Playing With Fire
Had he been completely out of his mind?
Waking with a badly throbbing head, Glorfindel stared at the graceful carvings of foliage and flowers that ornamented the pale stone of his bedchamber ceiling. It was already an hour past the time he usually awoke, and the first thing that had hit him like an avalanche in the Hithaeglir was the magnitude of his folly.
Go to the smithy right now—tell her you have thought the better of it—tell her to join the warriors for training in the mornings. Camaen would understand.
There were any number of reasons he could give her for this. Warriors fight as a unit, and train as a unit. Her fundamentals were there, and any of the captains could give her the one-to-one training she would need to hone her basic skills. He did not have to do it himself. Should not do it himself. Should stay as far from her as he could.
Suddenly remembering with a groan that he was supposed to lead out the morning patrol, he hastily washed, scrambled into his battle gear, climbed down two floors from his window and dashed to the stables. Just in time.
He would go to the smithy to speak to Maeglin later. Or better still, simply send a message.
The hours of the day flew past, he knew not where. Before he knew it, the time approached. As light faded in the west, he headed down to the basement to prepare the room.
Just one session.
At the end of it, he would tell her she was ready. She would join the warriors from the following week.
The white stone steps down into the structures under the house were shadowed and winding. Maeglin had descended them a few times before to go to the storage chambers to sift through discarded clothes to add to her wardrobe. There were tales of secret passageways made in preparation for war in the Second Age, though ultimately war had not come to the valley. The dark stone passages had a dwarven feel, save for the elvish carvings and slender, flowing lines of the supporting columns and buttresses. The elvish lamps along the corridors glowed without flame or heat, lighting up as she drew near, fading as she passed.
Maeglin did not know what to expect. Training in the basement at sunset. How strange. No training sessions that she knew of took place in the basement. And no training sessions that she had heard of took place that late in the day. Something fluttered in her belly as she made her way deeper into the basement than she had ever been before. Nervousness. And excitement.
Glorfindel was alone, pacing up and down a wide corridor. He opened a tall wooden door as she approached, and she stepped in after him. A long training room with a high ceiling. There were stained glass windows very high in one long wall, and already the late autumn light had faded in them, and she saw frost on the panes. Three lamps sat in brackets on the opposite wall. Several sword training dummies stood in a corner. Against the wall next to the entrance were weapons racks on which an array of practice swords, lances, javelins, quarterstaffs and axes were displayed.
And it was empty. Not another soul in sight except for the two of them. Maeglin’s black eyes glittered as she stole a curious glance at Glorfindel, but he was not looking at her. He walked straight to a rack to pick out a practice sword of suitable weight for her size. Struggling to think of anything else, he could think of nothing else but that he had broken the rule—his rule for eight years, ever since that night he had barged into her room with his sword drawn—the rule that he should not let himself be alone with her. Ever. Especially not now, given the likelihood that they were first cousins. He had not been stupid enough to put himself in temptation’s path. Until now.
Maeglin slowly walked up and stood near him as he reached for a sword. Despite Estel’s nickname and Camaen’s insistence on calling her “little lass”, she was hardly little any more. She was almost as tall as her mother, and the top of her head just cleared his chin. Weighing the sword in his hand, all he could think of was how easy it would be to just reach out and pull her to him and—
“Try this one. It has good reach,” Glorfindel said casually, passing her the sword.
Maeglin gave it a swing. “Nicely balanced.” She looked around the room. “I have never been to this part of the house before,” she said. “I did not even realize it existed.” Their voices echoed off the bare stone walls.
“We don’t use it often,” was all Glorfindel replied. Truth was that it had not been opened since the days of the Last Alliance, and he had Erestor to thank for having it so hermetically sealed that it was not coated in a thick layer of dust. He opened a chest and handed her a chainmail hauberk and a padded tunic to go under it. “Get used to the weight. Leather is pretty, but useless.”
Maeglin was of the same opinion, but she eyed the hauberk and tunic for a moment before slipping them over her head, the padding first, then, with some difficulty because of the weight, the chainmail.
If Glorfindel was putting her in these, seduction was very obviously not the plan for the evening.
So. He had brought her down into the bowels of Imladris house, alone, after sunset, to a room no one used, where no one could hear her if she screamed her lungs out, and all he wanted to do was teach her swordplay? Swordplay. . .
