7. Chapter Five
A day had passed, and with them went the campfires and noise. Once again the forest was still, until the scouts, cautiously venturing abroad, found evidence of battle.
“The corpses are old,” said one, “and the fletching we found on the broken arrows was not our own.” Unwrapping a weathered shaft whose feathers were faded by sun and rain, the scout handed it to Elrond.
Celeborn took the arrow next, holding it to the light to discern the colors of the fletching. “This is an arrow of Lórien,” he said. “Amroth’s people have been here.”
Elrond took the arrow back from him, turning it over in his hands. “And yet there is no word from them,” he murmured.
“Amroth and his people are secretive,” said Celeborn. “Either they do not wish to announce their presence or they may not know we are here.”
“Hir-nín, there is more.” From his pouch, the scout withdrew the pieces of a broken axe, turning it so the two lords could see the Dwarven runes incised on both the metal and wooden haft. “We found it buried in an Orc’s back.”
“There is a mystery here,” said Elrond.
* * *
Lindir smiled up at Glorfindel, urging him toward the grassy sward where, days before, Elrond had presided over a much-needed holiday. The Gates of Summer was past and the adults had gone back to work, but the children were given leave to sing and dance below.
“Pen-neth, you know I have much work to do,” protested Glorfindel. The knock of hammers called to him from above. He had no skill as a carpenter and left the splitting and shaping of planks to those who had, but he was judged fit enough to hammer pegs into place if he was of a mind to help in the building.
Most of the warriors, idle these last few months, eased their boredom by helping the carpenters when they were not on shift, and the work went much more quickly. The framework of the common hall was finished and was ready to be roofed. The few artisans among the refugees offered to decorate the beams and doorways with charcoal sketches of flowers, vines and birds that could later be carved out, while masons combed the hills in search of stones suitable for a central hearth.
Glorfindel took pleasure in the work, stripping off his mail and plate to labor under the warm sun; he continued to wear his sword, ordering his warriors to carry their arms at all times. Quiet would bring complacency if he and Elrond permitted it, and that was an oversight they could not afford. Even the refugees were given weapons, or already had them, and these they were told to keep with them; when Ondoher’s possessions were distributed among his companions, Glorfindel chose a dagger and gave it to Lindir.
“But they’re singing about the balrog-dagnir,” said Lindir, “and he has the same name as you. He was a great hero, you know. My ada said we should sing about our heroes so we can be brave when bad things happen.”
Remembering what day it was, Glorfindel stopped in the middle of the path, and Lindir, who had been tugging at his hand, was abruptly wrenched backward. He let go the boy’s hand. “I-I am sorry, but I do not have time for such games.”
As he turned back toward the camp, he heard Lindir’s disappointed voice calling out to him, but did not answer. He thinks I am wroth with him, but what can I tell him? That I am the hero of whom his ada would have him sing? I could not even save his ada. Empathy for the boy quickened his steps; he could not bear Lindir’s tears when he was so close to tears himself.
Stopping in his tent, he donned his mail and spent the rest of the day in the remotest sentry post he could find. At twilight, Elrond found him brooding over the horizon with eyes that looked yet saw nothing.
“I think, gwador,” came the perelda’s voice, “that a horde of Orcs could come shrieking down from the hills and you would not even notice.”
Glorfindel had heard Elrond’s footsteps come up behind him long before the other spoke; he noted the perelda’s approach with distant apathy. “If you needed me, why did you not send a messenger? You need not have come for me yourself.”
Elrond climbed into the stone hollow and stood crammed beside Glorfindel. “Nay, it is rather you who need me at this moment.”
“I would rather be left in peace.”
“And do you remember what I once said to you, on another such day, that you had been left too long in the shadows?”
“Do you expect me to walk joyfully among those who sing of my death?”
“All these years you have been so blind, gwador.” Glorfindel felt a hand fall upon his shoulder. “Do you not understand? It is not your death they celebrate, but your life.”
