The Golden and the Black

A Question Answered

On the bank of a stream that fed the Celebrant sat Glorfindel, under a blossoming mallorn tree. Surrounded by a carpet of fallen mallorn leaves whose golden glow was eclipsed by the glory of his hair, he leaned his chin on his hand. And stared glumly into space.

He had been in Lothlórien for three days now. The Galadhrim had never seen him miserable before, so they did their utmost to cheer him up. If Haldir was not trying to get him to go hunting, or Arwen pulling him on picnics or to dance with her at feasts, or Lady Galadriel getting him to dine with her and Lord Celeborn, it was elfmaids leaping out at him from behind every other tree, or trying to cuddle up to him on his talan at night in various states of undress. That was always the problem with Lothlórien: no doors to lock. There had been the line-up of his usual, persistent admirers, and then some.

He was beginning to wonder exactly what Elrond had written in that note to Lady Galadriel.

Overworked… losing his mind… affair of the heart… very bad business… strict rest cure prescribed… needs relaxation and distraction… plenty of nubile elfmaids…

The mere thought of it made the balrog slayer cringe.

He had taken refuge in a quiet, shady grove far from Caras Galadhon. No one would think of looking for him here. No one, that is, except for the Lady of the Golden Woods.

She had never seen her balrog-slaying favourite mope before, and after three days, she had had enough of it. He sensed her approach some time before she appeared, a luminous apparition of white and gold in the green shadows, but he made no attempt to hide. This was Lady Galadriel, after all, and any attempt at evasion would have been futile. He rose and bowed to her.

She stood on the other side of the stream and regarded him with her piercing grey eyes. “Pitya, what ails you? You have not been yourself at all,” she said in Quenya, going straight to the point. Somewhere in the latter part of the Second Age, she had taken to calling him pitya when they were alone—the only one in all Arda besides Idril who called the reborn warrior “little one”. It was her little private joke with him; few among the Eldar were taller than she, and he was one. She enjoyed speaking to him in Quenya. It made her recall her youth, she told him with a smile.

He looked at her wordlessly and wretchedly for a while. “Herinya, may I ask you a question?”

She looked into his face thoughtfully. They heard fair elven voices in the distance, approaching through the woods.

“Walk with me, pitya.”

He crossed the stream and gallantly offered her his arm. As the lady and the warrior walked along a narrow path beneath the ancient mellyrn, the vision of their combined beauty was dazzling. Both wore shining white, and the resplendence of their golden hair shimmered in the shade of the vast, overarching trees. Any who saw them might think them sister and brother… or mother and son.

The moment Glorfindel had met Galadriel at Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion, one twilight in the Second Age, he had looked at her long flowing golden hair, so like his own, and wondered. It was even more radiant and lustrous than his, and wavier in texture, but it was that same rare, rich shade of gold that he had thought unique to himself, never having seen it on another. And her face. He seemed to know it, as from a distant dream. And to have heard that low, mellifluous voice.

As the golden-haired envoy from Forlindon had delivered messages from his king and sat in meetings with the rulers of Eregion, one question had burned in his heart. Staring at the mysteriously-familiar lady, it had been a struggle for him at moments to focus on the discussions… increase in the creatures of Morgoth… attacks on travellers by trolls and wargs… patrols needed on highways… be wary of a personage named Annatar…

Over the next two centuries of dealings with Eregion, Glorfindel had many opportunities to speak to the Lady since Elrond, if he accompanied Glorfindel to Ost-in-Edhil, oft abandoned his golden-haired friend for the charms of a silver-haired maiden. But whenever the question lay on the balrog slayer’s tongue, one look into the Lady’s shining grey eyes would cause it to evaporate. And only after he was home again in Forlond might he think of it again.

Then he ceased to think or even care about the question. Darkness rose. War came. The kings of men passed in quick succession. Kingdoms rose and fell. Millennia passed…

And now, this moment.

Galadriel led him through the golden wood to another secluded spot, then seated herself on a carved wooden bench by the rushing waters of another stream. Glorfindel leaned against a mallorn trunk nearby. Her grey eyes looked into his blue ones, and she waited for him to speak, a gentle smile playing on her lips.

“Lady Alatáriel,” he said, using her Telerin name, which flowed more naturally when they spoke Quenya, “why do I feel that you know what I am going to say before I say it?”

“Ask freely, Lord Laurefindil. I shall answer you.”

He paused, looking into the infinite depths of those grey eyes. And finally, after six millennia, the question came.

Herinya, do you know who I really am? Where I come from?”

She tilted her head and her brilliant, enigmatic gaze held him.

“You have not thought of it for thousands of years. Why now?” she asked in measured tones.

He was silent, and let her take his answer from his eyes.

She smiled and her eyes laughed. “You must introduce me to her sometime.”

He blushed and dropped his gaze.

“It may not be as hopeless as you believe. Your deeds speak far louder than any bloodline does. Who you are, Laurefindil, has proven to be worthy of your parents and their lineage.”

His heart pounded with nervousness and excitement. She knew. As he had always suspected—she knew. And… might it be she? And Celeborn his sire?

“She cares naught for my deeds nor my lineage,” he said. “Truth is, she cares not for me at all.” It wrenched deeply just to say it. “But it is for myself that I ask. I need to know.” The fearless warrior braced himself, his stomach churning with both dread and anticipation, fear and hope, as it had never done before any battle. “You know my parents, Lady Alatáriel—please, who are they?”

Moving the folds of her flowing skirt aside, she patted the bench next to her. “Sit with me, pitya. It is time.”

Holding his blue eyes with her gaze, she looked back to a time almost seven millennia ago, when she had been young.

The light of the young sun slanted through the towering trees of Doriath, and the voices and laughter of a brother and sister carried through the air as they crossed the Great Stone Bridge to Menegroth, their golden hair and the style of their clothes marking them apart from the Sindar. Guards saluted as they approached, and the vast stone doors leading to the Thousand Caves swung open.

