heart was breaking from despair.

“How many did you get?” Maeglin asked him.

“Twelve,” he said. “You?”

“Four,” Maeglin replied, and scowled. She wiped his blade clean on the grass, and held the hilt of the sword to him. “My thanks.”

As she had done over six thousand years ago.

He took it and sheathed it.

Emlindir, Beril and Thalanes were staring at her.

“Let’s go,” said Glorfindel, ignoring their looks.

Maeglin took a step forward, and collapsed to the ground.

Adrenalin and the reflexes of almost a century of vigorous military training in a previous life had seen her through the battle, but now every muscle in her body, over-fatigued, had seized into spasm. She tried to get to her feet, but her body refused to obey her. And she was trembling from head to foot. She gritted her teeth, hating to be weak. Especially before him.

Glorfindel lifted Maeglin into his arms and began the walk back to Imladris.

“Put me down,” she muttered weakly, her head against his shoulder.

“Why? So you can crawl back?”

“I hate not seeing where I’m going.”

“I can carry you like this, or you can ride on my back. Choose.”

So they went back with Glorfindel feeling Maeglin’s warm body against his back, her legs around his hips, her breath against his left ear and her arms wrapped around his neck.

Torn between bliss and torment, Glorfindel thought that he would die.

 

Elrond pursed his lips as he treated Maeglin. A wrenched shoulder. Several pulled muscles. Sore and swollen wrists, the right one sprained. Masses of blisters on her hands. She had taken cuts on her arms, broken two fingers, and her knuckles were raw. Her forehead and cheek had caught the edge of a blade, and a tear slid down her stoic, expressionless face as Elrond stitched the gashes.

Glorfindel had vanished, waving off all who wanted to dress his cuts.

“I hear you were very brave, and fought very well today,” Elrond said. “Can you remember anything of who taught you?”

Glorfindel did, Maeglin thought, and kept silent.

“Are any memories stirring?” Elrond asked, for traumatic events such as these often served as a catalyst for remembering the past.

Maeglin knew this as well, and decided it might be useful to start recollecting a few things. “I remember some lessons. My father.”

“Aha,” said Elrond, heartened by this breakthrough. “And do you see your home? Have you any idea where your parents and family might be?”

Maeglin was silent for a long while. “I saw my parents. They are dead. They were killed.”

Elrond saw truth in her steady gaze. “I am sorry, child.”

“Wherever my home might be, I do not know and I do not care. I have no one there. I wish to stay here.”

“And you are most welcome to. Would you like to train with the guard?” She would probably be a better warrior than a healer, Elrond thought.

Maeglin made a wry face. With Glorfindel?

“I shall think about it,” she replied.

 

Going straight from the healing halls to the stables, Glorfindel jumped onto Asfaloth and rode as fast and as hard as he could away from the house. Then dismounting, he climbed the slopes of the encircling hills like one pursued by wargs, ascended past the cascading waters of the falls, and in the middle of the wilderness, roared out in misery to the cruel heavens: “Why, Eru!? Why!?”

He loved Maeglin Lómion. Utterly. Desperately.

And there was no longer any shadow of doubt in his heart that it was Maeglin Lómion whom he had fought side by side with today, and carried on his back ten miles to the healing halls. He could still feel her weight on his back, her warmth, her arms and legs wrapped around him. He could still see her fierce face as she had stood with the orcish blade in her hands. The face and blazing eyes of the Lord of the Mole.

Glorfindel sat on the rocks of the mountainside, buried his head in his hands, and wept.

 

It was autumn. Glorfindel strode grimly towards the healing halls. He was missing a few of his newest cadets, and he knew where to find them. They were below the age of majority, new to the discipline of his training, and as frisky and silly as puppies.

As he opened the door to the healing halls, he could hear voices coming from one of the treatment rooms.

“Come with us to gather apples, our sweet!”

“Or let us take a walk into the hills!”

“The autumn festival is next week! Will you dance with us?”

“Oh yes, my blossom—save one dance for me!” At which jeers and the sounds of a scuffle broke out among the cadets.

Glorfindel moved until he could see into the open door.

Maeglin was stitching a gash on the leg of a young cadet with green eyes and brown hair, and four of his friends were gathered around her.

Glorfindel’s blue eyes took on an angry glint. But he stayed where he was, and waited.

 “You are standing in my light, young worthies,” Maeglin said in a carefully even voice as she concentrated on her stitches. And truly, the silly pups were blocking much of the light from the window.

“Oh, fair flower, you know not how truly you speak!” said one with an attempt at a meaningful gaze.

“We are indeed standing in your light--!” chimed in one with beautiful silver eyes.

“Such light as comes from eyes so lovely and sweet.”

Glorfindel smiled as he saw a black eyebrow lift and saw a dangerous glint come into the eyes he knew so well. Maeglin was many things. Sweet was not one. He waited for it. One. Two. Three--

“One look from your eyes could slay us, my sweet.”

“But be kind, fair maid! Say you will dance!”

 “I never dance,” she said curtly.

Anyone less young and silly would have taken warning from the icy scorn of her voice.

“Ah, but one of such lissom grace was surely made for dancing!”

“As one so fair was surely made for love.”

The suturing needle, held poised in the air, looked as though it wanted to stab someone in the neck. The black eyes had narrowed and golden fire flickered.

Finally. It had taken a lot longer than Glorfindel thought. The prince of Gondolin was getting soft.

“Love,” sneered Maeglin in a voice dripping with contempt. “What do you fools know of love? You are babies playing with pretty words. You know nothing!!”

Glorfindel cringed in dismay. He had expected the Lord of the Mole to send them running out of the room with an eruption of volcanic anger. He was startled by the bitterness, by the mix of mockery and pain in the black eyes. The faces of the young cadets had gone blank with bewilderment.

THERE YOU ARE, YOU LAZY, LUMPISH MISCREANTS!” Glorfindel bawled from the corridor outside, with an eye on that needle in Maeglin’s hand. The black eyes turned and pierced him sharply, but the needle in her hand kept steady. With guilty starts, four cadets went pale.

“Get out of there!!” thundered Glorfindel. “The lot of you!! NOW!!!

The cadets spilled out of the treatment room to stand abjectly before Glorfindel.

 “Arasdil fell—“

“He hurt his leg—“

“We had to help him here—he couldn’t walk!”

“We were just going back—honest!“

“Back to training in ten seconds or I’ll have you cleaning the weapons room for the next month!”

The cadets sped away on light, swift feet down the corridor.

The brown haired cadet with green eyes was still in the room with Maeglin.

“Sir—” he said.

Glorfindel came in, had a look at the gash, and said, “Be more careful next time. No more horsing around.”

His eyes met Maeglin’s briefly. The scars on her face from the skirmish in summer had faded to fine lines. His heart ached with tenderness, he wanted to trace them with his finger, to kiss them.

The shadow in her eyes had vanished, but the memory of her words, mocking and bitter, haunted the warrior. After millennia in Mandos, and in this new form, was it possible that the traitor of Gondolin still longed for… still loved…? The thought that what he now felt for Maeglin, Maeglin might still cherish for the princess of Gondolin, for his own Ammë, made him feel sick to the stomach.

“I am sorry to have disturbed your work, maiden,” he said quietly.

He saw the hint of a smile before Maeglin bowed her head again over her suturing. She had not been as cold to him since that day they had fought together.

He could not unsee the face of the prince of Gondolin when he looked at her now. And still he loved and longed. He did not trust himself alone with her. Had the cadet not been there in the room, he would not have dared enter. Or he might have given in to temptation and done what he dreamed nightly. Pulled the prince of Gondolin down onto the couch where the cadet now lay.

Abruptly, he turned and left.

 

The dark-haired mortal boy sat next to Maeglin as they both ground dried herbs with mortar and pestle.

Estel was the first mortal Maeglin had ever known whom she liked. When he came by to learn about medicines and healing lore, the descendant of Elros Half-elven would quietly pull out from his pocket snacks that he had pilfered from the kitchen, and share them with her. He had the rare gift of being able to talk to her while she worked without annoying her—rare in anyone, let alone a mortal boy of eleven. He had a charisma and gravitas far beyond his years. She wondered what his ancestor Eärendil would have been like at eleven. She remembered the future star only as a seven-year-old – a beautiful but detestable blond brat who had kicked and punched Maeglin as the prince of Gondolin tried to kill him.

Glorfindel hovered nearby. Having completed an inventory of the medications with the healers, he had run out of things to occupy himself here. Part of him felt that he should not leave Estel alone with Maeglin, but they looked as though they were getting along famously. The prince of Gondolin getting chummy with a mortal. Glorfindel would never have thought he would ever see the day.

As his golden-haired swordfighting tutor walked out of the healing halls, Estel looked from the tall warrior to Maeglin with sage eyes and pronounced, “He likes you”.

“He would be one of the rare few then.”

A glimmer of amusement crossed the boy’s face. “You know very well what I mean. I saw his ears turn a little red when he looked at you just now. He has never done that for anyone else. Maybe he is in love with you.”

“Oh? And what would you know of love, young master?”

Giving her his most wise and enigmatic look, the boy had declined to reply and looked away with an expression both dreamy and pensive.

Elrond’s daughter Arwen had arrived a week ago at Imladris to celebrate the autumn festival.

 

Late autumn.

It was one of those hunting expeditions that had gone quite wrong. The Imladris hunters had become game themselves as an orc ambush landed two of the party in the healing halls, the more gravely injured of whom was Glorfindel, who had taken the brunt of the vicious attack in his effort to defend the others, and who had again not been wearing any armour.

“You are fortunate indeed to still have most of your guts,” said the Lord of Imladris grimly as he finished the final sutures on his Commander’s abdomen. “How are you feeling now?”

“Oh absolutely marvellous Elrond,” said the golden-haired warrior to the ceiling as he lay on the bed. “Just marvellous. You know, you are the most wonderful friend in the whole world. The most wonderful friend. I love you so much.”

Elrond frowned. How much painkiller had his assistants given the balrog slayer?

“You’re my best friend ever. I love you so much, Elrond. You should always do your hair that way.”

Elrond left the room before the balrog slayer could tell him again how much he loved him. “How much painkiller did you give Lord Glorfindel?” he demanded of Thalanes the healer.

“Just an extra dram, lord. It was going to be such a long operation. And he was in so much pain.”

Elrond sighed. “Well, it should do him no harm. Come, let’s tend to Emlindir now. I will need your assistance for this.” To the assistant healer nearby, who was preparing disinfectant for the wounds, Elrond said, “Lómiel, please dress Lord Glorfindel’s wounds.”

As Maeglin set her bandages and ointments by the bed, Glorfindel said, “There you are, my lovely. I missed you so much. You look so beautiful.” And she froze as he cheerfully told her in some detail what he would love to do to her that moment if he could only move.

Maeglin replied that she had long, sharp instruments that could do the same to him if he said that again.

After she had slathered disinfectant ointment on his wounds, and was sliding the bandages under his abdominal region and wrapping them around him—a little more roughly than she should have—he told her how wonderful it felt and what would feel even better if she just moved her hands a little lower. 

Maeglin told him what he would lose if her hands moved a little lower.

As she trimmed off the ends of the bandages, he told her how beautiful her lips were and where he thought they should go and what he thought they could do.

At which the Lord of the Mole clouted the Lord of the Golden Flower unconscious with a hard blow of her fist to his head, and swept out of the room with burning cheeks.

Just when she had been beginning to think better of him. It confirmed every suspicion of his morals Maeglin had ever had in Gondolin, and cemented her low opinion of him. She loathed him.

And Glorfindel, waking ten hours later, had not the slightest memory of anything that had happened.

 

 

Lómiel refused to enter into Glorfindel’s room any more.

I will kill him if I do.

Elrond looked at her, shocked by her insubordination. “As healers, we serve all!” he reprimanded her sternly. “What did Lord Glorfindel do?”

“He did not do anything, my lord,” she said with a stony face.

Elrond remembered the painkiller. “Was it anything he said?”

She did not look at him but her eyes flickered gold and she blushed.

Impossible, thought Elrond. I’ve known him five thousand years and he would never—

There was no point forcing her to do anything.

“Lord Elrond, you have a new assistant now.” An elleth named Neldanna had just joined them. “I think we would all agree I am not suited to this work. I ask to be discharged from my duties in the healing halls.”

Elrond nodded sadly. “I’m afraid I do agree. Thank you for all your labours here. Do you know what you would like to do now?”

“I have something in mind, lord.”

And Maeglin dipped him a curtsey and left.

 


Glossary

Díheno ammen (S) – forgive us (lower status to higher status)

Pen dithen (S) – little one

Yrch (S) - orcs

Chapter Text

Glorfindel had been surprised and dismayed to discover that Maeglin had left the healing halls. Except nobody told him why.

When Maeglin had emerged red-faced and furious from the lord’s room and asked if Lord Glorfindel commonly made inappropriate remarks, the other healers had looked at her in open-mouthed shock.

“Inappropriate remarks? What sort of inappropriate remarks?”

At which Maeglin had tightened her lips and declined to say.

“There must be a misunderstanding, Lómiel. Lord Glorfindel is ever the perfect gentleman,” said Thalanes.

“Unfortunately,” sighed a brown-haired assistant named Candes who was always the first to volunteer when the balrog slayer needed a sponge bath.

At which Maeglin opened and closed her mouth, and then said that yes, she must have misunderstood.

And then refused to ever go into the room again.

Now, three days after Maeglin had left, the healers were still whispering about it at the halls out of earshot of Glorfindel.

 

Next to the stables lies a low building connected to the main house by a covered walkway. Next to it, a wide, lively stream flows. Before it lies an apple orchard, beyond which the ground gently slopes away to a meadow which in summer is covered with cornflowers, buttercups, and poppies. It was late autumn now, and the meadow was golden and brown in the morning sun. Late apples glowed red in the yellowing trees. A light frost was melting in the morning sun.

Maeglin walked slowly beneath the apple trees, listening to the familiar sound of hammer on metal which sung to her soul and stirred her heart.

She had been coming to the orchard for the past three days, ostensibly to pick apples which she later brought to the Imladris kitchens, but in reality to examine the building which now lay before her. The Imladris smithy.

Three millennia ago, in the Second Age, there had been several large structures adjacent to this one, and many skilled elven smiths had undertaken the great work of forging weapons and armour for the Last Alliance. All the valley had been crowded with tents and barracks as the vast hosts of elves and men gathered in and around Imladris before marching south to confront Sauron at Barad-dûr.

Only this one building remained. It sufficed to serve the small population of eight hundred Imladhrim. The smiths of old had all sailed west, and a single smith, silver haired and pleasant-faced, was beating a kitchen cleaver on an anvil, his tools arrayed on the walls beside him.

A single furnace at the back with double bellows. Two anvil blocks.

It was so sad.

Maeglin remembered with regret the large complex of forges and furnaces and workshops at the House of the Mole in Gondolin. The Lord of the Mole had had fifty of the finest smiths working under him, and at least three assistants serving him at any one time. In his own personal forge he had fashioned what he loved best: weapons and armour for the King and the Lords of Gondolin. Ecthelion the Fair, arrayed in the armour of blue steel Maeglin had crafted, had been a creature of dread beauty to strike fear into the heart of any of Morgoth’s minions. The magnificent sword the prince had given to Glorfindel for the golden-haired lord’s four hundred and fiftieth begetting day had quickly become the latter’s favourite. It had been one of the two he had wielded in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Maeglin had a feeling that it had been the very sword the hero had used to hew off the balrog’s arm, then plunged into the balrog’s shoulder before the monster had grasped him by his golden hair and dragged him into the abyss. Not that Maeglin ever intended to ask him.

It had not mattered that the prince had hated the Lord of the Golden Flower. Maeglin had taken a ferocious pride in the excellence of his craft, and nothing substandard would ever have left his forge. And oddly, precisely because he disliked Glorfindel so much, he had taken especial care that the sword he gifted was well-crafted. He had not quite understood why himself.

But armour and weapons paled beside Maeglin’s greatest achievement: the glory and splendour of the seventh gate of Gondolin, the Gates of Steel. He had worked on it ceaselessly for eight months, scarcely stopping to eat or rest. And when he had finished it and gazed on it in triumph, he had known that it was the most magnificent of all the gates of Gondolin, and that this thing of beauty and strength he had created would be able to last ten thousand years. And it would have, if not for…

Maeglin quickly broke off the thought.

And now, to come, from all that glory and splendour, to this.

One furnace, two anvil blocks. And kitchen cleavers. And pots and pans.

Oh yes, there was some weaponry and armour. Through the window of a long workroom to the side of the forge itself she could see, laid out on some tables, armour, swords, chain mail, and hunting knives all needing to be repaired. Very serviceable and common looking elven armour and weapons. No finesse. No style. Her lip had curled in scorn the first time she had set eyes on the armour of the Commander of Imladris. That he could go from wearing what she had crafted in days of yore to this.

His swords from Valinor, however, were extraordinary. Maeglin had felt almost reluctant to hand back to him the blade that he had lent her, wanting to examine it more closely.

Maeglin’s craft in Gondolin had been not just a source of pride. It had been the prince of Gondolin’s means of survival. He had laboured for days on end, sometimes, in order to finish a piece. He was the despair of his chefs, who would stand at the doorway of the forge – he forbade them to enter – begging him to but taste a morsel of their most delectable dishes. Drowning himself in his work had allowed him, if only briefly, to escape from wild and despairing thoughts of golden hair, grey eyes, white skin and soft lips.

Lómiel the maiden was free at last from the curse of that hopeless love, but she could not deny that this craft had always been in her blood. It had been part of Maeglin of Nan Elmoth long before he became Lómion of Gondolin. She had tried in this second life to run from it, to suppress it. Now she wanted to come home.

There were several reasons why she had stayed away.

It was not merely her dismay at the size of the smithy, nor that the work could not satisfy.

Partly, it was that if you were a reviled traitor disguised as an elfmaid and wanted to be inconspicuous, being one healing assistant among four females was far more sensible than being a young maiden at a forge.

And how could Maeglin work under another? She who had once commanded fifty? The silver-haired smith was skilled and competent, she could see. But she had been more than skilled and competent. She had been the son of the greatest elven smith in Beleriand and had been a great smith herself. To take orders like a lackey would rankle. And she knew: she would want to do things her own way.

With these thoughts Maeglin had tussled for the past few days since she left the healing halls.

This morning she had risen and looked at herself long in the mirror.

The slender maid who looked back at her was no longer Lómion, great smith of Gondolin. She saw a youngling not yet of age, with arms too weak to ever fashion a sword again. Yet the hunger to once more see metal come to life under her hands was too great. . .

She would swallow her pride.

She would become an apprentice, and do what crumbs of work were thrown to her.

And bite her tongue and do things her master’s way.

If the smith would have her, that is…

 

The Imladris smith, Camaen, looked up from the sword he was tempering and saw that the black-haired maiden who had been hovering around the forge for the past three days was now walking towards him.

“Fine day,” said Camaen cheerfully, by way of greeting.

“Very fine,” Maeglin replied. By now, she had managed to lose much of her Nan Elmoth accent.

“I’ve seen you around. You take an interest in smithing, then?”

“Yes, my father was a smith.” She had decided it was time to let more memories of her past surface.

“Ah.”

“He taught me a few things. Could you use a pair of hands around here?”

He looked at her dubiously. “That I could, but smithing’s hard on a lass with hands as white and dainty as yours.”

The blade hissed and a cloud of steam curled skyward as Camaen plunged the hot metal into cold water.

“I care naught about keeping my hands pretty. Look. They have some callouses already.” The blisters she had received in the orc attack had left slightly toughened skin as they healed.

He shook his head and said gently, “You’re not strong enough for this, little lass. I’ll not have you getting hurt here.”

The sound of metal on stone, as he began to grind the blade.

Maeglin’s throat was tight with disappointment and frustration. She wanted this more than anything. But before she could continue her argument, she became aware of someone behind her. She stiffened, knowing somehow who it was even before she turned her head.

“Lord Glorfindel,” she said icily.

“Maiden Lómiel, Smith Camaen.” He bowed to them slightly, as he walked slowly towards them.

His golden hair was a bright halo in the morning sunlight. Over his leggings, he had a white tunic thrown on, unbelted, and as he stood backlit by the sun, one could see beneath the fabric that his abdomen was still swathed in bandages. He should still have been bed-bound in the healing halls, but nobody had ever been able to keep Glorfindel in bed once he was able to get out of it. The only way would have been to sedate him or tie him down. Behind his back, she could see he was holding a bunch of carrots; he must have been on his way to visit Asfaloth in the stables. The gut injury would mean he had been on a fast for a while, and he looked luminous and ethereal in the morning light. Almost fragile.

Glorfindel had come out of the healing halls only to see Asfaloth. But as soon as he had seen Maeglin at the forge with Camaen, he had understood her intent, and made his way over.

“The lass has asked for work in the smithy, Lord Glorfindel,” said Camaen. “It is not work for a maiden as dainty as she.”

The maiden looked for a moment as though she would explode at being described as dainty. Then she said, quickly, “Nerdanel, daughter of Mahtan, is a smith.”

“Very true. And she is famed for some excellent metalwork, which I have had the chance to admire,” Glorfindel said, deciding not to mention that Nerdanel was also built as strongly as Turgon’s tower.

“It is hot and hard work,” said Camaen.

“I fear neither fire nor hard work.”

“I am sure you do not,” said Glorfindel. “Well, you lack the muscles to lift Camaen’s hammer, but there is a variety of other work to be done. Camaen, she could do other crafts and lighter metalwork for you. It has been lonely out here since your master Erchaildir went west, has it not? And too much work for one smith. Why not take her on trial as an assistant for a few days?”

The black eyes widened slightly at finding an ally in the Lord of the Golden Flower.

“I will not get in the way and be a nuisance,” Maeglin said quickly. “I know my way around a forge.”

You definitely do, thought Glorfindel, smiling at the sight of the prince of Gondolin humbling himself.

Camaen nodded. “Come by tomorrow at eight. I’ll find you something to do.”

The smile of relief on her face was radiant. “Le hannon.”

Then she turned. “Le athae, Lord Glorfindel.”  And though her tone was cool, he saw gratitude in her eyes.

Glassen.” He bowed, gave her a boyish smile, and slowly walked away to the stables with his handful of carrots, the tips of his ears a little red.

 

Three days later, Glorfindel had discharged himself from the healing halls and the first thing he did was to head to the smithy to check if Camaen was still alive.

The smith certainly was. From under the apple trees, Glorfindel saw Camaen cheerfully whistling as he hammered out some dents in a cooking pot. Through the window of the adjourning workroom, framed by the almost-bare ivy which grew around it, he saw his Maeglin. She had exchanged her dresses for boy’s apparel: a red and black woollen tunic over grey leggings and black boots, sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and a thick, shapeless apron over all. Even so, her face and build were too feminine for her to be mistaken for an elf lad. Her long hair was clipped at the nape of her neck and fell in a tail down her back. The Lord of the Mole had always hated the fuss of braiding his hair, Glorfindel thought with a smile. He saw that she had cut off some of the length of her hair so it now fell only to her waist, the same length as his own. Having gathered her tools, she sat down at a table and started mending the links in a chain mail shirt, her face stern as she concentrated on her work.

He gazed at her dreamily for a while. She looked absolutely enchanting.

“You are a besotted fool,” a voice in his mind reprimanded him. “What have you done? You might as well have given the traitor of Gondolin the keys to the Imladris armoury and asked him to help himself.”

“It has been half a year, and all has been well. I cannot believe any longer that she is here with ill intent,” he argued back.

“Maeglin is clever. He would wait. Bide his time. Win the trust of all. Lull you into complacency, and then strike when least expected. As in Gondolin.”

“That is ridiculous. Angband is gone, as is Morgoth. Vilya keeps the orcs out of the valley. If Maeglin sought to murder Eärendil’s descendants in their beds or poison them, why would she not have done so earlier? But if there is still any shadow of doubt, still the possibility of danger, then there is only one thing to be done,” replied Glorfindel. “I shall need to keep a close eye on her.”

Needing some reason to go into the forge, he went to the stables to get Asfaloth. He was certain the front right shoe needed checking.

 

If Camaen had been apprehensive about taking in the maiden, his fears had quickly been put to rest. Maeglin needed merely a few words of instruction, would give a silent nod, then get the work done with no fuss. She astonished him with skills and knowledge beyond her years – but just how much he did not know, because she was extremely careful not to give too much away.

Glorfindel suddenly always had some reason to drop by. Once all of Asfaloth’s shoes had been dutifully checked, he got the metal links in the straps of Asfaloth’s leather panniers repaired as they seemed to be “a little loose”. After that, by dint of digging through the sizable collection of weapons and armour in his bedchamber, he was able to find various pieces of armour, chain mail, daggers, arrows, shields, swords, helmets, and vambraces, which all needed some trivial form of attention even though some of them had not been used since the Last Alliance in the Second Age. And he was careful to bring them in to the forge one by one.

He kept out of Maeglin’s workroom space, and stayed where the forge was, chatting with Camaen. This still allowed him to observe his maiden quite closely through the door or windows of the workroom.

He watched Maeglin as her sharp eyes watched Camaen work, saw more than once a critical flash in the black eyes, saw her almost speak, then swallow the comment. He could read the thought in her mind: I would have done it a far better way. Once he heard her comment casually on a technique she now remembered her father using for something, but in so offhand a way that it could not be construed as criticism. And Camaen, who was an open-minded and curious soul, would think about it, and perhaps ask her for more details. Later, after experimenting, he might actually adopt the technique if it worked for him.

Glorfindel, who knew that Maeglin Lómion had never been known for patience or suffering fools gladly, saw with pleasure how well and wisely she held her tongue and curbed her pride. That’s my clever Mole, he thought, and smiled.

 

It was not long before Camaen trusted Maeglin enough to let her move beyond repair work. It began with the twins’ order for a necklace for their sister. Camaen, who did not have too many ideas for such fripperies, asked Maeglin if she would like to try sketching some designs and showing them to him.

The former Lord of the Mole was never one to back down from such a challenge. She frowned over the specifications for a while, and poured the bag of jewels the twins had supplied onto her palm. In Gondolin, Maeglin would have delegated such work to Enerdhil, the Lord of the Mole’s own preference always being armour and weaponry. Gentle, dreamy Enerdhil, whose love for all things that grew had produced jewels and jewellery that captured the very life essence of dancing leaves and blossoming flowers, of sunlight and moonlight and starlight…

Maeglin, of all the Lords of Gondolin, had hardly even worn jewellery. The small diamonds of various hues winked mockingly at her.

With a sigh of frustration, Maeglin set down the diamonds, put on her cloak, and went out of the smithy. At the door, she tightened the laces on her boots—they were well-worn ones from the basement storerooms, but in her favourite colour black—and once she was out of sight of the smithy, she broke into a run.

 

Having an excuse to don male clothing had been one of the minor pleasures of becoming the smith’s apprentice, and Maeglin had revelled in the freedom of wearing breeches and tunics once again. There had been stares from many, and a few maidens had tittered when they first saw her heading towards the smithy in a dark blue tunic and black breeches she had found in the basement.

Erestor had raised eyebrows at her in a hallway, with several elves looking on. “We could have work dresses with shorter skirts tailored for you, Maiden Lómiel. This is rather unbecoming.”

“Elo!” Elrohir had exclaimed, as the twins rounded a corner and beheld Maeglin.

“Skirts would only be a work hazard, Hîr Erestor,” Maeglin had murmured demurely, after quickly suppressing an arrogant glare by lowering her eyes and fixing them on the hem of Erestor’s robe. “What if I catch fire?”

“Indeed, Erestor, you would not desire that to be on your head, would you?” Elrohir had said indignantly.

“The ellith in the guard wear similar garb with their armour, Erestor,” had added Elladan, looking her over from head to foot. “The same reasoning applies. Safety, ease of movement.”

“Not all enjoy sweeping about in skirts as you do, Erestor,” Elrohir had grinned. For the twins, like Glorfindel, could only be constrained to wear their floor-length robes for dinner and for feasts.

No one else had questioned Maeglin’s choice of work attire after the twins’ approval had been given.

Now, as she raced away from the house and the smithy, she was still aware of how different the mechanics of running as an elleth felt. Broader pelvis, slighter shoulders. Slower. Less power. Damn. I miss being me.

And now, there was no Enerdhil to whom the Lord of the Mole could assign this work to.

Enerdhil had spent long hours dreamily walking in the gardens, lying among flowers, staring at stars and clouds, trees and leaves lit with sunlight, and that had inspired masterpieces like the Elessar…

So Maeglin took a deep breath of chilly air, and looked with new eyes at swallows departing south for warmer climes, at grey clouds chased by cold winds across the skies, and frost sparkling on the last leaves that shivered on the trees.

By the time she returned to the smithy in the evening, Camaen had already gone home to his cottage across the river. The apprentice made a few swift sketches, then worked like one possessed all through the night and the next day and the next night.

On the second night, Elrond frowned when he heard that Maeglin was still holed up in the smithy. He directed his sons to take food to her and convince her to return to the house to rest. “She is a growing child,” said the Lord of Imladris and father of three. “She needs her sustenance.”

Glorfindel watched anxiously from a distance as Elladan and Elrohir went to the smithy with the plate of food, not wanting to look as though he cared too much. It looked, he thought, all too familiar. He hoped Maeglin would not throw anything at them as the Lord of the Mole had oft done in Gondolin when disturbed at work.

The food was rejected, but nothing was thrown, and no profanities were uttered. “She’s barricaded herself in,” said Elladan, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Did she say anything?” asked Glorfindel, trying not to sound overly concerned as the three of them walked back to the house, picking at the food on the plate as they went.

“‘Leave me alone. I’m working,’” said Elrohir glumly, eating a spoonful of thyme-flavoured cauliflower purée.

That was courteous enough for the Mole, thought Glorfindel, absently chewing on a piece of broccoli without tasting it.

“Have the quail stuffed with mushrooms, Glorfindel. It really is very good,” said Elrohir.

 

The necklace Maeglin eventually laid in Elladan’s hands was a graceful filigree of silver leaves that seemed to be dancing in a breeze upon delicate silver branches, with a frosting of diamonds sparkling on them like starfire. The twins gazed at her in awe. The word quickly spread, and other orders soon began to come in.

The trees grew bare, and the snows of winter came in soft white flurries and covered the valley. By late spring, from working on jewellery, she expanded her projects to small skillets and cookware, producing pieces of such elegant beauty and exceptional functionality that the chefs raved about them. Glorfindel thought it rather ironic, given his knowledge that Maeglin cooked about as well as her mother—badly. Small game cooked tough as leather and half-charred, carelessly seasoned via Aredhel flinging a pinch of salt at it as she had snatched the spit from the flames. After the one time the white princess had ruined dinner as they escorted her to Himlad, Ecthelion and Egalmoth had taken over cooking their meals.

“You are even worse,” Ecthelion had muttered to Glorfindel, as he rubbed herbs on a plucked pheasant, and Aredhel and Egalmoth rubbed down the horses. “You have not ever tried to cook a thing. Not even an egg!”

“And you should be thankful I have not. I have other ways of being useful,” Glorfindel had serenely replied then, lifting his eyes from the other pheasant he was gutting to gaze at the shadowy lands of Nan Dungortheb that crouched low like a monstrous beast in the distance…

In Maeglin’s case, Glorfindel suspected that on the one hunting trip the prince had helped with the cooking, he had deliberately rendered the rabbits unpalatable so that no one would ever ask him to do it again.

Glorfindel no longer had any fears for the safety of the line of Eärendil, not even when, by early autumn, Maeglin began to work on small daggers and hunting knives. It was clear that the only thing that mattered to her was her craft. She would quickly and efficiently get all repair jobs done as soon as they came in so that she could dedicate the rest of her time to the work of creation. It so engrossed her that she returned to the house only once every few days to dine or sleep for strength.

If Maeglin’s craft had been, for the prince of Gondolin, a source of pride, a means to find respite from an obsessive love, for the maid of Imladris it became an end in itself. All ambition for a crown or power was gone now. All desire for love was dead. From the ashes of these twin driving forces rose the fiery flames of creative passion in her heart. Maeglin’s craft became her reason for being.

Glorfindel, who visited the smithy almost daily, would stand outside the workroom talking to Camaen, glancing at Maeglin every now and again through the open door. She emerged into the forge area from time to time, and he would watch her smelt metals and cast them in moulds or deftly shape them. He would admire how much stronger her body was growing, and when she passed by him, he noted that she was growing a little taller.

Maeglin largely ignored Glorfindel, focused as she was on the work. By midsummer, she was growing careless about hiding her knowledge or her skills, and there were times when Camaen would watch her with wide-eyed amazement.

“By the beard of Aulë, how does she know how to do all that at her age?” he would breathe to Glorfindel.

And Glorfindel, trying not to look nervous, would shrug casually. “It would appear there is a lot we do not know about some of these Avarin tribes.”

For most of the time, it seemed to Glorfindel that he did not even exist for Maeglin. When autumn came around again, however, she surprised him on his begetting day by giving him a set of five throwing knives she had made. It was her way of thanking him for getting her the apprenticeship, he knew. He fingered the points and handled them. They were beautifully weighted, and exquisitely finished. “They’re excellent,” he said, elated and hopeful. And received a smile in return, before she disappeared back into the workroom.

The day after, things went south. Glorfindel had been leaning on the wall talking to Camaen when he noticed Maeglin taking a smelting urn out of the furnace and pouring molten cast iron into a mould she had made for a new piece of cookware. The urn was larger than the ones she normally used, and too heavy for her despite the fact that she had grown so much stronger. Her wrists were shaking and unsteady.

Glorfindel did what was most natural. He crossed over, took the urn holder from her hand, and effortlessly poured the iron for her.

When he finished, he looked up to see Maeglin’s eyes angrily flickering with fire, glaring daggers at him. The expression on her face was pained.  

Le hannon, Hîr Glorfindel,” she said in a tight voice. And retreating into the workroom, she slammed the door shut with a bang.

What had he done wrong?

He sighed. One step forward, one step back.

 


Glossary

Elo! [S] – Wow!

Chapter Text

Winter had come to Imladris again. The valley lay under a pristine layer of soft white snow.

Maeglin was putting the finishing touches on a circlet for the Lord of Imladris when she heard boisterous shouts and laughter outside the foundry’s shuttered windows. Reluctant to leave the cosy warmth of the smithy, she tried to ignore it. There were many voices, but there was one voice, one laugh that she could not mistake.

Glorfindel.

A loud burst of silvery laughter, loud cheers and claps, interlaced with several cries of dismay.

Curiosity getting the better of her, she wrapped her cloak around her, pulled up the hood, and stepped out into the cold of the winter day.

In an Imladrin winter tradition, the Commander of Imladris had challenged his captains and elite corps—twenty-odd warriors—to a snowfight. Him against them all. There had been the odd year when a branch had broken beneath him, or when the snow had slid out under his feet on a roof slope, but apart from that, for the past three millennia he had almost always won. The battles the warriors talked and sang of for years after were the handful where their coordinated attack on him had actually succeeded. The same strategy never worked twice against him, and each year the warriors looked forward to the challenge with an extra gleam in their bright eyes, plotting and planning for days ahead how they would take him down.

Glorfindel loved snow. In Gondolin, he had delighted in the first snowfall each winter as only a Noldo who had never crossed the Helcaraxë could. In Aman, where most of the land basks in an eternal spring and summer, he had been drawn every now and again to scale the Pelóri range past the snow line, or wander north past Formenos, to where majestic ancient glaciers still towered.

North of Imladris valley, in the Coldfells, blizzards howled in winter and snow trolls brought icy avalanches down on the unsuspecting traveller. But here, in Elrond’s sheltered valley which lay under the power of Vilya, the winters were clement and beautiful, with soft, deep falls of white snow in its coldest month.

Right now, their battle had moved into the apple orchard outside the smithy. Glorfindel was quickly picking off his best warriors with well-aimed snowballs. All of them never ceased to wonder at the swiftness and skill with which he managed to shape and throw his snowy projectiles while staying on the run. The rule was the game was simple. A hit to any part of the body meant you were out, and so far he had knocked out eleven of them and was still untouchable. Those already eliminated from the game stood around cheering.

Glorfindel’s musical laugh rang out in the frosty air. “Come on, my brave captains! Is this the best you can do this year?” he called out tauntingly as he ran, leaving next to no prints on the soft snow. “Has winter feasting has made you so slow?”

He was a golden and grey blur of fluid movement in his winter cloak, almost dancing as he dodged the white missiles flying at him. His white missile landed in the face of another warrior and he laughed merrily as cheers broke out. Without a pause, he swung himself up a tree with one fluid move, dispatched another warrior with a snowball to the chest, and hurled another snowball into Erestor’s face—just for fun—as the hapless counsellor emerged round the corner of the house.

“Surely you can do better than that!” he sang out to his warriors as he leapt from his tree into another, landing with a grace and surefootedness that would shame a cat. “Put some heart into it, my worthies—”

And then his eyes met Maeglin’s.

For just a fraction of a moment the balrog-slayer lost his concentration and almost his footing. It was enough. A relentless volley of white snowballs from the best warriors in Imladris pelted the elflord and knocked him out of his tree and onto the snow below. To give him credit he landed on his feet, but all twenty-six of the elite were upon him at once with howls of triumph, and rapidly buried their laughing Commander in a snow drift. Soon, so much snow was being flung in the air that a mini blizzard seemed to have erupted, and all the fair, brave warriors were giggling and snorting with laughter and tumbling about in the soft, deep snow. 

And through the flurry of snow, lithe bodies and long elven hair, even as he gave Gildor a faceful of snow, Glorfindel saw his black-eyed maiden leaning against an apple tree and laughing helplessly till her eyes had tears.

And he thought he hadn’t minded his pride taking a tumble just to see that.

 

Snow blanketed the fair city of Gondolin, white on white. The Lord of the Mole, walking through the square, stopped to watch the Lord of the Golden Flower making a public spectacle of himself. Yet again.

The youngest Lord of Gondolin was only ninety-five years old that winter but he felt that the Lord of the Golden Flower, the second youngest Lord and three centuries older than himself, behaved infinitely more childishly.

Sixteen children of the House of the Golden Flower were chuckling and squealing with delight as they ran after their golden-haired lord, rolling snowballs in their little hands and flinging them at him. Glorfindel loved these moments with the elflings, simply for the joy in innocent play they gave him. That it also gave him a chance to talent-spot those with exceptionally good reflexes and deadly aim was far less important, but well, still useful.

Nai! You got me!!” he cried as one tot barely reaching his knee successfully hit him in the thigh with snow.

He fell dramatically to the ground, grabbing his thigh, and with wild squeals they were clambering over him, sitting on his chest and legs, and wrapping their arms around his neck and pulling at his long golden hair. “We got him! We got him!” “Kill the giant!” “Tie his legs!” They rolled about in the snow laughing, as elf matrons rushed in fearful for the safety of both their lord and their children.

“’Tis fine, goodwives, all happy and no harm done,” said the golden elflord, somehow managing to rise to his feet with a child in each arm. The little girl on his back had her arms so tightly wrapped around his neck that he could barely speak. Another five little ones of various heights latched onto his legs, and squealed with delight as he tried to walk. The ladies retrieved their children, a few of them brushing snow off the elflord’s clothes and hair.

“’Tis time to sup, lord.”

“Will you come partake with us?” said one as she removed a child trying to pull out a handful of the elflord’s famous locks.

“Thank you for the generous invitation, goodwives, but the lords sup with the king tonight,” Glorfindel said with a smile and a graceful bow, taming his rumpled hair with his fingers. Catching sight of the Lord of the Mole, he hailed him cheerfully. “Well met, Prince Lómion!”

Must the irritant always be so confoundedly cheerful?

“Well met. Reliving elfling days, I see, Lord Laurefindil.”

As this was more loquacious than usual for the taciturn, black-haired lord, Glorfindel was encouraged to reply, “Not merely for elflings, Prince Lómion. A little snow play does everyone a world of good methinks.” He stooped to roll a snowball and said, “Come! Join me for a short one, I pray!”

“I think not—” Maeglin began, and got a faceful of snow.

Eyes gleaming with mischief, Glorfindel said. “That was the challenge. Now. The rules. Very simple. A hit to any part of the body of the opponent decides the victor.” He had rolled another ball in his hands, and was holding it in readiness. He cocked his head to one side, waiting. “Cundunya?

Glorfindel smiled in anticipation as Maeglin, glowering dangerously, stooped and picked up a handful of snow.

Glorfindel was faster and lighter, but Maeglin was alert and quite agile himself. The two darted around the square, unleashing a rapid series of missiles, none of which found their target. Despite the slight smile on his face, Maeglin was in deadly earnest. What angered him was that he sensed Glorfindel was larking around and barely trying, whereas he was putting all he had into both assault and defence. Complacency will be the dolt’s undoing, he thought grimly with narrowed eyes.

Into every snowball he flung, Maeglin loaded thirty-eight years of anger and resentment at the golden-haired lord. He thought of Idril laughing at Glorfindel’s silly jokes, dancing with him at feasts, holding his arm as they walked her gardens, fair heads together deep in talk. He saw in his mind Idril planting a loving kiss on Glorfindel’s cheek, rumpling his golden hair affectionately, calling him “my golden knight”. The rage of jealousy spurred him, and the violence of his icy projectiles was so great that when he finally hit Glorfindel on the side of the head as they chased each other around and over the frozen fountain, the Lord of the Golden Flower fell face down into the snow and lay there stunned for a short while. As Maeglin compacted his snowballs more densely, his snowball had packed quite a blow. The prince gave a shout of victory, and the crowd that had gathered to watch burst into applause, which gathered in volume as Glorfindel got to his feet rubbing the side of his head ruefully, but grinning from ear to ear.

“Good shot, Lómion!” Glorfindel said, brushing snow from his face, which was glowing from his exertions. He came forward to shake hands. “You throw a mean snowball!” And Maeglin found himself grasping the proffered hand firmly in his own, and returning a wry smile.

“See you later at the palace, my prince!” Glorfindel called as he waved and headed home to dress for dinner.

Going on his way, Maeglin felt his blood warm in his veins, and his heart lighter than it had been for many seasons.

A little snowplay could indeed do one a world of good.


Glossary

Cundunya [Q] - my prince

Chapter Text

Maeglin had no patience for the tiresome antics of the cadets who still sometimes hung about the smithy and teased her. She ignored them in the same way she ignored Glorfindel. But when a tall young archer with brown hair in one long braid and glittering green eyes came alone one summer day, leaned in at the window of her workroom and shyly offered her a lovely bouquet of wildflowers, she looked into his shining gentle eyes and was so taken aback that she took it from his hand. Camaen, passing b

Maeglin had no patience for the tiresome antics of the cadets who still sometimes hung about the smithy and teased her. She ignored them in the same way she ignored Glorfindel. But when a tall young archer with brown hair in one long braid and glittering green eyes came alone one summer day, leaned in at the window of her workroom and shyly offered her a lovely bouquet of wildflowers, Maeglin looked into his shining gentle eyes and was so taken aback that she took it from his hand. Camaen, passing by later, saw the flowers lying on the table.

“And what is this, lass?”

Was he an idiot? “Flowers.”

He smiled. “Whence came they, I mean? You are not one to gather flowers like the other lasses here.”

Maeglin shrugged. “An archer whose leg I patched up once.” For Arasdil son of Erildur was the young cadet whose leg she had stitched up seven summers ago in the healing halls. “A form of belated thanks, I assume.”

Camaen chuckled. “Let me put that into water for you.”

Glorfindel entered the forge just then, and raised his eyebrows at the incongruous sight of broad-shouldered Camaen in his smith’s apron walking out of the workroom holding a delicate bouquet of blue, white and golden blossoms in his large hand.

“Our little lass has an admirer,” Camaen whispered to Glorfindel, as he scooped some water from his cooling trough into an empty tankard and chucked the bouquet into it. 

“What? She is too young for such nonsense!” said Glorfindel sharply, for all the world like a protective parent.

“’Tis young Arasdil, and he’s but turned forty-four this spring. I wager he’s no older than our mystery lass. In fact, she could be older by several yéni, judging by the way she behaves.” Camaen was more correct about Maeglin’s age than he would ever know, thought Glorfindel, as the smith walked back into the workroom with the flowers.

 “Please, Camaen. Not in here. It will get in my way,” said Maeglin, barely looking up from the pattern she was engraving on the hilt of a hunting knife. Though they would still formally be master and apprentice for ten years, the usual term for such training, they related to each other as equals by now. Modest and easy-going Camaen had no qualms, in fact, about deferring to her knowledge on some matters, so deep was his respect for her craft. Glorfindel never ceased to be thankful that Erchaildir had sailed. The clash of egos between the old mastersmith and Maeglin would have been fearsome.

“I shall put it on the window sill, then,” said Camaen.

“Fine. Gi hannon,” said Maeglin indifferently, not giving the flowers a second glance, as Glorfindel was glad to see.

“I feel sorry for the boy already,” said Camaen to Glorfindel, returning to the forge, and firing up the furnace for smelting. “It does no harm, this kind of puppy love. ’Tis innocent, I would call it pure, almost. We all went through it, did we not, back in our own days as tender green saplings?”

Glorfindel did not know about that. He had never carried a torch for anyone, before Maeglin. His own memories of his tender sapling days, spent fending off the attentions of various ellith, were neither that innocent nor pure. Such as the time Salgant’s twin daughters, a couple of decades older than he, had cornered him in the biology section of the library at Nevrast to “practice kissing”. He had been only thirty-six at the time, and his good manners and natural chivalry, combined with his inexperience at that age, had rendered him clueless as to how to escape their clutches. Salgant’s daughters were almost as big-boned as their father, and the encounter had left the boy considerably traumatized. The knowledge that Maeglin was likely to violently knee anyone who attempted to practice kissing on her did not prevent the elflord’s hackles from rising at the mere thought of it.

Glorfindel knew Arasdil, and reason would normally have assured him that the boy’s intentions towards Maeglin were of the most honourable sort, but violent passion tends to cloud judgement. So dark were his thoughts towards the son of Erildur that the elflord struggled not to come down harshly on him during training. And though he stopped short of following the archer, he had a good idea where the boy went each day after training ended.

Arasdil went by the smithy several times over the next two weeks, each time with something small for Maeglin, offered in the same quiet way. His offerings included a pretty poem which made her cringe, a skilled sketch of her at work, and more flowers. To her own surprise, she neither cold-shouldered him nor threw them back in his face. She accepted each silently, albeit without even a thank you (for she feared that might be construed as encouragement), taking them from the hand he stretched through the window, and laying them on her worktable.

After he left, Maeglin would frown and stare into space for a while. Her former life had taught her well that love brings naught but pain and should be shunned at all costs. She had no use for such nonsense, should drive away this boy. Yet she found herself curiously loath to hurt him.

Suddenly, Maeglin was back in Gondolin, where a young ellon helplessly and hopelessly in love with a golden princess had brought her gifts from his forge. A ring he had fashioned, set with diamonds. A hairpin. Jewels brought out from his mines, cut and polished himself. Even jewels created by his own hand. His skills being largely with weapons and armour, love alone spurred him to craft such gifts, pouring himself into them. But the princess had worn his gifts once or twice, out of mere politeness, and after the show of appreciation had never been seen with them again. Many were the gifts lavished on her by adoring subjects, and Idril would wear none of them for a long season—save for three things: a ring of her dead mother’s, a circlet from her father, and a moonstone in her hair that had cost a young Glorfindel five months’ of his allowance when he was still a child.

The prince of Gondolin had had no scruples about being cruel. He had jilted a number of lovelorn maidens, Penlod’s daughter included. But now, in this second life, this boy Arasdil touched Maeglin in a way she did not understand. There was something pure and gentle in his eyes. A reminder of a remote time when she had been more innocent. A memory of her own hurt.

Then, one day, he waited for Maeglin to finish her work and asked if he could walk with her. And much to her own bemusement, she found herself strolling with him over the meadow and under the birch trees. Maeglin cursed herself for a fool, for getting herself into this. They walked silently through the buttercups and cornflowers. It was awkward. It was stupid. She was about to excuse herself and leave when his friends, who were sparring with quarterstaffs on a terrace outside the house, espied them. They lifted up a great uproar of cheers and whistles. Arasdil turned red, and Maeglin was so furious that she could have snatched the bow and quiver from his back and shot them all dead. Glorfindel did not join in. He stood apart with an unreadable expression on his face, then sharply silenced his cadets with a curt command.

The cadets fell silent, but wide grins were still plastered on their faces as they winked meaningfully at the pair in the meadows and blew fatuous kisses into the wide space between them.

Across the distance, the eyes of the smith’s apprentice and the Commander met for a moment. A current of understanding and sympathy passed between them. A common opinion of the juvenile behaviour of cretinous cadets.

Maeglin’s eyes broke away from Glorfindel’s. Without a glance at the archer by her, she turned and raced away to the woods, stopping only at the edge of a waterfall pool. She shut her eyes, and let the shout of the waters block out all her thoughts, let the mist blowing off the cascading waters fall damp on her face and hair. When she opened her eyes, Maeglin saw the archer standing by her quietly, his green eyes soft and thoughtful as he gazed upon her.

“Are you all right?” he said. “Don’t mind them. They’re silly but they mean no harm.”

He reached out to take Maeglin’s hand. Her fingers flinched away from his and she stepped away abruptly.

“Don’t—”

Naethen…” Arasdil blushed deeply.

The black eyes rested on him, an abyss of darkness, revealing nothing. “You know naught of me.”

“But I wish to know. Everything.”

Maeglin shook her head slowly, and a bitter, mirthless smile touched a corner of her mouth. “It were better for you that you do not.”

She saw bewilderment and compassion on his face. “You—you’ve suffered, I can tell. I’ve watched you. There is a sadness in your eyes.”

The tenderness in his voice made Maeglin harsh.

“Well, stop watching,” she said curtly. “I mislike being spied upon.”

“Lómiel, my sweet, I—”

She cringed and hastily cut off the declaration of devotion she felt building up in his tone. “It is late. We should go back now.”

Without waiting for him, Maeglin turned and swiftly walked away. Then, feeling pity, she allowed him to catch up with her. They walked to the house in silence, two arm lengths between them.

At the great doors of the house, watching the young archer walk away towards the village where he lived, Maeglin was troubled. She wanted nothing to do with this innocent child. There was nothing she could do but taint him with her darkness.

Yet still, she was loath to hurt him.

Maeglin knew that there was no way that Idril could have spurned her that would not have rent her heart in two.

 

The autumn moon hung huge and golden in a star-filled sky. The young prince of Gondolin abruptly left the feast in the King’s great hall and went out into the garden, where the flower beds were already bare, and a thin layer of frost lay on the earth and on the trees as they turned red and gold.

Maeglin could bear it no longer. Could not bear to see her, be in her presence, hungering to touch, and to know that he could not hope to. That till the unmaking of all things, this love was forbidden among the Eldar.

Why must it have been her? More than half Vanyarin by blood, steeped in the laws and customs given to the Eldar by the Valar. There were other ways, other laws, among the Avari in Nan Elmoth. He could hear a Dark Elf’s mocking laughter. This was his retribution for disowning his father’s blood, for choosing his mother’s people and adopting their ways.

And why, why by all the cruelty of cold fate had Idril and he to be born close kin? How truly was he accursed for abandoning Nan Elmoth, for choosing the ways of the golodhrim and with it their laws. Yes, it was the Dark Elf cursing him even now from beyond the grave and blighting every hope of happiness that Maeglin might ever have. Forever.

Forever. It was a terrible word. This was only his hundredth year, and the last fifty years had been a torment that had seemed endless. What would forever mean, to an immortal? What would it mean, to have a love that is never to be requited, desire that is never to be sated, a fire that will never be quenched?

Never. An even more terrible word. Despair that has no end. The heat, he could not bear it, that burned in him day and night. He was going mad. Perhaps he already was.

Maeglin felt the cold autumn breeze on his burning cheeks. He looked over the city wall and remembered his father’s curse.

He looked down and felt dizzy. It would be so easy just to fall and end it all.

It would take so little.

“Lómion, there you are! Why are you here, all alone in the night?”

That voice.

Maeglin did not turn or reply. His arms were folded tightly across his chest, as with cold. He did not trust himself. He wanted to seize her slender waist, to kiss the white throat.

“It is cold out here,” she said, joining him at the balustrades, her golden hair tumbling down her back almost to her knees. She had been dancing with Glorfindel when Maeglin left the hall, and she was still a little breathless, her spirit light with gaiety and exhilaration, her face bright with a smile. The sight of the golden pair’s happiness and beauty as they twirled together with the other couples in the hall had been too much for Maeglin. As had been the admiring comments whispered by others near him: “What a stunning couple they make…  yes… meant for each other…  so what if she raised him? There is no blood tie… I would not be surprised if the King gives his consent to their match some day.”

And now here she was, all aglow, as one in love might be. “Come, do you not wish to dance? There are a dozen fair maids within who are eager to be introduced to you.”

“I do not dance, cousin,” Maeglin said tightly, unable to look in the eye the only person in all of Arda he would ever wish to dance with.

Idril’s laugh, light and lilting, was like a merry mountain brook. “Ah, that has been an oversight. I should arrange for some dancing lessons for you. But it is easy. Come, I can show you how to, right now.” And she gave a graceful little twirl. Her white, slender feet beneath her shimmering silver skirts were bare even in the autumn frost.

“No, Itarillë. Leave me be. Please.”

With another laugh, she reached for his hand. “Do not be shy, Lómion. I am sure you will dance very well!”

Maeglin shivered at her touch, felt his heat rising and overpowering him. “Please. No. Itarillë.”

“Have no fear! No one can see us here,” she said, and pulled him into the centre of the courtyard.

Dazed, he felt her place his hand on her waist, felt the heat of her closeness, smelt her hair. He could not stop himself. He tightened his grip on her, and pulled her closer, almost not knowing what he did. Her grey eyes widened at the hardness of his touch, and she saw the darkness in his black eyes and suddenly realized her danger. Now she tried to pull away, and found his strong arms gripping her like a vice. “Itarillë.” His voice was husky with desire, and pleading. He kissed her on the mouth, tentatively at first, then with a hungry urgency, even as he felt her stiffen and resist. With a sudden burst of desperate strength, she broke away, and with pain, he saw the fear and repulsion in her eyes.

“Lómion! What are you doing?” Her voice now had a hard edge, the brilliant grey eyes penetrating, seeing him as though for the first time. She backed away.

He advanced on her, his voice low and desperate, the words spilling out intense and rushed. “I love you, Itarillë. I cannot help it. From the moment I saw you. I could as soon stop loving you as I could stop breathing—“

“Lómion, no! You know that we are first cousins, we are as brother and sister. It could never be—“

“Of course I know!” The anguish was sharp in his voice. “Yet I cannot but love you, Itarillë. I have tried—I did not want this. You do not know how I have fought it, day and night. But I cannot help it. I want you, I need you—like I need air—”

His voice shook, and his dark eyes were full of hurt and despair and rage.

She turned to run, but he seized her and kissed her again, pushing her roughly back against a wall on which a leafless vine climbed, and pinning her there with his own body.

“I did not choose this. I love you—oh Eru, I need you. There is only one hope—there are other laws—laws other than those of the Eldar, among others of the Quendi. First cousins may wed. There could be a way,” he pleaded desperately, holding her tighter as she struggled to free herself. He could feel the racing of her heart against his chest.

Suddenly, she stopped fighting, and spoke in a voice that shook only slightly, “Lómion—listen to me. Let me go. We shall talk about it, calmly. Do not do this—”

From behind, someone pried the prince away from Idril with ease, then flung him away so that he fell into a tangle of blackened, withered stems and foliage.

Unhurt but stunned and humiliated, heart pounding, the prince got up from the dead flower bed and looked on the one who had dared lay hands on him, and who now knew his secret and his shame.

It was Glorfindel.

Shining golden in the autumn moonlight, the Lord of the Golden Flower stood protectively before his princess, and his eyes were dark blue and flashing angrily with fire. The eyes of the two lords locked in an antagonistic stare. They might have come to blows, but Glorfindel remembered who the prince of Gondolin was, and with an effort, inclined his head in a bow that was part apology and submission, part respect for the house to which he had pledged allegiance, to which he owed fealty.

But the fire in the golden lord’s eyes still said, Touch her again, and I will hurt you.

Then Maeglin’s eyes met Idril’s, as she stood half hidden by Glorfindel. And in those piercing grey eyes, bright with the light of the Trees, he saw something else besides fear.

Maeglin saw with sudden clarity that it was not merely about kinship. He saw that it was he, Maeglin, whom she could not love. Would never love.

The knife twisted into the prince’s heart and sliced it into shreds, even as the hot flame of rage and shame and utter mortification washed over him. Almost blinded by his pain, he turned and fled the garden.

“Did he hurt you, my princess?” Glorfindel asked.

“No.” She felt nauseous. Glorfindel wrapped his strong arms around her and held her gently.

“I won’t let him hurt you, Ammë,” he said, lapsing momentarily into the term he had used in childhood. “If he touches you again, I will beat him black and blue.” Had Maeglin attempted to take a step towards Idril just now, Glorfindel would have knocked him out cold.

Safe now in her foster son’s arms, Idril recalled Maeglin’s words, which still rang in her ears. Amid her revulsion, a softer emotion stirred.

“Tell no one of this, yonya. No one. Not Ecthelion. Not even my Atar.”

“But my princess—the King should know—”

“No. Promise me.”

“The King has a right to know what he did to you, to know what manner of man his nephew is, to whom he has entrusted power and position second only to his!”

“Promise me, Laurefindil.”

He sighed. “I promise, my princess.”

And Idril gazed at the garden path down which the prince of Gondolin had disappeared. There was deep pity in her grey eyes.

 

From that day, the prince’s hatred of Glorfindel burned deep. He wrapped his shame and pain in pride and aloofness. His words to the Lord of the Golden Flower were cool and civil, almost curt. That Glorfindel, in return, maintained a distant but consistently respectful and courteous demeanour towards the prince only increased the latter’s hate, for every sight of the golden-haired lord reminded him of his moment of deepest shame and anguish.

The Lord of the Mole was fair, with his smouldering, intense black eyes and black silken hair that fell thick to his waist. He had his mother’s fine features, and his father’s strong shoulders, and he moved with the wild grace of a forest predator. Many maids there were, who loved the dark beauty of the prince from afar. Many were there who dreamed of soothing away the loneliness and darkness lurking in his eyes with their love. But his eyes looked through them all, unseeing. And he withdrew more and more into his mines and his forges, like the Mole that named his house.

And ever the heat burned unsated within him. And ever the pain consumed him.

But in all his bitterness and despair, Maeglin could not hate the one who had spurned him. He loved her still.

His Itarillë.

Forever.

 

When the brown-haired archer returned the next day, Maeglin got up and walked to the workroom window, and they looked at each other.

“Please do not come here anymore,” she said, her voice as gentle as she knew how to make it. “It cannot work. Truly.” And a little awkwardly, she handed him his poems and drawings.

The emerald eyes were sad, but not surprised. He looked at the papers in his hand, and nodded. “I understand.”

His other hand took hers, lifted it to his lips, and gave her palm a tender kiss. Then he placed the poems and sketches she had returned to him back in her hand, and smiled at her, and walked away.

Maeglin stood at the window a while, still feeling the imprint of his lips warm on her palm.

Well, that’s done, she thought.

She walked to the furnace, and tossed the papers into the fire carelessly.

Then, suddenly thinking better of it, she seized tongs, fished the papers out, and beat the flames dead with her hands.

Folding the scorched papers carefully, Maeglin slipped them into her apron pocket.

Something so pure might never touch her life again.

 


Glossary

Yéni (Q) – elvish years (plural). One yén = 144 solar years.

Gi hannon (S) – “thank you” between familiars

Naethen (S) – “my sorrow” – sorry

 

Chapter Text

Glorfindel arrived at the smithy to find Maeglin’s workroom window and door shut, though he knew she was there.

“What’s up with her?” he asked Camaen.

Camaen shook his head. “Wish I knew. She shut it all of a sudden. Just before you arrived.”

His heart wrenched yet again, a familiar ache over the past years that he was never able to numb himself against. She might have seen him taking Asfaloth to the stable, and knew he would be stopping by. Midsummer was drawing near, and the sun was bright and warm. It would be sweltering in the closed room.

“She sent the boy Arasdil away, earlier this morn,” whispered Camaen. “Told him not to come round again.”

Glorfindel could not help the leap of gladness in his heart, no matter how snubbed he felt presently. Just then, Estel arrived with his black horse, Duiroch.

“Need the shoes checked, Camaen!—why, what goes on here?”

“Nothing. Only that she has shut herself in,” said Glorfindel, with a nod toward the closed door.

Estel sauntered over to the door and opened it, for there was no lock, as Glorfindel knew well—except that he would not have dared to be as bold, not with her. “Naugwen! It’s a hot afternoon. Trying to cook yourself in here, are you?” The adan was a tall young fellow of eighteen now. Both he and Maeglin had grown taller over the years, and the day that he had overtaken her by a finger’s breadth, in his fifteenth year, he had with a gleeful laugh coined her “Shorty”.

“I am trying to get work done, Estenguil.”—Maeglin had retaliated by calling him “Short-Life”—“Keep it down out there. I need to concentrate.”

“You will concentrate better with some air. Holy Elbereth, it’s an oven in here!”

Glorfindel said, clearly enough, “Well, I had best be off. Estel, we leave tomorrow morning before daybreak. Be sharp, and be on time.”

Just before he disappeared around the stables, he glanced back over his shoulder. As expected, he saw that Estel had persuaded Maeglin to open the window and the doors. He paused a moment, hoping to catch just a glimpse of her, but she stayed away from the ivy-framed window.

Heavy-hearted with disappointment, he walked away.

 

Glorfindel disappeared with Estel into the wilds for the next two months—an expedition to hone Estel’s woodcraft and tracking skills. Maeglin had previously welcomed his absences from Imladris. The elflord was such a nuisance: bothering her with trivial bits of work not worth her time. Coming by almost every day, chatting with Camaen. Staring at her through the door or the window of her room when he thought she or Camaen would not notice. Making futile attempts to chat with her, or to make himself useful.

This time, to Maeglin’s anger and exasperation, she found herself restless in his absence, found herself hearing the echo of his voice in the distance, seeing phantom gleams of gold at the corner of her eye; absolute rubbish, since she knew full well he was not around.

And Maeglin could not understand what had caused this inexplicable shift. Their eyes had met across a meadow, and it had been as though she were seeing him for the first time—him, whom she had known over a hundred years! The fierce protectiveness in his stern, unsmiling face, and something angry yet vulnerable in his blue eyes—a jealousy, a tenderness, a heartsickness.

Maeglin had turned and fled from it. As she had stood with shut eyes by the waterfall, the turmoil within her had had little to do with the boy Arasdil. She had still felt deep blue eyes upon her. And felt, within her breast, a confused ache stirring, a tightening in her throat.

At dinner that night, they had sat at the far ends of the table from each other, Maeglin by Thalanes and Lindir, Glorfindel at Elrond’s right hand. But the air between them was charged, as with the electricity of a thunderstorm. Maeglin had felt Glorfindel though she dared not look at him, seen him in her mind even as her eyes looked away.

And that night, Maeglin had dreamed.

A vast moon danced golden in a starry sky. On a garden terrace, a tall elflord shielded a frightened princess.

In the prince of Gondolin’s heart raged a confused storm of desire and despair and deep need. Except that it was not the golden princess on whom his eyes rested.

It was on deep gold hair streaming in a cold autumn breeze like a lion’s mane, on flawless chiselled features set in a stern frown; on blue eyes blazing with a deep, dangerous fire; on the breadth of strong shoulders and the lean muscled lines of a warrior’s body.

Maeglin had awoken with a gasp in her dark chamber in Imladris.

That in itself was nothing new. All Maeglin’s nights of sleep ended in her waking up gasping and trembling. It was why she preferred working in the smithy for nights on end, rather than retiring to rest; why she slept only when she was desperately weary. The violent manifestation of that first night, which had brought Glorfindel running to her room, may not have recurred, but the nightmares came all the same. . .so many kinds of nightmare, each with so many variations.

Amil falling, white-faced, pierced with a javelin. The horror of watching, helpless, a slow death by poison. Keeping vigil as his mother lay dead. His father cursing, cursing and falling, the curses upon his son echoing off the cold stone walls as the Avar fell.

The rocky road to Angband. Whipped and dragged in chains by orcs. Two hundred miles.

The torture chamber. The faces of the dark lord, of his lieutenant.

The fatal moment of weakness, the secret wrenched out. The moment of damnation.

The duel with that mortal. Then falling, falling, turning in space, the earth rushing to meet him.

And, for the past year, nightmares of Maeglin’s secret being exposed in Imladris. Faces turning away in shock and horror. Familiar voices raised in anger and condemnation. Elrond harshly driving her away.

Compared with all those dreams, surely this one was nothing. Nothing. And yet, Maeglin had lain in equal horror as she woke.

Had lain in the dark, trying not to think of a warrior who lay in a room just two doors away. Had clutched at every cause she had to loathe him, stoking the flames of her hate.

The next day, when Maeglin had seen him through the smithy window, heading to the stables with Asfaloth, she had panicked and shut the window shutters and door of the workroom, and sat there listening to his voice, her rebel heart in chaos.

And in her heart she cursed Irmo, as Irmo had surely cursed her.

 

Ai! Give that back!” Estel exclaimed as Glorfindel snatched the flat, grey stone away from him.

“You may not always have flint when you need a fire. Come, you know the techniques. Show me one. You need practice.”

“Hmmm. . .”

Glorfindel watched as Estel looked about thoughtfully, and got up to gather suitable tools. He had been out with the Rangers once already, had joined the patrols since he was sixteen, and he was a good student. He had an excellent memory, for a mortal.

The golden-haired warrior leaned back against a tree, his mind wandering as the boy brought more pieces of wood back, and sat down with his knife to carve a groove in the base and whittle a spindle drill.

Whenever he was away from Maeglin, Glorfindel would strive to smother his love, would try to remember the prince of Gondolin as he had been. The night he had assaulted the princess. The antagonism between them thereafter. Tensions and barbed remarks at council meetings and during war games. Sure, he had saved the prince of Gondolin’s life in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, but after a brief, curt word of thanks, the enmity had resumed. Never once did either allude to what happened that moonlit night, but it hung always between them.

Estel rotated the spindle in the groove between his hands. “This is the first time I’ll be missing the Gates of Summer. Could this not have waited till next week?”

Glorfindel normally loved feasts, and for the past few millennia he had been haunted by no demons of the past during Tarnin Austa. But he had not enjoyed it as much, the last few years. “You need to apply more pressure. Put your upper body weight on it more,” he instructed Estel, as though the boy had not spoken.

A red ember glowed and came to life amid tiny, curling wisps of smoke. Estel gave a shout of triumph—only to have the ember die before he could apply the tinder. His face fell.

“Try again. Be patient—and blow on it more next time.”

Estel spat on his hands and resumed the rotation of the spindle. “Do you still think about it? The Fall?”

Glorfindel was silent. The faces of the dead rose before him. Ecthelion. Turgon. Rog. And the face of the traitor.

Torture or no torture, Maeglin had returned to the city as though all were well, and waited—for years—till Morgoth brought his deadly assault upon the city. And in Eldamar, Idril had related to Glorfindel, in anger and sorrow, how Maeglin had sought to take her by force, had attempted to slay Eärendil. How he had gloated over what Morgoth had promised him. Before such incomprehensible evil, Glorfindel’s heart always sickened.

And it was this, this that he loved?

“Sometimes,” Glorfindel replied at last to Estel’s question.  

“Is that why you do not want to be at Tarnin Austa?”

“Estel, are you going to get that fire started before morning?”

Eyes on the spindle grinding in the groove, Glorfindel thought glumly of how, after he could no longer sustain the pretence that Maeglin Lómiel was a threat to the line of Eärendil, he had struggled to stay away from the smithy. Each time he went to the stables, he would feel the pull. Time and time again, his willpower would crumble, and his feet would carry him there, to speak to Camaen, if the smith was there, and if he was not, to sit on the bench outside her window and awkwardly attempt to talk to her. And whenever he was in her presence, all he could do was abjectly adore and yearn for her.

The balrog slayer usually left the smithy feeling far more wretched than when he came.

“Lean forward, Estel. More weight on the arms,” the warrior said absent-mindedly.

The ember finally came to life again. Estel nursed it lovingly; it caught the tinder. The boy grinned with triumph as flames licked at the wood and danced skyward. Then he grimaced at his blistered hands.

“Try the bow method tomorrow. It may be easier on your hands,” Glorfindel suggested. “Almost an hour. You have to be faster.” He tossed the rabbit to the boy. “Start skinning and gutting. I’m timing you.” And leaning back against his tree, he stared into the flames.

 

An autumn night under a harvest moon, white stars burning in the sky above. In the bare, desolate garden stood his princess-mother, and her enraged cousin, and Glorfindel placing himself between them. His eyes were on the prince and regent of Gondolin, the Lord of the Mole, who stood in the moonlight with his raven black hair blowing in the chill autumn breeze, his obsidian eyes smouldering with hurt and loneliness.

Glorfindel walked over to the prince. And in the golden-silver moonlight, he took the prince’s face gently in his hands.

And kissed his lips.

Glorfindel awakened with a start, and sat bolt upright, his blue eyes wide with shock.

“Glorfindel! Are you all right?”

Heart pounding, he stared at the dark forest around him. Saw Estel on the other side of the fire, eyeing him with concern.

“Just a dream,” he said, a little shakily. “Go back to sleep, young one.”

The warrior stared the rest of the night at the glowing embers of the campfire. He usually slept so soundly that he hardly remembered his dreams when he woke.

This one looked to be unforgettable.

As dawn lightened the sky, the taste of the prince’s mouth was still in his.

 

They stood assembled on the city walls of Gondolin in the night, arrayed in all the colours of the rainbow, a people facing east, waiting to salute the dawn.

Maeglin was walking among the people, among the lords, trying to warn them. To tell them of the coming horror. Tell them to flee.

But Maeglin had no voice. And they could not see him.

Then, a burst of flame on the northern mountaintops.

And the prince watched. Watched as it all happened again. Watched as they all died again. Unable to do a thing.

As Maeglin awakened in Imladris, tears were running down her face.

 

Midsummer. Shortly after midnight.

Maeglin sat down on a rock in the western heights of the valley, and gazed down at the house and the river small below her. She was surrounded by dark, shadowy stands of fir and pine, and the rushing sound of the breeze blowing through them soothed her fëa. The Imladrim would already be assembled on the lawns outside the house for the silent night vigil, facing east and waiting to salute the dawn.

Some of them might miss her. Maeglin did not care.

To Maeglin Lómion in Gondolin, Tarnin Austa’s sacred vigil of silence and its many rituals had been a bore. But all the same, the prince had faithfully taken his place at the king’s right hand on the walls of the city. Not to have done so would have been unthinkable. Through the silent hours of the night, as the Gondolindrim stood reverently under the wheeling stars, the prince had entertained a multitude of unholy thoughts about Idril. . . so warm, so soft, so lily-white and golden in the starlight. So close that strands of golden hair, lifted by the wind, had brushed Maeglin’s hand. The agony of his fantasies had soon outweighed any pleasure Maeglin derived from them.

Glorfindel had then been there to provide a much needed diversion. Silence and stillness came as naturally to the Mole as it did not to the Golden Flower. The question each year was: how many hours would pass before the golden lord began to fidget? First would come a slow tilt backwards of the shining head, as though he sought to stretch his neck. Then he might ever so slowly roll his strong shoulders back, as though they ached from sword practice. Then, unfailingly, would begin a shift of weight from foot to foot that grew increasingly restless as daybreak approached. At some point, Ecthelion might grow so annoyed that he would mar the solemnity of the vigil by stealthily elbowing Glorfindel in the ribs or heavily treading on his foot.

The memory of that almost brought a smile to Maeglin Lómiel’s face. It was her eighth Tarnin Austa in Imladris, yet only once since her rebodiment had she attended the vigil.

The first Midsummer had been shortly after the skirmish with orcs, and Maeglin had spent it laid up in the healing halls. The second year, she had joined them in an attempt to blend in. She had watched the reborn Glorfindel standing near Elrond, six thousand years older and a picture of perfect stillness and calm. 

Then, unexpectedly, had come the onslaught of madness.

Maeglin saw... fire. Drakes slithering over the mountain peaks, setting aflame the forests that clothed the valley slopes. Blood. Ranks of Imladrim falling lifeless around her as though scythed down by a spectral blade. Thalanes stood near her with blood flowing down from a slit throat. Maeglin raised a hand in horror, and saw that hand stained dark with blood. Nowhere is safe. No one is safe. Where you are, death comes. Her mouth opened to scream as fire poured over the hilltops, but no sound came forth.

Head exploding with pain as though a sledgehammer was pounding it, Maeglin blinked in early sunlight, and the gruesome vision cleared. All about her were smiling Imladrim, very much alive and raising their voices in song.

Before the following year’s vigil, Maeglin had hidden in her bedchamber. Nothing Thalanes could say had prevailed upon her to open the door by even a crack.

The next few years, Maeglin barricaded herself in the smithy and drowned herself in work.

This year, the twins had jokingly threatened to break down the smithy doors and compel Maeglin to join the vigil and later dance with them. So she had grimly taken refuge on these slopes, arming herself as she might for hunting, and beginning her ascent an hour before midnight. She should have brought some small pieces of work to craft, she thought with a regretful pang. No matter. There were things she could do to keep herself busy. It would be like being a boy in Nan Elmoth again. Explore the slopes. Find good pieces of pine wood and whittle shapes out of them with her knife. Forage for berries. Hunt for caves. Play with some squirrels. The festivities would continue for a week, so she could sneak out of the valley for a few days. She had her knives and her bow and arrows. She knew how to fight. She would return only when all the festivities had ceased, and life went back to normal.  

Then, in the hour before dawn, Maeglin had heard the song.

It was a single voice, rising and falling on the breeze. A voice fairer than any nightingale’s, so dulcet and heartbreaking that she had no words for it.

Maeglin stood up, mesmerized.

She discerned fragments of phrases, both Quenya and Sindarin, weaving a tale of ancient sorrow. Swanships burning on a shore. A massacre in a thousand caves. Blood flowing crimson on an evening tide. . .Grief upon layer of grief.

Tears flowed freely down her face as she walked towards the unseen singer. She did not understand how listening to such sorrow—a sorrow deeper than her own—could heal her own soul; how a song so dark, so soaked in guilt and remorse, could somehow touch her own darkness and guilt and comfort her. 

Then golden light spilled into the valley, as the sun rose in its splendour. And the voice fell silent.

As she heard the faint chorus of the Imladrim lifted up from the valley below, she was overcome by emptiness and loss.

In the months that followed, she would climb these slopes again and again, hoping to hear that voice, longing to receive its comfort again.

Longing also to find him and comfort him.

To tell him that he was not alone.

 

Autumn.

Glorfindel stirred from his sleep to the sound of the sea echoing off stone walls. Moonlight spilled silver across a tapestry of Laurelin and Telperion: his bed chamber in Vinyamar. A familiar scent. Black hair falling across his face. A maiden in a black silk slip on all fours, on his bed, looking down at him with piercing obsidian eyes.

“Lómiel?? What are you doing?”

“What does it look like I am doing, you dolt?” Maeglin slipped under the sheets and then all was softness and warmth and wonder and they were kissing and caressing and—

The door burst open and a great gust of wind blew in.

“Á pusta!!” thundered a mighty voice and the whole chamber shook. “Laurefindil! What are you doing??”

Glorfindel gasped as powerful hands dragged him from the bed and shoved him against a wall and in shock he gazed into the blazing silver-grey eyes of his king.

“M-melda tár,” he stammered. “Melin sé. If you would give your blessing, I would wed her.”

“WED HER?” The very foundations of the palace of Vinyamar shook as the voice boomed. “Wed HER? NEVER!!” Turgon’s grey eyes burned into his. “Laurefindil, I AM YOUR FATHER.”

 

Glorfindel sat bolt upright in his bed, heart pounding and in a cold sweat. It was a dream. Only a dream. Thanks be to Eru it was only a dream.

But it had been so vivid, so real. Every detail was etched in his memory

What if it were true?

Idril had tried to protect him as a child from rumours, but of course he had managed to overhear them in the way that children do. In the marketplace at Vinyamar. In a corridor of the palace.

That he was Prince Turgon’s bastard. Úcarehína. Child of sin.

He had not understood the term. And Idril had been livid when he had asked her, though he understood her anger was not against him. And she had refused to explain what it meant. Idril’s usual response to his moments of existential angst usually involved a lot of cuddling and kisses and assurance that he was loved, and that of course his true parents loved him, and that he should not to listen to nonsense in the marketplace.

A flash of light outside his window and a low rumble of distant thunder.

It was not too far-fetched. The bereaved prince had been grieving, lonely. In those days, he had for long stretches disappeared from Nevrast on journeys which he spoke of to none. Had he sought comfort in fair arms elsewhere? And truly, among the Noldor, from whence could Glorfindel’s golden hair have come, save from one descended from Indis of the Vanyar? Had not Idril once remarked that his hair was the same rare shade of gold as her great-grandmother’s, and then looked as though she regretted the slip?

Úcarehíni were exceedingly rare among the Eldar, for in their culture to bed is to wed, and infidelity was unheard of. . . almost. The exile had sundered thousands of marriages, and not all had remained celibate throughout the lonely, bleak years in Beleriand. Everyone knew úcarehíni existed, but they were not spoken of, save in whispers of rumours. Such was the love the Eldar had for children that any úcarehína, any lost or abandoned child, was fostered out to couples, the adopted father giving his name to the child. As Finrod Felagund had done for Gildor, who was found abandoned as an infant in Taur-en-Faroth and brought to Nargothrond.

Not for Glorfindel. Idril had been a maiden when she chose in defiance of all conventions to adopt him, thus he had no father to name. If Turgon was his father, and knew it, thrones would never have gone to an úcarehína, so Glorfindel would never have expected Turgon to acknowledge him anyway. . .

Glorfindel dragged himself from his bed, pulled on some clothes, and climbed down from his window out into the dark garden. Storm clouds were moving in across the valley. Trying to still the turmoil in his fëa, he walked almost blindly through the strong winds, a few flying leaves catching in his bright hair.

Turgon. His father. . .

No no no, there had been other descendants of Indis in Beleriand. He ran desperately through the handful of names in his mind. It could have been any of those others.

Not Turgon.

Not Fingon.

Please.

But the dream had a power that he could not shake. Like a supernatural vision, a revelation from above. And horror and despair began to wash over him. Because of what it meant, if the dream were true.

Because it put him in exactly the position Maeglin Lómion had been in over six thousand years ago. Hopelessly, helplessly in love with a first cousin, forever sundered by blood and the edict of his race.

He shuddered as rain began to pelt down on him, feeling truly that the Valar had turned their faces away from him. That he was cursed.

That he had become Maeglin Lómion.

 

Maeglin had spent the last ten minutes with her pliers poised over the links of chainmail, doing absolutely nothing. “Get on with it, you stupid huil,” she muttered to herself, giving herself a shake, and resuming her work.

Glorfindel had not come to the smithy for a month.

When he and Estel had returned from their travels, Maeglin had pretended her usual coldness and indifference. She had always been on edge whenever he came to the smithy. Now, she found herself looking for him. And when she caught sight of him approaching, she found herself actually smoothing her hair back from her face, or checking her reflection in a shield leaning against the wall. Maeglin did not note when it happened, at what point over this season something momentous quietly shifted within her. . .a year ago? Months? Or only now? But she now found herself stealing glances at him just as he stole glances at her. Her eyes lingered on his strong shoulders, and the slim, graceful lines of his back and his long legs. And his face. She could not deny it was a beautiful face. There were moments she simply stared, watching various emotions flit across his expressive features. Occasionally, when she went into the forge to use the anvil or furnace, as she passed by him she might brush ever so lightly against him, and feel him tense up.

And she hated herself for it, hated herself.

When her mind rehearsed all that she detested about him, she could no longer call upon the incident at the healing hall. The memory of what he had said to her only stirred her to toy with ideas of what she might do if he ever said them again.

Two months went by in this fashion. It was almost time for the autumn festival, when he suddenly stopped coming altogether.