Not that, you filthy-minded fool. Real swords. Are you not relieved? What did you hope he had in mind?
“A little long, is it not?” Maeglin said, as she secured her hair at the back of her head with a clip. The hauberk almost reached her knees, the sleeves went past her elbows.
“All the better for protection,” Glorfindel said, his manner brisk and businesslike. “There are slits at the sides. It won’t hamper your movement. Right. Position—floor centre, if you please.” And he walked away from Maeglin, and leaned casually against the far wall with his arms folded. And began putting her through a drill—firing a sequence of commands at her. As though she was already one of his guard, and he expected her to know.
Another training room in another time, summer sunlight pouring in through tall windows onto white flagstones. The Lord of the Golden Flower took his pupil through his paces, and smiled approvingly. “That was a neat bit of footwork, my prince. But watch your guard—you tend to leave yourself wide open, especially on your left. What’s the point of having a devastating attack if you leave one hole in your defence and get slaughtered ten minutes into battle?”
“Is not offensive the best form of defence?”
“By all means, use your opponent’s attack to your advantage and parry with a counter-attack. But I’m talking about how your fury blinds you. You will seldom face just one foe on the field—you can afford no blind spots.” With a lightning-swift attack that made Maeglin feel he was up against three men at once, Glorfindel demonstrated how quickly, and with what careless ease he could disarm the prince and hold the point of his sword to Maeglin’s throat. “Bam! You’re dead, and you did not even see it coming. Too reckless, my prince. Too much anger.”
And sometimes Glorfindel had a disarming ability to mind-read: “If you are thinking of Lord Rauco, it is true that Rauco pours all his wild fury and his demons into his fighting. But he knows what is happening around him at all times. And do not be deceived—he is very much in control. A good model for you. I should ask him to join us for some sessions.”
Maeglin soon discovered how deceptive Glorfindel’s apparent casualness was. He was on razor-sharp alert every moment, and he seemed to have eyes at the back of his head. Yet he always appeared relaxed and unhurried. When he sparred, he had both speed and strength, and yet also a breathtaking grace and elegance that made the fight look like a dance more than a duel.
“You waste so much of your strength. If you have a good elven sword, rely on speed and precision more than brute force. Strategize every moment. None of that wild swinging like an enraged orc with a blunt battle ax.” Glorfindel mimed with hilarious effect the unrestrained hacking strokes of a cross-eyed heavy-set orc, and burst into a musical peal of laughter. It even got a smile out of Maeglin, even if just for the briefest moment.
“That looked rather like Lord Salgant.”
Glorfindel looked a little guilty. “Of course not!” he said in a severe voice. “Lord Salgant does not squint.” But there was an impish gleam in his blue eyes as he spoke.
Aside from Maeglin’s jealousy of Glorfindel’s relationship with Idril, an endless list of things about his golden-haired tutor irked the prince. His radiant smile. His fabulous hair. His admirers, who at times gathered at the viewing gallery above the sparring room to watch the lesson and toss flowers to him. His easy laughter. His annoying optimism about everything, and his tendency to burst into song even during lessons. One would think, Maeglin thought sourly, that the elflord had never had a bad day in his life. The lord of light and sweetness and joy.
Then there had been the summer morning Maeglin’s tutor had suddenly exclaimed, halfway through training, “Such a beautiful day! We can train tomorrow. Come, cundunya, let’s go swimming!”
And they had ridden out to a waterfall some distance from the city, and done just that.
Maeglin wondered how this Glorfindel who faced her in the basement could be the same person who had been her tutor for those first ten years in Gondolin. The changes wrought by six thousand years. His beautiful face was stern and almost as unsmiling as the prince of Gondolin’s. He was a hard taskmaster, demanding and critical, and his sharp eyes did not miss a single slip in form. Underhand thrust right hand, twenty times. Underhand thrust left hand, twenty times. Watch your footwork placement. Overhand thrust now, twenty each hand. . . Two-handed thrust, five times. . . Repeat. I told you—watch your footwork! Your footwork! Keep your point up! Repeat.
Maeglin found her cheeks burning with anger at a sharp reprimand. Point up! How many times must I say it? Felt resentment at being forced through her paces again, and again, and again.
But she also respected it.
One hour practising thrusts. One hour practising blocks. Then it was over.
As Glorfindel ended the session, he said casually, “Next week, same time?”
And Maeglin replied, “Yes.”
