Dreams and Demons
Glorfindel arrived at the smithy to find Maeglin’s workroom window and door shut, though he knew she was there.
“What’s up with her?” he asked Camaen.
Camaen shook his head. “Wish I knew. She shut it all of a sudden. Just before you arrived.”
His heart wrenched yet again, a familiar ache over the past years that he was never able to numb himself against. She might have seen him taking Asfaloth to the stable, and knew he would be stopping by. Midsummer was drawing near, and the sun was bright and warm. It would be sweltering in the closed room.
“She sent the boy Arasdil away, earlier this morn,” whispered Camaen. “Told him not to come round again.”
Glorfindel could not help the leap of gladness in his heart, no matter how snubbed he felt presently. Just then, Estel arrived with his black horse, Duiroch.
“Need the shoes checked, Camaen!—why, what goes on here?”
“Nothing. Only that she has shut herself in,” said Glorfindel, with a nod toward the closed door.
Estel sauntered over to the door and opened it, for there was no lock, as Glorfindel knew well—except that he would not have dared to be as bold, not with her. “Naugwen! It’s a hot afternoon. Trying to cook yourself in here, are you?” The adan was a tall young fellow of eighteen now. Both he and Maeglin had grown taller over the years, and the day that he had overtaken her by a finger’s breadth, in his fifteenth year, he had with a gleeful laugh coined her “Shorty”.
“I am trying to get work done, Estenguil.”—Maeglin had retaliated by calling him “Short-Life”—“Keep it down out there. I need to concentrate.”
“You will concentrate better with some air. Holy Elbereth, it’s an oven in here!”
Glorfindel said, clearly enough, “Well, I had best be off. Estel, we leave tomorrow morning before daybreak. Be sharp, and be on time.”
Just before he disappeared around the stables, he glanced back over his shoulder. As expected, he saw that Estel had persuaded Maeglin to open the window and the doors. He paused a moment, hoping to catch just a glimpse of her, but she stayed away from the ivy-framed window.
Heavy-hearted with disappointment, he walked away.
Glorfindel disappeared with Estel into the wilds for the next two months—an expedition to hone Estel’s woodcraft and tracking skills. Maeglin had previously welcomed his absences from Imladris. The elflord was such a nuisance: bothering her with trivial bits of work not worth her time. Coming by almost every day, chatting with Camaen. Staring at her through the door or the window of her room when he thought she or Camaen would not notice. Making futile attempts to chat with her, or to make himself useful.
This time, to Maeglin’s anger and exasperation, she found herself restless in his absence, found herself hearing the echo of his voice in the distance, seeing phantom gleams of gold at the corner of her eye; absolute rubbish, since she knew full well he was not around.
And Maeglin could not understand what had caused this inexplicable shift. Their eyes had met across a meadow, and it had been as though she were seeing him for the first time—him, whom she had known over a hundred years! The fierce protectiveness in his stern, unsmiling face, and something angry yet vulnerable in his blue eyes—a jealousy, a tenderness, a heartsickness.
Maeglin had turned and fled from it. As she had stood with shut eyes by the waterfall, the turmoil within her had had little to do with the boy Arasdil. She had still felt deep blue eyes upon her. And felt, within her breast, a confused ache stirring, a tightening in her throat.
At dinner that night, they had sat at the far ends of the table from each other, Maeglin by Thalanes and Lindir, Glorfindel at Elrond’s right hand. But the air between them was charged, as with the electricity of a thunderstorm. Maeglin had felt Glorfindel though she dared not look at him, seen him in her mind even as her eyes looked away.
And that night, Maeglin had dreamed.
A vast moon danced golden in a starry sky. On a garden terrace, a tall elflord shielded a frightened princess.
In the prince of Gondolin’s heart raged a confused storm of desire and despair and deep need. Except that it was not the golden princess on whom his eyes rested.
