Mithlond's First Winter
1. Mithlond's First Winter
Mithlond was nestled between the northern and southern ranges of Ered Luin, and though frost touched those mountains, such cold was never known in Cirdan's Havens. It had been so even after the Sun and Moon had begun to cool and the lands of Middle-earth darkened with age. This was a mystery that the Elves of Cirdan accepted without thought, but Gildor knew the reason for the excellent weather of the Grey Havens. Lord Cirdan had received one of the Three Elven Rings created by Celebrimbor. Thus, Gildor was greatly distressed when he heard that snow had fallen over the Blue Mountains and come to the Grey Havens for the first time in thousands of years.
That same evening, after hearing the news, Gildor left Edhellond, the South Havens. He did not travel with his Wandering Company, and, in truth, his mood was so foul that the Elves of the Wandering Company would have hesitated to travel with him if he'd wished to be accompanied by his retinue. Many wondered how even his horse could endure him in such dark temper, but, truth be told, Asfalach was like his master in temperament. When Gildor was upset, Asfalach seemed to sense it from afar. He would kick his stable door open and rear dangerously above the stableboys. At such times, none would dare go near the horse, and, inevitably, Gildor would come to the stables, mount the great stallion, and ride off in a fury without so much as a word to the stablehands.
Both Asfaloth and Asfalach had been wild horses found rushing about the shores of Middle-earth. One had become as gentle as a flower after becoming tamed by Glorfindel; the other had remained as violent as a leaping flame. Though Asfalach had not suffered himself to be ridden, he had insisted on keeping company with Asfaloth, and so Glorfindel had kept the two horses together. Then, during Gildor's brief visit to Imladris after the fall of Eregion (at which time harsh words were exchanged between Elrond and Gildor), Asfalach had chosen Gildor as his rider. Glorfindel, being wise and compassionate, had seen that there was a bond between the horse and rider and had gifted Asfalach to Gildor until the end of the Time of the Elves, when Asfaloth and Asfalach would leave the shores of Middle-earth and be left to run free along the coasts of the Blessed Realm.
The rushing wind and increasing chill did little to cool Gildor's mood. Asfalach galloped along the coast, and any who chanced to see the horse thought it a trick of the lights. Gildor pulled his cloak closer to him as they rushed along the foot of the Blue Mountains. Snow had fallen, and the Sea blew cold, biting winds inland. His mood grew grimmer as they crossed Harlindon and the snow did not lessen. The rumors were true. Frost had touched Harlond. Small lakes had frozen over, and a thin layer of snow covered the branches of conifers like powdered sugar over a chocolate truffle. (Ah, Mithlond always reminded Gildor of fine food. How could he not, even in his anger, think of the fine cuisine of the Elves of Cirdan? The culinary skill of the Elves of Cirdan was said to surpass even that of the finest chefs in the Blessed Realm.)
Children and adults alike played in the snow with sleds or by forming animals from the snow, but they fled when they heard the thunder from Asfalach's hooves. Even the guards of the Grey Havens stood aside without question as Gildor rode past the Gates of Mithlond. Gildor reined Asfalach to a halt before Cirdan's house, and the stained windows shook as if to shatter as Asfalach's hooves pounded the ground impatiently. A servant peered forth cautiously from the door without leaving the safety of the house.
"I wish to speak to Lord Cirdan," Gildor said icily. Asfalach snorted and kicked up some snow and dirt with his front leg but remained otherwise motionless so that Gildor was all the more intimidating. The servant cowered and seemed too scared to even move.
"He is come," Cirdan said. He put a hand on his servant's shoulder. His servant flashed his lord a grateful smile and disappeared into the house. "I have come because I purposed to swim in the River Lhun. Would you like to join me, Master Gildor?"
"I did not come to swim but to speak with you," Gildor said as he dismounted. Asfalach snorted. Gildor patted the side of his horse's neck. Asfalach neighed loudly and galloped off to the shores. He would return at Gildor's calling. Cirdan was not daunted by the horse's display of temper. Nor did he blanche under Gildor's harsh gaze.
"You may not have come to swim, but if you wish to speak with me, you must either come with me or wait until I return from my swim," Cirdan said evenly.
Gildor nodded curtly. "Very well." The River Lhun was close to Cirdan's house. The water level was higher than it had been in previous years, and the water rushed into the Gulf of Lune with great strength. "All around us, Mithlond sleeps under a blanket of snow," Gildor observed as Cirdan stripped off his robes. "It is the first time frost has come so far down from the mountaintops."
Cirdan did not answer. He leapt into the river. After several moments, he broke the surface of the water and tossed his long silver-white hair back.
"Would you like to join me?" Cirdan asked.
"No, I do not wish to join you." Gildor was unable to keep the irritation from his voice. "Tell me why there is snow in the Grey Havens. Tell me what you've done with--"
"I'll tell you all that you wish to know if you beat me to the other bank of the river," Cirdan countered. Frustrated beyond endurance, Gildor rent his riding clothes.
