2. Chapter Two
“A great warrior and captain you were in Gondolin,” said Gil-galad. “Faithfully you served Turgon my uncle. Now I would have you serve me in the same capacity, as a captain in my household.”
Glorfindel bowed his head, remembering another meeting in another Age in which the same scene was played out, yet with Turgon it had been before the entire court of Gondolin. Much color there had been in that ceremony, and also much sorrow, for the wounds of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad were still fresh, and Glorfindel was not accustomed to being the focus of attention. Always he had dwelt in the shadows of those above him, his father and brother, and never thought to become chief of the House of the Golden Flower. He had not wanted the honor, nor had he felt worthy of it when his kin fell at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and the lordship passed to him.
Encouraged by Egalmoth and Ecthelion, most of the great captains welcomed him into their midst and treated him as their equal; only the King’s dour nephew Maeglin and his fawning protégé Salgant were distant.
If only I had paid more attention to them, he thought, I might have seen the shadows they cast. Although Olórin told him time and again there was no way he could have foreseen Maeglin’s betrayal, Glorfindel berated himself for not having done more. Nightmare images of the fall of Gondolin sometimes flashed through his mind, tormenting his rest, and even his waking hours were not entirely free of shadows.
Gil-galad made his request in private, for Lindon was not Gondolin of old and it had become a habit of the High King not to parade himself or the members of his household too much in public. He introduced Glorfindel to his intimates and key members of his court, and let all others think the newcomer a lord of Tol Eressëa whose parents had simply named him after the fallen warrior of Gondolin. It was not an uncommon practice in Lindon; Glorfindel had seen a mother ask the High King if she might name her newborn son after his sire Fingon.
“And what would you have me do, hir-nín?” Glorfindel asked. “Captains you already have in plenty. It does not seem to me that you require another.”
“It is my intention to assign you a gweth of your own,” answered Gil-galad.
“I thought you preferred my counsel to my sword.”
Rolling his eyes slightly, Gil-galad made a weary gesture. “Advisors I have, too many. Pengolod and his ilk bore me to tears, if you must know, though Elrond tolerates them passing well. Nay, though your counsel is much valued, you would serve me best as you served Turgon, in the bearing of arms. My captains are capable, yet the best of them have perished and they know this. Among them are no heroes.”
“Nor would there be if I took command, hir-nín.”
“It is well that you are not a braggart, Glorfindel, else I would not be able to bear your company. However, I find your persistent humility frustrating at times. Is it your own self-effacing nature that prompts you to refuse, or fear that your secret will become known?” asked Gil-galad. “For well-nigh fifty years I have permitted you to keep to the shadows. I have suffered your silent grief because the Ithryn Luin tell me this is not uncommon among those who are reborn, yet I will say again that I do not think the Valar sent you here to sulk. I need not tell you that a shadow is growing upon the land again. I need a warrior who is whole, not one who is ready to fade.”
Glorfindel was well aware of the High King’s frustration with him and calmly bore his criticism. He was no less frustrated with himself. Strength you need, and I would I had more of it to give you, yet my heart is uncertain. “The warriors who served under me wore the badge of the Golden Flower, and carried my standard. I did not lie when I offered you my counsel, my sword and my life, for death does not frighten me anymore, yet I would not resurrect the ghosts of those days long past. I would not have anyone else bear the colors or emblem of a dead House.”
The High King studied him with grim eyes. Turgon would have fumed and reproached him for taking such a self-pitying tone, but Ereinion Gil-galad was not his uncle. Both could be stubborn at times, but Gil-galad had learned to listen, to observe and be flexible. “Then you will wear the eight stars of my House and take command alongside Elrond if you do not wish to wear the Golden Flower, but lead you will.”
“If silence and seclusion have not eased your sorrow by now, then perhaps this will,” the King said tightly. “Go now, and in the morning I will send Elrond with your duties and regimentals.”