It was on deep gold hair streaming in a cold autumn breeze like a lion’s mane, on flawless chiselled features set in a stern frown; on blue eyes blazing with a deep, dangerous fire; on the breadth of strong shoulders and the lean muscled lines of a warrior’s body.
Maeglin had awoken with a gasp in her dark chamber in Imladris.
That in itself was nothing new. All Maeglin’s nights of sleep ended in her waking up gasping and trembling. It was why she preferred working in the smithy for nights on end, rather than retiring to rest; why she slept only when she was desperately weary. The violent manifestation of that first night, which had brought Glorfindel running to her room, may not have recurred, but the nightmares came all the same. . .so many kinds of nightmare, each with so many variations.
Amil falling, white-faced, pierced with a javelin. The horror of watching, helpless, a slow death by poison. Keeping vigil as his mother lay dead. His father cursing, cursing and falling, the curses upon his son echoing off the cold stone walls as the Avar fell.
The rocky road to Angband. Whipped and dragged in chains by orcs. Two hundred miles.
The torture chamber. The faces of the dark lord, of his lieutenant.
The fatal moment of weakness, the secret wrenched out. The moment of damnation.
The duel with that mortal. Then falling, falling, turning in space, the earth rushing to meet him.
And, for the past year, nightmares of Maeglin’s secret being exposed in Imladris. Faces turning away in shock and horror. Familiar voices raised in anger and condemnation. Elrond harshly driving her away.
Compared with all those dreams, surely this one was nothing. Nothing. And yet, Maeglin had lain in equal horror as she woke.
Had lain in the dark, trying not to think of a warrior who lay in a room just two doors away. Had clutched at every cause she had to loathe him, stoking the flames of her hate.
The next day, when Maeglin had seen him through the smithy window, heading to the stables with Asfaloth, she had panicked and shut the window shutters and door of the workroom, and sat there listening to his voice, her rebel heart in chaos.
And in her heart she cursed Irmo, as Irmo had surely cursed her.
“Ai! Give that back!” Estel exclaimed as Glorfindel snatched the flat, grey stone away from him.
“You may not always have flint when you need a fire. Come, you know the techniques. Show me one. You need practice.”
“Hmmm. . .”
Glorfindel watched as Estel looked about thoughtfully, and got up to gather suitable tools. He had been out with the Rangers once already, had joined the patrols since he was sixteen, and he was a good student. He had an excellent memory, for a mortal.
The golden-haired warrior leaned back against a tree, his mind wandering as the boy brought more pieces of wood back, and sat down with his knife to carve a groove in the base and whittle a spindle drill.
Whenever he was away from Maeglin, Glorfindel would strive to smother his love, would try to remember the prince of Gondolin as he had been. The night he had assaulted the princess. The antagonism between them thereafter. Tensions and barbed remarks at council meetings and during war games. Sure, he had saved the prince of Gondolin’s life in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, but after a brief, curt word of thanks, the enmity had resumed. Never once did either allude to what happened that moonlit night, but it hung always between them.
Estel rotated the spindle in the groove between his hands. “This is the first time I’ll be missing the Gates of Summer. Could this not have waited till next week?”
Glorfindel normally loved feasts, and for the past few millennia he had been haunted by no demons of the past during Tarnin Austa. But he had not enjoyed it as much, the last few years. “You need to apply more pressure. Put your upper body weight on it more,” he instructed Estel, as though the boy had not spoken.
A red ember glowed and came to life amid tiny, curling wisps of smoke. Estel gave a shout of triumph—only to have the ember die before he could apply the tinder. His face fell.
“Try again. Be patient—and blow on it more next time.”
Estel spat on his hands and resumed the rotation of the spindle. “Do you still think about it? The Fall?”
Glorfindel was silent. The faces of the dead rose before him. Ecthelion. Turgon. Rog. And the face of the traitor.