They met the next week. And the week after. And the week after.
It became their secret. Neither of them breathed a word of these weekly sessions to anyone. They barely acknowledged each other outside of the basement. Glorfindel still kept away from the smithy. At dinner, they pretended not to look at each other and sat at the far ends of the table from each other.
And both avoided thinking too deeply about why they were doing this, avoided facing the confused tangle of emotions and intentions that brought them each week at sunset to the stone steps, and that made them glance about to make sure that none observed them before they made the descent.
The first two lessons, Glorfindel stood at the wall and barked commands at Maeglin, taking her through interminable drills of thrusts and cuts and blocks, then combinations of all three. As the first snows of winter fell, when she had completed an hour of drills, he took another practice sword and moved to the centre of the floor with her. And they sparred. As they crossed blades she could feel him reining in his strength. And as their blades crossed, they were brought repeatedly into giddy closeness. They never engaged in idle chatter. They hardly spoke. There was only the sound of their breathing, the soft scuffle of footwork over flagstones, the ringing of metal on metal, and the occasional sharp word of correction or reprimand from him.
He pushed Maeglin to near exhaustion, each session. Her muscles ached fiercely, the first month. He was unrelentingly exacting, picking on the smallest fault. And yet, somewhere along the way, she ceased to resent him for it. Although she would have died rather than admit it, she began to revere him for it.
As Maeglin trained, she grew even stronger. The agility, speed and muscle-memory of old came back. Not knowing Glorfindel’s motives, his intent, made each descent down the stone steps to the basement strangely thrilling. Every week, the air between them was highly charged. Her skin prickled always with a sense of how dangerous he could be, how much power he had, and how tightly he leashed it. It was intoxicating.
With them in the room were always the ghosts of their past selves: the black-haired prince and his golden-haired tutor. The memories and voices of old whispered around the room, Glorfindel recalling the scowls and sullenness of the prince to contain his desire, Maeglin discovering that memories of what had once repelled, now drew her: a laughing toss of a golden head; a swift, golden blur of movement, a feint, a lunge, a blade flying across the room, and deep blue eyes sparkling bright and warm with laughter over a sword point held at the prince’s throat. . .
And other memories. As they advanced and retreated, parried and thrust across the stone floor, Maeglin frowned at times in concentration, struggling against wild and distracting thoughts in her mind.
“. . .your father has his—moments,” Aredhel said to young Maeglin as she reclined on her seat. She had drunk too much. The bruise on her cheekbone had swelled and darkened. As had her eye. But she was smiling, a cat-like secret smile that made Maeglin uneasy. She poured herself another cup of wine. “My first sight of him was. . .electrifying. He was wild, and dark, and dangerous. The most beautiful man I had ever seen.”
“Ammë,” young Maeglin protested, appalled, really not wanting to hear. “Go to bed and rest. Please.”
Maeglin held her blade before her with both hands, and warily edged away from Glorfindel, waiting for his attack. Her eyes moved over his shoulders, his torso, his legs.
They crossed swords, steel locked on steel. Maeglin thought of how easily he could send that sword flying if he wished. Pull her to the floor and have his way with her.
“I wanted him as much as he wanted me, but I fought him. I wanted his brute strength. His darkness. His forcefulness.” Aredhel’s voice was a little slurred, but her silver-grey eyes glinted wickedly. “I did not fear him.”
What would Maeglin do if Glorfindel actually tried to make a move on her? Would she fight? Would she scream?
“One day you will feel it.”
Or did Maeglin want him to? To know how it would feel?
“One day you will understand.”
It was simple lust Maeglin felt for Glorfindel. Definitely not love, oh no. A shallow kind of animal attraction, a kind of fascination. No more. It was not a distinction that any of the Eldar would have made. In a purely Avarin way, Maeglin toyed with the idea of a casual liaison. It would mean nothing to her. He meant nothing to her. At moments she saw a look in his eyes that she could not mistake: he wanted her still. She almost smiled, gratified. But, of course, she would do nothing. Of course, nothing was going to happen. Each week, they sparred, and nothing happened.
But Maeglin still thought about it.
As the days shortened, they both willingly extended the lesson beyond two hours. At times, they would enter the dining hall late for dinner, always taking care to do so separately, their hair still damp from their baths, their cheeks flushed and eyes averted from each other.