Maeglin’s impassive face and opaque black eyes gave away little, but she became irritable, flared once at Camaen over a trivial matter. Now, she was finding herself unable to focus on her work, and obsessing over why he was staying away. She saw him going to and from the stables. Yet he did not come by to talk to Camaen, or sit outside her window. At dinner and elsewhere, he avoided her like mortals avoid plague.

It was all too familiar a feeling.

He was fickle. He had desired only what he could not have. Now, she had given herself away—for surely he had seen desire in her glances, read those brushes against him, and lost interest in the chase. Bitterly, she thought of how the charms of another maiden might now be proving more enticing. He was shallow, as shallow as she had always suspected. He was detestable. She hated him with every fibre of her being.

In the distance, a white horse rode over far fields. The golden-haired rider checked the steed for a moment, turning his head to look at the smithy. Then, horse and rider turned and raced away like the wind toward the Bruinen Ford.

Maeglin watched until the last gleam of white and gold disappeared in the distance.

Deep in her heart, she felt an ache six millennia old.

 

A light, cold autumn rain fell as they buried Arasdil son of Erildur in the eastern foothills of the valley.

The Imladrin patrol had gone to the rescue of a caravan of traders, edain, attacked on the northern road to the High Pass. The archer had been picking off orcs from higher ground. Intent on the fray below, he had not realized his danger till too late. Had died instantaneously, pierced by an orcish spear.

Camaen and Maeglin walked back to the smithy in silence and spread their wet cloaks to dry near the furnace. She retreated into her workroom. Piled on her table were sets of chainmail from the patrol, each with some minor damage to their links from the skirmish.

She worked into the night with the repairs, missing dinner. There was no urgency; there were sufficient sets in the guards’ armoury. But she wanted the mindlessness of the work. Not to think. Not to feel. Shortly before midnight, tools still in hand, she stared at the last piece. Looked at the hole torn through the mail—entry point at the back, the links stained still with traces of blood. She knew whose it was. Her lips tightened as she examined the chainmail links. An inferior alloy, weaker than those she had produced in Gondolin, for the ores here were not as those from her mines in Anghabar. It was no proof against a morgûl spear thrust with brutal force and with the full weight of a large, heavy orc behind it.

She doggedly proceeded to repair and reinforce the links. That finished, she dropped her tools upon the tabletop, and stared into space.

The losses of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad had been bitter. Over half of each house had fallen. Their centuries of training and preparation within the bubble of their cloistered valley had been, in the end, worth so little, so laughable, when finally tested against the full might of Morgoth’s armies. The armours forged by the Houses of the Hammer and the Mole had not saved enough.

Maeglin had devoted much work in the years that followed to creating better alloys, stronger armour, deadlier, more effective weapons. But all his work had availed nothing against the armies of Angband. Not all his armour, nor his weapons, nor the seventh gate. All the works of his hands had ended in futility and ruin. And bitterest of all, he had been the one to bring it to pass.

Maeglin paced restlessly about the smithy, the lantern light casting her shadow tall on the walls.

Seven years had she shut herself in here, burying herself in work. Idleness was the enemy, for then the abyss yawned before her. Futility and emptiness. Desires, appetite, longings. Demons. Darkness. Treachery.

Except the work had not been enough, recently. And now—the death of this boy. . .

She had knowledge of special techniques, formulae for the crafting of weapons and stronger armour, and she had held back from sharing with Camaen, fearing to give herself away too much. Had she shared them earlier, might a green-eyed archer yet be alive? Dared she share them now? Yet she realized, too, that with the amount of force behind the spear thrust, even had the mail held, the bones of the boy would have shattered and massive internal trauma and bleeding caused.

Futility and emptiness. . .

She drew a sword that had been sent in for polishing and sharpening, and hefted it, feeling its weight and balance. She remembered the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, and the skirmish in the hills, seven years back.

The elven sword sang as she wielded it in the dimly-lit workroom. Her shadow danced as it parried and thrust across the cold stone walls.

 

There is a large tower in Imladris crowned with a circular room called the Stardome, as in the name of the valley’s Lord. Over the years, it has served as an astronomy classroom for elflings, with tales of the stars painted on the walls, and a viewing dome of clear crystal overhead on which the star charts for the present season would appear, changing as the year rolled by, the names of the stars and constellations glowing across it in soft, white Tengwar script.

Glorfindel sat at one of the windows, staring out across the darkened valley. Its trees were bare and silent, to be filled with songs and elves only when spring returned again. He could see the dim, yellow light of Maeglin’s lantern at the smithy. And he saw when, in the hour after midnight, she left it and walked down the path towards the house.

In a warm, surreal alcohol-induced haze, he tried not to think either about Maeglin, or about Arasdil. There was nothing he could have done to save the lad—they had not had enough warriors to provide cover for the archer, with every one of them engaged in hand-to-hand combat with orcs, rescuing the hapless mortals. He knew that. He had played with the lad since he had been a baby, as he played with all the children of the valley. And he grieved the loss as he grieved all losses under his command.

But this time it had been different. As he had held the dead boy in his arms, he had realized with horror that part of him was glad the boy was gone. Because of Maeglin. Maeglin, whom he now would not even dare look upon, so convinced was he that any bond between their blood was forbidden. He and Elrond had spoken gently to the boy’s inconsolable parents, and praised the bravery of the fallen. The unhappy couple would sail west next spring, so that they might be there in the undying lands to receive their only son when he emerged from the Halls of Mandos. All through the conversation, Glorfindel had been sickened at his own hypocrisy, had loathed himself for the feeling that this pure-hearted child was a rival now out of the way. That if he could not have her, he wanted no one else to.

He swallowed another mouthful of wine.

What he did not expect was the prickling on his skin which told him, without his turning, that she had climbed the tower and was now standing behind him in the room.

“Why are you here?” he asked, still gazing out the window, after she had stood there a while, saying nothing. His voice, usually so musical and expressive, was dead, without inflection. She took in two empty crystal flagons of wine on the floor near the window, a third, almost empty, balanced on the sill where he sat. His cup was in his hand.

“I saw you here as I came from the smithy. A word with you, hîr nin, if you please.”

He drank from his cup. “Speak.”

He felt her take a step forward and said in a hard voice, “Come no closer.” He was fairly drunk. He had started before dinner, carried all the way through, and he had no idea by now how much he had ingested. He did not trust himself with her.

Maeglin had seen him close to drunk in Gondolin once before, those long winter evenings when the lords would gather in the central keep and drink into the night. Contrary to all expectation, the more Glorfindel drank, the quieter and stiller he had become. He would drape himself over a chair and stare dreamily into the fire, lost somewhere deep within himself, while around him Salgant became maudlin, Egalmoth and Duilin cracked silly jokes and laughed hysterically, Ecthelion indulged in philosophical and metaphysical musings on time and space, and Rog began to trash furniture.

Maeglin never got drunk. He would watch. And listen. And study each of them as he would a book.

She now ignored Glorfindel and took another soundless step towards him.

“No closer!”

Maeglin stepped back, chastened, her heart beating faster.

With unhurried, languorous grace, he turned to look at her, still sitting in the window, one leg drawn up, the other still dangling outside over a hundred foot drop. He gazed at her, unsmiling and stern, his bright, almost fevered eyes dark as violets. He had never reminded her more of a dangerous, beautiful, powerful lion than he did now, with his golden mane mussed in the sharp autumn breeze, and his eyes glowering at her with flickers of fire. She stood five paces away from him, cool and calm without, but her insides churning with nervousness and desire.

“What do you want?”

“To fight in the guard.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “Why?”

Maeglin did not entirely know why. Because the smithy was not enough. Because she suddenly wanted to live for more than her own self and her craft. Though she would not admit it to herself, because she could be nearer him in the guard. But all she said, her face impassive and her voice as flat as his, was, “The dark creatures increase. Your guards lose a few to the west each year. You could do with one more.”

He frowned incredulously at her. “You expect me to believe that you would leave your precious smithy to join the guard?”

“Not leave the smithy. I know your auxiliaries train twice a week and patrol once a week. Camaen can spare me.”

He did not reply. Glittering high above the crystal dome above, Wilwarin the butterfly flew across the heavens, pursued by Tuilinn the Swallow. Feeling unnerved, Maeglin actually found herself wishing that the sweet, happy Glorfindel of yore would make a return.

“I can fight. You know I can.”

After a beat, he said, “Yes, you can. But you will need much training before you can go out with a patrol.”

“Of course. When shall I begin?”

He was silent for a while, then said, “Tomorrow. Weapons room in the basement. At sunset.”

“Sunset?”

“That way it will interfere less with your work at the smithy. Or would you be too tired?”

“No. That would be fine. Le hannon, hîr nin.” She hesitated a moment, then bowed and left.

Glorfindel poured himself another cup of wine, and continued to gaze into the night.

 

An autumn night. The prince of Gondolin stood on a frosty garden terrace, his mind and heart a perfect storm of shame and rage and lust. In his path, between him and his desire, stood the Lord of the Golden Flower, the object of his hate. The elflord’s golden hair streamed in the autumn wind. His violet eyes were brilliant as stars under his dark eyelashes, and his beautiful face was grave.

The elflord walked towards the prince.

His heart suddenly pounding with terror, the prince drew his sword but found himself powerless to raise it.

Found himself caught in the strong arms of the elflord, bent backward, and kissed, the sword dropping useless from his hand.

And as the golden-haired elflord made love to him, the prince could no longer tell whether he was man or maiden, whether he loathed or lusted, whether he hated or loved…

 

Maeglin sighed and stretched languorously as she woke.

Nae…

It had only been a dream.

 


Glossary

Naugwen (S) – naug = dwarfed/stunted, wen = lass/maiden/girl. Basically, “shorty”, or “dwarf-maid”.

Estenguil (S) – “estent” = very short, “cuil” = life. Originally, I wrote “estencuil”, but after consulting dreamingfifi on realelvish.proboards.com, I learned it should be “Cuilesten” (Third Age Sindarin) or “Estenguil” (archaic Sindarin). I opted for the latter since Maeglin’s Sindarin is rooted in the First Age, and because she would have wanted a name that echoes “Estel”.

Á pusta (Q)  – stop

Melda tár (Q) – beloved king

Melin sé (Q) – I love her (or him)

Huil (S) – bitch

Nae (S) - alas

Chapter Text

Had he been completely out of his mind?

Waking with a badly throbbing head, Glorfindel stared at the graceful carvings of foliage and flowers that ornamented the pale stone of his bedchamber ceiling. It was already an hour past the time he usually awoke, and the first thing that had hit him like an avalanche in the Hithaeglir was the magnitude of his folly.

Go to the smithy right now—tell her you have thought the better of it—tell her to join the warriors for training in the mornings. Camaen would understand.

There were any number of reasons he could give her for this. Warriors fight as a unit, and train as a unit. Her fundamentals were there, and any of the captains could give her the one-to-one training she would need to hone her basic skills. He did not have to do it himself. Should not do it himself. Should stay as far from her as he could.

Suddenly remembering with a groan that he was supposed to lead out the morning patrol, he hastily washed, scrambled into his battle gear, climbed down two floors from his window and dashed to the stables. Just in time.

He would go to the smithy to speak to Maeglin later. Or better still, simply send a message.

The hours of the day flew past, he knew not where. Before he knew it, the time approached. As light faded in the west, he headed down to the basement to prepare the room.

Just one session.

At the end of it, he would tell her she was ready. She would join the warriors from the following week.

 

The white stone steps down into the structures under the house were shadowed and winding. Maeglin had descended them a few times before to go to the storage chambers to sift through discarded clothes to add to her wardrobe. There were tales of secret passageways made in preparation for war in the Second Age, though ultimately war had not come to the valley. The dark stone passages had a dwarven feel, save for the elvish carvings and slender, flowing lines of the supporting columns and buttresses. The elvish lamps along the corridors glowed without flame or heat, lighting up as she drew near, fading as she passed.

Maeglin did not know what to expect. Training in the basement at sunset. How strange. No training sessions that she knew of took place in the basement. And no training sessions that she had heard of took place that late in the day. Something fluttered in her belly as she made her way deeper into the basement than she had ever been before. Nervousness. And excitement.

Glorfindel was alone, pacing up and down a wide corridor. He opened a tall wooden door as she approached, and she stepped in after him. A long training room with a high ceiling. There were stained glass windows very high in one long wall, and already the late autumn light had faded in them, and she saw frost on the panes. Three lamps sat in brackets on the opposite wall. Several sword training dummies stood in a corner. Against the wall next to the entrance were weapons racks on which an array of practice swords, lances, javelins, quarterstaffs and axes were displayed.

And it was empty. Not another soul in sight except for the two of them. Maeglin’s black eyes glittered as she stole a curious glance at Glorfindel, but he was not looking at her. He walked straight to a rack to pick out a practice sword of suitable weight for her size. Struggling to think of anything else, he could think of nothing else but that he had broken the rule—his rule for eight years, ever since that night he had barged into her room with his sword drawn—the rule that he should not let himself be alone with her. Ever. Especially not now, given the likelihood that they were first cousins. He had not been stupid enough to put himself in temptation’s path. Until now.

Maeglin slowly walked up and stood near him as he reached for a sword. Despite Estel’s nickname and Camaen’s insistence on calling her “little lass”, she was hardly little any more. She was almost as tall as her mother, and the top of her head just cleared his chin. Weighing the sword in his hand, all he could think of was how easy it would be to just reach out and pull her to him and—

“Try this one. It has good reach,” Glorfindel said casually, passing her the sword.

Maeglin gave it a swing. “Nicely balanced.” She looked around the room. “I have never been to this part of the house before,” she said. “I did not even realize it existed.” Their voices echoed off the bare stone walls.

“We don’t use it often,” was all Glorfindel replied. Truth was that it had not been opened since the days of the Last Alliance, and he had Erestor to thank for having it so hermetically sealed that it was not coated in a thick layer of dust. He opened a chest and handed her a chainmail hauberk and a padded tunic to go under it. “Get used to the weight. Leather is pretty, but useless.”

Maeglin was of the same opinion, but she eyed the hauberk and tunic for a moment before slipping them over her head, the padding first, then, with some difficulty because of the weight, the chainmail.

If Glorfindel was putting her in these, seduction was very obviously not the plan for the evening.

So. He had brought her down into the bowels of Imladris house, alone, at five in the evening, to a room no one used, where no one could hear her if she screamed her lungs out, and all he wanted to do was teach her swordplay? Swordplay. . .

Not that, fool. Real swords. Are you not relieved? What did you hope he had in mind?

“A little long, is it not?” Maeglin said, as she secured her hair at the back of her head with a clip. The hauberk almost reached her knees, the sleeves went past her elbows.

“All the better for protection,” Glorfindel said, his manner brisk and businesslike. “There are slits at the sides. It won’t hamper your movement. Right. Position—floor centre, if you please.” And he walked away from Maeglin, and leaned casually against the far wall with his arms folded. And began putting her through a drill—firing a sequence of commands at her. As though she was already one of his guard, and he expected her to know.

 

Another training room in another time, summer sunlight pouring in through tall windows onto white flagstones.  The Lord of the Golden Flower took his pupil through his paces, and smiled approvingly. “That was a neat bit of footwork, my prince. But watch your guard—you tend to leave yourself wide open, especially on your left. What’s the point of having a devastating attack if you leave one hole in your defence and get slaughtered ten minutes into battle?”

“Is not offensive the best form of defence?”

“By all means, use your opponent’s attack to your advantage and parry with a counter-attack. But I’m talking about how your fury blinds you. You will seldom face just one foe on the field—you can afford no blind spots.” With a lightning-swift attack that made Maeglin feel he was up against three men at once, Glorfindel demonstrated how quickly, and with what careless ease he could disarm the prince and hold the point of his sword to Maeglin’s throat. “Bam! You’re dead, and you did not even see it coming. Too reckless, my prince. Too much anger.”

And sometimes Glorfindel had a disarming ability to mind-read: “If you are thinking of Lord Rauco, it is true that Rauco pours all his wild fury and his demons into his fighting. But he knows what is happening around him at all times. And do not be deceived—he is very much in control. A good model for you. I should ask him to join us for some sessions.”

Maeglin soon discovered how deceptive Glorfindel’s apparent casualness was. He was on razor-sharp alert every moment, and he seemed to have eyes at the back of his head. Yet he always appeared relaxed and unhurried. When he sparred, he had both speed and strength, and yet also a breathtaking grace and elegance that made the fight look like a dance more than a duel.

“You waste so much of your strength. If you have a good elven sword, rely on speed and precision more than brute force. Strategize every moment. None of that wild swinging like an enraged orc with a blunt battle ax.” Glorfindel mimed with hilarious effect the unrestrained hacking strokes of a cross-eyed heavy-set orc, and burst into a musical peal of laughter. It even got a smile out of Maeglin, even if just for the briefest moment.

“That looked rather like Lord Salgant.”

Glorfindel looked a little guilty. “Of course not!” he said in a severe voice. “Lord Salgant does not squint.” But there was an impish gleam in his blue eyes as he spoke.

Aside from Maeglin’s jealousy of Glorfindel’s relationship with Idril, an endless list of things about his golden-haired tutor irked the prince. His radiant smile. His fabulous hair. His admirers, who at times gathered at the viewing gallery above the sparring room to watch the lesson and toss flowers to him. His easy laughter. His annoying optimism about everything, and his tendency to burst into song even during lessons. One would think, Maeglin thought sourly, that the elflord had never had a bad day in his life. The lord of light and sweetness and joy.

Then there had been the summer morning Maeglin’s tutor had suddenly exclaimed, halfway through training, “Such a beautiful day! We can train tomorrow. Come, cundunya, let’s go swimming!”

And they had ridden out to a waterfall some distance from the city, and done just that.

How frivolous.

 

Maeglin wondered how this Glorfindel who faced her in the basement could be the same person who had been her tutor for those first ten years in Gondolin. The changes wrought by six thousand years. His beautiful face was stern and almost as unsmiling as the prince of Gondolin’s. He was a hard taskmaster, demanding and critical, and his sharp eyes did not miss a single slip in form. Underhand thrust right hand, twenty times. Underhand thrust left hand, twenty times. Watch your footwork placement. Overhand thrust now, twenty each hand. . . Two-handed thrust, five times. . . Repeat. I told you—watch your footwork! Your footwork! Keep your point up! Repeat.

Maeglin found her cheeks burning with anger at a sharp reprimand. Point up! How many times must I say it? Felt resentment at being forced through her paces again, and again, and again.

But she also respected it.

One hour practising thrusts. One hour practising blocks. Then it was over.

As Glorfindel ended the session, he said casually, “Next week, same time?”

And Maeglin replied, “Yes.”

 

They met the next week. And the week after. And the week after.

It became their secret. Neither of them breathed a word of these weekly sessions to anyone. They barely acknowledged each other outside of the basement. Glorfindel still kept away from the smithy. At dinner, they pretended not to look at each other and sat at the far ends of the table from each other.

And both avoided thinking too deeply about why they were doing this, avoided facing the confused tangle of emotions and intentions that brought them each week at sunset to the stone steps, and that made them glance about to make sure that none observed them before they made the descent.

The first two lessons, Glorfindel stood at the wall and barked commands at Maeglin, taking her through interminable drills of thrusts and cuts and blocks, then combinations of all three. As the first snows of winter fell, when she had completed an hour of drills, he took another practice sword and moved to the centre of the floor with her. And they sparred. As they crossed blades she could feel him reining in his strength. And as their blades crossed, they were brought repeatedly into giddy closeness. They never engaged in idle chatter. They hardly spoke. There was only the sound of their breathing, the soft scuffle of footwork over flagstones, the ringing of metal on metal, and the occasional sharp word of correction or reprimand from him.

He pushed Maeglin to near exhaustion, each session. Her muscles ached fiercely, the first month. He was unrelentingly exacting, picking on the smallest fault. And yet, somewhere along the way, she ceased to resent him for it. Although she would have died rather than admit it, she began to revere him for it.

As Maeglin trained, she grew even stronger. The agility, speed and muscle-memory of old came back. Not knowing Glorfindel’s motives, his intent, made each descent down the stone steps to the basement strangely thrilling. Every week, the air between them was highly charged. Her skin prickled always with a sense of how dangerous he could be, how much power he had, and how tightly he leashed it. It was intoxicating.

With them in the room were always the ghosts of their past selves: the black-haired prince and his golden-haired tutor. The memories and voices of old whispered around the room, Glorfindel recalling the scowls and sullenness of the prince to contain his desire, Maeglin discovering that memories of what had once repelled, now drew her: a laughing toss of a golden head; a swift, golden blur of movement, a feint, a lunge, a blade flying across the room, and deep blue eyes sparkling bright and warm with laughter over a sword point held at the prince’s throat. . .

And other memories. As they advanced and retreated, parried and thrust across the stone floor, Maeglin frowned at times in concentration, struggling against wild and distracting thoughts in her mind.

“. . .your father has his—moments,” Aredhel said to young Maeglin as she reclined on her seat. She had drunk too much. The bruise on her cheekbone had swelled and darkened. As had her eye. But she was smiling, a cat-like secret smile that made Maeglin uneasy. She poured herself another cup of wine. “My first sight of him was. . .electrifying. He was wild, and dark, and dangerous. The most beautiful man I had ever seen.”

“Ammë,” young Maeglin protested, appalled, really not wanting to hear. “Go to bed and rest. Please.”

Maeglin held her blade before her with both hands, and warily edged away from Glorfindel, waiting for his attack. Her eyes moved over his shoulders, his torso, his legs.

They crossed swords, steel locked on steel. Maeglin thought of how easily he could send that sword flying if he wished. Pull her to the floor and have his way with her.

“I wanted him as much as he wanted me, but I fought him. I wanted his brute strength. His darkness. His forcefulness.” Aredhel’s voice was a little slurred, but her silver-grey eyes glinted wickedly. “I did not fear him.”

What would Maeglin do if Glorfindel actually tried to make a move on her? Would she fight? Would she scream?

“One day you will feel it.”

Or did Maeglin want him to? To know how it would feel?

“One day you will understand.”

It was simple lust Maeglin felt for Glorfindel. Definitely not love, oh no. A shallow kind of animal attraction, a kind of fascination. No more. It was not a distinction that any of the Eldar would have made. In a purely Avarin way, Maeglin toyed with the idea of a casual liaison. It would mean nothing to her. He meant nothing to her. At moments she saw a look in his eyes that she could not mistake: he wanted her still. She almost smiled, gratified. But, of course, she would do nothing. Of course, nothing was going to happen. Each week, they sparred, and nothing happened.

But Maeglin still thought about it.

As the days shortened, they both willingly extended the lesson beyond two hours. At times, they would enter the dining hall late for dinner, always taking care to do so separately, their hair still damp from their baths, their cheeks flushed and eyes averted from each other.

Now, when dressing for dinner, Maeglin might don one of the dresses passed to her by Arwen that she had previously disdained to wear. She would smooth her hair in the mirror carefully, and arrange the bodice to show a little extra cleavage before she left her room. And then not look at Glorfindel once throughout the meal.

 

Glorfindel went each week down to the basement like one who raises poison to his lips and drinks it knowingly.

He always dismissed Maeglin and asked her to leave first, even though they would be taking the same way back to their chambers. He did not want anyone to see them leave this place together. But also, he wanted time alone to recover from the agony of what he had endured those few hours, struggling to protect her from himself.

Each week, Glorfindel told himself it would be the last session. He would end this intolerable stupidity. All he had to do was to say it. “From next week you will train with the guards.” He would rehearse the words in his head even during the lesson. He would end it this time. Of a certainty he would.

And each week his heart swelled with pride to see his student grow stronger and more skilled. For two to three precious hours, he would gaze on the lovely face whose every delicate feature he adored. He imagined that the fierceness in the long black eyes at times grew softer, were not quite so indifferent or disdainful in their gaze. It did not matter that Maeglin always reported to him in her work raiment—a shapeless boy’s tunic cinched at the waist, and leggings, and boots. Estel’s hand-me-downs, most of them, passed to her when he outgrew them. It did not matter that over all this Maeglin wore a padded tunic and chainmail hauberk that completely obscured anything feminine in her form. She never failed to entrance Glorfindel, and he never failed to desire her still. In his blood, the heat rose as the minutes flew by. He held back, trying not to think how easy it would be to send Maeglin’s sword flying, push her against the cold stones on the wall, and take her right there, hauberk or no hauberk.

At the end of every session he said the same words:

“See you next week.”

 

Weeks became months. Yestarë came and went. Their sparring had gone to a new level, become more intense, more intricate. Between them were the blades. And the hauberks. Maeglin had reason to be glad for the damned chainmail now, as Glorfindel repeatedly broke through her guard. Even though he kept his strength tightly reined, she had bruises to show after the sessions.

Maeglin’s dark eyes narrowed, golden fire flickering at the challenge of seeking to break through his defence, her face set and determined.

Complacency will be the dolt’s undoing.

But treacherously, her thoughts began to wander. 

The prince watched sullenly as his tutor took off his tunic for a session of unarmed combat.

“You can leave your shirt on if you wish, my prince, but I guarantee you that your fine linen will get crumpled or torn,” said Glorfindel.

“The mere thought of wrestling with a foul, stinking orc or a balrog. . .” said the prince, grimacing with distaste as he removed his shirt.

“Lose your weapon in a battle, you’d have no choice. If it would keep you alive a minute, even a few seconds longer, give you a chance to hurt or disarm your enemy, to get a weapon into your hand again, you would not think twice. All right. You have a weapon, I don’t. Come at me with it, that’s right.”

The next moment, the prince found himself lying on the mat, stunned, his head locked in the crook of Glorfindel’s elbow, and so wedged against the elflord’s body he could barely move. “And I have your sword,” said the Lord of the Golden Flower in his infuriatingly pleasant voice. “Right. Let me show you how to get out of this.”

Maeglin’s wandering thoughts imagined getting rid of the swords and the wretched hauberk and the shirt again. . . She remembered vividly the feel of the muscles of Glorfindel’s chest and shoulders and torso. The feel of bare flesh against flesh. His skin. His scent. The hardness of his thighs. She looked at his lips and wondered how they would feel. If they would be as warm and soft as they looked. As Idril’s had been. How they would taste. . .

Glorfindel sent her blade flying. It landed with a clatter on the hard stones, echoing.

Maeglin saw his eyes upon her, burning.

He took a step towards her.

She waited, heart racing, not breathing.

He went to where her sword lay, flipped it over to her using his blade, and said with a stern frown, “Concentrate.”

 

As spring came and the niphredil began to bloom, Maeglin finally asked the question he had dreaded.

“When can I go out with the guards?” she said as they sparred.

“You are not ready.”

“But I think I already fight as well as some of them.” A pretence at modesty. She knew she was as good as many of them by now.

“I said, you are not ready!”

And with white fire flashing in his eyes, Glorfindel crossed blades with her so fiercely that she was shocked, driven backwards, pushed back against the wall, the breath knocked out of her as her back hit the hard, cold stone. Over the locked blades their faces were very close. Their eyes met and she saw the wildness in his.

Maeglin’s heart was hammering, but not from fear. He is going to kiss me or kill me, she thought. She was lightheaded from the strange ecstasy of excitement in her blood. They could feel the heat radiating from the other’s body. They were both holding their breaths as they looked into each other’s eyes. And at each other’s lips.

After what felt like an eternity, Glorfindel backed off.

“Had I been an orc, you would be dead,” he said rather curtly. “You fail to realize how easy I have been on you.”

“Don’t be then! Train me for real. Stop treating me like—like a weak maiden!” Maeglin snapped at him, her pride stung.

“That is enough for today,” he said quietly.

Dazed with what felt like disappointment, she put away her sword. As she left, he said, not looking at her, “See you next week.”

 

Mid-spring.

Estel was glowing with triumph when he returned from his outing with Glorfindel. He ran to greet his adopted brothers outside the smithy as they prepared their gear for an orc hunt.

I got him!” he exulted, still in his mud-stained clothes and boots. “I tracked down the great Glorfindel! Six days in the Coldfells, over steepest hills and fetid fen, through valleys and deep woods and rushing streams and some very thorny thickets—I lost his trail a couple of times, but finally—I cornered him in a cave!”

Elladan and Elrohir looked at each other. They, too, had played that game with Glorfindel many times when they were young, tracking each other down through the wilderness in all seasons.

“And when I said it was my turn, he backed out! He said we needed to head right back home, he would track me the next time. He must be reeling from shock at having been caught, finally—and in only six days! Is it not amazing?”

“Amazing indeed,” agreed Elrohir.

“If you found Glorfindel, Estel—there is no gentle way to say this—” Elladan began delicately, “—He most likely allowed you to,” Elrohir finished off bluntly.

Estel looked disgruntled. “Are you sure you are not simply jealous because you two never caught him? Not once?” It was true. Whenever the twins had attempted to track Glorfindel, he had normally emerged after about a month with a dazzling smile and said, “All right, I’m tired of this! Are we all ready for good meals and good beds? Let’s go home!”

Elrohir bristled. “Glorfindel was playing this game with Oromë the Hunter in Valinor for centuries, Estel—millennia before you were a gleam in your mother’s eye!”

“It is highly unlikely he is going to be tracked down by any nineteen-year-old, even you,” said Elladan, “unless he is badly wounded or wants to be found.”

Or he is losing it and starting to make mistakes?” asked Elrohir thoughtfully.

“He has not been himself for a while,” concurred Elladan.

Estel looked at his brothers in exasperation. “What utter rot! Why would he let me find him?”

“That’s the thing. We don’t know. . .” Elladan frowned.

“Why should it be inconceivable that I am simply very good at this? Glorfindel says I am a natural! He says I have all the makings of a great Ranger.”

“You do.” “But some day, Estel.” “Not now.” “Not yet.”

Estel looked considerably deflated. “My thanks, brothers, for the faith in me you show.” And he strode away.

Estel!” “We’re sorry.” “We have faith in you, little brother.”

As Estel moodily made his way to his chambers, he crossed paths with his father in the Hall of Portraits. As Tuor and Idril smiled down on them on one side, and Beren and Lúthien gazed into each other’s eyes on the other, Estel told his father about his feat.

Elrond smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. “Well done, Ion-nín! We shall have to be gentle with Glorfindel. His ego must be quite shattered.”

After Estel had left, the Lord of Imladris stood frowning beneath a portrait of Turgon. Then he descended the Great Stairs, and went in search of his Commander. The sun was sinking over the western hills. He spotted Glorfindel leaving the training rooms, having just dismissed his captains after a brief conference with them. The golden warrior disappeared down a flight of stairs to the basement. Just after that, before Elrond could head towards the steps himself, the lovely maiden Lómiel, apprentice to the smith, came running and disappeared down the steps as well.

Elrond, astonished, tried not to jump to conclusions and failed.

Just what would he do if he went down those steps and found his friend in a compromising position with an underaged elfmaid?

He descended the steps. There was no one in sight as he scanned the dim corridors stretching out before him.

 

Maeglin had not seen Glorfindel at all for a week, and something within her sang as she made her way to the training room. Her eyes widened as she opened the door and saw that Glorfindel had taken a suit of plate armour out from storage and had it waiting for her.

“Put this on,” he said, as she closed the door behind her.

Her lip curled with scorn. As elven armour goes, it was a fair and well-made suit—but it was a poor alloy and a clumsy design compared to those she had once crafted. And she did not fancy spending her two hours alone with him completely encased in steel, when the hauberk was exasperation enough.

“No.”

Maeglin’s mouth set in a stubborn line Glorfindel was all too familiar with. But this was the first time Lómiel had ever disobeyed him as his pupil. His eyebrow went up, and his eyes glinted angrily.

“Wearing mail was to build your strength as you bore the weight. Plate affords better mobility, better protection, better comfort. Its weight is distributed better, and will feel lighter.” You know all this!—you always preferred plate armour, back in Gondolin! “In fact, for the best protection, you would wear both—the plate over the mail.”

“I will wear plate once I have made my own.”

Oh, the sheer, infuriating arrogance of this prince, thought Glorfindel in exasperation and love. “And when will that be? You want to ride out with the patrols? You will do it in plate.” Choice of armour was usually left to the individual warrior. Since Arasdil’s death, however, Glorfindel and the captains had decided that wearing plate should be mandatory. “And you need to practice in it. Now.”

“We only have two and a half hours. I have no wish to waste time putting on and removing plate.”

“We could have more time than that. We could miss dinner. I am willing, if you are.”

“If you want me in plate,” Maeglin said in measured tones, folding her arms across her chest, “you will have to put me in it.” As the words left her mouth, she could hardly believe she had said them. Their eyes, blue and black, were both flickering with angry flame by now. They were also both incredibly aroused.

“As you wish,” he said, moving forward, looking like a lion about to spring on its prey.

She turned and ran.

 

Elrond was walking past the storage rooms when his keen elven ears heard the faintest of voices somewhere ahead. He headed swiftly in their direction, and had just discerned which of the heavy wooden doors along the corridor they came from when he heard a great crash. Running to the door, he flung it open.

A wooden rack lay across the floor of the training room, its weapons scattered. And in its midst, two figures were struggling together in a tangle of long limbs and golden and black hair. In the second after the door flew open, Glorfindel had scrambled to his feet and pulled Maeglin up as well, and in the next second he had put the breadth of the room between the two of them. Guilt and shame was written all over his fair face as he blushed a fiery red.  

“This isn’t how it looks! I can explain!”

Lómiel, looking just as guilty, said nothing.

Elrond looked from Glorfindel to Lómiel and back again.

“In my study, please, Lord Glorfindel.”

 

In his study, Elrond stared at his Commander as though the golden-haired warrior had completely lost his mind.

“So let me get this clear. You are telling me that the man who tried to kill my father and grandfather is in my house, in the guise of an elfmaid, and you are giving him deadly weapons and training him to kill?”

“It sounds terrible when you put it that way. Except she is not a him anymore—she is merely a young maiden. As such, she needs training to protect herself,” said Glorfindel, his fingers twisting the ends of the golden locks which lay in his lap—as he did only when he was very nervous, which was hardly ever. The last time had been when Ecthelion had hauled him up before Turgon for causing chaos in the marketplace of Vinyamar. The golden-haired child had made friends with a little lamb that was for sale and had accidentally set free an entire pen of sheep trying to rescue it. He had been twenty-two.

“From what I heard of the orc skirmish seven years back, she is fairly proficient in that. But if she needed any training, why in Eä would you train her yourself? Alone? And not with the rest of your guard? Or with your cadets?”

“First of all, it’s the wrong time of the year for a new cadet to join—the captains are too busy with the Rangers presently—and the cadets—absolute fools, the way they slobber over her, I won’t have it—she would be a major distraction to them—besides, she has the basic grounding so she doesn’t qualify as a cadet—she doesn’t belong with them, and they would annoy her terribly. Thus, it should be evident that training her myself was the only option.”

Elrond blinked at the golden elf at the end of this piece of senselessness. “She would have to fight alongside them if she joins the patrols, you do realize.”

“Oh, of course! But that’s an entirely different matter.”

“Mm-hmm.” Elrond gave Glorfindel a withering look, but let it pass. “Why the basement? All of the usual training rooms are available in the evening.”

“No distractions.”

“Why keep it a secret? Every week for five months, and neither of you breathed a word of it to anyone.”

Innocent surprise. “Really? I guess it simply never came up in conversation.”

Elrond glared at the golden-haired hero. “For eight years you suspected her to be a traitor of olden days, an enemy to my family, to my line. A grave suspicion indeed. Why did you never come to me with it?”

“Since you do not believe me right now, it must be obvious how absurd, how ridiculous it would have sounded if I had mentioned it to you. I needed to make sure of it myself first, or be a laughing stock. But by the time I was certain, I could also discern that she was no danger to any. Yes, she may be moody, and temperamental, and difficult. But in spite of that, look how well she gets along with Camaen, with your sons? She is a jewel in the rough. Even Erestor gets along with her. You certainly have not observed anything to give you cause for fears, have you?”

“And why is your training with her so important to you? So important, that you would allow Estel to track you down?” asked Elrond slowly. “So important that you needed to make it back to Imladris in time, and not miss even one of your regular sessions with her?”

Glorfindel was silent as Elrond’s eyes drilled into him.

“Five months is plenty of training for her. Are you sending her out on patrols soon?”

“Oh no,” said Glorfindel, shaking his golden head emphatically, “No, no—she needs far more preparation before she goes out. She’s not ready yet.”

“I heard Beril and Emlindir’s account of her fighting skills, Glorfindel! She is no beginner. She is already a warrior. And you are telling me that after five months of your special attention, she is not as good as any in the guard?”

“She’s reckless, Elrond! She will get herself killed. She got herself killed once by your grandfather—I’m not letting anything like that happen to her again!”

The Lord of Imladris stared at the stalwart defender of his family line. “I never thought I would see the day you are so besotted with a maiden that your brains get scrambled.”

“Besotted? Me?” sputtered Glorfindel, turning a rather fetching shade of tomato red. “What do you take me for? She is an underaged babe, for Eru’s sake! Absolute rubbish! And this is Maeglin Lómion. We might be first cousins. He hates me. We never got along. We absolutely detest each other.”

Elrond looked at his friend with a perplexed frown and said nothing for a while. “How long has it been like this?”

Giving up all pretence, Glorfindel sank back in his chair and looked down at his hands. “Eight years.”

Elrond looked at the golden-haired warrior for a while. Then he sat down at his desk, pulled paper to himself and began to write.

At the sound of scribbling, Glorfindel lifted his head.

“You are going away,” said Elrond firmly. “First, to Lothlorien, bearing gifts for Arwen and the Lady Galadriel.”

“Elladan and Elrohir were to go there after hunting orcs in the Hithaeglir! They were looking forward to it.”

“I have other things for them to do.” Such as taking over the command of the guards for a year, he thought. “And you need to have a long rest.”

“A long rest—Lord Elrond—that is the worst thing that you could possibly do to me. I cannot just recline on banks of elanor watching the mellyrn bloom. I need to be busy. I need to work—“

“Oh, do not worry. You shall work.” Elrond rolled up the slip of paper, went to the window, and sent it off tied to the leg of a winged messenger. Sitting down again, Elrond continued writing. “You will be in Lorien about three months,” he said. “At the end of summer you will depart for Mirkwood and Dale to offer your expertise in a revamp of their defences.”

“Elrond—no! Please. I cannot be away from here for so long,” pleaded the warrior. “I cannot. Estel needs me. The guards need me. I have to be here!”

“I shall have all that taken care of. Mirkwood and Dale are long overdue. They have been requesting this for some time now, and you have been pushing it off, and now I know why. You will get there by mid-autumn, which will necessitate your wintering in Mirkwood. You may return to Imladris in late spring.” Elrond sent off another bird. “There. All settled.”

“Winter in Mirkwood with Thranduil. Why don’t you just kill me right now.”

“Enjoy the Dorwinion wine. Kill a few spiders if you get bored. Visit the dwarves at Erebor to annoy them a little—or tell them your balrog story. For some reason, the dwarves always seem to enjoy that.” Elrond smiled at the warrior, whose blue eyes were huge and tragic in his stricken face. “As your lord, your friend, and your physician, I am telling you—go away. Take time to sort things out. Have a chat with Lady Galadriel. Rest. You will come back with a better perspective on things.” He picked up his pen again. “Well, you’d better start packing. You leave tomorrow.”

Glorfindel rose slowly to his feet in a daze, and made his way to the door.

“Oh, and I would not drink too much of Thranduil’s Dorwinion if I were you,” said Elrond as he wrote. “In your state, you are likely to find yourself uttering things that you are likely to deeply regret.”

 


Glossary

Cundunya (Q) – my prince

Chapter Text

On the bank of a stream that fed the Celebrant sat Glorfindel under a blossoming mallorn tree. Surrounded by a carpet of fallen mallorn leaves whose golden glow was eclipsed by the glory of his hair, he leaned his chin on his hand. And stared glumly into space.

He had been in Lothlórien for three days now. The Galadhrim had never seen him miserable before, so they did their utmost to cheer him up. If Haldir was not trying to get him to go hunting, or Arwen pulling him on picnics or to dance with her at feasts, or Lady Galadriel getting him to dine with her and Lord Celeborn, it was elfmaids leaping out at him from behind every other tree, or trying to cuddle up to him on his talan at night in various states of undress. That was always the problem with Lothlórien: no doors to lock. There had been the line-up of his usual, persistent admirers, and then some.

He was beginning to wonder exactly what Elrond had written in that note to Lady Galadriel.

Overworked… losing his mind… affair of the heart… very bad business… strict rest cure prescribed… needs relaxation and distraction… plenty of nubile elfmaids…

The mere thought of it made him cringe.

He had taken refuge in a quiet, shady grove far from Caras Galadhon. No one would think of looking for him here. No one, that is, except for the Lady of the Golden Woods.

She had never seen her balrog-slaying favourite mope before, and after three days, she had had enough of it.  He sensed her approach some time before she appeared, a luminous apparition of white and gold in the green shadows, but he made no attempt to hide. This was Lady Galadriel, after all, and any attempt at evasion would have been futile. He rose and bowed to her.

She stood on the other side of the stream and regarded him with her piercing grey eyes. “Pitya, what ails you? You have not been yourself at all,” she said in Quenya, going straight to the point. Somewhere in the latter part of the Second Age, she had taken to calling him pitya when they were alone—the only one in all Arda besides Idril who called the reborn warrior “little one”. It was her little private joke with him; few among the Eldar who remained in Ennor were taller than she, and he was one. She enjoyed speaking to him in Quenya. It made her recall her youth, she told him with a smile.

He looked at her wordlessly and wretchedly for a while. “Herinya, may I ask you a question?”

She looked into his face thoughtfully. They heard fair elven voices in the distance, approaching through the woods.

“Walk with me, pitya.”

He crossed the stream and gallantly offered her his arm. As the lady and the warrior walked along a narrow path beneath the ancient mellyrn, the vision of their combined beauty was dazzling. Both wore shining white, and the resplendence of their golden hair shimmered in the shade of the vast, overarching trees. Any who saw them might think them mother and son, or sister and brother.

The moment Glorfindel had met her at Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion, one twilight in the Second Age, he had looked at her long flowing golden hair, so like his own, and wondered. It was even more radiant and lustrous than his, and wavier in texture, but it was that same rare, rich shade of gold that he had thought unique to himself, never having seen it on another. And her face. He seemed to know it, as from a distant dream. And to have heard that low, mellifluous voice.

As the golden-haired envoy from Forlindon had delivered messages from his king and sat in meetings with the rulers of Eregion, one question had burned in his heart. Staring at the mysteriously-familiar lady, it had been a struggle for him at moments to focus on the discussions. . .increase in the creatures of Morgoth. . .attacks on travellers by trolls and wargs. . .patrols needed on highways. . .be wary of a personage named Annatar. . .

Over the next two centuries of dealings with Eregion, Glorfindel had many opportunities to speak to the Lady since Elrond, if he accompanied Glorfindel to Ost-in-Edhil, oft abandoned his golden-haired friend for the charms of a silver-haired maiden. But whenever the question lay on the balrog slayer’s tongue, one look into the Lady’s shining grey eyes would cause it to evaporate. And only after he was home again in Forlond might he think of it again.

Then he ceased to think or care about the question. Darkness rose. War came. The kings of men passed in quick succession. Kingdoms rose and fell. Millennia passed. . .

And now, this moment.

She led him through the golden wood to another secluded spot, then seated herself on a carved wooden bench by the rushing waters of another stream. Glorfindel leaned against a mallorn trunk nearby. Her grey eyes looked into his blue ones, and she waited for him to speak, a gentle smile playing on her lips.

 “Lady Alatáriel,” he said, using her Telerin name, which flowed more naturally when they spoke Quenya, “why do I feel that you know what I am going to say before I say it?”

“Ask freely, Lord Laurefindil. I shall answer you.”

He paused, looking into the infinite depths of those grey eyes. And finally, after six millennia, the question came.

Herinya, do you know who I really am? Where I come from?”

She tilted her head and her brilliant, enigmatic gaze held him.

“You have not thought of it for thousands of years. Why now?” she asked in measured tones.

He was silent, and let her take his answer from his eyes.

She smiled and her eyes laughed. “You must introduce me to her sometime.”

He blushed and dropped his gaze.

“It may not be as hopeless as you believe. Your deeds speak far louder than any bloodline does. Who you are, Laurefindil, has proven to be worthy of your parents and their lineage.”

His heart pounded with nervousness and excitement. She knew. As he had always suspected—she knew. And. . .might it be she? And Celeborn his sire?

 “She cares naught for my deeds nor my lineage,” he said. “Truth is, she cares not for me at all.” It wrenched deeply just to say it. “But it is for myself that I ask. I need to know.” The fearless warrior braced himself, his stomach churning with both dread and anticipation, fear and hope, as it had never done before any battle. “You know my parents, Lady Alatáriel—please, who are they?”

Moving the folds of her flowing skirt aside, she patted the bench next to her. “Sit with me, pitya. It is time.”

Holding his blue eyes with her gaze, she looked back to a time almost seven millennia ago, when she had been young.

 

The light of the young sun slanted through the towering trees of Doriath, and the voices and laughter of a brother and sister carried through the air as they crossed the Great Stone Bridge to Menegroth, their golden hair and the style of their clothes marking them apart from the Sindar. Guards saluted as they approached, and the vast stone doors leading to the Thousand Caves swung open.

“Magnificent!” murmured Finrod admiringly as they passed through, his brilliant grey eyes taking in every detail. “Dwarven work at its best.”

“Each time I see you lately, you look like a wild Moriquendë of the woods,” Galadriel chided him, taking a stained and threadbare sleeve between her fingers. “A beggar even! I should mistake you for one, save for your hair.”

Finrod smiled as she affectionately tugged on a lock of his bright golden tresses, dim only in comparison to the radiance of her own. “Clothes take up much space, Artë. One set to wash, one to wear, is my rule on the road. Unlike one I know,” he added teasingly, “who left Tol Sirion to reside in Doriath six months ago with two horses to bear just her clothes.”

The two saddle packs he carried slung over his shoulders were stuffed full with notes he had taken on his travels, detailed maps he had drawn. He would take them later to the scribes of Doriath to have them copied, and leave a set in the Menegroth library. Despite the fact that he had travelled the past three days with scarcely any sleep, he did not seem weary. He had always possessed a wanderlust, but in the past year, there had been something particularly restless and driven about him as he explored lands still uncharted by the Noldor: the coastlines, the deep forests, the wide plains, and the mountain regions. Ever since he had returned from his journey down the Sirion with their cousin Turgon. 

They descended down a wide corridor carved with great buttresses on either side like the shapes of trees, and animals carved among them. As they walked, Galadriel spotted a flash of colour in her eldest brother’s tresses and reached out to feel two small beads, one of a red gem, one of a green stone. They were braided into a lock hidden in the thick waves of his golden hair, and carved with alien runes. “Ingo! What is this?”

He felt them. “Oh, that. Dwarven beads of friendship. My Khuzdul is not too good yet, but from what I could understand, they were intended to bless me with ‘lands flowing with jewels’ and ‘a long and lasting line of descendants’.”

“Knowing you, I can well see the first happening. But I wait still for you to give me hope of the second.” She regretted the words as soon as they left her lips. He hardly ever showed it, the shadow that lurked in his heart, but now she saw it touch his eyes.

“Ingo. I am sorry—” she began.

But he had suddenly frozen in his tracks, and was staring down a side corridor that curved away to their left. “It cannot be. . .”

Then the packs were dropped to the ground, and he was racing down the tunnel, his bright hair flying in the wind.

Galadriel saw what her brother saw. “No! Ingo—” And she ran after him.

“Amárië!” he called. “Amárië! Indo-ninya!”

Ahead of them, a maiden danced on light feet, her silken hair gleaming a pale gold. Hearing his voice, she came to a halt on a bridge that floated in the air over a chasm, next to a subterranean waterfall plunging into dark depths below. The rocks of the walls and high ceiling of the surrounding cavern glowed with soft opalescent hues, and lit her graceful form as she turned to face him. Her deep blue eyes widened, and her lips parted in amazement.

Already he had come to a stop at one end of the bridge, flushed with embarrassment. Now that she faced him, he could tell at once that it was not his beloved. She was taller by half a head at least; the shape of her eyes, the line of her nose and jaw, all so different. He was dumbfounded at his moment of insanity. How could he even for a moment have thought that Amárië would be here, when he knew full well that an ocean and a doom lay between them?

“Goheno nin, híril-nín,” he said in elegant, fluent Sindarin, giving her a deep and graceful bow. “I mistook you for one I know.”

The bewitching beauty resembled the Vanya Amarië in striking ways. Hair of a rare shade hovering between gold and silver that could sometimes be found among both the Vanyar and the Teleri. Deep blue eyes with dark eyelashes and eyebrows. Her heart-shaped face wore an expression of sweetness and innocence, but her lips were full and sensuous, and they curved in a soft smile as her eyes rested on the tall, golden-haired stranger in his threadbare, travel-stained clothes.

“Fortunate the maid whom you seek, hîr-nín, and my loss not to be she,” she murmured, her voice light and sweet like a pretty singing bird’s. A voice that sent shivers down the spine of an elflord in fine, flowing robes who was approaching from the far end of the bridge.

Galadriel was already at Finrod’s elbow. “Rílel, this is my brother Finrod. And this, my brother, is the daughter of Gilornel, the daughter of Galadhon, the son of Elmo,” she said in Sindarin. Finrod smiled as he bowed again to the maiden.

“The stars shine on our meeting, fair kinswoman.”

“I rejoice with the stars, and welcome you to Menegroth, my kinsman,” Rîlel replied and made a graceful reverence towards him.

The tall, dashing Sindarin lord with piercing grey eyes had reached the side of the maiden, and there was no mistaking the proprietary way he positioned himself there. There was disdain in his eyes as they raked over the shabby attire of the stranger.

“Lord Oropher,” Galadriel inclined her head gracefully to the Sinda. “This is my brother Finrod.”

Oropher’s eyes remained cold as he and Finrod swept deep bows to each other. A few courtly pleasantries were exchanged and they went separate ways.

“That was embarrassing,” said Finrod with a rueful smile, as he and Galadriel returned to the main corridor. “Whatever got into me? I must be more tired than I realized.”

“The resemblance is strong. You could not be blamed,” she said consolingly. He had made no mention of Amárië since they left Valinor, not even to her, and this was the first time she had dared allude to the Vanya.

He shouldered his packs again. “I brought some fine crystalware from Nogrod as a gift for the king and queen. I hope it did not shatter when I dropped my pack.”

 

The gift was indeed intact, and pleased the King and Queen of Doriath, but the greater sensation was caused by the fairest prince of the Noldor himself. A bath and change of apparel later, he entered the Great Hall to a ripple of feminine admiration that ran through the assembled nobility. His tall, noble form was arrayed in Sindarin robes of silver, blue, and white, with white jewels in the braids of his luminous gold hair, and his eyes were brilliant with the Light of the Trees.

On his part, Finrod could not admire the caves of Menegroth enough, and over the next two months he was greatly engrossed in his exploration and study of the city, spending many hours with the Naugrim to discuss their engineering and craftsmanship. At other times, Oropher offered himself as Finrod’s guide and companion, for he had not failed to note how a certain pale-haired beauty with a merry laugh often crossed the prince’s path. She would come by to swim at the underground lakes when Finrod was brought there. She would oft chance to pass them in the labyrinthine corridors, and her softest glances were for her golden-haired cousin, not her Sindarin suitor. If Finrod trained with the warriors of Doriath, she would be watching from a passage somewhere above. And every time he sought the company of Galadriel, Rílel would be one of her companions and position herself close to his side. Her presence deeply discomfited the Noldorin prince, not only because of her likeness to his Vanya, but because he was well aware of Oropher’s feelings. Despite Finrod’s care to be courteous but distant with the lovely Sinda, Oropher found himself imagining violent fates for his golden-haired guest. Such as being mauled to death by a wild beast on his travels. And it made him feel guilty, for it was difficult not to like the warm, affectionate Noldo.

By mid-autumn, Galadriel felt how restive her brother was growing, not unlike a stallion impatient to race. It did not surprise her when he announced one day, “I depart tomorrow, Artanis.”

A clattering sound made them turn. Rílel had knocked over a decanter and red wine stained the floor. She flushed and murmured an apology for her clumsiness. Two other maidens hastened to her aid. So she understands some Quenya, thought Galadriel, who had observed the girl’s infatuation grow with disapproval. I must speak with her.

“But it is your begetting day,” Galadriel reproved him in their thoughts. “Stay one more day with me. I had plans for you.”

“Forgive me, Artë… but my begetting day means little, and the wilds call me. I have stayed too long here already. I shall be back in summer for your begetting day, I promise.”

“So long?” Galadriel sighed, feeling already the sadness of separation. “And whither go you now?”

“I do not know exactly where yet,” he said, the glow of adventure in his face. “But I travel west.” Thingol had spoken of caves, beyond the moors and the open plains, where the River Narog ran.

“Wait till spring,” she pleaded. “Winter shall be upon the lands soon.”

His eyes met hers, with a hint of amusement over the sorrow of the memory. “What are these winters, compared to our years on the Grinding Ice?”

She walked to him and laid her hand on his shoulder, and rested her side of her golden head against his own. “Please be safe.”

“I do my best.”

His arm slipped around her shoulders, and brother and sister watched the twinkling of a thousand golden lights in the ceiling of the cavern above them. Grodelin… subterranean stars.

“Very well then. We will celebrate tonight,” she told him.

 

They dined in a space near the waterfall that evening, an atmosphere of gaiety filling the air. The King and Queen stopped by to grace the occasion, and Princess Lúthien offered as her gift to her nephew a graceful dance and a song sweeter than a nightingale’s. When the princess of Doriath and the prince exchanged a gentle farewell kiss, Rílel’s distress could not be hidden. The beauty with pale-gold hair and other adoring maidens plied him with plates of delicacies all evening, and kept his goblet full of wine.

“Have mercy, hiril-nín!” laughed Finrod in protest, as Rílel presented yet another goblet of wine to him. “I can eat and drink no more.”

“Oh, just one more, my lord prince,” pleaded Rílel. “It is a special wine… from the warm valleys of South Ossiriand.” She continued to hold it out to him.

Courteously, he accepted it and drank. Oropher glowered at the back of his golden head, and miserably drained his own goblet dry.

Brother and sister retired to their rooms, shortly after. As they neared the door of Galadriel’s chambers, Finrod was swaying on his feet a little, and as she opened her door, he slumped against a wall.

“Ingoldo!” she exclaimed in shock. “Did I not know you better, I would think you drunk.”

“That wine from Ossiriand is potent, Artanis. My head is feeling rather heavy.” And he stifled a yawn.

“It is well that your chamber is next to mine. Come, brother, let me be gallant and escort you, for a change.” She smiled and pulled him to his feet. “Lean on me.” She got him through his door and to his bed. He sat down on it, looking dazed. She frowned at him in concern.

“Let me unbraid your hair for you.” And she undid his braids as she had when she had been little, and ran her fingers through his shining tresses.

“I regret I did not release her from our betrothal ere I left, Artë,” he said. In the chaos and the darkness, he had made his choice—his people, and the call of the Hither Lands. There had been a farewell kiss and a hasty promise to wait, even as the trumpets blew for the march to Alqualondë. No time to reflect, to share the thousand things upon his heart. No knowledge of the doom and the curse, nor that there might never be any return. “There will be no one else for me, ever. But she—I should have left her free to bind with another.”

Her heart wrenched at the catch in his voice. He had been a pillar of strength for them, all through the time the darkness fell, through the horror of Alqualondë, through the years of flight over the Helcaraxë. He had carried orphans in his arms and sung in the freezing wastes as the people had cried in terror for the breaking of the ice beneath their feet. He sang the light of the Trees that were gone, sang of broad plains and deep woods and sweet running streams that awaited them in the lands ahead, as his grandfather Finwë had oft told. And the exiles’ hearts had warmed and grown brave as they heard his song. Nay, more, witnesses insisted that the power of his song had held the very ice ahead together until they had passed. He had laughed when Galadriel told him of the legend of the Blessed Findaráto. “A song of power? Hardly. I sang to keep our spirits up—and my own courage. That the ice held is entirely Eru’s grace.”

She had never seen her eldest brother look lost and hurting as he did now. She kissed his brow.

“As your heart is for her, so is hers for you,” said the little sister soothingly. “There can be no one else for her either, I am sure.”

He did not reply. She knelt before him and laid a hand on his knee. “Shall I stay here with you a while, Ingo? I shall sing to you songs of the Teleri that our mother sang.”

He smiled into her eyes, and was once again the big brother she knew. “Nay. I should sleep now, little one. And so should you.”

“Very well. Have a safe journey, beloved.” She kissed his cheek before leaving. He oft disappeared early before dawn.

 

Galadriel woke feeling a wrongness in her spirit. A deep unease.

It persisted as she dressed her hair. She called to Aelin, the maiden who had just brought in her breakfast tray. “Aelin. Could you see if Lord Finrod has departed?”

The maiden returned in a while. “No one has seen him this morning, lady. His horse is in the stables. And there is no answer at his door.”

Galadriel ate a few morsels and swallowed her tea and left the room. Even as she laid her hand on the heavy wood of Finrod’s door, she sensed he was there. Yet her mind, reaching out, could not find his thoughts.

“Ingoldo! It is I.” There was no sound. She pushed against the door and it opened. She took in the rumpled bedclothes, and the mane of gold hair falling over the edge of the bed. “Ingo!” she shook the bare shoulder, gently first, then more violently. The only response was a gentle snore. He never snores! And his eyes were shut. Shut! The long dark-gold lashes lay still against his fair cheek. In sleep, the eldest son of Finarfin looked younger than herself. Anxious and baffled, she knelt by him and gently reached out with her mind to meld with his.

She pushed through waves of heaviness, felt a deep languor almost overcome her. Then saw a deep forest where a prince and a Vanya lay entwined in sleep. The light of Telperion poured silver over them through the branches and leaves.

Galadriel hastily retreated from something too private, too intimate for her eyes or knowledge. Forgive me, Ingoldo.

She smoothed the bright curtain of hair back from her sleeping brother’s face, as a mother might, and looked around the room. Something felt wrong. Her skin prickled as she sensed a power she was unfamiliar with, something wild—a magic from the years of starlight. She smelled on his breath the wine of the previous night. And something else—a bitter, pungent aroma. She breathed the familiar scent of his skin, and picked up another scent that made her grey eyes flash steel and her mouth tighten.

“Rílel…” she growled.

 

She swept down the hallway, her face stern, and all who saw her cleared a path for her.

She had called her brother Orodreth, who had been in Doriath the past half year, contentedly learning the healing arts under Melian. Orodreth had confirmed her suspicions that their brother had been drugged. He might wake with little memory of anything that had happened, and hopefully not more than a heavy head.

Happy begetting day, dear brother…

White robes sweeping the floor behind her, Galadriel saw her prey dart nervously through the great doors of the Menegroth library and followed. The library was not a place Rílel frequented, and she soon found herself cornered in the poetry section, shrinking back against the dark wooden shelves laden with books and scrolls.

Galadriel had quickly ascertained that they were alone, but she spoke to the girl’s mind to ensure none heard them.

Wretched girl. What have you done?” The eyes of the shining white lady who towered over her were so terrible in her barely suppressed fury that Rílel could not answer. Instead, the girl lashed out wildly with her mind, and Galadriel reeled back in shock more than pain, then quickly subdued the attack and pinned her prey to the bookshelf with her own power.

“How dare you? What did you do to him? Do you even understand what powers you are playing with?” 

The girl cowered before her, paralysed, guilt and shame in her wide blue eyes. And now, now that Galadriel looked for it, she sensed power in the girl, so well-disguised beneath the wide-eyed innocent gaze and light laugh—a power that had successfully ensnared her brother and shielded the girl’s plans from both her and him such that neither had had even the flicker of a premonition. And more. She saw the way the young Sinda held herself, the hand gathering the folds of her skirt, laid protectively on her belly.

Happy begetting day. . .

“You are a fool,” Galadriel said. “Did you think to deceive your way into his love this way? To make him wed you? You know nothing of him, or of love. He is promised. His heart will beat for no other till the end of all things.”

“But I love him,” she replied, her eyes pleading. “And this, the only way I could have him—”

“Do you know how many lives you may have ruined with your rash act, you selfish, thoughtless girl?” Galadriel pursued. “Your own. Have you not seen Lord Oropher’s eyes on you? He is noble, and he loves you. Passionately. But do you think in his pride he or any other lord in Doriath would ever court you again once your shame is known? Think of what you have thrown away for one night of folly. And be sure you have ruined Oropher’s. Never will he look at another as he has looked on you. He will long for you but the thought of you will be poison to him. The babe’s. What legacy will this child have, when it is born of trickery and deceit? Your family. What shame have you brought on them? On your noble guardian?” She choked with rage. “Finrod would marry you rather than dishonour you, then live with a hollow heart till the Second Music, pining for another. Do you want that? Is it love to destroy that which you love? Don’t you dare call what you have done love!”

Galadriel sensed him behind her before he spoke to their minds, and a shiver passed through her body. “Lady Galadriel is right, Rílel my sister-daughter. It was badly done, and not the way of true love.” The deep, smooth voice in her head caused Galadriel’s heart to skip a beat.

“Lord Celeborn,” she replied calmly, without turning.

At the sight of her guardian, the girl collapsed. “Goheno nin,” she cried out aloud in guilt and shame. The silver-haired lord went to her and wrapped his arms around his ward, the only child of his dead sister.

The girl wept. “I am wed to him now,” she managed to say. “I am his.”

“Nay, foolish child. It takes the free will and consent of two to wed.” Galadriel’s voice was harsh. “This was no marriage. An illusion woven by your spells, an overpowering of his will and his powers by your drugs. He shall wake with no knowledge of what has passed. It is null and void.”

Celeborn’s face was stern and sorrowful. The girl’s father was of Círdan’s people, slain in the last battles of the Falas before the coming of the Noldor. Her grieving mother had returned north to Doriath, leaving her daughter in her eldest brother’s care ere she faded. The bloodlines had power on both sides, but he had thought of his ward as a child still, barely a yén old. Desperate love had stirred nascent powers into life.

The lord and lady led the girl who was a maid no more to a chair and looked at each other over her head.

Galadriel reached out with her fëa to that little light beginning to flutter in the Sindarin elleth’s belly, feeling a warm, golden, glorious melody beginning to be sung. The latest light to burn in the line of Finwë.

“There is a way,” said Celeborn, looking deep into her grey eyes, then speaking into her mind. “It is not a path I relish taking, my love. But it will protect all those you have named, restoring to them their future.”

 

Finrod woke at noon with a splitting headache and a conviction that he would never drink Ossiriand wine again. “Oohhh… I feel like oliphaunts are stomping on my head,” he groaned.

“What in Arda are ‘oliphaunts’? Here, drink this.” Orodreth held a cup to his lips, then laid a cold herbal compress on the prince’s brow. “Blessed begetting day, brother.”

Finrod obediently held the compress to his head, sighed, and looked at his younger brother. Unwarlike, reticent Orodreth, the odd one out of the Finarfinions. Aegnor always had Angrod, and Finrod had always had their cousin Turgon, leaving Orodreth most oft at their mother’s side. With the impending birth of a younger sister, Orodreth had been briefly hopeful of the companionship of a calm, gentle soul to match his own. But alas, it had been Galadriel, and from the first moment it had been Finrod she adored fiercely among her brothers.

In that same year had Aredhel been born to the House of Fingolfin, and thus it had been that for two whole Valian years, Prince Finrod and Prince Turgon could scarce be seen anywhere in Eldamar without their little sisters in tow, two golden and two black.

Finrod wondered still why Orodreth, of them all, had not turned back to Aman with their father. He had little ambition for lands of his own. He did not burn with zeal to defeat Morgoth in battle and avenge their grandfather. He had no desire to explore the wild lands and pursue great adventures. Sensing the healer in the second prince of the Third House—and needing to get him out of Angrod and Aegnor’s way as Minas Tirith was being built—the eldest brother had sent him ahead to Doriath with Galadriel. Orodreth had blossomed under Melian’s tutelage and carried himself now with greater assurance. He might be able to hold Minas Tirith someday, thought Finrod, when Angrod and Aegnor moved north to Ard-galen as they planned.

“Two thousand years of drinking, Artaresto, and I finally find the one cup of wine that does me in.”

“One cup of wine with something extra.”

“Well, it is the fashion to add spices and herbs to wine here, isn’t it? Everything I drank had something extra in it.”

“And a dicey practice it is when foolish elfmaids confuse their herbs,” said Orodreth disapprovingly. “I haven’t figured out what herb yet, but it must have been extremely potent. Just rest.”

Finrod looked thoughtful. “It may explain the dream I had. I had an amazingly vivid dream.” He closed his eyes. And smiled blissfully at memories of his wedding dream.

 

Two tall figures in grey cloaks stood beneath the trees on the edge of the forest, gazing westward. Here, the Woods of Núath were sheltered from the bitter winds of late autumn by the Ered Wethrin to the north and by low hills to the west. The frosty white stars shone down from a cloudless sky.

A lone horseman rode towards the woods. He dismounted and approached the trees with long strides, a singularly tall figure in a cloak of midnight blue. One of the grey-cloaked figures came forward, the other remained under the eaves of the woods.

“I am glad you came,” she said as they drew nigh each other.

“What is all this? A cryptic note, a tight-lipped messenger, a meeting in the middle of nowhere? You have a lot of explaining to do, Artanis.”

She parted her cloak and showed him the bundle swaddled thickly in her arms. A tiny, sweet face showed amidst the layers of fine wool over royal linen. “You are fortunate that he just fell asleep. He is a lively one.” She smiled fondly.

He looked at the baby wordlessly, taking in the long dark lashes, the tiny dreaming blue eyes, and the soft curls of hair that gleamed like richest gold. A babe just a month out of the womb. Then his grey eyes looked up to meet hers with a piercing stare.

“Ask not whose it is. I shall not answer, for the secret is not mine. Forgive me, Turukáno. I can tell you nothing, and yet I must ask... Please, will you take him?” She had never begged in her life. She was begging now.

He looked back at the baby. It gave a yawn, stretching and pushing against the cloth in its dreams, then settled with a tiny sigh. And he knew that he would do it. He would not ask her the questions swirling and screaming through his head. Deep down, although he understood nothing, he knew.

“A child with that hair. There will be a lot of talk.”

“I know I ask much of you. But this I have seen: this child’s life is twined with the destinies of you and your house, down many generations of your line. Please. To none other would I turn but you.”

He reached out his arms. She kissed the child, and relinquished the precious bundle.

The baby looked up at him, now wide awake. It gave him a toothless smile, and punched a tiny fist out of its swaddling. He touched the tiny hand, and a lump rose to his throat. “Has he his names, at least?” he murmured.

“No.” The unknowing father could give none, nor the mother who had surrendered all rights to him.

“The begetting day, then?”

She hesitated. But she could not deprive the child of even that. After she told it, he was silent for a long time, gazing at the baby as it gurgled at him happily, kicking strongly against its swaddling.

Deep in his fëa, a name for the child came to the Prince of Nevrast.

“Itarillë shall find him a good nursemaid,” was all he said.

Galadriel took out a golden brooch, a graceful eight-petalled flower like a burst of sun rays, and pinned it to the cloth. She watched as her cousin rode west towards the sea. Then she turned back to the forest, where her love awaited her, silver-haired and tall.

They walked deeper into the Woods of Núath, where lay the dwellings of a small, secret tribe of the Laiquendi that for the past year had, after some persuasion, consented to shelter a special guest.

There, in a dwelling shaped by spellsong in the living heart of a great tree, sat a beauty with hair of palest gold. She gazed out of a window into the autumn woods, and saw two elves returning with empty arms.

And bitterly, she wept.

 

On a frosty autumn twilight, Turgon crept by a secret way into his own palace at Vinyamar. He had thought long and hard on the ride back to Vinyamar, but his plan to foster the child out to a family of Sindar in the remoter mountains of Nevrast crumbled the moment his daughter laid eyes on the baby.

He sought Idril out solely to ask her to find a temporary nursemaid. She was weaving at her loom, singing one of her mother’s songs. He stood in the doorway looking at his treasure, whose innocence and joy had withered in the freezing wastes of the north. She had been a mere child when she lost her mother. Now, she lived for her duties, a princess devoted to caring for her people, too old for her years. And for the thousandth time he wished that he had left wife and child safe in Tirion. Had known the horrors that lay ahead. Had turned back in time, as Finarfin had.

The baby woke and gave an angry, demanding wail. He had not fed for a day, and even an elven baby has its limits. He was hungry.

The click-clack of the loom and the song suddenly ceased. “Atto?

And Turgon looked on, stunned, as Idril’s eyes and face lit up with the incandescence of a dozen sunrises. It was love at first sight. Her whole being came alive with excitement and joy as he had not seen it since their days in Tirion by treelight. She snatched the baby from her astonished father’s arms and cuddled him tightly to her bosom.

No talk of fostering it out was possible from that moment onwards.

 

In the autumn of his twelfth year, just after his begetting day, the small, bright child raced swiftly by the sea as the tide swept in. He leapt fearlessly from rock to rock, his bare feet scarcely seeming to touch them. Free and light with the joy of pure movement, he was the wind whipping through his hair, he was the roar of the waves, he was one with Vása in all its burning glory in the sky above. He laughed for the sheer joy of being alive, his hair streaming with the radiance of the morning sun.

“Ammë! Come on!” he called impatiently over his shoulder.

His voice carried to the traveller above the clamour of waves and wind, as she stood hidden among the gnarled, windswept trees on an escarpment above, the hood of her cloak pulled up such that her face was hidden. She watched as the slender beauty followed the small child, like him bare-footed and dressed in white. They descended from the rocks onto soft, damp sand, swiftly shaped handfuls of it into strange, fantastical towers and buildings, then watched as the eddying waves came in and washed their sand city away.

Aiya, Turno,” said the traveller without turning.

Aiya, Artë,” said the dark-haired prince as he came up behind her. His mind was full of building plans and blueprints, and he had resented the interruption of the messenger. “I wondered if you would ever come to see him.”

“I was on my way from Tol Sirion to Doriath, and thought to make a detour.”

“This is quite a detour.”

“He has oft been on my mind.” Her eyes had not once left the child. “He does well?”

“Very well indeed. He has been good for Itarillë.”

“I can see that.” A laugh from the princess carried to them on the wind. Idril and the child danced together on the sand. He was tall for his age, and almost reached her hip. Their keen elven ears could hear the two prattling happily away to each other in a fluent mix of Quenya and Sindarin. In many ways, the child in Idril had been resurrected by the child she raised. She sang, she played, she laughed, she danced rather than walked—the childhood she had lost now found again.

“Ready to sail, champion?” called a silver-eyed, dark-haired lord down on the shore. The child ran and took a flying leap into Ecthelion’s arms, almost knocking the wind out of the tall, dark-haired and silver-eyed elflord for a moment. The three of them boarded a ship with two other lords, and headed out to sea.

“He never stays still,” said Turgon, smiling indulgently. “There are times I think he looks as Ingo did at that age.”

She said nothing. She would never tell. And he would never ask.

“He learns fast. And he is very swift.”

Swarming quickly to the top of a mastpole, heedless of Ecthelion’s sharp reprimand, the tiny daredevil hurled himself into space and plunged down into the sparkling waves. Idril gave a startled cry, and both she and Ecthelion plunged into the water, homing in on the spot where the tiny elfling had disappeared. Galadriel held her breath.

The tiny golden head surfaced a few heartstopping seconds later, whooping in delight.

“And fearless. We do our best to keep him alive,” Turgon said with a smile.

“You wait till I get my hands on you, you little monkey!”

“Yonya! You could have been killed!”

“Stop laughing, Egalmoth! It’s your turn to babysit tomorrow.”

They watched in silence, listening to the voices on the ship, the thunder of the waves beyond the sheltered harbour, the relentless power of Ulmo’s voice.

“We have named him Laurefindil,” said Turgon. “But that is not the name I gave him in my fëa, that night at Núath.”

The traveller tore her eyes away from the child to look at him. He told her the name. “But, of course, that is not the name we could use. Hence the epessë. And his hair is already sung of as a wonder—by those who have not beheld yours.”

She smiled into Turgon’s eyes. “Thank you,” she said, from the depths of her heart. And it was not for the compliment.

They did not speak of the future before they parted. These were the years of the secret building of Gondolin. The two cousins would not meet again, this side of the Great Sea.

 

“Am I wrong to keep the child from him?” Galadriel asked Celeborn on the ride back to Doriath. “Do you think he would ever forgive me for not letting him know?”

“He will always forgive you. And remember what he told you.”

Finrod’s dark prophecy rang in her ears. She would leave him free to fulfil his vows. Free of ties. Free of knowledge.

“And of the child’s destiny,” Celeborn said softly. “What do you see?”

She did not answer.

Fire.

A fall.

Darkness.

Her eyes grew a little moist.

Celeborn reached out his hand to hold hers, and she let herself be vulnerable to him. As she could be with only him. And no other.

 

Galadriel watched as relief and hope lit her nephew’s face and whole being as he listened rapt to her tale. His smile was radiant as he took her hand and kissed it.

Hantanyel, herinya,” he said from the depths of his heart.

“Ah, you would thank me for what I have done to you, pitya? To have known neither father nor mother for three long ages of the world? To be baseborn, even if it be to the noblest and most beloved prince of the Noldor? Imagine if Findaráto had acknowledged you as his own, and wed your mother. If you had been raised a prince in Nargothrond, with a father you could proudly name.”  She had wondered at times, over the years, how different the history of the Noldor in Beleriand might have been had Glorfindel been at Nargothrond to hold the throne after his father’s death. She reached out her long, slender hand and laid it against her nephew’s cheek. “I knew this day would eventually come. I would understand if you blame me for all that you lost, pitya. For what your life might have been. For the loss of your birthright.” Child of sin. Yet that child had been favoured and chosen by Eru himself for this mission to the mortal lands, though at times she wondered if it were blessing or curse. “I should be asking for your forgiveness.”

Glorfindel thought of his happy childhood at Nevrast by the sea, and the glorious years of Gondolin, even though they had ended in flames and a dark chasm.

“I would not have had my life any other way. Truly. And I can only thank you for it, my father-sister.” He smiled, a new lightness in his countenance.

With a smile, she leaned forward, and planted a kiss on his brow. “Turukáno gave you a name, acting in your father’s place—Laurefindë.”

His heart was full as he received the name that should have been given to him at birth. “I am… Laurefindë… son of Artafindë Ingoldo,” he said slowly, articulating the names carefully and with wonder. Joy kindled as he was able to name his father for the first time. It mattered nothing to him that his naming would never have been celebrated with the rituals and great ceremony that would have befitted a royal son born in wedlock—firstborn son of the firstborn prince of the Third House of Finwë. Neither did it matter that a bastard would never enjoy the title of “prince”. His smile was incandescent as he looked affectionately at his aunt.

Galadriel returned the smile, seeing with gladness that much of the shadow that had lain over the warrior since his arrival was gone. “I thought of you much over the years. I grieved at the Havens when news of your fall reached me. Almost as though I grieved for him all over again.”

“What would he think of me?... he still does not know I exist?”

“No. And I wonder how easily he will forgive me for keeping you from him.” What she had done, she had done for love of Finrod. She prayed that he would understand. She took his son’s chin in her hand and gazed into Rílel’s blue eyes. “He would be very proud of you, pitya. As am I.”

Glorfindel grinned bashfully.

“What happened to my mother?” he asked, as they made their way back to Caras Galadhon. “Did she marry Oropher?”

Galadriel laughed. “Indeed. Bearing you made her a wiser and stronger nís, and Oropher should have thanked you for it. It was not easy for her to give you up. But she understood that it was for your good, and her own.”

“I seem to have acquired a lot of relatives, all of a sudden,” he said, suddenly seeing the intricate web of kinship spreading out around him. It made his mind spin.

“Indeed you have. Perhaps someday I shall have the pleasure of introducing you to them all.”

A sudden thought occurred to him. “Wait—so Thranduil is my brother?

Her eyes sparkled with mischief as they met his.

The golden hero burst out laughing for the first time since he had arrived at the golden wood. Lady Galadriel, wise and terrible, took her nephew’s arm, and they walked on together under the mellyrn trees laughing and talking merrily. And all the Galadhrim who saw them were filled with wonder.

 

Glorfindel stifled an impulse to roll his eyes as he stepped into the chamber where Thranduil received him.

Seated on a couch by a large arched window, beyond which one could see great trees clothed in rich autumn foliage and the forest river running, King Thranduil of Mirkwood was seated, his body angled away from the elflord of Imladris, conducting some business.

A beautiful wood elf with russet hair was besides her king, and both of them, eyes closed, were involved in some very slow, deep, lingering kisses.

The fair-haired king raised one hand elegantly to signal his awareness of the elflord’s presence, and continued his leisurely exploration of the beauty’s lips.

Glorfindel knew that Thranduil had lost his queen some eight hundred years ago, leaving him with a small princeling to raise on his own. He had loved her passionately, had never recovered from it, had become icier, haughtier, wrapping round his grief with his pride.

The greatest culture shock Glorfindel always experienced when stepping into the Woodland realm was the blatant sexuality of its Silvan elves, more aggressive than that in Lothlórien or any other elven settlement he had encountered in Ennor. He had been shocked to the core of his conservative Eldarin soul when he attended his first woodland feast. To be sure, once these Avari found the special one for them, their marital relationships were as exclusive and tightly binding as any other among the Eldar, but until then, they enjoyed as many dalliances as they wished. Because of that, he always found his trips here rather stressful. He always had to search his chamber and lock his door before retiring for the night.

Two cultures existed here, side by side. The Eldarin culture of the court, and the Avarin culture outside it, and he had always assumed that there was no crossing over the line by either side. Until a visit he made a century ago, when he had stumbled upon Thranduil similarly engaged in a rather amorous activity on the balcony of his throne room.

Looking at his half-brother with new eyes, Glorfindel wondered if what Thranduil felt for the dead Lothuial was as intense as what he felt for Maeglin. He shuddered at the thought of losing Maeglin to death; he was certain his love for her would be for all eternity, but would the need and hunger, would the heat he felt for her continue as well if she passed to Mandos?

And what if it did not? How would he endure it for not a mere ten years, but a thousand? Or till the Second Music?

If the Woodland king found, in the arms of a fair Silvan maid, the only thing that could assuage his grief and need—however briefly—who was he to judge, knowing now the agony of such need? There existed not a wine in all Arda that could make Thranduil drunk enough to grant him the mercy of a moment’s oblivion. And here in his realm there were any number of fair maids lining up for the privilege of pleasuring their beautiful king, if only for a season. They would move on thereafter to bind themselves eternally to Silvan mates, none of whom would mind taking a bride from the bed of the king himself.

Glorfindel wondered what Legolas Thranduilion thought of all this. There was such an air of innocence about the boy that one wondered if he was even aware of his Ada’s trysts. Maybe he spent so much time roaming the woods slaying spiders that he was hardly ever around to observe what Glorfindel was now seeing.

Sometimes, looking at Legolas, Glorfindel remembered Thranduil as he had been. Back in the days when he was Prince Thranduil, and they had been friends when he visited the Greenwood or the prince came to Imladris.

Then had come the Last Alliance, the long march down the Anduin River, and the bitter Battle of Dagorlad. Glorfindel himself had gone in with the Imladrin forces to rescue Thranduil, and the balrog slayer had borne the fatally wounded Oropher off the battlefield. He remembered the fair head of the prince bent over the body of Oropher his father, weeping like a brokenhearted child. He had risen to his feet a king. As Glorfindel saw Thranduil’s pale, bleak face and saw hard steel enter his eyes, he knew the prince he had known had vanished forever.

Then Lothuial’s loss, eight hundred years ago, had sent the ice into the Woodland king’s heart.

Glorfindel’s visits to Mirkwood had become increasingly painful because nothing he tried to say or do could resurrect the friendship they once had. Thranduil was ever distant, detached, and disdainful towards him. Generally, Thranduil annoyed Glorfindel with his aloofness, and Glorfindel annoyed Thranduil by getting Legolas into all manner of adventures and misadventures when he visited. But the fun did the boy so much good, thought Glorfindel, stifling a grin at the thought, already planning in his head what they could do the next day.

Occasionally there were moments of highhandedness from the King that came close to insult. Such as now, as the King kept the mighty warrior from Imladris standing and waiting like a lackey.

But Glorfindel was in a forgiving mood that day and even fascinated by the scene before him.