Glorfindel turned, nearly dislodging Elrond’s hand. “What is so meaningful or special about my life that makes it more so than that of all the others who fell? If you wish to sing of a Balrog-slayer, why do you not also remember Ecthelion in your songs? Why do you single me out and forget all those others in Gondolin who did great deeds and perished? Why do you dwell on a glory that never was?”
A moment passed, and it felt heavy and thick. Why could Elrond simply not leave him as he was? Was it so odd that he should be repulsed by this macabre celebration of his death?
“Have you never considered who composed those songs?” Elrond asked softly. “There were simply no survivors of the House of the Fountain to remember Ecthelion. It was those whom you saved who chose to remember you thus, or have you forgotten that there were some of the Golden Flower who saw you challenge the Balrog and die?
“Of course, if their remembrance is not to your liking, you may put an end to it any time you wish. Certainly there is one small boy in the camp who, wishing only to celebrate this day with you, does not understand why you are so wroth with him. I dried his tears, if you would know, and was of half a mind to tell him the truth.”
“Would you make it worse?” hissed Glorfindel.
“What harm can there be in revealing yourself to one small boy? Is there such shame in being the balrog-dagnir that you feel you must hide yourself behind my Star of Eärendil banner rather than ride proudly under your own Golden Flower?”
“Yes!” And he could see Elrond’s surprise even as he continued, “I would rather have been reborn as one of the Naugrim than a dead hero. Do you know what it is like, to hear oneself spoken of in the past tense--?”
“As I have said many times,” answered Elrond, “you may put an end to that anytime you wish. You simply choose to remain hidden in the shadows, more dead than alive. Even so, do not think the servants of your household or the warriors of your gweth are so dense they do not sense the truth. Even if they have not a name for their suspicions, they see the light of Valinor in your eyes and know you are not like other Eldar. Perhaps one of them will find enough courage to ask you if you are not Glorfindel of Gondolin reborn. Will you then lie to them? I have never known you capable of dissembling.”
Of the suspicions of others, Glorfindel already knew. None had asked the question, he knew, because it was considered impolite to pry into the personal affairs of another. There was, however, no protocol for dealing with envinyantawë, as they remained in Valinor once they were released from Mandos. Only for him had an exception been made.
But at some time, in some fashion, perhaps even from the lips of a child too young to fully appreciate tact, someone might ask the question. Elrond was right, he was incapable of lying. Questions had been put to him, never the one he dreaded answering.
Elrond tapped his shoulder. “Look now, gwador. Luinár comes for the evening watch. It is time for us to return to the camp.”
As night fell and the moon rose, Glorfindel reluctantly returned with him to the camp. The warriors of his gweth looked strangely on him, their gazes inquiring where he had been, until he quelled their curiosity with a glare. Hathol handed him a platter with his portion of the evening meal; he sat picking over the fish and stewed berries in silence.
Off to the right, he heard Alagos and Tuilinn give Lindir an enthusiastic greeting; he had to strain to hear the boy’s shy response.
“Why such a sad face tonight, pen-neth?” asked Alagos. Glorfindel looked up and saw Lindir shrug; the boy mumbled some vague answer, which Glorfindel did not catch.
“Well,” Tuilinn was saying, “why do you not ask him?”
Lindir answered with another indecipherable mumble.
“Wroth with you, pen-neth?” Alagos laughed. “Why, now, what did you do? Did you accidentally tie brambles into Asfaloth’s tail or drop saddle soap into the cáno’s wash basin? Well, then it cannot be all bad.”
The other warriors chuckled and began to join the banter. Glorfindel saw Lindir give a shy, nervous smile as Alagos clapped him on the shoulder and urged him to sit next to him. The others offered bits of food and encouragement, and Glorfindel would have let them continue if not for the fact that he was slowly becoming the butt of their banter; he did not want to have to interject with a reminder that he was their commander, recalling his father’s stern admonition that a leader who had to remind his followers of such was not fit to command.
