1. Flower of Vinyamar
* * *
Nárello rallied his warriors toward the twin banners of Turgon and Fingon with a hoarse cry. “Roqueni laurëalóti!”
Somewhere in the fray, his brother led part of Nárello’s gweth, yet since giving the younger Elf the order, Nárello had not seen Glorfindel. His eyes quickly flashed over the various troops who passed him or took positions at his left or right, seeking his brother by his golden hair. An occasional glimpse of fair or silver-fair hair among the corpses, yet none wore the green and gold of the Golden Flower and Nárello could only wonder where Glorfindel’s gweth had gone.
The enemy is too many, he thought, and I need you back, toronya. Hallas and Artamir were at his right hand, Calion on his left with the banner of the Golden Flower. The warriors of his gweth massed behind him, shields locked to hold the line, yet still it was not enough.
“Roqueni laurëalóti!” He saw Fingon’s banner topple, leaving only the red, gold and white of Turgon’s House, and Nárello’s rallying cry turned to one of desperation.
Turning, Nárello’s eyes met the scalding slash of a Balrog’s whip. Fiery tendrils lashed the helm from his head. He heard Calion’s far-off scream and the last thing he saw before the Balrog’s sword opened his throat was his banner, green and gold ablaze as it fell.
* * *
“So lovely a thing is this,” said Ondollo, laying the green silk over Glorfindel’s lap.
“What is it?” Glorfindel had a vague idea what it was, for under the light, smooth folds he could see golden threads gleaming. No, it was not his new livery, for the King’s own tailor had delivered that several days ago and he had specifically instructed the steward to put the finery away until he absolutely must wear it. Ondollo knew he had no interest in jewels or silks, and knew better than to try to lift his spirits thus.
The steward shook out the folds and, still holding one end, stepped back so the cloth spread wide. A rayed golden flower, picked out in metallic thread, its heart a gem like honey, glimmering in the strands of sunlight that fell through the window. Underneath the petals, in bold glittering Tengwar, was the motto, “Laurëalótalië.”
Glorfindel looked at it in disinterest. All along the top edge, where Ondollo gripped the fabric, grommets pierced holes where a cord or metal rings might be run through for display. “Banners we have,” he said. “Why go to the expense of ordering a new one?”
Ondollo stepped toward him, gathering up the green silk as he went. “All the Houses have ordered new banners to replace the ones lost at…the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, herunya. And it has always been the custom for a new lord to have his own—”
“There was nothing wrong with Nárello’s banner.” Except that it had been thrown down when Glorfindel’s brother, chief of the House of the Golden Flower, fell under the Balrog, and was trampled and burnt beyond recovery; the warriors of the Golden Flower marched the sad road back to Gondolin without their banner or their lord’s body.
Glorfindel waited for the steward to remind him of this fact, but Ondollo did not speak. “I suppose next you will tell me that it is the custom for the new Lord of the House to have a new sword made because his predecessor’s is not good enough.” He instantly regretted the harshness of his tone; he had done nothing, it seemed, but snipe at Ondollo since their return to Gondolin. You should put me in my place as you used to, herendur. Lordship is not a license to abuse you so.
Turgon had already given him a sword, one of the many gifts he had bestowed upon the surviving lords and roqueni of Gondolin. The sword, of richly worked and bejeweled steel, lay at the bottom of a chest while Glorfindel wore his brother’s battered and scored weapon; it was the only thing he had left of his brother that had been intimately connected with Nárello.
“My lord,” Ondollo said calmly, “do you remember the elanor that grew on the green hill of Túna?”
“You know my memories of Valinor are very faint.”
“When your father first came to Nevrast and chose his banner and you saw it waving in the sea breeze for the first time, do you remember how delighted you were?”
“That was nearly five hundred years ago and I had not yet reached my majority. You know how little I remember of the time we spent in Vinyamar.” Glorfindel reminded himself to speak more gently, but if his steward wished to allay his grief he could have chosen a better topic than his slain kin.
“My lord, if you would but look at the silk. You are right, banners we have, and this one is not new.”
Glorfindel had not noticed the threadbare edges, where the banner had been whipped by the breeze and begun to unravel. Holding it to the sunlight, he saw the color was not the rich, deep green of his House, but was faded and blotched in places. “You used secondhand fabric.”
“No, pitya laurëlótënya.” Ondollo cuffed him gently on the ear. “This is lord Elvanir’s banner. Nárello wanted his own banner, of course, so I packed it away with the thought that perhaps someday he might change his mind.”
Taking the fabric between his hands, Glorfindel tried to glean some memory from it. After Turgon’s people left Vinyamar for Gondolin, Elvanir spent increasingly less time with his sons, acting as the king’s emissary to Fingolfin the High King. He had fallen in an ambush on the road to Hithlum; Fingolfin’s men had not been able to recover the body, but Elvanir’s banner the High King sent back to Turgon with many rich gifts. All these years, Glorfindel assumed Nárello had borne their father’s banner; his memory recalled a bolt of rich green silk that had been among Fingolfin’s gifts, and he knew now to what purpose Nárello had put it.
Glorfindel crumpled the silk in his hands and brought it to his face. The cloth smelled of moth balls and the cedar wood chest in which it had been stored.
“Oh, now, herunya,” Ondollo said behind him, “if you are going to weep, please, you will leave marks on the silk.”
* * *
Notes: (All words in Quenya, unless otherwise noted)
Roqueni laurëalóti! knights of the Golden Flower
gweth: (Sindarin) regiment, troop of able-bodied men. Some of the Gondolindrim were Sindarin and that language would have been widely spoken in the Hidden City, perhaps more so than Quenya.
toronya: my brother
Laurëalótalië: People of the Golden Flower
herunya: my lord
herendur: steward (to a lord)
pitya laurëlótënya: my little golden flower.
Nowhere does Tolkien say that Turgon sent emissaries abroad from Gondolin, but as he does mention that Turgon closed the Hidden Way after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and allowed no one to travel to or from the vale of Tumladen, and given that Fingolfin was Turgon’s father as well as his High King, it is reasonable to assume there must have been some carefully guarded traffic from Gondolin.
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