* * *
In the hallway, Glorfindel met a familiar, blue robed figure. To casual observers, the Ithryn Luin might have been cut from the same cloth: both were tall and gray-haired, though not elderly in the manner of mortals. Mortals they were not, nor Eldar, but something indefinable and ageless; it was no secret that they had come from Tol Eressëa and were perhaps lesser Maiar, though this was not loosely bandied about.
Glorfindel had spent enough time among them to be able to tell them apart. Alatar was a hair taller than Pallando, and drew his lips in a crooked smile that underscored his occasional love of mischief.
The one who greeted Glorfindel was stern, almost regal in his bearing, though usually soft spoken. “It would seem,” commented Pallando, “that something ails you, laurëalótë.”
Glorfindel sighed, but allowed Pallando to lead him aside to a window seat where they could converse privately. “How many times have I asked you not to call me that?”
“Alatar and I do not listen to your protests anymore than Olórin did, and with good reason. To be reembodied does not mean casting all remnants of your old life aside.”
Many times before had he heard that, from all three Maiar as well as Finrod, and he had protested in his turn, saying he was accustomed to hearing that endearment only from his family. And he did not wish others to suspect what he truly was, a reborn warrior of Gondolin. It was embarrassing enough that they still celebrated the anniversary of his death; the High King had explained that he could not very well abolish the tradition without going against Glorfindel’s wishes.
“You cannot have it both ways,” said Gil-galad. “Either you reveal yourself or suffer their remembrance in silence.”
With increasing frequency it seemed Gil-galad was trying to force him into some course of action. Glorfindel no longer had the energy to resist. And he was weary of the old arguments, gaining no ground by them. “The High King wishes me to command one of his gweth.”
“And you do not care for the idea?”
“He has capable leaders in plenty without having to ask me.”
“Do you think he asked merely because he thought you capable?”
“I have not led warriors into battle for more than a thousand years.” Glorfindel drew in a sharp breath. “Something in your voice tells me you urged him to this course of action.”
Pallando confirmed his guilt with a small smile. “In this he does not require much persuasion. We are of like mind, Glorfindel, in that we wish to see this seemingly endless grief of yours cease.”
Glorfindel turned his head to gaze down into the gardens. He could not very well protest by claiming the assessment unjust, for in his heart he knew those closest to him were right. From the very moment he embarked from Alqualondë he knew he must somehow free himself from his grief. A sense of purpose would have given him something else to focus his energies upon, yet no specific direction had been offered to or thrust upon him until now.
Why did he wait so long? Why did he wait until I had grown comfortable with grief and shadows? “Nearly fifty years it has been since I arrived. I had begun to believe my coming was without purpose, though even now I am not certain this command is what I am meant to do.”
“Has Olórin never told you that there are many smaller paths on the road of one’s destiny? Sometimes the music of the Ainur reveals its pattern in a long and tortuous way,” said Pallando. “Námo has foreseen that you have some part yet to play in the deeds of Middle-earth and so has granted you early release, though he has not seen fit to share his knowledge with others.”
“I was released too soon.”
“I cannot speak for Námo, yet if you doubt the wisdom of the judge of the Dead, perhaps you will recall the one who greeted you upon the steps of the Havens?”
Círdan the Shipwright was not an Elf whom one could easily or soon forget. Although he had never made the final crossing to Valinor, preferring instead to dwell on the Hither Shore, there was yet an air of foreknowledge and sanctity about Círdan that Glorfindel had seen only in certain folk who dwelt in the Blessed Realm. Olórin told him he and his companions would receive much welcome at Mithlond, though did not see fit to forewarn Glorfindel how immediate that welcome would be.
From among the Telerin dockhands who worked to secure the lines of the Númenorean vessel that had borne them east from Andúnië, one rose up from the pilings and strode directly up the gangplank to greet the passengers. Weathered hands came up, pushing back the hood Glorfindel had worn for concealment and warmth in the colder northern sea, then the Teleri folded his hands across his breast and bowed deeply.