He tilted his head to one side and observed that Thranduil seemed exceptionally skilful at kissing. A proficiency that probably came from much experience. He was imagining himself kissing Maeglin the same way when Thranduil rose languidly from his couch and dismissed the beauty with a wave of his hand. She left reluctantly, her eyes lingering on her monarch as she departed.

As they discussed fortifications and the preparations that would be needed in the event, however slim, of a full-on assault by whatever power was stirring in Mordor, Glorfindel thought he saw the shadow of loneliness behind the piercing blue eyes of the King. And the warrior felt a surge of protectiveness and tenderness towards his little brother.

And more empathy than he might have imagined he could have felt just ten years ago.

 

Let us now go back a few thousand years to a harbour on Tol Eressëa.

A crowd has gathered to watch a white ship depart. This is unusual, for they gather only when one arrives. But today something altogether unprecedented for the past millennium has happened. There is a passenger for the mortal lands.

Not just a passenger, but one of the rebodied from the Halls of Mandos. At this time, the rebodied in Valinor are still not numerous, and objects of great interest, because of their dark and tragic histories. This one, especially, inspires curiosity. For all have now heard of the fall of Gondolin and the golden hero who fell slaying the greatest of balrogs. Yet few have seen him over the past millennium that he has dwelt in Valinor. The aura of mystery that shrouds him has brought many here. And if a few murmurs and speculation have broken out as they look on his fair face and golden hair, Olórin with a wave of his hand has dulled them so that they reach not the ears of the warrior as he embarks.

The white ship begins to pull away from the dock, and the hero of Gondolin stands on the deck waving at ones so dear to him on the shore, the ones he had died to save.

The crowd parts before the Crown Prince of the Noldor, the son of High King Finarfin, who is staring at the passenger aboard the ship like a man in a dream.

Glorfindel has eyes for none but the faces of his loved ones. He is smiling, and his golden hair flows streaming in the sea breeze, bright in the morning sun.

On the shore, his hair the same rich, rare shade of gold—both  deep and bright—the erstwhile King of Nargothrond, the rebodied slayer of the great werewolf of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, stares at the departing hero like a starving man.

For Findaráto Ingoldo of the Noldor has had two heartaches in this land of bliss since his rebodiment.

One, that he alone of his siblings is here. His brothers still dwell with Mandos and his beloved sister is still across the great sea.

The second, his deep yearning for a child. After a millennium, he and his beloved wife Amárië have had none, and though his passion and love for her are diminished not one whit, that ache for a child, his child, has remained, eating at him deep within.

He takes one look at the golden-haired, bright-faced elf on board the ship, pulling away from shore, pulling away from him, and gasps like one struck through with a spear.

With a lurching shock, he knows.

His heart racing, hardly knowing what he is thinking, he steps forward and would have plunged into the waves but for the tall maia who bars his way with one strong arm. “Prince Findaráto,” says Olorin, shaking his head gently and looking at him with compassion.

“How can this be?” cries the dazed prince, his eyes still on the ship vanishing into the horizon. “By Eru, how can this be?”

Some of the onlookers are gazing at him with curiosity and compassion, for he is much beloved among them. Idril walks slowly across to her uncle, seeing traces of her foster son clearly in his face, his hair. She has kept silent and fiercely quelled all rumours for the last two thousand years, protecting both her foster son and her kinsman from scandal, because she has always known her uncle to be the most noble and honourable of the Noldor, and yet she knew him to be unmarried in the mortal lands. She still has no answers for this mystery that is Glorfindel.

She senses that he has none too.

Finrod cannot take his eyes from the ship till the white speck has vanished from elven eyes over the curve of the horizon.

Had he only known, had he only seen earlier, he would not have let the ship leave, would not have let the Valar themselves take his child from him without a fight.

I have a son. I have lost him in the moment that I found him.

He turns to look into the sweet, sad eyes of his niece, Idril.

“Let me tell you about him, tyenya Findaráto,” she says, and reaches out her hand to him.

 


Glossary

Herinya (Q) – my lady

Indo-ninya (Q) – my heart

Goheno nin (S) – Forgive me

Grodelin (S) – underground stars – glow worms

 

Notes:

1. The events related of Glorfindel’s begetting and childhood take place in First Age 51-64 before Thingol banned Quenya and the Noldor from Doriath. Hence it would have been quite possible for Celeborn to have travelled with Galadriel to Tol Sirion (I’m pre-empting any protests).

2. Oh, Orodreth as a healer – that’s from EbonyKitty552 on AO3 again. I always headcanoned him as unwarlike and introverted, and I liked her idea that Orodreth was at heart a healer and learned healing at Doriath. So I’ve pinched the idea.

3. One Valian year = 9.582 solar years

4. Some rambling: Any out there who liked my story the first round, I hope I’m not ruining it for you. I really intended to upload the original, which moved along faster, with only minor edits, but once I got self-indulgent and started on the changes and additions, it went out of control. It’s pretty fluffy but I feel it is an improved version and I hope you do too.

5. I love Book!Thranduil who is a wonderful king. Unfortunately, Movie!Thranduil is more fun to write, and my version of him is someone deeply scarred by the terrible losses of his life, particularly the death of his queen when Legolas was tiny. I see strong parallels with Elrond in this area. Both have gone through similar trauma and tragedy since early childhood (kinslaying, loss of parents, loss of a wife). In Elrond's case, he also lost his foster parents and his twin, and yet emerged astonishingly sane and whole. I'd like to attribute that in no small part to Maglor and Maedhros' parenting skills, and perhaps to Elrond and Elros having each other in childhood and early manhood.

6.This month, Dec 2015, marks my first anniversary as a writer. I was only a reader until I read the Fem Maeglin short by EbonyKitty52 and this story had its genesis. It’s been quite a journey and I want to thank everyone who has encouraged me with their reviews and feedback.

 

Chapter Text

A pair of eagles soared in a mating dance, circling through the blue skies over the Hithaeglir, the male turning spectacular cartwheels in his courtship display.

The elf had watched this avian ritual many times over thousands of years. For a moment, as he lay on his back gazing at the sky, he could almost imagine the surrounding mountain peaks were the Echoriad…

“Have a care, Sunhair. You are not built to defy gravity.”

The youngest Lord of Gondolin laughed as he pulled himself up onto the ledge above him. The valley of Tumladen spread out below him—fertile new farmlands being tilled, lush grasslands clothed in springtime greenery. Pristine white towers on a hill glistened in the morning light.

“I trust you to catch me, Sorontar, should I fall. But I shall not fall!” he called out blithely with the invincible confidence of youth.

Thorondor fixed the elf with a thoughtful, almost sad, golden stare. A shiver passed over the young lord, a brief vision of flames and sheer cliffs rushing past…

Then, pushing back a lock of golden hair blown by the wind over his face, he shrugged off the shadow, and climbed on upwards.

The massive eagle perched by his side now on this high crag was not Thorondor, but his smaller descendant.

“It seems but yesterday he was just an egg,” the eagle was saying, his head swivelling as he watched his grandson’s pursuit of a mate.

“I remember, Gwaihir. Three hundred and eighty-two springs past.”

“Aye, Sunhair. And only three hatchlings in our eyries all that time since. None for the last hundred and fifty-nine springs.”

“Our kind, too, have had no young in recent years.”

Above them, the courting eagles locked talons, and spun around in the sky, spiralling earthwards in a dramatic, death-defying free-fall. Glorfindel quickly sat up to watch them somersault downwards, looking down from his high perch to see them disengage just a split-second before they would have struck the rocks far, far below. It never failed to take his breath away. And this time, there seemed to be a particular poignancy in it for him.

“You are not now as you once were, Sunhair,” observed the ancient bird, as he casually preened his breast feathers with his great hooked beak. “You have a mate on your mind this spring.”

Glorfindel started, and looked sharply at the Lord of the great eagles, his blue eyes wide.

“I would know that look on any of my younglings. For each comes a time for the first skydance. Even after seven thousand springs,” said the great raptor, cocking his head at the elf and fixing a fierce golden eye on him. “Yet you linger here at the time of mating? For even your kind, this is the apt season, is it not, to pair and breed?”

The elf was speechless for a while. “It’s… it’s complicated,” he faltered, eventually. “Very complicated...”

“Your elf-hen will not have you as mate?”

“That’s only part of it,” said the elf sadly. How could an eagle understand what he himself barely did? “I feel… I fear we would hit the rocks.”

The eagle fluffed up his feathers and looked up at the sun. “That can happen,” he conceded.

The young eagles had vanished from their sight. Glorfindel knew that in an eyrie, somewhere, their coupling had begun.

“Yet it is risk makes the dance glorious, and the coupling all the sweeter,” said the Windlord. “Without the plunge, where is courage? Without the dive, where is trust?”

“Yes. Trust. When you chose your mate,”—and Glorfindel knew that Gwaihir had been with his mate since before the Fall of Gondolin—“You knew without a doubt, she was good.”

Gwaihir looked baffled. “There are no bad eagles.”

“Precisely. It is… much simpler, for your kind.” The elf appeared to struggle with himself for a while. “And you see… I have fallen and struck the rocks once before. Because of her.” As he spoke, he realized something new to himself. “And I would willingly be dashed against them again. If it was for her.”

The Windlord cocked his golden eye at Glorfindel again. “So—what is it you fear?”

The elf’s blue eyes were wretched and confused. “It’s complicated.”

 

Glorfindel had left Dale in an uncertain state of mind that had begun much earlier. As the snows receded and spring came to Dale and the Lonely Mountain, the elf’s mood vacillated wildly.

There had been a raucously cheerful winter’s night drinking ale with King Bard and King Dáin II Ironfoot, which had ended in the King under the Mountain loudly declaring the elf a good fellow and inviting him to visit Erebor.

If the dwarven king ever regretted the invitation once he sobered, Glorfindel never knew. As the elf wandered within the Lonely Mountain, the vast complexes of forges and furnaces, the deep mines and great mountain halls, had all filled him with a surge of longing for one missed so intensely that there was a perpetual ache of emptiness within his heart. I wish I could share this with you. You would have loved this. He paid far too much—dwarves know how to drive a shrewd bargain, especially with a lovelorn elf—for a few crafting tools that he knew she would like.

But then had come sudden bleakness, sparked by his chancing across the tomb of Thorin Oakenshield.

The golden-haired warrior stared, white-faced, at Orcrist in its shining scabbard, laid upon the cold marble slab of the heir of Durin’s tomb.

Glorfindel had not previously been upset when the dwarf had worn Ecthelion’s sword on his belt, the summer before Maeglin came to the valley. When Thorin gave him leave, Glorfindel had briefly held the ancient blade in his hands, deeply moved by the memories that it brought. That the great weapon had survived and would continue to cleave goblins had rather pleased the balrog-slayer, as he was sure it would have pleased his first-life’s best friend. Ecthelion would, after all, have no trouble replacing it with a finer blade in Aman.

But now, surrounded by deep, subterranean shadows and the tombs of dead kings, Orcrist spoke in a cold voice to the Lord of the Golden Flower. It spoke of Ecthelion’s grim, bloodied face, as Glorfindel had retreated with the remnants of their troops from the Square of the King. It spoke of Ecthelion plunging into the waters of his own fountain, pulling his fiery foe with him to their deaths.

And the sword whispered to Glorfindel: you too are a traitor.

A traitor to all the Gondolindrim, his love for the only one of the Firstborn to form alliance with the Black Foe making him complicit, guilty.

That night, back in Dale, sleep eluded Glorfindel. He sat by the window and watched as flurries of snow fell over the city…

 

“There is naught to deliberate,” said the Lord of the Golden Flower, his voice echoing in Gondolin’s Great Hall of Council. “Was the message of the Lord of the Waters not clear? We should make preparation to depart whilst there is time.”

Black eyes levelled a piercing glance at him. A skeptical eyebrow lifted.

“‘Message of the Lord of the Waters’?” Maeglin said slowly. “Methinks Lord Laurefindil is over-hasty. Should the words of a mere mortal cause us to abandon all we have laboured long to build, to flee in craven fear? Why would the Lord of the Waters choose one of these weak ones—so easily twisted to the will of Morgoth, as we saw to our great loss in the Nirnaeth—as his messenger?”

“The House of Hador are nothing like Uldor and his ilk,” said Ecthelion sternly. “They have ever resisted the Shadow with great courage. I see this man’s nature in his face. He is noble as his father was noble, and there is no shadow upon him. I would not have granted him admittance otherwise.”

Glorfindel glared with grim, dark-blue eyes at the one upon whom shadow rested—who had revealed that shadow on a garden terrace one autumn long ago. The black eyes met his briefly and quickly flicked away.

“So was Húrin noble, yet his son wrought Nargothrond’s fall,” said the prince of Gondolin. “I say not that the son of Huor seeks to deceive. Yet he may himself be under deception. One may be an instrument of darkness all unknowing, for not Irmo alone is the author of dreams and visions. And the lesser children of Ilúvatar are perchance more susceptible to the manipulations of the Black Foe.”

“He came clad in the very armour Ulmo said we should take as a sign,” said the Lord of the Swallow.

“Armour that lay within unguarded ruins for centuries. It was only a matter of time before one came and looted it, if not this vagabond mortal, then some bandit—though to my mind, there is little difference.”

The Lord of the Heavenly Arch looked thoughtful. “There was a power in the son of Huor’s words beyond that of any ordinary man. Did not our fëar stir within us as he spoke?”

Maeglin shrugged. “No more than it would for any orator skilled in swaying hearts and minds, as he undeniably is. I do not know about power...” The black eyes narrowed. “But—if there was power indeed, then it begs the question: whose power? Who would gain most from our abandonment of this stronghold? Who is it desires most our retreat, our giving up our opposition to Angband from this secret kingdom? Think—’twas Lord Ulmo himself that chose this very valley, this very land. Do we not question his wisdom in this choice, if we entertain thoughts of deserting it? Is it not counter to his plan and purpose? And think of all our labours for the last centuries. With all we have done to fortify and safeguard this kingdom, is there a place more impregnable than this in all Arda? The eagles watch over it. With constant vigilance, our patrols wipe out any of Morgoth’s creatures that wander near, leaving nary a trace for others to find. The mortal himself would never have found the way, save by Voronwë’s guidance—and indeed, I wonder that severer disciplinary measures have not been meted out to the son of Aranwë for violation of our laws...”

 

Glorfindel gazed bleakly out over the moonlit city of Dale through frosty window panes as he recalled that day. The debate had gone back and forth another hour. Taciturn and silent as the Lord of the Mole was wont to be, he could hold forth with eloquence at need. All the lords had spoken in turn, and at the end were divided into two equal camps.

 

“I have spoken enough.” A princely wave of a hand, wearily. “In the end, it matters not what I think.” Maeglin turned to the king who sat next to him, and bowed deeply. “I shall abide by the will of my king. Let it be as you decide, my liege.”

All eyes in the Council Hall were on Turgon, who had sat stern and silent, listening to the debate, the gaze of his grey eyes oft moving from his nephew and his lords to the great stone-arched windows. Beyond, his white city lay glittering and breathtakingly beautiful in the morning sunshine. Fairer even than Tirion, to his mind. And more beloved.

“Aye,” said Penlod, standing and bowing. “Let it be as you decide, my lord king.”

As one by one, the lords stood and bowed, Glorfindel and Ecthelion’s eyes had met across the table. Maeglin knew well the king’s heart. As did they.

Not the king and his nephew alone loved the city. For all the lords, this was home, and dearer even perhaps to those who had known great loss of another across the sea. If there was still uneasiness in some hearts, if some wondered still if the warning might not truly be of Ulmo, it did not cost them great effort to disregard it.

Years later, Maeglin vanished. For months. His most trusted aides within the House of the Mole knew not his whereabouts, but said he was seeking for ores on the mountain slopes within the valley, now that Anghabar was out of bounds. If they were to be trusted, the Lord of the Golden Flower had thought darkly. Their loyalty to Maeglin ran so deep, that he would not have put it past them to lie at their lord’s behest.

Ah, and what could inspire such loyalty?

Glorfindel, as he sat by the window in Dale, remembered a night back in Gondolin, shortly after their return from the Nirnaeth Arnoediad…

 

“Come quickly,” said a terse, abrupt voice. “It’s Eneldur.”

Startled, the Lord of the Golden Flower turned from the patient he was watching over to see the Lord of the Mole standing behind him in his white infirmary gown—the first time in over a century the latter had worn anything but the perpetual mourning of black. He was ashen and leaned on the doorway for support, his hair falling in a black tangle over his shoulder.

“You should not have left your bed,” said Glorfindel sharply, himself with a bandaged left hand.

“Eneldur’s taken a turn for the worse,” Maeglin snapped impatiently. “Will you come? I cannot find any of the fool physicians on duty.”

There was no mistaking the urgency in his voice, nor the desperation that must have driven him to seek help from the elf he hated. The golden-haired lord glanced at his now peacefully sleeping patient, then quickly rose, helping the Lord of the Mole to the next room without another thought. And as they hurried there, the prince accepted the Golden Flower’s strong shoulders under his arm, and his enemy’s good arm half-lifting him by his waist.

Eneldur was a lowly ohtar in the army of the Mole. It was clear at once to Glorfindel that he was sinking—the grey colour of his face, the sunken eyes, the struggle for each rasping, shallow breath through the open mouth.

Maeglin dropped onto the stool by the bed and leaning over, said harshly. “Hold on, damn you. Don’t you dare give up on me. You hear me, ohtar?” But his hand closed over the dying man’s in a clasp that was unexpectedly gentle.

On the other side of Eneldur’s pallet—they had run out of beds in the healing hall and pallets were lined up in rows in rooms converted to makeshift infirmaries—Glorfindel knelt and laid his hand on the ohtar’s chest. He had been tending the wounded all day, and his reserves were already depleted.  He began to sing softly, letting what strength and healing remained in his fëa and hröa flow into the fading warrior.

Glorfindel did not know how much time passed before he collapsed. When he came to, he was sitting on the floor, leaning against a wall, and Rog was crouched next to him, eyeing him with grave concern.

“The Mole ohtar—” Glorfindel managed to say.

“Sleeping. Better.”

“Lómion?”

“Here,” growled a low voice. The golden head turned slowly to see Maeglin seated next to another of his ohtari. Eleven wounded Moles lay in this room.  

Hantanyet.” The raven head gave a nod of thanks.

Glorfindel gave him a small smile, then slipped into unconsciousness again as the Lord of the Hammer slung the golden lord’s tall, slender frame over his broad smith’s shoulder and took him back to the House of the Golden Flower.

 

The first green on the trees in Dale and the sound of rushing meltwaters brought a huge rush of elation. Glorfindel’s work with King Bard and his warriors went smoothly, and was concluded by mid-spring. As Glorfindel bade farewell to the people of Dale—including numerous children with whom he had enjoyed some stirring snow fights—the elf could barely wait to pack his gear, jump on Asfaloth, and head west.

But on the journey home, Asfaloth was more baffled and exasperated by his rider than he had been for the almost seven millennia of their whole relationship.

The elf hardly sang on the journey. He was silent for alarmingly long stretches of time.

At times, the elf rode him at a tearing pace, as though a dozen firedrakes were on their tail.

At others, they slowed to a ridiculous amble, or the elf let him wander free the whole day, grazing by the Anduin, while said elf lay chewing on a stalk of grass, or picking at petals of wild flowers, or staring into space in the most melancholic fashion.

They spent a pleasant enough week with Beorn at the Carrock, who had a delicious treat for the stallion—spring apples.

The elf then urged the white elfhorse to make a mad sprint into the Hithaeglir.

A week was then frittered away socializing with eagles, while Asfaloth grazed in a small mountain meadow in the shadow of the eyries, talking to a few mountain rams to stave off boredom.

Another two weeks were spent ambushing orcs and wargs on the western slopes of the mountains with a disturbingly grim fury that Asfaloth associated more with the peredhel twins when they were in orc-hunting mode.

Late one moonless night, Glorfindel sat high on a ledge in the mountains. From there, he could watch for orcs, keep an eye on Asfaloth, and yet blend into the rockface with his bright hair covered by the elven grey hood and cloak he wore. He had even covered Asfaloth’s gleaming white coat with a grey caparison. The noble steed did not mind; the winds in these heights were nippy.

But even as Glorfindel’s blue eyes scanned the slopes around him, and gazed at Eriador stretching out to the west, his thoughts were six thousand years away.

 

The transformation in Lómion, since his mysterious disappearance and return, made Glorfindel and several others uneasy.

“But I do not understand how we missed you,” said the Lord of the Golden Flower with a frown. “We spread out and searched for days. All the slopes around Tumladen.”

“We feared you might have had an accident,” said the Lord of the Swallow.

“Indeed—the hills can be most treacherous, cundunya,” said the Lord of the Harp, fanning himself vigorously, for it was warm in the forge.

The Lord of the Mole smiled—actually smiled—a pleasant, even winsome smile. The lords were suddenly reminded of Aredhel. And how vastly attractive the prince actually was. One tended to forget, given the grimness of his habitual countenance. “I am deeply touched by your concern. And I regret the valuable effort and resources wasted in the search.” There was a velvety smoothness in the low voice that was new too. “But it was entirely unnecessary. I left clear word with my aides that I would be absent for a time. Prospecting is slow work, and I had to venture deep into hidden caves.”

“Alone?” said the Lord of the Fountain sharply. “Countless dangers lurk in those caves. To have brought none of your men with you was unwise and reckless indeed.”

Ignoring him, Maeglin drew out a bulky cloth bag, and emptied an impressive pile of rough gemstones onto the table. “I found not that which I sought the most—neither iron nor copper, alas—but thankfully, I did not come away empty-handed.”

The eyes of the lords glinted with interest, for they loved gems. And as they fingered the stones, discussed various cuts, and had a share of gems generously bestowed upon each of them by the prince’s generosity, there were no more probing questions regarding the four months and nine days for which he had disappeared without a trace.

Maeglin actually became almost popular with the other lords over the next six years.

 

Six years, the prince of Gondolin had gone about his business as usual in the city he had betrayed.

Six years, he had smiled into the eyes of those whose death warrant he had signed.

Glorfindel had combed through his memories, hoping to recall the smallest flicker of guilt or regret on the prince’s face in those six years. Nothing.

Thinking of it always upset the balrog slayer so much that he almost did not note the pack of seven wargs on the rocks below, till Asfaloth raised the alarm.

At once, Glorfindel jumped down with drawn sword, grey cloak swirling behind him. The wargs had descended upon a lone traveller, a tall figure in a dark green hood and cloak, leather armour showing beneath, who was doing good work with his sword defending himself. Even as Glorfindel leapt into the fray he recognized those sword strokes.

“Estel?!”

The elflord despatched the last three wargs swiftly, and the traveller pushed back his hood to show a familiar face, grinning. “Glorfindel!”

The two friends embraced.

“What are you doing here, mellon-nín? And all alone?”

“Making my way in the world!” said the young Dúnadan with a smile, though his eyes were grave. He was now almost as tall as Tuor had been, and Glorfindel saw in his face that the youngling of a year past was gone. There was a new fire in his grey eyes, a sense of purpose, a hint of steel. “I shall return not to Imladris, and shall call no place home, till I have proven myself.”

“So… you know,” said Glorfindel to the descendant of Elendil, as they both cleaned and sheathed their swords. “Elrond had not planned to tell you for another five years.”

“Yes, he told me.”

“You have come of age young, lad.”

“All these years, everyone in the house knew—except for me,” there was nothing accusatory in his tone, only matter-of-factness. “Now I understand why you trained me so exactingly, and pushed me as hard as you did.”

“I have seen too many of your forefathers fall before their time, Estel. Your fate shall not be as your father Arathorn’s. I would that you live your full length of days, till you choose to lay them down.”

“Call me Estel no more, Glorfindel, but the name my father gave me.”

“Aragorn. It suits.” Glorfindel grinned. “You do not seek to join with the Rangers up north?”

“I left Imladris a month past, and I have just been with the Rangers in Evendim. Good men all, familiar enough with me from my last few orc raids with them. But I am still an unproven pup in their eyes, though none would say it. I shall return some day, and take up the sword that was broken, when I have earned a right to command their allegiance as much by deed as by blood. I have listened so many hours to the tales of your travels and the lands east of the Hithaeglir, Glorfindel. I go now in search of my own adventures and service. As I have been told, only he with a heart to serve truly leads.

Glorfindel smiled and nodded. “But it is a long, hard road. And you have not even a horse.”

“Aye, I was sad to part with Duiroch, but he belongs in Imladris.”

“Will you allow me to journey at least part of the way with you? Asfaloth can bear us both.” Glorfindel felt a war within his own spirit—between the pull homewards to Imladris—and the lure of new adventures.

Aragorn looked at Glorfindel with his young-old eyes. “I thank you, mellon-nín. You cannot imagine how much that tempts me. But I must make my own way. I have a good sword at my belt, and your teaching within me. I shall be fine.”

“Yes, you shall,” said Glorfindel, his blue eyes solemn, knowing it would be so, yet grieving at the hard roads and the perilous paths and the lonely years he saw stretching ahead of his pupil.

“And,” added Aragorn with a wry smile and a wicked glint in his eye. “You must be impatient to get home to see someone.” The smile quickly faded, and a shadow crossed his face before he could hide it.

“What do you mean?” Glorfindel said sharply, his eyes staring piercingly at the adan, taken aback both by his words and the look on his face that followed. And then, with sudden elven insight, he understood.

“Let’s just say,” said the boy softly, “that I think both of us left our hearts at Imladris. You with Twilight’s Daughter, and I with Twilight’s Star.”

“Oh, Est—Aragorn,” said Glorfindel. “Arwen? And Elrond knows?”

“Yes.” The boy did not need to say any more. “I was not wrong about you, was I?”

“Am I so transparent? Does everyone know?” said Glorfindel with a sigh.

“Oh, no. At least, I think not. I guessed long ago. You guarded yourself less before me then. I was just a silly boy who wrote bad songs and wanted to go for swims instead of swordfighting lessons.”

Glorfindel laughed, and the two friends returned to the high ledge and talked through the night. And they spoke no more of love, but of the lands and realms and peoples that lay east.

And each in his heart deemed his own cause in love less hopeful than the other’s.

 

The stallion of Aman was relieved when, on a warm, golden, summer morning, they came to the upper course of the Bruinen, and took the path that led them home through the northern pass of Imladris. And as always, elves hailed them enthusiastically from the trees and hillsides, and welcomed them back with song and laughter.

It was good to be home. Asfaloth’s ears relaxed forward and his tail lifted happily as Glorfindel gave him an extra-long wash and grooming.

The warrior could hear the rhythmic song of a hammer on metal even as he settled Asfaloth back in his stable stall. It pulled at him as sirens pull sailors upon the rocks.

And his elven ears could hear a voice. He recognized it. Elrohir’s.

 “...so Elladan and I sneaked into the healing halls early that morning, and stole some hiccupping herb from the cupboard, and put it into Glorfindel’s breakfast.”

Glorfindel winced as he brushed Asfaloth’s coat. He remembered that day. It was a classic elfling prank. Only they had given him a double dose of the herb.

“...he was hiccupping so violently from breakfast till dinner that he had to be sent to the healing halls and all training sessions for the day were cancelled.”

Who was he speaking to? There was no response from whoever it might be.

Ai! A smile at last. Your smiles, híril-nín, have become as costly as mithril, and as rare.”

Unable to bear it any longer, Glorfindel finished off Asfaloth’s coat with a last few strokes, strode out of the stables, and peered towards the smithy around the corner of the building.

“I will not devalue them, then,” said a voice that made his heart leap. “Is this a game you wish to play? You shall lose. I can set my face as stone.”

The large doors were wide open, and Maeglin was standing at the anvil nearest the entrance—right where Camaen normally worked, and Camaen was nowhere to be seen at the forge. She was shaping a piece of plate armour on it, and the golden morning light glinted off the steel and off her glossy black hair.

Glorfindel drank in the sight of her, as a parched man might slake his thirst at an oasis after a long spell in the desert. The shapeless boys’ tunic was gone. She was wearing a dark-blue, sleeveless tunic with lacing down the front, and it was fitted in shape and highlighted the fullness of her bosom, and the swell of her hips below her narrow waist. He could see what lean, muscled arms both sword and smithy had given her as she worked. Her hair had grown longer, and she wore it loose; it hung like black silk to her hips. She was frowning slightly as she worked, whether from concentration or annoyance at Elrohir’s chatter, he could not tell. But no face in the world was lovelier to him than this one.

And in that moment, all his war between desire and repulsion, sympathy and condemnation melted away.

All that Maeglin had been, past and present, all that Maeglin had done—all the darkness, the woundedness, the rage, the brilliance, the bitterness, the strength, the flashes of compassion, the arrogance, the valour, the treachery, the deaths of a hundred thousand Eldar, Glorfindel’s own death—it all came together in the tall, slender maiden standing over an anvil, frowning in the morning sun.

And Glorfindel laid his struggle down. He had known this One he gazed at now for a hundred and nineteen coranári. And with all he was, fëa and hröa, he felt how all the strange paths of both their lives had brought him to this moment. Acceptance of all Maeglin was—and the him she had once been—dawned upon Glorfindel’s heart like a sunrise. It brought both acute anguish to his heart like the stabbing of a jagged blade, and a transcendent flood of tenderness and release that was close to rapture.

And it was no longer complicated. It was simple.

He would love Maeglin, regardless. He would believe in the goodness he felt lay within her, despite all evidence to the contrary. He would seek her happiness. He would watch over her. He might pine for her till the Second Music, unrequited. He might be hurt more than all the wounds his body had taken in two lives. So be it. It was what it was.

“Set your face as stone? By Eru, I know you can, you rare girl! You might be fashioned from stone as much as the naugrim.” Elrohir laughed. He was standing near Maeglin, leaning against the wall much as Glorfindel used to do when he visited Camaen. “But it sounds like a challenge I would relish!”

There was a bowl of berries and a pile of buttercups and cornflowers on the corner of a work table, and Elrohir was weaving the flowers into a garland that was almost finished. As he spoke those last words, he took a couple of berries and popped them into Maeglin’s mouth as she worked, before popping a few into his own. She accepted it as though it were commonplace between them.

Glorfindel’s blue eyes darkened. He stepped out from hiding and walked up the path.

“Give me a few berries,” said Elladan, who was sitting outside on a bench, reading a book, his long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. “And tell her about the time we tied Glorfindel’s hair to his bedpost as he slept.” The elder twin’s eyes stayed on the page as he took some berries from his brother’s hand.

“Well, yes, we tied Glorfindel’s hair to his bedpost. Then we stood at the foot of the bed—and shouted at the top of our lungs!”

“I always thought Glorfindel was the prankster, rather than the pranked,” Maeglin remarked, raising an eyebrow.

Both twins burst out laughing. “That shows you’ve been speaking to Erestor too much!” “Ah, now, they have had a running battle since Lindon.” “I don’t recall Glorfindel ever pranking anyone else.” “He has many a fine adventure of his elfling days to share, however.” “Say, how about that time Glorfindel—”

“That is quite enough about Glorfindel for one day,” said Maeglin shortly. “Could you pass me those pliers, please.”

As Elrohir did so, he espied Glorfindel. With a shout, the peredhel twin flew down the path, followed closely by Elladan, and enveloped Glorfindel in a hug that almost knocked the balrog slayer over.

Ai! You’re back!” “You don’t know how much we missed you!” “We were just talking about you!” “So much has happened since you left.”

Over the twin-hug engulfing him, Glorfindel saw Maeglin’s eyes narrow and her mouth tighten. She bent her head and continued working on her armour.

The twins and Glorfindel exchanged news for some time, chiefly about Estel, then headed up the path to the smithy.

Maeglin raised her head and the eyes of the hero and his beloved traitor met.

The last time they had seen each other, she had dared him to put her in plate armour. It had happened so quickly... she had run, he had caught her in three seconds; he had grabbed her by the waist and lifted her off her feet; she had grabbed hold of a weapons rack which then fell over; he had pulled her clear of the collapsing rack and the lances and swords and quarterstaffs that had rained down with it; they had fallen over onto the floor with her on top of him, their limbs in a very interesting tangle, their faces a mere inch from each other, just as Elrond had flung the door open. They were both remembering the moment vividly, and flushing slightly.

Mae le’ovannen, Lord Glorfindel. Welcome home. It is good to see you again.” Maeglin cold voice belied the touch of pink glowing in her cheeks.

Le’ovannen. In the training room, over the winter, they had begun to use gi instead of le. Her reversion to formal terms of address, her distancing of him, hurt.

Mae le’ovannen, Maiden Lómiel,” he said, matching her formality. “That is a fine looking piece of armour you’re making. But where is Camaen?”

Maeglin looked out over the meadow, and the twins pointed in the same direction. “There he is,” said the elder twin.

And there, walking under the apple trees, was Camaen hand in hand with Thalanes the healer.

“There certainly appear to have been a lot of changes since I left,” said Glorfindel, turning back to the smithy to see Elrohir setting the finished garland of buttercups and cornflowers on Maeglin’s hair.

“Elrohir! Not now,” she said testily. “I’m working! And you’re making me look a sight.”

Ignoring her protest, the younger twin arranged the flowers around her ears, and paused to examine his work critically. “What do you think?” he asked Glorfindel with a grin. “A sight worth coming home to, is she not?”

Maeglin scowled darkly at Glorfindel and the peredhel twins.

“Beautiful. All ready for midsummer,” said Glorfindel in a stifled voice. He had carried the twins in his arms the day they were born, babysat them all through their elfling years, trained them as warriors, and loved them dearly, but at this moment he was itching to punch Elrohir in the face.

If it meant her happiness, would you step aside and bless it?

Yes. Even though it slay me. Yes.

“We feared you would not be back for the Gates of Summer, Glorfindel.”

“It never is as enjoyable when you are absent.”

“Lindir will be delighted to see you!”

“And we shall get to hear you sing of Gondolin again.”

Startled, Glorfindel looked at the twins. “Sing… of Gondolin? You mean…?”

“Yes, it’s the Gondolin festival this year again, for Tarnin Austa!” said Elrohir

“It is about time. It has been over two yéni since the last one,” said Elladan.

Glorfindel was aghast.

 

It had begun early in the Third Age. The two hundred years after the grief and loss of the war had seen a mass exodus to Aman. But amid the sorrow, hope had flowered—and new life. Weddings. A new Lady at Imladris. A sudden proliferation of babies across the valley, including the birth of three children to its Lord. As they put behind the war and the darkness, the Imladrim began to revel in song, and dance, and staging plays, and holding feasts and festivals with a vengeance.

As they gathered around a warm hearth one day in hrívë, Lindir mentioned shyly that he had been composing songs and writing some scenes on the Fall of Gondolin.

“I thought to have them performed this Tarnin Austa,” the minstrel said, eyeing Glorfindel a little nervously. “But I was not sure how you might feel about it.”

Elrond’s eyebrow raised slightly. “Songs and re-enactments of the Fall of Gondolin? At Tarnin Austa?”

“Er—yes. That seems most apt. I wish to honour the heroism and courage of the warriors on that Tarnin Austa, long ago, and to celebrate the fairest and most glorious city in Beleriand.”

“I think that may touch too close for comfort,” said Elrond slowly as he leaned back in his armchair, looking at the hero of Gondolin.

They all turned to look at the hero of Gondolin.

Glorfindel, sprawled on a chaise longue with baby Arwen chewing on the ends of his gold hair as she lay on his chest, had a slightly perplexed expression on his fair face.

“I am sorry, it was a bad idea,” said Lindir hurriedly.

“Oh no, not at all,” said Glorfindel. “I see no reason why we should not do this. Although I honestly have no idea how it would feel to relive Gondolin’s fall again, I do appreciate your intent and idea, truly.”

“Would it give you nightmares, do you think?” asked Erestor, almost hopefully.

Glorfindel looked thoughtful. “It would be interesting to find out. I have had no nightmares about it ever since I was rebodied. I have never even dreamt once of the balrog.”

Murmurs of incredulity from the others.

“It’s true. In fact, I never have any nightmares at all.”

That was one of the things that Erestor found supremely annoying about the chosen servant of the Valar. How could anyone be so completely free of fears and neuroses? So… so happy and almost carefree, after being killed in the First Age, and surviving the most horrendous wounds at the end of the Second Age? It almost offended the counselor’s sensibilities. He thought he would have liked the once-slain hero more were he clothed in a more tragic aura, were he just a tad more angst-ridden.

“We could celebrate the food and culture of Gondolin as well,” Glorfindel said, brightening, for he could seldom stay pensive for long. He pulled his hair out of the baby’s mouth, and balanced her on one hand, where she sat cooing delightedly, perfectly poised and quite thrilled. He smiled and kissed her little cheek. “I can think of any number of lovely poems and songs that were lost with our libraries, and a dozen delicious dishes I’ve not tasted in four thousand years to put on a menu.”

“That would be wonderful!” said Celebrían, as Arwen grabbed another handful of golden hair. Glorfindel tugged his hair out of her tiny hands, nuzzled her tummy to distract her, and blew a long, loud raspberry into it to her great glee.

“Gof!” said the baby at the end of a long gurgle of laughter.

“Did you hear that? Her first word!” the golden-haired warrior said rapturously. “And it’s my name! Yes, you clever girl!

Gof? That’s not remotely your name! It’s not even a word of any sort!” Erestor sputtered crossly, watching Arwen pull at Glorfindel’s golden locks. “It’s just a—a random baby noise!”

Elrond and Celebrían, who had taken the honours for the first words of Elladan and Elrohir respectively, merely beamed indulgently at their daughter and their golden-haired friend.

“Yes it is, it is my name! The warrior smiled into the infant’s tiny grey eyes. “You tell Erestor, blossom. What’s my name?”

Gof!” Arwen said triumphantly to Erestor with a toothless grin every bit as dazzling as Glorfindel’s.

“Who is your favouritest elf in all Eä, blossom? After Ada and Nana, of course.”

“Gof!”

“Who is an annoying, obnoxious ass?” Erestor cut in irately.

“Oooh, such language!” Glorfindel covered the baby’s ears. “Shame on you, Erestor.”

Lindir laughed. “Would you cast a critical eye upon what I have written thus far, and give your honest verdict?” said the minstrel to Glorfindel.

“It would be my pleasure,” said Glorfindel, as Arwen tried to detach one of his braids from his scalp.

“And we should have a re-enactment of the battle with the balrog,” said Erestor.

“Only if you are the balrog,” said Glorfindel, sweetly, and cuddled a blissful baby to his chest.

 

The song the twins had looked forward to Glorfindel singing was the opening of the festivities. Glorfindel’s song would paint a picture of the white city—its towers, squares, fountains; the seven gates; the vale of Tumladen; the encircling mountains. No one could describe it with as much love and knowledge as he did. And none had enjoyed each of the Gondolin festivals, held every two to three yéni, more than he.

But now, the balrog slayer stared blankly at the twins. “But I did not know about it—I am not ready—”

“But no one knows the song as well as you! You composed it.”

“You have never needed any preparation before.”

If the hero was sure of one thing, it was that the last thing in Eä he wanted right now was to relive the Fall of Gondolin. And he was certain, even without looking at the traitor, that Maeglin felt even more sickened than him by all this. He had watched her face during her first Midsummer here, and noted how she had vanished for those that followed. He had been torn between sympathetic pain at the anguish he sensed in her, and utter relief and thankfulness for the guilt-stricken, remorseful heart that bespoke. She must have been suffering agonies here since the preparations for the festival began.

“Surely,” said the balrog slayer desperately, “surely Lindir has chosen others to take my place, by now.”

“Yes, but they would step down with pleasure once they know you have returned.”

“The chefs will be overjoyed that you are here to taste their dishes!”

“And the elflings will be delighted that you are here to see the re-enactment of your duel with the balrog!” That too was a tradition. The youngest toddler in the valley always acted as Glorfindel, and three elflings clambered with glee into an oversized costume to play the balrog. It was always a crowd pleaser, and usually hilarious. This time might be the last time. The youngest elfling was already a little fellow of nineteen. And he looked to be the last elfling born in Imladris. “They have been rehearsing for weeks.”

The battle between Tuor and Maeglin was always re-enacted by elflings as well, with a rather vile looking puppet playing the traitor since no one wanted the role. Glorfindel felt sick at the thought of it. Please, Eru, let not the twins mention that now.

Thankfully, they did not. Glorfindel glanced at Maeglin. She was frowning and working on the armour as though her life depended on it. Her face was even paler than usual.

He wished, helplessly, that he could offer her some form of comfort. But even if he could find any means of doing so, comfort coming from him would probably count to her as none.

Excusing himself, he left the smithy, collected his belongings from the stables, and went into the house.

 

After Glorfindel had concluded his report on Mirkwood and Dale to Elrond, as he rose to leave, Elrond suddenly said, “Lómiel has come of age, by the way. I thought you might wish to know.”

Glorfindel looked at his lord in surprise, and remained silent.

Elrond looked down at his desk and carefully arranged some papers. “After observing her over the year, we arrived at the conclusion that she has attained her full stature, and, er—probably had for a while, actually. I realized that Arwen had been passing her some dresses to wear for several years, and the fit had not changed in all that time. Hence, we celebrated her majority with all the traditional rites this tuilë.” Because no one besides Glorfindel knew her actual begetting day, the household always celebrated it on the day she had come to Imladris.

Glorfindel was not quite sure how to respond. “Thank you for informing me,” he said politely. “I am sorry to have missed the ceremony.”

“Well, it does mean that should there be any desire to do so on your part, she may be paid court to.”

Elrond saw a brief flash of fire in the blue eyes.

“It would appear that Elrohir is already doing so,” said Glorfindel in an even voice.

Elrond was taken aback. “I am not aware that my son is paying court to anyone, Glorfindel.”

“I have seen couples court for seven millennia, Elrond. When an eligible ellon feeds an eligible elleth with berries from his own hand and weaves and places flower garlands on her hair—especially when he has never done so for any other elleth in the two thousand eight hundred and thirty-one coranári of his life—I assure you it looks like he is paying court.” And if you do not wish to have your great-uncle as your law-daughter you would put a stop to this right now, Glorfindel thought.

Elrond knit his brows slightly. “I do not believe it means what you think. She saved his life in the winter—“

“What?”

“When they were ambushed in the southern Coldfells—“

“Ambushed? She has been riding out with the guards?” Glorfindel blanched. “Yrch?”

“No, it was after the yrch. They were riding home from a successful raid when they ran into a blizzard, and were attacked by a snow troll. She saw a large rock going straight at Elrohir, and pushed him out of the way. Her armour took some damage, but thankfully she was not crushed.”

“Oh Eru and all his Ainur!! Not crushed?? Was she injured??”

“Four broken ribs, some internal bleeding, a puncture to the lung—”

Broken ribs?? Internal bleeding?? A puncture to a lung??” The fearless warrior’s voice rose by an octave, and he looked as though he was going to faint. “Which lung?” he asked, as though it mattered.

Elrond eyed the warrior with concern. “The right lung, caused by a fracture in a middle right rib. Not a large puncture, thankfully, so surgery was not required. She has fully recovered of course, and Elrohir visited her often while she was in the healing halls. They have become close friends. He is grateful. As am I.”

“Is she still going out on patrols?”

“She is, as said, fully recovered, so yes. And the twins may include her in their orc-hunting party, now she is well again.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Glorfindel muttered darkly under his breath.

“So,” said Elrond carefully. “You do care for her still?”

Glorfindel did not speak for a while. He imagined himself paying court to Maeglin. It was hard to imagine any good outcome. He may have risen above the ancient enmity that lay between them—but Maeglin made it abundantly clear she had not. The coldness of their recent meeting gave him no hope. He had surrendered to loving her. But he could not see himself winning her.

“Should there be mutual affection between Lómiel and any worthy ellon, I would wish them joy,” he said finally. “And there can be no doubt Elrohir is worthy.”

It was all the answer Elrond needed. “I never thought I would see the day. So you love her. Court her then!”

Glorfindel winced, and shook his head. “Elrond, please—”

“If your concern is Elrohir, I know my son, and I do not believe his heart is for any maiden. I shall speak to him—”

“Oh, no. Please do not. And please, let us never speak of this again. Ever.” And with a bow Glorfindel quickly took his leave.

Elrond was mildly baffled after the golden warrior left his study.

That had not quite gone as he had thought it would.

But on the bright side, at least the balrog slayer did not appear to have any more paranoid delusions about reborn traitors of Gondolin lurking in Imladris in the guise of elfmaids.

 

Over a year ago, when the reborn traitor had discovered that the reborn hero of Gondolin had left Imladris without even a farewell, nothing had prepared her for the complete devastation and loss that had struck her. Camaen never guessed that beneath her impassive demeanour, when he casually mentioned that Glorfindel was gone, she had felt as though her chest had been torn open and hacked at with a knife.

She had spent much of that morning feeling bereft, abandoned—even betrayed—pretending to work.

You fool.

You utter fool.

How did you let this happen?

How did you not guard your heart?

The desire she had toyed with, foolishly, had now turned upon her, burgeoned into a monster beyond her control.

And Maeglin needed no other reason to hate him now but the acute pain in her heart the very thought of him brought. And the abyss of terror that lurked beneath.

She threw herself once again into her craft. And into training with the guard under the watchful eye of the twins. Before long, they had her riding out with them and Estel on orc hunts. She unloaded her pain through the force of her hammer upon the anvil, and through the rage she unleashed upon the creatures of darkness with her sword.

She would craft chains to lock up her heart stronger than those that had bound her in Angband.

I am iron and stone. I will feel nothing.

By hrivë, she felt herself much recovered. She felt little besides annoyance when Glorfindel was spoken of—and he was spoken of frequently.

It was good that he had left when he did. It had been a close call.

Maeglin would never let it happen again.

And this morning, on Midsummer’s Eve, she had passed the test. There had been the initial awkwardness, given the circumstances of their last meeting. But she had really felt next to nothing.

And now he was heading up the path to the smithy again. Maeglin was still strong. Still stone. She glanced at him and nodded almost indifferently, and continued grinding the sword in her hand. Camaen, who was feeding the furnace at the back of the smithy, gave the warrior a cheerful wave, and continued to stoke the fire, whistling as he worked.

Glorfindel thought, You have also gone back to sword making, I see, Lómion. But all he said was, “A beautiful sword, Maiden Lómiel.”

“It will be passable after another round of tempering,” she replied. “The problem is materials. It’s not easy to get our hands on good ore here.”

I am sure you miss the mines of Anghabar, he thought. He said, “I heard you have joined the patrols.”

She arched an eyebrow at him, remembering his objection. “You disapprove?”

“I heard you almost got killed.” Again, he added in his thoughts.

“But not in combat,” she said. “The snow trolls were unexpected.”

“You need to be faster next time. I shall train you.”

“I do very well training with the guard under Captain Emlindir, hîr-nín. But I thank you for the offer.”

“Have you made yourself a good sword?”

“Not yet. Standard issue still.” Maeglin turned the blade she held in her hand, critically.

“I heard that you celebrated your coming of age while I was away. I have a gift for you.”

Not the crafting tools he had bought from the dwarves. That could wait. As he had left Elrond’s study, he had realized full well that he could not stop Maeglin from going on the patrols. Not only because of how it would look, but because he could not deny the fierce warrior in her blood, that he both loved and feared.

But he could give her a worthy weapon with which to defend herself.

It was not a gift given with intent to woo; he had little hope of success in that. But it was a gift of love.

So now, Glorfindel took out Idril’s sword in its scabbard from the thick cloth that wrapped it. It shone with blinding brilliance in the late sun as he unsheathed it. “It was made by a master smith in Gondolin.”

And he watched Maeglin’s face turn white and bleak.

Of course he had known she would recognize her own craftsmanship.

Five years before Gondolin fell, Glorfindel had gone to the Lord of the Mole, and requested a fine sword for a lady. Not a decorative one. One for use in battle.

He had not said whom it was for.

Earlier that spring, Idril had spoken to Glorfindel, her eyes troubled. “I want you to teach me to fight,” she said, a note of darkness in her voice that he not heard in it before.

“Fight? You? Why, my princess?” he asked, his blue eyes surprised.

Her grey eyes glittered. “I had a dream last night. There is a shadow coming. Teach me to fight, Laurefindil. In my dream I saw I shall be needing it some day.”

The princess rarely had the gift of foresight, but when she did, it was true. So Glorfindel had commissioned Maeglin to make the sword, and in a chamber at Idril’s palace quarters, whilst two-year-old Eärendil slept in the afternoon, the Lord of the Golden Flower had trained his Ammë to fight.

And now, as soon as Glorfindel saw Maeglin’s face when she set eyes upon the sword, he cursed himself inwardly and realized what a mistake he had made. Finally saw what he should have known a long time ago.

Why Idril had needed the sword. And what she had used it for.

That not long before Maeglin was killed, the Prince of Gondolin would have seen that sword in the hand of his adored cousin. As she had tried to kill him, to defend herself and her child.

Glorfindel had not guessed. Idril, as she had related the fight to him through angry tears, had made no mention of using the sword. Neither had Pengolodh’s account, which Lindir had faithfully used as a source for his songs and plays.

Glorfindel rapidly re-constructed the scene in his head, now that six thousand years of assumptions had been dismantled.

He saw his Ammë, Eärendil pushed behind her, sword in hand, battling with the prince of Gondolin, protecting her own like a tigress, eyes flashing with steel and fire as he knew they could. He had seen that steely determination on the Way of Escape, as they fled the valley. He imagined the prince, full of desperate love, facing the point of the sword he himself had made.

Forgive me, melmenya, I did not know.

But it was too late to withdraw the gift now without giving all away.

“My mother told me in Valinor that I should give it to one worthy of it,” he said. “I believe you will use it well.”

He gently placed the sword on the table near her, and walked away.

Maeeglin was running her fingers over the blade as he left. Over the small mark on the blade, just below the hilt, where she knew the craftsman had left his stamp. The stamp of the Lord of the Mole.

And her heart, her wayward, unreasoning heart, was hurting as a heart only hurts at the cruelty of a lover.

 


Notes:

  • On elven coming of age – at the age of about 50 they reach their adult height, so that should be the equivalent of us mortals reaching adult height at about 16. If Maeglin was returned to Ennor in a body with the physical maturity of a 15 year old, I think that by this chapter she would be the equivalent of a 17-year-old.
  • On Dúnedain coming of age—since they have greater longevity than lesser mortals, I imagine that they would mature later as well. Keeping in mind that in medieval times, boys of 12 or 13 would venture into battle, I imagine that Estel/Aragorn at 20 might be the equivalent of a 15- or 16-year-old mortal, and well able to venture forth into the unknown on his own. In the Middle Ages, a boy of that age could already be a battle-hardened veteran and a father.
  • Sorry for taking liberties with the Arwen-Aragorn love story and ruining the poetic parallel of the Beren-Lúthien meeting. In my version, Arwen does come back to Imladris every few years or so, and Estel has a crush on her from the time he’s eleven. I thought it would be sweeter. Also, I didn’t want too much “love at first sight” going on in this tale, since I wanted the trope for Glorfindel and Maeglin. In Maeglin’s case, being desperately and helplessly in love with Idril made him a lovesick boy rather than the sicko and perv he is in canon. In Glorfindel’s case, I wanted him to understand Maeglin by experiencing the same desperate, obsessive love he felt for Idril. And I like making golden-haired balrog slayers suffer.
  • Quite some time ago, I read a Gondolin fic “Beneath the Light”. I think the snippet where the Lords of Gondolin discuss Tuor’s message in the Hall of Council must have been influenced by that.
  • Baby-balancing on one hand: tried and tested successfully by mere mortals with a year-old sweetie-pie named Ally.

 


Glossary

ohtar [Q] – warrior

hantanyet [Q] – thank you between equals/familiars

hröa [Q] – body

coranári [Q] – solar years

naugrim [S] - dwarves

melmenya [Q] – my love

Chapter Text

The brown-haired elfling in the leaf-green robe carefully pushed his way through the rainbow-hued forest of shimmering robes gathered in the gardens before the great house. He made a face each time a hand reached out silently to rumple his hair or pat his cheeks as he passed by.

He was nineteen this year, the baby of the valley, and used to being made much of. Already he reached the waists of most of the elves surrounding him, but few of them seemed to have any respect for the dignity of a Balrog Slayer.

Finally, he squeezed past a group of maidens to the front of the crowd, and saw, on the raised terrace of the house, the Lord of Imladris standing in a fine robe of dark crimson silk embroidered with gold, with a golden circlet on his head. His daughter shimmered in white and silver at his left hand, fairest of all maidens to walk the earth, and his dashing twin sons, in midnight-blue and gold, stood at his right.

The great house was in darkness, but a few lanterns decking the terraces cast a soft yellow glow, and in the gardens, the trees glimmered with many-coloured lights.

Above, the stars shone white as they wheeled in their patterns. Below, the star-children shimmered with faint silver light as they silently thronged the terraces, the gardens, the lawns and meadows, arrayed in their most resplendent festive robes. Most stood almost as still as statues in the unbroken silence. A few strolled slowly along the garden paths and over bridges. Their glittering eyes were lifted to the heavens, and their keen ears, in the quiet of the night, were tuned to the faint harmonies of the stars. At this time of the year, in their blood, in their fëar, they felt more strongly the pulse of the starsong, the ancient beat and rhythm that had awakened their kind by the waters of Cuiviénien. When the starlight waned and the sky lightened, they would turn as one to face the east.

On the terrace, somewhere behind the family of Elrond, the sun already seemed to be rising.

The elfling’s eyes went to the tall lord who stood half-hidden behind Elrond, and whose bright hair cast the warm golden glow of a sunrise all about him. His robe was the blue of a twilit summer sky, and embroidered down the side was a beautiful pattern of flowers in golden thread and tiny sapphires the colour of his eyes. He stood straight and tall behind his lord—dutifully, as he had for millennia, ever since the founding of the elven realm in the valley. As he had stood with his fellow lords in Gondolin, at the side of Elrond’s great-grandfather.

The elfling hoped that Glorfindel might look his way, but the glittering blue eyes were distant and haunted in their expression, and gazing towards the north.

The hero of Gondolin had saluted the dawn at Tarnin Austa thousands of times since the Fall, and only in the last nine years had he been haunted by thoughts of that other Midsummer’s morning, when dragon and balrog fire had lit the skies north over the Echoriad, and the black armies of Morgoth had swarmed through the secret pass.

As flames had spread across the northern slopes, cries of fear and horror had risen on the city walls…

The Lord of the Golden Flower had turned quickly to speak to Tuor next to him, and his eyes had met the eyes of the prince who stood behind.

And the traitor smiled as their eyes locked. A smile that was mocking, cruel. Triumphant.

In that fleeting moment, first came confusion and disbelief—

No. No, it is not possible, he could not...

Then came horror so overwhelming, Glorfindel’s blood seemed to turn to ice in his veins. Ecthelion and Egalmoth stepped in between at that moment, speaking urgently, and blocked his view before he could recover.

“Treachery!” cried Glorfindel. “We are betrayed!” But even as he pushed the two lords aside, and would have charged forward to seize the traitor by the throat, Maeglin had vanished.

For the rest of that long and desperate day, amid the mustering of the troops, the fury and futility of the battles that followed and the urgency of the escape, Glorfindel had no more thought for the traitor.

His final thoughts as he had fallen had not been of the dark one. Indeed, he had not been capable of thought. Flames. Searing pain.

And one transcendent moment of clarity and peace and hope just before the end:

They will escape.

Six thousand years later, the hero and the traitor’s eyes met once again in the healing halls at Imladris.

And the traitor had smiled again.

Glorfindel had forgiven all in his brief time in the Halls of Mandos. But nothing was forgotten. In the twisting pain of his heart now, as the memory of two smiles wrenched it, he forgave again. And clung to the desperate belief that, whatever had transpired in Angband, whatever pact had been sealed between the prince and Morgoth, the one he loved, would always love, had repented. Why else did she shun Tarnin Austa? Why else would she flee each Midsummer?

Where are you?

Where do you hide yourself, each year?

Then Glorfindel caught a movement at the corner of his eye, and glanced over to see the youngest elfling, who had climbed the steps to the terrace, and was looking at him quizzically from between the skirts of Erestor and Lindir’s robes. With a smile, the balrog slayer beckoned the elfling closer, and the child with a cheeky smile quickly positioned himself next to his hero, as all the elves of the valley turned east to welcome the sun.

From behind the peaks of the Hithaeglir, another song rose and drowned out the melody of the stars. It sang to their fëar, a harmony hot and bright and fiery, its roaring cadence washing over them.

As the first rays of Anor poured over the mountains and touched their faces with golden warmth, fair elven voices rose in unison and sang in layered harmonies without instruments, their lilting and solemn cadences echoing with haunting beauty throughout the valley. And for a few moments, Glorfindel forgot all else and lost himself in the ancient Quenya of the verses, his voice lifting strong and pure and melodious.

As the last notes of the last song faded away, and the spell broke, he felt a small tug on his robe. He looked down with a smile at the bright little face grinning up at him.

“Why, Gwendir son of Galdir! You must have grown an inch at least since I saw you last!”

The lad pulled himself taller. “Indeed I have! I’m so happy you’re home, Hîr Glorfindel! Will you watch me fight the balrog?” And the boy watched the elflord’s smile fade a little, and his face fell. “Naethen. Does it make you sad, to remember how you died?”

“No, not that, little friend. But it does make me sad to remember all the others who died, and how they died.” As sprightly dances to pipe, flute and harp began on the lawns, and the Imladrim made their way to the long tables loaded with delicacies under the trees, the boy and the balrog slayer sat down at the top of the steps leading down to the gardens. “I was thinking I might go away for a few days.”

Go away? But—but you’ve only just returned!”

“Well…there is something I need to do,” said Glorfindel. “But I truly regret that I shall miss your battle with the balrog. I know you will be splendid. Here—” the warrior reached up to the golden braids at the back of his head, and took out a sapphire and gold hair clasp in the shape of a flower, and gave it to the boy. “—Take this as my blessing.”

The boy’s eyes were wide and shining as he turned over the hair clasp in his hand. Then he grinned up at the balrog slayer. “Le hannon, hîr-nín!”

“Does your costume have a helmet?”

“No—just a golden wig. It’s hot! And the armour too!” The boy made a face.

Glorfindel smiled, and taking the clasp from Gwendir’s palm, fastened it in the boy’s brown braids at the back of his head. “Wear this in that golden wig tonight and I’ll be with you in spirit. Do bravely, Lord of the Golden Flower! To serve and to protect!” He saluted the boy, thumping his fist to his own chest.

To serve and to protect!” The boy mirrored the salute.

“Go get that balrog for me. And if anyone has the impertinence to say that you should have tied up your hair, tell them to come and say it to my face.”

 

“Where is Glorfindel?” said Arwen, her lovely grey eyes searching the crowd.

“He was talking to Gwendir on the steps,” said Lindir.

But both boy and balrog slayer were gone.

“He was wearing the blue robe with golden flowers I made for him for the last Gondolin festival,” Arwen said with a smile.

“Very appropriate,” said Erestor as he served her some pastries on a plate. “He should have one of yellow celandines on gold cloth as well.”

“Oh, I do not think he would wear anything as loud as that now!” said Arwen with a musical laugh at the thought. “He would be so dazzling he would eclipse Anor!”

“Lómiel is not here again,” Elrohir observed. “I should not have teased her so, and vowed I would force her to dance.”

“She would not have come, regardless,” said Elladan. “You know how it has been, the past few years.”

“I have asked her why she shuns this feast so. And all she would say is there was no such tradition for Tarnin Austa where she was raised.”

Arwen looked at the younger of her two brothers with sparkling eyes. “You seem very fond of the fair young smith, brother. Is it more than gratitude?”

Ah. Lómiel.

Elrond had always had his own guess as to her origins, after the night she had spoken Quenya to him in the healing halls. He had not heard her utter a single word in Quenya since, but he had puzzled over it a while.

After the War of Wrath and the ruin of Beleriand, bands of the remaining followers of the sons of Fëanor had fled over the Ered Luin, keeping to the remoter parts of Ennor just south of the Forodwaith, some as far east as Cuiviénen. Most had joined forces with tribes of the Avari, and in a few cases had established secret Noldorin settlements. Glorfindel had brought back news of such settlements to Elrond, from his travels, and that Lómiel was descended from these Fëanorians might be an explanation for her knowledge of Quenya. True, her Quenya had lacked Fëanor's lisp, but Elrond remembered that only Maedhros and Maglor themselves had used "th" consistently; a choice born of loyalty to their father. They had not imposed it on their own followers, many of whom had tended to favour "s" over the lisp... and many of whom had deserted the sons of Fëanor both after the Second and the Third Kinslayings…

The Third Kinslaying was not a memory Elrond liked to revisit.

Maeglin's secretiveness about her origins. Her taciturn temperament. Her strange Sindarin accent. Her skill with smithing. It all seemed to fit. This was not a theory Elrond would share with others in Imladris, howeverr, given the lack of popularity of the Fëanorians, even in these latter days.

His younger son Elrohir was laughing at his sister’s question. “Assuredly I am grateful. She is an intriguing child—too grave, and too fierce and unsmiling for her years. But she is brave—and true. And have you not noted how troubled and sad she has been of late? I seek merely to cheer her.”

A serving maid at Elrond’s elbow passed him a note. “Hîr Glorfindel asked me to pass you this, Hîr Elrond.”

The Lord of Imladris opened it, read it, and sighed.

Written in Glorfindel’s bold, flowing hand, was a message begging that his lord would excuse his absence for a few more days. The balrog slayer felt himself unequal to dealing with the festivities or the reminders of the Fall of Gondolin at this time.

 

Now dressed in his white, grey and green hunting clothes—sword and knives at his belt—bow, arrows and travel pouch slung on his back—Glorfindel climbed up the northern slopes of the valley.

The passage of time is an enemy to a tracker, but his heightened elven senses allowed him to follow the faint trail still discernible almost half a day since she had passed by there. It was easy for him to guess that she might have stopped by the smithy first. From there, her light feet across the grassy meadow had left a trail still visible to his skilled eye. And as he ascended the slopes, wherever the trail disappeared, his fëa melded with the surrounding earth and trees and heard the stones and very leaves murmuring of her passing by.

He did not intend to disturb nor approach Maeglin. It would likely do more harm than good, given their last encounter. There was in him a need to know, to see that she was well, to perhaps watch over her a while, from a distance. Then he would go his way, and let her go hers. The encircling mountains were vast enough for both of them to hide away from the festivities a whole week without ever crossing paths. The two refugees of Gondolin, he thought drily. A Gondolin festival was soon to be in full swing down in the valley, and the only two Gondolindrim in Ennor had fled to the hills.

And what would he do if she was not well?

I will deal with that when it comes, he thought, truly with no idea what he could do if confronted with a broken, miserable traitor.

Around him now rose stands of fir and pine.

And then, above the wind rushing through the trees—he heard the song. Somewhere on the lower slopes behind him. He stopped and listened for a while, welcoming the beauty of the mysterious voice like an old friend. It has been a long while, sad one.

And then he heard, ahead of him, someone running downhill at a breakneck speed, through the trees. Straight towards him.

 

Maeglin had made her way into the mountains shortly after dinner the previous night. She had hoped that this year, once again, she would hear the Singer…but weary in spirit more than body, she had fallen asleep on the hillside, and dreamed. And it seemed almost inevitable, after the gift of the sword, that the dream would be of the fight with Idril.

“Lómion? It was you! How could you do this?” The blade in her hand flashed like lightning. Taken unawares, Maeglin staggered backwards, blinded with pain, his right cheek sliced open. Idril’s eyes burned with rage. “Traitor… traitor… traitor… traitor…!!”

Maeglin woke with a gasp, shaking, and Idril’s voice echoing in her head.

Dawn was breaking.

Had the Singer come by whilst she slept?

From the valley below she heard the song of the sun-salute rise from eight hundred voices.

Disappointed and morose, she seated herself on a rock and laid out some tools and small pieces of craft that she had brought along this year. Pieces of jewellery. She tried to work on them by the early morning light, but it was no use.

However, it was not the memory of Idril that tormented her now.

In her mind, she kept seeing the Lord of the Golden Flower’s face by lamplight on the walls of Gondolin. Behind the golden lord, in the distance, across the darkened valley of Tumladen, bursts of flame came from dragons as they swarmed over the mountaintops. As he stood before Maeglin in his white and gold robes, their eyes met.

And in that brief moment, the prince saw the fair face before him go from blank bewilderment, to shock, then utter horror. He knew. The light in his glittering blue eyes had grown ice-cold with the realization, and as they narrowed, his mouth had set in a hard, angry line.

Traitor... traitor… traitor…

And that had been Maeglin’s last sight of Glorfindel, before Imladris.

And why was it that the memory of Glorfindel’s face should now hurt far more than the memory of Idril’s anger and condemnation? Hurt so much she could not work?

Cursing under her breath, Maeglin packed away her tools and materials and walked towards a hillslope down which three waterfalls spilled. She was careful to keep away from the edge of the sheer cliffs, but drew near till the roar of cascading waters was deafening, and a fine spray from the torrent soaked her through.

She did not understand why the gift of the sword hurt her so much. Glorfindel, after all, had not a clue who she was. It had been an ignorant, clumsy, though deeply ironic gift.

Of all the proud works of the Lord of the Mole, had only this survived the ruin of Gondolin and the drowning of Beleriand? A hilt he had made, gripped once by the hands he had desired. A blade he had forged, that had tasted his own blood. Idril had succeeded in scoring his arm and his cheek as they had duelled.

Maeglin had wanted to fling the accursed blade into the furnace…but had been unable to bring herself to do it. Had set it down finally as though it burned her flesh. Had wrapped it in thick cloth and thrown it into a corner. She knew not what she would do with the gift, except leave it there in the smithy to mock her.

And what of the giver?

She struggled against the ache in her throat, the heaviness in her chest. No. Damn him. She did not want to even think further of him. She refused to think of him.

The sun over Imladris valley was higher in the sky now. Maeglin moved away from the waterfalls and sat in a pool of warm sunlight to dry off. She heard the high, fierce, lonely cry of an eagle over the song of the waters.

And something else.

Faint and distant, it came, a thin thread of lilting melody, from further down on the hillslopes.

Heart beating faster, she went towards it. She descended through pines and firs, fearing the song would end ere she could find its source. She could hear the lament more clearly now, the voice more beautiful than she had remembered, almost beautiful beyond what she could bear. As it had the first time, the lament once again pierced her to the depths of her dark soul, releasing her pain through the tears that began to trickle down her face.

The branches caught at her hair and clothes, but she did not heed them as she pushed past them. She went through a thick stand of firs and burst into a clearing, slipping and sliding down a slope.

And saw him. Right before her.

Leaning backwards and flailing her arms frantically, Maeglin tried to brake her descent, but momentum sent her barrelling right into Glorfindel, and he caught her.

And the song ceased.

For a moment they stood wrapped in a clumsy embrace, her tear-stained cheek against his chest, his arms around her. Then Maeglin became aware that her hands were clutching him, and quickly pushed herself out of his arms, stumbling backwards. Be stone. Be stone! She could still feel his arms and the strength of his chest. Her unbraided black hair half-curtained her mortified face. Turning away, she furtively brushed away her tears.

“What are you doing here?” she blurted out, astonished, angry, and not quite able to look him in the face. Irrationally, she blamed him for the disappearance and loss of the Singer, and was working herself up into a fury against him. First the sword. Now this. He was the source of nothing but hurt, and trouble. She was iron and stone once again, strong and disdainful.

“I might ask the same of you,” said Glorfindel mildly, trying not to smile. He could have hidden when he heard her approach. He could have stepped aside. But he had not wanted to. He had let her fall right into his arms, and was still euphoric over the unexpected collision. And tickled by how Maeglin—she of the princely poise and cat-like grace—had slid down the slope in the most awkward and undignified fashion, a look of wild panic and surprise on her tear-stained face. He had thought it most endearing.

“Why are you not at the feast?” she demanded.

“I did not feel like it,” he said simply.

Maeglin glared at him, unconvinced. “You love the feasts and festivals. I thought you never miss any if you can help it.”

Glorfindel laughed. “I have lived for over six thousand years, young one. That is a lot of feasts and festivals. It would not kill me to miss one.” He looked her in the eyes, and smiled. “I shall not ask your reason for being here, if you do not ask me mine.”

Her anger evaporated even as she grasped at it in vain.

“Surely they will be missing you.”

“They may,” he agreed nonchalantly.  

“I thought you were to sing tonight.”

“I have excused myself. Lindir has others who are more than able to sing in my place.” His eyes were on her glossy black hair as it shone in the morning light. “If you will allow me—” He reached out a hand and lightly brushed out some fir and pine needles that were trapped in her tresses. How soft it feels, like silk.

Taken aback, she gaped at him for a moment. “Gi hannon,” she said, a little awkwardly.

Glassen,” he said, his eyes taking in her trim figure in the dark grey and green hunting garb she was wearing. He had never seen her in that outfit before, and her wardrobe never having been extensive, he had known every single piece in it a year ago. He wondered if anyone had inspired her to take more interest in her attire in his absence. In Gondolin, the Lord of the Mole had had the most minimalist sense of fashion, and had flown into a rage whenever his long-suffering valet had attempted to sneak in some colour or embellishments into his plain, perpetually black wardrobe. In Imladris, Lómiel had seemed not to care one whit about what she wore, getting by entirely on cast-off clothes either picked out from the storage rooms or passed to her by others such as Thalanes or Estel or Arwen.

Had the Evenstar, who had arrived in Imladris in spring, decided to overhaul the fair smith’s wardrobe? Or—he thought more darkly—was it Elrohir, who paid far more attention to dress and fashion than his twin, and who generally chose whatever the pair would wear?

Glorfindel’s eyes were lingering a little too long on Maeglin’s chest. He caught himself and quickly looked away. Her cheeks had begun to burn under his scrutiny. She wanted to punch him in the face. She wanted to feel his arms again. They had felt strong, warm. Safe…

No, no, no! I am stone. Stone. Iron…You stupid cow—get away from him. Now!

But there was one question she was burning to ask.

“The singer we heard just now…” she said. “Who was he?”

“Ah yes, the mysterious, wandering singer of the hills,” said Glorfindel, his ears still a little red, and relieved to have something to talk about. “I have tried a number of times to find him, over the years, but I have always failed.”

You failed?” she could barely mask her surprise.

“Everyone who has ever tried has failed. The twins attempted it a few times as well. His songs weave spells that confuse and confound all efforts to draw close to him. We ended up going in circles, or suddenly finding ourselves in odd parts of the valley we could not even recollect making our way to.”

“Does he not live here?”

“Not in Imladris. Nowhere, I think. He is a wanderer. He comes and goes, and there is no pattern to it. He may not be heard for a few centuries, then he may sing almost daily for a brief season. I do not believe he ever stays in the valley more than a month at a time. It was a joy and a surprise to hear him today. He does tend to like being here during Tarnin Austa.”

“Have you ever seen him?” she asked.

“Only from afar, twice—a shadow in a dark cloak…” He gazed in the direction they had last heard the song. “Such sorrow, such loneliness. It is a wonder he has not faded from the grief and burden we hear in his song, after so many millennia.”

Millennia? But who is he?”

“Can you not guess, from the words of his song?”

The black eyes flashed with annoyance. “I cannot,” she said bitingly, “being only an ignorant Nandorin maid. Tell me, please. Who is he?”

Glorfindel smiled a little teasingly. Rarely did he have anything she actually wanted. “The tale is a sad one. Too sad for Midsummer.”

Sadder than Gondolin? she almost said sardonically. “I should like to know, all the same.”

“It is not a tale for morning and sunlight. If you can wait, I will tell you by starlight.”

Was that an invitation to spend Midsummer’s day with him? The sorry ass, she thought, as she had thought many times over the past nine years. If he only knew whose company it was that he sought. But to her dismay, she felt something tug within her. That wanted to stay.

“I believe there may be others who will tell me the tale by any light,” she said coldly, thinking to ask Elrohir at the next opportunity. “I shall be on my way and detain you no further, hîr-nín. No vaer i arad.” And with a curt bow, she quickly stalked off in the direction the Singer had last been heard.

No vaer i arad, híril-nín,” he called after her. “And please have a care should you venture into the caves—they have bears, occasionally.”

After she had gone, he wondered if he should follow her.

Then he sighed, regretting his coyness regarding the Singer. Well, he had found Maeglin, and she seemed to be well enough. He would give her the space she desired. Let her go east. He would head west. But first, he sat down on a rock on the hillside, took the arrows from his quiver, and began to inspect each of them carefully. It was not the quiver he had travelled with recently, but another he had not used for over a year, and some maintenance was in order before he began hunting.

He was grooming the feather fletches on one of the arrows when he became aware that she had returned. He could sense her even though she stood out of his sight, hiding behind a tree. Watching.

He took his time with the arrows, put the good ones back in his quiver, strung his bow, and tested its draw…

Then, swifter than thought, he spun round, shot an arrow up into the branches of a pine, and sprang forward to see where his prey had fallen.

A small, startled cry, hastily smothered, came from behind the tree.

Maeglin stood there with a dead squirrel shot through with an arrow at her feet. It had tumbled down out of the pine upon her head. Her wide, startled eyes met his and she blushed angrily at having been discovered. She stooped to pick up the squirrel, and handed it to him.

“I wished to ask where the caves you spoke of could be found,” she said stiffly. “For I have found none thus far, though I have sought them.”

Glorfindel eyes were sparkling with amusement as he smiled. “I shall show you later. Would you care to join me for a meal, híril nín?”

 

As Maeglin fashioned a spit and skewer from some greenwood, she watched as Glorfindel skilfully skinned and gutted the squirrel, whistling softly to himself as he did—a cheerful little song she remembered being popular with the children of Gondolin as they played.

She wondered what she was doing. Why did you agree to the meal? You are not even hungry. Have you lost your senses?

“You said there could be bears. I never knew there were bears in the valley,” she said.

“Very rarely,” said Glorfindel, stuffing some herbs he had gathered into the squirrel and pouring a little wine from a flask over it. “There is a family of them that roams the slopes, mostly at night, and they are very shy. They are friendly to us, so there is generally no need to fear. But they can be startled when taken by surprise, and behave a little unpredictably.”

“I did not say I feared them,” she said, a little too quickly and sharply.

In Maeglin’s childhood memories of his seventh year, a terrifying encounter in the deep woods with an enraged, wounded bear was inextricably tangled with his father’s hard hand brought down in punishment for wandering out alone. And ever since then, the roar of a bear and the raised hand and voice of his father had been one in his mind. Whenever Maeglin had journeyed to Anghabar or approached a cave, pushed though it was to the far recesses of his mind, an uneasy fear of both bears and his father had lurked deep within. Most of his ursine encounters during his years in Gondolin had been peaceable and uneventful. But there was the humiliating memory of a hunt with some of the lords. Maeglin had frozen when he ran into a large, bellowing black bear with a thorn in its paw. Ecthelion and Glorfindel had rescued the prince, the former pulling him out of danger while the latter soothed the bear, pulled out the thorn and nursed the paw. In Gondolin, they neither hunted nor ate bears, who like the eagles were enemies of orcs and wargs, and who guarded the mountains surrounding the city.

Glorfindel, starting the fire, was remembering that hunt as well. “If you do not fear bears, you are a brave lass. Many maidens in the valley would be quite nervous around a bear, friendly though they might be to the Quendi.”

Warm, moving patterns of sunlight dappled the ground around them as they sat beneath the branches of tall, gnarled fir trees that shielded their fire from the wind. The midsummer sun had grown hot and the heat from the fire did not help. They had both removed their hunting jackets and sat in their thin summer tunics, their sleeves folded up. She could hear the distant rushing music of a waterfall. Were these the slopes surrounding Tumladen, and she still the Lord of the Mole, Glorfindel would probably suggest going for a swim or diving into waterfall pools. She remembered several such outings. Glorfindel was almost always the first into the water. He could swim like a fish, and loved water fights. She was remembering him in all his natural glory as she watched him set a pan with some herbs, edible roots and water beneath the roasting squirrel to catch the drippings. And as she did, she felt herself grow hot with more than the fire or sunshine.

Shaking herself free of the memories, Maeglin focused fiercely on the squirrel fat dripping into the pan. “I shall clean the skin,” she said abruptly. Taking up the squirrel’s grey pelt, which lay beside Glorfindel, she half-turned away from him, and began cleaning the skin rather vigorously, rubbing in some salt to help preserve it.

Glorfindel gazed at her profile as he turned the spit and basted the skewered squirrel occasionally with a little wine. He had been surprised when she had chosen to stay, and he was now both delighted and troubled. Never in her nine years in the valley had they shared a relaxed moment like this. No smithy, no Camaen. No swords, no hauberks. Under the blue summer skies on this open mountainside, the tension he had felt during their midwinter sword training had melted away.

And at the same time, Glorfindel had by now convinced himself that she was Elrohir’s intended. He had known the peredhel twin since his birth, and what he had witnessed at the smithy was, for Elrohir, the closest to flirtation the balrog slayer had ever seen. And he had convinced himself, with deepest anguish, that Maeglin loved Elrohir in return. Had she not accepted his offerings of berries and flowers? Had she not almost given her life for him? Had there not been an air of familiarity, of understanding between them at the smithy?

He cut off bits of squirrel meat that cooked faster, like the shanks, and served them to her.

“How is it?”

“Delicious,” she said with some surprise, discovering appetite unexpectedly. She had not eaten since breakfast the previous day. The meat was sweet and juicy as she had not believed a roasted squirrel could be. She gave him a quizzical look, knowing full well that the Lord of the Golden Flower, like the Lord of the Mole, had avoiding cooking in his first life.

Knowing her thoughts, Glorfindel smiled as he continued turning the spit. “Over several millennia of travel I have had to learn to cook in the wild. And I have learned to do it rather tolerably. Especially if I run out of this.”  He fished out a folded leaf from his pack, unwrapped it to show a small quarter of a wafer, and offered it to her. “Lembas from Lothlórien.”

“Very nice,” she said, as she nibbled some of it. “Better than other waybreads I have tried.” The variety her father had packed for their journeys to the Ered Luin had been much heavier, and not as palatable.

“There are none who make it better than the Galadhrim. But sometimes I am on the road much longer than I planned, and then I hunt and cook.”

How, thought Glorfindel, was it possible for anyone to be so happy and so wretched at the same time? He was giddy with gladness at her nearness, and that she was neither scowling nor taciturn but actually talking to him amicably. She could, the moment the meal was done, decide she had had enough of his company and take off. He was praying to Eru she would not.

If this is a dream, he thought, it is a most pleasant one. Please, Eru, let it last. I will not ask for more than this—just to have this time with her, as long as it can last.

And yet, even as he gazed entranced at her, as she relished her portion of squirrel, he told himself he must not desire one who was almost another’s bride. Twisting in the knife deeper, he imagined the wedding. The blessings. And thinking how he would always keep her secret safe. He would tell Elrond that all he had said was an absurdity, a delusion. No one would ever guess her past.

As she ate, Maeglin was thinking in turn of the limited and less than pleasant journeys of her life. The travels to Belegost and Nogrod in the company of her surly father and his hard fist, his words few but harsh. The flight from Nan Elmoth to Gondolin. The march to and from the battleplains of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.

The road from the Echoriad to Angband…

Glorfindel saw her black eyes grow distant and anguished and her chewing slow to a standstill, and guessed that some dark memory disturbed her. He went to the rescue by launching into some of his travel tales. His words vividly painted the desolate ruins of Himring off the north western coast, droll encounters with dwarves in the Iron Hills, glimpses of the peace-loving hobbits of the Shire, and his riding the broad plains with the proud horse-lords of Rohan. His stories were lively and she continued to listen raptly long after they had finished eating. And for once she did not think in annoyance that the golden-haired warrior talked too much.

After the fire had been put out, and the squirrel bones laid to rest in the earth beneath the firs, she sat in the shade of some nearby pines and began to whittle on a piece of wood with a knife, and he whetted his hunting knives on a stone and watched her surreptitiously, admiring her skill. Her sharp eyes caught him watching, and ever competitive, she challenged him to carve a shape out of a lump of pine wood together with her. He loved a contest as much as she did, and his eyes gleamed as he agreed.

“First to finish wins?” he said, as she cut two pieces of pine wood to the same size and shape, for fairness.

“There has to be skill, not just speed.” She tossed him his chunk of pine. “The other must be able to guess what it is instantly.”

“We trust each other to be honest, then.” And in this, at least, he did trust her.