Now, when dressing for dinner, Maeglin might don one of the dresses passed to her by Arwen that she had previously disdained to wear. She would smooth her hair in the mirror carefully, and arrange the bodice to show a little extra cleavage before she left her room. And then not look at Glorfindel once throughout the meal.
Glorfindel went each week down to the basement like one who raises poison to his lips and drinks it knowingly.
He always dismissed Maeglin and asked her to leave first, even though they would be taking the same way back to their chambers. He did not want anyone to see them leave this place together. But also, he wanted time alone to recover from the agony of what he had endured those few hours, struggling to protect her from himself.
Each week, Glorfindel told himself it would be the last session. He would end this intolerable stupidity. All he had to do was to say it. “From next week you will train with the guards.” He would rehearse the words in his head even during the lesson. He would end it this time. Of a certainty he would.
And each week his heart swelled with pride to see his student grow stronger and more skilled. For two to three precious hours, he would gaze on the lovely face whose every delicate feature he adored. He imagined that the fierceness in the long black eyes at times grew softer, were not quite so indifferent or disdainful in their gaze. It did not matter that Maeglin always reported to him in her work raiment—a shapeless boy’s tunic cinched at the waist, and leggings, and boots. Estel’s hand-me-downs, most of them, passed to her when he outgrew them. It did not matter that over all this Maeglin wore a padded tunic and chainmail hauberk that completely obscured anything feminine in her form. She never failed to entrance Glorfindel, and he never failed to desire her still. In his blood, the heat rose as the minutes flew by. He held back, trying not to think how easy it would be to send Maeglin’s sword flying, push her against the cold stones on the wall, and take her right there, hauberk or no hauberk.
At the end of every session he said the same words:
“See you next week.”
Weeks became months. Yestarë came and went. Their sparring had gone to a new level, become more intense, more intricate. Between them were the blades. And the hauberks. Maeglin had reason to be glad for the damned chainmail now, as Glorfindel repeatedly broke through her guard. Even though he kept his strength tightly reined, she had bruises to show after the sessions.
Maeglin’s dark eyes narrowed, golden fire flickering at the challenge of seeking to break through his defence, her face set and determined.
Complacency will be the dolt’s undoing.
But treacherously, her thoughts began to wander.
The prince watched sullenly as his tutor took off his tunic for a session of unarmed combat.
“You can leave your shirt on if you wish, my prince, but I guarantee you that your fine linen will get crumpled or torn,” said Glorfindel.
“The mere thought of wrestling with a foul, stinking orc or a balrog. . .” said the prince, grimacing with distaste as he removed his shirt.
“Lose your weapon in a battle, you’d have no choice. If it would keep you alive a minute, even a few seconds longer, give you a chance to hurt or disarm your enemy, to get a weapon into your hand again, you would not think twice. All right. You have a weapon, I don’t. Come at me with it, that’s right.”
The next moment, the prince found himself lying on the mat, stunned, his head locked in the crook of Glorfindel’s elbow, and so wedged against the elflord’s body he could barely move. “And I have your sword,” said the Lord of the Golden Flower in his infuriatingly pleasant voice. “Right. Let me show you how to get out of this.”
Maeglin’s wandering thoughts imagined getting rid of the swords and the wretched hauberk and the shirt again. . . She remembered vividly the feel of the muscles of Glorfindel’s chest and shoulders and torso. The feel of bare flesh against flesh. His skin. His scent. The hardness of his thighs. She looked at his lips and wondered how they would feel. If they would be as warm and soft as they looked. As Idril’s had been. How they would taste. . .
Glorfindel sent her blade flying. It landed with a clatter on the hard stones, echoing.
Maeglin saw his eyes upon her, burning.
He took a step towards her.
She waited, heart racing, not breathing.
He went to where her sword lay, flipped it over to her using his blade, and said with a stern frown, “Concentrate.”
As spring came and the niphredil began to bloom, Maeglin finally asked the question he had dreaded.
“When can I go out with the guards?” she said as they sparred.
“You are not ready.”
“But I think I already fight as well as some of them.” A pretence at modesty. She knew she was as good as many of them by now.
“I said, you are not ready!”
And with white fire flashing in his eyes, Glorfindel crossed blades with her so fiercely that she was shocked, driven backwards, pushed back against the wall, the breath knocked out of her as her back hit the hard, cold stone. Over the locked blades their faces were very close. Their eyes met and she saw the wildness in his.