“Magnificent!” murmured Finrod admiringly as they passed through, his brilliant grey eyes taking in every detail. “Dwarven work at its best.”

“Each time I see you lately, you look like a wild Moriquendë of the woods,” Galadriel chided him, taking a stained and threadbare sleeve between her fingers. “A beggar even! I should mistake you for one, save for your hair.”

Finrod smiled as she affectionately tugged on a lock of his bright golden tresses, dim only in comparison to the radiance of her own. “Clothes take up much space, Artë. One set to wash, one to wear, is my rule on the road. Unlike one I know,” he added teasingly, “who left Tol Sirion to reside in Doriath six months ago with two horses to bear just her clothes.”

The two saddle packs he carried slung over his shoulders were stuffed full with notes he had taken on his travels, detailed maps he had drawn. He would take them later to the scribes of Doriath to have them copied, and leave a set in the Menegroth library. Despite the fact that he had travelled the past three days with scarcely any sleep, he did not seem weary. He had always possessed a wanderlust, but in the past year, there had been something particularly restless and driven about him as he explored lands still uncharted by the Noldor: the coastlines, the deep forests, the wide plains, and the mountain regions. Ever since he had returned from his journey down the Sirion with their cousin Turgon.

They descended down a wide corridor carved with great buttresses on either side like the shapes of trees, and animals carved among them. As they walked, Galadriel spotted a flash of colour in her eldest brother’s tresses and reached out to feel two small beads, one of a red gem, one of a green stone. They were braided into a lock hidden in the thick waves of his golden hair, and carved with alien runes. “Ingo! What is this?”

He felt them. “Oh, that. Dwarven beads of friendship. My Khuzdul is not too good yet, but from what I could understand, they were intended to bless me with ‘lands flowing with jewels’ and ‘a long and lasting line of descendants’.”

“Knowing you, I can well see the first happening. But I wait still for you to give me hope of the second.” She regretted the words as soon as they left her lips. He hardly ever showed it, the shadow that lurked in his heart, but now she saw it touch his eyes.

“Ingo. I am sorry—” she began.

But he had suddenly frozen in his tracks, and was staring down a side corridor that curved away to their left. “It cannot be…”

Then the packs were dropped to the ground, and he was racing down the tunnel, his bright hair flying in the wind.

Galadriel saw what her brother saw. “No! Ingo—” And she ran after him.

“Amárië!” he called. “Amárië! Indo-ninya!”

Ahead of them, a maiden danced on light feet, her silken hair gleaming a pale gold. Hearing his voice, she came to a halt on a bridge that floated in the air over a chasm, next to a subterranean waterfall plunging into dark depths below. The rocks of the walls and high ceiling of the surrounding cavern glowed with soft opalescent hues, and lit her graceful form as she turned to face him. Her deep blue eyes widened, and her lips parted in amazement.

Already he had come to a stop at one end of the bridge, flushed with embarrassment. Now that she faced him, he could tell at once that it was not his beloved. She was taller by half a head at least; the shape of her eyes, the line of her nose and jaw, all so different. He was dumbfounded at his moment of insanity. How could he even for a moment have thought that Amárië would be here, when he knew full well that an ocean and a doom lay between them?

“Goheno nin, híril-nín,” he said in elegant, fluent Sindarin, giving her a deep and graceful bow. “I mistook you for one I know.”

The bewitching beauty resembled the Vanya Amárië in striking ways. Hair of a rare shade hovering between gold and silver that could sometimes be found among both the Vanyar and the Teleri. Deep blue eyes with dark eyelashes and eyebrows. Her heart-shaped face wore an expression of sweetness and innocence, but her lips were full and sensuous, and they curved in a soft smile as her eyes rested on the tall, golden-haired stranger in his threadbare, travel-stained clothes.

“Fortunate the maid whom you seek, hîr-nín, and my loss not to be she,” she murmured, her voice light and sweet like a pretty singing bird’s. A voice that sent shivers down the spine of an elflord in fine, flowing robes who was approaching from the far end of the bridge.

Galadriel was already at Finrod’s elbow. “Rílel, this is my brother Finrod. And this, my brother, is the daughter of Gilornel, the daughter of Galadhon, the son of Elmo,” she said in Sindarin. Finrod smiled as he bowed again to the maiden.

“The stars shine on our meeting, fair kinswoman.”

“I rejoice with the stars, and welcome you to Menegroth, my kinsman,” Rîlel replied and made a graceful reverence towards him.

The tall, dashing Sindarin lord with piercing grey eyes had reached the side of the maiden, and there was no mistaking the proprietary way he positioned himself there. There was disdain in his eyes as they raked over the shabby attire of the stranger.

“Lord Oropher,” Galadriel inclined her head gracefully to the Sinda. “This is my brother Finrod.”

Oropher’s eyes remained cold as he and Finrod swept deep bows to each other. A few courtly pleasantries were exchanged, and they went separate ways.

“That was embarrassing,” said Finrod with a rueful smile, as he and Galadriel returned to the main corridor. “Whatever got into me? I must be more tired than I realized.”

“The resemblance is strong. You could not be blamed,” Galadriel said consolingly. He had made no mention of Amárië since they left Valinor, not even to her, and this was the first time she had dared allude to the Vanya.

He shouldered his packs again. “I brought some fine crystalware from Nogrod as a gift for the king and queen. I hope it did not shatter when I dropped my pack.”

The gift was indeed intact, and pleased the King and Queen of Doriath, but the greater sensation was caused by the fairest prince of the Noldor himself. A bath and change of apparel later, he entered the Great Hall to a ripple of ardent admiration that ran through the assembled nobility. His tall, noble form was arrayed in Sindarin robes of silver, blue, and white, with white jewels in the braids of his luminous gold hair, and his eyes were brilliant with the Light of the Trees.