“Naturally.” She smiled like a cat, and held out two woodcarving knives from her tool pouch. “Choose your tool.”

So they whittled away with their knives, he sitting high in the branches of a tree above whistling to himself, feeling the wind rock him gently, and she sitting on a log beneath.

She tossed up to him a beautiful carving of a horse, and he tossed down to her his completed masterpiece.

“Why, it is Asfaloth!” he said, gazing with great delight at the stallion sitting on his palm. “To the life!”

She peered dubiously at the shape on her palm. “What is this? A balrog or a bat?”

“Neither!” he said indignantly. “An eagle!”

At which she laughed so hard, the tears ran from her eyes and she almost fell off her log.

“I concede defeat,” he said. “But at least you knew those were wings.”

“Just barely. I’ll show you what an eagle should look like!” And with a glint in her eyes, she took her knife to his carving.

He kept Asfaloth carefully in his waist pouch, and smiled lovingly down at her from his tree as she rectified his handiwork.

And he reflected that whatever few talents he may have inherited from his father, sculpting was clearly not one.

When it was past noon, they journeyed east through the hills, occasionally hearing snatches of music from the valley, and bursts of distant song. They moved swiftly, and for a moment both could imagine they were once again prince and tutor in the hills around Tumladen, lightly leaping over logs, running down and climbing up slopes. It had been a time when Glorfindel had made every effort to break through the walls of aloofness the prince erected around himself. And failed, not realizing then how intense a dislike and jealousy Maeglin bore towards him. But now, it felt as though those walls were finally coming down. They did not speak as they journeyed. Neither did he dare insult her pride by offering his hand when she struggled on an ascent. But the old tension and enmity seemed to have evaporated in the summer sunlight. Racing through the winds that swept the hills, and under clear, cerulean heavens, both of them lived in the moment, free and unfettered, refusing to think of either the past or the future.

And finally, he led her half way up a slope thickly covered with fir and spruce trees, and behind a large boulder, she saw the hidden entrance of a cave, no higher than the average dwarf.

“This is the first of several caves in these hills. We could go further east to the others, but those are more likely to house bears.”

“Let us explore this one, then. Will we need torches?” she asked, as he crawled into the dark hole. “I brought no lamp with me.” Not that the Lord of the Mole had ever feared the dark. There was something comforting about darkness. Something womblike. She was being practical.

“Ah—the rope ladder is still here.” He tested the upper rungs for strength. They were good. “There should be a couple of lamps stashed away at the bottom of the ladder, fear not.”

“A ladder?” she said, suddenly nervous. “How long is the descent? Are we very high?” Fear began to twist her innards.

“Not high! Have no fear.” And he began to climb down into the blackness.

She followed after. Tried not to think of the drop. Not high. He said it was not high. Although she did not fear the darkness, she found comfort in the golden glow of his hair below her. Her feet went downwards from rung to rung to rung to rung…

“How much further?” she called down after what felt to her like a very long time. Her voice echoed as in a vast cavern.

“Not much further—have a care, though—the rope down here seems to have partially rotted. It has been fifty years or so since we came here. It should still hold our weight...I hope. I shall hasten down first.” And get my weight off the ladder, he thought.

She felt the ladder begin to give above her. “It is tearing,” she said, barely able to keep her voice calm.

“There, I am on the ground,” he said, sounding distant. “Fear not—should it break, I will catch you!”

“Catch me?” her voice was sharp, and she froze. “Catch me? How high am I now?”

“Only about fifteen rangar. I am right under you. Trust me!”

“Fifteen rangar? Trust you?! Fifteen rangar?! You worthless load of orc-crap! You said it was not high!!”

“Indeed, it is not! Only about forty rangar in all, so you are almost there. Just a little further! You can do it!”

Paralyzed with terror, Maeglin was unable to move a muscle. Already she could feel her head spinning, feel the sensation of falling, falling and turning in space…the hillside rushing past, the ground rising to meet her…she clung shivering to the ladder, eyes tightly squeezed shut. She could hear and feel the ropes above giving way.

“Worry not! I have you!” he called.

As the ladder snapped, she screamed. She was still screaming when he caught her, and still screaming as he sank down to the cavern floor, holding her in a firm embrace as she shivered.

“All is well! I have you. I have you. You are safe…”

Glorfindel had not forgotten that Maeglin had died falling from Amon Gwareth. He simply had no inkling how badly it could affect her, since he had likewise fallen to his death, and was affected not at all. And he had never known the Lord of the Mole to previously have had a fear of heights.

Finally she fell silent, but her heart was still pounding madly. After a while, she opened her eyes.

The only light was Glorfindel’s bright hair, their glittering elven eyes, the faint star-shimmer around both their forms, and the shaft of light from the opening above.

“There!” he smiled. “That was not so bad, was it?”

“You putrid, pus-filled troll-wart,” the Lord of the Mole said in a hollow voice. “I cannot believe I was stupid enough to trust you.”

And Glorfindel realized that their moment of ease and freedom was over. The past had reared its ugly head. Deciding it was wisest not to repeat that it truly was not that high—at least not to him—he gently raised her and steadied her on her feet. Maeglin cast him a smouldering glare, turned her back on him, and straightened her clothes. 

Glorfindel had in the meantime found the metal case in which the twins had placed, almost half a millennium ago, two skeins of rope, still dry and strong, and two small egg-sized lamps, each hanging from a silver loop. The lamps lit the cavern with a soft, cool luminescence, like moonlight. The two elves looked up at the opening high above them, and surveyed the sheer walls.

“How are we to get out of here later?” she said, managing to keep her voice steady.

“I shall climb up, and let down a rope for you.”

“NO! I am NOT climbing up there again!” she said, notes of both finality and desperation in her voice. “There must be another way out of here.”

“There most certainly is,” he said. “This way.”

Then each slipped the loop of a lamp onto their belts, and made their way through a forest of stalagmites to a tall archway of rock leading deeper into the caverns.

“Are there ores here?”

“Ah, the mind of a smith! No, not here. There was some mining done in the hills further east, in the days of the Last Alliance. But I think Erchaildir and Camaen did not find ores worth their trouble when they last ventured there.”

Through a dark passage that curved through the mountain they went silently, hearing running water ahead. Maeglin, determined not to be pleasant to Glorfindel, was sullen. Glorfindel, hoping not to anger her further, did not sing or speak. He knew she liked being in caves; he hoped this one would not disappoint.

After a while, Maeglin started to notice a few small, bright specks of blue, green and gold dotting the ceiling of the tunnel overhead, and stopped to examine them. Glorfindel watched her with a smile as she scrutinized them. She gasped.

“Worms?”

“Yes. Grodelin.” Subterranean stars.

“For one moment, I hoped for a new mineral,” she said. But despite her dismissive words, he could see the interest and curiosity shining in her eyes.

As they continued through the cave system, the grodelin grew in number. Then, they crawled through a low archway, and emerged in a vast cavern. And the stalactites and walls of that cavern were all aglow with thousands upon thousands of tiny lights. The two elves drank in the beauty of the sight in silence, the joy of the moment magnified by the sharing of it. He looked at the wonder on her face with pleasure, for this it was that he had wished to show her. And she almost turned to him with a smile that said everything was worth it—before remembering her antagonism and schooling her face to expressionlessness.

“Fascinating,” was all she said.

He glowed, exulting in the success of his surprise. He knew her too well to be deceived.

They lingered there for a while. The sound of running water was much louder here, and finally they followed it, went past some huge stalagmites, and saw a river flowing. And there, the path ended in water.

Maeglin frowned. “The way out?”

“By the river only, I am afraid. There was a path once, but the years and the waters have eroded it away. Would you wish to turn back? We could take the other way…”

Heights, or water. Wonderful.

Glorfindel was pulling out a small boat hidden in the shadows, and examining it.

The Lord of the Mole had always been nervous on water, and had not particularly enjoyed the few times he had joined the other courtiers boating on the river. He had gone primarily because Idril went. Maeglin eyed this boat dubiously. It was small and light, fashioned of tree bark on a wood frame and sealed with resin, and looked far more primitive than the ones they had used for leisure in Gondolin.

 “You have not used that boat for decades. How safe is it?”

Glorfindel decided it was best not to say that the boat had not been used for centuries. Elven craft are built to last. He floated it in a pool out of the main current and tested it. “No leaks. It should be fine.”

Maeglin looked to where the river disappeared around a bend. “What is the course like? Anything to be careful of?”

“Half a league long. We would have to navigate a fast-moving stretch just beyond that bend–we need just to be careful of the rocks. And at one point the river would take us over a small drop, only four rangar high. How hard can it be?”

How hard can it be?

Whenever the Lord of the Golden Flower had said that, the other lords of Gondolin would smile, or sigh, or raise eyebrows. Salgant might snigger nervously or groan, depending on how the matter under discussion affected him.

It was the Lord of the Mole’s first time at the annual war games with his newly-formed House.

It was Day Seven.

The remnant warriors of the houses of the Mole, Golden Flower and Harp were surrounded by all the other houses, who were closing in and outnumbered them more than seven to one.

How like Glorfindel to gallantly offer to form a team with the two least popular lords. And to remain sanguine throughout the thankless struggle to rally them, as their numbers were decimated over seven days of continual disagreement and divisiveness among the team leaders. Maeglin’s contempt for Salgant was only surpassed by his jealousy of Glorfindel, and now the young prince was angry, angry at himself more than anyone. For the series of stupid errors he had made from inexperience. For opposing Glorfindel out of sheer dislike more than good judgement. And their team had paid for it.

“There is nothing for it. We shall surrender,” whimpered Salgant, who by now was weary, and longing for a hot bath and his comfortable bed.

The young Lord of the Mole scowled disdainfully at the Lord of the Harp and said nothing, though he concurred.

“Nay!” exclaimed the Lord of the Golden Flower defiantly, his azure eyes flashing. “Be of good courage, my friends! We have strong warriors enough to form a wedge, charge their ranks, and drive a way through. I shall take the front. How hard can it be? By surprise and speed and daring we can prevail!!”

The memory of that debacle made Maeglin’s mouth twitch slightly. She took whatever Glorfindel said now with a huge pinch of salt.

But between the heights and the water, she chose water.

So they launched out onto the river, he paddling at the rear, his face glowing with anticipation of the adventure, she paddling in front with her face grim and stoic.

And much could be written of the turbulent whitewater, and the great waves that almost swamped their boat, and the black rocks around which they manoeuvred with skill, and the waterfall, five rangar high, over which they plunged. Suffice it to say that when they caught their breaths and surfaced from the waterfall, and found themselves in calmer waters, gliding under the cerulean summer sky, and saw the hills of Imladris gazing benevolently down upon them, both felt a surge of exhilaration that seemed boundless.

And for once—for just once in two lives—they had joined to work together as one, and succeeded. Soaking wet, eyes bright with elation, they looked at each other.

Glorfindel laughed exuberantly—his beautiful, musical, joyous laugh—as he pushed wet hair from his face. And so contagious was it, that Maeglin found herself laughing as well.

“That was tremendous!” he exulted. “Absolutely epic! We should do it again!” Impulsively, he leaned forward to hug her—then recollected himself and pulled back.

Turning back to face the front with her face impassive, and taking up her paddle, Maeglin felt almost a twinge of regret.

And seeing that the river would join up with the Bruinen soon, and take them too close to midsummer revellers, they as one mind pulled off into a shallow pool without needing to exchange a word, dragging their trusty elven boat up into some bushes. It was eight in the evening of Midsummer, and all the world about them was bright and beautiful and verdant with life. The sun was warm and golden, the breezes brought no chill. Thrushes and blackbirds warbled from the trees, and a multitude of flowers thronged the foothills—windflowers and clovers, and primroses and goldenrods.

“There is another place I would like to show you, not far from here,” Glorfindel said, his blue eyes sparkling. “We can dry off there.”

And Maeglin did not object to his assumption that she would agree to go with him. “Fine. Lead the way.”

As they climbed up the hillside, both still dripping wet, Maeglin looked at him, singing a summer song about skylarks and meadows, walking with a spring in his step, and still glowing extra bright from the exhilaration of their ride.

And Maeglin found herself imagining how, six thousand years past, he might have faced the balrog.

“Alas, alas! A mighty valarauco blocks our way!” someone would have wailed despairingly. “We are doomed!”

“Fear not!” the Lord of the Golden Flower would have replied, undaunted. “All shall be well! I shall fight it, and slay it! It will only take a moment.

“How hard can it be?”

And the Lord of the Golden Flower, eyes on the ascent before him, and singing blithely, did not see at his side a most remarkable sight: the eyes of the Lord of the Mole resting on him almost fondly, and her lovely lips curved, not in a smirk, but in a smile that could only be described as indulgent.

 


Glossary

No vaer i arad (S) -  may the day be good / have a good day

Rangar – actually a Númenorean unit of measurement for length, but I cannot find any elvish ones to use. One ranga = thirty-eight inches.

Grodelin (S) – grod = underground; elin = stars

Valarauco (Q) – balrog

 

I cut this bit of silliness from the early part of the chapter (it did not seem to add anything to the story, but I always liked the idea of Glorfindel going back to his grave…), but here it is anyway, just for the heck of it:

Elrond, looking at Arwen, could not but help remember how Celebrían had once cherished a fond hope that their daughter and the great warrior would make a match.

“Never,” Elrond said, shaking his head. “You know well that Glorfindel has no thought for romance at all, meleth-nín. And Arwen is but as a daughter or a niece to him.”

“But there is none purer or more valiant than he. And they two are the fairest of all the Eldar to walk the earth! Think of what beautiful and charming grandchildren we will have!” Celebrían said playfully. Elrond laughed, but knew his Lady was half-serious.

“Our daughter is worthy of a high king, meleth-nín. And,”—Elrond felt guilty as he said it—“I would not have her bind with one of lesser lineage than hers. In Eldamar, when we sail west, there would be many noble princes of the three kindred of the Eldar to vie for her hand.”

“El-nín!” Celebrían’s lovely face became severe.  “Nobler or finer than Glorfindel? Is Glorfindel not as a brother to us? One of our dearest friends?”

“Yes,” Elrond said. “And you know I love him dearly. But… as a prospective match for our jewel, does it not disturb you a little that his lineage is entirely unknown?”

Celebrían glared at him and sighed. “Whatever his lineage, if you would deem Glorfindel unworthy, then there is none on these shores or the other that you would deem worthy.” She caressed his face with a loving hand. “Be not Thingol as a father, meleth-nín. Remember how that tale played out.”

With his absent wife’s words ringing in his head, the Lord of Imladris watched as his daughter’s bright grey eyes searched the crowd of Midsummer revellers for Glorfindel. He remembered how, as a young maiden coming of age, Arwen had grown besotted with Glorfindel, as many young maids were wont to be.

Lady Galadriel, in Imladris for the coming-of-age ceremony, looked displeased at the way Arwen hung onto Glorfindel. Which astonished Elrond, since Glorfindel was one of the Lady of Lothlórien’s favourites.

That night, Galadriel left the Hall of Fire to seek out Glorfindel as he walked in the gardens.

“You are restless, Laurëfindel. Or do you not relish hearing songs of your renowned battle with the balrog?”

“A little of both, herinya. I do weary of this peacetime indolence. And I do think bards—er—embellish their recounts of the battle excessively.” He looked a little embarrassed.

“As to the latter, you are too modest. As to the former…” She gazed deep into his eyes. “Travel Ennor. The time for war is done, for now, but not adventure. New lands await your discovery.”

His blue eyes grew brighter. “Indeed, I have been thinking the exact same thing!”

At times, he reminded her so much of Finrod. As now, when the thought of adventure and exploration lit up his face.

“Perhaps I should venture north into the Forodwaith,” he was saying. “I know already most of the lands from the coasts of Lindon to the lands of Rhovanion.”

Lady Galadriel’s eyes narrowed. Too perilous and treacherous were the icy wastes of the far north. She wanted her balrog slayer safely out of the way, not dead. She remembered the ending of Lindir’s ballad.

“Your song has a pretty ending. Legend has it that Ulmo kept your grave above the waves of Alatairë, when Beleriand was sundered, and that golden celandines bloom on it still. Is it true?”

“I know not in the slightest! Ulmo never told me so.” He laughed. “I live! That is what matters.”

And Galadriel smiled her charismatic, compelling smile at Elrond as he approached them, speaking now in Sindarin. “Law-son, I have a task for your warrior. He is to search the isles off the coast of Lindon, and bring back word if the songs of his grave be true.” She looked at Glorfindel. “And should they prove to be so, balrog slayer, bring back for me the seeds of the golden celandine that grow upon the mound. I have a mind to sow it on Cerin Amroth alongside the elanor.”

Glorfindel was stunned at this bit of whimsy from the Lady of the Golden Woods. He looked from the lady to his lord, a little helplessly. “Hîr-nín?” He had not an iota of interest in proving the songs true or otherwise. Elrond would not accede to a demand so whimsical, surely. The Forodwaith held infinitely more appeal as a destination to the warrior.

So he was flabbergasted when Elrond said, quite breezily, “A splendid idea! There is nothing to keep you here, Glorfindel.”

“But—”

“You may depart immediately following the ceremony.”

“Hîr-nín—there are dozens upon dozens of islands off the coast!!”

“You have my blessing to take as much time as is needed to accomplish this task.”

“It will give a whole new meaning to ‘finding yourself’,” Galadriel said with a smile.

Glorfindel returned after two coranári with a small pouch of golden celandine seeds and bulbs, stopping over in Imladris before heading to Lothlórien.

“So…it is true!” said Lindir excitedly.

“It was not that hard to find, in the end. I met some fisherfolk on the coast who told me of a small island with the grave of a warrior, but they did not know where it was. I went from island to island, and finally met some Falathrim who brought me to Tol Mallos.” He paused. The isle had been no more than a large, tall rock with steep slopes rising green and rocky from the sea, a village of twenty-three Telerin on its shores, who fished and herded sheep there. “And yes, it was there.”

“How did it feel, seeing your own grave?”

Glorfindel looked a little pensive. “Of course it felt strange. And the whole hillside was carpeted with celandine, not just the mound. They actually tend the grave, the Telerin on the island. And they treated me like…like I was a maia. It was quite discomfiting.”

“Did you attempt to exhume your own bones?” asked Erestor.

“Erestor! The very thought!” Arwen glared at the councillor.

“Oh no,” smiled Glorfindel. “I have all the bones I need.”

Chapter Text

Two elves sat on a ledge halfway up the eastern mountains overlooking Imladris valley—Maeglin on a patch of tufted grass starred with tiny white flowers, and Glorfindel on a tall rock jutting out from the cliff wall to her left.

Laid out to dry on some rocks to their right were their boots and their wet clothes weighted down with rocks so that the winds might not blow them away.

Maeglin was wrapped in his light grey cloak, which had remained fairly dry in his oiled-leather travel pack, while Glorfindel wore a spare white tunic he had found rolled up at the bottom of the bag. Unbelted, it fell almost to his knees, and as he leaned against the cliff wall behind him, he looked rather as though he was wearing a sleeping shirt. He had combed out his wet braids with his fingers, and with his golden hair tumbling loose over his shoulders, Maeglin thought he looked even more ridiculously boyish. And ready for bed.

From this high perch was to be had one of the most breathtaking views of the valley, and their elven eyes were undazzled by the evening sun shining full into their faces as it sank in the west. Two waterfalls cascaded down the forest-clad mountainside to their right; before and below them was the valley, the great house crouching tiny by the slender ribbon of the Bruinen river as it meandered southwest; behind them rose the towering white peaks of the Hithaeglir.

It was not scenery that was primarily on both their minds, though. Both had discovered that there was nothing like undressing with their backs to each other to get them thinking about the other in a state of undress. So as they now sat gazing out across the beauties of the valley, they were thinking of the beauty of the one they were not looking at. Maeglin sat as still as a statue. Glorfindel appeared relaxed, but the fingers of his left hand were twisting the damp ends of a golden lock of hair.

Alae!” Glorfindel said, suddenly, and both of them lifted their eyes gratefully to the distraction in the north-eastern skies, above the waterfalls. Two of Gwaihir’s eagles, circling above.

The great eagles did not watch over Imladris as they once had Gondolin, but occasionally they traversed the skies above it. And Glorfindel recognized the pair. Belroval and Gwailint: the two eagles who had mated that spring during his visit to the eyries. And as the two elves watched the soaring grace of the mighty pair, Glorfindel remembered their courtship dance above the eyries.

A good omen…

But even as the thought came to him, he could have laughed at how ludicrous it was.

But not as ludicrous as it might have seemed just a day ago, whispered a voice within.

True. Against all expectations, Maeglin had opted to spend the Gates of Summer with him. At best, she had been amiable. At worst, sullen and angry. But…she had come back. She had stayed. She could have left at any time, but chosen not to, and for Maeglin Lómion that was a great deal. As the eagles departed, soaring eastwards, Glorfindel remembered his prayer in the morning and felt gratefully that it had been answered.

It was ten in the evening, and the longest day of summer was drawing to a close. The heavens high above were deepening to shades of twilight blue, but the sky above the western heights glowed still with shades of rose and gold. High clouds streaked the sky, still rosy in the setting rays of Anor, and towered over the valley like vast Maiar guardians.

As the last gold vanished, and the stars lit one by one, Midsummer evensongs rose and fell on the air, wafted to them on the breeze.

Soon the songs of Gondolin would begin, thought Glorfindel, and continue through the night. Turgon’s journey into the Echoriad… the recreation of glorious Tirion…the loss of Aredhel… the birth of Maeglin…

The lilting melodies could reach them here, on their mountain ledge—but not the words. That was as Glorfindel intended; he, of course, would recognize each song from the melody, but Maeglin at least would be able to enjoy the beauty of the music without the reminders of their city’s ruin.

As the darkness deepened, Glorfindel glanced at Maeglin. Curled up in his cloak, her black silken hair lifted by the wind sweeping up the hillside, her knees hugged to her chest, the strong warrior-smith looked to him as vulnerable as a child. Her obsidian eyes, opaque and inscrutable, were gazing up at the constellations of summer in the darkening sky. Blazing with white fire, high above them, flew Sorontar, the King of Eagles and Alqua the Swan. Rising over the eastern range behind them was Angulócë the Serpent pursued by Quingamo the Archer…

The first time the two of them had ever gazed at the stars together had been six and a half millennia ago on the city walls of Gondolin.

It had been the night after Aredhel’s funeral, and Glorfindel and his house had been in charge of the night watch. Strolling along the northern city wall, he had seen the tall young prince all in black, standing silent and still as a statue, and staring out into the night.

Maeglin had looked up into the vastness of the open sky above him, feeling lost and empty. He had felt it to some degree, as he and his mother rode across an endless expanse of flat terrain towards the Echoriad. Suddenly, the dense forest of Nan Elmoth that had so suffocated him had seemed comforting and secure, less a prison than a womb. It had been different when he had travelled before with his father. They had journeyed by night and along forested trails to visit the deep caves of the ancient dwarven kingdoms. But on the journey to the hidden city, like a chick hatched from its shell, he had felt the shock of the sunlight—too glaring, too bright—and the openness of the plains on either side—too empty, too vast. Yet the desire to escape from his father and his accursed shadows had overcome all his un-ease. Excitement and novelty and the rush of adrenalin had overruled all fear.

Now his mother was gone. And his father. Locked deep within him, the heavy ache of unsheddable tears. He stood on this wall with his back to a strange city with foreign ways, its Sindarin dialect almost as foreign to his ear as the Quenya he could barely converse in. He felt exposed and desolate and afraid before the infinite heavens that yawned above him full of alien stars, and the great valley that stretched dark and void before and below him. He felt himself adrift. Felt he could fall forever into that expanse of darkness, and never land or find firm footing again.

Maeglin turned cold eyes upon the lord who approached him. The Lord of the Golden Flower glowed softly in the darkness, as though his hair and his very being were gathering all the coldness of the white stars, and spinning it into the warmth of the morning sun. This vision of golden beauty only reminded the prince of Idril, and brought afresh to his savaged, wounded heart the excruciating agony of a love that had struck him through like a spear, like a bolt of lightning. A love Maeglin had known to be forbidden from that first moment of utter longing and abject adoration, for which the only healing might be oblivion.

The orphaned prince unnerved Glorfindel. He gazed into the blank, unsmiling face before him, into black opaque eyes that glittered with reflected starlight but gave no window into their owner’s soul, and shivered a little. He remembered the pale, tearless face at the funeral earlier that day. And the same bleak, emotionless face at the execution yesterday.

They would all have preferred to see again the furious tears of rage they had witnessed in the throne room, the pale face snarling with hatred at the murderous father, as the boy cradled his mother in his arms and shouted barely comprehensible curses in a barbarous accent at the Dark Elf whom Glorfindel and Rog held pinned down to the ground.

But there had been no more tears after that. No more rage. Just the smoulder of golden fire in obsidian eyes as Maeglin sat at his mother’s side. When Aredhel breathed her last, the fire had fallen to ashes. And all Glorfindel had seen in those eyes was an abyss of nothingness, and felt both pity and fear.

Glorfindel went to the young prince’s side, sensing that he should not be left alone. And should be drawn away from standing near that steep drop from the city walls, for the golden lord had not forgotten the executed murderer’s dying curse.

“You have not slept for days,” Glorfindel said softly in the valley’s variant of Sindarin.

The black eyes looked out into the night. A slight shrug of the shoulders was the response.

“If you wish, a draught to aid in sleep could be prepared for you.”

A shake of the head. The obsidian eyes staring still at the sky.

Quite at a loss, but undeterred, the Lord of the Golden Flower asked, “You like stargazing?” And immediately cursed himself for being a gnat-brained dolt.

In the silence that followed, Glorfindel wracked his brains for anything he could say in the light of the tragic and terrible events of the past few days. The worst thing in Arda to utter would be platitudes like My fëa sorrows with your fëa, your loss is my loss…

Glorfindel could have wordlessly placed an arm of comfort around any other boy’s shoulders. But not this boy, with his arms tightly folded across his chest, face hard as stone. Simply standing near, in silence, might have expressed quiet sympathy to another. Not to Maeglin, whose hunched shoulders and rigid posture clearly indicated that Glorfindel was naught but an intruder, resented and unwelcome.

Stubbornly holding his ground, Glorfindel was about to ask if the prince would like to share a little wine with him when the muttered reply had come, as though spoken unwillingly, in that strange accent:

“The stars mean nothing to me.” Stars could barely be seen in Nan Elmoth. And no one had spoken to him about those cold, distant lights, not even either of his parents on his separate journeys with them.

“There are stories in the stars. Heroes, and battles, and creatures each with their own tale. They form patterns, and almost every star has its own name. Look—” And Glorfindel pointed them out one by one and named them. Valacirca the Sickle, Menelmacar the Swordsman, Wilwarin the Butterfly, Anarríma setting in the west. . . Of each, he recounted tales and related histories in his musical voice.

And if the boy Maeglin did not understand all the words that were spoken, still the magic of the golden lord’s vivid voice had power to form ideas and images in his mind. And Glorfindel, looking into the pale face, saw the eyes become sharp and alert, the face listening and alive. The boy is a sponge, thought Glorfindel. He is hungry for learning.

And somehow, as the hours passed, the two lords had ended up lying on their backs on the soft lawn starred with small white flowers set some feet away from the wall’s edge. The black-haired prince stared rapt at the heavens above as the golden-haired lord at his side pointed and gestured animatedly and breathed life into the cold stars for him.

The sentries marching past made two rounds of the walls, the stars wheeled westwards, and at last, the stars had faded in the light of dawn.

For those few hours, the prince had not felt quite so keenly the darkness and desolation of his heart. And some spell woven by the voice of the golden lord had salved his soul so that the daybreak seemed just a bit more bearable.

One would have thought that surely after that night a friendship would have been born. But alas, that was the first and last encounter of Maeglin Lómion with Glorfindel of the Golden Flower that was not poisoned by the venom of jealousy.

For later that very morning, Idril Celebrindal had run with light foot to the Lord of the Golden Flower as he stood by the fountain in the King’s Square, and kissed his cheek and stroked his face with a loving hand. And as the golden pair stood with heads close together and conferred long and intently about the late Aredhel and her tragic son, the prince had watched from afar. A dark anger had begun to spark, to later be fanned into the flames of hatred. His enmity toward the golden lord once kindled, the embers would smoulder, unabated, for the next six thousand years.

Yet from that time, the night skies of midsummer over Gondolin would never be alien to the prince again, and the stars smiled down as friends.

Now, on the heights overlooking Imladris valley, each remembered that night as they gazed at the stars together again.

Glorfindel was thinking of that moment of connection they had shared so long ago, and pondering how much of his love for Maeglin was tied to the fëa, and how much to the hröa that housed it.

Maeglin’s thoughts, as an elleth now, were far less metaphysical. As she relived in memory herself lying on the soft grass next to the golden-haired lord, her wandering mind imagined pulling him to her and doing all manner of unspeakable things to him. Here in the present, he sat just out of her reach on that rock. Without turning her head, she knew how he would look as his flowing hair shone warm and golden in the night, and how the stars would glitter in his azure eyes. And how his embrace would feel. And how he looked without that tunic…

It was growing unbearable. I have to get away from here.

Maeglin rose suddenly, and went to where the clothes lay drying. He watched as she fingered her leggings. Still wet, and unlikely to dry much faster as the night air grew chillier. Cold, wet clothes never seem that bad while you are still in them, she thought; the idea of putting them on again now she was warm and dry, however, was utterly repellent. A fire would help, but neither of them had suggested starting one, for neither wished to attract any attention.

She looked around the ledge everywhere except at him, seemingly agitated, and muttering something under her breath even his elven ears could not catch. He looked at her, baffled.

“Uhh…are you looking for something?”

“No. Yes. Have you anything to eat?” Maeglin said abruptly. There was nothing but mountain grasses on the ledge; not very palatable unless you are a goat.

Glorfindel was eyeing her with concern as he descended from his perch. “There may be some lembas…” he crouched by his pack and began to rummage in it, emptying out its contents as he went. Nothing. “That piece you had in the morning was the last of it, I am afraid. We passed some berries down the slope, and a stand of pines with cones. Wait here.”

The thought of the Commander of Imladris wandering its hills at night to forage for pine nuts and berries for her in nothing but a white tunic was rather precious, but suddenly Maeglin did not want him to leave.

“No, please do not. My hunger is not so great.” She eyed a small oval flask that gleamed silver on the grasses among the gear he had emptied from his pack. “What is that?”

“That?” He picked it up. “A parting gift from Bard. A form of uruinén that they make in Dale from fermented corn mash.”

“Allow me to try it.” It came across as a princely command, rather than a request, as Maeglin reached out her hand from beneath the grey cloak.

Thinking she had not understood, Glorfindel said, “It is uruinén. Urnen. Not to your taste, I should think.” The prince had disdained to touch the stuff in Gondolin, all those late winter nights of carousing. And then he made an error. He added, “It is rather potent.”

The black eyes sparked gold fire. “Let me be the judge of that.”

“There is water, if you thirst.” He held out the waterskin to her. He would not have minded offering her wine, but it had all gone to the squirrel that morning.

“I was drinking urnen at my father’s knee,” Maeglin said. “I can take it.”

Sweet and fiery and smoother than silk, the golden liquid burned its way down her throat. The warmth spread through her, relieved some of the ache in her chest, melted away her tension. She felt less on edge, less tightly wound up. “Very pleasant,” she pronounced, and to his alarm, took another swig.

After the third swig, Glorfindel said, “That is enough.” Maeglin held it away as he reached for it.

She turned to him, full of calm resolve, and her lips parted to speak: It has been a most agreeable day, but I will take my leave of you now. No vaer i dhû… And she would get dressed, sodding wet as her clothes might be, and get herself far away from him.

But what came forth from Maeglin’s lips as her obsidian eyes met his azure ones was, “You promised you would tell me by starlight who the Singer is.”

And she placed the flask in his hand.

He had been bracing himself for a tussle over the firewater. Now, he relaxed visibly. “So I did,” he said, keeping the half-empty flask away in his pack.

Maeglin sank down on a mound of grass near him; her obsidian gaze as it travelled across the darkened valley was almost mellow. Tiny golden lights winked at them like stars where the great house lay, and hauntingly sad cadences of the songs wafted to them on the breeze. Glorfindel was glad she could not hear a word. It was her mother dying of poison, and her father plunging to his death.

Sitting an arm’s length from her, he wondered how to begin. “Well…it need not be a long tale if you know a little history. The Singer’s story is essentially captured in three words: silmarils, oathtaking, and kinslaying.”

And Maeglin understood. “Maglor Fëanorion,” she said softly.

“Yes. The greatest singer who has ever lived,” said Glorfindel. “Many name him the second greatest…but having heard the celebrated Daeron once, in the lands far to the east, I still esteem the second son of Fëanor most highly.

“For six millennia Maglor has wandered across all of Ennor, singing his lament. He lingers most in Lindon and the Ered Luin, and very oft along the shores of the great sea. But every now and again will he come to our valley. For there is something draws him here… Or I should say, someone.”

“And who is that one?”

Glorfindel gazed to the north-west, thinking of lands now far beneath the waves. “I did say the tale was sorrowful. The answer is be found long ago, at the Havens at the Mouths of Sirion, at the Third Kinslaying.

“The sons of Fëanor descended on the Havens in the dead of night, and in the middle of the harshest winter in seventy coranári.” He fell silent. Even thinking of it sickened him so deeply he could barely bring himself to repeat the story as told to him by Elwing first in Aman, then Elrond in Ennor. “They swept through the Mouths of Sirion and slaughtered all in their path.”

Many who had escaped destruction in Doriath—and Gondolin—fell that day, Glorfindel thought. Had he not perished in the flight from Gondolin, how would he have fared in the kinslaying? Never had his sword been raised to slay one of the children of Ilúvatar. Could he have done it?

Or would he have fallen, refusing to kill?

“Maedhros was as one possessed, and would spare none. Those who could, put out to sea and escaped to Círdan’s realm on the Isle of Balar.  

“The Lady of the Mouths of Sirion was Elwing, and her Lord was away at sea,” Glorfindel continued, refraining from mentioning Eärendil by name. “Knowing there was no reasoning with the sons of Fëanor, she went forth bearing the prize they sought, their father’s silmaril, and ran to the high cliffs, hoping for nothing but to lure the attackers away from her people, and sacrifice herself.

“At that time her twin sons were only four coranári old. She placed Elrond and Elros in the hands of a trusted elflord, and bade him escape by a secret passage with some of their household. Alas, they were never to reach it. The Fëanorians breached the palace and cut them off on every side. Hotly pursued, the lord locked the children in an empty bedchamber, and blocked the way.

“The twins heard battle and terrible screams coming from the streets through the window, and the sound of sword blades clashing outside their door. They crawled under the bed, huddled together, and covered their ears with their hands.

“The sound of fighting beyond the door fell silent. They heard the sound of the key in the lock, and when the door swung open, they saw that the boots and cloak of the one who entered were not that of their protector. Their hearts pounded so loudly, they were terrified the enemy would hear it. They watched as the booted feet moved across the floor of the chamber with unhurried, measured steps, the hem of a long, dark-red cloak swirling. From the tip of his drawn sword, dark blood dripped upon the floor. And through the open doorway, they could see Egalmoth lying unmoving upon the flagstones—”

The name slipped out unthinkingly. Glorfindel saw her start.

“—and both the children began to sob, certain they were going to die.

“The booted feet halted. Then, slowly, the warrior lay down on his elbows and knees and looked under the bed. And Elrond found himself staring at blood-spattered armour and long dark hair, and large, glittering grey-silver eyes. They were eyes bright with the light of the Trees like Egalmoth’s had been…but all Elrond saw when he gazed into the kinslayer’s eyes was sorrow. They were weary, and burdened, and incredibly sad.

“The son of Fëanor stared a long while at the half-elven toddlers in silence, as cries of death still rose from the streets.

“Then he laid aside his bloody sword. And spoke:

“‘Do not fear, little ones. I shall do you no harm.’

“And such beauty was there in his voice, and so softly and gently did he speak, that it diminished some of their horror.

“He went to the window and closed the shutters to muffle the sounds of battle and shut out the bitter winter chill. He crossed to the door and he locked it.

“Then he lay on the floor and began to sing to them. And as he sang, their fear faded. He removed the gauntlets from his hands, and they did not resist him when he reached out and gently took them from under the bed.

“And he sat on the bed, and placed them on his lap. He cradled them against his blood-stained armour, in the protective circle of his steel-clad arms, and rocked them and sang softly to them till the sounds of battle and death fell silent outside the room. He sang on, not heeding when the door was pounded upon, and they heard a voice shouting in Quenya words they did not fully understand. He sang till the door was broken down by a tall beautiful warrior with flame-coloured hair and fearsome eyes, who wielded a bloody sword with his one hand.

“And quietly and stubbornly, in spite of the angry protests of his elder brother, Maglor would not relinquish the infants.

“He brought them home, and raised them as his own. He was more of a father to them than their own absent father had ever been. But finally, he sent the boys away, to Ereinion Gil-galad, so that they would be safe. So that they would not be tainted by the oath he and his brother had to fulfil.

“For over forty years were they with Maglor and Maedhros, and as peredhel they grew to full stature long ere the War of Wrath ended, Thangorodrim thrown down, and the silmarils taken from Morgoth’s crown.

“Then Elrond and Elros pleaded with Maglor not to send them away. And full of fear and dread for him were they, seeing the fey light in his eyes, and knowing well to what wickedness and folly the Oath could drive him and his brother. But Maglor prevailed, and despatched them to Balar, much against their wills.

“The twins grieved exceedingly when they heard how the sons of Fëanor had taken the silmarils, and how the purity of the jewels had seared their corrupted flesh. And most bitterly they wept as witnesses told of how the eldest son had plunged into a fiery chasm, and how the second son had hurled his bright jewel into the sea. From a league away could the silmaril be seen—shining brilliantly in the twilit skies as it arced through the air, then illuminating the dark waters with its radiance before it sank away into the depths of Ulmo.

“And for a while Elrond and Elros roamed the coastline seeking Maglor. But never have they seen him since. And only from afar did they hear the voice they love so well, lamenting in grief and regret.

“For thousands of years Maglor has wandered these mortal shores, ever singing, cursed still with the guilt and sorrow of his bloodsoaked soul. For he has cursed himself to ever wander alone, and never to find rest.”

As Glorfindel’s voice fell silent, the only sounds were the wind in the trees of fir and pine, and the roar of rushing waters cascading down. Maeglin looked out into the night, and the stars shone down upon her with their cold, cold eyes.

“So he comes here for love of Elrond.”

“Yes. Yet not once in six thousand years has Maglor spoken to him. Not once has he come to the house, or allowed any near him. He haunts the hills, and watches from afar. And sings.”

Maeglin stared into space. “So, if you were to find him,” she asked, “What would you say to him?”

“I would tell him that six thousand years is long enough a sentence,” replied Glorfindel. “He has punished himself enough. I would tell him: be a wanderer no more. Make Imladris your home. I will let none disturb you here in this valley. Here you may lay your burden down, and here you may find rest.

As Glorfindel spoke, Maeglin felt something well up within her, heavy as lead. It sat upon her chest, and caught hold of her throat.

“What of the kinslayings?” she said huskily. “There are those here, in Imladris who were at the Havens, who suffered at his hand and barely escaped with their lives. Erestor…and Lindir.”

Glorfindel turned his head, and saw the obsidian eyes gazing almost pleadingly at him. “I cannot speak for them,” he replied. “But with all my heart I believe that regardless what a person has done, should there be remorse, should forgiveness be sought, it should be given. None could doubt, who hear his song, how deep is his remorse, how deep his regret.”

The tightness in her chest, her throat was so great, Maeglin could barely breathe, barely speak. “Do you truly believe that? You would forgive? No matter what one has done?” she managed to say, barely audible.

Glorfindel’s violet-blue eyes gazed deep into hers, and held them. They heard a faint swell of song rising from the valley. And in that moment, two Midsummers six thousand years apart became one. They were back on the walls of Gondolin, and there was dragon fire on the northern heights as the midsummer stars gazed down upon them. And to the dark abyss of her eyes, Glorfindel said, as the black hordes descended into Tumladen, “Yes. No matter what.”

And he saw, suddenly naked and exposed in those dark eyes, such brokenness and torment, such infinite guilt and self-loathing, that he could do nothing but lean forward and kiss Maeglin on the mouth.

And so natural did it seem, so very right did it feel, that every reason against it melted away, and every wall built against it crumbled. This was, out of many thousands of kisses in his life, the first Glorfindel had ever truly desired. This was, for Maeglin, the first time she had ever actually been kissed. Soon she was leaning into his kiss desperately, needily, and clutching at him as though she was drowning and he her only lifeline. As they kissed hungrily, her arms went around him and the grey cloak slipped to the ground. He found his hands sliding down the smooth softness of her bare skin, found himself intoxicated with her scent, her taste, found himself pulled against her rather forcefully, and falling entangled with her onto the cloak and the mountain grass. Then the floodgates opened, and no thought possible to either from that point, only a driving need that swept them along like the whitewaters of a river. As the songs of the fall of the white city rose to the skies, neither of the two Gondolindrim in Imladris heard them, lost as they were in the tumult of their own blood.

Below in the valley, the tragedy unfolded as Lindir and his singers and actors performed in the gardens of the house before a rapt audience. The battle for Gondolin was waged—the Square of the King was lost, the Tower of the King collapsed, and Turgon was slain.

On the heights, the King’s two lords lay cloaked in a warm, silken tangle of golden and black and the most euphoric of afterglows—a happy haze in which no memory existed but the bliss they had just shared, and the whole world was condensed into the other. They lay so entwined they hardly knew where they ended and the other began. Wrapped in each other’s arms, both thought: This has to be a dream. Irmo, pray do not wake me…

Already Glorfindel felt how the boundaries of their fëar were blurring—his brightness and Maeglin’s darkness intermingling, the shadow within her crouching like a wounded animal amid swirling eddies of rapture and fulfilment.

And, unvoiced, the words sang naturally, unthinkingly, from his fëa to hers:

Gi melin…I love you.

At that, he felt Maeglin stiffen in his arms, and he saw dread in her half-closed eyes. And abruptly they were two again. Separate.

The hurt at her fëa’s withdrawal from him was like a knife thrust, even though the warm length of her body pressed against his still. She gazed at him warily, angrily, shaken by that breach of her mind. He felt a dark wall raised against him in her fëa, fencing the secrets she was guarding.

“I have to go—” And she pulled out of his arms, pushed herself upright, and got to her feet, turning towards where their clothes lay drying.

“No! Please don’t!” He caught her by the arm and spun her round to face him.

There was a wild, almost feral look in Maeglin’s dark eyes as she gazed at him like a wounded animal through the black hair falling across her face. Fear. Desire. Need. She did not break away from his grip.

He lifted a hand and gently brushed back her hair from her face. “It won’t happen again.”

“My mind is mine. Stay out,” Maeglin growled.

Did she not understand what they had just done? What had happened between them? He gazed at her in hurt and despair. “I will. I am sorry.”

And taking her face gently in his strong hands, he kissed her. A kiss that disarmed her, that frightened her. There was nothing in it of the aggression of their earlier passion that she could dismiss as sheer lust, little different from two animals joining in the night. The kisses he lavished on her now were slow, tender, attentive, and they bared within her a need so intense, a void so deep, that she almost wept. An impulse of terror flared in Maeglin, made her want to shove him away with a curse and a snarl.

Daro!” she cried out, jerking back and striking him across the face.

He at once released her and stepped back, his cheek stinging.

That’s it. I’ve ruined it. What should I do now? he thought wretchedly, as she paced about the ledge, distraught, like a wild thing seeking escape from a cage.

The next moment, to his great confusion but utter delight, Maeglin was pushing him back against the cliff face at the back of the ledge, kissing him with a desperate hunger and jostling against him fiercely…

As the Imladrim in the valley below sang of the fall of a traitor and of a hero plummeting from a pinnacle, the hero and the traitor shut out all thought of the fall of fair white towers, blocked out flame and ruin, blocked out the pain of past love and loss and betrayal and death. By the time the last notes of the songs of Gondolin lingered in the night air, the last two Gondolindrim lay sated and sleepy on fragrant grasses starred with white mountain flowers, the grey cloak covering them both. Maeglin’s head nestled in the crook of his neck, and her eyes were heavy with languor as she sighed. Like the fading of the sunset, the rapture of their climax throbbed for her with an aching sadness as it subsided, and an ancient shadow seemed to loom vast over them…

“Losto vae, meleth-nín,” Glorfindel murmured into her black hair, and the sadness was banished. He was careful not to speak to her mind as he had erred in doing earlier, but even so, he cocooned her in warmth and security, his love lapping at the borders of her being like gentle waves on a lake shore. In the sunshine of his presence, the shadows could not stay…

Glorfindel watched over Maeglin till her breathing and heartbeat became slow and deep in sleep, and lay awhile in thought, lost in amazement as what had happened slowly sank in.

They were wed.

He could feel Maeglin a part of him, interlaced fëa and hröa. That what they had done was binding until the Second Music he had not the slightest doubt. He knew it to the depths of his being.

But with a stab of desolation, he knew that she did not see it so. One light touch of osanwë, and he had found himself facing a phalanx of spears. What all this meant to her, he had little idea, but it certainly was not marriage. Given her parents, he was unsure what marriage meant to her anyway.

It certainly was not how he had dreamed their binding would be—whenever he had allowed himself to dream of it, that is. Vaguely, in his mind, he had envisioned a season of courtship, a year of betrothal, a wedding attended by friends and kin… like the thousands of pairings he had witnessed in his lifetimes.

This—this had happened so fast his mind was still in a whirl. To be lying here with his love in his arms, when just a day past he had been in utter despair, was so surreal he half-expected Irmo to awaken him any moment.

Glorfindel looked up from Maeglin’s sleeping face to the eternal stars gazing down at them.

What do we go from here?

After the marriage, would at last come the courtship… friendship… and, Eru willing, the sharing of hearts…

Well, nothing had ever been normal about this love from the first moment, anyway.

Glorfindel tried not to think what Idril and Ecthelion would have to say about all this. He gazed at Maeglin again, as she lay with her black eyes untroubled and serene in sleep. His beloved traitor. And as he gently draped an arm over her, and himself drifted into Lórien, his heart was singing.

 


Glossary

Alae (S) – behold

Belroval (S) – mighty wing

Gwailint (S) – wind-swift

No vaer i dhû (S) – may the night be good / good night

Gi melin (S) – I love you

Daro (S) - stop

Chapter Text

Maeglin woke to the roar of rushing waters tumbling down rocks and wind sighing up the hillside, and the sight of the stars above growing faint as the sky brightened over the eastern mountain heights. Her cheek was pressed into a soft mane of shining golden hair and the warmth of a bare, strong shoulder.

The shock almost made her sit bolt upright.

Stunned, her mind a perfect blank, she watched the rise and fall of his chest under the grey cloak covering them.

Then Maeglin remembered. Remembered graphically everything, everything that had happened a few hours ago, and cursed long and violently in her mind.

Barely breathing, with infinite slowness, she lifted herself off Glorfindel’s shoulder, and ever so carefully untangled the locks of her black hair that were mingled with his gold tresses, and—with some difficulty—extricated the ends of her hair which he was lying on.

Glorfindel stirred a little, but dreamed on. She began to appreciate how the twins had been able to tie the hair of Ennor’s greatest warrior to his bedpost.

Now sitting up, Maeglin winced as she felt her soreness and tenderness. She looked around the ledge, took stock of the bruises on herself. And shades of Mandos, were those bite marks she saw on his shoulder? She groaned inwardly.

What next?

One look at Glorfindel as he lay peacefully dreaming, more beautiful even than last night, brought not just a surge of renewed desire but a bewildering jumble of tenderness and warmth, and stomach-churning guilt and fear. Everything within Maeglin screamed that she should flee. She dreaded looking into those sky-blue eyes and lying. She wanted to sleep with him nightly, yet abhorred the thought of dealing daily with who they had once been, and in a way would always be. Prince and subject. Fellow lords. Brothers-in-arms. Hero and traitor. Adversaries.

And the greatest terror of all. The way Glorfindel was able, so easily, to slip past all the barriers of Maeglin’s fëa, to invade all the places most secret in her mind and her heart—the places of horror and deceit and darkness she wanted known to none, that she did not even want to face herself.

He had promised not to. It was not enough. It was not that Maeglin distrusted him, much though she might always have hated him. Oh, Glorfindel would keep his word, noble and true as he always was. She had always known that.

No—it was just simply that…he could. The power he had over her shook her, petrified her. Her stomach twisted to recall with what ease he had penetrated those defences, last night. Without even trying, even thinking.

How much deeper he could go.

And how much part of her longed for him to do so.

For all her desire for him, it was not their passion that held her most now, but the moments of closeness and quiet that had followed. The comfort and warmth of his arms. And that moment his mind and hers had been one…she had recoiled instinctively in utter dread and terror. Yet now as she remembered it, it glowed in memory. One brief shining moment. How enticing, how seductive that fleeting flash of communion had been, a glimpse of what she had never known, but had always yearned for deep beneath all her princely pride and aloofness…a haven; a place that felt like home. Fragments of self interlocking with another, becoming one whole. The ultimate lure that whispered to her: that one could actually be known, in one’s entirety, and still be loved.

Fool. It could never be. He knows naught, and must never know.

Quickly, Maeglin pulled on her clothes. Flee! She must. It had to end here.

 

Glorfindel woke up with a start, and saw the first rays of Anor streaming over the mountaintops.

As his mind was swamped by a jumbled rush of memories from last night, the surge of elation and wonder was soon replaced by desolation. She was gone.

And why was he not surprised? In the light of morning, everything that had happened suddenly wore the appearance of disaster. It had been wondrous. It had been mutual. It had unfolded like the most natural, intensely beautiful thing in all of Eä. And it had been totally, unreservedly rash and brainless.

What were you thinking, last night?

The obvious answer, of course, was that he had not been thinking at all. After nine years of perfect self-control, the moment that cloak had slipped to the ground, all thought had gone south to Gondor.

Glorfindel could now think of several rather important things that it might have been wise to discuss beforehand. Such as: “Before we commit this momentous, life-changing and irrevocable act, might you ever find it in your heart not to hate me?”

And he had not given one thought to all his previous scruples about Elrohir.

In two long lifetimes, Glorfindel had numerous times been confronted by irate, jealous males, both elven and mortal, over his supposed relations with some female or other. He had been challenged to duels, assaulted with angry words, and fists, and weapons, and furniture, and thrown once into a dungeon in Annúminas by the future King Tarondor before being rescued by Elrond.

The thought of possibly having a fallout with Elrohir over Maeglin made his heart sink to indescribable depths. It was not only that Elrohir was among his dearest friends. The difference was this—in all previous situations, Glorfindel’s conscience had been perfectly clear, his innocence beyond a doubt. 

Now…

Wretched with love, wracked with guilt, desperate to find Maeglin, Glorfindel snatched up his clothes from where they had been laid out to dry on the ledge, and pulled them on quickly. As he did, he could hear Ecthelion’s lecture on proper conduct and self-control, dished out to him after he had been found, at the age of forty, with three young ellith in his bed after Nost-na-Lothion.

“But—but they just wanted to cuddle. Nothing really happened!” the youngster had protested, after Ecthelion sent the beauties packing.

“Guard your behaviour,” Ecthelion snapped sternly, “or before long something WILL happen. And it may be an angry father jamming a dirk to your throat and demanding you wed a girl you care naught for after compromising her honour. Irresponsible, Lauro. Stupid and irresponsible. One day, you will find the One for you. And when you do, make sure that you have no regrets. Be certain to do everything right by her. Until then, let naught happen that would cause grief to the princess or the king, or you are not so old I cannot still give you a whipping.”

Glorfindel was half glad Ecthelion was not here to witness his folly, half wishing the Lord of the Fountain was here to offer some counsel. Scanning the ledge, he was annoyed and dismayed to see neither his leggings nor his boots. Nor his hunting gear and travel pack.

Had they fallen off sometime during the throes of their passion, or been blown off the ledge by the wind?

Or had Maeglin tossed them off herself? In anger? In horror? Or simply to slow him down?

She had hidden them, he realized, as a swift search discovered each item tucked away in various crevices at the back of the ledge, his right boot wedged between two boulders in a manner that required contortionist skills for retrieval. That gave him some idea of her state of mind. As he eventually hunted down his travel pouch and strapped on his knives and bow and quiver, he reached tentatively out to her with his fëa. Not trespassing, just sensing. Across the distance, he faintly discerned desperation, and misery.

Glorfindel swiftly followed Maeglin. At places, her light prints showed on the dewy ground. At others, pine and fir and stone whispered softly of her passing to him. He was less than an hour behind her, and she was choosing a winding route southwards, then westwards, through the hills. It would slow her down, but she was avoiding the valley where people were.

And the realization hit him before long. Maeglin was heading to the pass in the south-west. She was leaving the valley. And within he knew: she did not plan to return.

He caught up with her before long, saw her running across a clearing into the woods that ran alongside the Bruinen river…

 

As she ran, Maeglin was remembering her mother, and their journey from Nan Elmoth to Gondolin. How Aredhel had turned her head to look back, and muttered, "He will come. He will not let us go so easily." Urging on her horse, she had added, almost to herself: "He has no rights over me, none. We said no blessings. We exchanged no rings. I am not bound." Maeglin had looked into his mother's eyes and seen the opposite of her words. Seen in the lovely silver eyes that passion and desire that always lurked just beneath her loathing of his father. It was something that bound her to the Moriquendë, warring with her yearning to be free.

Maeglin could understand better, now, that war of passions within her mother. She thought of herself and Glorfindel. We are not bound. We cannot be bound. And yet, here she was, yearning for him. Irrationally. Stupidly.

She sensed him before she saw him. When she glanced over her shoulder and saw him behind her, she knew it would be futile to run. But she did anyway, into the woods, and was unsurprised when he overtook and cut in front of her.

Maeglin almost skidded to a halt on the dewy moss, as Glorfindel appeared before her, glorious and golden in the morning sunlight slanting through the branches overarching them. They stood in silence, facing each other, reddening slightly as all of the previous night lay between them.

“Lómiel,” Glorfindel began awkwardly, really at a loss what to say, “Please—you do not have to run…”

“Do not try to stop me, do not get in my way.” Maeglin’s black eyes glinted coldly. She moved to skirt around him.

He reached out to touch her arm. “Lómiel—”

“Don’t touch me!!” she snarled at him, pulling away from him.

Every possible profession of undying love died on his lips. “You are leaving Imladris,” he said. “But why?”

“Do not ever touch me again,” Maeglin said, ignoring the question. She stepped away, and continued walking.

They went deeper into the woods. He trailed after her, feeling utterly miserable and helpless. “You do not have to leave. We…we could put it behind us, and move on.” What utter rubbish. There is no way I could ‘move on’ from this.

“I am moving on,” Maeglin said shortly, not turning.

Glorfindel drew up alongside her, to her left, but kept two rangar between them, talking to her through the trees and shrubs that passed between them. “But what about the smithy, the guard—could you just walk away from all that?”

You owe him no explanation. Just leave. “I never belonged here. I knew I would leave some day,” Maeglin heard herself say.

“Of course you belong here! What about…about…your friends?” Glorfindel struggled in anguish to try to understand how Maeglin might feel. How would the Lord of the Mole feel, waking up after being bedded by the one elf he hated most?

And yet, surely, after all that happened between us last night

“What about us? Please, talk to me. Tell me what is wrong. I thought you were happy, last night.” You were. Do not deny it. I have never seen you so happy before. “I thought we made each other very happy.”

“Last night was madness. No more than a dream. It is daylight now.” Her profile was hard as steel, her eyes like ice.

Glorfindel gathered his much-vaunted courage. “But—you do realize,”—he spoke cautiously, and there was an edge of desperation in his voice—“that after last night, you and I—we are bonded now?”

Bonded?” Maeglin echoed mockingly, her eyes narrowing. “Have you said that to any of the other ellith you have bedded?” Her voice was chilly, accusing.

“What??” he said in outrage and shock as he emerged from behind an oak tree. “‘Other ellith’?—what ‘other ellith’? How could you think—” And Glorfindel suddenly recalled the occasional murmurs of scandal in the Gondolin marketplace, which he had always ignored as beneath his contempt. And now he realized how a certain lord might have relished the gossip—and believed it. He moved closer to her. “I have no idea what you may have heard, but it was not true. There has only been you! There will only always be you.”

The blazing sincerity in Glorfindel’s eyes, the intensity of his voice, shook Maeglin. But she kept on walking, and put a few birches between them.

“No matter. It was a stupid mistake.”

Glorfindel might have thought so himself, but he was unprepared to hear it from her lips. Each time he thought it no longer possible, Maeglin found a way to break his heart further.

“Yes, it was. A terrible mistake. It should not have happened that way. It was rash, and unthinking, and there are no excuses for how I behaved. I am sorry.” Glorfindel knew it would be a fatal error to remind Maeglin that she had been the one who had taken their kiss further. It was the memory of the tenderness and vulnerability she had shown towards the end, as she had snuggled against him in the moments before sleep, that emboldened him now to throw all caution to the winds, forget about Elrohir, and desperately appeal to her. “I love you. I never meant this to happen—not like this. There are so many things I wanted to say to you first. I wanted to give you the courtship you deserve, and the betrothal, and the blessings, and the gold rings… But it is done, and it cannot be undone. And it binds us. Can you not feel it as I do? We are one now, and I am yours. For always. And though I understand it is not your wish now, I hope that we may yet have blessings and rings in the fullness of time.”

Maeglin looked at him, shaken and stunned, and something caught at her throat, and wrenched her heart. Something that wanted what he offered. So badly. Her lips tightened. “Exactly. We have had no blessings. No rings. That means that you are free of me, and I of you. So go away and leave me be! You have nothing to hold me with. There is nothing between us. It was nothing.”

“It was not nothing! Binding does not need rings or blessings. I would wish for them only that the world might be our witness and share my joy, but blessings or no, rings or no, it is done. I am joined with you fae and rhaw for all time and the Valar themselves cannot undo that. If you leave now you tear away half of me with you. I will force nothing upon you. I will not even come nigh you unless you give me leave. Take all the time remaining to Arda if you wish, and if your answer still be nay, I will accept it. But do not go. Please.”

It took all Maeglin’s strength to look into Glorfindel’s blazing sea-blue eyes, and twist the knife. “That is a wagonload of orc-crap. I am joined to no one, nor will ever be. I belong to myself alone,” she said, her voice cold and cutting. “This sorry affair should never have happened. And it was nothing to me. You are nothing to me. Begone! Ego!”

Maeglin turned away again, and ran through the trees up a slope towards the path leading out of the valley.

The hurt was so great, Glorfindel could not speak for a while. He would rather have faced the fiery whip of the balrog again a hundred times again than endure this. And out of the pain and desperation of his heart he could only think of one thing to say to her departing back.

“Lómion, wait! Do not leave!” he called after Maeglin in anguish. In Quenya.

She came to a sudden halt.

Melin tyë, cundunya. I love you, my prince.”

Maeglin froze—stood on the slope as though turned to stone for a heartbeat. Then she turned, and looked at him in shock.

“What did you say?” she whispered, also in Quenya.

“I know who you are. You are Maeglin Lómion. And I love you.” And he walked up the slope towards her.

Maeglin backed away and drew her knife.

“Stay away from me!” she snarled, panic and bewilderment in her eyes. “How did you know?” It did not even occur to her to deny it.

“The name, the smithy,” Glorfindel said gently. “It was rather obvious, cundunya.”

Then it dawned upon Maeglin, and she suddenly stopped backing away. Her black eyes flashed and narrowed as she held her ground.

“So you knew!” she said slowly, her voice a growl. “When you gave me the sword, you knew!”

Glorfindel saw the fire in her eyes, and knew at once that she was now ready to use the knife in dead earnest.

Melmenya—” he said.

“Shut up, you piece of muk!!”

She began to advance on him, her face grim.

She drew a second blade.

“I thought it would please you to receive back something you had made,” Glorfindel said, backing away and staying out of reach of the blades. “How was I to know? I was trapped at that time in the Great Market and the Square of the King, fighting off hordes of Orcs. Itarillë never told me about how she used the sword when you—when she—I only guessed it when I saw the look on your face. I am sorry, I never, ever meant to hurt you.” 

He saw fresh horror come over the Lord of the Mole’s mortified face, and she halted abruptly.

“You cesspool of orcshit—last night, you knew! You knew it was me, and you—”

Maeglin began to flush a deep red as the acts of the previous night suddenly appeared in a very different light. Everything she had done. Everything she had let him do to her. The way he had turned her into a quivering, moaning mess of need and desire. “Oh, stinking pits of Angband—” the prince and regent of Gondolin muttered, dazed with total humiliation now at the memory, her stomach churning.

“Yes, I knew it was you, cundunya. And I cannot tell you how wondrous it was,” said the golden lord of Gondolin with a luminous smile at the memory. “There are no words for how amazing—how awesome—you were last night—”

At that the Lord of the Mole advanced on the Lord of the Golden Flower with blazing eyes and a hiss, and lunged at him with the knives.

As he jumped away from the slashing blades, Glorfindel wondered if it was ever possible for him to say the right thing.

“You bloody bastard!” Maeglin said in a voice choked with fury.

“I admit it,” said Glorfindel dodging one blade as it whizzed close to his face and jumping back from another aimed lower down. “I can assure you, however, that I am not Turukáno’s.”

“I am going to kill you,” she snarled, “you misbegotten son of a troll!!”

Cundunya—please, do not be angry.” Glorfindel, still completely mystified by her reaction, narrowly missed a stroke that would have disembowelled him. “I thought—I thought you wanted it as much as I did last night—and that you found pleasure in it as I did—you certainly sounded like you did—”

At that, the Lord of the Mole snarled some vehement and highly colourful invectives and sent the Lord of the Golden Flower dodging behind a tree with a series of very purposeful knife strokes.

Glorfindel looked out from behind the tree at her in awe.

“By the mountain of Manwë!” he said admiringly, “you are magnificent when you’re angry!”

A knife came whizzing at him, and he dodged it as it slammed into another tree behind him. That would have gone right into his eye, he thought, as he pulled the blade out of the wood. She meant business.

“Who else have you told, you louse-infested warg-kisser?” Maeglin demanded, her face hot with shame.

“Only Elrond, and he thinks I am insane,” said Glorfindel. “And I have never had a louse in my life.” He held out the hilt of her knife to her in what he hoped was a conciliatory manner.

Maeglin looked as though she would explode. “Stick it up your ass!” she snarled, scowling ferociously. “You arrogant prick!” She lunged at him again.

Retreating hastily, he tucked her knife into his belt. “Tell me when you want it back.”

“Don’t patronize me! You always patronized me.” Her remaining blade whizzed close to Glorfindel’s ear.

He gaped at her as he dodged the knife. “Lómion, no! I never did—I never meant to.”

“With sword, or bow, or unarmed combat—you were always the superior one, and I the backward pupil you could be charitable to.” The knife slashed close again. They went dancing deeper into the woods. “Did it amuse you, to behold me returned thus by Námo? Did you come so oft to the smithy to glory in my weakness? My abasement? A frail nís dependent on your chivalry?” Maeglin spat out the words in rage.

Glorfindel’s eyes widened in shock and his mouth dropped open in horror. He was speechless. The next vicious slash almost got him in the gonads.

“Yet I would not have imagined you could stoop so low as to make a mockery and pretence of love. A game well played, Golden Flower. Your act almost took me in.” Slash. Maeglin’s eyes flashed angrily with golden fire, as last night now seemed nothing more than the ultimate humiliation at the hands of an enemy.

“No! It was never that! Never! I love you, I truly do,” protested poor Glorfindel, keeping just out of reach of the blade.

“How diverting you must have found it, to connive to add the prince of Gondolin to your countless conquests. Was the revenge sweet? Did you relish the challenge? You will not get to display the trophy, you lowlife scum of Angband!” Her face was flushed with mortification and rage. “Death is too good for you!” Slash slash.

“Lómion—Lómiel—” Glorfindel was at his wits’ end with desperation. “What must I do to prove to you that I love you?”

“Give it up, filth. The game is over.”

They had come to the banks of the Bruinen. Abruptly, he came to a standstill. Maeglin gasped as she almost disembowelled him, her blade swerving just in time.

“Very well, game over,” he said. “Finish this. I will not run.”

Glowering, her eyes still flickering with fire, Maeglin took a step forward and pointed the blade at his heart. Her hand held steady, but she did not move.

“Go ahead,” Glorfindel said. “I shall not hold it against you, as I do not hold the first.” His eyes were blue-grey and serious. “I mean it. If you will not have me, I would rather be with Námo till the Second Music.”

The blade wavered. Maeglin lowered the knife, her eyes narrowed. “You contemptible worm. Do you mock me still?” Then suddenly, she aimed a violent punch at his jaw, which he blocked, eliciting a curse from her.

“Sorry, instinct,” he apologized. “I’ll not dodge the next one. I promise.”

She stepped back, glaring at him distrustfully, angrily. “Condescending muk,” she growled.

“Almighty, everlasting Eru!!” burst out Glorfindel in despair. “Strike me, stab me! What would give you satisfaction? What can I do to prove my love for you? Drown myself in the Bruinen? Cut off my hand?”

“Too easy! Cut off your hair!” Maeglin shot back.

“Fine!” Azure eyes flashing, he grabbed a handful of his tresses, whipped out her knife, and hacked it off.

She gasped in horror as the golden lock fell upon the grassy riverbank, dropped her knife to the ground, and lunged forward to grab Glorfindel’s knife hand.

“Stop it! Are you insane?” Maeglin grappled with him as he tried to cut off another lock. “I’ll kill you!”

“You want to kill me for cutting my hair and I am insane?”

“You crazy bastard! Don’t do it!”

“You told me to!” They fell over onto the grass as they struggled together.

“I never thought you would!”

“Do you believe me now?”

“Damn you! Is this another trick of yours?”

“I love you, my prince! If you want my hair before you’ll believe it, you can have it!”

“Stop it! Stop!” Maeglin wrenched the knife out from his hand and threw it aside. And as she lay panting on his chest, his arms closed around her. “Let me go, you crazy muk!” She struggled violently.

“Not until you believe that I love you!” As she attempted to manoeuver herself out of his embrace, Glorfindel said, “That won’t work. I taught you how to do that, melmenya.”

Shut up!! Stop calling me that. You hated me.”

“No, it was you who hated me, Lómion. I tried so hard to be friends—well, for the first fifty years, at least.” As Maeglin attempted to knee him in the groin, Glorfindel shifted her body so that her back lay against him, and she found herself gazing at the high blue sky.

“Do not pretend that you even liked me,” Maeglin snarled, her arms pinned to her sides, but kicking viciously at his legs with her heels.

“Yes, my prince. I disliked you very much.” Glorfindel kissed the sensitive spot on her neck just by her ear. “Always scowling.” Kiss. “No sense of humour.” Kiss.

Maeglin began to flush with something quite different from anger.

“Stop it! This is—just—revolting. There is no way this is ever going to work.”

“That is not going to stop me from trying,” Glorfindel said, leaning the side of his head against hers.

 “I hate you, Flower,” she said, but in so toneless a voice she might have been saying the opposite.

“I know, Mole,” he said gently. “But I will always love you.”

“Shut up! You cannot!

“Cannot what?” he said gently into her silken black hair.

“Cannot love me.”

“But I do.” He hugged her more tightly, and planted a noisy, wet kiss on her cheek.

Stop that!” Maeglin squirmed and tried to elbow him in the ribs. “Can you not see how wrong this is?”

“Hmm…” Glorfindel pretended to think. “No. Not at all. Not anymore.”

“The hero and the traitor,” she said bitterly.

“A lifetime ago, and far away. It does not matter.”

Maeglin stopped struggling. “Surely you must hate me for…for what I did.”

At that, Glorfindel gently rolled her off him, turned her to face him, and looked deep into her black, haunted eyes. His fair face was solemn.

“No,” he said softly. “I do not.”

And he captured her mouth in a deep and tender kiss.

A huge piece of darkness that had weighed on Maeglin’s soul for six millennia fell away from her in that moment and vanished into the abyss in the depths of the Halls of Mandos.

And when he kissed her again, she kissed him back.

 

Mid-morning. Arms wrapped around each other, they sat leaning against the trunk of a great oak tree, and the music of the Bruinen was loud in their ears.   

“And did that please you, my prince?” Glorfindel asked, as he kissed her.

“It was tremendous,” Maeglin murmured against his mouth. “Absolutely epic. We should do it again.”

“We certainly should. But I wondered—would you like to join the festivities today? There will be food and dances and games from Gondolin…I know you care not for dances nor games, but you might like the food. There should be a wonderful smoked duck done just as you liked it.”

Maeglin looked at him in surprise. “How did you know I like smoked duck?”

“It was the only thing you ever took second helpings of, at the King’s table. No, I’m wrong. You also occasionally took seconds of boneless roast veal. Medium rare. They will have that too.”

Maeglin was silent, her fingers drawing patterns on his chest. “Go if you wish. I will remain in the hills.”

“I will go only if you do!”

“You wish for revelry, and song, and merry companionship. And I know you desire to take part in the games. Go! Do not stay away for my sake.”

Glorfindel knew her impassive face was a mask for unhappiness. “I wish only to be with you. And I do not care if we do not dance or play games—” 

Maeglin sighed. “I will not go. Elrohir will claim a dance, and I weary at the thought of having to refuse him. He will be persistent, I know.”

Glorfindel looked deeply discomfited. “I must ask. Who is Elrohir to you?”

Maeglin looked at him and quirked an eyebrow. “A friend.”

“And no more?”

Her mouth curled in a familiar smirk. “A handsome and charming friend.”

Glorfindel’s eyes darkened to violet. “I see.”

“He swore he would lift me bodily, carry me onto the sward, and make me join the dances.”

The blue eyes flashed. “If he tries to lift you bodily, I will lift him bodily and drop him into the pond!”

“Is the Lord of the Golden Flower jealous?”

“Have I not reason to be?”

As her obsidian eyes gazed at him, Maeglin did not speak for a moment, so strange did it feel to have their roles reversed, Glorfindel now jealous as she had once been of him, and she wished to savour it for a while. But so tender did her heart feel towards him that morning that she could not find it in herself to torment him longer. “Be at ease. Elrohir is naught to me but a friend, and I to him. Perhaps I intrigue him. Perhaps he likes that I do not desire him to make love to me, as other elfmaids might. But I am no more to him than Arwen is, I believe.”

Relief and gladness washed over Glorfindel. “I shall speak to him when we return, to make certain.”

“No, do not!”

Glorfindel looked at Maeglin quizzically.

“Do not expose our secret.”

It was his turn to raise an eyebrow. “Secret?”

Maeglin looked back at him and did not reply. Then looking away, she took up the lock of hair he had shorn off, and began plaiting part of it into a thin, intricate five-stranded braid.

“You do not wish it to be known?” Glorfindel asked. “But why?”

“It is none of their business. It is no one’s business but yours and mine.”

“It is not because you are not sure of me?”

“It is not.” She frowned. “I hate the thought of the furore it would cause. The nuisance of the endless nosy questions and gossip, the scrutiny.”

“Secret lovers it is, then. Rather exciting.” He kissed her, and as they sat shoulder to shoulder, he watched her clever fingers plaiting the slender lock of his hair. “I thought you hated braiding.”

“My own hair, yes. I have nothing against braiding itself. I would never attempt your head, though. I could not better how you do it.” Maeglin looked at Glorfindel appraisingly, and her hand went out to the ragged ends of the tress he had cut off, lying against his cheek. “I still cannot believe you did it.”

He was amazed at how doleful she sounded. “It is hair, meldanya. It will grow back.”

“How will you explain it? There will be cries of horror. It will be the subject of talk for weeks. You know what the household is like.”

Glorfindel smiled. “I will tuck the ends into a braid, never fear. At the worst, I’ll tell everyone I had an accident.”

The braid Maeglin was working on was now a long, slender strand. He took it from her, tied it into a little noose and looped it playfully around her right forefinger.

“With this ring I bless, I wed thee. With my body, I worship thee…” he said, only half in play.

Maeglin was silent as the ancient words of blessing hung in the air, and stared at the bright ring of gold on her finger. “So much brighter than any metal could ever be,” she murmured.

“I love you, vesseya.”

There followed a silence that lingered so long it became awkward. “I believe you,” she said finally. And slipped the noose off her finger.

Glorfindel did not say anything, nor betray any hurt in his face. Taking the braid from her, and drawing a blade, he cut it shorter and wove the ends of the braids together skilfully till a golden ring was formed. Then he casually slipped it back onto Maeglin’s ring finger.

She gently touched the soft golden ring that glowed on her hand. And though she left it on this time, she said, “I cannot wear it before others.”

“It matters not. Do as pleases you.” He shrugged nonchalantly and smiled. Again, neither hurt nor anger was betrayed.

Maeglin carefully coiled the remnants of the tress of golden hair and tucked it away into a pouch.

“What will you do with that?”

“What would Fëanáro have done with Artanis’ hair had she bestowed it? I know not yet, but I shall find a use for it,” said the smith.

“What shall we do now? If you will not to the house, shall we away to the hills?” There was a mischievous sparkle in Glorfindel’s eyes as he added, “We could go for a swim beneath a waterfall as we did once before.”

Maeglin gave him a lazy, wicked, feline smile. “That sounds heavenly. But it can wait,” she said, leaning towards him. Her long, slender fingers trailed down his bare torso. “First, we need more of the tremendous and the absolutely epic.”

And Glorfindel had no objection to that.

 


Glossary

Fae & rhaw (S) – spirit & body. It seems to me that the Quenya fëa and hröa are more universally used, thus I’ve opted for that in the narration.

Ego (S) – Get lost

Melin tyë (Q) – I love you

Cundunya (Q) – my prince

Melmenya (Q) – my love

Nís (Q) - female

Meldanya (Q) – beloved

Vesseya (Q) – dear wife

Chapter Text

There is no time in the depths of Angband. Only an eternity of searing agony, measured in screams and curses.

I know not how long I have been here. Days...weeks...months...

There is nothing left of me but nerves afire with pain upon pain upon pain. I have spoken nothing but curses spat forth in rage. I nurse my anger and hate. They are all that give me strength.

My one prayer: that death will come quickly.

Then suddenly, the tortures cease. I still shake and shiver uncontrollably from the pain of my wounds, my breath ragged in the silence, awaiting the next onslaught.

The lieutenant of Morgoth comes forward, and tries something new. He strokes my hair slowly and some of the pain recedes. He speaks to me in a voice as terrible as the edge of an iron sword, as seductive as silk on skin.

“I can see your heart’s desire, young prince. Other things you may hide from me, but this—ah, this dark, dark desire you cannot. How you burn. How you lust. And what if I said that you could have it? Yes. The golden princess for your bed. As you dream each night, and each day…”

Through the pain, I feel the heat. I feel the abyss of longing within me, that has burned, unsated, for so long. Images of Itarillë fill my mind. Responsive. Eager. Mine.

“Yes. Yours. Utterly. Devotedly. For a simple word. An easy word.” The voice of silk whispers in my ear. “Where is the secret city?”

I can barely breathe for the war of desire and will within me. I think I might die. I wish I would.

There is no patience in the heart of Morgoth. “Well?” A voice deep and molten like the earth’s depths, terrible as the frozen wastes of the Helcaraxë. “Mairon, I begin to tire of this game.”

“A moment, my liege…” Sauron’s voice is a caress. “Yes, sweet prince. Your every fantasy fulfilled. Your deepest dream made real. Come. How easy it is. A beauty for your bed. A bright crown for your head. Love. Power. Glory. Just tell us where…”

Glory and power...were that all they have to dangle before me, I might withstand it. But love. . .

Itarillë. Her eyes, her voice, her skin. I am nothing but heat and burning lust. Sauron’s fiery eyes stare into mine and smile. Images assault my mind, and sensations wrack my body. I groan with need so great that the earlier torments seem nothing next to it. The ache, the need, the void is so deep.

“I will tell you…” I hear my voice.

I hear the words spill forth. They hang in the air so briefly. Nothing can take them back. Nothing.

Deep within, I scream denial.

Sauron laughs. Morgoth rumbles.

“I have said it. Let me go.” Horror and despair crawl within me.

They are not done.

“Excellent. A bargain, fair prince. All that remains is to seal it with blood.”

The sound of chains. A prisoner dragged in by the arms by two orcs. He lies limp upon the filthy ground. White skin smeared with dirt. Slender limbs. Hair that once was fair. Chains on hands that were dragging against the floor are now lifted next to mine. We hang, side by side. The head of the other is fallen forward. Hair once gold matted with filth and blood.

“One thing only is needed, and you will be released. Bind yourself to us with blood,” says the smooth voice I loathe. The orcs begin their torture. The moans and cries of the prisoner begin. And go on… and on.

“Stop!” I say brokenly. “Stop. What do you want from me?”

My shackles are released. I crumple to the filthy ground, breath ragged, limbs like water.

The silken voice of the Lieutenant of Angband: “Your soul.”

A morgûl knife is slid into my hand.

“No…” I whisper.

The screams go on. Echo off the cold stone walls.

The laughter of orcs, and of Sauron.

“Choose, slave.” The deep growl of Morgoth. “End his wretched life and gain your freedom. Or descend into the pit with him.”

Weakly rising to my feet. The blade cold in my hand. Swaying, turning to face the other who hangs from the wall.

Beneath matted hair once golden, hollow grey eyes stare. Grey pools of pain upon pain. And in the broken beauty of that face, Glorfindel looks back at me. I shudder in shock.

“Well?” Lord Sauron’s silken voice in my ear. Morgoth’s lieutenant reaches out a hand to caress the prisoner’s bruised and bloody cheek. “This once was as beautiful as you.” Then rakes long nails deeply through one arm.

The prisoner screams.

“Stop!” I cry. “Stop! I beg you.”

Grey eyes lift to meet mine. In the abyss of pain in the prisoner’s eyes, I see a faint flicker. A spirit still brave, unbroken after fifty years. And a mute appeal for release.

I grip the knife hilt in shaking hands. With my remaining strength, push the blade into the brave soul’s heart. The grey eyes hold my own to the last. Dark blood spurts forth on my hands, my face.

A ghostly shadow of a smile lifts a corner of the prisoner’s mouth. I swear it.

The white fëa departs.

I fall weeping to the ground before the lifeless body on the wall.

Black laughter fills the chamber. I am lifted from the floor. My feet dangle in the air.

“Well done, servant of Melkor,” says the voice of silk and iron. “A golden princess won. And a place in the kingdom of unlight.”

Sauron strokes my face. I scream in agony.

Then a song, flooding the chamber with light. A tall, white being is there, radiant with the glory of the Ainur, winds of power flowing over his form and lifting golden hair.

Sauron and Morgoth give terrible cries, and fade.

I am held in warm, strong arms, and the pain dissipates as I feel myself wrapped in waves of light and love, as his light flows into my unlight.

“You’re safe,” he says softly as I wake, shaking and sobbing. He holds me to his chest, his arms wrapped warm around me. “It’s over. It was only a dream. You’re safe.”

I push myself out of his arms and fall out of the bed.

Melmenya!” he reaches for me, alarmed.

“Stay out of my mind!” I cry out, my voice terrible in my own ears. “You have no rightno right—get out!—stay out of my mind!” And I run into the bathchamber, slamming the door shut in his face.

The anger and pain are so deep I can barely think or breathe. I am still shaking. I sit in the dark, cold chamber, the light of the stars falling upon me through a high window. Rage, terror, shame, that the most secret part of me, the darkest, has been violated.

How much did he see? How much does he know? How dare he, how dare he. How dare he trespass into my secret hell…

I weep with the grief and shame and self-loathing that this dream always brings, the darkest dream that has haunted me through the years. That haunted me to madness in the long years at Gondolin that I waited. Waited with Sauron’s silken voice in my mind, his black leash upon my heart, and his choking gag upon my tongue. Waited for the hordes of Angband to arrive.

A dream that has haunted me almost weekly at Imladris…that goes beyond the horror of that black moment of treachery, and all the ruin and death that followed after.

A dream of hollow grey eyes and faded golden hair. A familiar form seen in the horrors of hell.

The taking of a Firstborn life.

The moment the blade slid in. Over and over again I see it. The blade going in. My hands pushing it home. The dark blood flowing. The blade sinking in. Over and over.

