Night was falling. The last of the sunlight painted the encircling mountains in the pinks and soft purples of evening, while the scrubby vegetation which grew half up the lower slopes had a washed, greenish-grey look to it. The peaks stood outlined against the sky in a manner that, in a painting, would have looked false and unpracticed.
In that corner of his mother’s carefully manicured garden which was given over to herbs and soft, big-leafed shrubs, Glorfindel sat on a rock beside the ornamental pool and watched the changing colours. There had been a time in his life when he would have rushed to capture the scene with paint and brush, but that had been many years ago in Tirion, in the time before his father had explained to him that art was not an appropriate pursuit for the leisure hours of the son of a lord. Music was suggested as an almost respectable alternative, but Glorfindel was one of those rare Elves with a no more than average ear for music, and the suggestion was quietly dropped.
Gondolin was a beautiful city. Its towers and arches, its buildings of glowing white stone, were marvels to the eye rivaling lost Tirion itself. The city was smaller, of course, and no space was wasted, but the parks and gardens that made little patches of greenery in between walled houses and open public buildings provided a sense of openness, pushing back the feeling of confinement.
Pushing it back for most, that is. For Glorfindel, Gondolin was a cage. When Turgon had led them into this mountain-locked hideaway, to the half-built city with its promise of security, locked away from the dangers and horrors of Middle-earth, he had felt a very real sense of the walls of stone closing in around him. With every fibre of his being, his instinct was to turn around and run, head back the way they had come, find shelter perhaps with Finrod or one of the other familiars of his childhood. However, this proved to be impossible.
Firstly there was his mother. Since the loss of his father, she had become progressively more clinging and insecure, terrified of the strange new world they had travelled across the Ice to find. He knew she wanted nothing more than to flee back home to Tirion to safety, a road now closed to her due to decisions taken on her behalf by her mate. Had it been possible to leave and take their chances elsewhere, he knew this course would never be her choice.
Secondly, there was the fact that he was the head of his House. There were people who looked to his leadership and for whose well-being he was responsible.
Finally, and most relevant, no one was permitted to leave. The way was hidden and secret, and the word went around that their security rested in the fact that there would be no one in the outside world who would have knowledge of how to breach the ring of stone around their refuge. When he asked Cerelus, one of the King’s advisors and his mother’s brother, he was told with a slightly concerned shake of the head, “The law is not mine to set aside, son of my sister. We are all bound by the King’s will in this matter.”
And so they had settled in the Hidden Realm, and a routine of daily living had been established. As a warrior and the head of his House, Glorfindel had more freedom than some. He spent long hours perfecting his sword skills, honing his ability with spear and bow and any other weapon he came across that sat comfortably in his hand. He even attempted to learn to fight with an axe, after the manner of the King, but the slash and crush of this weapon was at variance to his natural grace and he eventually let it pass.
Training meant he could spend time with Ecthelion, the one person in whom he was almost tempted to confide his feelings of confinement. However, instinct kept him silent. Dissent was too often confused with disloyalty to the King.
Ecthelion was one of a small number allowed to ride for pleasure outside the confines of the city, and that permission included any companion he chose to designate. Only on horseback did Glorfindel feel completely free, galloping along with his unusual golden hair streaming back in the wind, his teeth bared against the rush of air, gripping the horse with his thighs. At those times, he could almost pretend the trail had no end, that if he rode long enough or hard enough he would eventually reach the sea, to watch sunlight on water, the flight of gulls, fish leaping and falling back to their watery home…
But there was no freedom, there was no escape. They were safe from the terrors of the Enemy, but at a price; one which most of the inhabitants of the Hidden City seemed content to pay.
The last light left the mountains and they stood dark against the deepening, star- frosted sky, the walls of a prison, strong and eternal. Glorfindel pushed back thoughts of eternity with a shudder. When he contemplated being locked in this place for the length of the life of the world which, barring accidents, was the Elven span of time, he found his mind slipping guiltily towards the idea of fading, growing thin upon the air and finally becoming part of the rocks and trees and the very soul of the place…
He got up, shaking himself firmly. Being one with the Cirith Thoronath was in its way a thought even more horrifying than remaining as he was and looking up at it every evening for time beyond imagining. Sighing, he turned to walk back inside, to dinner and his mother’s small store of the day’s gossip. One day, a small, certain voice whispered in his heart as he made his way along the path to the kitchen door. There would be a time, a reason to leave.
Beta: Red Lasbelin