“Lindir, come here,” he said. His voice was soft, yet the moment he spoke all other conversation ceased. All eyes turned on him; he returned their gaze with one that said he would not suffer any comment. “Come here and sit by me while Barandol fetches you some more of those stewed berries you like so much.”
“But cáno,” Lindir protested, “I’m supposed to rub Asfaloth down and give him water, like I do every night.”
“I set him loose from his tether this morning that he might graze and drink as he wills. Do you wish to rub him down, pen-neth? He enjoys your touch and will come if I call him.”
Lindir looked down at his plate, where someone had left another morsel of fish. “I don’t want to be lazy.”
“I gather you have been working at least part of the day. Here, now, let me see your hand.” Glorfindel took the boy’s hand in his larger one and turned it over so he might examine the palm. “You are not accustomed to hard labor, pen-neth. I see Elrond has tended your blisters and dug out a splinter. And here, you are massaging a pulled muscle in your arm. What have you been doing, that you strain yourself so?”
“I helped Hallacár carry stones so he can build a hearth. He says it will be big, so many people can sit around the fire. Lord Elrond says it will be a thamas naur, where people can tell stories and listen to songs.” Lindir bit his lip. “Cáno, don’t you like songs?”
“Yes, I like songs and stories, and I imagine this Hall of Fire will be very fine once it is finished.”
“But why did you leave when I wanted you to come sing with us today? Everyone says you have a very beautiful voice. I wanted to hear you sing.”
Although normal conversation had resumed among the gweth, Glorfindel felt the attention of his warriors. No doubt they also wondered why he refused to partake in the Gates of Summer celebration and all that came after. In Lindon, it had been easy to invent some errand year after year to explain his absence, but here, in this small camp in a narrow valley, what he did or did not do was noted by all.
“I do not care for that song,” he said simply. “Those of us who remember the First Age do not like to dwell much on the sorrow of those days, and it is a sad song they sing. I do not like sad songs, pen-neth.”
“Then will you sing a happier song for me, cáno?”
Glorfindel was in no mood to sing, nor could he recall any song he might wish to sing. “When this Hall of Fire is completed,” he answered, “perhaps I will sing something.”
* * *
On a day toward the end of summer, a pair of archers hunting game near the mouth of the pass encountered a scout wearing the colors of Lórien. The scout, whose name was Máramo, was astounded to have found anyone living in a valley his people had long known to be uninhabited, and Elrond’s followers at that.
“For no sign of you did we find,” he said, “save the wreckage of your baggage train and what remains of your fallen were left by the enemy. We believed you lost, and sent word to Lindon that you could not be found.”
From Máramo, Elrond and Celeborn learned that the Elves of Lórien and the forces of Khazad-dûm under Durin had fallen upon the enemy’s rear flanks and smashed their line. No farther had they gone, for the Bruinen had inexplicably been in flood and there was nothing to indicate anyone had escaped across the river. Sauron’s forces had been turned from the Hithaeglir, save for a few scattered bands that harried the scouts of Lórien on their patrols. Eregion was now almost entirely under Sauron’s control, from the doors of Khazad-dûm to the banks of the river Baranduin in the north; the enemy was now massing for its push westward, moving in the direction of Lindon.
Messengers came the next day, bearing token gifts of food, weapons and medicinal herbs. Amroth himself did not come, for he was, as Celeborn said, of a strangely reclusive nature, but letters written in his own hand came for Elrond, assuring him that word would be sent on to Lindon.
Autumn came, with leaf-fall and icy winds that swept down from the Hithaeglir, and yet no word came from Lindon. Elrond’s thamas-naur was complete, its outbuildings filled with as much smoked game, fish and dried berries as could be stored. The refugees moved indoors, where the hearth burned brightly by day and night, and work on the hall’s decorations continued. Carvings began to take shape upon the rafters and pillars, flowers and vines that sprouted from the wood, and among them the faces of Valar and Maiar as the artisans imagined them.
