The falls spread a much welcomed cooling mist over carpenters and volunteers laboring in the early summer sunshine. It had taken several weeks to clear the table of rock of weeds and other foliage, and to level the ground enough to build upon, but at last the foundations had been prepared and the structures ready to be raised.
The first building, hastily erected in the deep of winter, had been a smithy. Whatever bits of metal could be salvaged from scavenged enemy armor and weapons were melted down and poured into makeshift molds to make arrowheads. From there, all who could cut or shape wood were enlisted to make shafts to which the metal tips were attached. Arrows were stockpiled, both in the camp and at the sentry posts Glorfindel and Celeborn established on the heights overlooking the pass and on the crags on the near side of the Bruinen. When the enemy returned, they would be prepared.
Now, as it became clear that they would be staying in the valley for some time yet, thought turned to the imminent winter, which came earlier in the reaches of the Hithaeglir. The caves were too cramped and uncomfortable to bear the possibility of yet another winter; the permanent wooden shelter being built down below would consist of a central hall suitable for communal dining and sleeping, with outbuildings for supplies and stables.
Game and fish were plentiful, and the women found wild berries, nuts and herbs to supplement the dwindling stores of lembas.
“Such a change will be welcome,” said Elrond. “For my part, I will be grateful if I do not see another lembas wafer for the next five hundred years.”
“Yet the gift of it has sustained us all these many months,” Glorfindel reminded him.
Elrond gave him a bemused smile that said he did not need to be reminded. “I have not forgotten, gwador, and for that gift I thank the Lady Galadriel and her daughter. But the taste of lembas has always reminded me of the cold, hungry years after the fall of Sirion. Such unhappy times I have no wish to revisit.”
Gazing out over the workers, Glorfindel marveled at how readily, even cheerfully they worked. “One would not think they have suffered so much.” In watching them, he could not help but wonder if this was what Sirion had been like, when Tuor and Idril led the survivors of Gondolin into the river lands that would become their haven. Had they laughed at the sight and smell of the sea, after having braved such peril and lost so much? This was something he did not like to dwell upon too much, for inevitably he was reminded that he had not been there to see it.
“In such times,” said Elrond, “we cling to what small comforts we are given. Their wounds are such that we do not see, save in quiet moments when they believe themselves alone.” He gave Glorfindel a meaningful look, yet did not press the matter. Since coming to the valley, he had returned somewhat to his healer’s ways, moving among his warriors and the refugees alike, easing their pain and lifting their spirits where he might.
Glorfindel hovered nearby as Elrond made his rounds, concerned that he might tax himself beyond his strength. The perelda had been uncommonly weak in the days after they took refuge in the valley, weakened by both his head wound and the use of Vilya; the wound had not been poisoned, but a slight fever incapacitated him for several days. Celeborn, who tended him, remarked that perhaps Elrond’s mortal blood made it more difficult for him to heal as swiftly as other Eldar; the observation was not unkindly made, and there might have been some truth in it, for Elrond’s weakness lingered days after he should have been fully healed.
Neither spoke of the other cause of his malaise, keeping their counsel as if by shutting away all reference to Vilya they could undo the peril it brought. Glorfindel knew the matter weighted heavily upon Elrond, for in his sleep he murmured uneasily, sometimes lifting his hand as if to defend himself or ward off a blow.
Once, when he opened his eyes and found his captain sitting beside him, he said, “Such ill dreams I have, gwador.” He licked dry lips before continuing. “A shadow looms over me, peering into me until all my secrets are laid bare.”
Glorfindel brought him water, holding the cup so he might moisten his lips. He knew very well why Elrond had felt such foreboding in his dream and what it signified, yet he said nothing of what he knew. “Such dreams are not uncommon in these times.”
Elrond frowned at him over the rim of the cup. “Say rather that in such times we are too weary by fight and retreat to walk the road of dreams and I will believe you. Ill dreams I have had before, in the camp of Maedhros when we believed the enemy was nigh, yet never have I felt such dread in sleep.”
I could tell you of dreams that would make you relish this one. I could tell you of a white city falling into ruin and of a flight through a lightless tunnel more like a tomb than a way of escape. I could tell you of a Balrog’s flame in the darkest night, and burning alive like a falling star. I could tell you also of the cold of Mandos, what little I remember of it. Yet to no one save Olórin had Glorfindel ever confided his night terrors, which at times still came upon him. “What does Celeborn say?” he asked.
“I have not spoken of it to him.”
“And yet you speak of it to me, gwador? I know not what counsel I could give you.”
“I would rather hear you chide me for my foolishness than he.” When Glorfindel began to protest, Elrond silenced him with a look. “All this time you have said nothing, yet I know what you would say. I have done an ill thing, using Vilya, and we both know it.”
“What would you have me say?” murmured Glorfindel. “The deed is past. It is too late to undo it.”
Elrond started to touch the pouch in which Glorfindel had placed Vilya; he drew his hand away at the last moment. “And yet, the terrible thing is I do not know that I would have chosen differently. The only choice was death, now or later. Had it been myself alone, I would have died rather than reveal the King’s gift or surrender it, yet I could not choose the way of despair for anyone else.”
There was much truth in what Elrond said, yet also uncertainty, for if Sauron knew now where Vilya was hidden he made no move to retrieve it, and Elrond had said that he had worn the ring for but a moment, long enough to call the downpour that flooded the Bruinen. I tore it from my finger with my next breath, he said, and would have had Celeborn pierce me through the heart if Sauron’s will had proved the stronger.
For many days after the storm, the Bruinen remained impassable, and the sentries posted above the pass reported no new incursions; the corpses of the enemy continued to block the way, attracting only wild carrion eaters. Bands of Orcs occasionally tried the pass, but these were scouts rather than the disciplined warriors who had harried the host from the rear; the archers easily took them down and left their bodies for the animals.
Spring came and the land was silent. Elrond left his pallet at the rear of the cave and moved among his people, yet Glorfindel could see his uneasiness. His eyes frequently darted to the horizon, clearly expecting disaster to befall at any moment; as the weeks passed with no assault, his nerves grew ever more strained.
“It will come,” he said. “Sooner or later, the enemy will find us, but I will not risk using Vilya again.”
Glorfindel had heard many such voices whisper in dread in the years before the fall of Gondolin; he himself had known such fear, had dreamt of fire and ruin long before Morgoth’s siege engines crept like flaming worms down from the hills of Tumladen and broke the gates of the city. And until the fatal moment came, there had not been a breath of peril to warn the Gondolindrim their doom was coming; there was only Ulmo’s prophecy, words spoken by a mortal Man to whom few listened.
Part of him wanted to speak soothing words, to put Elrond’s fears to rest, but the inner voice overriding that instinct urged caution. Elrond was right. The blow would eventually come. Sauron would not turn away from such a prize as the High King’s herald, whether he knew that Elrond held Vilya or not.
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.