Torture or no torture, Maeglin had returned to the city as though all were well, and waited—for years—till Morgoth brought his deadly assault upon the city. And in Eldamar, Idril had related to Glorfindel, in anger and sorrow, how Maeglin had sought to take her by force, had attempted to slay Eärendil. How he had gloated over what Morgoth had promised him. Before such incomprehensible evil, Glorfindel’s heart always sickened.
And it was this, this that he loved?
“Sometimes,” Glorfindel replied at last to Estel’s question.
“Is that why you do not want to be at Tarnin Austa?”
“Estel, are you going to get that fire started before morning?”
Eyes on the spindle grinding in the groove, Glorfindel thought glumly of how, after he could no longer sustain the pretence that Maeglin Lómiel was a threat to the line of Eärendil, he had struggled to stay away from the smithy. Each time he went to the stables, he would feel the pull. Time and time again, his willpower would crumble, and his feet would carry him there, to speak to Camaen, if the smith was there, and if he was not, to sit on the bench outside her window and awkwardly attempt to talk to her. And whenever he was in her presence, all he could do was abjectly adore and yearn for her.
The balrog slayer usually left the smithy feeling far more wretched than when he came.
“Lean forward, Estel. More weight on the arms,” the warrior said absent-mindedly.
The ember finally came to life again. Estel nursed it lovingly; it caught the tinder. The boy grinned with triumph as flames licked at the wood and danced skyward. Then he grimaced at his blistered hands.
“Try the bow method tomorrow. It may be easier on your hands,” Glorfindel suggested. “Almost an hour. You have to be faster.” He tossed the rabbit to the boy. “Start skinning and gutting. I’m timing you.” And leaning back against his tree, he stared into the flames.
An autumn night under a harvest moon, white stars burning in the sky above. In the bare, desolate garden stood his princess-mother, and her enraged cousin, and Glorfindel placing himself between them. His eyes were on the prince and regent of Gondolin, the Lord of the Mole, who stood in the moonlight with his raven black hair blowing in the chill autumn breeze, his obsidian eyes smouldering with hurt and loneliness.
Glorfindel walked over to the prince. And in the golden-silver moonlight, he took the prince’s face gently in his hands.
And kissed his lips.
Glorfindel awakened with a start, and sat bolt upright, his blue eyes wide with shock.
“Glorfindel! Are you all right?”
Heart pounding, he stared at the dark forest around him. Saw Estel on the other side of the fire, eyeing him with concern.
“Just a dream,” he said, a little shakily. “Go back to sleep, young one.”
The warrior stared the rest of the night at the glowing embers of the campfire. He usually slept so soundly that he hardly remembered his dreams when he woke.
This one looked to be unforgettable.
As dawn lightened the sky, the taste of the prince’s mouth was still in his.
They stood assembled on the city walls of Gondolin in the night, arrayed in all the colours of the rainbow, a people facing east, waiting to salute the dawn.
Maeglin was walking among the people, among the lords, trying to warn them. To tell them of the coming horror. Tell them to flee.
But Maeglin had no voice. And they could not see him.
Then, a burst of flame on the northern mountaintops.
And the prince watched. Watched as it all happened again. Watched as they all died again. Unable to do a thing.
As Maeglin awakened in Imladris, tears were running down her face.
Midsummer. Shortly after midnight.
Maeglin sat down on a rock in the western heights of the valley, and gazed down at the house and the river small below her. She was surrounded by dark, shadowy stands of fir and pine, and the rushing sound of the breeze blowing through them soothed her fëa. The Imladrim would already be assembled on the lawns outside the house for the silent night vigil, facing east and waiting to salute the dawn.
Some of them might miss her. Maeglin did not care.
To Maeglin Lómion in Gondolin, Tarnin Austa’s sacred vigil of silence and its many rituals had been a bore. But all the same, the prince had faithfully taken his place at the king’s right hand on the walls of the city. Not to have done so would have been unthinkable. Through the silent hours of the night, as the Gondolindrim stood reverently under the wheeling stars, the prince had entertained a multitude of unholy thoughts about Idril. . . so warm, so soft, so lily-white and golden in the starlight. So close that strands of golden hair, lifted by the wind, had brushed Maeglin’s hand. The agony of his fantasies had soon outweighed any pleasure Maeglin derived from them.