On his part, Finrod could not admire the caves of Menegroth enough, and over the next two months he was greatly engrossed in his exploration and study of the city, spending many hours with the Naugrim to discuss their engineering and craftsmanship. At other times, Oropher offered himself as Finrod’s guide and companion, for he had not failed to note how a certain pale-haired beauty with a merry laugh often crossed the prince’s path. She would come by to swim at the underground lakes when Finrod was brought there. She would oft chance to pass them in the labyrinthine corridors, and her softest glances were for her golden-haired cousin, not her Sindarin suitor. If Finrod trained with the warriors of Doriath, she would be watching from a passage somewhere above. And every time he sought the company of Galadriel, Rílel would be one of her companions and position herself close to his side. Her presence deeply discomfited the Noldorin prince, not only because of her likeness to his Vanya, but because he was well aware of Oropher’s feelings. Despite Finrod’s care to be courteous but distant with the lovely Sinda, Oropher found himself imagining violent fates for his golden-haired guest. Such as being mauled to death by a wild beast on his travels. And it made Oropher feel guilty, for it was difficult not to like the warm, affectionate Noldo.

By mid-autumn, Galadriel felt how restive her brother was growing, not unlike a stallion impatient to race. It did not surprise her when Finrod announced one day, “I depart tomorrow, Artanis.”

A clattering sound made them turn. Rílel had knocked over a decanter and red wine stained the floor. She flushed and murmured an apology for her clumsiness. Two other maidens hastened to her aid. So she understands some Quenya, thought Galadriel, who had observed the girl’s infatuation grow with disapproval. I must speak with her.

“But it is your begetting day,” Galadriel reproved Finrod in their thoughts. “Stay one more day with me. I had plans for you.”

“Forgive me, Artë… but my begetting day means little, and the wilds call me. I have stayed too long here already. I shall be back in summer for your begetting day, I promise.”

“So long?” Galadriel sighed, feeling already the sadness of separation. “And whither go you now?”

“I do not know exactly where yet,” he said, the glow of adventure in his face. “But I travel west.” Thingol had spoken of caves, beyond the moors and the open plains, where the River Narog ran.

“Wait till spring,” she pleaded. “Winter shall be upon the lands soon.”

His eyes met hers, with a hint of amusement over the sorrow of the memory. “What are these winters, compared to our years on the Grinding Ice?”

She walked to him and laid her hand on his shoulder, and rested her side of her golden head against his own. “Please be safe.”

“I do my best.”

His arm slipped around her shoulders, and brother and sister watched the twinkling of a thousand golden lights in the ceiling of the cavern above them. Grodelin… subterranean stars.

“Very well then. We will celebrate tonight,” she told him.

They dined in a space near the waterfall that evening, an atmosphere of gaiety filling the air. The King and Queen stopped by to grace the occasion, and Princess Lúthien offered as her gift to her nephew a graceful dance and a song sweeter than a nightingale’s. When the princess of Doriath and the prince exchanged a gentle farewell kiss, Rílel’s distress could not be hidden. The beauty with pale-gold hair and other adoring maidens plied him with plates of delicacies all evening, and kept his goblet full of wine.

“Have mercy, hiril-nín!” Finrod protested laughingly, as Rílel presented yet another goblet of wine to him. “I can eat and drink no more.”

“Oh, just one more, my lord prince,” pleaded Rílel. “It is a special wine… from the warm valleys of South Ossiriand.” She continued to hold it out to him.

Courteously, he accepted it and drank. Oropher glowered at the back of his golden head, and miserably drained his own goblet dry.

Brother and sister retired to their rooms, shortly after. As they neared the door of Galadriel’s chambers, Finrod was swaying on his feet a little, and as she opened her door, he slumped against a wall.

“Ingoldo!” she exclaimed in shock. “Did I not know you better, I would think you drunk.”

“That wine from Ossiriand is potent, Artanis. My head is feeling rather heavy.” And he stifled a yawn.

“It is well that your chamber is next to mine. Come, brother, let me be gallant and escort you, for a change.” She smiled and pulled him to his feet. “Lean on me.” She got him through his door and to his bed. He sat down on it, looking dazed. She frowned at him in concern.

“Let me unbraid your hair for you.” And she undid his braids as she had when she had been little, and ran her fingers through his shining tresses.

“I regret I did not release her from our betrothal ere I left, Artë,” he said. In the chaos and the darkness, he had made his choice—his people, and the call of the Hither Lands. There had been a farewell kiss and a hasty promise to wait, even as the trumpets blew for the march to Alqualondë. No time to reflect, to share the thousand things upon his heart. No knowledge of the doom and the curse, nor that there might never be any return. “There will be no one else for me, ever. But she—I should have left her free to bind with another.”

Her heart wrenched at the catch in his voice. He had been a pillar of strength for them, all through the time the darkness fell, through the horror of Alqualondë, through the years of flight over the Helcaraxë. He had carried orphans in his arms and sung in the freezing wastes as the people had cried in terror for the breaking of the ice beneath their feet. He sang the light of the Trees that were gone, sang of broad plains and deep woods and sweet running streams that awaited them in the lands ahead, as his grandfather Finwë had oft told. And the exiles’ hearts had warmed and grown brave as they heard his song. Nay, more, witnesses insisted that the power of his song had held the very ice ahead together until they had passed. He had laughed when Galadriel told him of the legend of the Blessed Findaráto that had grown. “A song of power? Hardly. I sang to keep our spirits up—and my own courage. That the ice held is entirely Eru’s grace.”

Galadriel had never seen her eldest brother look lost and hurting as he did now. She kissed his brow.