Maeglin’s heart was hammering, but not from fear. He is going to kiss me or kill me, she thought. She was lightheaded from the strange ecstasy of excitement in her blood. They could feel the heat radiating from the other’s body. They were both holding their breaths as they looked into each other’s eyes. And at each other’s lips.
After what felt like an eternity, Glorfindel backed off.
“Had I been an orc, you would be dead,” he said rather curtly. “You fail to realize how easy I have been on you.”
“Don’t be then! Train me for real. Stop treating me like—like a weak maiden!” Maeglin snapped at him, her pride stung.
“That is enough for today,” he said quietly.
Dazed with what felt like disappointment, she put away her sword. As she left, he said, not looking at her, “See you next week.”
Estel was glowing with triumph when he returned from his outing with Glorfindel. He ran to greet his adopted brothers outside the smithy as they prepared their gear for an orc hunt.
“I got him!” he exulted, still in his mud-stained clothes and boots. “I tracked down the great Glorfindel! Six days in the Coldfells, over steepest hills and fetid fen, through valleys and deep woods and rushing streams and some very thorny thickets—I lost his trail a couple of times, but finally—I cornered him in a cave!”
Elladan and Elrohir looked at each other. They, too, had played that game with Glorfindel many times when they were young, tracking each other down through the wilderness in all seasons.
“And when I said it was my turn, he backed out! He said we needed to head right back home, he would track me the next time. He must be reeling from shock at having been caught, finally—and in only six days! Is it not amazing?”
“Amazing indeed,” agreed Elrohir.
“If you found Glorfindel, Estel—there is no gentle way to say this—” Elladan began delicately, “—He most likely allowed you to,” Elrohir finished off bluntly.
Estel looked disgruntled. “Are you sure you are not simply jealous because you two never caught him? Not once?” It was true. Whenever the twins had attempted to track Glorfindel, he had normally emerged after about a month with a dazzling smile and said, “All right, I’m tired of this! Are we all ready for good meals and good beds? Let’s go home!”
Elrohir bristled. “Glorfindel was playing this game with Oromë the Hunter in Valinor for centuries, Estel—millennia before you were a gleam in your mother’s eye!”
“It is highly unlikely he is going to be tracked down by any nineteen-year-old, even you,” said Elladan, “unless he is badly wounded or wants to be found.”
“Or he is losing it and starting to make mistakes?” asked Elrohir thoughtfully.
“He has not been himself for a while,” concurred Elladan.
Estel looked at his brothers in exasperation. “What utter rot! Why would he let me find him?”
“That’s the thing. We don’t know. . .” Elladan frowned.
“Why should it be inconceivable that I am simply very good at this? Glorfindel says I am a natural! He says I have all the makings of a great Ranger.”
“You do.” “But some day, Estel.” “Not now.” “Not yet.”
Estel looked considerably deflated. “My thanks, brothers, for the faith in me you show.” And he strode away.
“Estel!” “We’re sorry.” “We have faith in you, little brother.”
As Estel moodily made his way to his chambers, he crossed paths with his father in the Hall of Portraits. As Tuor and Idril smiled down on them on one side, and Beren and Lúthien gazed into each other’s eyes on the other, Estel told his father about his feat.
Elrond smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. “Well done, Ion-nín! We shall have to be gentle with Glorfindel. His ego must be quite shattered.”
After Estel had left, the Lord of Imladris stood frowning beneath a portrait of Turgon. Then he descended the Great Stairs, and went in search of his Commander. The sun was sinking over the western hills. He spotted Glorfindel leaving the training rooms, having just dismissed his captains after a brief conference with them. Breaking into a run, the golden warrior disappeared down a flight of stairs to the basement. Just after that, before Elrond could head towards the steps himself, the lovely maiden Lómiel, apprentice to the smith, came running and disappeared down the steps as well.
Elrond, astonished, tried not to jump to conclusions and failed.
Just what would he do if he went down those steps and found his friend in a compromising position with an underaged elfmaid?
He descended the steps. There was no one in sight as he scanned the dim corridors stretching out before him.
Maeglin had not seen Glorfindel at all for a week, and something within her sang as she made her way to the training room. Her eyes widened as she opened the door and saw that Glorfindel had taken a suit of plate armour out from storage and had it waiting for her.
“Put this on,” he said, as she closed the door behind her.