Agonizing over what was in my heart and mind as my hands pushed it home.

Whether it was pity and awe. For the brave soul that had endured the black pits of Angband since the Battle of the Sudden Flame…

Or whether terror that the brave one's fate could be mine…

Or hatred for the elflord whose hair he wore.

The same elflord who waits for me, outside this chamber door.

I do not know how long I stay in there. In the midst of my pain, my love and longing rise in me. I recall the hurt in his azure eyes as I shut the door on him. I think of the warmth and comfort of his arms. And I am filled with need for him again.

My anger has fallen to cold ashes. I am left with terror that enters my heart like ice. That tells me he knows. Knows now the shame of my treachery… why I broke… why I sold my soul… why I slew that tormented shadow with his hair.

Pain grips my heart so tightly I can barely breathe. I will see the love die in his eyes. See horror and condemnation in its stead. See tenderness fade and hatred burn.  

I feel him outside the door. It takes all my courage to open it.

He is there.

In his haunted eyes I see that he knows my dream.

I wait for the death stroke to my heart.

He comes to me and takes my face gently in his hands. His glittering violet eyes, looking into mine, are full of pain. Tears begin to spill down his face.

“I am so sorry,” he says huskily. “So sorry that happened to you.”

He wraps his warm, strong arms around me tightly and rocks me gently as my fractured, strangled words choke out between wracking sobs.

“I was weak—weak…I tried to be strong. I wanted to die—I should have died…it should have been I who died there…I killed him—I was so weak…Sauron broke me—broke me like a twig…I killed them all—I killed them all…I killed you…

And he strokes my hair and holds me, his own tears falling on my shoulder and into my hair as he shares my pain. He kisses my mouth, and we taste each other’s tears.

“You were brave,” he says. “You were strong. Anyone would have broken in your place.”

It is not true. I know he would never have broken. I know his fëa. In a thousand years he would have been yet unconquered by Angband, his shining soul pure as snow and his strong heart unyielding and true as a diamond. Uncorrupted. Undefeated. Like the golden-haired warrior whom I slew.

He lifts me in his arms and carries me to the bed and loves me with a passion slow and deep and tender. As though his kisses can purge away guilt and shame. As though his caresses can sooth away the aching emptiness that betrayed a city, and his touch can wipe out the defilement of Sauron’s hand. He takes my body to new heights of pleasure as a salve for all the tortures that wracked it, the giving of his life-seed an absolution for all the deaths…and for his own.

Two seasons have passed since. Winter is upon us.

My dream of Angband has not returned.

Each night in the warm cocoon of our bed, he offers me his song and his light in my dreams. Dream by dream, he casts out the darkness. Slowly defeats it. Drives it back into the abyss.

When I wake, he offers comfort the only way he knows how. With the sweetness of his kisses and the passionate love of his warm body in mine.

Could any love could last till the unmaking of all things? I dare not believe it. But I shall treasure what I have each day. This love I do not deserve. That gazed into the abyss of my black soul and the shadows of my darkest dream, and chose to love me still.

A love that is teaching me day by day to trust...

That he will keep my secrets safe.

And that he will always walk gently in my dreams.

 

Chapter Text

“Rules,” Maeglin said sternly in the pre-dawn hour, as they dressed on the ledge by the waterfalls. “I go to your chamber, not you to mine.”

“Unnecessary. There is no one else in that wing but us—” Putting both their bedchambers in the east wing of the house, just two doors apart, was possibly the most brilliant thing Erestor had ever done, thought Glorfindel.

“I’ll not risk it.” The thought of his golden glow in that dark hallway... “And we shall conduct ourselves as before—no kissing in the hallways, no groping under the dining hall table. In fact, we should sit apart as always. And stay out of my workroom at the smithy. Clear?”

“Crystal, cundunya.

As Glorfindel pulled on his boots in silence, Maeglin knew in wretchedness of heart that he was angry. Very angry. He quietly strapped on his quiver, bow, and knives with unhurried, precise movements, and his brow was unfurrowed. But she was beginning to feel his hidden emotions through this new bond forged between them, and his resentment towered like a black cloud over her. His usually expressive face was schooled to blankness—probably a bad sign.

As they made their way down the hillside, she grappled with her refusal to be open about their love. How could she hope for him to understand what she herself could not? Maeglin dared not trust it, what they had… knew all too well from her parents that the bright fire of passion had its darker face, that just beyond the heights of pleasure lay treacherous depths of hurt. Neither could she trust this incandescent happiness she felt… it was too unaccustomed… too new...felt too fragile. She feared it. Feared that to grasp at it would be to destroy it. Shatter it like glass.

Already Maeglin felt she was destroying it. That is all you do—bring things to ruin. Pushing him away when all you long to do is cling. Speaking hard, curt words when all your heart truly wants to say… is…

No. Do not say it. Do not even think it.

The silence between them grew unbearable. “Wait,” Maeglin said suddenly, and they halted. They faced each other. She saw the hurt smouldering in Glorfindel’s violet eyes.

“I’m… not good at this,” she said.

“I can tell.”

Suddenly Maeglin was swamped by a sense of impending loss. How swiftly the midsummer enquië had flown past…already there was a nostalgic ache as she thought back on the carefree, rapturous joy of their six days in the hills. We may never be so happy again. “Let us not go down yet. One more day. Let it—let it not—not end yet.”

The anger in Glorfindel’s eyes melted away. “That would be the surest way of giving us away, melissë,” he said gently. “They expect us back. They would begin to send out search parties.” He reached out and stroked her cheek. “Why must you speak of endings? We are just beginning.”

“It will be different...back in the house.”

“True. But why should different be bad? We will still be together every evening. And,” he smiled impishly, “we will at last have the comforts of a bed. If you miss the hills, we could still meet at the love nest sometimes.”—which was what he called their high ledge by the waterfalls, an hour’s climb from the house.

After a lingering kiss, Maeglin turned to head directly down the slope, and Glorfindel to skirt around to the south and approach the house from the Bruinen… but then, with a suddenness that almost caught even him off-guard, she whirled back around, leaped upon him, wound herself tightly around him, and kissed him breathless. Then tore herself away, and swiftly raced down the slope.

Watching her as she disappeared, he thought with a pang, it is going to be a long day.

 

Maeglin had barely lifted her hand to knock on his door when it swung open, and she was pulled in and smothered in a golden whirlwind of an embrace.

“Was that only sixteen hours?” he exclaimed. “I missed you so much it felt like a month!”

She had felt it just as much if not more, but in the middle of the next hungry kiss, her black eyes widened as they wandered over his bedchamber.  

“What have you here?” Maeglin gasped as she pulled her lips away from his. “An armoury?”

Glorfindel leaned his cheek against her dark hair as he held her against his side, and tried to see the familiar walls through her eyes. “Things gathered over five millennia. Keepsakes from my travels. Gifts from friends.”

It was a long, spacious, high-ceilinged room. A hanging tapestry of a stag and a hunting party in a forest curtained off his wardrobe and the entrance to the bathchamber. Against the tapestry was a bed whose four wooden posts, shaped like graceful birch saplings, curved upwards to grow into the pale stone ceiling on which a forest canopy of leaves, flowers, and birds was carved. Lamps carved like vines and fruit grew out from the walls and bedposts, but none were lit that night. White moonlight poured through the four arched windows in the far wall. But it was not any of these that had arrested Maeglin’s attention.

Arrayed on the walls was a range of exquisitely crafted swords, spears, battle axes, shields, chainmail, plate armour, helmets, and assorted lethal weaponry. Pulling him by his hand, she moved forward to examine his collection with a curious and critical eye.

“It’s… beautiful,” Maeglin said in a hushed voice.

Glowing with pleasure, he walked at her side and introduced some of his favourite pieces to her—each piece exceptional for its kind, or with a story behind it.

She crossed over to a ferocious-looking halberd mounted on the wall, took it down, hefted it, and gave it a swing. “I’ve not seen many of these. Would not have thought it your style. Arnorian?”

“Fifth century Gondor,” he replied. “And all because you’ve not seen me fight with one does not mean it is not my style.”

With a gleam in her eyes, she took down another halberd and tossed it to him. “Show me, then, my tutor.” And she struck a fighting stance.

“Only if I get to choose an item of your clothing to remove each time I score a point, cundunya.” His blue eyes sparkled as he twirled the two-rangar-long halberd. “And once it’s all off—you’re mine.”

Maeglin tingled with anticipation as she smiled, and hoisted the halberd. “Bring it on.”

 

The silvery moonlight spilling into the room showed the trail of clothes across the grey stone floor… and the halberds lying discarded near the windows. And illuminated the rumpled sheets at the foot of his bed.

“That was possibly the shortest fighting lesson in history,” Glorfindel said, as they both caught their breaths.

“And the most enjoyable ending.”

His eyes twinkled merrily. “I have to tell you, my shy and secret melissë, that if anything gives us away it is likely to be you.”

“Oh.” Maeglin frowned, worried, and chose to overlook his calling her ‘shy’. “Do you think anyone—?”

“If they were anywhere below these windows, yes, I’m sure they did.”

“I shall be quiet as a mole from henceforth.”

He laughed. “No! I like you not in control.”

“Really. Such as when I tried to slice you to pieces.” Her fingers began idly to play with a bright golden lock.

“Such as when you let go… allow yourself to be happy.”

“I would not be happy if anyone knew.” She took one of her own black locks, and began to weave their hair together in a four-stranded braid. Black, gold, black, gold, black, gold...

As he lay watching her, he was filled with sudden wonder. “Think of it… Just seven days ago I would never have dreamed of us—”

Maeglin interrupted him with a snort of derision and raised herself on one elbow. The silken braid fell from her hands and unravelled. “Oh, you most certainly were dreaming about us. Did you imagine I would forget the depraved propositions you made to me in the healing halls?”

Glorfindel looked at her in shock. “Depraved propositions?”

She told him.

“I did not!” he scoffed. “I would never have said such things. It never happened.”

“Are you accusing me of fabricating it?” she snapped, sitting up suddenly. “Or imagining it? I absolutely loathed you. You were the last person I’d ever have had such thoughts about.” And she jabbed him sharply in the ribs causing him to burst out in laughter.

“Ow! Not then, of course. But obviously my little flower is imagining them right now!”—He chuckled as “little flower” earned a clout on the head from her—“I definitely have no objections whatsoever if you want that. But I am certain I would never have uttered anything of that sort back then to you or any nís.”

Maeglin looked at him with the most regal hauteur. “None of that was from my imagination. I had no thought of such things before.”

“Did I deflower an innocent maid?” Glorfindel pulled her down to him for a wanton kiss. “Come on, my prince—whatever we have done, and you are thinking of now, you must have imagined doing with Itarillë. Daily. Confess it.”

She raised her eyebrows and feigned ladylike shock as she lay on his chest and looked down at him. “I never imagined anything of that nature with regards to Itarillë,” she said, with a primness incongruent with the way she had just kissed him. “My knowledge of such matters was too… basic for that.”

“Are you in earnest? Did your father never give you the talk on the ways of a man with a woman?”

“Perhaps he was saving up the finer technicalities for when he’d marry me off to some kinswoman of Thingol to strengthen ties with Doriath.”

Glorfindel was shocked. “He would not!” Political marriages among edain were commonplace, but unheard of among Eldar.

“Don’t put it past him. But he never educated me in the matters you did in that treatment room. Admit you did.”

“How can I admit what I never did? What exactly did I say?” His face was a study in innocence and perplexity. Perplexity because he truly had no recollection of the incident she recounted. He watched sparks of golden fire begin to flicker wickedly in her eyes. She smirked.

“Allow me to demonstrate, melindo.”

And to his surprise and delight, her lips and tongue travelled down the length of his body and proceeded to show him just what a pair of beautiful lips could do to a very sensitive part of his anatomy.

And the balrog slayer thought he had died again and the Second Music had begun.

 

“Ai! Hîr Glorfindel! Thanks be to Elbereth you are here!” cried the dulcet voice from on high. “Oh, please help me!”

High above in the summer foliage of a tall elm tree, a maiden dangled by her hands from a branch.

Glorfindel’s heart sank. Not again. But conditioned by millennia of chivalry, he merely smiled gallantly, and said, as he strode over to the elm tree, “Eiliannel, what happened this time?”

“I slipped,” she murmured forlornly. Eiliannel the lute-player had required some form of rescue by the hero almost every five coranári over the past two millennia. One had to admire her regularity.

Earlier in the Third Age, incidents of distressed Imladrin maidens who had needed help from the balrog slayer had occurred at least once a month, peaking in springtime.

If the fair one was not stuck up a tree, she might need to be carried to the healing hall with a twisted ankle.

Or she might most urgently need to move a heavy object. A weaving loom. A large harp. A wardrobe in her bedchamber.

Or she might have dropped something into a body of water, be it the pond, the fountain, or the Bruinen. Whatever had been dropped, be it a bracelet, a circlet, or a ring, it would unfailingly be too far out and too deep to be retrieved by any method except by diving in—which suggested to Glorfindel that the object in question could have been flung rather than dropped. And the elleth always seemed to have been mysteriously stricken by an inability to swim.

And all of these incidents would occur when there was no one else in sight to render aid except for the gallant golden-haired elflord.

Thankfully, the decline of the valley’s population had witnessed a decline in such incidents. This was the first in a long while, even given the fact that Glorfindel had been away for over a year. And he was glad he did not need to plunge into water this time. He was never sure which was worse—stripping down to his leggings or leaving his shirt on. In either scenario, the sight of him dripping wet seemed to delight his long-term admirers exceedingly, and that always disturbed and puzzled him.

“I can hold on no longer,” cried the fair one faintly. “Edraith enni!”

“Let go. I shall catch you,” said Glorfindel, positioning himself below matter-of-factly. After dangling from a tree so many times, she should know the drill.

Eiliannel released the branch, fell gracefully with a swirl of silken lilac skirts into his waiting arms, and clung to him tightly. “Ai, Hîr Glorfindel,” she cried with joyful relief, “How may I show you my gratitude?”

“Stay on the ground from now on, Eiliannel,” said Glorfindel, setting her down on her feet. “Life in the tree-tops is obviously not for you.”

Her arms remained locked tightly around his neck. Her hair smelled of honeysuckle and lilies. “Oh, hîr-nin, I missed you when you were away for so long.” She pressed her fair bosom and her warm, lithe body against his and smiled up at him sweetly with large amber eyes under long, brown lashes… just as Glorfindel looked over the sward and saw Maeglin standing framed in a gap between tall yew hedges leading to an intricate garden maze.

It was a fortnight since their binding, and they had agreed to meet in his chamber in the hour before dinner, but she must have come out to the gardens to surprise him as he returned from the archery practice field.

His blood ran cold as his eyes met the fiery obsidian ones of his bondmate. He feared she would come over and rip the lute player’s still-beating heart out with her bare hands.

As Maeglin swung around on her heel and stormed off into the maze, he murmured a hurried courtesy to Eiliannel, removed her arms from his neck rather unceremoniously, and gave chase. The astonished elleth blinked and turned, but her hero had already vanished into the opening in the hedges.

Eiliannel sighed dispiritedly, then consoled herself. There would always be tomorrow. And the next coranar

Glorfindel caught up with his love in one of the corridors of the maze, and she swung around on him with a livid snarl.

“Damn you! Do not touch me, do not even come near me.”

“What did you expect me to do – shove her away and tell her to get lost?”

“Yes! That is precisely what I would have expected you to do. I would in your place!”

“That is not my way! I’ve been dealing with this for thousands of years, melmenya! There is always a gentle way of getting out of these things.”

“The way you let her press up against you – you disgust me!”

“Ah, but I did not press back! That is what matters.”

“You were enjoying it too much.”

“I was not enjoying it – all right, well, maybe a little. Wait! melmenya, I was teasing! I did not enjoy it at all. Truly. Do you know how annoying it is to have had to fend off female advances for six thousand years?”

“Obviously I do not,” came the reply, as frigid as the Helcaraxë, as Maeglin disappeared further into the maze.

And she did not thaw out for the next enquië.

Not one word. Not one look.

To be completely shunned and ignored, after two short weeks of the sweetest conjugal bliss, plunged Glorfindel into the most abject depths of misery.

He paced outside Maeglin’s door near midnight for the sixth night in a row, knowing that she could sense him there, as he sensed her within the room. And finally, he heard the bolt slide open.

“Get in here before someone sights you,” she growled, and retreated back into the chamber.

It was his first time into her room since that first night she had spent there, nine years ago. It was much as he would have expected. Dark colours. Elegant. Spare. He had little concern for furnishing or décor at that moment, however.

Vesseya—” he began.

Maeglin held up a hand to silence him. “I will not have it.” Her voice seethed with anger. “Fool around one more time with any of those trollops, and it’s over.”

He looked at her stunned for a moment. “Stop it! You cannot shed what we have as easily as peeling off a pair of gloves. Were all the waters of Alatairë to sunder us, still we would be joined. As Elrond and Celebrían are. To attempt to undo our bond would be to rend the very fabric of our fëar.”

“I—will—nottolerate you fooling around in that manner!” she snarled, and he dodged as a large book on a nearby table was hurled at him. He swiftly moved forward and caught her wrists before she could grab hold of a poker from the unlit fireplace. Her wild, angry dark eyes glared into his and he glared back.

“‘Fooling around’? I do not fool around! Ever! Listen—I cannot rebuff any in need of succour, whether they be neri or nissi, nor will I be harsh to them. That is not my way. But I swear this—I will do naught that dishonours my bond with you. My heart is yours alone. How the nissi choose to behave is beyond my control—they have been at this for millennia and will still be so… unless… you end it. End it by ending this absurd secrecy. Make our binding known to all.”

Her eyes narrowed and her jaw clenched.

Jealousy… Maeglin’s familiar demon. For a century and a half its black claws had raked through his tormented fëa, consumed him with hatred for the Lord of the Golden Flower, and then for the Lord of the Wing. And now, the irony. One that Maeglin had been jealous of had become the very one she was jealous over. And in her breast now surged a madness so much more intense than even that first had been, fuelling a murderous, possessive rage to hurt and maim and kill. For he was hers, and Maeglin’s greatest terror—that he be taken from her. Bewildered, she could not understand her irrational impulse to drive away that which she feared most to lose. In the end, it was her own self she hurt most.

Glorfindel watched her warily. He could feel the inner war within her. She said nothing, but after a while he felt her wrists no longer straining against his grip. He released his hold, and one of her hands went up to wind in his bright hair and pull his head down, the other to tug him towards her by his shirt, and she pressed her mouth to his. Relieved, he wrapped her in his arms, and they forgot all for a moment in the sweet heat of their embrace and kiss.

But when they pulled away from each other at last, Maeglin muttered, “If any of those trollops go too far, I’ll skewer her on a halberd.”

 

Glorfindel lay against the warm curve of Maeglin’s back, his arm draped over her waist, listening to her breathing and her heartbeat as she slept. Feeling them.

After a sleepless six nights, he was yet wakeful. Despite how very satisfying the passionate lovemaking of their reconciliation had been, something troubled him...

Apart from the insane jealousy.

Apart from her insistence on secrecy.

Apart from the fact that she had not once said she loved him… He did not need words, though they would have been sweet. How she touched him, how she kissed, told him enough. 

What haunted him most was that moment she had drawn back sharply from his mind-touch on the mountainside. And never let him in again. We are meant to have so much more… He could feel, deep within, an empty place where they should be one, where their fëar should meet. But she had erected her Great Gate of Steel against his intrusion, and should he try to breach it, she might only withdraw further. Or take flight again.

What secrets lurked in her dark fëa that she feared him knowing?

Did he want to know?

Be content… what you have now is so much more than you ever dreamed of having…

He had begun to drift into sleep when he suddenly jerked wide awake. Her body had grown rigid against his, her breathing ragged, her heart racing. But it was the disturbance deep in his fëa, sensing hers, that had woken him. Rage, excruciating pain, terror.

He shook her. “A cuiva, melmenya!—” But as on that night long ago, his efforts were futile, and she dreamt on; the torment he saw in her face, that he felt tangibly with his fëa, was intensifying.

He could bear it no longer. Effortlessly, his fëa melded with Maeglin’s, and he slipped into her dream as he had once before.

Angband.

Moringotto… the Iron Crown…

The onslaught of pain beyond imagining.

But something else, this time. A gloating face. A taunting voice. How could anything be so infernal, so heinous… and yet fair?  

And though the face was strange to Glorfindel, he knew it. Knew it from the way his skin crawled, from the unlight of an aura familiar to him from an age past.  

Annatar. Sauron. Tar-Mairon. Whatever the name, whatever the form, or the face, or the voice, he recognized that evil, and his hackles rose… and all his training in the gardens of Estë and all his instincts as a healer and warrior screamed out to him to launch into battle without delay, and rescue Maeglin out of that nightmare now.

But Glorfindel was also a lord of Gondolin, once betrayed… he wanted the truth, wanted answers. And he was a lover shut out from the beloved’s innermost chamber… desperate for an insight, a glimpse of the hidden secrets. I need to know… I need to understand…

And it terrified him… what he might see. What he might learn. But yet he held on. Waited. Watched it. Lived it. Moment by moment… the promise dangled… betrayal… a regret and horror that almost made him weep... the unexpected shock of the golden-haired prisoner... then Sauron lifting the prince off his feet…

A sudden, vicious onslaught of foulness and malevolence beyond comprehension. And pain. Pain that made the earlier torments laughable.

Suffocating under the vile assault, under the obscene abomination of this violation of every level of his being, Glorfindel could be still no longer. Light unfurled into the darkness like a banner of war, and his song of power flowed with healing into her fëa and soared up against the demons of the dream.

And it was gone.

As he had nine years ago, Glorfindel sat on the bed and held Maeglin in his arms. Only now she was awake, and shivering, and strangled whimpers and gasps came from her throat. He felt himself trembling as well, drained by his exertion, and shaken deeply by what he had witnessed. “You are safe…” he said gently, holding her close. “You are safe. It’s over. It was only a dream.”

Maeglin’s head lifted slowly. The horror in the black eyes was directed as him. As though it had been he, not Sauron, who had raped her mind and spirit.

“H-how—how d-dare you!” Her voice quavered, but she had strength enough to push him away, and with such force that she tumbled backwards, fell right off the bed, and landed hard on the floor.

In a split-second he was off the bed and at her side, but she struck out violently at him.

“Stay out of my mind!” Maeglin screamed, shrinking from him like a cornered animal. “You have no rightno right—get out!—stay out of my mind!” Scrambling to her feet, she stumbled into the bathchamber.

Made slow by shock and hurt, Glorfindel found himself shut out for a second time that same night. The door slammed, and the bolt within slid home with a loud clack.

He leaned his head against the door wretchedly, cursing himself.

He had made a promise to Maeglin on the mountainside to never intrude into her mind again. And he had broken it.

How can I ever win back her trust?

Yet how could he have stood by and watched her suffering, her torment, and done naught?

Leaning his back against the door frame, he closed his eyes and the scenes of the dream replayed in his head. All was clear now. All made sense. The changes they had observed in the prince when he had returned to Gondolin. And why Annatar’s charming, mocking smile had haunted Glorfindel as so familiar, when he had first seen it in Lindon.

The torment. The more Glorfindel dwelled on the tortures and the torment the traitor had endured… within Angband… and after… the greater his own anguish grew.

Two hours passed. He paced restlessly outside the bath chamber door. Then heard at last the slide of the bolt. The door slowly swung open.

Maeglin stood in the doorway with her black hair falling across her face and clothing her nakedness. She held herself as though cold, as fragile as thin glass. Through the curtain of dark hair, the obsidian eyes glittered, ringed with dark shadows. Their black depths were clouded with fear. And dread.

Glorfindel came forward. Cradled her face gently in his hands. Held her as she wept. Carried her back to bed and offered her love and healing in the way she understood best.

As the sky lightened outside her window, they lay entwined. He looked into her eyes, and saw that they were clear. And serene.

“Forgive me,” he said at last. “I know I should not have… but I could not see you suffer, and do nothing.”

Maeglin said nothing. Something has happened. She could not grasp it. Something had… been broken. In a place deep within, where only darkness had been, she saw light.

She buried her face in his neck and held him to her tightly. Breathing in his scent which always made her think of sun-warmed meadows and a forest after rain... the distilled essence of summer. She felt her fëa float feather-free in the light of his.

Hantanyet…

His heart bounded with joy like a deer, at that one word whispered soft to his mind.

And with that, the Great Gate of Steel fell.

 

“Just back off, Laurefindil!” The words shouted in his mind.

Early autumn. By starlight, he saw the flash of anger cross her face as they and the six other warriors of the night patrol picked their way through the corpses of orcs on the forest ground and regrouped in a clearing. Glorfindel had a quick word with the rest, and they mounted their steeds.

“Back off? Melmenya, what do you mean?” he asked her as he rode at the rear, still on the alert for danger in their surroundings. Emlindir took the front. She rode in the middle with the rest. They often had these little conversations now, mind-to-mind, throughout the day whenever they met, she maintaining perfect indifference toward him outwardly, and he the most detached courtesy.

“Let us look at your tally. Seven orcs? Nine? And how many did you allow me to kill?”

He swallowed. Probably two. No. Make that one. “Forgive me, melmenya. I could not help it. It is natural for me to protect you.” Silence. He looked at her straight, proud back, in front of him. “Melmenya?”

But Maeglin ignored him for the rest of the patrol.

Back at the house, he managed to get his shoulder in the door before she could slam it in his face. They stood in her chamber, dressed still in their orc-blood-spattered armour. She threw her sword on the bed—Idril’s sword—and cast him a death-glare before beginning to remove her armour. He began to remove his as well. By now they kept changes of clothing in each other’s rooms.

“Forgive me.”

“Stop riding with my patrols.”

“It is perfectly usual for me to ride out with the patrols.”

“But why always my patrol? You stay close to me. You take down my foes for me. How do you think it looks?”

“In the heat of battle, honestly, my love, no one would notice.”

“This is not about others noticing,” she said bitingly, as she removed her last piece of armour, the breastplate.  “I fought in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad just as you did. I led my house into battle just as you led yours. You insult me with your protection!” She stormed off into the bath chamber.

“I know you do not need my protection. That does not mean I would not want to give it!” he said, tossing his last piece of armour aside and pursuing her. “I love you. I will always want to protect you!”

To which Maeglin told him something obscenely rude that he could do, as she began to draw the bath.

He joined her and said nothing for a while. Then: “I could not bear it if anything happened to you. Anything.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Oh? Like you did last winter? Like you did in the Nirnaeth?”

Words Glorfindel regretted the moment they left his mouth. The only sound was water running into the bath. Piercing black eyes drilled into him, glinting dangerously.

“So,” she said slowly, “Does that mean I am weak? Inferior as a warrior?” She shed her undergarments, dropping them on a stool.

“No! You are a good warrior—” He was removing his own.

“Oh, ‘good’. Not great. Not the greatest warrior in Endórë.” She picked up his shed garments from the floor with a frown, having already told him a dozen times not to do it, and dropped them on the stool with hers.

“That is the truth. But I respect you—”

“I spit on your respect, if this is how you show it—”

“You have been wounded before. You could be wounded again! And I do not know how I could bear that. I am not as fearless as I used to be. The thought of you being hurt… of losing you…” Even for a while. How long would Mandos keep her, a second time? A century? Another six thousand years?

Think not even of death. Just the thought of her wounded, or in pain…

Maeglin looked at him with her sharp gaze. “Your scars outnumber mine by over a hundred.” The finest network of silver on his skin, glistening and visible if he stood in sunlight... “You almost died at Barad-dûr. You have almost died at least a dozen times since you set foot on Endórë again.  Each time you ride out, I know that you will place yourself where the fighting is thickest, that you will take on ten times more than all the others, and risk yourself more than all the rest. And still I must let you go,” she said. “You are not the only one with fears.”

Glorfindel gazed back at her in silence.

“We are warriors. This comes with the territory.” She shrugged with a casualness she did not feel.

“Just promise me you will not be reckless.”

Maeglin gave a short laugh. “As you are not reckless?” She tossed a handful of bath salts into the water.

Glorfindel did not speak. He stooped to stir the bath salts into the water with his hand. When he finally looked up at her, his eyes were grave. “Very well. I shall let you fight your battles. As you let me fight mine. I promise.”

She smiled wryly, kissed him, and pulled him into the bath with her.  

And he took down her foes for her no more.

 

Her eyes flicked up quickly from the piece of jewellery she was crafting. She sensed before she heard the sound at the smithy window that he was out there.

Two clicks, then the window latch flipped opened, and the shutters swung open to show a tall golden lord in an ivory and gold festive robe, crowned with a garland of red and russet-brown autumn leaves. Behind him, through the almost-bare branches of the apple trees, a huge harvest moon hung golden in the dark, star-strewn sky.

Music and laughter floated on the air over the frosty meadow and to the smithy. In the great house of Imladris, the Autumn Feast was in full swing.

“What are you doing? I told you—” Maeglin said sharply, her tools still in her hand.

“—to stay out of your workroom—and so I am!” Glorfindel tossed high the slender gold wire he had used to open the window, and caught it again. “But who said I cannot stand outside the window and talk to my wife?” He twisted the wire back into a hair clasp and pushed it into the braids at the back of his head.

“Oh, get in here!” she said in the voice of one goaded beyond endurance. “Hurry! Before someone sees you.”

He needed no further invitation. With a grin, he swung himself gracefully through the window frame, and closed the shutters behind him.

“Why did you not tell me you were skipping the feast?”

“I… wished to finish work on something.” She was wearing a silver circlet and a dress of deep wine red, and it looked incongruous with her smith’s apron. As though she had prepared to join the festivities then changed her mind.

“I can bear it if you ignore me the whole evening,” he said. “Just as long as you are there. Will you come in soon?”

Maeglin did not say anything. She removed her apron, went to him, and slipped something into his hand.

Glorfindel looked down upon a golden brooch shaped like a sun-burst blossom with eight petals. An exact replica of the one that had been pinned on the swaddling cloth of a baby as a parting gift from his father-sister. And lost in the fall of Gondolin.

“Begetting Day wishes of joy, melindo… a little early.”

“It is… perfect.” He was deeply moved.

She took it from him and pinned it on the front of his robe. No one would know its significance except they two. “Go. I need to tidy up this place. I shall lock up the smithy and come later. Go now.”

“Not yet—there is something I would like to do first.” He swept her a gallant bow, and with a graceful flourish, his hand stretched out to her in invitation. “Come, my love—may I have one dance?” His smile lit up the workroom almost as much as the lamp did, and his azure eyes sparkled bright. The merry lilt of lute and pipe carried to them through the closed window shutters.

Maeglin’s eyebrow lifted. “You know full well I do not dance… cousin.”

“Allow me to teach you! None may see us here. Who knows—you may like it! How would you know, if you never try?” He caught hold of her by the waist, lifted her, and spun her around till she was dizzy, and she laughed in spite of herself.

“That is enough,” she said as he set her back on her feet. “There. I have danced. Satisfied?”

“Nowhere close. Here—” Holding her hand in his, he skilfully spun her across the floor between the worktables until she fell into his arms, dizzy and chuckling. “Did you like that?”

“Not as much as I would like this.” Laughing, she slipped a knowing hand into his robes and begun to undo the fastenings of his breeches.

“You merely seek to distract me!” he said indignantly.

“And why would you not let me succeed?” she murmured as she kissed him.

In one moment, they had swept one worktable clear, and in the next she was on the table with her skirts up and her legs wrapped around his waist when cheerful voices suddenly sounded somewhere outside.

Ae! Lómiel! Open up, mellon-nín!”

“We know you are there!”

Maeglin stifled a curse and there was a brief scuffle as she attempted to shove Glorfindel into the small store room nearby. Glorfindel, after a silent but vehement exchange of thoughts with her, rolled his eyes skyward, heaved an exasperated sigh, and allowed himself to be shoved. As she closed the door, the loud voices and laughter were directly outside the shutters of the workroom.

Scowling as she opened the window, she saw Elrohir, Thalanes, and Camaen standing there and grinning at her, autumn garlands on their heads.

“Mellon-nín! You don a lovely dress, then hide yourself here?” Thalanes reproved her.

“Ay! what is this, híril-nín?” scolded Elrohir, climbing in. “First Tarnin Austa, and now the Autumn Festival displeases you?”

“We brought you a garland.”

“And wine!”

“And fruits!”

“Roasted meats.”

“Mooncakes!”

“If you will not deign to come to the feast…”

“The feast will come to you!” By now the three of them had climbed into the workroom through the window, and Elrohir placed the garland on her hair.

“Say, has anyone seen Glorfindel?” said Elladan, coming up at the rear. “I have not been able to find him.”

“My thanks to all of you, mellyn-nín,” Maeglin said hurriedly. “Please return to the house. I shall join you shortly.”

“Oh, we can make merry here! Never fear!” Elrohir seated himself on the cleared space on the table as Elladan began to climb in through the window.

“What happened here?” said Camaen, bending to pick up tools from the floor, swept from the table by the lovers as they cleared it. It was unlike her, for she was neat and organized to a fault.

“I was careless. Please, allow me.” Maeglin gathered up the remaining tools and looked at them all. “You should search for Glorfindel, mellyn-nín. He might be with Erestor and Lindir.”

“Let us all go together to find him, then!” said Elrohir.

“Oh, very well.” She hurriedly tidied her tools. “Done. Let us go.”

“What was that sound?” said Elladan, turning his head towards the store room.

“Could it be a mouse?” said Camaen. “We should catch it!”

“Of course not! When have we ever had mice in the smithy?” said Maeglin sharply, as Camaen headed towards the store room to investigate. “It was nothing. Let us go.”

A golden head appeared at the window. “There you all are!” Glorfindel said severely. “How could you have a private celebration without me?”

“Glorfindel! We were about to return to the house!”

“Where were you? I searched!”

As they walked away from the smithy, a silent exchange took place amid the laughter and noisy chatter of the group.

“How did you get out?”

“The store room window.”

“What?? It is too small, too high, and locked!” The key hung by the forge, at the other end of the smithy.

“I have skills.” Glorfindel’s robe was pristine, and not a leaf was out of place in his autumn garland.

Maeglin could not help but smile at him in admiration.

But the slender gold wire of the hair clasp had been bent so out of shape, that it needed some repair by her the next day.

 

Glorfindel found that love made him do that which he would usually not. Like eavesdrop on his captain disciplining a maethor.

“What were you thinking?” said Captain Aníraeth sharply. She was a lean, wiry veteran of the Last Alliance with chestnut-brown hair. “Breaking ranks against my explicit command! Putting yourself and your comrades at risk!”

“I do not see that I did. The two yrch were escaping and I gave chase. I knew I was their match.”

“And you saw the fourteen yrch coming in from the south, outnumbering and outflanking us.” Aníraeth’s voice was dry and hard.

“I did. I judged that I had the speed to slay the two and regroup in time. And I did so.”

“Barely. You exposed yourself to danger needlessly. A warrior who disobeys orders has no place in the guard. Am I clear?”

The tense silence that followed was almost unbearable for the Commander of Imladris. Exactly what he had feared when the prince of Gondolin joined the Imladrin patrols. The pride. The arrogance. The inability to take orders from another. The reckless risk-taking.

“I apologise, Hest-nín,” said the maethor quietly and clearly. “It will not happen again.”

Quickly looking around to see that no one observed them, Glorfindel fell in step with Maeglin as she left the guards room and walked back with her to their wing.

“You were listening in,” she said without looking at him.

“Yes.” He was bursting with pride, and trying not to smile. They ascended the stairs to their level.

Maeglin shrugged. “I am neither cundu nor cáno now. I am ohtar.

“You could be promoted to cáno some day. But you would have to leave the smithy.”

“Never. And I know why you were listening. You were afraid I was going to quarrel with her.” They reached the door of her room.

“It would have been like you, cundunya,” he said with a smile as she opened the door. Once he was safely in through the doorway, he could not resist adding, “A more arrogant and overbearing brat there never was.”

“Brat?” Her eyes flashed golden fire. She flung her gauntlet at his head, and he caught it with a grin. “Brat?”

“Mm-hmm.” He closed the door behind them.

“Was that the common opinion of all the lords of Gondolin?” She demanded as she began to strip off her armour and hang the pieces on a rack.

“Pretty much, though we never actually voiced it.” He gave her a hand with some of the lacings. “You always managed to get your way. What did Turukáno ever deny you?” …Besides his daughter. Words that did not need to be spoken. “A House of your own? It’s yours, Lómion. The best smiths of the city for your House? Of course, Lómion—”

“I invited, they accepted. I made no demands of the king for men. I never stole anyone from Rauco—”

“Who would dare refuse you? Leave Tumladen to mine ores? Certainly, Lómion. Refuse to remain in the city as regent during a war? No problem, Lómion—”

“His love,” Maeglin said abruptly. “Turukáno gave me all I asked of him. But not his love.”

And Glorfindel suddenly saw that it was true. The King had honoured his dead sister’s son in every way he could. A blind love, many had called it, for it seemed the boy could do no wrong. Aredhel was barely cold in her tomb when the young half-blood had been officially declared Prince of Gondolin. In ten years, he had his own house and became the youngest Lord of Gondolin. During the Nirnaeth, he had been chosen as regent, though he had declined. And years later, when he had re-appeared after a mysterious absence, the King had not even questioned him.

But it had been guilt, not love. Guilt for the little sister Turgon had failed to protect. For the boy he had orphaned. Turgon saw his dead sister each time he looked at his nephew’s fair face, and the dark elf he had executed each time he looked into the prince’s obsidian eyes. From the beginning the king had seen, in his nephew, blood tainting forever the city that had been pure white.

Maeglin’s armour was stripped off. She stood there proud yet vulnerable, strong yet slender in her undergarments. And Glorfindel gazing into her dark eyes saw briefly the orphaned boy who had just lost his father and buried his mother. Alone and adrift in a strange city.

Then it was gone. “Stars, I’m damn hungry. But I want a bath before breakfast.” She walked briskly toward the bath chamber. “Care to join me for a quick one?”

And following her, Glorfindel promised himself he would give her all the love she would ever need.

 

“Don’t leave me.”

Waking to find Maeglin clinging tightly to him, Glorfindel guessed easily it was another dream. Through the autumn and the dark winter months he had thought he had seen the whole gamut of nightmares from her infancy to the last breath of her first life. But this was new. As he entered her dreamworld, he saw there no vivid scenes of the first life.

No angry fathers screaming curses, no orcs or dark lords, no dungeons, no blond mortals.

Just a huge darkness. A formless emptiness like the Timeless Void.

And Maeglin, an infinitesimal, insignificant speck lost in it.

Alone.

“Don’t leave me. Please.”

The voice was so hollow, so desolate, that it chilled Glorfindel. Had it been the plaintive, pleading voice of a child, had it wept or raged, he would have borne it better. Not this hopelessness. This bleak futility, this fatality: that everything, everything in the end, would always come to ruin and nothingness. Abandonment. He remembered the night of Aredhel’s funeral again…

Glorfindel held her close to him and kissed her hair. “Who’s leaving?” he said softly. “I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere.” Into the black void of her dream, his light gently stole. “You won’t get rid of me so easily.”

A small noise escaped from Maeglin, half a whimper, half a sob. In her sleep, she buried her face in his neck, and clung to him so tightly that his heart broke.

He held her through the night, singing softly, and fell asleep just before dawn.

And when she woke in the morning, as the first rays of the sun began to thaw the valley from its winter whiteness, she recalled nothing.

 

“Come with me to Lindon.”

“No! What excuse could I give?”

“What need is there for any excuse? Just say you desire to see the world. You have been here for ten years. Camaen could hardly begrudge you a leave of absence for a few months.”

Maeglin looked about the workroom. “There is all this work…”

“Truth is, you have given Camaen less and less to do over the years. Which is why he was able to finally find time in his life for a little romance. But now that he is betrothed to Thalanes and nicely settled, it is your time to rest. Especially since Camaen has a new apprentice.”

“That child. He knows next to nothing! All the more I need to be here.” A young lad of thirty-five, one of Estel’s childhood companions, had just joined the smithy.

“Camaen managed for forty-seven years by himself before you came here, meldanya. He can manage for five months alone. You take too much upon yourself. And work far too hard!” Glorfindel chided her. “Camaen would be the first to agree. Come with me! There is so much I want to show you!”

Maeglin looked at him uncertainly. “If we leave the valley at the same time, and are away for so long, it would be too obvious.”

“They can guess for all I care. You know how I feel about all this secrecy.”

In the end, despite all her misgivings, both the thought of being separated from him whilst he visited Círdan and the lure of travelling with him were too great.  

So she travelled westward on foot with Gildor Inglorion, who usually wintered in the valley and departed with his company of Noldorin exiles as the first buds of spring began to open.

Glorfindel headed to Mithlond on horseback by a different route across Eriador, escorting a group of Imladrim who were sailing west. His errand completed, he visited Círdan briefly, dispatched a message to Elrond, then rode back eastward with Asfaloth.

Ten leagues east of Mithlond were the Emyn Beraid, and rising from the hills were three elven towers, built by Gil-galad—the first cousin Maeglin had read so much of but never met. The towers rose tall, white and slender beneath a windswept sky.

The lovers met at the foot of Elostirion—the tallest tower on the tallest hill—and all around them the world was verdant with the life of spring, with lush green grasses and spring wildflowers. Hand-in-hand, they climbed to the chamber at the top of the tower. There the high windows faced west, and from them Maeglin had earlier had a glimpse of an expanse of water in the distance: the Gulf of Lhûn, and her first glimpse of the sea. And there, at the centre of the chamber on a stone column, sat the one palantir through which one could still glimpse Eldamar.

Glorfindel turned to Maeglin as they set foot in the chamber. “Will you look into it with me?”

“No,” she said shortly. “Gildor invited me to. I declined.” The wanderer and his men had bidden her farewell just that morning and headed north towards Lake Nenuial, whilst she supposedly headed towards the southern ranges of the Ered Luin.

Glorfindel said nothing, but crossed over to the white globe and gazed into it as he had several times since Gil-galad had built the towers for Elendil in the last years of the Second Age. As Tol Eressëa appeared, fair and green through a rainbow mist, he felt Aman call to him as always… the city of Avallonë and its glimmering lights… the bright beacon of the Mindon Eldaliéva… glimpses of the Pelóri mountains… the soaring snow-peak of Taniquetil.

Always, this vision of beauty beyond all words had sung to him of home. More even than Gondolin. More even than Imladris. The rest and fulfilment that had eluded him there once, he would find there at last, when his time in Ennor was done.

But now, within him for the first time, a disquiet.

Glorfindel lifted his head and turned to Maeglin. She stood watching him, dread lurking in her dark eyes.

What did that land across the seas have to offer Maeglin? Over there could be found the multitude she had betrayed… one she had lusted for in vain… one she had sought to kill... one hundred thousand whose deaths were upon her.

He knew where home was now, this moment, for the two of them.

As the western sun poured through the high window and illuminated the palantir with a brilliant white fire, he turned his back on it. And went to her.

 

The sun shone warm and golden on a beach of white rocks and pebbles, and little blue waves edged with lacy white foam lapped the shore of the sheltered cove.

Glorfindel sat sprawled among the rocks above the tideline, leaning his head back and soaking in the sunshine of what was proving to be an exceptionally warm spring, and looking as though every muscle in his body was completely and blissfully relaxed.

He opened his eyes and watched Maeglin as she walked at the edge of the eddying waves. It had been a joy to him to see the wonder of her first encounter with the sea, along the Gulf of Lhûn. They had wandered a hundred miles along the Harlindon coast, and spent some weeks swimming, fishing and gathering clams. As they walked the shoreline, or rode along it with Asfaloth, he had told her of his life in Nevrast, and they had swapped childhood tales.

Maeglin was enjoying herself, he knew. But he could also see the restlessness of one so used to work that she scarce knew how to be idle.

“Come here,” he said lazily. “You’re giving me a headache pacing about like that.”

As she sat between his legs, he kneaded the muscles in her neck and shoulders. “You have to learn to relax, melmenya. Feel the sun. Just enjoy it. Just be.” He pulled her back to lie against him. “Do not think.”

“How can one not think?”

Glorfindel was baffled by the question. “Just—don’t. Be the sun on your face, and the wind on your skin. Be the happiness in your heart, that you are alive...” He kissed her cheek. “…and that you have me…” he teased, and wrapped his arms around her. “…and just be.” He leaned back and closed his eyes again.

And Maeglin took a deep breath, and lay back against him, and closed her eyes, and tried.

 

The moon hung vast and white in a cloudless, starry sky. They walked through the still majestic ruins of Himring, hand in hand, listening to the haunting, melancholic booming of mighty waves pounding against the rocky shore. This sea was a different animal from the sheltered waters of the Gulf of Lhûn. It was a wild beast roaring and flinging itself against land, seeking to break it down and devour it. Ossë ruled here, not Uinen. Glorfindel found it exhilarating, Maeglin both feared and was in awe of it.

The strong sea winds whipped through their hair, golden and black, as they stood looking out at the restless ocean from beneath the ruined stone arches and columns. There was a desolate beauty in the moonlit landscape. All that remained of the ancient elven realms of Beleriand. Her fingers traced in wonder, on one pillar, the faint outline of the burning flames of the house of Fëanor engraved in stone, discernible even after over six millennia of ceaseless assault by the elements.

“Maitimo used good stone,” she said approvingly.

They looked out at the ocean, where all they had once known now lay, beneath the waves.

“So your grave is still there, above the waves, as legend says?” she asked. Upon it, fair stalks of eight-petalled golden celandine blossomed still.

He smiled indifferently. “Yes. But what does it matter if it is or not? I am here.” He had visited it once, in the early Third Age. It had been, strangely enough, Lady Galadriel and Elrond who had prevailed upon him to return there. Glorfindel was not inclined to be morbid.

Also strangely enough, it had been Maeglin’s idea to sail to Himring and look across the waters to where the Echoriad and Gondolin used to be. He had been afraid she would suggest going out to the island where his grave lay. But thankfully, she did not; perhaps it would have stirred her old demons too much.

They had found passage on a small Egladhrin vessel, which had promised to return to bring them back to the mainland in three days. Once back on the mainland, they would meet Asfaloth and journey back to Imladris past Lake Helevorn, down through dwarf country east of the Ered Luin, and through the Emyn Uial.

Maeglin was gazing to the south-west. “Nan Elmoth would have been there.”

Glorfindel scrutinized her face with some concern, but saw nothing to worry him. Coming here was her way of coming to terms with her past. There had been no more nightmares for a long while. The healing was on its way.

Midsummer was still chilly in Himring, even for the Eldar. Feeling her hand grow a little cold in his, he gathered her in his arms and held her to warm her. Her black hair beat against his face, and she moved out of his embrace and lifted hands to braid it back.

“You do not have to do that,” he said, knowing how braiding annoyed her. “I like your hair loose.”

“And flying about in your face?”

“I mind it not at all,” he said truthfully. “Unless,” he added teasingly, “you are afraid your hair is starting to tangle.”

“My hair does not tangle! Ever!” she snapped at him, ceasing her attempts to braid. “Does yours?”

“Never,” he grinned, and reached out for her.

Later that night, as they camped in a corner of the ruins more sheltered from the wind, Maeglin watched Glorfindel as he slept.

She lay on her side, propping her head with an arm, lost in thought as she gazed at his serene, beautiful face, his azure eyes dreaming, and his golden hair gleaming warm in the cold moonlight.

She looked to their future with a twinge of trepidation. This warrior of Valinor would sail west… and she was certain she would never. Whenever she thought of it, it seemed to her that they had no future, and their bond no permanence. And so terrible was the anguish of that thought that she shrank from it, and thought instead of the past year.

One coranar. The most wondrous coranar of her two lifetimes. Home for her now was wherever this hero sleeping before her was, and sailing to Aman a distant prospect. And as she looked at him, she felt him and all that he was, and was suddenly flooded with an incandescent joy that blotted out all fears of the future.

She was happy now. Happy with a happiness she had never dreamed of possessing just a year ago... Suddenly, it seemed to Maeglin that it had only been Glorfindel she had ever loved, that even in Idril, in the other life, it had been he that Maeglin had been searching unknowingly for. A surge of intense tenderness for him and gratitude to all the powers that be flooded her. As she listened to the rhythmic thunder of the waves against the shore, and as the silver light of the stars and moon shone down on them, she murmured, “Melin tyë, Laurefindil.”

“What did you say?” he said, his blue eyes focusing into consciousness.

She rolled over and lay on her back, and stared up at the stars. “Nothing.”

He leaned over her, his golden hair falling over her face. “I heard you! Say it again.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about. You must have been dreaming.”

He began to tickle her. “Say it! I am not stopping till I hear it again.”

“Stop that!” she punched him, laughing. “Stop that!”

“I am merciless. Yield. Say it!”

And finally, after laughing so hard she hurt, Maeglin said through her chuckles, “I love you, I love you, I love you! Stop it!

Glorfindel stopped at once, his eyes dark violet and full of wonder. Then he kissed her. She smiled, and closing her eyes as she surrendered to his kiss and tangled her fingers in his bright golden hair, her fëa spoke to his:

“I love you.”

And there was no more sleep that night.

 

 


Glossary

enquië (Q) – elvish week of six days

Melissë (Q) – lover (female)

Melindo (Q) – lover (male)

Eiliannel (S) - "eiliant" (rainbow) + "el" (star). Originally, I wrote Eiliantel, but it looked wrong. Thankfully, dreamingfifi on realelvish dot proboards dot com enlightened me that "intervocalic NT became NN in most dialects of Sindarin"

Edraith enni (S) – save me

A cuiva (Q) – awaken (imperative)

Hest-nín (S) – my captain

Cáno (Q) – commander, leader

 

Chapter Text

One night, as snow fell outside the windows, flurrying white against the dark diamonds of the window panes, he unloaded an armful of things onto his bed—some of the contents of a beautiful and very ancient wood-and-iron chest he had pulled out from behind a drape near the entrance to his chamber.

“What is all this?” Maeglin asked, as she tied the silken sash of his night-robe about her slender waist. It was too long and trailed on the floor behind her. With her dark hair falling in a shining waterfall to her hips, and in the shimmering robe of light-silver—a colour she would never ordinarily have worn—she looked hauntingly reminiscent of her mother.

“Some things I have not looked at since I moved here from Lindon,” Glorfindel said, sorting through the contents of a small golden casket. He was wearing only his breeches, for he seldom felt the cold, as though his hair that shone bright in the flames of the hearth, falling loose and unbraided over his shoulders, was enough to warm him. “Having had no need of them for five millennia, I think it unlikely I would miss them for the remainder of time in Arda. Since you are moving more and more of your things over here, I thought you would like a place to keep them.”

The chest was covered with intricate carvings… a king’s banquet, a summer carnival in the palace gardens, a fleet of ships in a harbour, elven knights in armour riding with banners unfurled, fair lords and ladies dancing in a great hall. Scenes of life in Forlindon in the days of Gil-galad. Maeglin ran her fingers appreciatively over the woodwork, then eyed the items strewn on the bed. Ornamental knives. Boxes and caskets of various shapes and sizes. Letters. Scrolls of poetry and music dedicated to him.

“You are going to throw these away?”

“Some of them.” Glorfindel tossed a handful of papers from would-be paramours into the flames. “Keep anything you fancy, melmenya. I shall give the rest away to those in the household who might like them.

Maeglin picked up a small box studded with sapphires and rubies. “This does not look elven in make. Whence did it come?”

“Númenor. Most of these were gifts.”

“Interesting design…” She opened it and fell silent. He turned his head and saw a look on her face that made his heart sink.

“Who is this?” Maeglin’s voice was ice and steel. She took out from the box a palm-sized portrait of an amply-endowed mortal beauty done in early Númenorean style. Golden fire sparked in the depths of her black eyes.

“Náremírë of Númenor,” Glorfindel said. “I met her briefly at Andúnië—” A brief stopover by the white elven ship on its way from Aman to Ennor.

Hallacar’s whore?” A famed beauty and courtesan most notorious for forsaking the luxuries of Armenelos for the sheeplands of Emerië. There, she had warmed the bed of Tar-Ancalimë’s estranged and embittered husband for half a century.

“She was not his—his—not at that time. Wherever did you learn that ghastly word?”

“And why does Hallacar’s whore inscribe on the back—in appallingly bad Quenya—‘Thankfulness, Golden Lover, for night unforgettable. Best kiss and touches, Immortal Beloved. Forever, your Flame’?”

“What?” Glorfindel sputtered, never having ever looked at the back of the portrait. “Valandur Lord of Andúnië invited us to stay at his villa. She was one of the dancers at the dinner he hosted for us. That was all. It was one evening! There was nothing between us!”

“Nothing!” Maeglin snapped scathingly, hurling the portrait at him. “Always nothing! I could fill the thousand caves of Menegroth with your nothings!”

He was staring in consternation at the words scribbled on the portrait. “I never even noticed this before—I simply kept the box away. You have to believe me when I say nothing happened!”

“Define ‘nothing’!”

“After dinner, when most of the household had retired, she sought my company as I admired Valandur’s art collection and plied me with wine in the salon. We managed to converse, though I was not fluent in Adûnaic at that time, and she spoke little Quenya or Sindarin. She drank far too much and… threw up on me. I got her out onto the terrace for some fresh air. She shed some tears and asked to follow me to Endórë and I told her it was not possible and let her blow her nose on my sleeve, which she had not thrown up on. She ran from the terrace down to the shore, waded into the waves and… tried to remove her clothes. I—uh—did my best to stop her and she… tried to remove mine. Whereupon I picked her up, and carried her back to the villa. We were not a pretty sight by then. I escorted her back to her chamber and…”

As Glorfindel’s voice trailed away, Maeglin’s eyes pierced him like daggers. “And?”

Indefatigably honest, he continued unwillingly, “She tried to get me into bed, but then she passed out. I could not leave her in her wet clothes. So I undressed her, tucked her into bed—laying her on her side in case she had anything else to throw up—and went back to my chamber for a bath and change of clothes. And that was all that transpired between us. Until she said farewell at the harbour and gave me the box.”

She saw from his eyes that he spoke true. But her imagination filled in all the details he had left unspoken. She glared suspiciously at the various items scattered on the bed. “And each of these treasures of yours has a similar story behind it?”

“Uhh… more or less.”

“Why?” Maeglin exploded. “Why have you kept these things all these years? Precious mementos? Trophies? Why?”

Glorfindel flushed. “Is it not unmannerly and churlish to reject and throw away a gift? I would bring each back to my chamber, and give it no further thought. Sometimes, if a maidservant took a fancy to any trinket whilst cleaning my room in Forlond, I would give it her. Then war came. When I retreated from Eregion and first arrived at Imladris with Elrond, I had naught with me but my sword, my knives, and the clothes on my back. Following Sauron’s first defeat, Lindir simply had the servants at Forlond toss all my personal effects into two chests and transport them here. I opened the chest with my clothes and weapons, but this other chest was shoved into that corner where it has remained for five millennia.”

Her eyes raked over the chest and its contents. The spoils of six hundred years in Forlindon. “So. Five millennia in Imladris. What store of love-tokens have you amassed in all that time?”

Glorfindel looked at Maeglin for a heartbeat, then walked to the drape from behind which he had taken out the chest. He opened a door behind it. “A cálë,” he said softly, and a lamp beyond the door began to glow.

She stepped forward and looked into the small room beyond. Then looked at him.

“Go through it all if you wish,” he said. “And dispose of it all as pleases you.”

For a long moment Maeglin looked at the crates and chests full of letters and presents piled high to the ceiling. “They are yours,” she said at last. She turned her back on the room. “I will not touch them.”

The remaining papers from the chest fed the fire as Glorfindel tossed them in with the portrait of fair Náremírë. As she watched them curl and blacken and fall to ashes, they crackled and whispered and taunted her with salacious details of encounters untold and the lusts and yearnings of fair ones unknown.

And all the nothings that had never happened.

 

Tuilë, a cool, bright morning after Nost-na-Lothion.

Wreaths of cherry and apple blossoms on their heads, dressed in white and the green of new leaves, the bride and the groom stood on the terrace before the house, heads bowed and eyes closed, their faces solemn as the bride’s aunt and Lord Elrond—standing in place of parents long gone west—declared the blessings of Manwë and Varda over their joined hands.

At long last… after a handfasting of ten coranári. All the Imladrim rejoiced to behold the first wedding in the valley in two and a half centuries.

As the rings of gold were slipped upon their forefingers, and the holy name of Eru Ilúvatar was invoked, Glorfindel was shocked to be suddenly wrenched by heartache.

The warrior had witnessed many hundreds of weddings in his lifetime, and up till that moment he had felt nothing but joy for Camaen and Thalanes.

His eyes searched the crowd for Maeglin, as hand-in-hand, the smith and the healer descended from the terrace to a rapturous chorus of song from the assembled Imladrim, and the air was filled with a shower of spring blossoms and petals.

Maeglin was standing next to Lindir in a cerulean blue dress—Thalanes having forbidden her to wear dark colours that day. Her eyes met Glorfindel’s across the garden.

Instead of smiling at her, the warrior looked away.

As the wedding feast resumed, Maeglin saw her beloved walk away towards a far meadow where Asfaloth and other elf horses were grazing in the warmth of the morning sun. She cautiously followed him from a distance and watched him feed Asfaloth with pieces of fruit from the banquet tables.

Walking up to Gilroch, her own dappled silver-grey steed, Maeglin stroked its head and muzzle, and blew gently into its nostrils in greeting. The two lovers were a stone’s throw away from each other.

“I am surprised you dared risk others seeing you here with me,” Glorfindel said in thought without turning his head.

She almost flinched at the quiet bitterness of his words. “I took care that none saw me. And I’ll not come closer than this.”

“Of course.”

She felt a tightness in her throat. “Please. Don’t be like this.”

No words came in response. Just a wave of weariness and resentment.

“Damn it, what is wrong with you?” Maeglin asked. This was most unlike him, and feeling anxious and helpless, she was growing angry.

She caught sight of his face as he turned it to her briefly, and saw the wretchedness in it. Then suddenly, he strode right up to her and caught her in his arms.

“Don’t! Someone might see—”

“Let them see,” Glorfindel said aloud. “I have tried. Tried to understand. I truly have. But it has been almost ten coranári, and I still—cannot—comprehend—why we are doing this. It should have been us, on that terrace, exchanging rings. But instead, here we are. Married. For ten coranári. Pretending we care naught for each other. Hoping none see us together. Tell me why. Please.”

In the silence that followed, Maeglin’s face was shut to him, the black eyes opaque.

“Do you love me?”

“Of course,” she said almost impatiently.

“Do you believe I love you?”

“Yes.”

“Are you ashamed of us?”

“No!”

“Do you trust me?”

“Yes!” she snapped it out almost irritably.

“Then—why?”

Their elven ears heard laughter and voices approaching. She broke away from his grasp, and fled into the nearby grove of ashes and birches.

He did not follow her.

Asfaloth cantered to his elf’s side and nuzzled him gently. Glorfindel leaned his head against his horse, and gave vent to a heartfelt sigh. Asfaloth whinnied and nickered. Glorfindel gave a groan.

“Oh, no. Please. Spare me the advice, I beg you, mellon vuin. My mare and your mares are not the same.”

The stallion nickered further and butted Glorfindel’s head with his. Glorfindel smiled wryly and gave a chuckle that ended in a sigh.

“I would that herding her around and asserting dominance were so simple, mellon-nín. When you know her better, you will understand. And no, a good mounting does not solve everything.”

Unable to face the wedding feast for another hour or so, Glorfindel rode Asfaloth to the foothills. Staring out over the valley, he brooded.

The candour of his own nature could not begin to fathom the murky bog of fears and insecurities that kept Maeglin locked in her refusal to be open.

Was it some remnants of her identity as a nér that she had not fully relinquished?

Was it self-doubt, that she was unworthy of love, despite his adoration of her?

Was it his history with countless of the fairest females of Arda, elven and mortal, in spite of his repeated assurances that she had never had—and would never have—a rival?

Was it the shadow of her father and her mother—memories of their tumultuous, dark relationship bequeathing a lingering fear… that love would never be enough, passion would never be enough… that she bore through their blood the seeds of doomed love, that for her all things well begun could only fail and come to ruin?

She herself did not know. She would either run, as she did today, or give only evasive answers that shed no light. And confronting her had always resulted in nothing but mutual wretchedness and frustration.

With a small sigh, as he looked over to the house and watched the bridal party in full swing, Glorfindel resigned himself. Riding back, he returned to the feast, and joined in the songs of blessing and celebration.

And from that day, to survive their hidden life, he turned it into play.

Some nights, he coaxed her into wandering the house or the valley with him, or cajoled her into sneaking down into the kitchen for a snack. Avoiding discovery then became a game in itself, for from spring to autumn there would be elves abroad in the hallways and the gardens, singing by the river and dancing in the woods. And with great skill, they always passed undetected. But there remained nights when she would betake herself to the smithy, and he would join the others in their nocturnal revels and play, lest his prolonged absence from their company arouse suspicion. Other nights they played chess or cards in their chambers, or sparred with weapons in the basement training room.

In this way, the seasons then the years flew past on swift wings.

All he could do was give Maeglin whatever time she might need. And pray that time was all she would need.

And till then, find joy in counting all his gain, and not lament his lack.

 

One rainy night, late in autumn, they sat by the fire in his chamber playing chess and drinking mulled wine.

“What are you thinking of, melmenya?”

Maeglin moved a black marble maethor. “Nothing.”

“Your nothing is humming like bees in my head. Tell me.”

“Very well. The ways of a man with a woman. Who gave you your initiation in the arts of love when you turned forty-five? Turukáno would never have been the one to speak to you. So who did?”

He glanced at her briefly, sensing at once that the question was not innocently curious, though he could not have guessed at the complex labyrinth of suspicions and jealousies that underlay it.

His white thoron captured one of her black maethyr, and as he palmed the intricately-carved marble piece, he said lightly, “Ecthelion, of course.”

“What?” she said, unbelievingly. “Are you in earnest?”

He set down her black maethor on the table next to two others, and her ithron. “Well, he was the closest I had to a father. Itarillë forced him to do it. A little earlier than customary, when I was thirty-six. After I had a run-in with Salgant’s twins which almost put me off women for life.”

“Northanis and Nornalë?” Maeglin said contemptuously. “Those lumps? What did they do?”

“I would rather not talk about it. Istuinor the librarian thankfully passed by and rescued me by throwing them out of the library. He then marched me to the princess and told her what happened. So Itarillë decided it was time for The Talk.”

“But Ecthelion is not even married… or was not. Egalmoth or Penlod were family men and more suited to this, surely.”

“Itarillë probably trusted in Ecthelion’s sterling, upright character and virtuous nature. Which Egalmoth, alas, did not inspire after a bawdy song she very unfortunately overheard him and Galdor singing on Vána’s Day. And she deemed Penlod too stern and aloof to speak to a child about such sensitive matters.”

“So… what did Ecthelion say?A black ernil moved forward on the board to protect her black aran.

Glorfindel’s azure eyes were sparkling with amusement as he leaned his chin on his hand and looked at her. “Oh, he took me to a lonely beach some distance from Vinyamar after breakfast the next day. And delivered the most moving and elegantly-worded speech about the natural cycles of life in Arda, and the sanctity of the act of marriage to the Eldar. And how it is a form of worship unto Eru and divinely ordained, and how it should never be undertaken lightly, but only when there exists a deep and mutual love and respect, and after long and careful consideration.” He paused for effect. Unhurriedly, his strong, slender fingers moved a white maethor. “And then, he handed me a book.”

Maeglin gave him a look from narrowed eyes. “A… book.”

“A book.” His eyes twinkled. “The Vanyar put it into poetry, and the Teleri put it into song. But trust the Noldor to have… a book. The Joyous Congress of the Connubial Bed. So, whilst Ecthelion sat himself on a rock and stared at the sea and sky—”

This was not at all the talk that Maeglin imagined a father-son should have. Her own father had been gruff, no-nonsense and graphic, and his lecture, conducted over shots of firewater in the forge, had held no surprises. An observant and shrewd child, Maeglin had known the facts of life by then, and Eöl would have been ashamed of him had he not known.  

“Anyway,” Eöl had grunted, “that’s the easiest part of handling a woman.” And tossing back his firewater, he had banged the cup down on the table, and returned to the anvil.

Maeglin’s black ernil captured Glorfindel’s white maethor. And set it down next to three white maethyr and his white rîs. “That sounds like Ecthelion,” she said wryly.

“Yes. So whilst he meditated on the clouds, I walked up and down the beach and obediently read the book. Once I had finished, he asked me if I had any questions—”

“It must not have been a very long book.”

“Quite a detailed and comprehensive manual, actually. Two hundred and fifty-eight pages, excluding the index. And when I said no, I was sufficiently enlightened, he looked immensely relieved. Told me to return it to the library.  Said that if he caught me trying to practice anything I had just learned on anyone while I was underaged, he would whip me. And if I stupidly and rashly got myself married to someone unsuitable once I came of age, and broke Itarillë’s heart—”

He froze and abruptly fell silent as their eyes met.

Neither of them had broached the subject about how Idril or Ecthelion might react to their marriage. Rash and stupid would mostly certainly be the verdict of both on the manner of their joining. And unsuitable would probably describe the entire Gondolindrin population’s opinion of their choice of mate.

Neither of them wanted to go there at the moment.

“So,” said Maeglin coolly, “was this enlightening book lost in the move to Gondolin?”

“Oh, no. It was there in the Religion and Spirituality section of the library. It was, of course, never part of the educational syllabus Quendingoldo designed for you.”

Glorfindel moved his ithron.

Maeglin’s obsidian eyes were fixed on the chess board in disbelief.

He smiled luminously in triumph.

“And have you shown me everything of what you learned from that wondrous book?” she said at last.

He reflected carefully. “No… Not everything, now I think of it.”

She looked up. “Well, what are you waiting for, my tutor?”

Their eyes met and held over the chess pieces.

He smiled. “I am waiting for your next move. I am going to win this game, my prince.”

“I know.” Slowly, teasingly, she loosened the laces of her bodice, and smirked.

His eyebrow lifted slightly. “You don’t play fair, my prince.”

“I play to win.”

“Since it means so much to you…” He moved his ithron to another part of the board.

Stalemate.

Annoyance flickered in her eyes. “Neither of us winning is not satisfying. You giving up your win is worse, you patronizing son of a saint. Very well then, you win—fair and square.”

He smiled as he swept the marble pieces off the board. “Let us play something where no one loses.” They rose to their feet. “I warn you, some of those moves looked fairly acrobatic.”

“Interesting.”

“I did not think they would please you,” he said as they moved around the table.

“Let us find out.”

So picking her up, he tossed her onto the connubial bed, and initiated a joyous session of congress.

 

Glorfindel woke one spring morning to Maeglin in a foul mood. A miasma of anger and misery surged heavy over his fëa like churning vats of molten lead or slabs of granite grinding against each other.

What was wrong now? He opened his eyes and saw he was alone in her bed. Sending out feelers with his mind, he found her once more shut up in the bath chamber. She had been cranky last night, and snapped at him, although he could not think of anything he might have done to upset her.

He sat up, and saw evidence on the bedsheet that should have explained it all, but caused him an initial flash of panic and worry.

Oh… Of course.

How had they not seen that coming?

The answer, of course, was that neither of them, as ellyn in their first lives, would have needed to consider this at all. And in this life, Maeglin had not had any naneth to give her the customary mother-daughter talk between the ages of thirty and forty.

Melmenya,” he said gently, as he rapped the bath-chamber door. “Are you well?”

“Go away.”

“This is perfectly natural—”

“Natural. What in bloody Arda is natural about this? What is natural about being turned into a sodding female by the sodding Valar and having to undergo this sodding mess of orc-muk?”

Given that elven menarche generally occurred around the age of forty for most ellith and that the cycle for most varied between seventeen to twenty-six coranári, he was tempted to suggest to her that the Valar had been merciful in arranging for her rebirth in a body that had probably just completed menarche and granting her twenty-four coranári of reprieve to settle into her new body.

So intense was her seething resentment at the moment, however, that he wisely decided against it. Nor would he dream of breathing a word about children to her, though the thought now occurred to him for the first time. Not that it was likely, in this time of fading in Ennor.

Through the door, he heard the sound of a knife tearing through cloth. “Wait! You don’t have to cut up your shirt! Let me call Thalanes.”

No! Not a word to anyone.”

“Can I do anything to help? How about herbal tea? Itarillë liked an herbal tea infusion with ginger and piuccar during this time.”

“Sod off.”

“Massage can help.”

“Just shut up. You cannot help. You cannot say anything that would help. I hate this. I hate Námo. And right this moment I sodding hate you for being a sodding nér who will never sodding have to deal with this so just leave me alone.”

So, standing helplessly outside the door, he shut up. Sent her his love through the door as best as he could, in warm, comforting waves... a bodiless hug fëa to fëa.

And though she never told him so, that helped.

 

Humming a new melody that was unfolding in his head like a blossoming rose, Lindir picked it out on the strings of his lute as he strolled through the gardens, and almost stepped on the small pouch lying on the path.

“What have we here?” said the minstrel, slinging his lute on his back and stooping to pick it up. Dark-blue velvet with a drawstring of gold ribbon, it was light as a feather. For a moment he thought it might be empty.

It was almost dinner time, and as Lindir glanced up and down the garden path, he saw not a soul. The stables and smithy lay around the bend in one direction, the garden maze in the other.

His long fingers untied the ribbon, and his eyes widened as a small ring of braided hair fell out of the pouch upon his palm and glowed there with a golden luminescence that was unmistakable.

Which admirer of the balrog slayer had been able to steal a priceless lock of that golden hair? And how? Had Glorfindel noticed the shearing of his treasured tresses? It would be a tale worth the telling in itself, thought Lindir with a grin—a feat of daring and cunning worthy of a song in epic mode.

He returned the beautiful, bright thing to the pouch and retied the ribbon.

Now, how might he track down that audacious maid to hear the tale?

Just then, through the rose and jasmine bushes that lined the path, he espied Maeglin in the distance, coming from the smithy, attired in her work clothes. One fleeting glimpse of her face in the twilight gave him a shock, and pure instinct told him the truth. He climbed swiftly up a nearby tree and dropped the pouch back onto the path.

Hidden in thick summer foliage, he watched her slowly make her way along the path, a frown on her fair brow and her mouth set in a stern line. Her sharp black eyes carefully swept the stone slabs and the grass and flowers growing along the verge, and also looked about to check that she was alone.

Something in her face made Lindir pray, Please Eru, let her not look up. He was fond of the foundling maiden but the dark, taciturn streak in her nature intimidated him. He was not foolish enough to ask for any tales of hair exploits from that grim, unsmiling face.

The moment she espied the pouch on the path ahead of her, she quickly glanced about to ascertain there were no watching eyes, then swiftly strode to it and retrieved it. He could not see her face. She took out the ring of golden hair, and cradled it gently in her palm as though it were a living thing, then carefully slipped it back into the pouch and tucked the pouch as deeply into her breech pocket as she could.

As she disappeared back down the path towards the smithy, Lindir found that he had been holding his breath. Astonished and intrigued, he did not know what to think.

Maeglin was well-noted to be the one elleth in the valley coolly contemptuous of the charms of the balrog slayer. Nor could Lindir recall Glorfindel ever showing more than the most proper and detached courtesy towards her.

Erestor, Lindir thought with a smirk, would be quite disappointed to learn that the one bulwark of female good sense in the valley—as the counsellor esteemed it—had capitulated.

Slipping down from his perch, the minstrel went in search of the counsellor.

 


Glossary

A cálë (Q) – light/illuminate (imperative)

Mellon muin (S) – dear friend (in FOTR Glorfindel speaks Sindarin to Asfaloth. I figure that somewhere in the Second Age after leaving Aman, they would have begun to do so.)

Piuccar (Q) – blackberries

Ithron (S) – wizard (I previously used 'Curunír', but reader Aylatha pointed out the confusion with Saruman/Curumo's Sindarin name. So 'Ithron' it now is.)

Thoron (S) - eagle

Ernil (S) - prince

Rîs (S) – queen

As always, I welcome expert feedback on elvish.

 

Chapter Text

Erestor was indeed disappointed.

“That silly girl,” said Erestor, as he and Lindir made their way down the great, sweeping central staircase towards the dining hall. “I thought her more intelligent than that. But at least she is not the sort to swoon and giggle over that dolt as other maids do.”

“You are right that she is different—a shy and reserved creature. I once talked to her two hours, and found at the end of it that I had told her much of my own thoughts and more of myself than I intended—and learned but little of her. I trust her. She can keep a confidence.”

Consummate diplomat and negotiator that he was, Erestor would never have fallen into that trap with Maeglin. She was cleverer than Lindir realized, and Erestor admired her guardedness more than he suspected it. He frowned slightly. “How could the outcome be anything but tragic? She is deep, that one, and stern of spirit. I do not believe her heart, once set upon a thing, would be easily turned.”

They spoke in low voices, and went out onto the wide verandah running down the length of the dining hall to escape being overheard. Lindir was beginning to be anxious. “Do you fear she would pine or fade for him?”

“She does not strike me as the kind to fade. More apt to brood, and grow withdrawn and grim.” Erestor saw with annoyance the object of Lómiel’s affection in the distance, enjoying the last hours of summer sunlight with Emlindir in the garden, and laughing and chatting with the captain merrily. “You say she was most secret about it. She fears any knowing, then. I wonder still how she came by his hair.”

There had been a time in the valley when admirers had fought over the cuttings of that glorious hair from Glorfindel’s half-yearly trim. The chambermaids clearing the basket of litter in his room were pestered for the shining strands ere they were mixed into the compost heap with the rest of the household’s refuse. The more enterprising maids had even bartered them for a small profit. Once Glorfindel had realized this was happening, it had so discomfited him that he no longer tossed the trimmed-off ends into the basket. He would take them with him on a ride, and quietly cast them into the Bruinen.

“I have hardly noted her speaking with Glorfindel or even venturing nigh him,” Erestor said.

“Nor I. But their chambers are nigh each other in the east wing.”

“Indeed. There could be exchanges betwixt them none are privy to.”

“Elbereth… could she have stolen a lock as he slept?”

“It would take a lock thick as this finger, and at least as long, to weave a ring such as you saw. He would of a certainty have noted its loss and fussed over it. Unless...”

The councillor and the minstrel looked at each other.

“She asked for the lock and he gave it her?” gasped Lindir.

“Hard to imagine that she would ask, or he would give.”

From the verandah, they saw the black-haired smith walk past the warriors on her way back to the house. Emlindir was not facing the path and saw her not. Glorfindel and Maeglin did not so much as glance at each other.

“She treasures a ring of his hair, but staunchly ignores him?” wondered Lindir.

“She is no fool, and proud to boot,” said Erestor. “Whatever her affections are, she has been here thirty-eight years now and knows well how hopeless a cause it is to love him. She would not make a spectacle of herself mooning over him like other maids.”

Lindir looked thoughtful. “So… she has affection for Glorfindel, which given her nature, would be strong and deeply felt, and which given his nature, he would never return. You believe she will not be turned from it, and will not act upon it… As a friend, is there aught I could do?

“See if she might take you into her confidence. A heartache shared is a heartache halved,” said Erestor, as they turned to enter the dining hall. “But keep that mouth of yours buttoned tight! Little birds here carry news on swift wings through the treetops and corridors. One loose word, and you might find your lute smashed to smithereens by a smith’s hammer!”

 

Glorfindel was leaving the stables with Asfaloth when he heard Lindir reach the end of a song as he sat outside the smithy under the apple trees. Yet another plaintive love ballad of unrequited love. The minstrel had been doing this for three days now, and the balrog slayer was growing perturbed.

“Sad songs for summer, mellon-nín,” the warrior heard his beloved say, and he halted in his tracks. It would seem that Maeglin, intrigued, had emerged from the smithy. With Hatheldir to assist her and Camaen, she had more leisure now. Nor had she been as fiercely driven in her craft since her return from their travels years before. He could imagine her, probably still in her leather apron, seating herself by Lindir on the bench.

Glorfindel saw Asfaloth eyeing him and lifted his finger to his lips. Horse and elf lingered near the stable doors and Glorfindel stroked the white mane as they both listened.

“Oh, I was but thinking of the plight of a friend of mine,” the minstrel said, plucking a plaintive melody on his lute strings. “And wondering how I might help him.”

“Ah.”

“He loves one from afar who knows not of his love… and the one he loves is well-known to have a heart untouchable by love. He has nursed this secret long, and believes it hopeless. I have been pondering how best to counsel him.”

Seeing Glorfindel frown, Asfaloth gave him a gentle nudge with his head.

Maeglin said nothing in reply. Glorfindel could imagine her impassive face as she gazed over the meadow through the apple trees.

“Should he tell her his love?” Lindir was saying.

“And invite scorn and rejection?” Maeglin said, recalling an autumn night in Gondolin. “Is there aught more terrible to the pride of an ellon?”

“Should he seek to deny this love then? And turn his heart to others?”

“If love be true, would a true heart turn ere the sun rises in the west?”

“How well you understand my friend. As he is proud, I dare not counsel him to declare his love. As he is steadfast, I dare not counsel him to love another. Have you, too, known the ache of love? And you, but a bud not long full-blossomed?”

“I have heard the songs and the tales. History is instructive. You certainly sing sad love songs with much feeling, Lindir. I hope your friend’s tale has not been yours.”

Lindir laughed. “I have tales to tell and many more such songs to sing, if you have any wish to listen.”

“I shall listen to your songs from the workroom. My work summons me.”

“Very well. Abedithon le…”

And as Lindir took to haunting the bench beneath the apple trees daily for a few hours to sing sad love songs, and to sitting next to Maeglin each night at dinner, a certain balrog slayer’s thoughts became rather dark, and the minstrel’s lute was in far more danger of being smashed than he realized.              

 

The letters from Lothlórien arrived a month after Tarnin Austa, in the hour after dinner.

After settling the messenger in one of the guest suites, Glorfindel went in search of Elrond. The Lord of Imladris was not in his study, but his friend of five millennia guessed where to find him.

Stars were lighting in a sky of deep twilight blue as Glorfindel climbed up to the Star Dome. Elrond stood at one of the large windows of the round room, hands behind his back, gazing out across the valley at the Evenstar glittering bright above the encircling mountaintops. Glorfindel climbed up onto the ledge of the window next to his lord’s, and perched there quietly.

“I used to bring the children up here to learn about the stars.”

“Arwen would sit on your lap,” said Glorfindel. “And point at Eärendil’s Star, and say, ‘Daeradar’.”

After a stretch of silence, Elrond said, “I knew this day would come. Yet I had prayed it would not.”

Glorfindel said nothing, but waited.

Elrond gave a heartfelt sigh. “I felt compassion for Estel, when I first spoke to him twenty-nine coranári ago. How could he but love her? He was but a boy, in the first glow of manhood and the glory of his inheritance. In her, he saw a loveliness to bring strong warriors to their knees and spur the craven to great deeds, to inspire stones to sing symphonies and make poets fall mute.”

He leaned forward and rested his arms on the window ledge before him, and gazed bleakly at the father he could scarcely remember, shining brilliantly in the sky.

“And what was he to her? A boy she had known with knobbly, skinned knees and ink on his nose. She had known his great-grandfather in diapers, and his grandfather as a pimpled youth. Nothing should have come of it. Nothing!” He sighed again. Pulling out two letters from his robe, he perused them once more by starlight.

“Elrond,” said Glorfindel gently, “We have followed his battles from afar, and heard Mithrandir’s recount of his deeds. Young as he is, already we can see it: he is a captain a young soldier would die for. Men will look at him and say, ‘This is my lord, and I would follow him to the ends of the earth.’ He is the man we made him. The best of a long and noble line.”

“I am proud of him, believe me,” replied Elrond quietly. “‘Tis a fair and noble letter he has writ me. He hastens now to Gondor to lead its forces against Umbar, and begs to speak with me once he is released, and able to come north to Imladris. I almost would that it were an adan whose suit I could deny.  One less worthy. One I could urge her to turn away. One I loved less.” He turned to look at his gloriously beautiful friend, luminous in the starlight as his golden-hair was lifted by a gentle breeze. “She was smitten with you, once upon a time. Did you know? I have foolishly this past hour wondered what might have been had you only seen it and returned her love.”

For a moment, Glorfindel almost lost his perfect balance and toppled off the window ledge. He lightly jumped back into the tower room. “Elrond!”