“As your heart is for her, so is hers for you,” said the little sister soothingly. “There can be no one else for her either, I am sure.”

He did not reply. She knelt before him and laid a hand on his knee. “Shall I stay here with you a while, Ingo? I shall sing to you songs of the Teleri that our mother sang.”

He smiled into her eyes, and was once again the big brother she knew. “Nay. I should sleep now, little one. And so should you.”

“Very well. Have a safe journey, beloved.” She kissed his cheek before leaving. He oft disappeared early before dawn.

Galadriel woke feeling a wrongness in her spirit. A deep unease.

It persisted as she dressed her hair. She called to Aelin, the maiden who had just brought in her breakfast tray. “Aelin. Could you see if Lord Finrod has departed?”

The maiden returned in a while. “No one has seen him this morning, lady. His horse is in the stables. And there is no answer at his door.”

Galadriel ate a few morsels and swallowed her tea and left the room. Even as she laid her hand on the heavy wood of Finrod’s door, she sensed he was there. Yet her mind, reaching out, could not find his thoughts.

“Ingoldo! It is I.” There was no sound. She pushed against the door and it opened. She took in the rumpled bedclothes, and the mane of gold hair falling over the edge of the bed. “Ingo!” she shook the bare shoulder, gently first, then more violently. The only response was a gentle snore. He never snores! And his eyes were shut. Shut! The long dark-gold lashes lay still against his fair cheek. In sleep, the eldest son of Finarfin looked younger than herself. Anxious and baffled, she knelt by him and gently reached out with her mind to meld with his.

She pushed through waves of heaviness, felt a deep languor almost overcome her. Then saw a deep forest where a prince and a Vanya lay entwined in sleep. The light of Telperion poured silver over them through the branches and leaves.

Galadriel hastily retreated from something too private, too intimate for her eyes or knowledge. Forgive me, Ingoldo.

She smoothed the bright curtain of hair back from her sleeping brother’s face, as a mother might, and looked around the room. Something felt wrong. Her skin prickled as she sensed a power she was unfamiliar with, something wild—a magic from the years of starlight. She smelled on his breath the wine of the previous night. And something else—a bitter, pungent aroma. She breathed the familiar scent of his skin, and picked up another scent that made her grey eyes flash steel and her mouth tighten.

“Rílel…” she growled.

She swept down the hallway, her face stern, and all who saw her cleared a path for her.

She had summoned her brother Orodreth, who had been in Doriath the past half year, contentedly learning the healing arts under Melian. Orodreth had confirmed her suspicions that their brother had been drugged. Finrod might wake with little memory of anything that had happened, and hopefully not more than a heavy head.

Happy begetting day, dear brother…

White robes sweeping the floor behind her, Galadriel saw her prey dart nervously through the great doors of the Menegroth library and followed. The library was not a place Rílel frequented, and she soon found herself cornered in the poetry section, shrinking back against the dark wooden shelves laden with books and scrolls.

Galadriel had quickly ascertained that they were alone, but she spoke to the girl’s mind to ensure none heard them.

Wretched girl. What have you done?” The eyes of the shining white lady who towered over her were so terrible in her barely suppressed fury that Rílel could not answer. Instead, the girl lashed out wildly with her mind, and Galadriel reeled back in shock more than pain, then quickly subdued the attack and pinned her prey to the bookshelf with her own power.

“How dare you? What did you do to him? Do you even understand what powers you are playing with?”

The girl cowered before her, paralysed, guilt and shame in her wide blue eyes. And now, now that Galadriel looked for it, she sensed power in the girl, so well-disguised beneath the wide-eyed innocent gaze and light laugh—a power that had successfully ensnared her beloved brother and shielded the girl’s plans from both her and him such that neither, despite their considerable mind powers, had had even the flicker of a premonition. And more. Galadriel saw the way the young Sinda held herself, the hand gathering the folds of her skirt, laid protectively on her belly.

Happy begetting day…

“You are a fool,” Galadriel said. “Did you think to deceive your way into his love this way? To make him wed you? You know nothing of him, or of love. He is promised. His heart will beat for no other till the end of all things.”

“But I love him,” Rílel replied, her eyes pleading. “And this, the only way I could have him—”

“Do you know how many lives you may have ruined with your rash act, you selfish, thoughtless girl?” Galadriel pursued. “Your own. Have you not seen Lord Oropher’s eyes on you? He is noble, and he loves you. Passionately. But do you think in his pride he or any other lord in Doriath would ever court you again once your shame is known? Think of what you have thrown away for one night of folly. And be sure you have ruined Oropher’s. Never will he look at another as he has looked on you. He will long for you but the thought of you will be poison to him. The babe’s. What legacy will this child have, when it is born of trickery and deceit? Your family. What shame have you brought on them? On your noble guardian?” Galadriel choked with rage. “Finrod would marry you rather than dishonour you, then live with a hollow heart till the Second Music, pining for another. Is that what you desire? Is it love to destroy the one whom you love? Don’t you dare call what you have done ‘love’!”

Galadriel sensed him behind her before he spoke to their minds, and a shiver passed through her body. “Lady Galadriel is right, Rílel my sister-daughter. It was badly done, and not the way of true love.” The deep, smooth voice in her head caused Galadriel’s heart to skip a beat.

“Lord Celeborn,” Galadriel replied calmly, without turning.

At the sight of her guardian, the girl crumpled to her knees. “Goheno nin,” Rílel cried out aloud in guilt and shame. The silver-haired lord went to her and wrapped his arms around his ward, the only child of his dead sister.

The girl wept. “I am wed to him now,” she managed to say. “I am his.”

“Nay, foolish child. It takes the free will and consent of two to wed.” Galadriel’s voice was harsh. “This was no marriage. An illusion woven by your spells, an overpowering of his will and his powers by your drugs. He shall awaken with no knowledge of what has passed. It is null and void.”