“I do not even know that we will remain here,” murmured Elrond, running his hand along one of the freshly smoothed carvings. “Such beautiful work, I would not have it go to waste.”
“It gives them pleasure,” said Glorfindel, “and hope.” His eyes traced the contours of a face half hidden among the vines; it reminded him of Olórin. “I would join them in their craft had I but the talent.”
Winter in the Hithaeglir was long and chill, and spring came late, with rain that washed the melting snow in torrents down the Bruinen. A bridge was built over the river that messengers, scouts and sentries might pass freely over the river; the span could easily be dismantled in the event of an attack, yet there had been very few skirmishes. Sauron, it seemed, knew his enemy had escaped into the mountains, but the absence of any concentrated attack told Elrond that Sauron did not know precisely where he was.
Late spring at last brought a message from Lindon. Elrond received Gil-galad’s missive with equal parts pleasure and apprehension, for between the High King’s relieved sentiments was his displeasure at the unexplained flooding of the Bruinen. Vilya was not mentioned by name, nor was any specific reference made to a ring in the event that the message was intercepted by the enemy, but Elrond understood well enough.
“I will send it back to him if he desires it,” he told Glorfindel. “I should not have yielded so readily to its lure, and it is only by the greatest fortune that the shadow did not ensnare me in that moment.”
Glorfindel made no comment. Many times before had Elrond spoken of his folly, ruing the day he had accepted Gil-galad’s gift, waving aside Glorfindel’s reminder of his desperation at that moment. “It does not seem that any ill has come of it,” he said at last.
“Too much ill has come of seeming. Much that seems fair and good turns to ill. Nay, I have put Vilya away from me, where I cannot be tempted by it. If the King should command it, I will readily return the ring to him, or perhaps I shall give it back without his asking.” Elrond glanced at him, holding Glorfindel’s gaze for a moment, before looking away. “I wonder sometimes if you were not the wiser for refusing Narya.”
* * *
“It would seem,” said Elrond, “the King is weary of writing imlad ris.” He handed the letter to Glorfindel, that he might read Gil-galad’s words for himself. “He insists we find some name for our valley, and that before I make my reply to him.”
Two years they had abided in the narrow valley, and in that time the buildings had grown to include stables, additional living quarters and an infirmary, for the enemy had at last discovered their presence and on several occasions assailed the pass. Never again did Elrond yield to the temptation to use Vilya, nor did he speak of it. Whatever victories were won came of a calculated use of the valley’s natural defenses and swift raids upon the enemy’s rear.
Into the rock wall of the stone of the pass the masons had built several guard posts, furnishing them with arrow slits and murder holes through which stones or burning liquid could be dropped upon intruders. Arrows were stockpiled as quickly as they could be produced; never again would Elrond’s host be caught in such dire straits.
Gil-galad was pleased by the discovery of the valley and gave much credit to Celeborn and his scouts, and in his letters he urged Elrond to remain where he was. “For such a stronghold is rarely found by itself, and only after long labor and skilled planning do men, be they mortal or Eldar, produce it. Abide there a while yet, in this our most eastern outpost, and keep watch upon the shadow.”
Glorfindel’s eyes scanned the letter, until he came to the words Elrond wished him to read. “Our councilors are pleased with your small successes in the east, though they complain that a stronghold of such import should be aptly named. In particular we weary of Pengolod’s laments that you do disservice to the title of ingolmo and lambengolmo, and that imlad ris is no fit name for a stronghold of the High King.”
“Ah,” said Glorfindel, returning the letter to Elrond, “but that is ever Pengolod’s way, to complain of everyone’s skill but his own.”
Elrond folded the letter and put it away in the locked casket containing all his other correspondence. “He shall not have the better of me, gwador, of that I can assure you,” he chuckled, and in his eyes gleamed a challenge. “But there is much truth in the King’s words, you know. It would seem that he intends for us to remain here for some time, and we must give some name to this place to make it ours.”