Glorfindel had then been there to provide a much needed diversion. Silence and stillness came as naturally to the Mole as it did not to the Golden Flower. The question each year was: how many hours would pass before the golden lord began to fidget? First would come a slow tilt backwards of the shining head, as though he sought to stretch his neck. Then he might ever so slowly roll his strong shoulders back, as though they ached from sword practice. Then, unfailingly, would begin a shift of weight from foot to foot that grew increasingly restless as daybreak approached. At some point, Ecthelion might grow so annoyed that he would mar the solemnity of the vigil by stealthily elbowing Glorfindel in the ribs or heavily treading on his foot.
The memory of that almost brought a smile to Maeglin Lómiel’s face. It was her eighth Tarnin Austa in Imladris, yet only once since her rebodiment had she attended the vigil.
The first Midsummer had been shortly after the skirmish with orcs, and Maeglin had spent it laid up in the healing halls. The second year, she had joined them in an attempt to blend in. She had watched the reborn Glorfindel standing near Elrond, six thousand years older and a picture of perfect stillness and calm.
Then, unexpectedly, had come the onslaught of madness.
Maeglin saw... fire. Drakes slithering over the mountain peaks, setting aflame the forests that clothed the valley slopes. Blood. Ranks of Imladrim falling lifeless around her as though scythed down by a spectral blade. Thalanes stood near her with blood flowing down from a slit throat. Maeglin raised a hand in horror, and saw that hand stained dark with blood. Nowhere is safe. No one is safe. Where you are, death comes. Her mouth opened to scream as fire poured over the hilltops, but no sound came forth.
Head exploding with pain as though a sledgehammer was pounding it, Maeglin blinked in early sunlight, and the gruesome vision cleared. All about her were smiling Imladrim, very much alive and raising their voices in song.
Before the following year’s vigil, Maeglin had hidden in her bedchamber. Nothing Thalanes could say had prevailed upon her to open the door by even a crack.
The next few years, Maeglin barricaded herself in the smithy and drowned herself in work.
This year, the twins had jokingly threatened to break down the smithy doors and compel Maeglin to join the vigil and later dance with them. So she had grimly taken refuge on these slopes, arming herself as she might for hunting, and beginning her ascent an hour before midnight. She should have brought some small pieces of work to craft, she thought with a regretful pang. No matter. There were things she could do to keep herself busy. It would be like being a boy in Nan Elmoth again. Explore the slopes. Find good pieces of pine wood and whittle shapes out of them with her knife. Forage for berries. Hunt for caves. Play with some squirrels. The festivities would continue for a week, so she could sneak out of the valley for a few days. She had her knives and her bow and arrows. She knew how to fight. She would return only when all the festivities had ceased, and life went back to normal.
Then, in the hour before dawn, Maeglin had heard the song.
It was a single voice, rising and falling on the breeze. A voice fairer than any nightingale’s, so dulcet and heartbreaking that she had no words for it.
Maeglin stood up, mesmerized.
She discerned fragments of phrases, both Quenya and Sindarin, weaving a tale of ancient sorrow. Swanships burning on a shore. A massacre in a thousand caves. Blood flowing crimson on an evening tide. . .Grief upon layer of grief.
Tears flowed freely down her face as she walked towards the unseen singer. She did not understand how listening to such sorrow—a sorrow deeper than her own—could heal her own soul; how a song so dark, so soaked in guilt and remorse, could somehow touch her own darkness and guilt and comfort her.
Then golden light spilled into the valley, as the sun rose in its splendour. And the voice fell silent.
As she heard the faint chorus of the Imladrim lifted up from the valley below, she was overcome by emptiness and loss.
In the months that followed, she would climb these slopes again and again, hoping to hear that voice, longing to receive its comfort again.