Celeborn’s face was stern and sorrowful. The girl’s father was of Círdan’s people, slain in the last battles of the Falas before the coming of the Noldor. Her grieving mother had returned north to Doriath, leaving her daughter in her eldest brother’s care ere she faded. The bloodlines had power on both sides, but Celeborn had thought of his ward as a child still, barely a yén old. Desperate love had stirred nascent powers into life.

The lord and lady led the girl who was a maid no more to a chair, and looked at each other over her head.

Galadriel reached out with her fëa to that little light beginning to flutter in the Sindarin elleth’s belly, feeling a warm, golden, glorious melody beginning to be sung. The latest light to burn in the line of Finwë.

“There is a way,” said Celeborn, looking deep into his beloved’s grey eyes, then speaking into her mind. “It is not a path I relish taking, melethril-nín. But it will protect all those you have named, restoring to them their future.”

Finrod woke at noon with a splitting headache and a conviction that he would never drink Ossiriand wine again. “Oohhh… I feel like oliphaunts are stomping on my head,” he groaned.

“What in Arda are ‘oliphaunts’? Here, drink this.” Orodreth held a cup to his lips, then laid a cold herbal compress on the prince’s brow. “Blessed begetting day, brother,” he added, with no irony intended.

Finrod obediently held the compress to his head, sighed, and looked at his younger brother. Unwarlike, reticent Orodreth, the odd one out of the Finarfinions. Aegnor always had Angrod, and Finrod had always had their cousin Turgon, leaving Orodreth most oft at their mother’s side. With the impending birth of a younger sister, Orodreth had been briefly hopeful of the companionship of a calm, gentle soul to match his own. But alas, it had been Galadriel, and from the first moment it had been Finrod she adored fiercely among her brothers.

In that same year had Aredhel been born to the House of Fingolfin, and thus it had been that for two whole Valian years, Prince Finrod and Prince Turgon could scarce be seen anywhere in Eldamar without their little sisters in tow, two golden and two black.

Finrod wondered still why Orodreth, of them all, had not turned back to Aman with their father. He had little ambition for lands of his own. He did not burn with zeal to defeat Morgoth in battle and avenge their grandfather. He had no desire to explore the wild lands and pursue great adventures. Sensing the healer in the second prince of the Third House—and needing to get him out of Angrod and Aegnor’s way as Minas Tirith was being built—the eldest brother had sent him ahead to Doriath with Galadriel. Orodreth had blossomed under Melian’s tutelage and carried himself now with greater assurance. He might be able to hold Minas Tirith someday, thought Finrod, when Angrod and Aegnor moved north to Ard-galen as they planned.

“Two thousand years of drinking, Artaresto, and I finally find the one cup of wine that does me in.”

“One cup of wine with something extra.”

“Well, it is the fashion to add spices and herbs to wine here, isn’t it? Everything I drank had ‘something extra’ in it.”

“And a dicey practice it is when foolish elfmaids confuse their herbs,” said Orodreth disapprovingly. “I haven’t figured out what herb yet, but it must have been extremely potent. Just rest.”

Finrod looked thoughtful. “It may explain the dream I had. I had an amazingly vivid dream.” He closed his eyes. And smiled blissfully at memories of his wedding dream.

Two tall figures in grey cloaks stood beneath the trees on the edge of the forest, gazing westward. Here, the Woods of Núath were sheltered from the bitter winds of late autumn by the Ered Wethrin to the north and by low hills to the west. The frosty white stars shone down from a cloudless sky.

A lone horseman rode towards the woods. He dismounted and approached the trees with long strides, a singularly tall figure in a cloak of midnight blue. One of the grey-cloaked figures came forward, the other remained under the eaves of the woods.

“I am glad you came,” said the grey-cloaked lady as they drew nigh each other.

“What is all this? A cryptic note, a tight-lipped messenger, a meeting in the middle of nowhere? You have a lot of explaining to do, Artanis.”

She parted her cloak and showed him the thickly-swaddled bundle in her arms. A tiny, sweet face peeked out from the layers of fine wool she had wrapped over royal linen. “You are fortunate that he just fell asleep. He is a lively one.” She smiled fondly.

He looked at the baby wordlessly, taking in the long dark lashes, the tiny dreaming blue eyes, and the soft curls of hair that gleamed like richest gold. A babe just a month out of the womb. Then his grey eyes looked up to meet hers with a piercing stare.

“Ask not whose it is. I shall not answer, for the secret is not mine. Forgive me, Turukáno. I can tell you nothing, and yet I must ask... Please, will you take him?” She had never begged in her life. She was begging now.

He looked back at the baby. It gave a yawn, stretching and pushing against the cloth in its dreams, then settled with a tiny sigh. And the Prince of Nevrast knew that he would do it. He would not ask his cousin the questions swirling and screaming through his head. Deep down, although he understood nothing… he knew.

“A child with that hair. There will be a lot of talk.”

“I know I ask much of you. But this I have seen: this child’s life is twined with the destinies of you and your house, down many generations of your line. Please. To none other would I turn but you.”

He reached out his arms. She kissed the child, and relinquished the precious bundle.

The baby looked up at him, now wide awake. It gave him a toothless smile, and punched a tiny fist out of its swaddling. He touched the tiny hand, and a lump rose to his throat. “Has he his names, at least?” he murmured.

“No.” The unknowing father could give none, nor the mother who had surrendered all rights to him.

“The begetting day, then?”

She hesitated. But she could not deprive the child of even that. After she told it, he was silent for a long time, gazing at the baby as it gurgled at him happily, kicking strongly against its swaddling.

Deep in his fëa, a name for the child came to Finrod’s best friend.

“Itarillë shall find him a good nursemaid,” was all he said.