“Celebrían dreamed of it. She loved you as a brother and would have loved you even more as a law-son.”

“Elrond! That would have been unthinkable!”

“I understand… Arwen is as a daughter to you.”

It was more than that, of course, but it was not the time to speak of their tangled web of kinship. It had flashed through his mind as Elrond spoke… he was Arwen’s first cousin once removed through his father Finrod… her second cousin through his mother Rîlel… he was furthermore the second cousin of Elrond’s mother… and the second cousin of Elrond’s paternal grandmother…

Glorfindel had told none but Maeglin of his lineage, and would keep it secret till he had met and spoken with his father. One day in Aman, he and Elrond would sit down, and talk and laugh at leisure over a flagon of wine. For now, all that mattered was Elrond’s sense of impending loss.

Losses. Elrond had imagined, on the day that Elros Tar-Minyatur had sailed to Elenna, that nothing could ever hurt as much again. He would see his Celebrían again one day, and that moment drew closer with each passing hour. But on the day his twin and other half had chosen to be mortal, the peredhel had felt the full weight of what forever meant. From the moment he had held his own children in his arms, he had lived in both joy and fear, knowing the choice that lay before them. And he had prayed. That he would not need to say farewell forever again.

Elladan and Elrohir were away north on an orc-hunt at this time… which was why Glorfindel now said gently, “If it is your wish, I shall depart for Lothlórien to escort her home.”

“Thank you,” Elrond said quietly.

So Glorfindel rode south to bring Arwen back to Imladris. There, with her father, and her brothers, she would remain till the fate of Estel and the Dúnedain was known… glory or oblivion, restoration or ruin.

Two ages ago, King Elu Thingol had named a bride-price for his daughter’s hand, and set in motion a quest that had breached the stronghold of Angband, wrested a jewel from the Iron Crown, and ended in the death of the two lovers. Elrond’s ancestor had lost that which he most sought to withhold, and the first line of peredhil in Arda had come into being.

Elrond, too, would set a bride-price for his daughter’s hand. Forgive me, my children.

Should the descendant of Elros overcome the Shadow, Middle Earth would be free, and the adan would win a queen.

Should he be defeated, the Eldar would abandon these lands to darkness and horror. They would sail west, and all Elrond’s labours for five thousand years would have come to naught, ending in futility and failure.

But he would still have his daughter.

 

It was a dark and moonless night over Lothlórien. Tired from a long journey on which he and Asfaloth had seldom stopped to rest, Glorfindel yawned as he climbed the stairs to his flet.

Galadriel and Celeborn were still deep in talk with their granddaughter, and knowing they would not see her for a long season, they would probably be up all night.

Closing his eyes as he stretched out on his pallet, Glorfindel reached out to Maeglin. He did not know if this was a rare gift of the Valar, or an inherited mind-gift from his father’s blood, but even across the distance between them, he could feel her, awake and well, beyond the mountains to the northwest. No words. Just the comfort of a light touching of minds. Whenever he had had been away for days beyond the borders hunting down orcs or wargs, he had reached out in this way to reassure her nightly. Knowing their bond could still be felt across the leagues had assuaged her anxiety at his departure for Lothlórien.

Glorfindel drifted into Irmo’s realm, and was having a very pleasant dream about Maeglin when he suddenly heard a silken voice in his ear saying, “Why, Glorfindel… Ready for me at last?”

As he awakened, he saw Thranduil’s sister, in a tiny white slip, kneeling astride him on his bed and smiling alluringly at him.

In his sleepy, half-dreaming state, he wondered in confusion if he was in the Mirkwood and how he had forgotten to lock his door. And how had he been sleeping so soundly that she had managed to position herself on top of him?

At least she was wearing something this time.

She laughed melodiously. “Surprised to see me, meleth-nín? I just arrived. Imagine my delight when I saw Asfaloth, and learned you were here. How long has it been? Three hundred years, or more?”

Arwen’s cousin Teliaris Oropheriel was a tall, willowy beauty who resembled both her brothers in different ways. She had her younger brother’s pale silver-gold hair and her elder brother’s playfulness, and both of her brothers’ azure-blue eyes.

Both Thranduil and Teliaris had inherited Oropher’s pride and stubbornness, and had adored him. After Dagorlad, grief had sundered rather than bonded them, and Thranduil had been unable to restrain his sister as his father had before him. The duties and burdens of the throne were her little brother’s to bear. Embracing her freedom with feckless abandon, Teliaris immersed herself in the Silvan culture of Eryn Lasgalen, and become a wanderer and a hunter of the woods who returned but rarely to the Halls of the Woodland King. At this moment, she was a predatory cat, and Glorfindel the prey she had pinned down.

 “Teliaris,” the golden-haired warrior groaned. “Please. You have to stop doing this. If your brother ever hears of it, he will kill me.”

“Why do you always say that? Silly creature. Tonight, Thranduil is over a hundred leagues away and need never know. In fact, why should Thranduil even care? What I do is none of his business. Besides, how could my baby brother succeed in killing the greatest warrior of the edhil?

Glorfindel knew family honour mattered as much to Thranduil as it had to Oropher his father. He had the briefest vision of himself fighting the armies of Mirkwood and unleashing the fourth kinslaying because he had sullied the honour of the Woodland King’s sister, for he knew well Teliaris had no thought of marriage in doing this.

The vision evaporated quickly. Of course, he would never lift his sword against kin. He would simply get thrown into Mirkwood’s dungeon, and drawn and quartered by Thranduil. And castrated by him before that.

“What are you doing in Lothlórien?”

“Visiting my kin, of course. I thought it would be good to, once a millennium.”

“Your great-uncle and Lady Galadriel are in the next mallorn. You know exactly what they would have to say about this.”

Her azure eyes flickered, for she was in some awe of the Lord Celeborn and frankly intimidated by Lady Galadriel. “Well… if I am to be thrown out of the golden woods for misbehaviour, let me be thrown out happy.” And kneeling on all fours over him, she slipped a knowing hand under his blanket.

With an agility and speed that never failed to impress her, he was out of bed with his blanket wrapped around his waist. “Teliaris, please, just leave.” He snatched up his breeches and began to put them on under his blanket. She pounced on him and caught him off balance just as he was putting one leg in. They tumbled onto the floor with her on top.

“How tense you are, meleth-nín,” she purred in his ear as she bit it, and ran strong fingers through his gloriously radiant golden tresses and down his back. “Let me help you relax.”

With a weary sigh, he rolled her off before she could try to remove his blanket, got to his feet and quickly finished putting on his leggings before she could make her next move. Taking her by the arm as firmly yet as gently as he could, he propelled her towards the narrow stairs of the flet, his other hand gathering up her clothes and belongings as they went. She pouted.

“May I not just sleep next to you in your bed as before? No flet has been prepared for me.”

“Forgive me, Teliaris, I do not think that a good idea.” The last time she had sworn she only wanted to cuddle had not ended well. “But I am sure Haldir will be happy to oblige.” The dashing Silvan marchwarden of Lothlórien had carried a torch for Oropher’s daughter since the Last Alliance.

The balrog slayer adroitly set the beguiling beauty upon the steps, bundled her clothes, her bow, her quiver and other effects into her arms, and gave her a gentle push. “Please excuse me if I do not escort you, híril-nín. Down the stairs, third mallorn to the left, fifth flet from the base. No vaer i dhû.”

And he pulled the woven screens of his flet shut. No door and no lock, but she would be foolish to try to return after that. He wished Haldir joy of her.

That was probably the least chivalrous he had ever been to any elleth. Maeglin must be rubbing off on him, he thought ruefully.

It was only as he lay down on his pallet again that the realization finally hit his sleep-addled brain and brought a wave of nausea.

Teliaris Oropheriel was his sister.

 

Elrond caught sight of Maeglin’s face in one of her unguarded moments. Rare as they were, these moments now occurred far more than in Gondolin, when the prince had been perpetually watchful and wary of his surroundings.

“Does that child look rather morose to you?” Elrond asked Erestor, as Maeglin left the Hall of Fire while Lindir warbled the Lay of Nimrodel.

And despite all his exhortations to Lindir to be tight-lipped, Erestor leaned very close and murmured into his lord’s ear, “Methinks she misses absent friends.”

Elrond sat taller in his great chair and raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“The question, of course, is… which friend?” Erestor could not help but smirk a trifle smugly.

“You mean…one of my sons?” She had been in their company often enough.

“One wishes her taste was so discerning. It has come to light that she has, like many smiths, a penchant for… precious metal of a gaudy hue.”

His lordship’s eyebrows lifted slightly. “Aahh...Interesting.” Leaning back in his chair, he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

It was not the response Erestor had expected. “Interesting, hîr-nín? The child is to be pitied. She has cast her heart where there can be no hope. And, if I judge rightly, such matters go deep with her. Frighteningly deep. Of age she may be, but she is naïve, and lacks the wise counsel of parents.”

Elrond took a leisurely sip of wine and set down his goblet on the tray at his elbow. “Are you offering to advise the child out of your vast store of wisdom, Erestor?”

“Oh, no, no,” Erestor said hurriedly. “I have, after all, no experience of parenthood.”

“That is well. I do not think this young lady would take kindly to any meddling in the matters of her heart.”

“She most certainly would not.”

They listened as fair Nimrodel was lost forever, and her lover Amroth, waiting in vain, cast himself despairingly into the churning sea.

As the last notes of the lute fell silent, Elrond raised a lordly hand and called to the minstel, “Sing us something cheerful, Lindir.” Then, leaning close to his adviser he said quietly, “Our young lady’s love may not be as hopeless as you believe.”

The councillor’s face was a study in astonishment and disbelief. An eyebrow shot up sharply. “Hîr-nín?”

It was Elrond’s turn to look smug.

 

It was a crisp, cool autumn day, and the branches of the apple orchard were bowed with the weight of rosy fruit.

Hearing Lindir’s lute, Maeglin looked up from the sword she had just finished sharpening. “So, a happier tune today. How does your friend?”

“The same, I believe. But there has been a new discovery that may change that,” said Lindir as he stood outside her window.

“Oh?” She lightly wiped the blade with an oiled cloth before returning it to its scabbard.

“It is possible that his beloved may not be as cold to him as he believed.”

“Good.” She came out of the smithy, and sat on the bench, and tilted her face to catch the warmth of the gentle autumn sun.

“But she is as shy and secret as he. It may be that both are holding aloof and loving from afar.” He looked meaningfully at her.

“How very ironic. It is worthy of a song,” she said, picking up one of the crisp, red apples that had fallen to the earth, and polishing it on her tunic.

“It is indeed!” Lindir’s grey eyes twinkled as he strummed his lute, and as he stood before her, he struck a dramatic lovelorn pose and burst into a mock-tragic ditty.

“Oh! my heart is lost to a maiden fey,
So cold and fair, like frost in May,
As far above me as the stars so high.
Should she scorn my love, I am like to die!”

Maeglin chuckled as she bit into the apple.

“My love I’ll tell to the mountains tall,
My love I’ll sigh to the leaves that fall,
My love I’ll sing to the stars that shine,
Till the day I dare woo her to be mine…”

Lindir faltered and the lute abruptly fell silent.

Glorfindel, cloaked and in armour still dusty from the road, was leaning against a tree near them, tossing and catching an apple casually with one hand. His violet eyes were gazing at Lindir with a dangerous glint that unnerved the bard.

“Why, Glorfindel, mae g’ovannen!” said Lindir. “You are back!”

Mae le’ovannen, Hîr Glorfindel,” said Maeglin coolly. “Welcome home.”

“Well met, Maiden Lómiel, Lindir,” said Glorfindel courteously, his face pleasant. “An entertaining song. Pray continue.” His eyes resting still on Lindir, the warrior’s bare fingers lightly wrapped around the apple and crushed it effortlessly to a pulp.

Lindir avoided Glorfindel for the next month and did not darken the bench outside the smithy for the rest of the year.

 

“No.” Maeglin’s eyes narrowed as she set down the cloth she was using to polish and oil his armour, which she had cleaned as he had his bath. “And I do not appreciate your attempts to change what I choose to wear.”

Melmenya, you would look utterly lovely in this. You know it.” His hair was still damp and unbraided from his bath, and he had pulled on a clean pair of leggings.

“I would look like my mother. And did you not think of the murmurs it would cause, your obtaining a dress for an elleth? All the valley will be abuzz by tomorrow morn. If they are not already so.”

“I did not go to the tailor here. I asked Lady Galadriel to procure it for me, in Lothlórien. She knew, the moment she laid eyes on me, that we were wed. You know there is no hiding these things from her.”

Maeglin looked at him even more sharply. “How much does she know?”

“No more than that I am bonded, which pleased her. She sensed my reticence to speak of you, and she did not pry. But it afforded an opportunity—I had long wanted to get you something, but here my hands are tied. Look—is the needlework of the Galadhrim not very fine?”

It shimmered as he held it up for her to see: white silk edged with white lace, the full skirts and long, flowing sleeves covered with subtle, elegant embroidery of silver-grey leaves and grey-blue flowers.

“A trifle too embellished. But yes, the needlework is very fine.” A darker shadow crossed her face. “But why white? Was that your choice, or hers?”

“Mine. I thought it would be nice to vary your clothes from dark or deep colours, vesseya.”

“What were you thinking of? Do you desire that I look like my mother? Did my mother and you ever…?”

And as her fists clenched and her face darkened further, for one wild moment Glorfindel did not know if he was facing a jealous elleth or an ellon up in arms over his Amil’s honour.

“No!” exclaimed Glorfindel in indignation, lowering the dress. “I like white. I have always liked white. That is all! How could you ever think that of your mother? Or me? She was my king’s sister, and my princess.”

From the flush on Maeglin’s cheeks, she was probably reliving some rather vivid memories of growing up with Aredhel and Eöl as parents. Glorfindel smiled wryly. “If anything, melmenya, you should know that I was never your mother’s type. Nor she mine.”

“For that matter, I have doubts if my father was her type.”

“Oh, he must have been, from what you told me.”

“Because they could not keep their hands off each other? You know well there is more to a marriage than that. When they were not coupling, they were sniping at each other continually. They made each other miserable, and violent, and insane.”

“She had fervent admirers aplenty in Nevrast and Gondolin, and she scorned them all as silly boys. She went to Eöl’s bed more than willingly. No denying they had severe issues, but he was still her One.”

She was still eyeing him dubiously. “Do I remind you of her?”

“You did when I first saw you, all wrapped in an infirmary gown in the healing hall with your hair falling over your face. But from the moment I first looked into your eyes, I could see only… you.”

“I thought that you were blinded by the lack of something else.”

“That too. I am only male. You should know what that is like. Now. Are you going to try on this dress?”

She smiled slowly, a wicked glint in her eyes. “If you want me in it, you are going to have to put me in it.”

He smiled back, his eyes glinting as well. “As it pleases you, my prince.”

The chase went over the bed and around the bed, and through the wardrobe area, and around and over the half-unpacked saddlebags, and the pieces of armour being polished, and the table where they played chess, and the couch where they cuddled before the hearth. When he decided it was enough, he picked her up and tossed her onto the bed, and they were both chuckling as he began to divest her of her raiment and she pummelled him.

“Careful with the buttons! I happen to like this tunic!”

“It would help if you didn’t squirm so, my little mole.”

Ai! A pusta! That tickles!”

That tickled? How about this?” He blew a long raspberry into her bare navel and she burst into a peal of irrepressible laughter.

A loud knock on the door sounded.

They froze and stared at each other. Over the past twenty-nine years they had been disturbed whilst together in their chambers only seven times. Thrice, it had been a call to arms for the Commander in the middle of the night. Twice, it had been Elrond seeking to confer with Glorfindel on some matter of gravity. Another two times, it had been Thalanes at Maeglin’s door inviting her to partake in some revelry. It had not happened in the past fourteen years, and they had grown complacent.

In a second they were both off the bed, and in another three seconds he had bundled her into the small room behind the drape with the dress and her clothes.

Slightly dishevelled and hurriedly pulling on a tunic, Glorfindel opened the door.

Elladan and Elrohir stood in the corridor, smiling rather enigmatically, eyes twinkling.

“We rescued a caravan of traders from wargs, and so grateful were they that they gave us five of these, mellon-nín.” Elrohir brandished a ceramic and cork-stoppered flagon at the balrog slayer. “The most delightful little vintage!”

“Thranduil would part with a barrel of his Dorwinion for a taste of this,” said Elladan, who was holding three empty goblets. “Welcome home!”

Glorfindel managed a laugh as he combed his hair with his fingers. “A moment. Allow me to find my belt and boots and I will join you—”

“Oh no, no—you have your unpacking to do and your armour to polish.” “We will ply you with wine as you do both.” And with the nonchalance and over-familiarity of almost three thousand years, the twins slipped past him and sauntered over to his couch and the table. Much as they had barged in as elflings to bounce on his bed and climb the bedposts.

As Elladan poured out the wine, Elrohir picked up a book peeking out from under the bed.

“Advances in the Heat Treatment of Non-Ferrous Metals?” the younger twin read out. He looked up from the title page to Glorfindel with raised eyebrows.

As Glorfindel disliked lying and was terrible at it, he chose to avoid Elrohir’s gaze. His foot conveniently knocked over one of his saddle-bags, and he became engrossed in picking up a cooking pan, leaves of lembas, drying linen, and vials of elven toiletries from the floor.

On the other side of the wall, Maeglin had murmured softly, as Glorfindel quietly and quickly closed the door behind her, “A calë.”

By the golden glow of a wall-lamp shaped like a lily, she saw a small, windowless room six rangar wide and eight rangar long.

She had tried for twenty-four years not to think of this room, had not once looked in it again, had done her best to ignore the door behind the drape, and all that she thought lay behind it.

The walls were covered with tapestries. Gondolin. Vinyamar. Tirion in the Calacirya. Five carved-wood chests lined the wall to the left. An elegant black-walnut cabinet inlaid with pearl stood against the far wall.

The mountains of crates full of the love-gifts of five thousand years were gone.

She bit her lip. He had told her, twenty-four years ago, Go through it all if you wish…

With that permission in mind, she began to open the chests and the doors and drawers of the cabinet, hearing, as she did, laughter and familiar voices from the other side of the door.

Three chests were empty. One contained an assortment of pieces of armour, helmets, vambraces. The last held spare cloaks and blankets and travel packs. She recognized these as things that he had cleared out from his wardrobe to make space for her clothes and belongings in the main bedchamber over the years.

In the walnut cabinet were a variety of beautiful boxes and caskets and bags full of jewels and jewellery, sorted into gold, silver, gems and semi-precious stones. There were drawers full of offerings from the elflings of the valley… childish drawings of balrogs and golden-haired warriors and flowers, and little notes and letters scribbled in shaky Tengwar. She did not recognize all the names, but she saw a few from Elladan and Elrohir, Arwen, Estel, and even one from Camaen. There was not a love letter or lovesick song or poem or inscribed portrait in sight.

In one drawer she found the wooden carvings of Asfaloth and an eagle they had made many Midsummers ago.

Maeglin closed the drawers and sat down on the lid of a chest. And smiled.

After an hour or less, the flagon was empty. Glorfindel pleaded tiredness from his travels, and the need to rest before dinner. Elladan and Elrohir exchanged a look, and took their leave with what looked like knowing smiles.

“They have left, vesseya.” He sent the thought to her even as he made his way to open the door of the side room.

What he saw when he opened the door astonished him.

She stood in the centre of the room wearing the dress, and had braided her hair in a style that was simple but of the utmost elegance. As she shimmered in the light of the lamp, she took his breath away, no matter that he had just travelled a hundred leagues in the company of the fairest creature breathing in Arda.

“Where did it all go?” she asked, with a princely wave of the hand about the room.

“Thrown onto the compost heap in small batches. I kept only these for you.” He entered and opened the cabinet, showing her the bags of gold, silver and gems. “You can smelt down the metals, and use the gems.”

“Hantanyet,” she murmured. She closed the cabinet doors, and looked up at him.

“Well, I should get dressed,” he said. There would be a feast to welcome Arwen home that evening. “Should I wear white to match you, do you think? Or the blue one—”

Before he could say anything else, she had pushed him against the tapestry of Gondolin and was kissing him senseless.

 

A few years later, on the night of Tarnin Austa, they returned to their high love-nest above the valley. They shared a flask of elderberry wine and a harmonious silence interspersed by talk about friends and news. Estel’s latest adventures. Rumours of dwarves returning to Moria. The birth of a third son to Bain Lord of Dale.

“I will eternally be grateful to Bain’s father for that bottle of urnen,” Glorfindel said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“I have no idea what you mean. I took no more than a sip.”

“You downed half the flask, melmenya. I believe you would not have fallen into my arms otherwise, that night,” he said with a laugh. “Not the most auspicious of beginnings.”

“Agreed,” she said. “But we have not done badly since.”

“No. Not badly at all.”

She reached out her hand for the wineflask, and as she took it from him she slipped something into his hand.

By the silver radiance of the moon and stars, he saw on his palm a pale, slender, shimmering ring, gossamer-light and barely visible.

Ithildin,” he said in surprise.

Her hand uncurled to show a second ring in her own palm.

Ithildin. The mithril alloy perfected by the Noldorin smiths of Eregion, which had not been made in Ennor since the days of Celebrimbor, since mithril was no longer to be found.

“There was little in the books to go by, but I managed to figure out the formula.” Pride glinted in her long, black eyes. “They will be invisible when worn. Not even the sharpest of elven eyes would note their faint glimmer by moonlight or starlight against the sheen of elven skin.”

“But where did you get mithril…?” And then, he remembered.

A year into her apprenticeship, he had found her sitting outside the smithy, reading a book on the smiths of Eregion. Camaen had been born after the Last Alliance, and she had questions about mithril, which she had never seen. Ecstatic at being so welcome for once, Glorfindel had spent a happy hour answering her questions as best as he could. Seeing the speculative gleam in her eye when he told her the mines of Khazad-dûm were closed, he had added firmly, “And no!—I am not leading an expedition to Moria just so you and Camaen can mine mithril.”

But he had brought her something the next day.

“A comb?” Aghast and in awe at the same time, she had turned the light, precious, silvery metal reverently in her hand. The slender thing was worth more than seven hundred times its weight in gold. At least.

“I have never used it. It was a gift from an admirer,” he had said a little sheepishly. “It is yours now. Do what you will with it.”

Now, as they stood on the high ledge by the waterfalls, he asked her, “What made you decide to make the rings?”

She shrugged and smiled. “I wanted an excuse to experiment with Ithildin.”

He smiled. She would not say it, but he sensed her heart’s answer. Somehow it felt right. It felt like time. And one day, he prayed, she would feel the same about breaking their secrecy.

“So when shall we…?”

“Why not now?”

“As we are?” He looked at their attire: hunting tunics and leggings and boots.

“Why not? Does it matter?”

It did not. So under the Midsummer moon and stars, they joined hands, and called on Eru Ilúvatar and the Valar as witnesses, and prayed blessings on their bond, and slipped the secret rings on each other’s right forefingers.

And after they kissed, they smiled radiantly at each other.

Vesseya,” he said, kissing the ring on her hand.

And smiling at him a little wryly, she replied for the first time, “Vennoya.

“You are not going to pursue any other… special ring-making projects after this, are you?”

Her eyes twinkled in amusement. “Oh, no. I think the Noldor are quite done with all that.”

 

The knock on the door reverberated in the dark, silent corridor. “Hello there! Begging your pardon, but… are you quite all right in there?”

No answer.

The elderly hobbit shivered in the cold of the dark corridor. Wrapped in a green robe tied at the waist with a yellow sash, a matching night cap perched on his head, he had just raised his fist to knock again when the door swung open. Obsidian eyes gazed down on the diminutive visitor in some astonishment. In the light of the taper held aloft by the hobbit, the elleth’s hair shone like black silk. She was wrapped in a blue robe dark as midnight.

“Bilbo Baggins?” she said faintly, with a perplexed frown.

Bilbo recognized the smith. “Oh, my dear Lady Lómiel!” he said in admirably fluent Sindarin. “Forgive me for disturbing you at this hour… but I heard some sounds through the wall. I thought someone was hurt. I did not know this was your room.”

The glittering obsidian eyes widened slightly in shock as they gazed down at the hobbit. “You… are… next door?”

“Yes, indeed!” the hobbit, hugging himself to keep warm, nodded his head in the direction of the bedchamber into which he had just moved. The chamber between Maeglin and Glorfindel’s, which had lain empty for a hundred and seventeen years till it had gained a new resident this night.

She looked appalled. “Oh… I must have been dreaming. About a battle. A furious and frenetic battle.”

The bachelor nodded understandingly. “Ah, I dream of battles sometimes too… giant spiders, and goblins, and, of course, that terrible battle at the Lonely Mountain. Please knock on my door if my dreams keep you awake too.”

She managed a smile. “May no further dreams disturb either of us tonight. Ollo vae, perian.” She bowed her head gracefully.

“Ollo vae, híril-nín,” replied the hobbit, beaming affably. The tassels on his nightcap swung as he bowed politely in return, then ambled back to his new chamber at Imladris.

She closed the door behind her, leaned on it, and exhaled slowly.

Glorfindel, who had been hiding behind the door, slid his arms around her, and they leaned against each other and stifled their laughter as much as they could.

“Now we know how thin these walls are,” said Glorfindel softly, kissing her on the nose.

“They were a foot thick at Gondolin,” said Maeglin with a regretful sigh.

“Not that we had need of it then, my prince,” he said, as they made their way back to her bed.

“Are hobbit ears very sharp?” she asked, as they slipped under the sheets.

“Fairly, for mortals. Poor Bilbo. I would dearly love to hang Erestor by his ankles over a ravine right now.”

“Hmmm… ‘a furious and frenetic battle’. Shall we resume?”

“Will it not disturb our good hobbit?”

“I shall do my utmost to die quietly. But it depends, of course, on how you wield your weapon…”

 

As the archer dressed in the green and brown garb of a Mirkwood hunter rode through Imladris valley with Glorfindel, his eyes were busy taking in every detail of the trees and gardens lining the road, and the grand house ahead of him.

Standing before the great entrance, Elrond observed the laughing violet eyes and pale silver-blond hair of his guest. Glorfindel said something to the young ellon and they exchanged warm, oddly similar smiles that lit up the spring evening. But once the archer’s eyes rested on Elrond, his face grew solemn and he pulled himself taller, conscious of his role as ambassador.

“Le suilannon, Hîr Elrond,” said the prince of Mirkwood solemnly and courteously, after he had gracefully dismounted from his steed. He swept a deep and deferential bow. “Ni veren an le ngovaned! I bring greetings and well-wishes from my father King Thranduil of the Greenwood.”

So, amongst themselves they still call it that, thought Elrond, as he bowed his head to his guest. “Welcome and well met, Legolas Thranduilion,” said the Lord of Imladris with a smile. 

At dinner that night, Legolas befriended Elladan and Elrohir, who remembered him as a shy, tiny elfling peeking out from behind his father’s robe during their visit to Mirkwood eight hundred and fifty years ago. Before long, the Woodland Prince had warmed up and was merrily regaling his neighbours at the table with tales of their adventures on the way to Imladris, and the awesome prowess of Glorfindel in slaughtering the pack of orcs and wargs they had encountered just east of the Misty Mountains. It was his first journey so far from his birthplace, and the older elves at the table smiled at his youthful enthusiasm and excitement at discovering the wide lands of Ennor.

“Legolas exaggerates—he had quite an impressive body count himself,” said Glorfindel. “He is the Mirkwood’s finest warrior!”

Legolas glowed with pleasure at his hero’s praise.

“And how did you find your sojourn at the Mirkwood, Lord Glorfindel?” asked Erestor. “Not too many spiders, I hope?”

“Only about two dozen spiders on the way in and out. The Dorwinion wine was, as always, excellent! And I must say that the woodland folk outdid themselves in hospitality.” Even Thranduil had been in a singularly good mood.

“Do you mean the hospitality of our woodland realm ellith?” laughed Legolas. “I believe they declare a day of mourning every time he leaves,” he said to Elladan and Elrohir. “I have never seen anyone attract so many maids in their wake.” He lowered his voice confidentially as he spoke. “He cannot keep them out of his bedchamber at night no matter how hard he tries. There was one really funny incident with a tenacious Silvan damsel. She almost caused a riot in the guest wing, and in the end the guards had to escort her out of his room—”

Soft as his voice was, an intense hush fell over the entire dining hall. Just a fraction of a second. Then everyone seemed highly engrossed either with their wine or the food on their plates, and tried not to look somewhere.

Legolas paused in mid-sentence, arrested by the stricken look on Glorfindel’s face. The elflord’s blue eyes had darkened and for the first time Legolas saw what looked like trepidation in the face of the fearless warrior. He was staring at someone at the far end of the long table.

There, seated in between Lord Elrond and an elderly hobbit familiar to Legolas, was a beauty with hair as black as a raven’s wing. She sat very still, her eyes fixed on a point on the table just beyond her plate. She wore a gown of deep red and its ruby hue threw into stunning relief her snowy skin and shining black hair, which fell loose down her back, held only by a thin gold circlet with a single white gem on her brow. Her perfect features were immobile and expressionless, but a golden fire was beginning to flicker and flash dangerously in her obsidian eyes. Her slender white hand held a fork poised in mid-air above her plate, and her fingers were tightening on it as though she might stab someone with it.

Very quietly, she laid down her fork, rose from her chair with the regal dignity of a queen, made a small curtsey to Elrond at the head of the table and walked out of the hall.

Glorfindel flushed, rose quickly, and with a bow to Elrond and the whole company left the hall as well.

“I am so sorry, I had no idea!” cried Legolas remorsefully.

There was much less state and formality at Imladris than the woodland realm. Erestor, Lindir and Elrond’s twins rushed out to the verandah that ran the length of the dining hall. After some hesitation, curiosity won over propriety, and Legolas followed.

They saw the lass running through the gardens with Glorfindel in hot pursuit. Near the pond, he caught her hand and pulled her to a stop. Tried to placate her earnestly.

“Melmenya—“

Five pairs of elven ears tuned into the conversation.

“What is he saying?” asked Legolas, who had perfectly good hearing but could not understand Quenya.

‘Nothing happened—’ ” said Elrohir, straining his ears, for the golden-haired lord was speaking quietly and quickly. “It is not easy. They are using a very old Quenya.”

“For how long have they been—er—” enquired Legolas, imagining with some glee the mourning of the Mirkwood maidens once they learned Ennor’s most eligible bachelor was spoken for.

“Forty-six years,” said Erestor.

“No, fifty-eight. Since the Gondolin anniversary celebrations, I think,” Lindir said.

“Fifty-eight!” said Bilbo at Lindir’s elbow. “Oh my! What are they waiting for?”

“Well—it has all been rather secretive actually. I think she is a bit shy—” began Lindir.

The shy beauty gave the golden-haired warrior a tight slap across the face. It resounded loud and clear across the rose gardens.

Oohhh. . .” murmured the audience at the dining windows.

“What is she saying now?” asked Legolas, seconded by Bilbo.

’Go kiss a balrog—‘” said Erestor, who looked like he was enjoying this more than he should.

“Those were choice words a little ruder than that, I think,” said Elrond drily from behind his sons, having joined the group on the verandah at some point in the last few seconds with Arwen, who was trying not to laugh, at his side.

“Now he is angry.”

“There she goes again.”

“She runs well.”

“No one outruns Glorfindel. Oh, he has her. Good tackle.”

Glorfindel, all too aware of the attention they were getting from the dining hall, slung his kicking and struggling beloved over his shoulder, and carried her towards the bridges near the waterfalls, out of earshot.

“All righty, everyone, I think dessert is being served,” said Bilbo, eyeing the plate of delectable lemon tart being placed on the table behind them.

“You must excuse us, Legolas. We are all family here in this household,” said Elrond, as everyone took their seats again.

“Extremely nosy family,” said Elrohir cheerfully as he sat down.

Legolas reflected that this lack of formality would take quite a lot of getting used to, but he rather liked it.

 

“How can you know me so poorly after all these years?” he was protesting indignantly. “How many times must you hear me say it? I have bedded just one in all my two lives: you. There is just one for whom my heart beats: you.”

“How can you wonder it upsets me when you let half of Endórë paw at you and press up against you?”

“I know, vesseya, I know. But I do nothing to encourage it. And you know I never reciprocate! I step back, or hold them away.”

“Oh yes—ever so courteously and chivalrously! I heard the twins’ tale of the time they accompanied you to Mirkwood. You let one Silvan skank stick her tongue down your throat!”

“Holy Varda! Don’t you know by now how much they exaggerate? And that was eight-and-a-half centuries ago!”

“Was it the same skank in your chamber this round?”

He sighed. “No. Someone else. Thranduil entered with Legolas and his entire retinue just as… I was trying to… persuade her to leave. The King doesn’t believe in knocking. Nothing happened that should worry you.”

The mind-bond between mates could be a curse at times. Her eyes narrowed dangerously at the flashes of images. A bed. A brunette with grey-green eyes. A lot of flesh and very little clothing.

Nothing indeed!” she growled. “She was all over you, I surmise?”

“She was… a little aggressive, but I had it under control.”

“Under control!” she snarled. “You know what I think it is? You enjoy it more than you will admit to yourself!”

“I do not enjoy it! You have no idea how tiresome it is!” He caught hold of her hands, and gazed into her obsidian eyes. “Do you know how much I have missed you these seven months? Have we not gone through this enough? There is nothing I could say that I have not said a hundred times already. By all that is holy, what will it take before you give me your trust? Before you will believe in me?”

The fire in her black eyes died down. She gazed at him wretchedly. “I… Forgive me.”

He pulled her into his arms, and they kissed with all the hunger and need of a seven-month-long fast.

When they finally broke apart, he looked down at her tenderly but also with some exasperation. “Why, why is it so difficult for you to trust me? I have been and will always be true to you. You know it.”

“Yes. Yes, I do know it.”

“Why do you fear so much, then?”

“I do not know.” Deep within her fëa, scars lingered still. The deepest among them, that she was not worthy of love.

After a silence, he took her hand and looked resolute. “There is one and only one solution. Marry me.”

“What are you talking about? We are married—”

“Before the whole world, I mean. Shout it from the peaks of the Hithaeglir! It is the only way. I am sorely weary of throwing nissi out of my bed when I travel. I want you to move into my room, and not have to be creeping about every day—”

“What is wrong with my room?”

Whichever room. Our room. I want to kiss you in the corridors if I want, and hold your hand during festivals if I want, and not worry anyone will see. Everyone knows! Every nér and nís and rocco in Imladris. No nís in our valley has propositioned me for the last three decades. Bilbo knew within a week of his arriving to stay here—not because he heard us next door, but because a little bird who plays a lute told him. Our good hobbit wagged his finger and told me not stay too long away from my lady and ‘be good’ when I left. The entire valley knows about us. And you know full well that they know! Why else did you march out of the dining hall in front of the entire household?”

Yes. She did know. She barely kept up the pretence, nowadays. But she folded her arms and looked away from him, her mouth pressed in a stubborn line.

Vesseya,” he said firmly, “I want our friends to no longer have to play this ridiculous charade, pretending they know nothing. And it annoys me that some imagine I have a commitment problem. Erestor refers to you as ‘that poor, wronged girl’. Bilbo pats my hand and advises me to ‘do the right thing’. Gildor the nomad had the gall to tell me last spring that it is about time I ‘settle down’. I should like to see him ‘settle down’!”

Arms still folded, she gave him a sidelong glance. The corner of her mouth was beginning to quiver in amusement.

“Give me one—one good reason why we should not,” he pressed her.

“Hmmm…”

He got down on his knees before her. “Maeglin Lómiel Eöliel, make an honest man of me, I pray. Let us keep away and treasure the secret bands of starlight and moonlight. And once I wear your gold ring on my finger for all to see, I assure you that all the nissi in Arda will give me a wide berth. Forever.”

She gazed down at him in silence for a while.

It might have been that fifty-eight years of connubial contentment had at last given her confidence in the durability of their love.

It might have been the thought of all the elfmaids of Arda weeping at the sight of the gold ring on his finger, including the skanks of Mirkwood.

It might have been a casual comment he had made one evening six years ago, about exploring the lands to the east together some day—a hint that he might consider heading east to Cuiviénen and beyond, rather than west to Aman.

It might have been the scare she had four winters ago, when Beril carried him back to Imladris gravely injured. She had faced, for six terrifying, devastating hours, the possibility of a life without him, and come close to collapse. As the household thronged outside the healing hall, murmuring and anxious, Lindir and Camaen had hovered anxiously at her side, unable to offer the comfort she refused to acknowledge she needed. Silently, she had framed her first desperate prayer in this life. And, not having much faith in prayer, had resolved to brave the voyage to the west should his fëa go to Mandos a second time.

But Eru had been kind. Within a day he was out of danger, and conscious, and able to smile as she gave him a tongue-lashing for almost getting himself killed. If the incident had not entirely restored her faith in prayer, it had shifted something within her. Dreaded it might be, but Aman was no longer an impossibility.

It might have been all of these things, or something else altogether. Whatever it was, she now smiled, and took his face in her hands, and kissed his lips with the utmost tenderness.

He could hardly believe it had finally happened. “I take it that is a… yes?”

She nodded. And as his face lit up with jubilation, she held up one finger and spoke sternly. “But a very quiet ceremony, mind you. No crowds, no fuss. We shall announce it after the event.”

“Very well. Lord Elrond to say the blessings for us?”

“And Lady Galadriel, I suppose, if she would consent to travel here. No one else.”

“Certainly, vesseya.”

 

The twilight ceremony took place two months later, on a high bridge near the largest waterfall in the valley, just as spring began to make way for summer.

“If you imagine I am going to forgive you for this, you are mistaken,” Maeglin said to him, as she accepted the congratulations and gifts of the eight-hundred-and-ninety-seventh guest, her smile beginning to hurt.

“You shall survive. Relax. Enjoy it.” Glorfindel, at ease and luminously smiling, was in his element, as he received the gifts from another guest and handed them to the elfmaids standing behind them, who were arranging and organizing the gifts on and under two large tables on the lawns before the house.

They were both resplendent in robes of white and grey embroidered with silver and gold, the handiwork of Arwen and her ladies.

The wedding feast had begun at noon. Numerous white pavilions had blossomed across the gardens, and between them were spaces for dancing, and tables groaning under the weight of the Imladrin chefs’ most delectable dishes. Milling around the nuptial couple was a crowd of just about every ellon and elleth and roch in Imladris. Mingling with them were Estel and some forty of the Rangers of the North. A contingent of almost thirty from Mirkwood included Legolas Thranduilion, while the party of ninety from Lothlórien was headed by Celeborn and included Haldir and Teliaris his wife. Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown represented the Istari, Círdan was there with some mariners from the Havens, and Bilbo Baggins of the Shire graced the event in his finest waistcoat. Under the jewel-coloured lamps festooning the trees, the multitude of people stretched out from the lawns before the house, to the waterfall pools.

To be fair to Glorfindel, it was not at all his fault. He had spoken only to Elrond, and sent a private message to Galadriel, just as he had promised Maeglin. Yet the word had somehow spread like wildfire, and the world had invited themselves. Amazingly, Erestor and Lindir had been able to handle the load of guests with no problems… and seemed barely surprised by the influx.

Maeglin had been more nervous about meeting Lady Galadriel than she would ever care to admit. Upon her arrival at Imladris, the Lady of the Golden Woods had looked deep into the black eyes of her nephew’s chosen with her piercing, brilliant gaze. Then slowly, she had smiled.

“I rejoice to see the beauty of Irissë daughter of Nolofinwë walk the mortal lands again.”

And taking her cousin’s daughter by the arm to walk into the house, the Lady had added, as their lips spoke of the journey and the weather, “You have much of your mother’s beauty and spirit, but your lot shall be happier by far than hers, young one. May this life be blessed as the other was not.”

Maeglin had caught her breath, and turned her own sharp, dark glance on the Lady of Lothlórien’s face. And then the two had shared a smile.

There was joyous feasting and dancing and revelry until the sun set. Then, as the stars grew brilliant in the sky, Lady Galadriel and Lord Elrond declared the blessings of Manwë and Varda over the joined hands of Glorfindel and Maeglin, as the four of them stood on the waterfall bridge. And as the gold rings made by the bride were slipped onto their forefingers, everyone murmured to see them glow in the twilight with a brightness beyond that of the finest gold... a brightness akin to that of the famed hair of the groom and the Lady of Lothlórien. For Maeglin had finally discovered the use most fitting for the tress shorn from his head, that so long ago had been the proof of his love for her. Finding a means to capture its light within precious metal, she created gold brighter than any that had been before, or has been since.

There followed music and song, and feasting and dancing all night. Bilbo contentedly fell asleep on cushions under an oak tree. Gandalf illuminated the night with exquisite fireworks of flowers and fountains and great citadels. The Imladrim laughed when Círdan got tipsy and pushed Erestor into the fountain. And Estel and Arwen stole kisses high above the crowd in the star dome.

And when the Lord of the Golden Flower led out his bride for a dance under the stars and the moon and a blaze of fireworks, the Lord of the Mole did not decline.

In the brilliant flares of jewel-light that streamed from Gandalf’s staff, Glorfindel thought he saw the faces of the Valar smiling down on them, as the glittering sparks hung high in the sky, and ere they dissolved into the darkness of the night.

Woven into the music of the flute and the harp, Maeglin thought she could hear faint dance music, echoing down through the ages from a great hall in Gondolin.

And in the memories, as she danced at last with her golden-haired love, there was no longer a shadow of shame.

 


Glossary

Abedithon le (S) – talk to you later

Daeradar (S) - grandfather

No vaer i dhû (S) – may the night be good (good night)

A pusta (Q) – Stop that

Ollo vae, perian (S) – Sweet dreams, halfling (hobbit)

Le suilannon (S) – I give you greetings (reverential)

Ni veren an le ngovaned (S) – It brings me joy to meet you

Endórë (Q) - Middle-Earth / Ennor (S)

Rocco (Q) - horse / roch (S)

 

 

Chapter Text

“Four periain,” said Glorfindel. “How can you send four periain on such a dangerous quest?”

The company of three in Elrond’s study looked out of the west-facing windows. A little snow was floating down in soft, light flakes. Four small, furry-footed figures, looking like children wrapped in soft, thick cloaks, walked below them on the snow-covered terraces overlooking the gorge of the Bruinen.

Elrond was silent in response to Glorfindel’s question. He had, indeed, initially considered sending his Commander. For could there have been a more natural choice? The warrior had slain a balrog. He had driven Sauron out of Lindon and fought against him at Eregion and at Barad-dûr. He had defeated the Witch-King of Angmar at Fornost, and the Nazgûl fled before his power. There had seemed to be little need to even deliberate it.

But Gandalf had been seeking behind closed doors to persuade the Lord of Imladris otherwise, and when young Peregrin Took had loudly voiced his determination to follow the Fellowship willy-nilly if he was excluded, Elrond had relented—suddenly, and against his better judgement. And with that, four hobbits had completed the fellowship.

Glorfindel, standing behind Elrond as the decision had been made, had been stunned, then appalled, then up in arms.

Now, the elf-lord, the wizard and the elf-warrior stood by the study windows listening to the hobbits’ banter as it mingled with the rushing song of the Bruinen river.

 “They barely know how to hold a short sword,” said the balrog slayer. “In an attack by yrch and wargs, they would survive a minute if they are lucky.”

“Thankfully, they will not be on their own,” said Gandalf.

“Yes, thank Eru. But the five of you should concentrate on protecting the Ringbearer and Samwise. Why have Meriadoc and Peregrin add to the burden? They are mere babes!”

As if to prove his point, the two younger hobbits began at that point to roughhouse each other over a disparaging remark about the wit of Tooks. Soon handfuls of snow, and guffaws of laughter, and silly words were flying wildly back and forth on the terrace.

Glorfindel, well-known to love a good snow fight, could only say with a sigh, “At least their throwing aim is good. If only snowballs and stones would be proof enough against the Nazgûl and against yrch wielding swords and spears. I have grown deeply fond of the periain. But I fear for them and the success of the quest if they are four out of the nine you send. I would have desired a month at least to train them in the fundamentals of swordplay, and they are leaving in a week.”

“I do not believe fighting prowess will matter greatly in this quest,” said Gandalf.

“With the armies of the Shadow overrunning the lands east, it is hard to believe they would have no use for it. And you have not given a single good reason why Meriadoc and Peregrin should go. ‘Trust to their friendship.’ What manner of logic or wisdom is that, Mithrandir?”

They watched the hobbits gaze south across the Bruinen gorge and huddle together in quieter, more earnest talk. They might have no idea of what lay before them, but they were feeling some of its enormity. As they looked towards the mountains, they looked smaller, more child-like, and more vulnerable than ever.

 “Elrond,” said Glorfindel softly, sensing the slightest wavering in his lord. “Send me with them. Please. Surely it was for a time such as this that I was sent.”

“There are many reasons why it is not for you to go, Glorfindel,” said Gandalf.

“Since we rely on speed and secrecy, their number must be small,” said Elrond

“Why nine? Why not ten? Ten is still a small number. Nine walkers for nine riders is poetic rubbish. One more elf. Just one more.”

“This is the age of mortals,” said Elrond. “In many senses this is no longer our war, deeply though we may care about its outcome and the fate of these lands we are soon to depart.”

Glorfindel understood that Elrond spoke for the Eldar. For Legolas, half-Silvan in blood, prince of a people who had no desire to sail west and whose roots were deep in this land, it was still his fight.

“Can an elf not elect to fight for mortals? Would they protest?” he said in exasperation, even as he pondered if he, too, might not remain and thus make this fight his.

“Should we send two for the elves, you may be sure the dwarves will be up in arms,” said Gandalf. “And since secrecy is of the utmost importance, you cannot go. You would draw notice. Your light and power would shine like a beacon to the enemy.”

“And yours would not? You both know that I travel in the Wild all the time. Mithrandir, you have travelled with me! You know I can pass unobserved. Almost as well as you do.”

It was true. With his shining hair hidden by cloak and hood, he could pass as silently and secretly as any other through any terrain. Unfortunately, at the moment that he spoke, the winter sun emerged from behind a cloud and its beams shone through the study windows. His golden hair caught and magnified it in a dazzling halo, and his whole being was illuminated in a nimbus of light. It seemed to be as a verdict from the heavens.

Elrond and Gandalf looked at the luminous vision of beauty before them—Glorfindel at his least inconspicuous—and smiles played at the corners of their mouths.

“Do you need me to shear off my hair?” the warrior asked with a touch of desperation, almost half-serious.

“It is more than the hair.” Gandalf’s eyes twinkled. “One manifestation of your power in battle against orcs or the Nazgûl and we would be given away.”

“One flash of light from your staff would arguably do the same,” Glorfindel retorted. “If you can avoid using your staff and magic, I can avoid displays of power. I shall rely alone on my sword and my bow and the strength of my limbs, and those would surely be of use.”

“This quest is not a matter of strength, Glorfindel,” said Gandalf. “Not a matter of strength, or a warrior’s skill.”

“Strange is the wisdom of a maia. Is the quest then a matter of skill with a sling or pebble and a penchant for good food? The periain are neither quieter nor stealthier than an elf, and they are venturing into lands swarming with orcs armed to the teeth!” 

“You are the tallest and mightiest of elf-lords and elf-warriors in Ennor, Glorfindel, and it is true that in battle you are worth an army,” said Elrond. “But this quest is not an open confrontation with the dark forces. It is that which is small, even that which is deemed weak and insignificant—precisely that which the Dark Lord would scorn to notice—which will ultimately be his undoing. This is not your quest.”

“I am sworn to protect. With the fate of all Ennor hanging in the balance, how do you expect me to stand idly by as the Ringbearer walks into the jaws of Mordor? It is a hard thing, as a warrior, to be told to lay your sword down when a war has begun. Mithrandir, you told me, some time ago, that my service in Ennor was not done. That there was a purpose to my being here.”

“Your place and purpose is here in this realm, and at my side,” said Elrond. “Stay and protect this valley, for we do not know if any dark assault will come against it.”

Glorfindel sighed deeply, and folded his arms, struggling within himself.

“Be sure that there will be many battles fought across Ennor in the struggle that is to come,” said Gandalf. “You do not have to walk with the Ring to play a part.”

Glorfindel gazed out of the window across the valley he loved so well and was silent for a while. “When I rode out with the scouts, we encountered some wargs, but I felt it deep in my fae: there will be no dark assault upon this place. I know it. The battles of this war will be east and south of the Hithaeglir. My sword would be idle here.”

And Elrond and the wizard knew deep within them that he spoke true. The balrog slayer turned to face them, his fair face stern. “I have heard your reasons, and I remain unconvinced. I am not convinced that only nine should go, nor that my power would endanger the quest, nor that only one should go for the elves, nor that the unhappiness of dwarves over two elves on the quest should even be a consideration. If nine walkers it must be, I can only beg you one last time to change your mind about sending four periain. I offer the Company more than fighting, tracking or hunting skills. I am a healer. I cook. I know the lands and peoples between the Hithaeglir and Barad-dûr well. I speak all the languages of the Free Peoples fluently, and a smattering of Black Speech for reconnaissance and interrogation purposes. Let me replace young Peregrin Took! Send the boy home to the Shire, or I will use the same threat as he did: you will have to lock me up, or I swear I will follow after the Nine when they leave. Unless Eru or his Valar themselves tell me nay.”

And with a bow to them, he turned and strode out of the study. The room grew darker once he left.

Elrond shook his head. “I fear he may make good on his threat,” he said to the grey wizard.

Gandalf chuckled. “Well, well. He has called upon the name of Eru and the Valar. I have the oddest feeling he may just get an answer.”

 

Maeglin was humming—actually humming—as she returned to the house from the smithy.

Her mind was filled with glowing images of her accomplishment: the reforging of the sword shards of Narsil. Into that work had gone all her expertise and experience from her years in Gondolin and her years under her father’s tutelage. Every fibre of her being was singing and alive. She did not feel weary after the long day of work, though Camaen and Hatheldir were exhausted. She felt as though she could climb a mountain, take on a balrog alone.

Glóin had watched as the three elven smiths subjected the ancient sword of dwarven make to repeated rounds of welding, regrinding, hardening and tempering. He had glowered at them from under his thick white eyebrows, disapproving and dour, as they cast elven spells upon the metal and set many intricate runes of power and engravings of the sun, moon and stars upon the blade. When Gimli and Estel joined them at the smithy, Maeglin caught sight of discreet hand signals between father and son. Bets were on as to whether the sword formed from the fragments would be weak, whether it would lose length, or whether the metal would be thinned.

I’ll show you, you arrogant bastards. The blade will slice through stone like butter, and be neither thinner nor shorter by even a hair.

If Hatheldir had been unnerved by the dwarves’ scrutiny, and Camaen had been cheerfully oblivious, Maeglin’s eyes had glinted with relish at the challenge. She wondered what the dwarves would have thought had they known that Maeglin as a boy had watched the birth of this very sword in Telchar’s forge six thousand years ago. Some of the techniques being used now in the Imladrin forge had been learned by Eöl from the dwarves themselves, and refined and developed by him. And what would those proud stiff-necked dwarves think if they knew that those ancient and revered techniques of the great Gamil Zirak and Telchar, lost by the dwarves over the Third Age, survived now only in the memory of a she-elf in Imladris? And a faint smirk had graced her lips as she worked.

At last, the Sword-that-was-broken was made whole, and reborn as a weapon of surpassing beauty, lethal and strong. Not the slightest trace of the fault lines remained, and after they had given it its final grind and polished it, it had gleamed bright with a reddish hue as Camaen laid it in Estel’s hands. The resurrected sword had sung and flamed as the descendant of Elendil had swung it through the air and in a ringing voice given it a new name: Andúril, Flame of the West.

And Maeglin, catching sight of the hand signals between Glóin and Gimli, reckoned that if those signs had not changed too greatly over two ages, she could read there some grudging approval and respect amid the nit-picking critique. She met their eyes as they rested on her with some curiosity and wonder. And when she bowed respectfully to them, they bowed back.

Maeglin retired to the chambers she shared with Glorfindel wearing a triumphant glow.

In the end, it had been she who had moved in with Glorfindel after the wedding. With its two side rooms, his quarters had more than ample space for them both. Bilbo had moved out of the large adjoining room and chosen a smaller, cosier, south-facing room in the same wing. “I am only a little fellow, and I don’t want all that huge space and high ceilings. It’s all very good for you tall folks,” the hobbit had said, “but it gets too chilly in winter for my old bones.”

The smith was stripping off her sweaty, work-stained clothes when her warrior opened the door. One look at his face would have been enough to tell her his day had not gone as well as hers, even if Estel had not brought her word of who had been chosen as the nine walkers. If she was honest with herself, she would have realized it was another reason for her good mood. It was as though she had been holding her breath for two months, and could now at last breathe freely.

“Come here,” she said, clad only in a white slip and opening her arms to him.

Without a word, he tossed her onto the bed and dove in after her. Bilbo would have been thankful he was no longer in residence next door.

Sometime after that, as they sat in the bath, he shared his frustration and told her about his concerns regarding the hobbits, and recounted what Elrond and Gandalf had said.

“What it comes down to is this,” he said at the end, as he rinsed soap from her hair. “Is it not my duty and responsibility to be on this quest?”

“You were sent to help the perelda. Not to bring Sauron down.”

“Ah, that help to Elrond has from the very outset included bringing Sauron down. All the more since I have come to love these lands and these people.” And to hate Sauron with a vengeance. He remembered the deaths of Celebrimbor and many other friends in Eregion and at Barad-dûr. He thought of Maeglin. Gently towelling her hair dry, he realized how very personal this had become for him. He frowned as he caught sight of her thigh. “You’re bruised. Was I too rough just now?”

“No. I liked it.” Maeglin took a comb and passed it through his golden tresses, then asked a question she had wondered about for a long time. “Why did you and Elrond not sail back to Aman after the Second Age?”

“The Dark Lord might have been vanquished, but we were uneasy… Isildur had refused to destroy the One Ring, and with his death it remained at large. Elrond had other reasons to stay, besides. Neither he nor his new bride had any memories of Valinor, and his bride’s family desired to remain here. He himself had little longing at that time for a reunion with parents he could barely remember. For a while he kept alive hopes of finding Maglor, though that has waned over time.” He in turn combed through her hair. “For me, whilst Elrond remains here, so will I.” A silence fell… Elrond was preparing to leave soon, and the dreaded spectre of going to Aman hung over them.

They did not speak again until they stood in their wardrobe, choosing clothes. “Surely not the midnight-blue again, melmenya,” Glorfindel said.  “You have been wearing that every week.”

With an arched eyebrow and a wry smile at him, Maeglin put back the midnight-blue and searched through the dresses further. “You were saying that you saw going on this quest as a duty.”

“In the last hundred years, I had begun to lose sight of my purpose here. Now we know that Sauron has returned, I have found it again. I need to see this to the end. To finish what was left undone at Barad-dûr by the Last Alliance.” Glorfindel was looking through robes of a dozen shades of blue and wondering which to wear.

Maeglin took out a dress of deep purple that she seldom wore. “You cannot bear to miss out on the adventure.”

He was about to retort that with the fate of Middle Earth and all its Free Peoples at stake, and given the grave dangers of the quest, adventure would be the last thing on anyone’s mind, when he caught her eye.

“You are right,” he admitted after a pause. “It is also that.”

“And I begin to see the meaning in Elrond and Mithrandir’s arguments. Sauron expects the armies of the wise and mighty to rise against him. He expects the War of Wrath and the Siege of Barad-dûr again. He would never expect the foolishness of nine walkers and the folly of small feet creeping into Mordor under the gaze of the Eye, barely armed.”

“I am capable of creeping into Mordor with the best perian! And I would want to make sure that they get that far… though I know you would rather I stay here.” He pulled on light grey leggings and searched for his blue tunic with silver trim.

“Of course I would,” Maeglin said, a catch in her voice as she laced up her white undergarment. “Had you been chosen, I would have said nothing. But you have not been chosen—”

She froze and caught her breath. They both did.

They felt it at the same time.

It was very small, very bright, very alive, and just come into being.

Their eyes, azure-blue and obsidian-black, grew wide as they looked at each other. 

“Just now?” Glorfindel said, his eyes darkening with emotion. “It happened just now?”

Maeglin said nothing, still in shock, her black eyes dazed.

“How can it be?” he said softly in wonder. “During a war. Of all times, it shouldn’t happen during a war—”

Then another little light kindled. And Glorfindel, still gazing into Maeglin’s wide obsidian eyes, found himself equally bereft of speech.

Dropping his tunic on the floor, he stepped towards her and kissed her tenderly. Lifting her in his arms carefully, he laid her down gently on their bed. He looked at her belly for a moment, then stooped to kiss it.

He looked up at Maeglin’s face. She still looked stunned. Even aghast.

Smiling, he gently brushed a damp strand of dark hair back from her face, lay down beside her, and held her in his arms.

And as his fëa reached out to the two tiny, bright fëar in loving welcome, and drew hers close to cradle it gently in the reassurance of his light, Glorfindel knew he would not be following the nine.

 

Elrond stole a sidelong glance at Glorfindel, as the warrior sat lost in thought on a window ledge of the Star Dome. A chill winter breeze lifted his golden hair, and a light snow was falling, but he did not feel it though he wore only the thinnest of grey woollen cloaks over his tunic. There was little shelter from the elements in this high stone rotunda, despite the roof and the glass dome. Large open windows were set on all sides of the tower, giving clear views of the valley north, south, east and west. The Lord of Imladris himself wore a dark-red cloak trimmed with fur. Hardy as they were, not all elves were as impervious to the cold as the warrior of Valinor was.

It was now over a month since the Company of the Ring had set forth. As they had bidden farewell to the nine on a midwinter dusk, Glorfindel’s face had been serene. In fact, for the past month, Glorfindel had seemed to glow with a preternatural calm. The thoughts of many in the household were with the Company as they journeyed south, so the mood was more sombre, and there was less jollity and laughter in the Hall of Fire. But Elrond sensed his Commander was deep in thought over other issues. He had decided it was time to have a talk.

“They should have gone past Nanduhirion by now,” Glorfindel was saying to Elrond as he gazed south, “if all has gone according to plan.” He sat perched precariously on the window ledge, oblivious to the hundred-foot drop below it.

“I would feel better if you got down from that window, Glorfindel. Even you might be hard put to survive such a fall.”

The warrior swung himself gracefully onto the tower floor and stood next to Elrond.

“Glorfindel,” said Elrond gently. “I hope you do see why you could not go?”

“Yes. You were right. It was my pride that could not accept it. I have lived by the sword for five thousand years. It feels strange to lay it down.”

The border patrols continued to go out as a precaution. They had killed a few small packs of wargs in the first two weeks after the Company had left, but there had been nothing since. To have no work for one’s sword should be good news, but not when you know that there are vast battles afoot in far lands.

“Your sword need not be idle for long. Have you decided whether you will ride out with Elladan and Elrohir to join the Rangers?”

“I have decided.” Glorfindel paused, and Elrond saw a wistful look cross his face. “I will not go,” the warrior said quietly and firmly, looking out of a window.

Elrond followed his gaze out of the west-facing tower window. From it, one could see the Imladris smithy lying beyond the rooftops of the great house. Wrapped in a dark blue winter cloak, a slender figure was carrying a load of firewood from a shed to the smithy.

“Excuse me a while, hîr-nín.”

Glorfindel vaulted out of the west-facing window even as he spoke, onto the snow covered rooftop that lay twenty feet below. “Give me two minutes,” he called back over his shoulder as he raced swiftly across the different levels of roofing to the other end of the house. He swung himself down by the bare trees growing there, and vanished from sight for a moment. Elrond watched as he reappeared, took the load of wood from his lady and carried it into the smithy for her.

And it occurred to Elrond that maybe he should start observing Lómiel as well.

Glorfindel came swiftly back over the roof, scaled the tower with ease using the rough masonry for hand and footholds, and swung himself back into the window, glowing from his exertions but not even breathing faster.

“There are stairs,” said Elrond drily.

“Ah, but that was so much more fun!” said the warrior, smiling radiantly. “Now. Where were we?”

“Why would you choose to stay here?” Elrond demanded. “You are restless from idleness here, and your energy has no outlet. You know you want to ride with the Rangers. You were desperate to walk with the Nine, and now there are battles in which you are needed!”

Glorfindel looked deeply conflicted as he began to pace slowly around the stone platform. Then, as though it had everything to do with what they had just been speaking of, he said, “Whatever the outcome of this war, whether the Ringbearer succeeds or fails in his quest, you will sail west.”

“Yes. It is so.”

“I might not sail, peredhel.”

“What?” said Elrond in shock. “I know you have longed to return home to Valinor for five millennia, though you have not said it. Your family waits for you. Our family waits for you.” Four-and-a-half millennia of bearing Vilya had wearied the Lord of Imladris. He longed for rest. He longed for his wife.

“Home and family are wherever my love chooses to be. And I think that she may choose to stay.”

“She is young. Perhaps she cannot feel yet the call of the sea, yet surely she will go wherever you choose.”

“She does not wish to go to Aman. There are… reasons.”

“Ah.” Elrond nodded. “I have had my guess about her… origins.”

“You have?” Glorfindel eyed him questioningly. “And what might that be, if not the prince of Gondolin?”

From the balrog slayer’s wry, gentle smile, Elrond could not tell if this was said in jest. “That she might be descended from Fëanorians.”

“Aahh,” said Glorfindel, with a laugh. “Now, that would make perfect sense, would it not? The secrecy about her parentage and where she comes from. That pride bordering on arrogance. That dark, fiery spirit. That ruthless devotion to and skill in craft. I must say she does seem more Fëanorian than Celebrimbor ever was!”

“It would explain much,” said Elrond. “Including her fluency and preference for Quenya, and her accent. And her aversion to going to Aman. You did come across a couple of their strongholds as you travelled the Ered Mithrin, did you not? And they had intermarried with the Avari.”

“Yes. Yes, that is so.” Glorfindel was looking amused.

Elrond hesitated a moment, then added, “And for some reason… I have thought of Maedhros at times when I looked into her eyes.”

“His eyes were grey, were they not?”

“Yes. It was not the colour, of course, but something elusive… in the expression. A haunted look at times. That was in her early years here.”

The torment and darkness of one who had known the tortures of Thangorodrim.

“I am amazed, peredhel,” said Glorfindel, still gently smiling. “You were thinking this all these years, and never once told me?”

“I thought it unnecessary. You would have loved her regardless, and I had no wish to trouble your heart. Kinslayers are much hated. I grew up among them, and I can tell you they knew all too well their names are accursed. I would understand why a child of their clan would fear to go to Aman.”

Glorfindel looked deep in thought. “Then you understand why we might not go.”

“A child of her years surely need have no fear of judgement for the sins of her fathers. That was six thousand years ago, and has naught to do with her. You should assure her on that point.”

Glorfindel looked away for a long while, a light frown on his fair brow, as though debating with himself. At last, his glittering blue eyes turned to look calmly and gravely into the grey eyes of his friend.

“Elrond, it is for her own sins that she fears judgement.”

Glorfindel saw the astonishment and perturbation cross the peredhel’s face. He waited.

“You are not still trying to tell me—” said Elrond at last.

“I am.”

“You have loved her and been wed for sixty-seven years, believing that she is…”

“She is.” Then, knowing that Elrond needed to hear it, Glorfindel said solemnly: “She was Maeglin Lómion, son of Aredhel Ar-Feiniel and Eöl Lord of Nan Elmoth. Prince of Gondolin. Lord of the House of the Mole. She is now Lómiel, sent here in the body of an elleth to Imladris after six thousand coranári in the Halls of Mandos.”

Elrond gazed into the clear, lucid eyes of the balrog slayer and was silent.

The warrior smiled wryly. “Still you do not believe me. You think me mad.”

“No,” said Elrond slowly, quietly. “I am afraid I do believe you.” In his study room years ago, it had been easy to dismiss the balrog slayer’s nonsensical babblings as those of a mind deranged by the pressures of guilt, overwork, and repressed love or lust. Elrond could not dismiss what he now saw in those sane, calm eyes of azure blue.

“Thank you,” said Glorfindel quietly. “But there is no denying how mad it sounds. I do not blame you for disbelieving me.”

“When did you first know?”

“Elrond, from the very first moment I looked her full in the face.”

How were you able to—when you had known her as… as… an ellon…and knowing…”

“It is all right, Elrond. You may say it. When I knew she was The Traitor.”

“Yes. That.”

Glorfindel seated himself on the stone table at the centre of the room, pulled up his long legs and crossed them. “It was a struggle. You saw that.”

“Yes.”

“I was repelled… yet I could not but love her.” Glorfindel rested his chin on his hand. “Then love overcame judgment… and at the last, truth nullified that judgment.” He told Elrond Maeglin’s tale. “It is one more reason I desired to walk with the Nine, Elrond. What Sauron did to her… it became personal in a way that even the deaths of Celebrimbor and all the others at Ost-in-Edhil had not made it.” He looked warily and slightly defensively at the peredhel. “So, do you now think ill of her?”

“No.” By now, Elrond was sitting on the edge of the cold stone table, next to his friend. “Not only because of what you have told me, but because I have never felt any evil in her. Pride but never malice. Secrets but never deceitfulness of nature. She has proven herself brave and selfless on the borders time and again. I admire her craft, and I trust in her sense of honour. She is a friend to all my children. She saved my son’s life. I have no reason to think ill of her.” Elrond paused, then asked, “Is this the redeeming work of Mandos? How… changed is she from the man she once was?”

Glorfindel reflected for a while, taking no offence at the question. “Much. She is no longer the cunning, self-serving prince she once was.” He smiled. “She is not even scheming or manipulative in the little ways that an elleth might employ to twist her ellon around her finger. She cares no longer for power or the playing of power games. It amazes me at times, how content she is with the quiet life we have, who once had the ear of a king and a say in the lawmaking and rule of a kingdom. She has found acceptance here, and love, and they have wrought as much of the change as anything Námo did in his Halls.”

“That Námo should send her here, rather than release her in Aman… does that mean she is exiled?”

“I do not know. I… I have not dared speak to her about that matter so openly yet.” He twisted the ends of a golden lock of hair in his lap. “It is the one thing we dare not speak of. But if exile it is, my desire would still be to sail with her to Aman. There, I would petition the Valar with all I have. Should they even then choose to turn her back to Ennor, I would share exile with her… But I have faith in their compassion and wisdom, if not in their friendship with me, that they would hear my plea, and relent. The only question is whether she would agree to sail.”

“If more time is needed for you to persuade Lómiel to sail, then take it. Mine will not be the last ship, and it will be a number of years ere Círdan himself departs from Ennor and ships are built no longer at Mithlond.

Glorfindel nodded. “It is still my hope to persuade her. But there is another matter I must speak of… Should she reject the west, if the Ringbearer succeeds and peace comes, once you shall depart perhaps she and I might remain here in Imladris. Or go to the Greenwood to live among the Avari. But should the Ringbearer fail…

He looked away south again. The sky was grey, and the snow was beginning to fall more heavily.

“Should Frodo fail, Elrond, then you must do one thing for us. I would ride out to join Estel and the Men of the West,” he said calmly, “And we will fight the Shadow with all the strength that remains to us. And I know her. Once she is able, she will come to fight at my side.” The blue eyes fixed Elrond with a penetrating gaze the peredhel was more used to seeing from Galadriel. “But our children, Elrond… Take our children with you to Aman.”

Elrond drew a deep breath, a suspicion that had been forming in his mind now confirmed. “You are expecting… children? Twins?”

“Two boys,” said the warrior, with a luminous smile. Having boys more than girls seemed to run in the family, both sides.

“The first elflings to be born here in over eighty coranári… Twins in the time of fading! I am amazed—and delighted.”

“No less than we are, believe me.”

Elrond remembered Gandalf’s words and chuckled. But then he saw how worry contended with joy in his friend’s fair face. “It is wondrous news in dark times! Be of good hope. It is not like you to let your thoughts of the future be so dark.”

“One cannot have children without thinking of their future. You would know that. One plans for the worst, and hopes for the best. But you are right. In my heart of hearts, I do not think the Ringbearer will fail.”

“I understand now why you wish to stay here and not ride forth.”

“Not wish. Need. I do not think either of us can imagine how hard this is for the prince of Gondolin. Nothing—nothing could have prepared Maeglin Lómion for motherhood.” His smile was rueful. “She is by turns happy and resentful, throws me out of the smithy, snarls when I carry heavy loads for her...” He laughed. “Sometimes I imagine what Princess Idril would have to say if she only knew her cousin was carrying my children. It makes me want to both laugh and weep. Can you imagine us meeting your grandmother? I have tried to think of all the different ways that could go, Elrond. None of them have been good.”

“Could Lómiel’s past not be kept a secret in Aman? There are some things it is better none know.”

Glorfindel shook his head. “I do not believe we could keep such a secret from Idril, or Eärendil, or Turgon, or a hundred thousand Gondolindrim. I recognized Lómion the moment our eyes met. Perhaps it was destiny. Perhaps it was true love. But… perhaps it could be that any other who knew him in his first incarnation would also know him in this one. And it is not my nature to lie. We have withheld the truth, but there has been no need for deception in Imladris, since only I in this place know Maeglin Lómion as he once was. But in Eldamar? How could I live so great a deception till the unmaking of Arda? How could I withstand the scrutiny and questions of all who had known us in our first lives? I would rather it were known, and make a plea for understanding and forgiveness, than live a lie. ”

After a moment of deep thought, Elrond said, “When I go ahead of you, this shall I undertake: that when I meet our family on the far shores, I shall speak with them… my father, my grandparents… and I shall do what I may to prepare them. Even if only for your sake and mine first, they would surely welcome Lómiel. Over time, they would see, as I have, that she has been good for you.”

Gratitude shone in Glorfindel’s face. “Gi hannon, peredhel.” Then he looked hesitant. “Elrond… one more thing.”

“Yes?”

“Should the worst happen, and you take our children to Aman with you… could you ask Lady Galadriel to bring them to my father?”

In the silence that followed, Elrond stared at his friend. “Is there to be no end to the revelations of this day? Your father?”

Glorfindel nodded. “Lady Galadriel knows. Forgive me that I cannot tell you. It is not my secret alone, obviously.”

“Mellon-iaur, you tell me you know who your father is, then in the next breath that you will not tell me?

“But even he does not know I exist! ’Tis only right that I reveal myself to him first, then submit to his wishes. He might not ever wish it to be known.”

Elrond did his best to keep his face neutral as he understood what Glorfindel’s words implied about his birth. “I understand, mellon-iaur.” There was a pregnant silence for a while, as both gazed to the south. “I have my guesses,” Elrond said after a while.

“You have?”

“Rather obvious ones. I marvel I had not thought of them before.”

“Whatever spells Lady Galadriel wove over me at my birth must have been profound. It may be that you are able to think these thoughts now because I have openly spoken of the matter to you.”

“Eagles of Manwë, I may be thinking of this for the rest of the day.”

The two old friends laughed, then abruptly Glorfindel’s smile faded as though he heard a summons. “Pardon me, Elrond. I must take my leave.” He vaulted out of the west window again and raced over the rooftops, turning briefly only to give his lord a wave of farewell.

Alone with his thoughts, Elrond sat on the stone table and gazed out of the tower to the south. All thought of Glorfindel’s origins quickly faded from his mind, and he was thinking of the nine walkers and their burden as he looked towards Hollin in the south, his grey eyes pensive.

 

As Glorfindel opened the smithy door, letting in a soft flurry of wind and snowflakes, Camaen and Hatheldir greeted him with relief.

“She was fine one moment, then she rushed in there and barricaded the door.”

“I was just going to look for you.”

Glorfindel moved towards the shut workroom door. “Melmenya, I am here. Open the door. Please.”

He was prepared for Maeglin to tell him rudely to sod off. Instead, they heard the sound of a table being dragged away. Glorfindel leaned against the door and it opened. He closed it quietly behind him. His beloved was pacing about the room in her workclothes and her leather apron, weeping.

“Damnation! What is wrong with me?” she said, her voice strangled with misery and resentment as she impatiently brushed away the tears on her face. “I cannot stop crying, like a fool. And I cannot work! What in bloody Arda is happening to me?”

He went to her and wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her, and gently wiped her tears away with a corner of his cloak. As he did, he reached out with his fëa to his children to reassure them, feeling their distress at their mother’s tears.

Even since the day of their children’s begetting, Maeglin had been fragile. If Glorfindel had cherished secret hopes of children in a far future, perhaps one day in Aman, the thought of children had not once crossed Maeglin’s mind. She had woken the next morning hoping it had only been a dream, and the first week or so had seemed surreal. Even as the Fellowship had prepared for departure, and there had been swords to sharpen, and arrowheads to make for Legolas, she had alternated between a state of stunned disbelief, and sudden moments of aching tenderness for the two tiny sparks of life growing in her. Then had come flashes of resentment at the unfairness, a sense of once again being toyed with by a capricious fate.

“Damn it all! I never asked for this!”

Just yesterday morning she had appeared so luminously happy, Glorfindel thought wretchedly. Just last night, before he left on patrol, she had seemed calm.

They never asked for this!” Maeglin ranted on. “Who in their right mind would bring children into a world at war? How can we have children in a time such as this?”

“We do not know when the war will end, vesseya. It may be over in months!”

“And on what do you base that empty hope? That our fates are in the hands of periain less than a ranga high who can barely hold a sword, and are walking straight into the lair of Sauron himself? If they even survive that far. If you dare say ‘How hard can it be?’ I swear I am going to kick you in those nuts which got me into this mess.”

Glorfindel fought to smother a smile. “No, I would not say that. But let us hope and believe for the best, melmenya. I would like to think Eru Almighty in his wisdom would not have given us children had the world been heading to utter ruin and darkness.”

“That is complete muk, even for you,” Maeglin muttered, pulling out of his arms and wearily pushing her hair away from her face. “I wish Eru had kept them.”

“Love, you do not mean that!”

“Well, you can have them! Since you are so happy over the whole affair, you can bear them, bring them forth, nurse them, raise them if you will and leave me out of it!”

Vesseya!” Just when Glorfindel thought Maeglin could say nothing that would shock him anymore... Amil did not mean that, little ones. Amil’s having a bad day… “I know I cannot understand what this is like for you… but I know adjusting to this must be tremendously difficult,” he said soothingly, pulling her back into his arms and stroking her black hair. “Give it time, love. You will be just fine.”

“What do you know?” Maeglin snapped, pushing him away. “Spare me your platitudes! You never had this happen to you. You will never have this happen to you. Nothing has really changed for you, Golden Boy of Gondolin, but everything has changed for me. It stinks to bloody Angband! It is not fair!” Suddenly she swept a worktable clear with one arm, sending tools and pieces of armour flying, and grabbing the mightiest warrior in Ennor by the front of his tunic, shoved him roughly back upon the tabletop, her eyes glinting golden fire.

“Now?” Glorfindel said, somewhat stunned by her aggression, but also aroused by it.

“Yes. Now,” Maeglin growled. And the prince of Gondolin climbed on top of him, and devoured his mouth with a kiss, fiery and deep and fierce.

At least she was not crying any longer, Glorfindel thought, and hoped fervently that for the next hour neither Camaen nor Hatheldir would try opening the workroom door that had no lock.

“Damn it, Flower, stop handling me like I’m made of eggshells. Touch me like you mean it!”

Glorfindel chuckled. “Yes, my prince,” he said meekly.

 

Maeglin was calmer, after that, her anger spent. They sat leaning against the stone wall, her head nestled in the crook of his neck, his arm around her. He folded his cloak and placed it between her back and the cold, hard stone.

“You should really move a couch in here. Or at least some cushions.” He turned his head and kissed her brow tenderly. “And put a latch on that door.” Now that the walls of her rage had fallen, he felt a strange, dark discordance within her fëa, something she was hiding from him. “Something happened,” he said, an edge to his voice. “What is it? Tell me.”

Maeglin’s voice was flat and hollow and her dark eyes were haunted. “I dreamed of him last night. I dreamed he took the children, and gloated he would do with them as he had done to me.”

Glorfindel’s blood ran cold. He had been away patrolling the borders all night, and when he had returned she had gone early to the smithy. “I would never allow that to happen. Never! He would have to go through me first.”

“That, too, is my fear.” She drew a deep, shuddering breath.

He tightened his arms around her. “It was but a dream, my love. Not a portent.”

With such certainty did Glorfindel speak that Maeglin’s fear was soothed, even though her voice was cynical. “As though you could know. Are you speaking with Sight?”

“Deep in my fëa, I know it. This place is safe. Our children will be well, and safe.” He gently tucked some loose strands of silken black hair behind her ear.

“None would rate their chances of survival as high, with me as a parent,” Maeglin said bitterly.

“I truly believe you will fare much better than you think.”

“Huh,” she snorted derisively.

“You will. I can see you as a good Amil. You love them. I know it, no matter how you rant.”

“Love is not always enough,” Maeglin muttered, thinking of her mother. Unreliable, irresponsible, free-spirited Aredhel. She had almost lost baby Maeglin a dozen times in the forest, forgotten to change his diapers till they overflowed, and oft left him to play unsupervised. As he grew older, she had hardly ever disciplined him, allowing him to run wild when he was not being apprenticed in the forge, hiding him from Eöl when he faced punishment for failings in his father’s sight. Yet she had completely, unreservedly adored her son, and he her. It was only now, as Maeglin faced motherhood herself, that she could see her mother’s failings as a parent.

“Love is the most important thing,” said Glorfindel, pulling her to her feet. “And I pledge to take charge of diapers, feeds, and baby baths. I have abundant experience in that.”

“I am sure.” Maeglin thought of a long line of infants stretching from Eärendil down to Arwen.

“You see? All organized and ready. All you need is to be strong and of good cheer for another ten-and-a-half months.”

And as she grimaced and groaned, he bent his head to hers and took her mouth in a deep kiss. After all these years, the familiar taste of him was still as heady as wine, and by Aulë’s hammer, he knew how to kiss…

He gently pulled away and rested his forehead against hers. “We had better go out.” His azure eyes twinkled. “I can sense Camaen and Hatheldir are growing rather anxious.”

“Let them.” Grasping a handful of golden hair, Maeglin tugged him back towards the table.

“A couch,” Glorfindel said, letting her pull him along. “I swear I am going to commandeer a couch from the house.”

 

Maeglin pushed pieces of carrot, potato and lamb around her plate listlessly. Eventually, she gave up the struggle, laid down her fork and sighed.

Glorfindel looked at her anxiously. She had eaten two pieces of fruit and nibbled halfheartedly on a tender piece of stewed bird he had placed on her plate. It had been this way for three weeks now, and already he could see her wrists were thinner, and her beauty was increasingly ethereal and fragile. 

He had asked her several times if there was anything, anything at all that she felt like eating. She had shaken her head. Until finally, reluctantly, on this night, she named a food that they both knew.

Laiqua Arancornë…” she sighed under her breath, and Glorfindel’s heart sank.

It was an herb bread that had been served only at Turgon’s table. Glorfindel had not been terribly fond of the bread himself, excellent though it was with certain dishes, for the herbs in it had been a little overpowering to his taste. The prince of Gondolin had not been particularly partial to it either. It had been one of Idril’s favourites, though, and she had craved it when carrying Eärendil.

Glorfindel’s heart sank because the herbs were probably found only in a valley which now lay drowned forever beneath the ocean waves, and both Maeglin and he knew it. Glorfindel had no idea even whether the tiny grain the flour was made from could be found anywhere in Middle Earth now.

Armed only with a clear memory of the taste and texture of the bread, Glorfindel went to the kitchens of Imladris. By now the whole household knew Maeglin was expecting, and her recent lack of appetite had much distressed the chefs, who took great pride in the hundreds if not thousands of years they had spent perfecting their recipes and producing the most exquisite of dishes.

The team of chefs adored Glorfindel. The warrior never returned from his travels without special or exotic ingredients for them from different parts of Middle Earth, and in between his warrior-training sessions, when he dropped by hungry for a snack, he would chat with them as he ate, occasionally washing dishes, chopping ingredients, or carrying in firewood. Thus the chefs took up the challenge he presented. They listened attentively to his descriptions of the lost Kingsbread of Gondolin. A light, crisp golden crust…a moist, fluffy, slightly chewy crumb…the savoury loaf studded with different types of nut, and redolent with the distinctive fragrance and flavour of herbs native to the valley of Gondolin.

