The long weeks since he had woken in the white room overlooking the sea at Mithlond had been a time of sad confusion for Glorfindel. His memories, much to the surprise of Círdan, the legendary elf who controlled this Haven, had been clear and intact to the moment of his ending. Between the fire and thunder and soul-dark terror that had been the Balrog, and the few moments of confused waking when he had been lifted from the small, other-worldly craft in which he had been sent back, there was simply a pause, as though he had slept. The boat had been allowed to go its way, being of a kind unknown to the ship builders of the Hither Shore, while its cargo, whether gift or challenge or warning none could say, was carried into the shelter of the guest lodgings overlooking the dock.
It had taken days before he could manage to stay awake for more than the barest few hours, as long again before he could digest anything other than liquids. He woke, and was washed and fed and spoken to like a child, and then he slept again, his mind in a state of semi bemusement, which Círdan put down to an attempt by the Powers responsible for his return to lessen the impact of waking from death to another time, another place.
Círdan himself spoke Quenya, of course, though not after the manner of the elves of Gondolin who had all but developed their own tongue, a combination of the old and the new with words common to neither. With this in mind, he sent to Lindon requesting a survivor from the Hidden City to travel east to spend time with his guest, to help him adjust to the new world of the Second Age, a world where even the geography of the land itself had been changed during the battles of the War of Wrath. He was disappointed to learn there was no one left, so far as the king could determine, who had known the hero of the Cirith Thoronath personally, though there were still some few survivors of the Fall who had not yet sailed West. However the king, as was his habit, offered an unexpected solution to the request.
Glorfindel had taken to walking the narrow path that followed the water’s edge, alongside which grew a variety of fragrant bushes, the names of most of which he was embarrassed to discover where unknown to him. He had been taught that elves were always at one with nature, recognising and feeling empathy with all growing things, though in his case exposure to the fauna of Middle-earth had eventually been confined to the contents of his mother’s famous flower garden. Gondolin had been a city of great beauty, boasting magnificent buildings and neatly laid out parks and gardens in imitation of memories grown dim of Tirion, his barely recalled birthplace, but no plant grew there by natural choice. Outside of the city had been the low-growing scrub of the outer lands where they rode and played at war, and then the mountains. This casual wilderness enthralled him.
He remembered the sea, of course. He had been still some years short of his majority when his parents had followed Turgon from the Undying Lands, a course that had taken them not calmly over the sea in ships but struggling across the horror that was the Helcaraxë, something that would remain engraved in his memory for all his life – or lives, as the Valar appeared to have declared he would live. However, though it hurt him to admit it in the face of its ending, he had always been stifled by the mountains surrounding Gondolin, the mountains that were meant to ensure their safety, which in the end confined them, preventing escape for so many. And so he walked each day beside the open water, savouring the clean air and the feelings of freedom and possibility the sight brought.
On this particular afternoon he had stayed out later than normal, for he was growing stronger by the day, turning back only after watching the sun set. The memories, the pain and loss, the terror, were things that would stay with him forever, and he had long mourning still before him for his dead, but the peaceful setting and quiet tones of those around him offered him space for this healing of the soul. There was no suggestion that the new king, the one who had received the crown at Gondolin’s fall, would expect him to make any contribution to elven society until such time as he was ready. Cirdan had had Gil-galad in his care from boyhood, and spoke with authority when he stated this.
Glorfindel had some curiosity about this son of Orodreth, his distant cousin who had bound with a maid of the Sindar to produce a High King of the Noldor. Cirdan said that, in looks, he favoured his mother, and in temperament as well. He said this last with a good deal of satisfaction. Thinking back, Glorfindel remembered Orodreth as the type who would move from one interest to another rather like a dragonfly. Not, he supposed, a good characteristic in a king.
He was thinking about this when he rounded the sharp point near to the beginning of the path, and stopped in his tracks. For the first time since he had started taking these walks, he was not alone. He shared the early evening with an elf who was standing right at the edge of the path, looking out into the West at the darkening sky in which could be seen the first gleam of stars. He stood with his arms crossed, hands clasping elbows, his legs slightly apart and his head lifted, displaying a long neck and firm, rounded chin. His hair, despite a series of side braids and a thick plait down the back, still managed to wave loose in the soft breeze, drifting around him like dark, shimmering smoke. He was wearing travelling clothes of soft grey and brown, and still carried his sword, which hung from a sword belt that looked as though it had seen much use.
He must have sensed eyes on him, for he turned and, apparently recognising the newcomer, his face lit into a soft, infinitely sweet smile, which made him look disturbingly young. His up-tilted eyes were sea-grey, his lips full and sensual, and he reminded Glorfindel in some undefined way of someone, whose face he found impossible to call up. He paused, uncertain suddenly of the correct form of address, but a voice clear and melodious as a mountain stream said,
“My lord Glorfindel? It honours me to meet you at last. I and my brother owe you a life debt, and he would have loved to have been here to thank you for it. I am called Elrond Eärendilion. On the Cirith Thoronath you bought my father’s life with your own.”
Yes, of course, something in that face spoke to him of Idril, his life-friend who, they had told him, had sailed West with Tuor and came no more to the Hither Shore. His heart had ached at that almost as though he had heard of her death – he so longed to see her again, hear her common-sense advice on how to adjust to this strange, new life. And this, this then was her grandson.
“You speak my tongue?” he realised, not intending to express the surprise aloud. This young elf who had been born long after Gondolin ceased to exist. Elrond Eärendilion smiled at him again, brushing hair back from his face lightly, automatically.
“I came to my heritage late. We lost our parents young and I saw little of my father before then in any event. He was too often at sea.” The voice was even, expressionless, though the glorious eyes for a moment held shadow. He shook his head slightly, shrugging. “ It was only after I came to live in Lindon that I began to learn about my family history – on both sides. I have a liking for languages, so I was drawn to the way several forms of speech had been melded to form something unique to Gondolin.” The eyes sparkled in mirth. “The king thought I could put my studies to some use, while also offering you welcome and perhaps helping you to get settled.”
Glorfindel paused, and then, looking into the clear, light eyes, slowly offered his hand in the greeting common amongst the warriors of Gondolin. Elrond responded gravely and followed him through the intricate series of clasps, an expression of concentration on his face, his eyes focused on some inward point. At the end, Glorfindel stepped back and touched his hand lightly to his chest, above his heart. “We are well met, my prince,” he said softly.
The grey eyes regarded him thoughtfully, then the smile returned. “I am a prince of Gondolin, yes, and Doriath too, through my mother. Both are long past, and I take no title. The king insists I be addressed formally as ‘my lord’, but I could manage well enough without it. Call me Elrond, my lord of the House of the Golden Flower.”
A small thing changed within Glorfindel, an opening of a space for something new beyond the pain and sorrow and confusion. Something kindled, fueled by sea-grey eyes and hair like autumn smoke. He smiled down into the long-lashed eyes, feeling his face soften. “The lesson is a good one. Gondolin is gone, and all titles are made empty. Call me Glorfindel, son of the son of my friend.”
Beta: Red Lasbelin