“Twice-born thou art, Golden Flower, and in service to the star thou hast come.” A faraway look was in his eyes, stifling Glorfindel’s protests. After a moment, the Teleri blinked, focused and his speech became more regular. “Welcome to the Grey Havens, Glorfindel,” he said. Then he turned and bowed to Glorfindel’s companions. “And welcome also, servants of Manwë.”
Service to the star. Glorfindel took this to mean service to Ereinion Gil-galad, the Star of Radiance, though he could not fathom what aid he could possibly render to the High King. Of far greater value to Gil-galad were the Ithryn Luin. Often they journeyed abroad from Lindon, gathering information and returning with news and counsel while Glorfindel sharpened his sword and sat idle in the royal house.
How much easier it would have been had he been able to accompany Alatar and Pallando on their travels; in his former life he had not journeyed much, save on the long treks of his childhood, across the Helcaraxë and thence from Vinyamar to Gondolin, that he scarcely remembered. All his other travels had been marches to battle, or heavy retreats, with no time to linger over the landscape. It might have been invigorating to do otherwise, to see the land at peace.
He had intended to call himself by his father-name, Erunámo, yet Círdan, whether unknowing or by design, had sent word on ahead to Lindon that Glorfindel of Gondolin was come among them. Erunámo could have vanished into the landscape and found his own path. Instead, Glorfindel had to swallow his embarrassment when Gil-galad opened Círdan’s missive, looked once at him, then again before his eyes bulged and his jaw dropped.
Pallando meant well, yet had little comfort to offer. Glorfindel excused himself from the window seat to go in search of Elrond. At this time of day, the perelda would either be in the royal library, infirmary or herb garden. Eärendil’s son was a competent enough warrior, but his main interests lay in healing and scholarly lore.
“So, herulótë, you have finally accepted command of a gweth,” commented a voice from one of the open doorways. “I wonder how hard the High King had to press to get you to agree to such a thing.”
Glorfindel turned, scowling at the tall, dour figure who peered out at him. “How many times must I tell you not to call me that?”
“Ah, but it is only lore masters who use Quenya these days, my friend,” said Pengolod, “or a certain lord who stubbornly clings to the old ways.” He pulled Glorfindel into his study and closed the door behind them. “Had I a mind, I could say scurrilous things about half the people in this city and not a one would understand me.”
Pengolod was a survivor of Gondolin, one of the last in Middle-earth; he was also the one person in Lindon whose notice Glorfindel could not have escaped, whether he changed his name or no. His second body was close in form and feature to the first, enough that anyone who had known him in Gondolin might recognize him, but Pengolod had seen the old Glorfindel enough times in Penlod’s House of the Pillar to remember him.
“You do not know who may be lurking in the shadows,” answered Glorfindel. “It seems to me your students are always hanging about.”
“Ah, my dear gwador, you do not know how many times I have rounded on poor Erestor and Malthir in the old tongue for some infraction and they knew not a whit of what I said; their Quenya is as poor as their penmanship. Still, I swore I would keep your secret and I am as good as my word, though I know not why you are ashamed of what you once were.”
“You have never been dead.” Glorfindel accepted a glass of the strong wine Pengolod offered him and took a sip before continuing. “You do not know what it is like to be in that cold place, without a body or a voice, and then to be thrust back into life once more.”
“I imagine it is not a pleasant experience, yet have enough centuries not passed that you might forget the cold of Mandos?”
Glorfindel took another sip of the wine. The lore master knew exactly what he needed to calm his nerves. “You do not know how difficult it is to be reborn. Perhaps it is worse than being born the first time, for an infant has never known the things an envinyantawë has known. He does not remember a time when he walked and spoke. He does not remember fear or death, or guilt.”