“We shall find substitutes,” said the head chef. He fired off a list of herbs, and one chef went out to gather them from the kitchen gardens.

“My guess is there was a cheese in it,” said one of them.

“The grain was tiny, I believe,” said Glorfindel, wishing he had paid more attention to such things back then. It had been the House of the Tree that had overseen the grain crops. “But it was neither teff, nor amaranth, nor millet.”

“We shall experiment with all,” said one chef heading to the pantries to fetch the grains as another prepared the stone mill for grinding.

And so it was, that as hundreds of leagues away the Company of the Ring was scattered, and armies of Uruk-hai were on the move, the greatest warrior in Ennor sat in a kitchen sampling herbs, nuts, and bread mixes while the Imladrin chefs fussed over him affectionately like mother hens.

Two nights later, when Maeglin polished off the golden loaf set before her together with a large serving of stew, a jubilant Glorfindel bounded into the kitchens and gave each chef, male or female, a big kiss, lifting each of them off the ground in a huge bear hug.

And the chefs, beaming and blushing, basked in the glory of yet another culinary success.

 

The snows began to melt and the days slowly lengthened. There were no more tears, and fewer mood swings. Maeglin began to wear a luminous glow.

Then came the day when the elves of Imladris turned their heads south, and felt their hearts lift as the Shadow’s power was destroyed, and the spirit of Sauron, of Gaurthor the cruel, dissipated into the harsh winds sweeping over Mordor, never again to take form until the Dagor Dagorath.

Then there were songs of gladness throughout the valley that day, and dancing and a feast of celebration. The following morning, the entire household set into motion preparations long planned, for a journey that would have an end both joyous and bittersweet.

Glorfindel and Maeglin had a quiet evening in their chambers as they packed for the journey. As usual, he packed in ten minutes. He then lay on the bed watching her, observing with a wave of pleasure and tender protectiveness the very noticeable swelling of her belly now showing beneath the skirts of her green dress.

He raised an eyebrow as Maeglin slipped a pouch with smithing tools into her bag. “If you think I am going to let you mend horse shoes on the road,” he said, “you are much mistaken. Let Camaen and Hatheldir do such work.”

“Very well,” she said mildly, to his surprise. “But I will still bring the tools. It would feel strange to be without them.” As she folded a dark blue dress with silver embroidery, she glanced at him and saw his eyes still on her.

“I will be fine. Stop worrying.”

“Do I look worried? Have I said a thing?” he said, smiling.

“I can read your mind. A long journey, the road is hard. I am carrying not one but two of your children. My condition is delicate. Blah blah. Why else did you ask Asfaloth to carry me on the journey instead of you? That he agreed surprises me.”

“On Asfaloth, you will not feel the slightest jolt even on the hardest road. He agreed after choosing another steed for me.”

“I thought you would ride my Gilroch. Whom did he choose?”

“Alarcaro.” A black stallion with a white star on his forehead. “Gilroch has agreed to take Lindir and Hatheldir.” Those who barely ever—or had never before—left the valley had no mounts of their own. There would be some sharing of horses necessary, as many of the household took turns to walk and ride.

“I am sure Alarcaro felt honoured.” The other elf-horses had a great deal of reverence for Asfaloth, the shining white horse of Valinor, and for his rider. “I am glad you did not ask me to stay behind with Bilbo.”

“Would you have heeded if I had?”

“No. But it spared us a fight.”

“I know you would not miss this for the world. And truth is, I want you there at my side.” Glorfindel interrupted her packing, folding his arms around her from behind, resting his chin on her shoulder. “What do you think of having the babies at Lothlórien on the way back?”

“Varda, I am not planning on being away that long!” Maeglin laughed, moving out of his embrace to finish her packing.

“It would mean we could travel at leisure, perhaps spend some time with the ents. Should Elrond and the twins decide to spend more time with Arwen in Gondor, we may depart from there only in early autumn. It would be unwise to travel too near to your date. We could spend late autumn and winter in the Golden Woods. You would love it there.” And he wished her to experience its beauty ere the power of Nenya waned.

“I was told an interesting story at dinner,” she said nonchalantly, checking through his bag to see if he had forgotten to pack anything for himself. “Did you take note of a woman large with child in the remnant that escaped from Gondolin?”

“Not really, I was too busy making sure everyone was not killed, and then getting killed myself. Why?”

“She was not of your house. Ecthelion’s. She endured the hard road on foot, with little to eat, hard-pressed with dangers on all sides. In fact, she gave birth on the road to the Mouths of Sirion. And both she and the child were fine.”

Glorfindel looked at Maeglin curiously. “And who told you that?” he asked, wondering who would have unknowingly had such a conversation with the traitor of Gondolin.

“Erestor told me. He was the child.”

Erestor?”

“Have you known him five thousand years, and never known of his parentage?”

“He never once spoke to me of it. Why does he hate me so then, since I saved his unborn skin?”

“Because you delight in playing such pranks on him. He liked you much better when you were still the dead hero.”

“That is a lie. I have not pranked him since the early Third Age, when peacetime in Imladris grew mindnumbingly boring. I cannot believe he has not gotten over it in three thousand years. The man needs to move on.”

“Not pranked? What do you call the snow drift from the roof that you dropped on his head just after the midwinter feast?”

“An opportunity too good to be missed. There I was, on the roof, and he chose to stand below in the perfect position. Anyway,” he added as he set both their bags by the door, “seeing how Erestor turned out is the strongest argument for our not undertaking the journey home too near your date. It obviously damaged him for life.”

Maeglin laughed and kissed him.

“This is home. I want to have our twins here.”

Pleased as Glorfindel was that she so loved this valley, he felt a pang at the thought that she would resist leaving it.

“As you wish, vesseya.

They stood at the windows to enjoy the cool of the spring night… the beauty of the gardens, beginning to be lush with new life, the flowers fragrant just below their windows. The roar of the Bruinen beyond the garden terrace, swollen with meltwater, rushing through the ravine and to the south.

Yet already they could feel a subtle difference. In the air. In the earth. Deep in their fëar. With the unmaking of the One Ring, the power of Elrond’s ring Vilya was passing away. Slowly, ever so slowly, time and mortality would begin to steal into the beloved valley.

Among the rose bushes beginning to bud, they saw Elrond and Arwen, walking slowly together, heads close as they spoke under the starlight. The Evenstar lingered at her favourite spots, reaching out a hand to say farewell to a particularly beloved tree.

Glorfindel and Maeglin followed father and daughter with their eyes, till they rounded a bend in the path and vanished.

Ahead of Arwen, the joys of a bride, the glories of a crown, the shadow of mortality, the sundering from kin. Beginnings and endings, joys and sorrows, blending together in the cool spring night.

Glorfindel saw sadness haunting Maeglin’s eyes. He did not entirely understand why, nor did she. It had something to do with Arwen’s choice and Elrond’s loss, certainly… the tragedy of parting from a loved one. But it was also the first time Maeglin found herself affected as she contemplated the mortality of the Secondborn.

Maeglin had never liked the Secondborn, and her orc-hunts with Glorfindel or the twins in the company of the Dúnedain had not entirely erased her disdain. “The frequency with which they need to rest, to eat, to answer the call of nature,” she had once said to Glorfindel, watching the Rangers as they ate dinner and huddled around the fire somewhere high in the Hithaeglir. “Had it been just us, we would have travelled at twice the speed, and needed a quarter of the rations. And by Manwë’s nose, why do they stink so badly? Faugh! We have journeyed and gone without washing just as long as they.”

But now, thinking of Arwen and Estel—the only one of the Secondborn whom she did love, and whose smell did not repel her—Maeglin was struck by the sadness of how transient the ties between the children of Ilúvatar could be… how fleeting the bonds one had with mortals, whether of friendship or love, as time flew by on swift wings in these mortal lands.

“We will not sail with Elrond,” her Firstborn love said gently. “Elladan and Elrohir shall remain here, for a season of time... for as long as Estel reigns as king. And so shall I, for as long as the elven line of Turukáno abides in Endórë.”

Maeglin laid a hand on her swollen belly as she glanced at Glorfindel, her heart full. “That is good, vennoya,” she said at last. Then suddenly, she clung to him tightly, and he, who had said farewell countless times to countless shortlived mortals, could only hold on to her, somewhat baffled. When she finally released him, she kissed him more gently than she was wont to, then gave him a smile that could only be described as sweet and tender and wifely.

As she turned away from the windows and headed towards their bed, he stared after her, completely dumbfounded.

 

Glossary

Periain (S) – halflings/hobbits (plural)

Mellon-iaur (S) – old friend

Perelda (Q) – half-elven

 

Chapter Text

“One of the worst things about being with child is that every other nís who has ever been with child has advice to dispense. Or a tale of childbirth to tell.”

Maeglin scowled darkly. She had been flanked by well-meaning elven matrons from both Imladris and Lothlórien for much of the ride to Minas Tirith, since Glorfindel rode at the front or the rear with his guard. “Why would anyone imagine I need a blow-by-blow account of sixty-four hours of labour?”

Nai! the agony!” Glorfindel winced at the thought as he braided pearls and white crystals into Maeglin’s hair. For the first time he felt a twinge of anxiety about the coming birth. After witnessing thousands of joyous and uneventful births, thought the father-to-be, why should a handful of horrific incidents truly stand out now that his beloved’s turn drew near?

“The most beautiful and transcendental experience of her life, apparently. In between the screaming and her husband fainting,” Maeglin added drily.

Glorfindel chuckled. “Elrond almost fainted too, when Celebrían was giving birth to the twins.”

“He did?” It was hard to imagine. She smiled a little too wickedly.

“Sympathetic pain.”

“The solution to the pain, as another matron told me, is apparently meditation and heated poultices,” said Maeglin wryly. “She has kindly offered to share meditation techniques with me whilst we are in Gondor.”

“I hope your reply was not too rude. They all mean well, melmenya, and are genuinely concerned and eager to help.”

“I know. But after suffering through ten hours of childbirth advice and tales, I was sorely tempted to tell her to go to Mordor with her meditation in my sweetest voice. Lady Galadriel caught my eye in time.” She shifted her weight in her chair.

It was only her seventh month, but twins made her larger than she would have been for a first child, and it was further becoming apparent that neither of them were small babies, being of the House of Finwë. Thankfully, the fastenings and lacing of her midnight-blue gown had plenty of allowance, and Glorfindel admired how the silk hugged the curve of her now-full bosom and gently skimmed the swell of her belly.

He could tell she was tired. They had ridden and walked long hours for many days, and rested but little since their arrival at the City of Kings yesterday, on Midsummer’s Eve.

“Close your eyes and rest, melmenya. I shall be done in a few minutes.” He continued to weave in fine, slender chains of silver and pearls and crystals into her dark tresses. “Your hair is so much thicker and glossier than it even was before,” he said appreciatively.

She was amused by how much he enjoyed playing with her long, silky black locks. She seldom allowed him to braid her hair, and he appeared to be relishing each moment of the present. The wall mirror was set too high, such that she could not see herself in it, only him, tall and shimmering white and gold in the lamplight. The guest room in the citadel had plain sandstone walls and floors. A faded mural of a forlorn Tar-Palantir gazing towards Avallonë from the hill of Oromet was painted over the heavy mahogany bed.

“I hope you are not overdoing it,” she said, shifting slightly in the chair again. “Nothing elaborate, nothing like Ecthelion’s, please.”

“Worry not. You will look far lovelier than Ecthelion ever did, I promise.” He flashed a dazzling grin. “Just do not ever tell him I said so.”

Maeglin leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes, feeling his skilled fingers moving swiftly yet unhurriedly through her hair, listening to him whistling softly as he worked. He himself never needed any help with braiding. He had a dozen different ways of styling his own famed golden tresses, and he executed each of these with such speed and perfection that it had never made any sense for her to offer him any help, even if she were disposed to.

She opened her eyes again. Lovingly watching him in the oval mirror mounted on the wall, she reflected that her beloved, for all his radiant beauty, was less vain than other Lords of Gondolin. Ecthelion had worn diamonds set in silver in his beautiful dark hair, Rog loved red rubies, Egalmoth opals, Penlod pearls, and Galdor had flaunted emeralds as green as his flashing eyes in his fiery tresses. But Glorfindel needed no adornment for his golden head, for the glory of his hair alone was enough. Thus he rarely had added jewels to his braids except during feasts and festivals, although he had been showered with gifts of sapphires to match his blue eyes. Today, all he had chosen to wear, pinned on his white robe, was the golden brooch shaped like a flower, its eight petals like the rays of the sun, which Maeglin had given him. That, and his gold wedding ring.

Maeglin herself, when she had been the prince of Gondolin, had preferred to wear plain black with a touch of silver embroidery. Accessories were minimal. A single silver earring. A plain silver brooch in a cloak or robe. A solitaire diamond.

“Tasteful, elegant, understated,” she reminded him in a murmur as he worked.

“Right, right. Trust me. Stop fidgeting,” he said mildly, smiling in amusement.

“Hurry, it is almost time,” she said, shifting in the chair again, as the babies started to kick restlessly.

“Such impatience, the three of you.” He extended a hand to pull her up from her seat, and with a flourish, showed her his finished handiwork in a hand mirror.

The master crafter of Gondolin and Imladris scrutinized herself in the looking glasses on the wall and in his hand, angling herself to see the back of her head. Glorfindel smiled. Not a word was needed. The expression of approval on her lovely face said it all—his work had met her high standards, and surpassed them. He laid down the hand mirror on a table, and offered his lady his arm.

She laid her hand on his arm, took three steps forward and halted with a groan. “Orro! I need the privy again.” Only very recently had this embarrassment begun.

With a look of profound sympathy, Glorfindel drew the chamberpot out from under the bed and passed it to her.

“Balls of Tulkas,” she scowled as she took it. “Six thousand years of civilization in Númenórë and Endórë, and they have not yet invented plumbing and sanitation? It is perfectly barbaric!”

“I am sure Estel will do something about it, melmenya.” Arwen would of a certainty see to it, for she was far more delicate in her sensibilities than Maeglin.

“However did he survive among these barbarians?” she grumbled as Glorfindel poured water from a jug into a basin for her use later.

“With a great deal of love and forbearance. They are his people.” Considering that Maeglin had grown up in Nan Elmoth, survived the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and month-long war games with several thousand warriors in the great outdoors, and had just endured long weeks of travel through open terrain, it amused Glorfindel how dainty his prince was now behaving. It seemed to him that Maeglin was determined to like little about this city of the Secondborn.

When finally they arrived at the embrasure of the Citadel together, they found all the Imladrim and Galadhrim waiting in the starlight, looking towards where the sky was lightening in the east.

“Ah, the Two Trees are finally here,” said Erestor, as the couple arrived and took their place next to Elrond and his family.

“Sshh… the vigil begins,” said Lindir.

And all the elves stood in silent stillness to await Arien as she ascended bearing Anor, the last fruit of Laurelin the golden.

The Two Trees had been Arwen’s handiwork. She had given, as her wedding gift, a white robe for Glorfindel and a midnight-blue dress for Maeglin. Embroidered down the side of the white robe was a gracefully spreading golden tree, and down the side of the deep blue gown was a beautiful, shimmering silver tree, and small silver flowers on the sleeves.

“Laurelin and Telperion.” Maeglin had eyed Glorfindel a little dubiously as she took the gifts out of the gossamer-like tissue they were wrapped in. “Would you wear this?”

In the First Age, the Two Trees of Valinor and their light had been held in great reverence. Maeglin would have imagined that Glorfindel, brought up by half-Vanyarin Idril, might have been raised with the idea that it was almost sacrilegious to wear them on one’s clothing.

“It has been seven thousand years since the Years of the Trees, meldanya,” Glorfindel had said with a smile. “I would definitely wear this in the Third Age. And I do not think even Itarillë would have objected in the First.”

So their friends had enjoyed the sight of the couple in their new finery a month later as the household gathered for the Gates of Summer vigil.

Alae! The Two Trees!” Erestor had proclaimed at once.

Calan a dhû!”

“Anor ar Isil!”

“Light and dark. Maer!” laughed Gildor, who had arrived too late for the wedding but stayed on for Tarnin Austa.

“Lady Arwen, you have outdone yourself,” said Lindir, admiring the embroidery.

“Uhh… is it not the golden tree Laurelin that is female, and the silver tree Telperion male?” observed Elrohir with an arched eyebrow.

“There are ways in which that seems rather fitting, actually,” said the quieter twin, Elladan, looking at the bright and dark pair with a twinkle in his amused grey eyes.

Bain! They look beautiful,” declared Arwen with satisfaction, her grey eyes sparkling as she examined Glorfindel and Maeglin dressed in her labour of love.

Oblivious to everyone around, the two lovers were holding hands and talking with their heads close to each other, indeed looking like day and night, sun and moon, as they stood side by side.

When Glorfindel and Maeglin showed up at the festival of the Fading of the Year wearing something else, they had endured more comments.

Nae! What happened to the Two Trees?”

“Did Ungoliant get to them already?”

“By the Valar! We demand the Two Trees!”

All of which Glorfindel and Maeglin had blithely ignored.

But this morning they were wearing the Two Trees for Arwen. She gave them a smile as she stood beside her father and brothers above the city she would reign over as Queen. It was for her the last Tarnin Austa dawn ceremony of her soon-to-be mortal life.

The city of Minas Tirith, capital of Gondor, lay spread below the elves. The elven travellers had arrived just the evening before the wedding day, on the shortest night of the year, and had shortened their Midsummer vigil to the half-hour before dawn.

The air was cool. The city lay dark and silent. The elves stood shimmering in the dim pre-dawn light, gazing eastwards. East, over lands once shadowed, now free.

As the first rays broke over the horizon, two hundred fair elven voices lifted in the ancient chorus. Below, those of the people of Gondor who were already in the streets lifted their heads to gaze upwards, or opened windows to look and listen in wonder.

On the embrasure of the Citadel the fair folk stood, shining bright in the sunlight in raiment of many hues. Their voices rose and fell in the morning air, each note carrying clear and heartbreakingly haunting over the city, weaving a deep spell of enchantment over all who heard. The ears that heard that song would recall it ever after, and speak of it to their children and children’s children—the morning of the royal wedding of King Elessar, when the Queen and her people sang over the city and blessed it, before their race passed away beyond the west.

Glorfindel glanced at Maeglin as they sang together, and saw her black eyes free of shadow for the moment as the sun fell golden and warm on her face. Each Midsummer marked another year they had been together. And each year his heart rejoiced to see in her face the freedom she was winning from her past. 

She returned his glance briefly, and smiled.

He turned his own face back to the east, his face radiant as the sunrise as he sang.

 

In the end, he changed their travel plan on the way home from Minas Tirith.

“It is not a question of your endurance, meldanya,” Glorfindel said, massaging the sore muscles in her lower back at a rest-stop. “I have not the slightest doubt that if you had to travel north to Fornost and back on foot, you would. It is the needlessness of this suffering. Did you know both Itarillë and Celebrían spent most of the last few months of their pregnancies sleeping and relaxing, and being waited on hand and foot?”

“I am neither Itarillë nor Celebrían,” she said stubbornly, but she was looking drained.

He sighed. “Listen. I have seen enough nissi go through this to know how much of their strength is drawn out of them, even with just one child, let alone two. And the father can only do so much to help. Why should you have to suffer long days in the saddle, even if it is on Asfaloth? It is so unnecessary.”

He folded his arms around her for a while and let his light and strength flow through her and the children.

“Our sons are of the line of Finwë and have strong fëar. They demand a great deal of our lifeforce in their making.” He released her gently. “We may have children only this one time, melimë. Can we not simply relax and find pleasure in it? And not one word about Erestor’s mother. He was not twins, and we can be grateful for small mercies that he was not. Neither are we fleeing for our lives. I want us to have this time to enjoy and to remember.”

The one day they had spent at Lothlórien in early summer on their journey to Gondor glowed in memory, an oasis of rest and peace. Maeglin thought of breezes sighing through trees of gold and the singing waters of the Celebrant. “Very well.”

And thus it was that when the travellers parted ways on their journey, Glorfindel and Maeglin bade fond farewell to Elrond and his household who would head north to Imladris, and turned their horses aside to follow the Galadhrim home.

There was a peace and enchantment still over the Golden Woods, even as the power of Nenya slowly diminished. Glorfindel and Maeglin walked over lush, green grass and under the shimmering branches of golden mellyrn. For an age after all the elvenfolk had departed, the mellyrn here would remain golden-leaved in winter, for the life of Valinor in its sap depended not solely on Nenya’s strength.

Ai! There they go—fighting again,” Maeglin said, placing a hand under her swollen belly.

“They are playing,” said Glorfindel, watching her midriff bounce and shift in shape. It never failed to fascinate him.

“Fighting,” she sighed. “What did we expect? They are the children of warriors, and they are having a war in me.”

Glorfindel leaned over, patted the baby bump, and sent out a firm command. “Na manë! Behave, boys!”

And the violent kicking subsided to gentler movements.

They looked at each other in surprise and amusement. “Well, looks like they just need a telling off if they get too rowdy!” said Glorfindel with a laugh.

“If they are that obedient, they take after you rather than me.” Maeglin smiled as they resumed their walk.

All her life had been devoted to craft, the creation of things beautiful and deadly, useful and clever. Only over the last few months had this bearing of children grown into an extension of that, as she felt nature turn her into a vessel for the creation of life.

She had initially detested the sensation of being helpless, and at the mercy of forces beyond her comprehension or control. And Glorfindel had initially made it worse.

“Heartbeats!” Glorfindel had exclaimed suddenly one morning at the end of winter as they were getting dressed. His face was incandescent with wonder. “Did you feel that? Their hearts are beating!”

It had been another five days before she became tuned in enough to the children to sense it. She had experienced a deep pang of jealousy and resentment that he had sensed it so much more sharply than she, so much earlier, and had a special connection with their sons. More than that, it had made her feel almost a stranger in her own body, and that the babies were intruders.

Sometime after that, they had been lying in bed one night, drifting off to sleep, when he had murmured drowsily, “Amazing... they are swimming round and round. Look at that… they have their tiny fingers and toes already…”

And with that he had fallen sleep against the curve of her back. Leaving her wide-eyed and sleepless in the dark, staring at the intricately carved wooden panelling of the wall.

After that, she had gone quietly to the library and Idhren, with a wise and gentle smile, had found her a book. It had gotten better from there.

The book, co-authored by Tercenalto and Nilmië, a Noldorin couple of Tirion, offered both the meticulous clinical detail of scientific observation and the first-hand wonder of new parents. It gave her, at least, the assurance that she was normal, and that it was Glorfindel who was not. Where his heightened senses came from, whether his years in Valinor dwelling with the Valar, or his father’s blood, she did not know, but it was comforting to discover that she was no worse and no different from innumerable ellith who had undergone this before her. It armed her as well with an understanding of the entire process of gestation… details which Pengolodh’s biology lessons had naturally glossed over as being irrelevant to the needs of a prince and the kingdom he was being schooled to run.

As Glorfindel had joyously announced the next few developmental milestones, always a few days ahead of her feeling them herself, she had at least been prepared, able to anticipate each of them. And her fascination with the invisible creative process happening within her had been stirred.

During their first stopover in Lothlórien, as Glorfindel and she had walked upon Cerin Amroth, she had suddenly halted in her tracks with the strangest look on her face.

“I think… I think that was a kick.”

With a luminous look both tender and wistful, Glorfindel reached out a hand and gently laid it against her belly. He had sensed the kick in his fëa, but only she would be able to experience it as part of her own hröa. And suddenly she understood, without his saying a word, how much he both worshipped and envied her for the privilege of bearing life within her.

As she grew more greatly in tune with the children as they developed, she and Glorfindel celebrated the milestones of their growth together. She began to feel differently: a partner with the forces shaping life in her womb, and not merely a vessel, as the children fed on the strength of both her fëa and hröa.

She obediently ate the foods prepared for her by the Galadhrim, rested more than she had in all her two lives, and took long walks under the golden-leaved trees at the side of her golden-haired love. She even forced down the herbal tonics brewed by the Galadhrin healers, not even daring to scowl since it was under Galadriel’s eye. Her sense of well-being grew with each passing day. She hardly recognized herself anymore on some of those days, for she felt whole, and full of life.

Her nights of sleep grew rather fitful, as autumn turned to winter, for the twins enjoyed nocturnal acrobatics.

The night she found she could not turn in bed because of their weight, she had lain there like a beached whale seething in such resentful frustration that her mood had woken Glorfindel up. He had matter-of-factly turned her over, propped her with pillows, given her a sleepy kiss and murmured, “Wake me whenever you need me.” Then gone back to sleep.

For a long moment on the darkened talan, she did not know which she wanted more… to  hit him with a pillow, resentful of his sleep, or kiss him lovingly, grateful for his care.

Some nights, as the twins turned somersaults, she listened to the breeze in the mellyrn branches and Glorfindel’s slow, deep breathing. Her long black eyes gazed drowsily at the dark forest shadows dancing across the woven screens of the flet, and saw scenes of her life playing across them…

And it seemed surreal to her to think she had ever been that dark ellon. She tried to remember what it had been like to live in his body. Tall… broad, muscled shoulders… narrow hips… a long, lithe, feline stride. What it had been like to be him. She tried in vain to stir the cold ashes of his hatred for his Adar, his craving for the crown, his lust for his cousin, his hatred for Glorfindel, for Tuor… all whose happiness did naught but reveal to him his lack.

And as his face gazed back at her in the night, black eyes cold and mocking and guarded, lips curled with half a smirk, half a scowl, she felt as though she looked on someone else.

At other times Maeglin Lómion blurred into Eöl of Nan Elmoth.

 “You have nothing to do with me,” her father and her past-self sneered down at her, with disdain for her womanhood. “You are weak and soft. You have no part of me.”

“You had a gift for hatred,” she found herself replying. “And what you hated most was yourself… Everything you held as strength was your weakness…and the things you held as weakness are now my strength.” What Lómion hated in his father he had only become himself. Her sleep-heavy fëa felt a strange detachment of pity for both of them.…

Glorfindel turned over in bed and looked at her in sleepy bemusement. “Melimë… are you talking to yourself?”

The shades faded and happiness spread wings in her heart as she smiled at him with love. “I need to be turned again.”

During the day, she walked as much as she was able, and napped whenever she could, sleeping on the flower-starred grasses with her head in Glorfindel’s lap. And he would sing various lays and songs to her and the children.

One afternoon, as they rested in a quiet glade just outside Caras Galadhon, his thoughts wandered to Gondolin. Indeed, as they looked up at the leaves of gold and the tall mellyrn about them, they could almost imagine they were in Gondolin again.

His voice rose melodiously in the cool autumn air, carrying on the breeze, so that some of the Galadhrim passing through the nearby trees saw visions of the high towers and the hundred courtyards in the sunlight, the busy marketplace, the King’s Square, the proud lords in shining raiment riding on their steeds, the fair ladies walking on the white city walls, the colourful heraldic banners streaming in the wind, the lush green gardens with fair blossoming trees, and the silver fountains flowing. And encircling and protecting all, majestic high peaks crowned with dazzling snow, cradling within them an emerald-green valley of waterfalls and flower-filled meadows, over which the great eagles watched.

His voice fell silent. The twins had fallen asleep.

Maeglin, lying in his lap, curled on her side with a cushion under her belly to support its weight, said quietly, “I still miss it sometimes.”

He was silent as he combed his fingers through her dark hair. Even after all these years, it would have sounded accusing to say, “So do I.”

“They must never know,” she said. “Never.”

His fair brow furrowed. He had been thinking about it as well. If there was any way they could ever tell their sons. Tell them their mother had once been a prince who unlawfully desired his cousin, betrayed a city, and cost the lives of a hundred thousand.

He could tell his sons about Vinyamar and his childhood by the sea. He could tell them all the glorious tales of Gondolin and his life there, and how he slew the mightiest of balrogs. But their mother’s story would have to begin on a rainy night near Imladris, when she woke up in dark woods, pursued by wargs.

He was angry how cruel history had been to Maeglin. If ever they went to Valinor, Glorfindel thought grimly, he was going to have a long talk with his old friend Pengolodh the loremaster and insist on a rewrite of some passages in the annals of the fall of Gondolin.

 “I will tell them of the Lords of Gondolin,” said Glorfindel. “And how one of them was Lómion, the proud Lord of the Mole. I will tell them that he was fearless in battle, and the finest craftsman outside of the House of Fëanáro. I will tell them how he commanded the undying loyalty of his House and his warriors, and that his words were few but wise. I will tell them that he built the seventh and finest gate of Ondolindë.”

“And allied himself with Moringotto and destroyed the fairest city in Beleriand and died a villain’s death. There is no way of sugar-coating that part, my love.”

“I will tell them how tragic a life he had, to have suffered much so young, and been so little understood in a life so short. He did not choose whom he loved. He never had a real chance at happiness in life.”

“Do not be too kind to me. I made choices,” she said calmly. “I chose to dissuade Turukáno from obeying Ulmo, though I knew Tuor spoke true. I chose to go out that day into the mountains to find new ores, when Turukáno forbade all to leave the city. I chose that fork in the mountain paths that led to an orc ambush. They will need to hear all that too.”

She paused.

“And it is true. I broke in Angband. I sold my city for my cousin. My desires were dark, and used against me. I was Sauron’s puppet because I gave the strings into his hand. You cannot rewrite history for my sake.”

“I love you so much.”

There was such a note of intensity in his voice that she looked up at him in surprise. His eyes were dark blue with emotion, helpless and angry at the ineluctable facts of history.

“You have strange taste in lovers, Lord of the Golden Flower,” she said with a wry smile, then shifted restlessly. The weight of the twins made it uncomfortable to stay in one position for too long.

“I have been blessed in love, my Lord of the Mole.” He helped her to sit up and kissed her.

“Blessed? Ui, you poor, deluded soul,” she murmured and smiled, before carefully shifting her weight and lying again in his lap on her other side, burying her face against his tunic, and falling asleep.

Glorfindel gently arranged the cushion under her belly to support it, and gazed down at her with soft eyes as she slept in his lap.

A single tear trickled down his cheek. He brushed it angrily away.

 

That was a huge one! Hold on, love. We are almost there!”

Which was what he had said eight hours earlier.

“Will you just shut up with the commentary, Flower?”

So he massaged her back gently and softly hummed a lilting, soothing melody.

Then the next one hit…

Ai! This one is even bigger. You are doing marvellously, melimë. They are so much closer now. That’s it—give a good push—it should not be much longer—”

“Shut up. I warn you—I have never felt more like castrating you than I do now.”

“Sorry,” he said contritely. But he was smiling as he gently wiped her brow and kissed it.

And then came the next three in succession…

Good as gold, he kept silent through it all, let her crush his hand, and channelled the strength of his fëa into her to sustain her, as he had throughout the past few days. But finally, he could take it no longer.

Melmenya,” he said. “Please stop being such a proud prince, and just scream. You are unnerving the midwife with your silence. There is nothing wrong with screaming.”

“I have been in Angband. This is nothing.”

But when the next contraction hit her, her knuckles turned white and she clenched Glorfindel’s hand with a grip that would have fractured the bones of anyone less than the mighty warrior…

She panted and glowered ferociously at him as it tapered off.

“You balrog-slaying bastard. You did this to me.”

An eyebrow lifted ever so slightly. “Oh? I recall no protests from my lady as I ravished her.”

That earned him an expletive so colourful that Glorfindel glanced nervously at the Silvan midwife kneeling across from him on the platform of the flet. The green-eyed elleth was looking a little bored, for with Glorfindel there, she had so far had next to nothing to do. He was relieved to see from her bland countenance that she understood no Quenya.

And he saw, standing at the opening in the woven screens of the talan, the Lady Galadriel laughing quietly, greatly amused.

 

Maeglin gazed at their two sons lying asleep between them. “Well,” she said with a smile, “Absolutely no doubt as to paternity here.”

Gleaming on one tiny head was the rich, bright gold hair of Finarfin’s house.

The other shone with fine wisps of pale white-gold hair.

The first grey-eyed babe slept peacefully. His brother, restlessly pushing and kicking his tiny limbs against the swaddling, resenting restraint, had eyes of blue.

Finrod and Rîlel’s bloodlines had asserted themselves. Galadriel and Celeborn gazed with radiant and soft faces upon the two infants, and smiled at each other as they remembered another time and another birth, thousands of years past.

Then all visitors and the midwife departed from the talan to give the new family some time to themselves. Glorfindel lay on his side, looking at the two tiny heads, his heart overflowing with love and joy.

He had, however, one disappointment. He had been hoping for one dark and one golden head. “The line of Nolofinwë needs another chance,” he said jokingly. “Let’s get started straight away.”

“Go ahead if you wish. I’ll be with you in a yén,” she said drowsily. She had been in intense labour for forty-one hours, and had been complimented by the midwife as most elven deliveries took over forty-eight.

The golden morning sun was now pouring in a warm gentle haze over their bed through a gap in the screens, even though it was midwinter.

“Names,” said Glorfindel to Maeglin. “This is Arinnáro,” he touched the cheek of Bright-gold Hair who was still asleep, his hair radiant as his father’s as it caught the morning light. “And this is Arman.” He held the tiny hand of White-gold Hair, who had managed to loosen the swaddling cloth and was now gurgling happily and punching the air with his tiny fists.

“Yes,” she murmured. “That suits.”

She held the other tiny fist and examined it, marvelling at the intricate workmanship of each finger and nail. Her eyes scrutinized the details of eyelashes, golden and dark, at the softness of velvet skin, and knew that nothing that had ever left her forges in Gondolin or Imladris could ever compare with this great work.

Mother-names could come much later, if at all, she thought, and yawned.

When the Galadhrin midwife next peeked into the talan, both parents and babies were fast asleep.

 


Glossary

Orro (Q) – exclamation of dismay/disgust/horror

Alae (S) – behold/look there

Calan a dhû (S) – day and night

Anor ar Isil (S) – sun and moon

Maer (S) – good (here, with the meaning “nice/well done/splendid”)

Bain (S) – beautiful

Nae (S) – alas

Na manë (Q) – be good (imperative – behave yourself)

Melimë (Q) – darling/beloved

Ui (Q) – No / It is not so

Arinnáro (Q) – fire of the morning

Arman (Q) – ray of sunlight

Chapter Text

He had eyes for no other, as he disembarked from the white ship. As the ship drew near the shore, he saw her running, light and fleet of foot as she had been when he first saw her in Ost-in-Edhil… he saw her waiting on the wharf, shimmering in the light of the sunset sky, its glow illuminating her silver hair with soft-rose hues, lovelier even than he remembered. As he walked down from the ship, he saw in her iridescent grey eyes the wholeness and healing he had failed to give her. And she, gazing into his eyes, saw all the burden he had carried in the mortal lands. Saw his story of the recent joy and loss common to them both. And tears trembled in her eyes even as she smiled.

They stood on the dock folded in each other’s arms for an eternity, as others milled around them in other meetings. They had never had great need for spoken words, and stood lost in the meeting of their minds.

Even from afar, as he had stood on the ship’s deck and seen the clouds part and the far green land on the horizon, his thoughts had gone forth seeking her, and heard her reply.

“At last,” he had heard her say in his mind. “At last you are here. I have waited for you each day… meleth e-gûren, love of my heart...”

Now, he felt her at last real and warm in his arms as he had dreamed so many years.

Then, he heard her speak once again. “Come, my heart. There are two I have brought here whom you must meet.”

Elrond reluctantly lifted his head from his wife’s silver hair, and saw a lady with dark hair and sea-grey eyes gazing at him, so like Arwen in appearance that he had no doubt who she was. Dim memories from infancy conjured her face. He did not need to ask for his father. Already in the twilit skies above he saw the silmaril-star sailing. Elwing stepped forward with tears flowing down her cheeks, who had lost two sons six thousand years ago, and now received back one. 

And behind Elwing, a lady with radiant, flowing hair of light, pure gold. Glittering grey eyes scanning the crowd, searching, he knew, for a tall warrior, for deeper golden hair and a beloved face, to find only the Lady Galadriel folding her much-missed daughter in her arms.

Elrond braced himself, and hand-in-hand with his mother, walked forward to meet his father’s mother.

 

From the terrace of his new home, Elrond looked down onto the myriad twinkling golden lights of the buildings of Tol Eressëa that stretched below.

He looked up at the fiery stars above. Constellations familiar yet different, burning larger and brighter than in the mortal lands, seeming so much closer to earth. His father’s star could no longer be seen in the sky.

In the gardens below, he lovingly watched Celebrían walk arm-in-arm with her mother, deep in talk. He himself would be visiting his long-lost parents when daylight came, and his mother had just departed to make preparations for a feast.

He looked behind him and was not surprised to see his father’s mother approach. At the harbour, he had but told her that Glorfindel had chosen to remain in Ennor for a while. He had briefly glimpsed the stricken look in her eyes before Celebrían swept them all to her home. As they dined, the haunting sea-songs of the Teleri rose and fell in the twilight, wafting through the window on sea breezes. Elrond and Galadriel had spent much of the evening speaking to Elwing and Celebrían, while Idril listened attentively but said little.

Haruni Itarillë, will you sit here with me?” he said in Quenya, pouring her some wine.

She sat next to him on the couch with her noble head proud and lovely on the slender column of her white neck, shimmering in the night, her fair, bright golden hair flowing over her shoulder down to the floor. The lovely face for which a city had fallen was still looking slightly dejected.

“I am sorry for your disappointment, Haruni,” he said as he handed her a goblet, “But Laurefindel will remain with my sons until they, too, come to Aman.” He chose his words carefully.

Idril smiled. “Hara máriessë,” she said, raising her goblet in a toast to him.

“Hara máriessë,” Elrond responded with a smile, raising his own.

“May our sons join us soon.” She took a dainty sip. “After five thousand years, what is a little more waiting?”

“Indeed,” said Elrond, feeling a little uneasy.

For he knew that his grandparents had not received the singular grace enjoyed by Beren and Lúthien Tinúviel. In Aman, Tuor had been granted the boon of a life long beyond that of any other man before him. Then he had willingly embraced the Gift of Men and peacefully passed beyond the Circle of Arda, with his family at his side… Idril, Eärendil and his wife, and Glorfindel, who had been as a brother to him.

Elrond remembered what Glorfindel had told him. Idril had been long prepared for that parting, for had she not given her heart to Tuor knowing full well that their days were numbered? And Eru and the Valar had blessed her in this: that she had enjoyed more than tenfold the fifty years she had thought they would have together, and that to the last he had been hale, and whole, and happy… but increasingly restless and ready for that final voyage to a world that beckoned to him beyond the veil. Naturally, she had grieved, and sought healing for her loss in the gardens of Estë. They would meet again only at the Second Music, and a hint of sadness lurked in her bright eyes. Would Elrond have wished such a fate on Arwen, for the price of her immortality? Better, Elrond thought, to be severed from her parents and brothers but eternally united with the one she loved through the Gift of Men.

Over dinner, Elrond had learned that Idril now spent part of her time with her parents at Alcarinos, as New Gondolin was called, and part of her time with her grandparents in Tirion or in Valmar. But most of her time was devoted to Eärendil, and Elwing who was as a daughter to her. It was clear enough to Elrond that her love and life now centred chiefly on her sons. Elrond wondered if he should prepare her for the fact that her foster son might never return. Or when it might be suitable to break the news that her beloved boy had married the enemy of her family. He would have to tread carefully. He had no wish to give her false hope, or mislead her. But neither did he wish to add to her sorrow.

“You have been with Laurefindil five millennia… far, far longer than he has ever spent with me.” She smiled at the realization. “Tell me how he does.”

“He is well. He has ever been the most skilled of warriors and a great commander of warriors, and he has done mighty deeds in battle against the Shadow.”

Her face lit in a proud smile. “I expected no less. Has he changed in any way?”

“He has carried the burden of the years lightly. When we parted, he was as joyous and young of spirit as when I met him first. In fact, I had never seen him happier.”

“Ah,” she laughed musically with delight, thinking of his familiar face and smile. Then her laugh faltered with wonder that remaining in Ennorath should bring such joy.

“He has been the best of friends to me and my family, and is deeply beloved of all who dwell in my household.” Except for dear old Erestor, Elrond thought. “And he was much pursued by half the unwed nissi in Endórë.”

Her laugh was like a mountain brook. “That, too, was to be expected.” She sipped her wine, then gazed at him piercingly, her elegant eyebrow raised. “…But you say ‘was’.”

Elrond smiled. “Yes. It is amazing, for all of us who know him, but he has finally found his One.”

Her face shone eagerly. “Finally! I feared it might never happen!”

“Yes, whoever would have believed it of him?”

“Oh, I am so happy! Tell me everything. Is she worthy of him?” She looked a little sceptical that any could be good enough for her darling.

“She is brave, clever, and beautiful, and she adores him. They have been wed almost seventy coranári.”

“Oh, that I should have missed the wedding!” she lamented, and heaved a sigh. “Was it beautiful?”

“Very, but neither a grand nor a large one. A joyous, humble affair of good friends and well-wishers. Nine hundred guests.”

“Had he been wed in New Ondolindë, in Alcarinos, he might have had a hundred thousand guests! For not one of the Gondolindrim would have missed it for the world! We must have another wedding celebration there, once he returns. All in the twelve houses would return from the far corners of Aman to behold it.”

Elrond very much doubted that the House of the Mole would show their faces. And the thought of Maeglin at such a wedding was absolutely terrifying. He managed a smile.

“It would be a little strange, to have another wedding. They have children already, just born. Two boys, not yet a year out of the womb at the time we set sail.”

She gave a cry that mingled delight and regret. “Ah, twins? The darlings! Oh, that I was not there for the birth!” Her smile was both dazzling and dreamy. “It is just as well he remains with my great-grandsons. His boys are a little young for the journey. Oh, how impatient I am to see them all!” She sighed again.

Elrond smiled but was silent. He sipped his wine.

His grandmother missed nothing. Her eyes were gazing thoughtfully at him, shrewdly. “He IS coming… is he not?” She spoke slowly.

Elrond looked into the ruby depths of his wine, then met her eyes and said in measured tones, “That is certainly his wish.”

The light of the Trees in those grey eyes pierced him. “But not hers, I gather.” Her voice, so sweet and melodious, had taken on an edge like a steel blade’s.

Elrond calmly set his goblet down. “He will seek to persuade her. And as you know—he can be persuasive.”

She hissed, rose from her seat, and paced up and down for a while. “What kindred is she?” she said in a quiet, hard voice, swinging round to face him. “Is she of the Moriquendi that she would turn him away from his kin and from the blessed lands?”

“She has never said what kindred she hails from,” Elrond said mildly. Seeing her eyes widen in astonishment, he added, “We found her in a nearby forest, and with apparently no memory of anything before that.”

She tilted her fair head to one side, looking grim. “So, you do not believe her claim to have no memory, Indya.

“I believe she has reason not to speak of her past, Haruni. But none of us have ever sensed anything ill in her.”

“Oh my pitya,” Idril murmured. “What manner of nís have you wed?”

She looked at her grandson, whose lip was twitching at hearing his tall, ancient friend called “little one”. “How could one of his nature, so open and so true, bind with a creature of secrets such as she?”

Elrond had not had any intention of breaking the news on the very day of his arrival, but he sensed it looming. “He knows her secrets, and loves her all the more.”

Idril sat on the couch again, and spoke in a low, calm voice. “You know those secrets, I can tell. Why are you chary of telling me, Indya?

Elrond met her eyes. “Question me, Haruni, and I shall answer you.”

She picked up her wine goblet again, and thought for a while as she swirled the ruby liquid. She found herself flinching from the questions most weighing on her heart. “How old is she?”

“Not even a yén in age. She was but a child when found, just blossoming into womanhood, naked as the day she was born. She has perhaps seen a mere hundred and twenty coranári.”

She thought of her eternally boyish foster son. “Strange that that should seem fitting, seven millennia old though he may be.”

“Her fëa seems far older than that, though. She is no babe in spirit.”

“In what way?”

“There is nothing of the child in her. She speaks little, and is grave and dutiful and dedicated to the work of her hands.” He avoided the word craft. “She neither dances nor sings nor plays as other girls her age are wont to do. Whatever her past, it left a shadow on her. Her laughter and smiles were rare currency before… but he has been good for her and brought her joy.”

“She is wholly unlike him in every way!”

“As night from day.”

Idril’s long, slender fingers toyed with the stem of her wine goblet. “What is she like in appearance?”

He sipped his own wine. “Raven black hair. White skin. Slender but strong. Long black eyes.”

At those last words, Idril’s fair brow furrowed. Black eyes were rare, and found only among the Moriquendi.

Idril had known only two personages with such eyes. Deep, smouldering eyes of black obsidian.

In fact, all of the history of the Eldar recorded only two personages with such eyes.

A Dark Elf. And his son.

She emptied her cup in one gulp.  Elrond began to feel worried.

“Black hair and black eyes, say you?” she asked, her voice strange.

“Yes. A great beauty, I must say, and much admired in our valley.”

She extended her empty cup and he refilled it. They looked out into the night, and listened to song of the Teleri and the long, rolling sound of surf beating on the shore.

“What is her name?” she asked in a quiet voice.

And here it came.

“Lómiel,” said Elrond, as nonchalantly as he could, bracing himself.

A small, strangled sound escaped from his grandmother’s throat, and a little wine splashed from her goblet onto her white skirt.

“Oh, how careless of me. I grow clumsy,” she said with a short laugh, waving off his concern. “It is an old dress. It is no matter.”

She threw her golden head back and drained her cup again.

As she extended her cup again, and he refilled it, Elrond quickly changed the subject and began asking about the island’s central city of Kortirion and the various diversions available there. That would do till later. Let her ponder it for a while, ere they spoke of it again.

He had not even needed to mention that Glorfindel’s wife was a smith.

 

The following night, a brother and sister sat together in a fair garden at the foothills of Taniquetil, where Finrod had built a graceful white mansion so that his beloved Amarië might be close to her people. Their dinner had ended late, and Amarië had retired to allow the two siblings to talk. They had spoken through the night, and at the hour before dawn there was still so much to say after almost seven thousand years of separation. They communicated sometimes with speech, sometimes mind-to-mind.

As the sky in the east began to lighten, Finrod said to his sister:

“Come, Artë. I have something to show you.”

He led her into the house, and they continued to speak of various things as they walked through the wide, high-ceilinged corridors. Everything in the house spoke of grace, order and serenity. The corridors lit as they approached, and dimmed after they passed.

Finally, he led her into his study, and opened a door off it leading to another chamber. Hovering golden globes of light came to life.

Galadriel understood the moment she stepped in and her brilliant grey eyes swept over the small room.

On a wall were maps of Beleriand in the First Age and of Middle Earth in the Second and Third Ages. Marked out on the maps were key events of a life, the year and description written in a fair, flowing script by a father who had questioned voyagers returned from the mortal lands, and spoken to rebodied souls released by Mandos, in order to trace the life of a lost son.

Galadriel saw Gondolin and Vinyamar in Nevrast marked out in Beleriand, and the battlefield of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad where Glorfindel had fought.

There was a detailed plan of Gondolin, with all the houses marked out… and marked out too, were Idril’s secret way of escape… and the path through the Cirith Thoronath… and the pinnacle where a battle with balrog had taken place... and a spot where a cairn was raised.

On a map of Middle Earth was Lindon… and Barad-dûr. The battle plain was marked out, where the warrior had almost died a second time and returned to Mandos during the great siege, only to be turned back from the Halls by the Vala, his service not yet done.

In the Northern Kingdom, Fornost was marked... there, he had confronted and driven out the Witch-King of Angmar, and released a prophecy that would be fulfilled a thousand years hence.

There was a large map of Imladris valley, for thousands of years his home and the place where he had faithfully trained generations of the Rangers of the North. Even the plan of the house was marked in some detail with the kitchens, his chambers, the training rooms, the stables, the healing hall, and the Hall of Fire.

And side by side with the maps were portraits capturing a life the father had missed. The finest master painters of Tirion had been commissioned, and caught with breathtaking realism moments of time described by Idril or Voronwë or Galdor or Ecthelion, and later by those who had sailed west from Imladris.

Galadriel saw a child laughing by the sea in a white tunic with his golden hair streaming in the sea breeze… a young Lord of Gondolin in fine blue robes standing grave and attentive by his King’s throne… a rider on a white horse, dressed in hunting garb, his bow drawn… a warrior pushing a mighty balrog down from a pinnacle, his beautiful face stern in battle fury, blue eyes blazing with white fire, frozen in that all-too-brief moment of victory over his foe, as with both hands on the hilt he drove the length of his dirk deep into the balrog’s chest. There was blood on his battle-dented armour, and a livid red streak down one cheek that had been torn by the balrog’s lash, and blood on singed hair that flowed over his shoulder from beneath his helmet—the famed golden hair by which his foe, two seconds hence, would drag the hero to his death into the dark chasm that yawned beneath them both.

A father’s shrine to a son he was still waiting to meet.

All of this, Galadriel’s sharp elven eyes and quick mind took in within three seconds. She turned to look into her brother’s glittering storm-grey eyes. He was leaning against a wall, his posture and the fall of his hair exactly as Glorfindel’s had been, that evening in Lothlórien, when the balrog slayer had asked her who his parents were.

But her brother's eyes as they rested on her were not tormented like his son's had been. They were calm and clear with the patience of a five thousand year wait.

For, of course, as he had spoken to Idril, Finrod had traced Glorfindel’s begetting date. Had understood that something had happened at Doriath, and guessed that Galadriel held the key to it. There was no reproach in the beloved eyes. Just the unspoken question that he did not even need to ask.

It was time for some answers.

Galadriel took his hands in hers, and looked into his waiting eyes. 

“Ingo, please, please forgive me…”

 


Glossary

Haruni (Q) – grandmother

Hara máriessë (Q) – stay in happiness (it is a greeting, but I’m using it as a toast)

Indya (Q) – my grandchild [indyo = grandchild, descendant]

 

Chapter Text

The invitation from Legolas arrived in spring.

“Are you insane, Glorfindel? Travelling to the Greenwood is a hundred leagues one way,” Erestor protested as he stirred his herbal tea. “And your children are so tiny.”

The great dining hall was no longer in use. The remnant of Elrond’s household sat gathered in a spacious parlour off the kitchen for their meals. On this spring morning, natural light poured in through large windows that opened onto the apple orchard. The buildings of the smithy and stables were visible beyond early-blooming trees laden with pink blossoms.

“Why is Legolas still in Eryn Lasgalen, anyway? Did he not plan to reside in Ithilien?” Elrohir asked as he popped a dumpling stuffed with meat and vegetables into his mouth.

“Yes, I thought several of his people were ready to go with him,” Elladan said.

“Sadly, Thranduil has not given his blessing, and keeps him in the Woodland Realm,” Glorfindel replied. The warrior was facing a challenge tougher than any cadet he had ever trained: getting his younger son to feed himself rather than flick spoonfuls of porridge at Erestor, Thalanes and Camaen. And at himself. The balrog slayer blocked a glob of porridge before it could hit his bright hair, and managed to get Arman to shovel one more spoonful of porridge into his mouth. In his heart, the father could not fault the infant. Flicking porridge was more fun than eating it.

“Surely you are not going to take the babies through the mountains and through that ghastly forest?” Lindir’s arms tightened protectively about Arinnáro, oblivious to the fact that the tot was painting intricate patterns of butter down the front panel of the bard’s green robe.

“The forest is cleansed and fair again,” said Glorfindel, ducking under the table to dislodge his younger son from Erestor’s leg. “Lómiel and the boys would enjoy it.”

As he emerged from under the tablecloth tucked under his father’s arm, Arman scrunched handfuls of his father’s radiant hair with porridge-stained hands. He had a fetish for hair. And for people’s calves. Erestor pursed his lips as he examined porridge-handprints on his breeches.

Then Maeglin spotted what her firstborn was doing. “Aryo! Stop that!” She wiped butter off the guilty tot’s hands with a napkin and patted the hapless bard’s robe. “Lindir, I am so sorry.”

“Oh, no matter. It is but an old thing I hardly wear.”

“Look what you have done!” said Maeglin sharply. “Aryo, that was naughty and you know it. Say sorry.”

Goheno nin, Lindir,” said the baby in a tiny voice with his rich golden head bowed and his grey eyes contrite. Lindir’s heart melted. Aryo enunciated his words with startling clarity for an elfling so tiny, not even lisping. In contrast, his pale-haired brother still had not said his first word. To have been out of the womb fifteen months and not be talking yet was most backward, and everyone was perturbed except for Glorfindel.

“Glorfindel clearly misses his days of adventure and travel,” grinned Elrohir, now cheerfully tucking into a honey pastry filled with berry preserves and cream.

“Well, by all means go, Glorfindel, but go alone,” said Elladan, to the visible horror of Erestor and a few of the others, for the balrog slayer was the only one who could manage both his sons effortlessly.

“No,” said Glorfindel firmly, to collective relief around the table. “I am not going anywhere without my family.”

Feeding time over,  Arman was set down on the floor, and the infant began tearing around the room like a little whirlwind. Inspired, his brother joined him and they both raced madly around the parlour squealing at the top of their little voices.

Erestor gritted his teeth. Dreadful behaviour, for elflings. Almost as bad as mortal children. But what else could be expected, with such a father?

Glorfindel met Maeglin’s eyes across the table and smiled. “What do you think, melda? Shall we go?”

At that point, both parents quickly grabbed hold of the tablecloth just as their twins began to pull it and everything upon it onto the floor.

“I think it would do us all good,” replied Maeglin drily, glancing at Erestor’s pained expression.

 

Asfaloth and his companion Gilroch grazed on the sweet grasses of the wide, open plains of the Anduin valley, and watched idly as their riders romped in the open field. Behind them rose the great rugged peaks of the Hithaeglir. Before them, in the distance, ran the broad river, and beyond it lay their destination: the great forest of Eryn Lasgalen which stretched out as far as the eye could see both to the left and right horizon. Above them, in the vast expanse of cerulean blue sky, the descendants of Thorondor the Great still circled high, though they, too, would soon journey west.

The family had encountered wargs twice in the Misty Mountains, Glorfindel and Maeglin quickly dispatching the beasts with arrows. They had met no orcs, stray groups of which still lurked in parts of Middle Earth, hunted relentlessly by the men of Gondor and Rohan.

As the elf family sat on the grass, Glorfindel was singing a cheerful little ditty and tickling his sons. They rolled around in the grass with squeals of delight and peals of silvery laughter.

Watching them, Maeglin thought of her rocky initiation to motherhood a year ago. She had been clueless how to even carry the fragile things. Glorfindel’s laidback attitude to babycare had reassured her. “People complicate this too much,” he said, with a newborn balanced casually on each forearm. “Ensure they are fed, clean, do not drop them, do not drown them. That is all there is to it, really. There you go… support the neck and head.” He passed one to her and watched her awkwardly adjust the newborn in her arms.

“You can breathe,” he added helpfully.

He had happily done everything for the babies in the first days after the birth. Save one thing. “You know I would if I could, melimë,” he said.  

There had not been an elfling in any of the elven realms for decades, thus no nursemaid could be found. Well, Maeglin thought, for all Aredhel had found it tedious, she had nursed Maeglin for several months. She would do the same as her own mother, till the babes could be weaned off onto thin gruel. Glorfindel had sat by, watching with a measure of tender awe as the babies fed.

“What are you staring at?” Maeglin had growled softly at him with narrowed eyes.

“I think that is one of the most beautiful sights in all Arda.”

She snorted. “You’re daft”.

With a smile, he took a baby from her and showed her how to burp it.

Maeglin was glad that now there were no more guards to train, and no more orcs to slaughter, the twins gave Glorfindel a focus for his energies. For herself, she had been amazed that she did not resent the twins taking over her life. An eternity of time for craft stretched ahead, but there were only these brief years of their childhood to enjoy. There was little smithing work to do with Imladris near empty, anyway; Camaen busied himself with maintenance work nowadays more than actual smithing.

Glorfindel’s song concluded and the fair-haired infants scrambled to their feet and tore away across the field through grasses that came up past their chests. As they slowed down to a trot, Aryo looked as though he was telling a long story to his brother. Arman chuckled in reply but was silent. Then he gave his brother a big hug that sent them both tumbling to the ground again, and they rolled around wrestling each other and laughing merrily.

“Stop worrying,” Glorfindel said, as they lay on the grass watching their sons. “Itarillë loved telling everyone how I started speaking late as well. And once I started no one could shut me up. Enjoy this while you can.”

“But you began at twenty-six months. Arman is past that now.” The twins had been out of the womb sixteen months; they were twenty-eight months old.

“Give him time. He’ll be fine.”

Arman began to turn somersaults in the grass. Aryo tried to copy him.

“Did you teach him to do that?” said Maeglin.

“No.” Glorfindel looked surprised that anyone would need to be taught. “It comes naturally.”

Arman tore away on swift, little legs, Aryo chasing after him.

“How much like Arman were you as a child?” asked Maeglin,

“Worse, if you believe the other lords,” laughed Glorfindel. “All save Ecthelion ran for the hills each time they saw Itarillë approaching, those first years of my life. So did your mother. Irissë gave me a wide berth till I was about thirty-five years old and became, as she put it, ‘more interesting’.”

Maeglin gave a wry smile. Her mother had no interest in children… except, thankfully, her own son. In some ways, her mother had been a better friend than a parent. She had neglected Maeglin’s education apart from riding and hunting, and had casually and cursorily taught him to read and write Quenya only when he secretly asked her to, at the age of twenty. The sporadic lessons had not amounted to much.  Years later, he had struggled to catch up under Pengolodh’s tutelage.

Glorfindel looked at Maeglin and thought how like and unlike her mother she was. The same pride and independence, yes… but Aredhel had been careless of duty or obligation, whereas Maeglin had always demanded much of himself, ever seeking to prove himself able and deserving of the positions Turgon had given him. Aredhel had been as ebullient and self-assured as Glorfindel. But whereas Glorfindel could channel his energies into running a house and training for war, Aredhel could only spend idle days riding her horse around the green valley, practising archery, and being exhorted to take up weaving or tending flowers or painting like other ladies. No wonder the valley had become, for her, a prison.

Glorfindel looked at Maeglin with soft eyes. Beneath the scowls and taciturn arrogance, Glorfindel saw—had always seen—vulnerability and self-doubt lurking. The softness of the porcupine beneath the quills. Such depths of tenderness and love had blossomed in her, over their years together, safe in his acceptance of who she was.

The children had wandered too far; the parents chased after them.

“Ah,” said Glorfindel, looking into the distance as they caught up with the twins. “Old friends.”

Three powerfully-built black-bearded men were headed their way. The leader looked to be taller than Glorfindel by a head.

“I would want to be their friends, all right,” Maeglin murmured. “Are those axes strapped to their backs?” She was armed and would have been unconcerned if not for their babes.

“Fear not the Beornings. They have ever been my friends,” said Glorfindel. “Almost all who pass this way use the Old Ford they maintain to cross the Anduin.” He whistled for the horses and sat Arman on his shoulders, whilst Maeglin placed Aryo in the cloth sling tied across her body. They walked towards the descendants of bears and men and he sent her his thoughts. “We are not dwarves so we need not worry. They like me enough to usually give me a discount on my toll.”

The Beornings looked down at the elven family with amused interest. “We knew not, Golden-haired, that there were still young amongst your kind,” said the tallest among the three, in a deep rumbling voice. His beard was grey, but his eyes were still bright and sharp.

“They are treasures rare indeed, in these days of our fading, Grimbeorn son of Beorn,” smiled Glorfindel, speaking also in Westron.

“Hail, good friends,” said Aryo clearly in Westron, startling his parents. Both he and his brother were gazing spellbound with huge eyes at the tall Beornings with their black or grey beards, ferocious eyebrows, hairy muscular arms, tattoos, and burly thickset bodies. Silent Arman was so rapt and fascinated that he kept very still.

The Beornings burst into laughter, showing two longer, sharp fangs like a bear’s among their teeth. Though tall for elflings, the twins were far smaller than Beorning infants of a year old.

“Hail, little elf!” rumbled Grimbeorn the Old. “That was well-spoken. If you would be friends indeed, come closer.” And he took the two elflings in his large, broad hands and sat them one on each shoulder. The twins laughed in delight as the Beorning chieftain walked toward the stone bridge spanning the river.

“Your elflings cross free with me. Just two silver pieces for you, your lady, and your horses.”

“My great thanks, son of Beorn,” said Glorfindel, making the much-discounted payment.

“You are a mighty goblin-slayer, Golden-haired. My father named you Friend from of old.” The sun was beginning to set as they began to cross the bridge, the powerful waters of the Anduin rushing beneath it.

“It would seem our goblin-slaying days will soon be past, Lord of the Beornings.”

“Aye, may the foul things perish from the earth.” The chieftain spat into the river.

“Have any been sighted here of late?” asked Maeglin.

“Not in these open plains for a seven-month. But have a care in the deep woods, especially with your young ones. They hide.”

On the other side, the twins held on to the Beorning chieftain’s neck as Glorfindel reached for them.

“No, Atto!” said Aryo. “Again, again!”

Arman made a wordless cooing sound that said the same.

“Shall I keep them till you return?” Grimbeorn bared his bear fangs in a smile again.

“You would regret it, Lord of the Beornings. They would try anyone’s patience dearly,” said Maeglin with a smile.

“Enough, boys! Time to go!” said Glorfindel in Quenya, his tone of voice brooking no nonsense. The twins reluctantly allowed their father to carry them down.

“Till we return, Grimbeorn!” said Glorfindel.

“Safe journey, ageless ones. Till we meet again.”

“Farewell!” Aryo chirped. Both twins waved.

Glancing over her shoulder as they rode away, Maeglin saw three great black bears, ambling slowly back across the river in the fading evening light.

“Did you teach Aryo Westron?” Maeglin asked Glorfindel as they mounted the horses and rode towards the forest.

“No, but he was present when Estel’s men were passing through to Arnor. He must have picked it up.”

“And when will you decide to speak, pityo?” said Maeglin to Arman.

The infant grinned radiantly back at her and said nothing.

They turned their horses toward the great forest.

 

In Eryn Lasgalen, even at noon, were places of a perpetual twilit gloom beneath a dense canopy of tall trees. The twins were sleeping, each in a sling tied around one of their parents.

“It reminds me of Nan Elmoth,” Maeglin said, her black eyes glittering. “But there is no dark enchantment here.”

“No longer. But you did not see it when I visited eleven coranári ago. It was evil then.”

Glorfindel then fell silent. For suddenly, looking at the back of his beloved as she rode before him on Gilroch, he was unexpectedly shaken by the memory of Aredhel. Again. Maeglin wore a white tunic he had given her, and she shimmered in the shadows like a moonflower. Her hair, braided for practicality since the twins’ birth, was today in a style that made her the spitting image of Aredhel on the fateful day Glorfindel had lost the princess in the gloom of Nan Dungortheb.

The first bitter failure of his life.

Pursued by monstrous spiders that made the Mirkwood ones look like docile sheep, the three lords of Gondolin escorting the princess had searched desperately for her for over two months. They found themselves helplessly going in circles, all their mental strength needed to withstand the assault of the evil oppression that lay upon that Valley of Dreadful Death. Their horses were tormented, trembling, ears down, and showing the whites of their eyes.

It was Egalmoth who finally said, weary almost to breaking, "It is hopeless. We can do no more."

"No!" Glorfindel had protested, though he too could feel himself beginning to crack under the strain. "We cannot give up. We cannot lose her. How could we face the king and tell him we lost his sister?"

They looked at Ecthelion. They had eaten nothing for almost all their time in that accursed place, small hardship compared to no water for over a month, for they dared not drink from the poisoned springs around them. They had rested but not slept at all, for in that foul place to sleep was never to wake again. The valley oppressed their spirits like a waking nightmare, whispering despair and dark thoughts. The hardiest of the Noldor they might be, but they were so parched and weakened and disoriented that they could sustain it no longer. “Egalmoth is right,” Ecthelion had said finally in a bleak, cracked voice. “We have done what we can.”  They would bring the grievous news back to their king, and submit to his punishment.

Sorrow and guilt had tormented them for a long season, as they thought of the fair, fey, free spirit they had left behind. Wondered if she lay dead or grievously injured somewhere, or if she had escaped the deadly maze by some extraordinary chance.

They would not know the truth for fifty years.

Even naturally resilient and joyous Glorfindel had been weighed down by grief and failure and the fury of the king… nagged by the thought that perhaps, had they searched just one more week, one more day, they might have found her. They would have brought her back safely from the visit to her Fëanorian cousins. She would have lived on in the safety of Gondolin… which would not have been betrayed… which would not have fallen…

For, had the lords not lost her in the Valley of Dreadful Death, there would have been no Dark Elf in Aredhel’s life, and no Maeglin.

“Are you all right?” Maeglin asked. “You are so quiet.”

“I was just thinking of your mother,” he replied. “I failed Turukáno, I failed her, that day we lost her in Nan Dungortheb. I could not forgive myself for it for so many years. But had I not… there would have been no you. No us. And no them.” He looked at his children and at his wife. So much tragedy and grief had come from the loss of Aredhel, that it made him feel wrong, guilty, wicked to find any kind of gladness in what he had gained from it. 

“There is something you should know,” Maeglin said. “My mother sought to be lost that day. She was trying her best to shake off the three of you. She told me what a pain it was to be chaperoned, how Turukáno treated her like she was a child. Do not ever reproach yourself for it again.”

As they reached a part where the path broadened, she drew Gilroch alongside Asfaloth. “There was a time I cursed the day I was born, when I wished my mother never rode into Nan Elmoth,” she said, her black eyes gazing piercingly into his. “But what happened, happened. If we have the one good thing that has come out of all that muk, let us be thankful for it. Let us not regret you failed that day.”

And they leaned in for a long, deep kiss over the heads of their sleeping sons.

 

The beauty of Eryn Lasgalen had truly been restored. There were dreamlike stretches where the early summer sun fell in golden rays through the canopy above. There were sunlit clearings where the infants chased butterflies of many jewelled hues, and tiny, iridescent blue-and-golden bees. The liquid warbling of many fair birds could be heard each day, and bright flashes of wings seen in the treetops. They came to the Enchanted River, and followed it as it flowed north-east.

“The forests of Oromë are fairer by far, and larger by far than this,” said Glorfindel to Maeglin as they walked by the river, as he snatched Arman up by the scruff of his neck before the tot fell off the bank. “We could build a house there and enjoy perfect seclusion. No one else for hundreds of miles around.”

Maeglin took a red mushroom with white spots out of Aryo’s hands before the tot could stuff it into his mouth. He protested. “Not an edible one, Aryo. See the colour?”

“There are beautiful lakes in Oromë’s forest into which waterfalls cascade,” Glorfindel was saying. “The Great Hunter would welcome us there. A house on a lake shore—what do you think? Good fishing, and every type of fair bird and butterfly and woodland creature in the surrounding woods. No, Arman! – there could be snakes in there.” Glorfindel pulled his son out of a hollow log filled with dead leaves.

“Sounds nice,” Maeglin conceded, as she and Aryo made friends with a fluffy-tailed squirrel on the trunk of a tree.

“And by the rivers that run through the deep woods are caves. Glittering, comfortable caves. Forget about building a house—we could live there too!”

By nature open and forthright, the warrior was gently nudging his wife towards Aman as subtly as a Mûmakil charging through a Haradrin bazaar. She alternated between resenting it, and actually giving it consideration. Twilight was falling. She looked around the peaceful forest.

“It is fair enough in these woods. We could stay here.”

Glorfindel was momentarily silent, not just from disappointment. Having been momentarily distracted by the squirrel, his eyes were searching for his secondborn.

He looked up a tree.

How had Arman climbed up there so fast?

The father beamed with pride. “Look, vesseya! Look how well he can climb!”

Maeglin looked up and blanched.

Right on cue, Arman fell and was caught by his father.

“How did you let that happen?” she said angrily. “He could have been killed!”

“Never—I would definitely have caught him.”

“You cannot take your eyes off him for more than three seconds!”

“He is incredibly fast, is he not?” said the father with some pride, holding Arman up and nuzzling the laughing child’s tummy.

“What if you had not seen him in time?”

“Now I know he can climb, I shall be more watchful.”

Then the warrior’s head went up. She saw his expression change, and his eyes glint coldly as they gazed into the shadows around them.

“Quick. Get on Gilroch.”

The horses at an unspoken signal trotted to them and Maeglin unquestioningly swung herself onto Gilroch’s back. Glorfindel handed the infants up to her, and in a flash he had strung his bow and nocked an arrow, a battle-fire not kindled for a long time lighting in his eyes. Asfaloth stood by Gilroch, defending the dappled stallion’s other flank.

Maeglin fitted both babies in her sling and held on to them. They were silent, sensing their parents’ tension. Her fingers itched to reach for her bow.

A familiar stench, grunts, and crashing sounds through undergrowth. Glorfindel quickly assessed the threat. Eight orcs. Axes, blades, no spears, no arrows. In a flash, two dropped with arrows in their throats. One began to shriek a retreat in Black Speech before it too crumpled with an arrow in its eye. Then the bright warrior from Valinor was upon them.

Battle adrenalin sang in Glorfindel’s blood as his sword sang once again. He had missed this rush, he thought, felling three of them so swiftly they hardly registered his attack. He glanced back briefly and saw Maeglin struggling to keep Arman from climbing out of his sling. The seventh orc barely knew what hit him as the golden-haired warrior’s blade took off his head. Then, as Glorfindel closed in on the last orc, an arrow from above felled it with an arrow straight through the head.

Disappointment and annoyance flashed over the balrog slayer’s fair face.

Suilad!” said a familiar voice from on high.

Suilad, Legolas. That was my orch. Go find your own!”

The prince dropped lightly from above, jumped on the balrog slayer and hugged him.

“This being my forest, I have better claim on any orcs in it than you do. It is good to see you, Glorfindel!” The fair-haired prince turned to Maeglin with a radiant smile and swept her a deep and gallant bow. “Mae tollen, my fair lady Lómiel! It is a joy to see you once again, and to finally meet your children!”

Maeglin smiled and dismounted, Aryo still slung around her, Arman held firmly under her arm. “Mae g’ovannen, Legolas. It has been a long time. How does Gimli?”

At Estel and Arwen’s wedding feast at Minas Tirith, Gimli had remembered Maeglin from the reforging of Narsil, and had nodded at her good-naturedly enough as she made towards the space next to him at the table. Emboldened by this, she had said coolly as she took her seat, “Gamut sanu yenet, Gimli Glóinul.”

The dwarf had almost blown out a mouthful of mead at being addressed in Khuzdul by a heavily pregnant she-elf.

Glorfindel had returned to the feast, after a fascinating meeting with Éowyn of Rohan, to find Gimli and Maeglin getting along famously in a mix of Westron and Khuzdul. The dwarrow was pushing a tall cup of Rohirric mead before Maeglin, for the dwarf had concluded, like Estel, that the she-elf was half-dwarrow. The elflord had immediately snatched away the cup.

“Dwarfling livers may be strong as stone, elflings’ are not!” he protested to the dwarf in Westron.

“Nay, it will do her and the wee ones no harm!” snorted the dwarf. “Put hair on her chin, it would. Then what a fine dwarrowdam she would be. Ho ho!”

“Yes, and I should so love that,” Glorfindel had said dryly, raising both the cup and an elegant elven eyebrow at the dwarf, then chugging down the mead on his wife’s behalf.

Legolas, who had of course been seated on Gimli’s other side, had witnessed all this with the greatest amusement. With sparkling eyes, he now said, “Gimli is very well, Lady Lómiel, and remembers you kindly. He looks forward to welcoming you to Erebor, ere he departs for Aglarond.” Stepping forward, the archer smiled at the babies. “Suilad, little ones!”

Suilad,” said Aryo shyly. Arman dazzled Legolas with a miniature version of Glorfindel’s brightest smile, climbed swiftly out of his mother’s arms, and hurled himself onto the prince, whose pale gold hair and blue eyes were identical in colour to his. Legolas caught the baby, and gazed, stunned, into his face.

Maeglin and Glorfindel exchanged a look.

“That is Arman. He looks a little like you, does he not?” said Glorfindel lightly.

“That is an understatement,” said Legolas, not minding as Arman reached out to grab a handful of princely hair as fair and silken as his own. He turned to look at Glorfindel as though suddenly seeing the elflord’s azure eyes for the first time, and looked thoughtful.

“Legolas, is it safe here?” said Maeglin, coming to her beloved’s rescue. “Where did the yrch come from?” Glorfindel quickly took Arman from Legolas before the tot could stuff the prince’s hair into his mouth.

“There are some yrch who have made a nest in the caverns of Emyn Duir, the mountains south of here.”

“They fled without even putting up a fight.” It had been almost disappointing, thought Glorfindel.

Legolas smiled. “I have been hunting them. They are pretty jittery and cowed by now.” 

“How many?” asked Glorfindel, his face keen.

“We are not sure. Perhaps a hundred. We plan to mount an attack to eradicate them soon. The problem is, the caverns are a treacherous maze to battle in, and they run deep. It was once a stronghold of ours, before the shadow claimed it.”

“Let us study the ancient maps. The two of us should undertake a reconnaissance. Your father might know of secret tunnels created by the Silvan folk, which would open only to edhil, and allow us to enter unseen.” Glorfindel was glowing with anticipation of the challenge. “Once we know their numbers and the lay of the land, how hard can it be?”

The babies gurgled in what sounded like agreement, and their mother rolled her eyes fondly.

Putting distance between themselves and Emyn Duir, they journeyed north-east through the night. Legolas and Glorfindel led the way on foot, Maeglin rode behind them on Gilroch and quietly nursed the babies, while Asfaloth took the rear. Though Glorfindel had told her she could now wean them off, she had found herself oddly loath to surrender this special connection with them, and still nursed them once a day.

Legolas unburdened his heart. His triumphant return from the War of the Ring had brought his father more pain than joy. Seeing the sea-light in his son’s eyes, Thranduil had at once opposed Legolas’ going to Ithilien, and forbidden any of the Silvan folk to go with him. The Woodland King was a proud Sinda, like his great-uncle Celeborn and his father Oropher before him. They had turned aside from the Great Journey in the time of starlight, choosing the light of the maia Melian over the light of the Trees. They had rejected the west a second time after the War of Wrath, and journeyed east instead. This was a matter of ancient pride. All attempts by Legolas to reason or plead with his father had failed. It had reached a point where Thranduil would react in cold fury at any mention of Ithilien or the sea, and Legolas spoke of them no longer.

“Do you wonder?” said Glorfindel. “He would lose you. His greatest fear, I am sure, is that you sail to the west.”

Legolas was quiet, his glittering blue eyes sadder than Glorfindel had ever seen them before.

“He has lost me already,” the prince finally said.

Glorfindel was shocked. This was Legolas, the most obedient and dutiful of sons.

“I stay because he has enjoined me to,” said the prince in a resigned voice. “I shall not oppose his will. I shall give my strength to serve him and obey him as my father and king. But my heart is in Ithilien, and my fae yearns to the sea which sings to me. I love these woods and I always shall. My heart rejoices to see it fair and flourishing as it was of old. But I belong here no longer. And whilst I am here, I do not truly live.”

Maeglin listened silently as she patted Arman to sleep on her shoulder. Wondering if a day would come when Glorfindel in Ennor might echo those same sentiments, as the sea called him home.

And if it might estrange them, as it had estranged Legolas from his king…

 

The visitors had just passed through the vast stone gates of the elvenking’s halls and dismounted from their steeds when Thranduil emerged from a great stone archway in his green and gold riding clothes, flanked by attendants. Just as Arman went hurtling across the gravel of the foyer at breakneck speed, straight towards him.

Glorfindel could and probably should have intercepted the child, but chose instead to watch in fascination. He was not alone. As two Silvan attendants led the horses away, both Maeglin and Legolas stood rooted as well. They all watched.

King Thranduil had the strangest look on his face as the tiny elfling with pale-gold hair latched onto his riding boot. They watched as the king, after staring for a moment at the baby attached to his leg, stooped to lift Arman into his arms and gazed at the elfling much as his son had earlier. Looked into azure blue eyes with dark lashes, smiling at him. Looked at the curling wisps of white-gold hair like a bright nimbus on the baby’s head.

The elfling smiled shyly at Thranduil from under his long eyelashes.

I should like to see you tell him,” Maeglin thought to Glorfindel, as she picked up Aryo before he could stuff a handful of shining gravel into her boot. 

Are you mad? Tell Thranduil that the Sindarin mother he adored seduced my golodh father? You’ll find yourself widowed before you can say ‘Kinslaying’. Either he hears it one day from our mother herself, or not at all.” He picked a piece of gravel from Aryo’s mouth. “Besides, you know I must speak first to my father.”

Legolas was stifling a smile as Arman reached out, took the crown of forest springflowers from the Woodland King’s hair, and took a mouthful of the glorious confection of bluebells, celandine, and wood violets.

Glorfindel was at the king’s side in the next instant, and Arman actually bawled and kicked as his father pulled him out of Thranduil’s arms. “Le suilon, King Thranduil. Please excuse my son.” The warrior smiled apologetically as he handed the slightly mauled crown back to the king. Without it, the king was a hand’s breadth shorter than his elder brother.

“No matter,” said Thranduil coolly, examining the crown in his hand rather absently. His gaze then raked over the visitors. He gave a chilly smile. “Lord Glorfindel. And your whole family, we see. A pleasant surprise.” Glorfindel gave Legolas a sharp look but the prince was gazing at his father impassively as he walked towards them with Maeglin. Two attendants followed with the visitors’ saddlebags.

“King Thranduil, allow me to humbly present to you my lady-wife Lómiel,” said Glorfindel, as Maeglin came to his side. “And may I present as well our sons Arinnáro, and his younger brother Arman, whom you have met.”

Le suilon, King Thranduil,” said Maeglin dipping a reverential enough bow, but her voice as cool as the king’s. Their eyes met with equal hauteur. The corners of Thranduil’s mouth curled. An arrogant golodhrin wench with avarin eyes. Intriguing. As his eyes raked over her from head to toe, she relived the condescension of the Doriathrin nobility towards their vassals in Nan Elmoth. Glorfindel saw his beloved’s proud back stiffen, and spoke a soft word of caution to her mind, his free hand unthinkingly caressing the small of her back. She lowered her gaze slightly and her mouth curved in a charming smile that did not touch her eyes.

“You are welcome to Eryn Lasgalen,” said Thranduil. “We are sorry that we were not better prepared for your arrival. Someone was remiss in informing us of your visit.” Reprimand weighted his words, and his eyes rested on his son.

“Forgive me, Adar.” Legolas bowed. “I did inform you ere I sent the invitation. But I was in the forest when the bird brought the reply, and I have just only returned now.” Which immediately told Glorfindel that Legolas had spent a whole month hiding away in the forest. “There are yrch still in Emyn Duir, Adar. I have been hunting, and killed a total of twenty-one. Glorfindel encountered and killed another seven three days back. With him, we will exterminate that orchrin nest, Adar.”

“Let Lord Glorfindel tend to his family. He is not here to deal with a handful of yrch we can easily handle.” The King’s eyes lingered on Arman again. “Show our guests to their chamber,” he continued to Legolas, “And we shall speak further about Emyn Duir when we return.”

Arman was looking back at Thranduil with huge eyes. “I must say, he really likes you.” said Glorfindel. No accounting for taste, he thought.

Thranduil smiled at the infant. A very rare, fleeting smile, and a genuine one this time, that made him look young and boyish for a moment. “A fine boy,” the King said. “His colouring is rather different from your own. Or your lady’s.” He scrutinized them both.

“Yes. Strange, is it not?” Glorfindel smiled brightly at Thranduil. “Enjoy your ride, Sire. It is a beautiful day. Eryn Lasgalen is all that I remembered, and more.”

Ammë, Atto, where are we going now?” Aryo was saying in Quenya as Legolas led them into the underground halls.

“Speak Sindarin here, Aryo. Nana, Ada, mas ledhiam?” said Glorfindel.

Silent Arman gazed at Thranduil over his father’s shoulder.

They disappeared through the high stone arch.

Thranduil stared after them for a while after they had gone, lost in thought. Then he tossed the damaged flower crown casually into the hands of a non-plussed attendant. His attendants could make a new one along the way. Anemones this time, he decided. Not golden celandine.

He walked swiftly to where his spirited grey horse waited, pawing the ground restively.

 

“Tomorrow, Glorfindel and I will try to enter the caves and scout around,” said Legolas. “The old maps will serve only as a rough guide. They are a thousand years old.”