Longing also to find him and comfort him.
To tell him that he was not alone.
Glorfindel stirred from his sleep to the sound of the sea echoing off stone walls. Moonlight spilled silver across a tapestry of Laurelin and Telperion: his bed chamber in Vinyamar. A familiar scent. Black hair falling across his face. A maiden in a black silk slip on all fours, on his bed, looking down at him with piercing obsidian eyes.
“Lómiel?? What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I am doing, you dolt?” Maeglin slipped under the sheets and then all was softness and warmth and wonder and they were kissing and caressing and—
The door burst open and a great gust of wind blew in.
“Á pusta!!” thundered a mighty voice and the whole chamber shook. “Laurefindil! What are you doing??”
Glorfindel gasped as powerful hands dragged him from the bed and shoved him against a wall and in shock he gazed into the blazing silver-grey eyes of his king.
“M-melda tár,” he stammered. “Melin sé. If you would give your blessing, I would wed her.”
“WED HER?” The very foundations of the palace of Vinyamar shook as the voice boomed. “Wed HER? NEVER!!” Turgon’s grey eyes burned into his. “Laurefindil, I AM YOUR FATHER.”
Glorfindel sat bolt upright in his bed, heart pounding and in a cold sweat. It was a dream. Only a dream. Thanks be to Eru it was only a dream.
But it had been so vivid, so real. Every detail was etched in his memory
What if it were true?
Idril had tried to protect him as a child from rumours, but of course he had managed to overhear them in the way that children do. In the marketplace at Vinyamar. In a corridor of the palace.
That he was Prince Turgon’s bastard. Úcarehína. Child of sin.
He had not understood the term. And Idril had been livid when he had asked her, though he understood her anger was not against him. And she had refused to explain what it meant. Idril’s usual response to his moments of existential angst usually involved a lot of cuddling and kisses and assurance that he was loved, and that of course his true parents loved him, and that he should not to listen to nonsense in the marketplace.
A flash of light outside his window and a low rumble of distant thunder.
It was not too far-fetched. The bereaved prince had been grieving, lonely. In those days, he had for long stretches disappeared from Nevrast on journeys which he spoke of to none. Had he sought comfort in fair arms elsewhere? And truly, among the Noldor, from whence could Glorfindel’s golden hair have come, save from one descended from Indis of the Vanyar? Had not Idril once remarked that his hair was the same rare shade of gold as her great-grandmother’s, and then looked as though she regretted the slip?
Úcarehíni were exceedingly rare among the Eldar, for in their culture to bed is to wed, and infidelity was unheard of. . . almost. The exile had sundered thousands of marriages, and not all had remained celibate throughout the lonely, bleak years in Beleriand. Everyone knew úcarehíni existed, but they were not spoken of, save in whispers of rumours. Such was the love the Eldar had for children that any úcarehína, any lost or abandoned child, was fostered out to couples, the adopted father giving his name to the child. As Finrod Felagund had done for Gildor, who was found abandoned as an infant in Taur-en-Faroth and brought to Nargothrond.
Not for Glorfindel. Idril had been a maiden when she chose in defiance of all conventions to adopt him, thus he had no father to name. If Turgon was his father, and knew it, thrones would never have gone to an úcarehína, so Glorfindel would never have expected Turgon to acknowledge him anyway. . .
Glorfindel dragged himself from his bed, pulled on some clothes, and climbed down from his window out into the dark garden. Storm clouds were moving in across the valley. Trying to still the turmoil in his fëa, he walked almost blindly through the strong winds, a few flying leaves catching in his bright hair.
Turgon. His father. . .
No no no, there had been other descendants of Indis in Beleriand. He ran desperately through the handful of names in his mind. It could have been any of those others.
But the dream had a power that he could not shake. Like a supernatural vision, a revelation from above. And horror and despair began to wash over him. Because of what it meant, if the dream were true.