Galadriel took out a golden brooch, a graceful eight-petalled flower like a burst of sun rays, and pinned it to the cloth. She watched as her cousin rode west towards the sea. Then she turned back to the forest, where her love awaited her, silver-haired and tall.

They walked deeper into the Woods of Núath, where lay the dwellings of a small, secret tribe of the Laiquendi that for the past year had, after some persuasion, consented to shelter a special guest.

There, in a dwelling shaped by spellsong in the living heart of a great tree, sat a beauty with hair of palest gold. She gazed out of a window into the autumn woods, and saw two elves returning with empty arms.

And bitterly, she wept.

On a frosty autumn twilight, Turgon crept by a secret way into his own palace at Vinyamar. He had thought long and hard on the ride home, but his plan to foster the child out to a family of Sindar in the remoter mountains of Nevrast crumbled the moment his daughter laid eyes on the baby.

He had sought Idril out solely to ask her to find a temporary nursemaid. She was weaving at her loom, singing one of her mother’s songs. He stood in the doorway looking at his treasure, whose innocence and joy had withered in the freezing wastes of the north. She had been a mere child when she lost her mother. Now, she lived for her duties, a princess devoted to caring for her people, too old for her years. And for the thousandth time he wished that he had left wife and child safe in Tirion. Had known the horrors that lay ahead. Had turned back in time, as Finarfin had.

The baby woke and gave an angry, demanding wail. He had not fed for a day, and even an elven baby has its limits. He was hungry.

The click-clack of the loom and the song suddenly ceased. “Atto?

And Turgon looked on, stunned, as Idril’s eyes and face lit up with the incandescence of a dozen sunrises. It was love at first sight. Her whole being came alive with excitement and joy as he had not seen it since their days in Tirion by treelight. She snatched the baby from her astonished father’s arms and cuddled him tightly to her bosom.

No talk of fostering it out was possible from that moment onwards.

In the autumn of his twelfth year, just after his begetting day, the small, bright child raced swiftly by the sea as the tide swept in. He leapt fearlessly from rock to rock, his bare feet scarcely seeming to touch them. Free and light with the joy of pure movement, he was the wind whipping through his hair, he was the roar of the waves, he was one with Vása in all its burning glory in the sky above. He laughed for the sheer joy of being alive, his hair streaming with the radiance of the morning sun.

“Ammë! Come on!” he called impatiently over his shoulder.

His voice carried to the traveller above the clamour of waves and wind, as she stood hidden among the gnarled, windswept trees on an escarpment above, the hood of her cloak pulled up such that her face was hidden. She watched as the slender beauty followed the small child, like him bare-footed and dressed in white. They descended from the rocks onto soft, damp sand, swiftly shaped handfuls of it into strange, fantastical towers and buildings, then watched as the eddying waves came in and washed their sand city away.

Aiya, Turno,” said the traveller without turning.

Aiya, Artë,” said the dark-haired prince as he came up behind her. His mind was full of building plans and blueprints, and he had resented the interruption of the messenger. “I wondered if you would ever come to see him.”

“I was on my way from Tol Sirion to Doriath, and thought to make a detour.”

“This is quite a detour.”

“He has oft been on my mind.” Her eyes had not once left the child. “He does well?”

“Very well indeed. He has been good for Itarillë.”

“I can see that.” A laugh from the princess carried to them on the wind. Idril and the child danced together on the sand. He was tall for his age, and almost reached her hip. Their keen elven ears could hear the two prattling happily away to each other in a fluent mix of Quenya and Sindarin. In many ways, the child in Idril had been resurrected by the child she raised. She sang, she played, she laughed, she danced rather than walked—the childhood she had lost now found again.

“Ready to sail, champion?” called a silver-eyed, dark-haired lord down on the shore. The child ran and took a flying leap into Ecthelion’s arms, almost knocking the wind out of the tall, dark-haired and silver-eyed elflord for a moment. The three of them boarded a ship with two other lords, and headed out to sea.

“He never stays still,” said Turgon, smiling indulgently. “There are times I think he looks as Ingo did at that age.”

She said nothing. She would never tell. And he would never ask.

“He learns fast. And he is very swift.”

Swarming quickly to the top of a mastpole, heedless of Ecthelion’s sharp reprimand, the tiny daredevil hurled himself into space and plunged down into the sparkling waves. Idril gave a startled cry, and both she and Ecthelion plunged into the water, homing in on the spot where the tiny elfling had disappeared. Galadriel held her breath.

The tiny golden head surfaced a few heartstopping seconds later, whooping in delight.

“And fearless. We do our best to keep him alive,” Turgon said with a smile.

“You wait till I get my hands on you, you little monkey!”

“Yonya! You could have been killed!”

“Stop laughing, Egalmoth! It’s your turn to babysit tomorrow.”

They watched in silence, listening to the voices on the ship, the thunder of the waves beyond the sheltered harbour, the relentless power of Ulmo’s voice.

“We have named him Laurefindil,” said Turgon. “But that is not the name I gave him in my fëa, that night at Núath.”

The traveller tore her eyes away from the child to look at her cousin.

He told her the name. “But, of course, that is not the name we could use. Hence the epessë. And his hair is already sung of as a wonder—by those who have not beheld yours.”

She smiled into Turgon’s eyes. “Thank you,” she said, from the depths of her heart. And it was not for the compliment.

They did not speak of the future before they parted. These were the years of the secret building of Gondolin. The two cousins would not meet again, this side of the Great Sea.

“Am I wrong to keep the child from him?” Galadriel asked Celeborn on the ride back to Doriath. “Do you think he would ever forgive me for not letting him know?”

“He will always forgive you. And remember what he told you.”

Finrod’s dark prophecy rang in her ears. She would leave him free to fulfil his vows. Free of ties. Free of knowledge.

“And of the child’s destiny,” Celeborn said softly. “What do you see?”