Thranduil frowned as they looked down on the maps of the forest and of the old cavern system of Emyn Duir on the table before them. “Just the two of you? Bring four of the guard.”

“The fewer the better. Glorfindel is like twenty warriors in one anyway,” said Legolas, smiling at Glorfindel.

“He shines like twenty as well,” said Thranduil, cuttingly. “Hardly wise, for secret movement through dark caves.”

Not again. “I shall wear a cloak and hood,” sighed Glorfindel, wearily.

“It might be simpler and more effective to dye the hair,” said Thranduil drily.

Glorfindel laughed, but Legolas said in shock, “Oh, surely not, Adar! That would be inconceivable!”

“And what will the lady and infants do whilst you two explore caves?” asked Thranduil.

Glorfindel’s smile faded. Maeglin would have a hard time managing Arman and Aryo by herself, and it would put her in a foul mood.

“She will have two attendants to wait on her and the children,” Legolas reassured Glorfindel. “And the children could play in the private gardens, could they not, Adar?”

Thranduil considered it. “Certainly,” he said.

 

The Woodland King stood by a window and watched as Glorfindel and Legolas rode out the next morning, talking animatedly to each other, and brooded. It should have been good to hear Legolas laugh again, but the father could only feel a stab of jealous anger at how much pleasure the prince took in the golodh warrior’s company. 

Just the previous night, Legolas had sat across from the king at the royal dining table, giving polite answers in a flat voice, and gazing at his plate with distant, dreamy eyes and averted face. Already an ocean apart from his father in spirit.

The Woodland King heard his son’s bright laugh at something Glorfindel had said, and glowered at the balrog-slayer’s disappearing back.

There had been a time Thranduil and Glorfindel had similarly been friends. He recalled the day, late in the Second Age, that he had brought the balrog-slaying hero home to the Greenwood.

As the Woodland Prince led the elflord of Imladris into the throne room, he had watched his beloved father Oropher turn pale upon his throne, his eyes frozen on the golden-haired warrior. The prince had watched bewildered as Oropher’s mouth hardened in an angry line and his eyes burned with something close to hatred. The Imladrin elflord, at a loss as to why he evoked such hostility, decided that perhaps he should reassure Oropher that he had never ever played any part in any kinslayings. As part of this attempt to mollify the king, the warrior introduced himself by emphasizing he had spent most of his first life in Gondolin, and been killed there.

Oropher, still pale, had asked a strange question: “And where begotten?”

“Not in Valinor, your highness, not at all. In Beleriand.”

“Where in Beleriand?”

Before a hall of Sindarin and Silvan nobility and the guards at the entrance, Glorfindel had blushed red in embarrassment and Thranduil had cringed on his behalf. “Forgive me, Sire,” the golden-haired lord had said finally in a level, quiet voice. “I do not know where.”

A soft murmur had swept around the room. Oropher’s eyes had narrowed. Then came an even stranger question still: “The year?”

“The fifty-first year of the First Age of Anor. In Iavas.”

At this reply, the king’s face had gone so livid, Prince Thranduil had murmured something polite and hastily pulled his golodh friend out of the throne room.

“What did I do wrong? Was it something I said? Is there something wrong with my Sindarin?” Glorfindel had said, quite upset and bewildered.

“Nothing is wrong with your Sindarin,” Thranduil had said, equally upset and bewildered.

“Well. I think I had better leave at once,” said Glorfindel. There was no point causing a serious diplomatic incident with his presence. He would have to report this to Elrond, and perhaps Erestor would have to visit the Greenwood shortly to smooth things out.

Knowing his father, Thranduil had agreed. He had walked his friend to the great stone doors, and watched him ride his white horse away.

His father Oropher had not spoken one word about the incident ever again. Had never again acknowledged the existence of the golden elflord, and behaved as though the visit had never taken place.

It went without saying that Imladris never sent the golden warrior to the Greenwood ever again in Oropher’s time.

During the Battle of Dagorlad, Glorfindel had gone to Oropher’s side, cut down the orcs around him and borne the severely wounded king off the battlefield. It was unjust, perhaps, but Thranduil wondered if Oropher, seeing who his saviour was, had received a death blow to his pride and heart in that moment. Thranduil owed his own life on that bitter battlefield to Glorfindel and the Imladrim. But deep within, he blamed the warrior for his father’s death. And once his beloved father was buried and his memory enshrined sacred in Thranduil’s mind, it would have sullied that memory to continue friendship with one who had angered Oropher so intensely in life.

Glorfindel and Legolas had by now disappeared into the forest. Thranduil turned away and swept down the corridors of his halls, his long leaf-green robes trailing behind him. He climbed the stairs to his private gardens, from which one could see the forest canopy spreading out below. Erebor loomed in the east. Attendants following him poured out wine for him as he seated himself on his usual chair.

He watched as two tiny elflings ran around the far end of the garden, watched over by their black-haired mother and two Silvan attendants.

His eyes rested on the child with white-gold hair. An infant so much like Legolas at the same age that his heart ached to see it. The laughing little blue eyes, the sweet, adoring smile. So full of life, so innocent. So happy.

Again he saw the face of his beloved son at every dinner for the past year. The remote gaze of the sky-blue eyes. Lost in a reverie as he pushed food around his plate, absently nodding when his father spoke to him, Legolas was already wandering in a forest in the south, dreaming of the sea…

Pain clenched the father’s heart. He would do what he had to do to keep his only child away from the Sundering Sea.

Thranduil drank his wine and watched Arman climb a tall statue of Yavanna swiftly, his mother desperately grabbing him by the seat of his pants as he swung from the Valie’s forearm.

How had Glorfindel fathered a child with pale-gold hair? Thranduil looked at the black-haired elleth with the children. The suspicions playing in his mind as he finished his wine were not pleasant ones.

They mostly revolved around four golden-haired brothers who had visited Doriath often, and been welcomed as kin by the great Thingol. The brothers had all been slain by the time Thranduil was born, but he knew, as he thought of the Lady Galadriel, how they would have looked. Tall, with deep, rich gold hair. Like Glorfindel.

He thought tenderly of his mother. Her beauty, her sweetness, her devotion to himself and his father and sister. The memory of her death still brought so much pain he seldom thought of it.

He had only seen eleven coranári when the kinslayers descended on Doriath at Yule. The noise, the screams, the terror.

The blood. On his mother’s shimmering lilac dress, on her long white-gold hair. He had watched it spread, dark crimson, over the stones of the floor. The tiny child had looked up in terror at the tall golodh warrior towering over his mother’s body, still stunned with horror at how brutally she had been struck down. He had trembled before the warrior whose dark hair fell in waves over his blood-spattered armour, silver eyes blazing fiery like a demon’s, a face shining with inhuman, terrible beauty. The child quaked uncontrollably as the sharp edge of the bright cruel sword, still dripping with his mother’s blood, was pressed against his own neck. Clinging to his mother’s body, he had waited for the blade to pierce him.

Instead, as the demon’s eyes stared down on Thranduil, their fire had faded, and the silver eyes had glittered softly.

The point of the sword had withdrawn, leaving a red gash. Mother and son’s blood mingled.

Then the demon had turned, and with the swirl of a dark-red cloak, had quickly walked away.

Thranduil had placed his hand on his mother’s face. It was so cold. Her blue eyes were fixed on something far away. Her lips were moving. Shaping a word. Or a name. He could not make it out.

It had not been his name, or his father’s.

Unconsciously, the king lifted a jewelled hand to touch the white scar at his neck, that he always took care to have covered by his collar. A golodh demon had taken his mother’s life and ripped his childhood away from him.

Now, the more Thranduil thought of it, they might have done more to her, in an earlier time.

As he drank his fourth goblet of wine, he brooded on the accursed golden-haired golodhrim who had been so welcomed into Doriath by their king. Thought of one of them taking his lovely mother in the flower of her youth. Forcing himself on her. It filled him with cold rage to think of it.

He felt surer of it the more that he thought.

As his father Oropher had been sure, the moment he had set eyes on Glorfindel’s face, and seen his wife’s lovely eyes and smile in the face of a scion of Finarfin.

That Glorfindel might thus be his half-brother did nothing to endear the warrior to Thranduil. Not when he came from a race of ravishers and murderers. The king remembered the sadness he had seen haunting his mother’s beautiful eyes. He understood it now. And held Glorfindel accountable for it.

An elfling’s bright, silvery laughter. He watched the pale-haired infant, so like another that it could be his very own blood running across the lawn. And he found he could not ascribe any sin of its fathers to it. He could only gaze, and recall a time eight-and-a-half centuries ago, and yearn.

 

Thranduil invited Glorfindel’s wife to join him for lunch in the garden. She was not much of a conversationalist, but then it was not talk he sought. He idly admired the delicate loveliness of her face and the curve of her white throat and full bosom. One of the boons of motherhood. Like a good host, he had ordered dresses sent to the guest chamber, the previous evening. She had chosen to wear a deep green gown. His eyes roamed over the rounded swell of creamy white skin as it glowed translucent and flawless above the low-cut bodice. It was ever a pleasure to be surrounded by beautiful things.

He found himself amused more than offended by the arrogant lift of her golodhrin chin, the hauteur in the cool avarin-black eyes. She spoke to him courteously, but without deference, as one used to supping with kings. One or two casual comments betrayed a keen mind. She coolly pushed all sharp and breakable objects on the table out of range as her son lunged at them. Her elder son was being cared for by the attendants, who already adored him, but the younger one needed special handling and she had apologized for bringing him to the table. He was at a stage where “no” and “stop that” in any language of the Free Peoples meant “this is fun”. Left on his own to rampage through the garden, he would have massacred all the king’s prize blossoms, and left bare patches on the lawn.

Most pleased to have the boy near, the king summoned an attendant to cut the mother’s food for her since her hands were too occupied with her restless son to manage a knife.

She made some attempt at small talk, mentioning that Elrond’s sons would soon be heading to Gondor to visit their sister and foster brother.

“King Elessar and Queen Arwen are expecting their first child,” she said.

“Ah,” said Thranduil. “An heir early, one hopes.”

“Not unless the laws of the land change. It is a daughter.”

“What a pity,” said the king, as he sliced his venison.

He saw her eyes narrow ever so slightly and glint with annoyance. He was certain as she stabbed that next piece of venison with her fork that she was visualizing his jugular. His lips curved in a small smile.

As the dessert was served, the infant slipped under the table. Tossing her napkin on the table, the mother quickly followed him under.

The king looked down as tiny arms latched around his left calf, and stooped to pick up the infant just as the mother’s hands made a grab for him.

Thranduil smiled down at the shocked black eyes looking up at him from under the table, as she crouched at his feet like a supplicant. And admired the view to Rohan down the neck of her gown.

The shock in her eyes deepened, and in the next moment fury smouldered in them and he saw her fists clench. She swiftly crawled out from under the table, her mouth a hard, angry line, and he was certain she intended to throw a punch at his jaw. He returned her livid gaze calmly, lifting one brow in mild surprise, as though an ornamental vase had decided to throw a tantrum.

For a moment she saw herself half a head taller, lifting the king out of his seat and throttling him with one strong hand…

Then her hands unclenched. She reached them out to retrieve her son.

Thranduil held up a hand. “Leave him here a while. He seems perfectly comfortable.”

And it was true. Arman sat on Thranduil’s lap and gazed up at him with huge eyes. He was not fidgeting.

“It would appear you have a calming effect on him, King Thranduil,” she said, grudgingly.

“So it would seem.”

As the mother retook her seat, Thranduil leaned back in his chair, goblet in hand, looking down at the tot. The silky pale locks. The velvet curve of the tiny cheek. The long, dark lashes. Arman was peering at the contents of the king’s wine goblet, deeply fascinated by its ruby depths. A faint smile hovered on the king’s lips.

The mother’s eyes narrowed. Thranduil’s blue eyes met her black ones ever so briefly and glinted wickedly.  Dipping a finger into his Dorwinion, the king placed one drop of the wine on the infant’s tiny pink tongue. Arman tasted it thoughtfully, then hugged himself in delight with his little arms and gave the king a huge, blissful smile. The king smiled back.

The mother froze. That presumptuous balrog-****ing peacock.

With the slightest hint of steel in her coldly courteous voice, the mother said, “Sire, it is not our custom at Imladris to give our children any strong drink before their fifteenth year.” Especially not a potent Dorwinion vintage.

“It was but a drop,” said Thranduil, lifting his eyebrows slightly. “And he enjoyed it, did you not, pen dithen?”

Arman smiled enthusiastically.

“He also enjoys grabbing at knife blades. That does not mean it is healthy for him.”

“Legolas too had a little drop now and then at his age. It did him no harm.” He dipped his finger again and gave a delighted Arman another drop of Dorwinion. On his lap, he saw another infant in another time.

The mother seethed with outrage.

“Your majesty has borne with this imposition most graciously.” Her voice was as icy as the frozen wastes of the Forodwaith. “But it is time for the children’s nap. I beg that you will excuse us.”

Arman was playing with the ends of Thranduil’s pale gold hair, but not trying to stuff them in his mouth. The mother actually wished he would.

“Not at all. We have had quite a delightful time together, your son and I.”

If he tries to give my son another drop, I am going to break his wrist, so help me Eru.

“Say thank you and goodbye to King Thranduil, Arman,” said the mother.

Arman gave a happy gurgle, stood up on Thranduil’s lap and with tiny arms wide open, threw himself against the king’s chest and snuggled his little cheek against his neck.

And Thranduil had to fight against the lump that rose in his throat.

 

Legolas and Glorfindel returned in three days, glowing and triumphant from their expedition. The secret entrances marked in the ancient maps had still been accessible and the orcs had not even scented them. Based on their surveillance, the orcs probably numbered about two hundred and fifty, and the elf warriors had sketched new maps of the cavern system. The next few days would be spent planning the assault with the Greenwood guard.

After spending some time reporting all they found to Thranduil, Glorfindel returned to the guest suite for a long, well-scented bath. The caves had been so foul from orcs and bats that even though he and Legolas had washed thoroughly in the river once they were safely in the woods, their elven noses imagined a lingering stench for a long while after. As he sat on the bed towelling his hair dry, he recounted his adventure to Maeglin. The children, tired out from the day, were asleep in an adjoining room.

When he had finished, she told him about her day with the children, and ended with what Thranduil had done.

His damp hair glistened bright in the lamplight of the subterranean chamber, and the sculpted muscles of his bare, lithe torso gleamed as he turned towards her, tunic in hand. “Just two drops? That’s harmless, melimë.”

“Not according to a study done in the First Age—” Her eyes flashed.

He pulled the tunic over his head and raised an eyebrow at her. “Is this from that book that Idhren gave you?” Shortly after they arrived home from Lothlórien, Idhren had slipped her a book from the library titled Principles and Practices for the Raising of Healthy and Whole Elf-Children. Glorfindel had flipped through it and declared it paranoid parenting. “I have oft said it, and I will say it again: do not believe everything you read. One study says this, the next century, another study has contradictory findings. You know that.”

She glared at Glorfindel. “Any amil would agree alcohol is not good for a developing elfling. Is this the nér who denied me even a sip of mead at Minas Tirith?”

“Oh, come on—they were in the womb then and their livers and brains were tiny little things. They are running around and far better able to handle it now. Did your father never slip you any? Ecthelion used to give me one secret sip at every feast from his cup.”

“Exactly! Secret—and why? Because Itarillë would have brained him is why.”

“Yes,” he conceded, “She was furious at him. But we are talking here about two drops! If Thranduil was ladling it down Arman’s throat, I would throttle him myself. But a tiny taste of it will hurt him none. Do not overreact! You detest Thranduil. You would like nothing better than to shred the man’s hair with hedge clippers. And we both know how that can affect your judgement, ? So please do not blame every little problem in Arman’s development from this point onwards on two drops of Dorwinion. If he doesn’t talk, it will be because of the two drops—”

“—my father first gave me wine when I was twelve, not two!!” she snapped.

“—and if he isn’t a loremaster like Quendingoldo, it will be because of the two drops—”

“—any dolt with half a grain of sense would know that two years old is much too young—”

“—and if he runs off and marries a hobbit, it will be because of the two drops—” His eyes were laughing, and as he spoke, he hugged her around her again-slender waist and pulled her against him.

“—and he had no right giving intoxicating substances to my child without my permission and especially when I had objected,” she said angrily, breaking away from him.

“That is true,” said Glorfindel. “Thranduil is an ass in that way.”

“And I caught him looking down the front of my dress.”

Glorfindel’s eyes flashed with outrage and his jaw set. “That misbegotten son of a misshapen urco!”

Men!” said Maeglin in disgust, throwing herself back onto the bed.

Then she heard herself.

She froze. And looked at Glorfindel out of the corner of her eye as she lay there, with her black hair spread about her. She bit her lip.

He looked at her with his hands on his hips, his blue eyes dancing with laughter.

“Let all Eä witness,” he began in a mock-declamatory voice to an imaginary audience, spreading out his left arm in a graceful flourish, “In this first year of the Fourth Age—”

“Damn you, Flower, I did not mean anything by that—” She covered her face.

“—a watershed in the history of Maeglin Lómion—” he climbed onto the bed and caught hold of her by the hip as she tried to crawl away from him.

“It just came out! Will you stop being such an ass—” They tussled, she pushed him back onto the bed, and pummelled his pectorals as she sat astride him.

“—a defining moment, as it were—” He caught hold of her wrists and pulled her down to him.

“Shut up, you idiot!” She squirmed half-heartedly as he playfully nuzzled her neck.

“—when, against all the brute oppression and lecheries of the idiotic néri—” His eyes twinkled as his hands slid over her supple curves, groping her mercilessly.

“Not another word if you value being able to have any more children—” she growled, her knee taking position near his gonads.

 “—the Lord of the Mole didst cry out, in unison with all of Eä’s gentle nissi—” He cheerfully continued, quite undeterred, flexing his hip and flipping her onto her back.

“Aaah!! I hate you!” She tried to twist away but he pinned her down with his body, and captured her wrists again.

“—‘MEN!!’” he concluded in tragicomic mimicry of her disgusted tone, and dissolved into fits of helpless laughter, as she squeezed her eyes shut and groaned.

“I’ll make you pay for this—” she began, but he stopped her mouth with a warm, masterful kiss.

He felt her body relax under his weight as she tangled her fingers in the heavy, silken locks of golden hair that fell across her face and breast, then slid her hands over the strong, hard muscles of his back. They were sinking more deeply into kisses that were building in heat and hunger when a sleepy little voice called from the inner room:

“Ammë, Atto, we’re hungry…”

Their lips pulled apart with a soft pop and a sigh, and their eyes met in dismay.

Then came the faint creak of a door hinge.

With wry smiles, they turned their heads in unison to see two pairs of tiny eyes peeping out at them from the crack in the inner door, grey and blue.

“Just a moment, yonyat.” As the parents reluctantly rose, the two tots had already run across the floor, and were pulling themselves up onto the big bed.

Four hours later, the two little whirlwinds had been fed, played with, bathed, told stories, tucked back into bed, and sung to sleep.

The parents flopped onto their own bed, and he rolled on top of her again and looked down into her eyes. They smiled at each other, and exchanged a gentle peck.

“Look,” he said. “I am sorry that I am going off to fight urqui and leaving you holding the children. Just a week more, I promise. Then we shall go to Erebor and Dale for a fortnight, and you may talk to dwarves all day long about forges and furnaces and stones and ores, and debate ancient and modern techniques for making lethal weapons and shiny stones. I will take care of the babies. Is that fair?”

She lifted an eyebrow as she gave it serious thought. “Fair enough,” she decided airily.

“And I remain able to have more children?” With a mischievous smile he gently ground their hips together.

She looked stern. “Hmmm… for now.” She shifted her hips, tangled her legs with his, and with a firm hand pulled his head down to resume their kiss. 

 

In the end, it was far more than a fortnight. The family had a splendid summer in Dale and Erebor, in the course of which Maeglin did not steal Orcrist, the twins did not kill themselves jumping from Dale’s bell towers, and the dwarrow smiths were not too proud to let a she-elf share the techniques of Gamil Zarak and Telchar handed down to her by her father.  

They spent the end of summer back in Eryn Lasgalen, and, when autumn winds began to blow, departed for Imladris. Legolas was to journey with them to the edge of the Anduin plains, and he was radiant with excitement and happiness when he met them at the great foyer before the stone doors.

“Adar has just spoken to me. He has given his blessing for me to go to Ithilien next spring! With up to a hundred of the woodland folk, if I can find enough willing to go!”

“That is wonderful!” said Glorfindel.

“But what brought about his change of heart?” asked Maeglin.

“I have no clue. But he did ask me to give this to Arman.” It was a tiny bow and quiver set. “It looks identical to one he did give me when I was four years old. And,” he continued, “So that Aryo should not be left out, I found another one for him as well.” He pulled out another set.

“We will come to visit you in Ithilien so you may teach them how to shoot,” said Glorfindel.

“Rot! This from one who received the Lord Araw Tauron’s tutelage?” scoffed Legolas, as he ruffled the hair of his tiny cousins. “No pathetic excuses are needed. Just come to visit me.”

“Cû,” said Arman, bending the little bow in his tiny hands.

After a stunned silence, his parents and cousin went wild. “His first word!” “Say it again, Arman! Cû!” “Oh, that’s a great future as an archer he’s going to have.”

Arman was gazing upwards with huge blue eyes. He waved the little bow. “Galu.”

They all turned and looked up. Thranduil was watching them from a high window. They smiled and saluted him, and he acknowledged them with a royal nod of the head.

The Woodland King watched as they rode out, and the great stone doors swung shut.

The pain of his imminent loss contended with the joy of receiving his son’s smile and embrace again.

 


Glossary

Mae tollen (S) – welcome

Gamut sanu yenet, Gimli Glóinul (Khuzdul) – well met, Gimli son of Glóin

Mas ledhiam (S) – where are we going

Iavas (S) - autumn

Yonyat (Q) – sons (two) [I was baffled as to the noun form for addressing two sons. This was the best I could figure out with my limited grammar. Thankfully, dreamingfifi on the RealElvish forum says it is correct. Whew!]

Urco/urqui (Q) – orc, orcs

Pen dithen (S) – little one

Cû (S) – bow

Galu (S) - goodbye / blessings

 

 


Some readers may dislike the way I portray Thranduil in this fic. Here are some necessary clarifications:

I like Thranduil and I thought I portrayed him quite sympathetically and did not make him a douchebag. I would be sad if you think him one.

Thranduil loves and is devoted to his late Silvan wife. (She will be mentioned further three chapters from now.) He is a connoisseur of beautiful things, including women, and to him that in no way detracts from or compromises his commitment to and love for his wife, whom he loves wholly, as a person. Other women to him are useful (guards, servants, concubines) or ornamental (which is how he views Maeglin here). He is a Sinda ruling the Silvan, and like his sister he has embraced their culture in the area of sex, and for him he is able to separate sex from love/marriage as the Eldar absolutely cannot. He has both desire and love for his wife. He is able to have desire alone for the others, and still love her alone. Did he sleep around while she was alive? No. He does it now to assuage the ache and emptiness he feels at her loss. I’m not in support of this, but we all know individuals like him do exist. Do they grieve their women? Yes. Can they see anything wrong with what they do? No.

As a fanfic writer, once I messed with the fact that sex = marriage for elves, I got thinking about how that would work at the level of the fëa. I don’t break with the canon that when two elves love each other, the act of sex bonds their fëar together eternally. The Valar understood this and LACE upholds it. My take on what could happen among the Avari who do not hold with LACE and have sex-without-love before marriage is that multiple partners messes with the nature of the marriage bond, and it would no longer be as strong as it could be if an elf had just one partner. There would not be the same strong psychic connection, the same level of utter intimacy, the ability to be One, as too many people have been in there already. But then, I figure that would not make their marriages any worse in quality than mortal marriages. Marriage for them would still be for the life of Arda and exclusive because that is in the nature of elves. Mortals who previously had multiple partners could also be faithful and committed once they settle down. So Silvan elves would just be settling for what we have. And that ain’t bad… is it?

And since I’m still on the roll with these ramblings… thanks for bearing with me… a bit on osanwë. I’m fascinated by it and I wish I had access to more of what Tolkien had to say about it. If you have resources on it, let me know. The little I have found has been titillating and frustrating. So I created my own rules for this particular fic: osanwë for all elves is for the most intimate of their relationships… spouses, close siblings, parents who are very close to a child, and most often when they are very young. Osanwë is a mind-gift stronger in certain individuals who have greater powers, like Finrod and Galadriel and Elrond. That enables them to use it with all individuals and non-elves, even those not close to them, and across distances.

I am sure each of you has your own thoughts on all this!

Two more little things:

I figure that since elves celebrate begetting days and not birthdays, age would be counted from the begetting day not from birth. So when the elves say the twins are two-years-old, in our parlance it would be one-year-old.

Elf babies hit their developmental milestones rapidly: "They grow slower than mortals though their minds are faster, learning speech before the first year. Their wills master their bodies quickly so they learn to walk, dance, etc by their first year. Elf Children at play would resemble fair happy children of men with little need for governing. Their words, and mastery of their bodies would make them seem older than they appeared in body. Might appear to be seven when actually in their 20’s, having adult size 50 and full maturity at 100." [Tolkien, J.R.R. (1993). Morgoth’s Ring, The History of Middle Earth Vol. 10.] Yup, note that bit about “little need for governing”. Unfortunately, Glorfindel’s younger son is as hyperactive as he was as a child, so in these first couple of years quite a bit of “governing” is called for.

My thoughts on the masking or cloaking spells cast by Galadriel over Glorfindel’s parentage: she was able to exert them over a certain distance, and they were good for his first life in Beleriand. When he returned to the Hither Lands, she renewed them when they met shortly after in Ost-in-Edhil and maintained them for as long as she remained in Ennor. Unfortunately, she focused the spells on masking only Glorfindel’s connection with her own siblings and herself, and whether it was oversight or intentional, she did not extend it to Rîlel, which is why Oropher was able to recognize his dead wife in her firstborn immediately, especially as the connection between spouses is so deep. Now Galadriel has sailed, the spells are pretty much lifted. It could be that Finrod or herself could choose to cast a new spell if Glorfindel goes to Aman. It is unlikely Finrod would want to or allow her to. I have not given this any deeper thought, but such wizardry would be related to the “arts” that Finrod used to make eleven beautiful edhil and one adan appear like gross orcs enough to deceive a maia (since Sauron suspected them only because of their actions, not from their appearance).

 

Chapter Text

Still hiccupping, Erestor lifted a trembling hand to the cold compress on his forehead and winced.

“I promise you I did not put them up to this, Erestor,” said Glorfindel, as the light of his healing song faded. “I am so very sorry for their behaviour.” He gently tucked a blanket around the ailing elflord. “Punish them in any way you see fit.”

“Just—hic!—keep them—hic!—away from me,” moaned poor Erestor weakly in between hiccups, now at least able to talk a little, though it hurt. His diaphragm and abdominal muscles ached abominably. Then, covering his mouth, he made a frantic gesture. Glorfindel quickly held up the bedpan and Erestor rolled to his side and retched miserably into it, still hiccupping.

Softly singing, Glorfindel laid a hand on poor Erestor’s back and sent a surge of healing warmth through him.

Once the retching fit subsided, Erestor rolled onto his back again and stared bleakly at the ceiling of the healing hall. The millennia-old carving of Estë gazing down appeared to be smirking rather than solicitous. Damn Thavron the artisan.

Glorfindel replaced the compress on Erestor’s aching brow, then held a straw and a cup to his mouth. “Take just a small sip to rinse out the mouth… We shall administer another dose of the antidote once you can keep it down.”

Erestor managed the small sip. Then, looking pale and delicate, he sank back into the pillows, closed his eyes and groaned softly. Glorfindel patted him on the shoulder sympathetically, then rose and left, passing the bedpan to Thalanes the healer as he exited the treatment room, looking like a lion on the prowl.

The onset of the hiccups had been sudden, and so violent and unrelenting that Erestor had been unable to even utter a word in between. Twenty minutes into breakfast, the twin Lords of Imladris, looking decidedly guilty, had needed to carry their advisor to the hall of healing, where he had lain miserably in bed, hiccupping with such force that he soon developed severe abdominal, chest and head pains. Since he was unable to swallow either the antidote or the sedative that Thalanes had prepared, she could only diffuse athelas for him to inhale and sing healing until Glorfindel arrived home from his patrol of the valley and took over. Erestor had never been gladder to see the balrog slayer and be a recipient of his healing power. He was seething, all the same.

That it was all the father’s fault, there could be no doubt. As the advisor hiccupped wretchedly, he was recalling every prank the balrog-slaying hero had ever played on him, from their days at Gil-galad’s court in Lindon to the closing years of the Third Age…

The tall hero of Gondolin closed the door of the healing hall quietly behind him. His bright golden hair, cascading down his back in heavy waves, glowed in the hallway with the radiance of a sunrise. His beautiful face, normally so joyous and laughing, was stern enough to put terror in the heart of even Gothmog, and his azure blue eyes smouldered with anger. He strode down the hallway unerringly, sensing where his prey lay.

“Yonyat!!” bellowed the Commander of Imladris, his mighty shout reverberating through the empty corridors of the great house.

Outside the Hall of Fire, two little pairs of knees quaked as their owners contemplated running away to the Harad as mercenaries or joining pirates off the Umbar coast. As the last echoes of their father’s voice died away, they came forward, their deep-gold and silver-gold heads hung in guilt.

The golden warrior glared down sternly at the two little heads bowed before him, their bright hair tumbling past their shoulders to their waists. The twins stared penitently at their small, booted feet on the marble-tiled floor.

“Have you no sense?” demanded the father in a biting voice. “I am ashamed of the pair of you.”

“But… but Atto…” “You did it to Salgant—”

Lord Salgant to you.” The father’s voice was cutting.

Lord Salgant… sorry, Atto,” they mumbled.

“I had the brains to do my research first and give a pinch of powder, yonyat. Just enough for Lord Salgant to hiccup two hours through the feast and recover in time for his performance.” By the time the effects had worn off, the Lord of the Harp had been ravenous both for the delicious dinner he had missed and for Glorfindel’s blood. But the stocky elflord had still been well enough to make a lengthy appeal to Princess Idril and the King for the most severe of punishments for their young ward… and he was certainly well enough to warble and pluck his way through three songs before the night was over.

“But—but Elrohir said—” “He and Elladan gave you two drams of powder—”

“I could take it, yonyat,” sighed the mightiest warrior in Middle Earth. “And even then, I was hiccupping the whole day in the halls after Lord Elrond treated me. You may be sure that Lords Elladan and Elrohir received a severe punishment from their Atar after that. Oh, they omitted that significant little detail, did they? Well, even so you should have used a little intelligence and considered that Lord Erestor is not me. You have inflicted tremendous distress and suffering on the poor man. Eru alone knows how long he will take to recover fully. It was badly done, boys. Badly done.”

Aryo was pale. Arman’s chin was wobbling and his blue eyes were swimming with contrite tears. Just as Glorfindel’s had done as he had stood penitently before Turgon in the king’s study at Nevrast... that had been after painting Salgant’s face blue with a dye that proved harder to wash off than he had realized.

“Did you know,” said the father grimly, “that there have been documented fatalities from overdoses of this herb? Especially among the mortal populations.”

A tear ran down Arman’s little cheek.

“Will he be all right?” Aryo asked anxiously in a small voice, nervously twisting the ends of his golden locks with his fingers.

 

Erestor was indeed all right, after two days in the healing hall. He remained delicate for another week, and kept to his own bed for much of that time. Once he felt less frail, he set a series of fiendishly difficult mathematics problems for the elflings to solve, and gave them each five essays on First Age history to be submitted before Tarnin Austa. He ordered that these be submitted to him through their parents and that the twins keep a radius of two rangar away from him at all times. And Elladan and Elrohir had solemnly sworn not to put any more ideas into the elflings’ heads.

For good measure, the twins’ parents assigned them extra household duties. The elflings’ cheeks were flushed rosy as they used shovels taller than themselves to turn the row of compost heaps at the bottom of the kitchen garden, where almost all the refuse of the household went.

“That should do it,” grunted Aryo, with a last heave of the shovel.

“Do you think Atto might change his mind about letting us go to Bree?” asked Arman wistfully, as they sprinkled handfuls of brown twigs, leaves and fragments of tree bark on top of the compost piles.

“I wouldn’t push my luck. We got away easy this time.”

They proceeded forlornly to the woodshed to chop firewood for the kitchen.

The twins were fifteen this year, and looked like six-year-old mortals. They had been trained in these tasks since they were tiny, for almost all in the household took turns in doing these duties now that only twenty-three of them were left in Elrond’s great house. As their punishment, the elflings were to take over the compost heap and firewood duties of the household for two whole months. Nor were they to descend to the valley village to play with their friends. And they would miss going to Bree for the summer fair. Bree was now a booming centre of trade on the route between Arnor and Gondor. To the twins, it meant the excitement and gaiety of large, festive crowds, and candies and games at the fair, and being made much of by friendly mortals since they were the last two elflings in Ennor.

The little fellows staggered into the kitchen under huge armloads of firewood. Glorfindel grinned at the sight of them as he stirred a pot of stew. “Boys, just leave it in the shed. I will carry it in.”

“No sweat, Atto!” “We’re strong!” “Like you!”

“Buttering up Atar, are we?” Glorfindel smiled as he tasted the stew and added a sprinkle of salt. “No, you are not going to Bree.”

They sighed, crestfallen.

“It has been a month.” “We have been so good, Atto.”

“Really. Have you finished all the tasks Erestor set you?”

“Just one essay left.” “The causes of the fall of Nargothrond.” “And three more math problems.” “Wickedly tricky math problems.” This last from Arman with another deep sigh, math not being his forte.

“Hmm… I tell you what. Finish off the essay and the math—no careless mistakes or sloppiness, mind you—and you may go to the village to play. Just for today.” As they joyously made a dash for the kitchen door, he called after them, “And no copying each other’s work. Your Amil and I will be able to tell.”

Four hours later, the two boys were racing each other along the banks of the Bruinen towards the village, and Glorfindel and Maeglin were sitting on the bench outside the smithy reading their offspring’s assignments.

“Arman has your handwriting.” Maeglin shook her head, looking at the flowing but loosely-scrawled Tengwar.

“Aryo has your brain,” said Glorfindel, showing her a brilliantly executed mathematics equation in Aryo’s paper. Heads together, golden and black, they admired the economy and elegance with which their firstborn had managed to solve, in three steps, an equation that usually took eight.

“How is Arman’s Nargothrond essay?” she asked.

“Uhh… I would give him credit for creativity,” the father said, diplomatically.

“In other words, Erestor would hate it.”

“He would love Aryo’s. Cogent, coherent, strong grasp of cause and effect. Let’s face it. Aryo is a typical Noldo, Arman is a Sinda.”

“Oh? Since when do you stereotype your sons?”

“Don’t you think our boys fit the types? Aryo is gifted in craft and scholarship, Arman in woodlore and music and singing—”

“I inherited my craft from my father, not my mother. And Arman has a gift for crafting jewels almost as fine as Enerdhil’s. I can see it. ”

“Aryo has that fire of Finwë’s line in him. Arman is gentle and playful.”

“None of this has anything to do with being Noldorin or Sindarin. Surely you can see that Aryo takes after me, and Arman after you.”

The great warrior gave her a wounded look. “Are you saying I lack our great-grandfather’s fire?”

“Probably only as much as your father and grandfather. Too much Telerin and Vanyarin blood, love.”

“And are you calling me a poor scholar?” he demanded indignantly.

“Well… Quendingoldo did tell me you could never keep still during lessons.” She smirked. The loremaster was two years older than the warrior and had been his classmate at Nevrast.

“Because they were boring. And a little restlessness has no bearing on the quality of my scholarship. Quendingoldo may have bested me in the histories and in philosophy and classical lore, but I’ll have you know I beat him in singing. And math. Hah! He never told you that, did he?” He folded his arms and looked down his slim, shapely nose at her.

She smirked fondly at him. “Don’t pout, love.”

“Am not pouting.”

With a sly smile she elbowed him.

With a sidelong glance and a wry little smile, he elbowed her just enough to knock her off the bench.

In the next instant, they were wrestling and tickling each other and laughing on the ground, and as their sons’ papers went dancing away on the summer breeze, they hurriedly got to their feet and chased after them.

Half an hour later, Erestor was eyeing the slightly crumpled, grass-stained papers left on his study desk with distaste. “Hmph! Elflings.”

 

A regular flow of traffic between Arnor and Gondor passed through Imladris valley in those days: King’s troops, officials, traders, and common folk seeking new lands in this time of peace.

Following the exodus of the Imladrim to the west, many dwellings in the valley had lain abandoned. Those that remained were Sindar and Nandor and Avari still reluctant to undertake the great journey. The fields further from the great house lay untended.

Seeing the valley of Rivendell so fair, with fertile fields lying untilled and fallow, and meadows with sweet grass for grazing, and fair cottages sitting empty and deserted, the first mortals had begun to stay. It had only been a matter of time. A small settlement of edain grew in the south of the valley along the banks of the Bruinen, growing in number with each year. They accepted the Lordship of Elladan and Elrohir over the valley. At times, they sought smithing and healing services up at the Great House, or brought animal hides for tanning since no one produced leather as soft and fine as the elves. They paid with their crops and animals. At other times, the household went to them to buy such produce as they did not grow or rear themselves, such as the grain crops.

And the edain had children. As the twins reached their fifteenth birthday, there were already a dozen little mortal lads and lasses of different ages and sizes. Whenever they had time between lessons and training and chores and hunting trips, Aryo and Arman would run down to the village to play.

On this summer day, finally free, the twins’ eyes sparkled bright when they found their friends filling pig’s bladders and lengths of cow gut with water at the duck pond. As the war of water missiles broke out with much laughter and shouting, Aryo spotted an unfamiliar girl reading by the pond under the shade of a tree.

The twins had learned early that mortals were no match for the speed, strength and skill of elflings. To keep play going, they held back and slowed down—without making it look apparent—for their desire here was friendship. If it was challenge they sought, they played with their father and with each other. Thus Aryo had leisure, even as he stayed in the game, to examine the newcomer who sat with feet dangling in the cool water: a girl with brown curls, her head bent over a yellowed book with a brown cover. He could only see the long brown lashes of her lowered eyes, the curve of her rosy cheek. He was drawn by how intently she looked at her book. He wanted to see her face.

So when a pig’s bladder came to his hand, he hurled it at her, and it burst upon her dress.

Glowering ferociously, the girl stood up in the shallows of the pond with her book sodden in her hand, and her dress half-soaked.

Aryo grinned at her, gazing entranced at angry eyes of brown honey, at a sweet mouth twisted into a scowl in a heart-shaped face, at a charming upturned nose. Moving away from the others, he walked up to her as she climbed onto the bank. Barefoot, she was taller than him by a head. “What is your name? Mine’s Aryo—”

Honey-brown eyes flashed as she gave him a shove in the chest.

And Aryo found himself lying on his back in the knee-high shallows of the duck pond, sputtering and coughing, gazing at the blue sky and white clouds swirling above, and quite in love.

The following day, Aryo returned to seek his brown-haired girl out. He had dragged Arman with him to follow her to her home the day before and seen which cottage she had returned to. Today, fortune smiled upon the older twin. As her father repaired the roof of the cottage they had newly occupied, the girl was seated on a bench under a tree stitching a shirt.

She raised her head, saw the shining golden elfling and resumed her sewing.

“May your morn be good,” he said in his best Westron. “I am truly sorry I ruined your book yesterday. I brought you two others.” On the twins’ bookshelves were some Westron books that had belonged to Estel or Bilbo. Aryo had brought her a collection of folk tales of Númenor, and a fair translation of the Quenta Silmarillion.

She set down her sewing as he held them out to her. She took them reverently. Began to flip through one, and frowned at the words. He gazed at the light freckles sprinkling her upturned nose, and thought them wondrously charming.

“Who taught you to read?”

“My grandda before he died,” she said. “I know but a little.”

“I can teach you.”

She looked down at the golden-haired child with amused condescension.

“I am fifteen this year. I read very well,” he said haughtily.

She laughed. “Fifteen? And you no bigger than my baby brother that’s just turned six!”

“Elves grow different than mortals,” he said, drawing himself as tall as he could. He was already tall for his age. Many of his household said so. He might be as tall as his father one day. He sat next to her on the bench and looked up into her soft brown eyes. “How old are you?” he asked.

“I am ten next week.”

“Please accept this gift as for your birthday, then. So… am I forgiven?”

She smiled and showed a dimple. “If you can teach me to read, elfling.”

 

Five coranári later, Glorfindel walked out of the main doors of the house and gave the long, low fluting whistle that was his call to his sons. Arman came jumping lightly down from a tree and raced to Glorfindel with a wide grin.

“A fine day, today. Want to go for a ride?”

“Oh yes, Atto!”

“Where is your brother?”

“Oh, he’s in the atani village visiting his melissë.”

Glorfindel stared at his secondborn. “His what??” the father sputtered.

 

“Good day, Mistress Hawthorn. Is Faelinn at home?”

The farmer’s wife smiled as the elfchild appeared at the gate of the vegetable patch, his grey eyes glittering and his golden hair gleaming bright even on this overcast day. Over the past five years Faelinn’s little friend had become a familiar sight on their farm and in their cottage.

“You just missed her, young master.  She has gone to fetch water.”

With a radiant smile of thanks, the elfling raced lightly down the path towards the Bruinen, golden tresses flying.

His face darkened when he saw who was with Faelinn on the riverbank, trying to carry her pail of water for her. Birn Rowan was sixteen that year, tall and burly with light-brown curls. He and the twins had been playmates when younger, but Aryo’s cordial feelings toward him had quite faded earlier this year when he noted Birn’s new interest in Faelinn. For Birn had not failed to notice Faelinn’s blossoming bosom and how pretty her figure was beneath the stiff, plain dresses she always wore. Besides, now Aryo barely reached up to his ribs, Birn literally spoke down at him, and annoyed the elfling by mussing his beautiful golden hair with a large, careless hand.

Aryo watched in disbelief as Birn now laughingly put his arm around Faelinn’s waist and pulled her to him clumsily while she protested with half a laugh and pulled away.

The next thing Birn knew, he was lying on his back on the riverbank, staring into blazing grey eyes, and an enraged elfling was sitting on him.

“Hands to yourself, you lumpish boar-faced lout!” snarled the elfchild.

“And who are you to say so, you meddlesome elf-pup?” growled the strapping lad, seizing hold of the child.

The two rolled in the dust trading blows and insults while Faelinn shouted above the commotion.

“Stop it, Birn! Stop! He’s just a little boy! You’ll kill him!” Then she fell silent with her mouth open as a tall beautiful elf with flowing golden hair swiftly separated the two combatants, pulled them to their feet, and held them apart.

“Aryo! Ásë nuhta!!” said the tall, shining elf sharply. Aryo, who had still been trying to lunge at his adversary, obeyed and stood still, but there was fire in his eyes and his nostrils flared.

A moment later, Arman ran up and threw his arms around his still angry twin.

Glorfindel checked the swollen cheek and bloody nose of the young adan. “I apologise for my son’s behaviour,” he said in Westron. “If you will allow me. . .”

Overawed by the shining elflord whose blue eyes fixed on him so calmly and so penetratingly, and who towered over him by more than a head, the young mortal stood still while Glorfindel placed a hand lightly on his face. The lad felt a coolness and a tingling sensation, and a cessation of pain.

“How do you feel?” asked Glorfindel.

“Fine, Lord Glorfindel. Thank you,” Birn mumbled, feeling abashed.

“Aryo,” said Glorfindel quietly in Quenya. “Apologize to Birn.”

“But he—” Fire blazed still in the child’s eyes.

“No ‘buts’! Apologize!”

Atar—”

Arinnáro Finyon Laurefindelion! Say you are sorry!”

“I’m sorry, Birn,” said Aryo in a stifled voice, still trembling with anger.

Birn nodded his head in acknowledgement, but did not meet the eyes of the elfchild half his size.

“Tell your father we at the House thank him for the oats and barley he sent this morning,” said Glorfindel to Birn, dusting off his shirt for him.

“Yes, milord.” With an awkward bow, Birn walked away with as much pride as he could muster.

Glorfindel turned back to his lovelorn son, who had his twin standing on one side of him and the adaneth bending over him on the other. Aryo had a blackened eye and a split lip which Faelinn was dabbing with a corner of her apron. The boy’s eyes were still glinting with sparks of anger and injustice.

“How could you just let him go, Atar?” he demanded of his father. “He behaved abominably! He insulted and took advantage of Faelinn!”

“I saw you attack him, Aryo!”

“I was protecting Faelinn!” cried out Aryo. “Would you not protect Ammë if anyone sought to insult her?”

“Your Ammë is more than capable of protecting herself against anyone who attempts to insult her.” Maeglin would likely castrate them, thought Glorfindel. “But I would give my life to protect her from any harm.”

The father reached down to touch his son’s face with a healing hand. As he did so, he said gently, “But the young man and young woman did not look as though they were in conflict with each other, Aryo. It looked quite amicable to me.”

Glorfindel turned to the maiden who was listening with fascination to the exchange in Quenya and trying not to gawk at the elflord like a fool. Like all in the valley, she knew Glorfindel, but was quite dazzled by the beauty of the tall, glowing elflord at such close quarters. In Westron, the elflord said, “Young maid, was any insult or injury done to you by young Birn?”

“Oh no. Birn was only playing the fool, sir,” Faelinn managed to say, feeling a little weak at the knees. “It was harmless. We’ve known each other since young. It was nothing.” She looked at Aryo with a smile. “But I think my little friend very gallant for defending my honour.”

Aryo flushed. Glorfindel picked up the bucket of water, and as they walked back up the path, he spoke to the lass about her parents, their farm, her brothers and sisters, and where they were from before they came to the valley. Faelinn was holding Aryo’s hand as she might a small brother, and Arman was making faces and rolling his eyes as he skipped along behind them.

Back at the great house, Glorfindel told Maeglin about their son’s romance. “And I thought we would not have to worry about this for another thirty years at least,” he said, smiling wryly and shaking his head. “A passing infatuation, I should think.”

Maeglin sighed. “I hope so. But that child feels things too intensely.”

“Just like one of his parents,” he said, pulling her onto his lap.

“I swear I know not what you mean.”

“I did not say I meant you.”

They kissed, eyes closed, then playfully nipped each other’s lips.

“The life expectancy of the average adaneth is sixty-five,” she murmured against his lips. “He would watch her grow old and die soon after he comes of age.”

They pulled away from their kisses and sat in silence just thinking of it.

“Let us go visit Legolas in Ithilien,” Glorfindel said. “We can ride with Elladan and Elrohir.” Arwen was expecting another daughter—her fifth—and her brothers were leaving for Gondor the following week.

“I shall send Legolas a message right away,” Maeglin said, getting off Glorfindel’s lap.

 

The white sun blazed hot and dry upon the City of Kings. Three boys, ranging in age from nine to twelve, lounged on some barrels in the shade of the Othram, the black outer City Wall. They were handsome lads, attired in midnight blue and silver livery, and pages to one of the King’s chief advisers. In the shadow of ancient buildings lining cobbled streets were makeshift stalls and vendors offering all manner of wares from roast meats on skewers to cooking pots to fortune telling.  One boy elbowed another in the ribs.

“Eh, get an eyeload of those two pretties.”

A golden glow in the shadows drew the eye to two small, slender creatures making their way through the bustling crowd of the bazaar in the First Circle of the city, fair hair cascading brighter than any gold or silver down their backs. As the two unearthly little beings stopped to watch a puppet show, the Gondorian boys caught a glimpse of delicate, perfectly-proportioned features and bright, glittering eyes in translucently glowing skin. One lad gave a long, low whistle. “Upon my soul! Those are beauties to rival the Queen!”

“They are elves all right! Little dainty elves!” The boys’ eyes gleamed with excitement as they espied the pointed tips on the small shell-pink ears. They abandoned their spot along the wall and began to follow.

“I didn’t know they had little ’uns,” said the carrot-topped youngest, earning himself a clout on the head.

“Of course they must have, idiot! Where else do you think they come from?”

The elf twins had stopped to watch a muscular, dark-skinned Southron juggling knives.

Arman was unimpressed. “He’s not that good. Atto can do better.”

“A hundred times better,” Aryo replied with scorn. “Oh look! Candied fruit.”

They stared wistfully at the colourful piles of candy, regretting they had not asked their parents for some of the small silver coins called Tharni that they saw exchanging hands.

They smelt the man before they heard him—and that was quite something, as there were myriad pungent bodily odours assailing them on all sides from the market crowd. It was the scent of a perfume heavy with musk.

“Candies for you, little beauties?” said a voice in strangely-accented Westron.

Startled, they recoiled slightly from a hand which appeared before their faces, pink squares of a confection dusted with white sugar on its palm. They looked up at the brown-robed figure with a crimson sash around its waist. The lean, weather-beaten face and grizzled beard were not unhandsome, for a mortal, and he had all his teeth, but there was a wily foxiness about his pale-blue eyes and smile that made Aryo’s hackles rise.

“Well—” said Arman uncertainly. At least the hand and its fingernails looked clean, unlike those of many other mortals they saw around them.

“No, thank you, sir,” Aryo said firmly in Westron, taking Arman by the elbow and pulling him away.

“Aryo, did not those candies look good?”

“I mistrust him.”

They wove through the crowd to another part of the market, pausing to watch a parrot doing card tricks. If they heard stray comments about their beauty or speculations about their gender, they ignored them, for they were used to such, if not within Imladris, then whenever they had gone to Bree.

“Nay!” scoffed a young voice close behind them, in Westron. “Boys those cannot be!”

“They dress like lads,” said another, reasonably.

“Who knows how elves dress? We don’t know what they have in them breeches.”

“Hey, elflings! Be you lads or lasses?”

Not an uncommon question, but the tone offended their Finwean pride. The elflings chose to ignore them, and walked on.

“Hey! Be you deaf?” “Oh, they can hear well enough.” “Ooo, such dainty, pretty little things!” “Think you we can pet them?” A snigger. “They would make fair pets!” “Yea! Wonder if they be hard to feed?” More sniggers. “I’ll have me the sweet one on the left.”

Aryo’s hands clenched into fists.

“Just ignore them, Aryo. They’re only children. Come, let’s hurry on.”

 “Come now, pretty girls! ...or pretty boys! Why so proud?” “Too high and mighty for mortals, are ye?” “We won’t besmirch your honour, sweet maids!” “Though tempting it is, to see what’s in those fine breeches of yours!” They guffawed.

“Aryo, ignore them. Let’s go back to Ammë at the Great Gate.” Arman pulled on his twin’s arm, seeing a look in Aryo’s eyes that spelled trouble.

At that moment, the youngest mortal boy reached out a hand and grabbed a handful of pale silvery-gold elven hair. The younger twin cried out in shock more than pain.

The mortals were not prepared for the small fury that flew at them with fell-fire in his grey eyes and golden hair flying, for the astonishing strength and speed of those small fists and knees and feet. Before they knew what hit them, one was on his knees, bent double and retching from hard punches to the stomach, another was rolling on the ground grabbing his crotch, and another was being choked by the elfling hanging onto his back, arms tightening around his neck like a vice.

“Aryo, let him go! Stop it, Aryo! You’re hurting him!” cried Arman in Quenya as he tried to pull his brother off the boy’s back.

“That’s enough!” said a young, stern voice that had just broken. A tall boy tried to separate Aryo from his victim. “Valar! You’re strong! Come on, mellondaro! Do you want to kill the scamp?”

He was speaking in Sindarin. That seemed to snap Aryo out of his trance.

“Louse!” Aryo snarled in Westron, and abruptly released his victim, who stood a head taller than himself. The twelve-year-old gasped and wheezed and clutched at his throat.

The tall boy who spoke Sindarin looked in wonder at Aryo, at flaming grey eyes and battle fury in the face of a child so small. He kept a hand on the elfling’s shoulder lest he fly at his victim again, and felt the blond still trembling with rage. “Easy now! By Elbereth, you’re quite a fighter!”

Aryo blinked as he looked up into grey eyes and a young, noble face, still smooth and beardless, framed with flaxen hair rare among the men of Gondor. He wore the black and silver livery of the Citadel, emblazoned with the White Tree on the front of his surcoat.

“Are you one of the guests of the King?” the tall boy of Númenorean stock asked the elfling, this time in Westron. “I heard some elven guests arrived yesterday from Rivendell.”

Aryo nodded, shame and regret flooding him in the wake of his wrath. His taunters had only been children, far younger, though larger, than he. They had not deserved this. He had completely lost control, in a way that frightened himself.

The three young mockers had heard the tall boy, and they were by now back on their feet, looking highly alarmed. “We meant no harm, Elboron,” pleaded one, still clutching at his midriff in some pain. “Just larking around—”

“—Wanted to be friends,” wheezed another, a hand still on his throat. “We’d not seen elflings afore.”

“You fools!” said Elboron severely. “You might have guessed him to be a guest of the King and Queen, here for the princess’ naming.”

“Please, Elboron—do not tell our fathers. Or your father, or the King.”

The one who had been kicked in the nuts, a little green and unsteady on his legs, tried to look brave and nonchalant and said nothing.

Aryo was feeling truly sick by now with guilt and remorse, realizing how his wrath had been wholly out of measure to the insult received. His lip quivered at the thought of how horrified his father would be. “I am sorry. Truly sorry,” he said in Westron to the three boys. “The blame is mine, and I shall tell the King so, if need be. I am sorry for your hurt. And if anyone is to be punished, it is I.”

“Our words were foolish, and caused offence,” said the boy who had been punched in the midriff. “For that we humbly seek your forgiveness.”

“And I yours. Let bygones be bygones.” And Aryo and the boys bowed to each other.

As the boys turned to leave, the youngest paused and asked Aryo hesitantly, looking abashed, “So… begging your pardon, but… be you lad… or lass?”

Aryo smiled wryly at his curiosity. “I am a lad as yourself.”

That assuaged their hurt pride a little. The boys returned half-smiles, and disappeared into the crowd.

The tall, flaxen-haired young Númenorean smiled at Aryo. “I am Elboron, son of Faramir, and squire-in-training to King Elessar, at your service. By your hair, I would wager you are the son of the great Glorfindel!”

The elfling looked up at Elboron. He might be about thirteen or fourteen years old, thought Aryo. The twenty-year-old elfling barely reached the boy’s chest. “Yes, I am Arinnáro son of Glorfindel… Ornor in Sindarin, but all call me Aryo. And my brother here is Arman, or Orlin.

“Aryo and Arman sound good to me,” grinned Elboron. “But where is your brother?”

“Why, right here—” Aryo looked about.

Arman was nowhere in sight.

The older brother’s first reaction was a flash of annoyance. “Arman?” He called out with his mind.

And called again.

There was nothing but silence.

 

“…ohgodshavemercygodshavemercy…” gibbered the mortal in a voice an octave higher than usual, his heart pounding madly from his wild sprint through the First Circle. His pale-blue eyes were riveted on the violet ones looking down at him, as white fire flickering eerily in their depths.

“Stop that babbling and answer my question, adan.” A voice like musical thunder broke the mortal’s trance of terror. The strong, shapely hand at his throat tightened almost imperceptibly. A crackling energy sharply prickled the mortal’s skin, as power emanated from the golden god.

The mortal licked dry lips. “Elfling? Oh great one! I know naught of any elfling,” he managed to wheeze. His pale-blue orbs nervously flicked over the unearthly beauty of that luminous face, the translucent flawlessness of skin that seemed lit from within, the chiselled harmony of fine features now set in the sternest of frowns. They were almost mesmerized by the golden glory of the hair that lit up the dark alleyway as it flowed over his captor’s shoulders.

“Wrong answer.” The tall elf loomed over the brown-robed mortal. “If you think you can lie to me, slaver, you are mistaken.”

Pale-blue eyes bulged slightly as the fingers tightened around his throat. The weight of the bag of gold Castar he had so recently been gloating over was of scant comfort now as it pressed against his thigh through his brown robe. “Slaver?” The mortal managed to look terrified and indignant at the same time. “You—you mistake me for another, O great lord!”

“Does he now, Goblo?” said a deep voice to his left. “You have some nerve, coming back to the city. It’s the dungeons for you again.”

A tall mortal lord and a beautiful elf lady, both raven-haired, had arrived belatedly. They were breathless from running and looked grim.

“I am a reformed man, Prince Faramir! Search my house, search my shop. You will find nothing!”

“I have no doubt of it, you sly fox. But you were seen with the boy, so where is he now?” Faramir remembered the man only too well from his last stint as Regent, for he oversaw the Kingdom each time King Elessar rode to war.

“We are wasting time,” snarled the dark elflady to the fair elflord. “Faugh! He stinks like a cheap Breelander whore! Take it from his head, or I am going to started slicing off fingers. Where is my son?”

Faramir Prince of Ithilien stared at the elleth in some shock. He was in the city for the naming ceremony of the newborn princess, and he had been walking through the First Circle when he had come across his son with a distraught elfling missing his twin. Faramir had lost no time in sending word to Glorfindel, and accompanied the parents on their search. His first impressions of Glorfindel’s wife—quiet, elegant, a little aloof—did nothing to prepare him for her language, or for the ferocity and ruthlessness now displayed. And ferocity and ruthlessness were not qualities he had ever associated with elves, let alone a female one.

Glorfindel looked at his love in dismay. Never had he ever forced himself into another’s mind, and even in this moment of dire need he hesitated. It violated everything he stood for.

“I am a respectable tradesman!” protested Goblo, sensing hesitation and growing bolder. “This is an outrage!”

Obsidian eyes narrowed. “Do you think to hide the guilt that shows in your eyes, vermin? So be it. The little finger first.” Goblo heard the snick of a blade being drawn, and involuntarily whimpered.

“No! Wait!” Glorfindel caught Maeglin’s wrist, his other hand still in possession of Goblo’s neck. His eyes gazed penetratingly into the mortal’s pale-blue ones. “I advise you not to resist, adan,” he said grimly. “The more you fight it, the more this is going to hurt.”

He began to probe, and felt his gorge rise at the filth he encountered.

As the first of his mind barriers was breached, Goblo screamed in terror at this accursed wizardry. “Aieearrhh!!! No more! I’ll talk, I’ll talk! But promise you will protect me!”

Glorfindel pulled back, exhaled in relief, and thanked Eru. A shudder of disgust passed through him, the taint lingering like a dunk into a cesspool.

 

Arman woke to the world lurching beneath him, the loud, rhythmic creaking of a wooden wagon, and the clop-clop of heavy hooves on hard-packed earth. His head was groggy. And it hurt. A vile bitterness lingered in his mouth. The filthy rag gagging him made him want to retch. In the sweltering heat, his hair clung damp to his neck, and his clothes to his body. He struggled to remember what had happened. Aryo. A fight. The heavy scent of a musky perfume. A hand over his mouth, an arm clamped around his waist, a foul liquid forced between his lips.

He lay on his side. His hands were tied behind his back with rope. Through the narrow cracks between the wooden planks of the crate he was in, he could see sunlight. He gazed at thin slivers of white sky. Then he rolled onto his knees—the crate was just large enough for him to do so with ease—and peered out of a wider gap between the planks, breathing in fresh air through the opening as he did. He was startled to see golden eyes turn to look down at him indifferently. A black cat sat close by on another crate, its paws tucked under its body. “Where are we?” he thought-asked the cat.

It was not in the cat’s nature to betray astonishment. Its ears pricked forward slightly, then it looked away. “On the road, flea-brain.”

“But where are we going?”

The cat ignored him. Just as Arman was beginning to despair, it said, “The river.”

“The Anduin? Why? Why am I here?” Through the gap in the wooden slats, he saw the high walls of the Rammas Echor, and a great gate, open in this time of peace to traffic all day long. Going by the sun, he quickly realized where they were. “The South Gate?” Aryo and he could see that and the Anduin from their bedchamber window in the Citadel… and beyond, the still-forbidding range of the Ephel Duath towering. “Is that the South Gate? Where am I being taken?”

The cat looked annoyed. “Full of questions, aren’t you?” It rose to its four white-socked feet and sprang lightly onto another crate, then disappeared from view. All Arman saw through the gap was white sky and crates as the wagon jolted along. His heart sank.

“Please… please come back!” Arman begged. His stomach knotted as the wagon trundled through the gates and he watched the high walls recede and realized they were leaving the Pelennor Fields and all those he loved behind.

From elsewhere on the wagon, the cat’s thoughts came. “How far must I go before it will silence you? Pest.”

“Don’t go,” Arman pleaded. “Please… you’re my only friend here.” He had never been separated like this from Aryo, from his parents before, never been out of reach of the thoughts of at least one of them. He felt such a desolation and emptiness in his young fëa as he sank back onto the crate-floor that he began to cry, sobs wracking his little body. And you the son of a warrior and a hero, chided a voice within. Your Atto would never cry like a baby.

Arman fought down his tears.

He heard the sound of paws landing soft and sure on the next crate. “That’s better. No more mewling like a motherless kitten,” said the cat, sounding annoyed. “And let us be clear, Shiny: I am no one’s friend but my own.

With his hands tied behind his back, Arman could only draw up his knees, and wipe his eyes and nose on his dusty breeches. “All right,” he said to the cat, grateful it was back.

“Why are you here, you ask. Master must be anxious to keep you undamaged. The ones he puts alone in a crate to themselves are special goods. They fetch goodly prices on the block.” A golden eye looked through the gap in the crate and scrutinized the elfling. “Don’t know what he sees in you. Must be the shininess. Or the freak ears.”

“My ears are not freakish! Yours are pointed too.”

“Mine are fine ears for a cat, human freak. Master likes rare things. He was muttering that the Bharûg-kân would like you. Greedy bastard.”

“Who is or who are the Bharûg-kân?”

“You don’t know much, do you, Shiny? A lover of pleasure toys and pain. That is all you need to know.”

Arman did not understand that, but it did not sound good.

“Please—help me get free.”

“That’s hysterical. How could I? And even if I could… why should I?”

Looking bored, the black cat leaped away.

And Arman was truly left alone.

As the road descended down to what he guessed was Harlond, the elfling was thrown against one wall of the crate. All his speed and skill as a fighter, trained in him since he was five, were of no use, and the confinement and helplessness were unbearable to him. He lay on the floor of the crate and kicked at the roof. It didn’t budge. He worried the ropes on his wrists, rubbed them against the wooden frame. But all he had achieved was raw, painful wrists by the time the wagon lurched to a halt and he heard the noise of the wharves and shouts in many tongues, as cargo was loaded and unloaded on the ships that must be there. His Atto had told them just that morning how they would come here to cross the river to Ithilien, after the naming ceremony of the new princess.

His Atto. He was certain his father would find him…

The crates were beginning to be unloaded.

“Gently, fool! Don’t damage the goods.” A harsh voice in a strange accent.

Some grumbling ensued for a few moments.

“What cargo?” An officious voice.

“Fruits for the Harad,” the first voice grunted in reply to an official of the quays. As a crate of fruit was opened for inspection, Arman’s own crate was lifted from the wagon and he lay on the base to avoid being flung about. A sharp word was flung his way at the man carrying him, “Careful, you brôkhaz! The fruits bruise easily.”

Then Arman heard a familiar voice, faint in the distance.

And it was singing, a fair and melodious sound amid the noises of the busy port.

…Trevedithon nín laind ereb ciriel
Aind i thuiad bo Falas Vedui…

Arman’s heart gave a great leap. Even before he heard the soft, light, swift hooves of an elf horse ride past not too far away, he called out desperately, in thought: “Legolas! Legolas! Edraith enni! Save me!”

The elf horse had gone. Arman despairingly felt the rocking motion of an anchored ship as his crate was carried over a gangplank.

In a moment, Arman heard the light hooves return.

“Arman? Arman, is that you, pen dithen?” called the well-known Sindarin voice, ringing clear above the noise of the port. “Mas ci? Where are you?”

“I’m in a wooden box going onto a ship! Save me, Legolas!”

“You there! Put that box down. Now!”

“What the kâguk-sar—?” “Who the phûzaksh–?” “It is the elfling’s father!” “Lord Legolas? What are you doing—?” “Stop him! Careful with that crate!”

Arman was jolted hard as his crate was thrown and landed violently on the deck of the ship. Dazed with pain, he heard steel slide out from scabbards, then an adan’s scream and a loud splash. “Call the guards!” the panicked official was shouting. “Call the guards!”

The landing had bruised Arman but it had also broken his crate. As pandemonium broke out on the wharf, the elfling kicked open the damaged side and slid out. He had just scrambled to his feet when a burly Southron, grizzle-bearded and swarthy, leaped onto the ship and shoved away the gangplank. The slaver shouted at a Haradrin seaman what was presumably a command to hoist anchor and set sail. Arman ran for the railing, but it was too high, and his hands were still tied behind him. The ship began to pull away from the quay.

“Arman! Yonya!” Arman heard in his head

“Atto!” Arman darted about the deck with lightning swiftness as the Southron lunged after him, harshly hurling what must be curses and profanities in the unknown tongue. There were two seamen—one steered them away from the quay, the other joined in the chase. As the ship rolled sharply, the elfling, not having use of his arms to balance himself, fell hard upon the deck and the slaver was upon him. A black furball suddenly hurled itself upon the slaver, spitting and scratching, and as the slaver raised his hands to defend his face, Arman rolled and got back upon his feet, and darted away.

The elfling had just ducked behind a pile of crates when the tall, golden elflord, shining white with power, landed with a flying leap almost soundlessly on the deck of the ship.

The black cat vanished up a mast. Master slaver and seamen froze, blood draining from their faces as they quailed in terror. Eyes blazing with white fire, Glorfindel towered over the Haradrim by two heads.

“Raz ûl-nurâg ish-khandû,” growled Glorfindel commandingly, managing to make the harsh syllables musical. “Back to the wharf right now.”

As the white-faced seamen frantically acted to steer them back to the quay, Arman ran to his father and Glorfindel swiftly removed his gag and the ropes that bound him, then lifted him and hugged him tightly.

“Zîrkan! Zîrkan!” And gibbering a litany of prayers, the Southron slaver prostrated himself abjectly at the elflord’s feet.

 

The Lord of the Elves of Ithilien could not stop grinning. “I think it so funny the scum thought you were their sun-god.” He had just crossed the Anduin on a ferry from Ithilien when Arman heard his song, for he was also headed to Minas Tirith for the naming ceremony.

“It was a good thing. Had they tried to fight, I might have been tempted to hurt them badly.” Glorfindel applied salve to Arman’s raw wrists as Maeglin cradled him against her body. Aryo sat with his face snuggled against his mother’s side, an arm hugging his twin’s waist.

The Gondorian guard had six slavers in chains—the Master and his five men—and the two seamen. Two were soaking wet, having been tossed by Legolas into the river, and three were slowly recovering from having been clouted unconscious by Glorfindel. Four of the men were Gondorians, the rest were Haradrim. They would all soon be joining Goblo in the dungeons of Minas Tirith.

“Filth,” muttered Maeglin in Quenya. “The depravity of the Afterborn… it is beyond comprehension.”

Legolas understood some Quenya by now, though he could not speak it. “It can be,” he said in Sindarin. “But I know many goodly and noble men, and it is by them I will choose to judge the race of men, not these scum. Like Faramir over there. And, of course, Aragorn.”

Faramir came towards the elves, his son at his side. “I am sorry for Arman’s ordeal, but it is well the villains were caught and the children rescued. The King will be glad to hear of it.” The contents of the three wagonloads sat huddled on the wharf—children from poorer sectors of the Lower City, and some from the townlands that lay within the Rhammas Echor. Packed three or four to a crate, they had been destined for the slave markets of Balarghat and Khartâri, two great cities of the Harad. Some would not have been missed. Others had families that would have sought them long but never known their fates. The master slaver glared sourly at the elf-family, and cursed himself for the moment he had succumbed to greed and paid Goblo the princely sum of twenty Castar for the pretty elf-pet for the Bharûg-kân. Red scratches streaked his cheeks and hands.

As they began to head back to the city, Arman saw a sleek black shape slink behind some barrels on the quay.

“The cat!” Arman cried out, and ran after it, his whole family and Legolas following.

Golden eyes gazed up coldly and indifferently at the gathering of elves.

“Thank you for helping me,” said Arman.

“The bastard hit me once, when drunk. I got my own back.”

“If you return to the palace with us, the princesses would take good care of you,” said Aryo.

“Nay. I can make my way. There’s rats aplenty on this wharf.” It moved away, tail high.

“You could stay with me and my brother, and be our friend,” said Arman.

“I am no one’s friend. I know no loyalty. I shall have no Master, henceforth.” It leaped onto a wall. Its black, glossy fur shone in the afternoon sun and its golden eyes glowed. “Watch yourself, Shiny. Farewell.” And it vanished.

“That cat reminds me strangely of someone I once knew,” said Glorfindel to Maeglin, as they proceeded on the wide, paved road back to the South Gate, and was sharply elbowed in the ribs by his lady.

 

Legolas was dreaming of a white ship sailing through a starry sky when he felt something tickle.

As his azure-blue eyes wakened to consciousness, he saw a dark-brown, hairy, eight-legged creature sitting on his bare chest. It was about the size of his palm.

“Oh, please,” he said, sleepily. “You call that a spider? Really?”

He allowed the arachnid to walk onto his hand, then deftly tossed it under his bed.

As two fair-haired elflings burst out from under the bed, startled and squealing, the Lord of the Ithilien Elves laughed merrily.

“Is that the best you can do?” He shook his head in disappointment as he pulled on a tunic. “Come, my young apprentices. Let me tell you what your father and I got up to when I was an elfling...”

Two little pairs of eyes sparkled bright over radiant grins.

 


Glossary

Yonyat [Q] – dual vocative noun form for “sons”

Yonya [Q] – son

Melissë [Q] – female lover

Ásë nuhta [Q] – stop that

Finyon [Q] – Aryo’s mother name. (The meaning should be “clever one” according to the Quenya name generator I referred to, and I double-checked with dreamingfifi on the translation forum at Real Elvish.)

Ornor & Orlin [S] - Dang, how does one translate the twins’ names into Sindarin? I began with “Morning fire” = Aurnor. And since “aur” also means sunlight, and “glîn” is a gleam/glint/narrow ray of light, I got “Aurglin”. Then I consulted the Real Elvish translation forum, and discovered it should be “Ornor” and “Orlin”.

Trevedithon nín laind ereb ciriel / Aind i thuiad bo Falas Vedui dannol [S] = I will pass the wide waters lonely sailing. / Long are the waves on the Last Shore falling [This of course is from Legolas’ song in LOTR. Sindarin translation by Taramiluiel on http://www.lotrplaza.com/archives/index.php?Archive=First%20Age&TID=55840 ]

Since there is next to nothing known of the languages of the Haradrim, I concocted my own words. I can only hope I have not insulted any extant language.


A fragment of my old draft that just didn't fit into this chapter anymore:

On hunting trips, Glorfindel taught the boys how to give Eru thanks for the life they took as they shot their prey. How to thank their prey too, for the gift of its life to feed theirs. How to kill no more than what was needed, and waste nothing. On this autumn day, they had a rabbit and three pheasants to feed the household for dinner. They were singing as they made their way back when Glorfindel shushed them.

“Listen.”

The howl of wargs from the northern pass.

“Get up high, and stay there!” He ordered his boys, pushing them towards the nearest tree.

Wargs did occasionally come into the valley now Vilya held them back no more. Glorfindel waited till his sons were sitting high in the tree, holding the rabbit and pheasants. Then he turned and walked towards the howling of the wargs. He spotted them bounding down the hillslopes. Nine in all. They looked lean and hungry.

The boys as usual had been fooling around on the way home and wasting arrows the way their father used to do, he thought ruefully – showing off by splitting a first shaft down the centre. That left Glorfindel with just four arrows against nine wargs, and his two hunting knives. No problem at all.

The warrior’s eyes were sparking white fire with anticipation. He moved purposefully towards the wolves, fitting an arrow to his bow as he did. Four wargs at the front of the pack fell in quick succession, an arrow in each. He then drew his knives and continued walking calmly towards the remaining five as they bounded towards him. He had slain three of them when he saw, with lurching heart, a blur of pale gold to his left at the periphery of his vision.

“Arman!!”

His younger son hurled himself at a warg, wielding his own hunting knife like a sword. In a flash, Glorfindel had caught the boy up by the waist and the warg lay dead with the balrog slayer’s blade in the side of his neck.

Atto, I had him! Put me down!” protested the child. But already the father had dropped him and was pulling out his blade and turning his head to the right, where he saw the last warg leap towards his elder son five yards away, as the child stood with his blade ready.

Both the father and the son’s blades sank into the warg at the same time. Just after the warg landed on the boy, going straight for the throat.

Glorfindel thought he had never felt such a terrible pang of fear and horror as when he saw his child thrown back upon the ground and the warg’s fangs sink into soft flesh.

“Aryo!!”

Heart pounding violently, Glorfindel lifted and pushed aside the warg’s foul, dying corpse. “Atto...” whispered Aryo, his huge grey eyes dazed with shock and pain as he lay with his golden hair spread around him, spattered with both the warg’s blood and his own. Glorfindel felt fangs savaging his own heart as saw the bloody mess where neck met shoulder, but thanked Eru fervently that the artery had been missed. Arman fell to the ground by his twin, weeping. Glorfindel laid gentle hands on his older son’s deep-gold head and white light shone over the three as the elflord began to sing healing.

 

Both parents were seasoned warriors and had seen wounds far, far worse, but they were both pale as they sat by the bedside of their mauled child. The wound had been cleansed and treated and dressed, and Aryo now lay sleeping, his eyes shut because of the sleeping draughts. Maeglin tucked the blanket around him, then leaned over and stroked his golden head. Glorfindel sat in a chair next to her, holding Arman in his arms. Elladan, Elrohir, Erestor and Lindir quietly left the room.

Glorfindel replayed the scene in his mind. He should have killed off the wargs more swiftly, instead of taking his time. He thought of that moment the warg had leapt at Aryo’s neck, cursing himself for not being faster. Just one second faster. Maeglin leaned over to kiss him, reading his mind, then left the room with Thalanes to prepare materials and ointment for the next wound dressing. Father and sons were now alone.

The younger twin suddenly began to shake with sobs, tears pouring from azure-blue eyes.

Atto, it’s all my fault… he came down only because I did.”

Glorfindel hugged him tighter and stroked his pale-gold head. “A warrior must always obey orders. If you’re told to fall back, you fall back. If to attack, you attack. And if to stay up a tree, you stay up.” There was the Commander’s sternness underlying his gentle voice. “But do not blame yourself, pitya. Aryo is going to be fine. And he chose to come down himself. You did not force him. You were wrong to disobey me, do you hear? But this—this is not your fault.”

“Aryo’s the good one,” Arman insisted, tears still trickling down his cheeks. “He would never have come down. Except for me.” Glorfindel looked down at the pale golden head of the son so much like his own younger self. Remembered the hundreds of times he had never listened, had defied death and laughed lightly as he hurled himself into the path of danger. He could hear Ecthelion and Egalmoth and Rog sniggering at him from across the Sundering Sea.

“You can be good too, pitya,” was all the father said. “You will be from now on. Won’t you?”

The chastened child nodded, and buried his face in his father’s neck. 

 

Chapter Text

“Is that the Queen?”

“No, fool! What would the Queen be doing on foot, with no guard, and in such plain raiment?”

“Well, they all look the same, these elves…”

If one thing can be said about the atani, they do not all look the same. Eru must have a sense of humour to have created a species of such diversity of shapes and sizes and colours. They are mostly ugly, but in different ways.

I hate this city. I hate its people.

I move through the sweaty, stinking mass of atani. The reek of garlic and unwashed bodies almost makes me gag. Most of them clear a path for me, making way for that most rare and exotic of beings in Minas Tirith—an elf lady. Not all though. I have been groped thrice. I made sure the three swine who dared to do so peed in their pants and squealed like little girls for it. They may count themselves fortunate to still have all their extremities and their balls intact.

I greet with relief the short, sturdy, bearded figures at the Great Gate. Mortals too, but superior ones. They smell of earth and iron ore and coal smoke and pipeweed. How you hate that last scent... but it is, for me, the scent of childhood memories in the Ered Luin. Sitting at the feet of Telchar, Suthri and Aurvang, listening to them talk with my father into the night…

The new Great Gate of Minas Tirith is a wonder of mithril and steel, a thing of beauty and grace and strength. The Seventh Gate had been a labour of eight full months for me and all the smiths of my house. The casári began work two coranári after the War of the Ring and have taken twenty-one. It is understandable. The rebuilding of the rest of the city and the restoration of the townlands took precedence. And as mortals they waste so much time sleeping and eating.

The first stars are lighting the sky by the time we finish. We admire the magnificent gate as it shimmers softly, catching the starlight and the light of Rána, a thin sliver rising in the east. It is finally complete. The first undertaking of dwarves and elves—elf, rather—since the days of Eregion and Moria. And possibly the last.

The Regent of the Reunited Kingdom and several officials of the city have come to admire it as well.

“Magnificent!” exclaims Prince Faramir in awe. “The King would regret missing this moment. We will send word.”

Gimli beams with pride, and pats me on the shoulder as he speaks. “Dwarven skill and elven spells conjoined. Not Grond, nor black spell, nor fell might of any troll would ever breach this gate!”

“Indeed,” say I. “May it stand ten thousand years.” And I fall silent. There had been another gate, once, and magic had availed nothing. How casually the Abhorred One had delved within my mind and spirit to uncover the keys to cancel my spells. And the strongest and finest of all my works had fallen to ruin beneath the onslaught of ram and fire.

Amid my memories of that other gate, Gimli cocks a thick eyebrow at me and nudges me. “How are you holding up, lass?” he asks, his voice gruff yet oddly gentle. “And the boys?”

I look down at him and manage a smile. “As well as we may, Gimli Glóinul.”

“We return to Aglarond four days hence. You are welcome there anytime, lass. You and your lads.”

Before I head back into the city, the worthy casar takes my hand and pats it comfortingly with his broad, gnarled one.

I am drained and weary as I walked through the gates. The casting of the wards of protection has taken far more out of me than I had thought it would. You have felt it too—this diminishing of our powers. How mindspeaking across distances is now harder for us two. How we could not sense our lost son even over half a league.

So this is what the fading of our kind feels like. I wonder bleakly if it will worsen over centuries… till our light fades and we become no more in power than the mortals that surround me now.

I glance back at the finished gate. Amid my pride and satisfaction, sorrow that this work is done consumes me. Emptiness yawns before me in the days ahead.

I walk over the cobbled streets of Minas Tirith alone. The atani part to clear a path before me, in their eyes a mix of wonder and fear. I wonder if I look as fey and grim as I feel within.

The nights are worst. The twins lie sprawled on your side of the bed, and I lie gazing at them, or at the ceiling. The aching emptiness is so great inside me, there are no tears. The silence within where your voice had been is like the void before the first note of the First Music.

 

It is a year to the day since Laurefindil first told me the news at the highest point of the city. As we climbed to the top of the Tower of Ecthelion to watch the sun set over Ered Nimrais, I knew in my fëa he had some great matter to discuss. He had been in the Hall of Council all afternoon with Estel and the others, whilst I was with the casári at the Great Gate. I could feel the restless, surging currents of excitement and unease in his fëa. We stood at the high battlements encircling the silver spike, just below the chamber of the palantir, and he told me how different reports had brought intelligence of the surviving forces of Sauron gathering at the Hrónairë, the Sea of Rhûn.

“Urqui?” I had heard of King Elessar’s campaigns. Gondor and Rohan had hunted the remnants of the dark lord’s armies for the last two decades. The twins had been too young for Laurefindil to think of going. There had been no word for the last five years. I had imagined the wars were over.

“Yes. Apparently they rally under an Uruk chieftain who calls himself Dagog the Cruel. They have with them mountain trolls. And darkened races of men… Hrónatani, Easterlings… and Variags, and the Balchoth. Gondor prepares to strike at them with Rohan. Once his baby is able to walk, Estel will ride forth with Éomer.”

He was silent for a while. His arms tightened around my waist, his cheek pressed against my hair. “Elladan and Elrohir will join them. And Legolas too.”

I felt my heart go dead within me as I pulled away from his embrace. “Just say it. Just say that you are going. There is no need to skirt around it like this.”

“But you and I need to discuss—”

“What is there to discuss?” I said resentfully. “The