Because it put him in exactly the position Maeglin Lómion had been in over six thousand years ago. Hopelessly, helplessly in love with a first cousin, forever sundered by blood and the edict of his race.
He shuddered as rain began to pelt down on him, feeling truly that the Valar had turned their faces away from him. That he was cursed.
That he had become Maeglin Lómion.
Maeglin had spent the last ten minutes with her pliers poised over the links of chainmail, doing absolutely nothing. “Get on with it, you stupid huil,” she muttered to herself, giving herself a shake, and resuming her work.
Glorfindel had not come to the smithy for a month.
When he and Estel had returned from their travels, Maeglin had pretended her usual coldness and indifference. She had always been on edge whenever he came to the smithy. Now, she found herself looking for him. And when she caught sight of him approaching, she found herself actually smoothing her hair back from her face, or checking her reflection in a shield leaning against the wall. Maeglin did not note when it happened, at what point over this season something momentous quietly shifted within her. . .a year ago? Months? Or only now? But she now found herself stealing glances at him just as he stole glances at her. Her eyes lingered on his strong shoulders, and the slim, graceful lines of his back and his long legs. And his face. She could not deny it was a beautiful face. There were moments she simply stared, watching various emotions flit across his expressive features. Occasionally, when she went into the forge to use the anvil or furnace, as she passed by him she might brush ever so lightly against him, and feel him tense up.
And she hated herself for it, hated herself.
When her mind rehearsed all that she detested about him, she could no longer call upon the incident at the healing hall. The memory of what he had said to her only stirred her to toy with ideas of what she might do if he ever said them again.
Two months went by in this fashion. It was almost time for the autumn festival, when he suddenly stopped coming altogether.
Maeglin’s impassive face and opaque black eyes gave away little, but she became irritable, flared once at Camaen over a trivial matter. Now, she was finding herself unable to focus on her work, and obsessing over why he was staying away. She saw him going to and from the stables. Yet he did not come by to talk to Camaen, or sit outside her window. At dinner and elsewhere, he avoided her like mortals avoid plague.
It was all too familiar a feeling.
He was fickle. He had desired only what he could not have. Now, she had given herself away—for surely he had seen desire in her glances, read those brushes against him, and lost interest in the chase. Bitterly, she thought of how the charms of another maiden might now be proving more enticing. He was shallow, as shallow as she had always suspected. He was detestable. She hated him with every fibre of her being.
In the distance, a white horse rode over far fields. The golden-haired rider checked the steed for a moment, turning his head to look at the smithy. Then, horse and rider turned and raced away like the wind toward the Bruinen Ford.
Maeglin watched until the last gleam of white and gold disappeared in the distance.
Deep in her heart, she felt an ache six millennia old.
A light, cold autumn rain fell as they buried Arasdil son of Erildur in the eastern foothills of the valley.
The Imladrin patrol had gone to the rescue of a caravan of traders, edain, attacked on the northern road to the High Pass. The archer had been picking off orcs from higher ground. Intent on the fray below, he had not realized his danger till too late. Had died instantaneously, pierced by an orcish spear.
Camaen and Maeglin walked back to the smithy in silence and spread their wet cloaks to dry near the furnace. She retreated into her workroom. Piled on her table were sets of chainmail from the patrol, each with some minor damage to their links from the skirmish.
She worked into the night with the repairs, missing dinner. There was no urgency; there were sufficient sets in the guards’ armoury. But she wanted the mindlessness of the work. Not to think. Not to feel. Shortly before midnight, tools still in hand, she stared at the last piece. Looked at the hole torn through the mail—entry point at the back, the links stained still with traces of blood. She knew whose it was. Her lips tightened as she examined the chainmail links. An inferior alloy, weaker than those she had produced in Gondolin, for the ores here were not as those from her mines in Anghabar. It was no proof against a morgûl spear thrust with brutal force and with the full weight of a large, heavy orc behind it.