Her lip curled with scorn. As elven armour goes, it was a fair and well-made suit—but it was a poor alloy and a clumsy design compared to those she had once crafted. And she did not fancy spending her two hours alone with him completely encased in steel, when the hauberk was exasperation enough.
Maeglin’s mouth set in a stubborn line Glorfindel was all too familiar with. But this was the first time Lómiel had ever disobeyed him as his pupil. His eyebrow went up, and his eyes glinted angrily.
“Wearing mail was to build your strength as you bore the weight. Plate affords better mobility, better protection, better comfort. Its weight is distributed better, and will feel lighter.” You know all this!—you always preferred plate armour, back in Gondolin! “In fact, for the best protection, you would wear both—the plate over the mail.”
“I will wear plate once I have made my own.”
Oh, the sheer, infuriating arrogance of this prince, thought Glorfindel in exasperation and love. “And when will that be? You want to ride out with the patrols? You will do it in plate.” Choice of armour was usually left to the individual warrior. Since Arasdil’s death, however, Glorfindel and the captains had decided that wearing plate should be mandatory. “And you need to practice in it. Now.”
“We only have two and a half hours. I have no wish to waste time putting on and removing plate.”
“We could have more time than that. We could miss dinner. I am willing, if you are.”
“If you want me in plate,” Maeglin said in measured tones, folding her arms across her chest, “you will have to put me in it.” As the words left her mouth, she could hardly believe she had said them. Their eyes, blue and black, were both flickering with angry flame by now. They were also both incredibly aroused.
“As you wish,” he said, moving forward, looking like a lion about to spring on its prey.
She turned and ran.
Elrond was walking past the storage rooms when his keen elven ears heard the faintest of voices somewhere ahead. He headed swiftly in their direction, and had just discerned which of the heavy wooden doors along the corridor they came from when he heard a great crash. Running to the door, he flung it open.
A wooden rack lay across the floor of the training room, its weapons scattered. And in its midst, two figures were struggling together in a tangle of long limbs and golden and black hair. In the second after the door flew open, Glorfindel had scrambled to his feet and pulled Maeglin up as well, and in the next second he had put the breadth of the room between the two of them. Guilt and shame was written all over his fair face as he blushed a fiery red.
“This isn’t how it looks! I can explain!”
Lómiel, looking just as guilty, said nothing.
Elrond looked from Glorfindel to Lómiel and back again.
“In my study, please, Lord Glorfindel.”
In his study, Elrond stared at his Commander as though the golden-haired warrior had completely lost his mind.
“So let me get this clear. You are telling me that the man who tried to kill my father and grandfather is in my house, in the guise of an elfmaid, and you are giving him deadly weapons and training him to kill?”
“It sounds terrible when you put it that way. Except she is not a him anymore—she is merely a young maiden. As such, she needs training to protect herself,” said Glorfindel, his fingers twisting the ends of the golden locks which lay in his lap—as he did only when he was very nervous, which was hardly ever. The last time had been when Ecthelion had hauled him up before Turgon for causing chaos in the marketplace of Vinyamar. The golden-haired child had made friends with a little lamb that was for sale and had accidentally set free an entire pen of sheep trying to rescue it. He had been twenty-two.
“From what I heard of the orc skirmish seven years back, she is fairly proficient in that. But if she needed any training, why in Eä would you train her yourself? Alone? And not with the rest of your guard? Or with your cadets?”
“First of all, it’s the wrong time of the year for a new cadet to join—the captains are too busy with the Rangers presently—and the cadets—absolute fools, the way they slobber over her, I won’t have it—she would be a major distraction to them—besides, she has the basic grounding so she doesn’t qualify as a cadet—she doesn’t belong with them, and they would annoy her terribly. Thus, it should be evident that training her myself was the only option.”
Elrond blinked at the golden elf at the end of this piece of senselessness. “She would have to fight alongside them if she joins the patrols, you do realize.”
“Oh, of course! But that’s an entirely different matter.”
“Mm-hmm.” Elrond gave Glorfindel a withering look, but let it pass. “Why the basement? All of the usual training rooms are available in the evening.”
“Why keep it a secret? Every week for five months, and neither of you breathed a word of it to anyone.”
Innocent surprise. “Really? I guess it simply never came up in conversation.”
Elrond glared at the golden-haired hero. “For eight years you suspected her to be a traitor of olden days, an enemy to my family, to my line. A grave suspicion indeed. Why did you never come to me with it?”