“You know I have no talent for such things,” said Glorfindel. He had never told Elrond that, upon seeing the cleft valley with its falling waters and encircling mountains, he was at once reminded of Gondolin. I would not stain this place with such ghosts, even if I thought Elrond was of a mind to name it after the place of his sire’s birth.
“Perhaps, gwador.” Elrond’s eyes narrowed and his face took on a crafty, almost sinister appearance, the look of one about to perpetrate a particularly elaborate jest. “But I have something fitting, I think, that will give our friend Pengolod an apoplexy. I only rue the fact that I shall not be there to see it.”
* * *
That evening, Elrond’s squire brought a letter for Glorfindel and a message that his lord desired the captain to proofread it. With misgivings, Glorfindel took the rough, homemade paper and unfolded it; Elrond never asked him or anyone else to look over his correspondence before it was sent.
He got no farther than the salutation when, biting his lip to hold back his laughter, he realized why Elrond had sent it to him.
“Elrond Peredhel son of Eärendil to Ereinion Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor, from Imladris on this day of 14 Cerveth, may the Valar keep you under their grace…”
* * *
Late autumn brought chill, vibrant days to the valley. Messages from outside were slow to arrive, at times not arriving at all. Elrond and his captains knew only that Harlindon was besieged and Sauron’s forces were preparing to cross the Gwathló to assail Lindon. Tension, even whispers of fear, crept into the thamas naur, for all that Elrond urged his people that all would be well.
And then, on a brittle, vibrantly clear day such as one often saw at this time of year in the lower reaches of the Hithaeglir, the creak of wagons echoed through the pass. The sentries glanced down from their posts in bewilderment, for the caravan flew the colors and sigil of the High King and yet no supplies or reinforcements were expected; Elrond had, in fact, been told he would have to manage without.
Glorfindel, holding a post upright in the ground while a pair of carpenters packed the earth in around it, heard the river sentries call out. Looking up from his work, he saw them hurry out of sight toward the bridge; from where he stood, his view half-blocked by the winding path and several inconvenient shrubs, he could not see what prompted the challenge.
Calling another to take his place, Glorfindel swept his sword off a nearby rock and, hastily buckling it around his waist, moved toward the river. He half-expected to hear the sounds of battle, or the sentries raising the alarm, yet as he crested the path and descended toward the water he heard only the clomp of hooves and the creak of wagon wheels over wooden planks.
“What is this?” he inquired of the nearest sentry.
The archer saluted him, replying, “They are from Lindon, cáno.”
“Yes, that is obvious, but—”
“Well, if you do not wish to take these supplies,” said a voice from the wagon, “I am certain I could find some profitable use for them.”
A dark-haired Elf grinned down at Glorfindel from the driver’s seat. Although dressed in a mail shirt with a sword at his belt, the young stranger did not much resemble a warrior. He offered no salute, even when Glorfindel glared at him for his impertinence, giving him only a lopsided smile. “Now let me guess,” he said, “you are either Ingwë himself or the peredhel’s golden captain. Glorfindel, is that your name?”
Glorfindel did not smile. “I do not believe I have your name.”
“I am Erestor,” was the reply. “Ah, I hear them in the back yelling at us to move along. Go on, Mínar, set us up over there.”
As the wagons crossed the bridge and were brought to a stop on the riverbank, Glorfindel followed alongside the lead wagon. Crates were stacked atop each other; a tarpaulin prevented him from seeing what labels, if any, had been painted on them. “What is all of this?”
Erestor hopped down from the driver’s seat. “For so high-ranking a captain, you are remarkably dense. These are supplies from Lindon.”
Whoever this young Elf was, he was grating on Glorfindel’s nerves. Such an impudent pup. “That much is obvious, quáco. Now tell me why the High King sends us supplies when we were told nothing would be forthcoming.”