She doggedly proceeded to repair and reinforce the links. That finished, she dropped her tools upon the tabletop, and stared into space.
The losses of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad had been bitter. Over half of each house had fallen. Their centuries of training and preparation within the bubble of their cloistered valley had been, in the end, worth so little, so laughable, when finally tested against the full might of Morgoth’s armies. The armours forged by the Houses of the Hammer and the Mole had not saved enough.
Maeglin had devoted much work in the years that followed to creating better alloys, stronger armour, deadlier, more effective weapons. But all his work had availed nothing against the armies of Angband. Not all his armour, nor his weapons, nor the seventh gate. All the works of his hands had ended in futility and ruin. And bitterest of all, he had been the one to bring it to pass.
Maeglin paced restlessly about the smithy, the lantern light casting her shadow tall on the walls.
Seven years had she shut herself in here, burying herself in work. Idleness was the enemy, for then the abyss yawned before her. Futility and emptiness. Desires, appetite, longings. Demons. Darkness. Treachery.
Except the work had not been enough, recently. And now—the death of this boy. . .
She had knowledge of special techniques, formulae for the crafting of weapons and stronger armour, and she had held back from sharing with Camaen, fearing to give herself away too much. Had she shared them earlier, might a green-eyed archer yet be alive? Dared she share them now? Yet she realized, too, that with the amount of force behind the spear thrust, even had the mail held, the bones of the boy would have shattered and massive internal trauma and bleeding caused.
Futility and emptiness. . .
She drew a sword that had been sent in for polishing and sharpening, and hefted it, feeling its weight and balance. She remembered the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, and the skirmish in the hills, seven years back.
The elven sword sang as she wielded it in the dimly-lit workroom. Her shadow danced as it parried and thrust across the cold stone walls.
There is a large tower in Imladris crowned with a circular room called the Stardome, as in the name of the valley’s Lord. Over the years, it has served as an astronomy classroom for elflings, with tales of the stars painted on the walls, and a viewing dome of clear crystal overhead on which the star charts for the present season would appear, changing as the year rolled by, the names of the stars and constellations glowing across it in soft, white Tengwar script.
Glorfindel sat at one of the windows, staring out across the darkened valley. Its trees were bare and silent, to be filled with songs and elves only when spring returned again. He could see the dim, yellow light of Maeglin’s lantern at the smithy. And he saw when, in the hour after midnight, she left it and walked down the path towards the house.
In a warm, surreal alcohol-induced haze, he tried not to think either about Maeglin, or about Arasdil. There was nothing he could have done to save the lad—they had not had enough warriors to provide cover for the archer, with every one of them engaged in hand-to-hand combat with orcs, rescuing the hapless mortals. He knew that. He had played with the lad since he had been a baby, as he played with all the children of the valley. And he grieved the loss as he grieved all losses under his command.
But this time it had been different. As he had held the dead boy in his arms, he had realized with horror that part of him was glad the boy was gone. Because of Maeglin. Maeglin, whom he now would not even dare look upon, so convinced was he that any bond between their blood was forbidden. He and Elrond had spoken gently to the boy’s inconsolable parents, and praised the bravery of the fallen. The unhappy couple would sail west next spring, so that they might be there in the undying lands to receive their only son when he emerged from the Halls of Mandos. All through the conversation, Glorfindel had been sickened at his own hypocrisy, had loathed himself for the feeling that this pure-hearted child was a rival now out of the way. That if he could not have her, he wanted no one else to.
He swallowed another mouthful of wine.
What he did not expect was the prickling on his skin which told him, without his turning, that she had climbed the tower and was now standing behind him in the room.
“Why are you here?” he asked, still gazing out the window, after she had stood there a while, saying nothing. His voice, usually so musical and expressive, was dead, without inflection. She took in two empty crystal flagons of wine on the floor near the window, a third, almost empty, balanced on the sill where he sat. His cup was in his hand.
“I saw you here as I came from the smithy. A word with you, hîr nin, if you please.”