“Since you do not believe me right now, it must be obvious how absurd, how ridiculous it would have sounded if I had mentioned it to you. I needed to make sure of it myself first, or be a laughing stock. But by the time I was certain, I could also discern that she was no danger to any. Yes, she may be moody, and temperamental, and difficult. But in spite of that, look how well she gets along with Camaen, with your sons? She is a jewel in the rough. Even Erestor gets along with her. You certainly have not observed anything to give you cause for fears, have you?”
“And why is your training with her so important to you? So important, that you would allow Estel to track you down?” asked Elrond slowly. “So important that you needed to make it back to Imladris in time, and not miss even one of your regular sessions with her?”
Glorfindel was silent as Elrond’s eyes drilled into him.
“Five months is plenty of training for her. Are you sending her out on patrols soon?”
“Oh no,” said Glorfindel, shaking his golden head emphatically, “No, no—she needs far more preparation before she goes out. She’s not ready yet.”
“I heard Beril and Emlindir’s account of her fighting skills, Glorfindel! She is no beginner. She is already a warrior. And you are telling me that after five months of your special attention, she is not as good as any in the guard?”
“She’s reckless, Elrond! She will get herself killed. She got herself killed once by your grandfather—I’m not letting anything like that happen to her again!”
Tuor’s grandson stared at the stalwart defender of his family line. “I never thought I would see the day you are so besotted with a maiden that your brains get scrambled.”
“Besotted? Me?” sputtered Glorfindel, turning a rather fetching shade of tomato red. “What do you take me for? She is an underaged babe, for Eru’s sake! Absolute rubbish! And this is Maeglin Lómion. We might be first cousins. He hates me. We never got along. We absolutely detest each other.”
Elrond looked at his friend with a perplexed frown and said nothing for a while. “How long has it been like this?”
Giving up all pretence, Glorfindel sank back in his chair and looked down at his hands. “Eight years.”
Elrond looked at the golden-haired warrior for a while. Then he sat down at his desk, pulled paper to himself and began to write.
At the sound of scribbling, Glorfindel lifted his head.
“You are going away,” said Elrond firmly. “First, to Lothlorien, bearing gifts for Arwen and the Lady Galadriel.”
“Elladan and Elrohir were to go there after hunting orcs in the Hithaeglir! They were looking forward to it.”
“I have other things for them to do.” Such as taking over the command of the guards for a year, he thought. “And you need to have a long rest.”
“A long rest—Lord Elrond—that is the worst thing that you could possibly do to me. I cannot just recline on banks of elanor watching the mellyrn bloom. I need to be busy. I need to work—“
“Oh, do not worry. You shall work.” Elrond rolled up the slip of paper, went to the window, and sent it off tied to the leg of a winged messenger. Sitting down again, Elrond continued writing. “You will be in Lorien about three months,” he said. “At the end of summer you will depart for Mirkwood and Dale to offer your expertise in a revamp of their defences.”
“Elrond—no! Please. I cannot be away from here for so long,” pleaded the warrior. “I cannot. Estel needs me. The guards need me. I have to be here!”
“I shall have all that taken care of. Mirkwood and Dale are long overdue. They have been requesting this for some time now, and you have been pushing it off, and now I know why. You will get there by mid-autumn, which will necessitate your wintering in Mirkwood. You may return to Imladris in late spring.” Elrond sent off another bird. “There. All settled.”
“Winter in Mirkwood with Thranduil. Why don’t you just kill me right now.”
“Enjoy the Dorwinion wine. Kill a few spiders if you get bored. Visit the dwarves at Erebor to annoy them a little—or tell them your balrog story. For some reason, the dwarves always seem to enjoy that.” Elrond smiled at the warrior, whose blue eyes were huge and tragic in his stricken face. “As your lord, your friend, and your physician, I am telling you—go away. Take time to sort things out. Have a chat with Lady Galadriel. Rest. You will come back with a better perspective on things.” He picked up his pen again. “Well, you’d better start packing. You leave tomorrow.”
Glorfindel rose slowly to his feet in a daze, and made his way to the door.
“Oh, and I would not drink too much of Thranduil’s Dorwinion if I were you,” said Elrond as he wrote. “In your state, you might utter things you would deeply regret.”
Cundunya (Q) – my prince