She did not answer.


A fall.


Her eyes grew a little moist.

Celeborn reached out his hand to hold hers, and she let herself be vulnerable to him. As she could be with only him. And no other.

Galadriel watched as relief and hope lit her nephew’s face and whole being as he listened rapt to her tale. His smile was radiant as he took her hand and kissed it.

Hantanyel, herinya,” he said from the depths of his heart.

“Ah, you would thank me for what I have done to you, pitya? To have known neither father nor mother for three long ages of the world? To be baseborn, even if it be to the noblest and most beloved prince of the Noldor? Imagine if Findaráto had acknowledged you as his own, and wed your mother. If you had been raised a prince in Nargothrond, with a father you could proudly name.” Galadriel had wondered at times, over the years, how different the history of the Noldor in Beleriand might have been, had Glorfindel been at Nargothrond to hold the throne after his father’s death. She reached out her long, slender hand and laid it against her nephew’s cheek. “I knew this day would eventually come. I would understand if you blame me for all that you lost, pitya. For what your life might have been. For the loss of your birthright.” Child of sin. Yet that child had been favoured and chosen by Eru himself for this mission to the mortal lands, though at times she wondered if it were blessing or curse. “I should be asking for your forgiveness.”

Glorfindel thought of his happy childhood at Nevrast by the sea, and the glorious years of Gondolin, even though they had ended in flames and a dark chasm.

“I would not have had my life any other way. Truly. And I can only thank you for it, my father-sister.” He smiled, a new lightness in his countenance.

With a smile, she leaned forward, and planted a kiss on his brow. “Turukáno gave you a name, acting in your father’s place—Laurefindë.”

Glorfindel’s heart was full as he received the name that should have been given to him at birth. “I am… Laurefindë… son of Artafindë Ingoldo,” he said slowly, articulating the names carefully and with wonder. Joy kindled as he was able to name his father for the first time. It mattered nothing to him that his naming would never have been celebrated with the rituals and great ceremony that would have befitted a royal son born in wedlock—firstborn son of the firstborn prince of the Third House of Finwë. Neither did it matter that a bastard would never enjoy the title of “prince”. His smile was incandescent as he looked affectionately at his aunt.

Galadriel returned the smile, seeing with gladness that much of the shadow that had lain over the warrior since his arrival was gone. “I thought of you much over the years. I grieved at the Havens when news of your fall reached me. Almost as though I grieved for him all over again.”

“What would he think of me?... he still does not know I exist?”

“No. And I wonder how easily he will forgive me for keeping you from him.” What Galadriel had done, she had done for love of Finrod. She prayed that he would understand. She took his son’s chin in her hand and gazed into Rílel’s blue eyes. “He would be very proud of you, pitya. As am I.”

Glorfindel grinned bashfully.

“What happened to my mother?” he asked, as they made their way back to Caras Galadhon. “Did Oropher wed her?”

Galadriel laughed. “Indeed. Bearing you made her a wiser and stronger nís, and Oropher should have thanked you for it. It was not easy for her to give you up. But she understood that it was for your good, and her own.”

“I seem to have acquired a lot of relatives, all of a sudden,” he said, suddenly seeing the intricate web of kinship spreading out around him. It made his mind spin.

“Indeed you have. Perhaps someday I shall have the pleasure of introducing you to them all.”

A sudden thought occurred to him. “Wait—so Thranduil is my brother?

Her eyes sparkled with mischief as they met his.

The golden hero burst out laughing for the first time since he had arrived at the golden wood. Lady Galadriel, wise and terrible, took her nephew’s arm, and they walked on together under the mellyrn trees laughing and talking merrily. And all the Galadhrim who saw them were filled with wonder.

Glorfindel stifled an impulse to roll his eyes as he stepped into the chamber where Thranduil received him.

Seated on a couch by a large arched window, beyond which one could see great trees clothed in rich autumn foliage and the forest river running, King Thranduil of Mirkwood was seated, his body angled away from the elflord of Imladris, conducting some business.

A beautiful wood elf with russet hair was besides her king, and both of them, eyes closed, were involved in some very slow, deep, lingering kisses.

The fair-haired king raised one hand elegantly to signal his awareness of the elflord’s presence, and continued his leisurely exploration of the beauty’s lips.

Glorfindel knew that Thranduil had lost his queen some eight hundred years ago, leaving him with a small princeling to raise on his own. Thranduil had loved her passionately, had never recovered from it, had become icier, haughtier, wrapping round his grief with his pride.

The greatest culture shock Glorfindel always experienced when stepping into the Woodland realm was the blatant sexuality of its Silvan elves, more aggressive than that in Lothlórien or any other elven settlement he had encountered in Ennor. He had been shocked to the core of his conservative Eldarin soul when he attended his first woodland feast. To be sure, once these Avari found the special one for them, their marital relationships were as exclusive and tightly binding as any other among the Eldar, but until then, they enjoyed as many dalliances as they wished. Because of that, Glorfindel always found his trips here rather stressful. He always had to search his chamber and lock his door before retiring for the night.

Two cultures existed here, side by side. The Eldarin culture of the court, and the Avarin culture outside it, and Glorfindel had always assumed that there was no crossing over the line by either side. Until a visit he made a century ago, when he had stumbled upon Thranduil similarly engaged in a rather amorous activity on the balcony of his throne room.

Looking at his half-brother with new eyes, Glorfindel wondered if what Thranduil felt for the dead Lothuial was as intense as what he felt for Maeglin. He shuddered at the thought of losing Maeglin to death; he was certain his love for her would be for all eternity, but would the need and hunger, would the heat he felt for her continue as well if she passed to Mandos?

And what if it did not? How would he endure it for not a mere ten years, but a thousand? Or till the Second Music?