He drank from his cup. “Speak.”
He felt her take a step forward and said in a hard voice, “Come no closer.” He was fairly drunk. He had started before dinner, carried all the way through, and he had no idea by now how much he had ingested. He did not trust himself with her.
Maeglin had seen him close to drunk in Gondolin once before, those long winter evenings when the lords would gather in the central keep and drink into the night. Contrary to all expectation, the more Glorfindel drank, the quieter and stiller he had become. He would drape himself over a chair and stare dreamily into the fire, lost somewhere deep within himself, while around him Salgant became maudlin, Egalmoth and Duilin cracked silly jokes and laughed hysterically, Ecthelion indulged in philosophical and metaphysical musings on time and space, and Rog began to trash furniture.
Maeglin never got drunk. He would watch. And listen. And study each of them as he would a book.
She now ignored Glorfindel and took another soundless step towards him.
Maeglin stepped back, chastened, her heart beating faster.
With unhurried, languorous grace, he turned to look at her, still sitting in the window, one leg drawn up, the other still dangling outside over a hundred foot drop. He gazed at her, unsmiling and stern, his bright, almost fevered eyes dark as violets. He had never reminded her more of a dangerous, beautiful, powerful lion than he did now, with his golden mane mussed in the sharp autumn breeze, and his eyes glowering at her with flickers of fire. She stood five paces away from him, cool and calm without, but her insides churning with nervousness and desire.
“What do you want?”
“To fight in the guard.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “Why?”
Maeglin did not entirely know why. Because the smithy was not enough. Because she suddenly wanted to live for more than her own self and her craft. Though she would not admit it to herself, because she could be nearer him in the guard. But all she said, her face impassive and her voice as flat as his, was, “The dark creatures increase. Your guards lose a few to the west each year. You could do with one more.”
He frowned incredulously at her. “You expect me to believe that you would leave your precious smithy to join the guard?”
“Not leave the smithy. I know your auxiliaries train twice a week and patrol once a week. Camaen can spare me.”
He did not reply. Glittering high above the crystal dome above, Wilwarin the butterfly flew across the heavens, pursued by Tuilinn the Swallow. Feeling unnerved, Maeglin actually found herself wishing that the sweet, happy Glorfindel of yore would make a return.
“I can fight. You know I can.”
After a beat, he said, “Yes, you can. But you will need much training before you can go out with a patrol.”
“Of course. When shall I begin?”
He was silent for a while, then said, “Tomorrow. Weapons room in the basement. At sunset.”
“That way it will interfere less with your work at the smithy. Or would you be too tired?”
“No. That would be fine. Le hannon, hîr nin.” She hesitated a moment, then bowed and left.
Glorfindel poured himself another cup of wine, and continued to gaze into the night.
An autumn night. The prince of Gondolin stood on a frosty garden terrace, his mind and heart a perfect storm of shame and rage and lust. In his path, between him and his desire, stood the Lord of the Golden Flower, the object of his hate. The elflord’s golden hair streamed in the autumn wind. His violet eyes were brilliant as stars under his dark eyelashes, and his beautiful face was grave.
The elflord walked towards the prince.
His heart suddenly pounding with terror, the prince drew his sword but found himself powerless to raise it.
Found himself caught in the strong arms of the elflord, bent backward, and kissed, the sword dropping useless from his hand.
And as the golden-haired elflord made love to him, the prince could no longer tell whether he was man or maiden, whether he loathed or lusted, whether he hated or loved…
Maeglin sighed and stretched languorously as she woke.
It had only been a dream.
Naugwen (S) – naug = dwarfed/stunted, wen = lass/maiden/girl. Basically, “shorty”, or “dwarf-maid”.
Estenguil (S) – “estent” = very short, “cuil” = life.
Á pusta (Q) – stop
Melda tár (Q) – beloved king
Melin sé (Q) – I love her (or him)
Huil (S) – bitch
Nae (S) - alas