“‘Quáco,’ is it? Yes, Master Pengolod warned me you had a penchant for throwing Quenya about like bread crumbs. Of course, in the same breath he also informed me I would no doubt need to bring along a translator, as my Quenya is apparently as poor as my penmanship.”
Hearing Pengolod’s name, Glorfindel was finally able to place the young Elf. Erestor was one of the lore master’s assistants. “And why does the High King permit a scholar with soft hands to travel so far from safe haven in these perilous times?”
Erestor lifted an eyebrow. “It would seem, malthener, that you have not yet heard the news. The enemy has been defeated, their advance halted and broken upon the banks of the river Gwathló.”
For a moment, Glorfindel gaped at him, uncertain of what he had heard. The war is ended? “When did this happen?”
“In the spring,” said Erestor. “Númenor took its time coming to our aid, but at last they made good their promise of assistance and came up the river with a mighty fleet. Pockets of Orcs and other such foul creatures yet plague the countryside, and on our journey here we have encountered four such bands, yet it is safe enough to travel. Now then, gwador-nín, I bear the High King’s official tidings for Lord Elrond, if he will receive them.”
As a flustered Glorfindel worked his jaw in amazement, trying to find words, he heard shouts and exultations of joy from the sentry posts and, higher up, from the work crews. “The thamas naur,” he finally answered, “with the healers. I will have one of the sentries take you.”
Erestor’s eyes traveled up the path to the hall and its outbuildings on their table of rock. A slow smile stole across his face. “Master Pengolod will be most…disconcerted to hear how aptly Imladris is named.”
Both workers and guards were coming down to help unload the wagons. Once the tarpaulins were taken away, Glorfindel saw crates of foodstuffs, cloth, tools and healing herbs that could not be locally obtained. One of the carpenters came and, shoving everyone else aside, pried up the nails on one crate to open it; with a cry of joy he drew out a cask of Númenorean wine. The bottle was passed around, then another. No doubt such fine vintage was a gift from the High King and had been intended for Elrond’s table, but this night it would find its way into other hands.
So long they had all labored and waited, none would begrudge them a little celebration.
Glorfindel wandered up the path, still in a daze. He had not expected joyous tidings to come to this valley, or if he had, not until many long, hard years had passed; such joy and relief had never come to Gondolin, and he had grown accustomed to the long heaviness. That was another place and another Age, he reminded himself.
“Cáno!” called a small voice. And then Lindir was at his side, tugging impatiently at his hand. “I can’t find Henluin to help me with Asfaloth’s saddle.”
“What is this about a saddle now, pen-neth?”
“Asfaloth, cáno. I oiled his saddle like you asked me to, but I need somebody to help me put it on him.”
“And why do you want to put on his saddle?”
Lindir’s eyes widened. “But aren’t you going out on patrol today? I’m supposed to have your horse ready, you said.”
I did, and I had forgotten. “I am not riding out today, pen-neth..”
“Don’t you have to go on patrol and make sure the enemy doesn’t find us? You always go on patrol.”
Glorfindel bent down and lifted him in both arms. The boy had obviously not heard the news; fear crept into his voice at the prospect of his protector neglecting his duties. “Nay, I am neither lazy nor forgetful,” he laughed, and he was surprised at the sound. Lindir, too, was surprised, but readily returned the warrior’s embrace. “Not today, pen-neth, and not tomorrow. The war is over. There will be no more fighting.”
* * *
thamas naur: (Sindarin) hall (of) fire. Unfortunately it does sound a bit like Sammath Naur, which has a similar meaning.
balrog-dagnir: (Sindarin) Balrog-slayer
imlad: (Sindarin) a narrow valley with steep sides. Ris is a cleft. Thanks to Elvenesse and Aerlinnel for the translation of Imladris.
ingolmo: (Quenya) lore master
lambengolmo (Quenya) lore master of tongues, a linguist
quáco: (Quenya) crow. Glorfindel means it in the sense that Erestor is a noisy bird.
malthener: (Sindarin) golden one
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