"Bring it on, old man!" Gildor dived into the water. His muscles immediately fell prey to the chilly waters and lost feeling. Gildor struggled against the current, but his strength was sapped from him by the cold. For a brief moment, Gildor wondered how the water could be colder than ice and yet so plentiful when the mountain snow had not yet melted. Then Cirdan grabbed Gildor's stiff body and brought it ashore.
"Well, I trust that has cooled your temper, Lord Gildor," Cirdan said in his usual light manner while he wrapped Gildor in a towel that had been brought to them by a servant.
"You're cruel," Gildor said. He could feel icicles forming in his golden hair.
Cirdan only smiled and led him back to the house, where a great fire had already been prepared for them. A servant brought them cups of hot cocoa with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. Cirdan donned new, but Gildor traded his now wet towel for a warm, dry blanket. The servant almost fainted when he saw the Golden Prince's naked form. Cirdan laughed as he steadied his servant and sent him on his way.
"The climate here is unpredictable," Gildor noted once they were alone again.
"It has been recently," Cirdan confessed.
"That should not be the case." Gildor fixed Cirdan with a hard look. This time, the Lord of Mithlond did not deflect Gildor.
"Indeed, it should not be, but it is."
"What has become of the Narya?" Gildor's eyes became dangerous, as they always did when he spoke of Celebrimbor's creations.
"I gave the Red Ring to another," Cirdan said. "It is my right as a Ringbearer."
Gildor's eyes narrowed. Before, the Ringbearers had been Gil-galad, Galadriel, and Cirdan. Gil-galad had given Vilya to Elrond. If any was to receive Narya, it should've been Gildor.
"To whom did you give it?" Gildor asked. "Surely not Thranduil, for he is far from these lands and even his messengers prefer to stay in the Grey Havens after seeing the Sea and hearing the wailing of the gulls."
"No, not Thranduil." Cirdan matched Gildor's gaze without faltering. "I do not feel that I need to reveal to you the identity of the new Bearer of the Ring of Fire."
"Fine, keep your secrets." Gildor stood and paced about the room before coming to stand before a window. He parted the curtains and opened the shutters. The blanket barely kept him warm. The town was as white as Cirdan's hair, and it seemed to Gildor a sign of the aging of Mithlond. The Age of the Elves was coming to an end. Cirdan came to stand behind Gildor.
"The climate of Mithlond has been controlled for years by the power of the Ring of Fire," Cirdan said in a low voice. Gildor's ear twitched slightly at Cirdan's warm breath. "Now that I am without it, Mithlond must endure this erratic weather until the slowed time of these lands is again made natural. This is the price of the Rings of Power, even the untainted Elven Rings, and only now is it made clear. We should not tamper with the designs of Iluvatar. We should not slow the natural aging of the world about us. Though I knew this, I did not realize fully that the very keeping of the Red Ring would affect my lands so greatly. Or perhaps I simply chose not to see the obvious, for I enjoyed the mild weather brought about by the Ring's power."
"Winter should not come to the Immortal. How is it that the Elven Ring has not slowed your aging?" Gildor asked.
"It has," Cirdan confessed. "Now that I have relinquished it to another, I feel myself aging alongside my lands. Before long, I will become old and grey." Cirdan placed his hands over Gildor's, one at the collar of the blanket and one on the windowsill. Cirdan's hands were wrinkled, and his fingers seemed bony rather than slender. Before, only Cirdan's face had been touched with wrinkles. What a horrible thing, to age. "If I had given the Ring of Fire to you, it would've hastened your desire to depart from these lands, to cross the Sea and rejoin your family."
"I did not say I desired the Ring of Fire," Gildor said, but his voice was soft, and as he heard it, he wondered why he did not object to the Shipwright's accusation more strenuously.
"That is for the best, for the one who now bears the Ring has greater need of it than you or me, and, through his great labors, he will kindle all hearts to courage." Cirdan closed the shutters and pulled the curtains together. "Come, Master Gildor. Stay the night and dine with me." Gildor arched himself like a stretching cat up against Cirdan.
"What's for dessert?" Gildor asked.
"Tiramisu, egg custard, orange sorbet, or chocolate hazelnut ice cream," Cirdan said.
"What's ice cream?"
"Ah, a fine dessert that I have not had since the First Age, for, as you said, it has not snowed in my havens for many long years. I cannot describe it. You'll simply have to taste it," Cirdan said.
"And white chocolate coffee?"
"If you so desire it."
"I do," Gildor purred.
Cirdan laughed and offered Gildor a robe, which Gildor accepted in place of his blanket. Again, the servant almost swooned at the sight of Gildor. Cirdan steadied him and relieved him of the tray of crab cakes, stuffed mushrooms, caviar, sweet chicken wings, and celery with peanut butter, which he then offered to Gildor. Gildor's fingers hovered over the tray like a child choosing candy until at last he took a stuffed mushroom. His face lighted, and he nodded in approval. His earlier grim mood was entirely gone.
"Winter is not so cold when youths are about to brighten the season," Cirdan observed.
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.