Though he and Pengolod sometimes shared their memories of Gondolin, they never crossed the unspoken boundary of speaking of the city’s fall or Glorfindel’s death. No doubt Pengolod had been curious, yet never once gave hint of it. “Guilt is a curious word,” he murmured. “Why should you feel guilt, after you saved so many?”
“And how many more did I not save? I saw Ecthelion die, did you know? He was but thirty feet away from me and yet I could not reach into the water to pull him out before he drowned under Gothmog’s weight. My House is gone, every one of them. I saved them so they could die by the swords of Fëanor’s sons, so they could starve or die of cold and torment in the pits of Angband. And when I left, they were still in Mandos, every one of them. I was released, I alone.” He tensed, anticipating what Pengolod would say, for it was what all others had said to him, that his deeds had won him the right to be reborn. “Tell me, ingolmo, what ill did they do that they must remain so long in that cold place?”
“They may yet be reborn, you know. Perhaps it is not yet their time.” Pengolod mulled over his wine, sloshing it about in his glass; he had not yet drunk from it. “Still, I was not aware that Mandos was a place of punishment. Always I have been told that it is a place of healing and redemption.”
“Do I seem healed to you?”
The lore master gave him a hard look. “What you feel is no more than what we all feel, those who survive such hardship when others do not. I do not think it a wound that can be healed in Mandos.”
“Long have I known there were some whose spirits were so badly damaged in death that even Nienna’s tears could not wash away the hurt,” said Glorfindel. “They refuse rebirth. I do not know how many ages it takes for one to be healed, only that such healing did not find me. Too soon was I returned to the world of the living.”
“What do the Ithryn Luin say to this?” asked Pengolod.
“Little of use, or that I have not heard before.” Glorfindel took a third sip of the deep red liquid, draining the glass. “I am needed here in Middle-earth, they say, yet I do not see that I am better suited to the task than any of the warriors or counselors the King already has around him.”
Without having to be asked, Pengolod refilled his glass. “Dark days are coming. You have heard of the one who calls himself Annatar?”
“He is a Maia, I am told, who has approached the Elves of Eregion with words and gifts of friendship. Celebrimbor has welcomed him into the brotherhood of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain,” said Glorfindel. “Alatar and Pallando are wary of him, and suspect his gifts and smooth words are but concealment for his true nature.”
Pengolod nodded. “Not all of Morgoth’s servants were slain or taken captive in the War of Wrath. Long have the agents of the King sought for them, but always they have eluded him. Perhaps this is why he wishes you to take command of a gweth. Had you considered that?”
“And I told him that I have not commanded warriors in battle since Gondolin, nor have I ridden against a foe in that long. Whatever evil this Annatar intends, if evil it is, no doubt it will be more insidious than open warfare; I do not know that the remnants of Morgoth’s followers have the numbers to challenge us openly. Alatar and Pallando have urged Gil-galad to close the borders of Lindon to him, and advised Círdan and Celeborn in the south to do the same.”
“What counsel do you give?” asked Pengolod.
“I have nothing better to give than the advice Alatar and Pallando have given already. If evil comes, I could not say where or how it will fall. Never have I been skilled at detecting treachery. My counsel in this matter is of little worth.”
If Pengolod read the self-wounding barb, he gave no sign. What advice do I give Gil-galad, you ask? Nay, do not ask my advice, that is the counsel I give.
“Perhaps, gwador,” Pengolod said softly, “you cannot read treachery because you are incapable of it.”
* * *
Ithryn Luin: the Blue Wizards
hir-nín: (Sindarin) my lord
gweth: (Sindarin) a household unit or troop
laurëalótë: (Quenya) golden flower
perelda: (Quenya) half-Elf
herulótë: (Quenya) flower lord
envinyantawë: (Quenya) reborn person
ingolmo: (Quenya) lore master
Glorfindel’s father-name is not canon, but my own invention. Glorfindel’s brother Nárello and his family are also fan creations.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.