If the Woodland king found, in the arms of a fair Silvan maid, the only thing that could assuage his grief and need—however briefly—who was Glorfindel to judge, knowing now the agony of such need? There existed not a wine in all Arda that could make Thranduil drunk enough to grant him the mercy of a moment’s oblivion. And here in his realm there were any number of fair maids lining up for the privilege of pleasuring their beautiful king, if only for a season. They would move on thereafter to bind themselves eternally to Silvan mates, none of whom would mind taking a bride from the bed of the king himself.

Glorfindel wondered what Legolas Thranduilion thought of all this. There was such an air of innocence about the boy that one wondered if he was even aware of his Ada’s trysts. Maybe he spent so much time roaming the woods slaying spiders that he was hardly ever around to witness what Glorfindel was now seeing.

Sometimes, looking at Legolas, Glorfindel remembered Thranduil as he had been. Back in the days when he was Prince Thranduil, and they had been friends when Glorfindel visited the Greenwood or the prince came to Imladris.

Then had come the Last Alliance, the long march down the Anduin River, and the bitter Battle of Dagorlad. Glorfindel himself had gone in with the Imladrin forces to rescue Thranduil, and the balrog slayer had borne the fatally wounded Oropher off the battlefield. He remembered the fair head of the prince bent over the body of Oropher his father, weeping like a brokenhearted child. Thranduil had risen to his feet a king. As Glorfindel saw the Sinda’s pale, bleak face and saw hard steel enter his eyes, he knew the prince he had known had vanished forever.

Then Lothuial’s loss, eight hundred years ago, had sent the ice into the Woodland king’s heart.

Glorfindel’s visits to Mirkwood had become increasingly painful because nothing he tried to say or do could resurrect the friendship they once had. Thranduil was ever distant, detached, and disdainful towards him. Generally, Thranduil annoyed Glorfindel with his aloofness, and Glorfindel annoyed Thranduil by getting Legolas into all manner of adventures and misadventures when he visited. But the fun did the boy so much good, thought Glorfindel, stifling a grin at the thought, already planning in his head what they could do the next day.

Occasionally there were moments of highhandedness from the King that came close to insult. Such as now, as the King kept the mighty warrior from Imladris standing and waiting like a lackey.

But Glorfindel was in a forgiving mood that day and even fascinated by the scene before him.

He tilted his head to one side and observed that Thranduil seemed exceptionally skilful at kissing. A proficiency that probably came from much experience. He was imagining himself kissing Maeglin the same way when Thranduil rose languidly from his couch and dismissed the beauty with a wave of his hand. She left reluctantly, her eyes lingering on her monarch as she departed.

As they discussed fortifications and the preparations that would be needed in the event, however slim, of a full-on assault by whatever power was stirring in Mordor, Glorfindel thought he saw the shadow of loneliness behind the piercing blue eyes of the King. And the warrior felt a surge of protectiveness and tenderness towards his little brother.

And more empathy than he might have imagined he could have felt just ten years ago.

Let us now go back a few thousand years to a harbour on Tol Eressëa.

A crowd has gathered to watch a white ship depart. This is unusual, for they gather only when one arrives. But today something altogether unprecedented for the past millennium has happened. There is a passenger for the mortal lands.

Not just a passenger, but one of the rebodied from the Halls of Mandos. At this time, the rebodied in Valinor are still not numerous, and objects of great interest, because of their dark and tragic histories. This one, especially, inspires curiosity. For all have now heard of the fall of Gondolin and the golden hero who fell slaying the greatest of balrogs. Yet few have seen him over the past millennium that he has dwelt in Valinor. The aura of mystery that shrouds him has brought many here. And if a few murmurs and speculation have broken out as they look on his fair face and golden hair, Olórin with a wave of his hand has dulled them so that they reach not the ears of the warrior as he embarks.

The white ship begins to pull away from the dock, and the hero of Gondolin stands on the deck waving at ones so dear to him on the shore, the ones he had died to save.

The crowd parts before the Crown Prince of the Noldor, the son of High King Finarfin, who is staring at the passenger aboard the ship like a man in a dream.

Glorfindel has eyes for none but the faces of his loved ones. He is smiling, and his golden hair flows streaming in the sea breeze, bright in the morning sun.

On the shore, his hair the same rich, rare shade of gold—both deep and bright—the erstwhile King of Nargothrond, the rebodied slayer of the great werewolf of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, stares at the departing hero like a starving man.

For Findaráto Ingoldo of the Noldor has had two heartaches in this land of bliss since his rebodiment.

One, that he alone of his siblings is here. His brothers dwell still with Mandos and his beloved sister is still across the great sea.

The second, his deep yearning for a child. After a millennium, he and Amárië have had none, and though his passion and love for her are diminished not one whit, that ache for a child, his child, has remained, eating at him deep within.

He takes one look at the golden-haired, bright-faced elf on board the ship, pulling away from shore, pulling away from him, and gasps like one struck through with a spear.

With a lurching shock, he knows.

His heart racing, hardly knowing what he is thinking, he steps forward and would have plunged into the waves but for the tall maia who bars his way with one strong arm. “Prince Findaráto,” says Olorin, shaking his head gently and looking at him with compassion.

“How can this be?” cries the dazed prince, his eyes still on the ship vanishing into the horizon. “By Eru, how can this be?”

Some of the onlookers are gazing at him with curiosity and compassion, for he is much beloved among them. Idril walks slowly across to her uncle, seeing traces of her foster son clearly in his face, his hair. She has kept silent and fiercely quelled all rumours for the last two thousand years, protecting both her foster son and her kinsman from scandal, because she has always known her uncle to be the most noble and honourable of the Noldor, and yet she knew him to be unmarried in the mortal lands. She still has no answers for this mystery that is Glorfindel.

She senses that Finrod has none too.

Finrod cannot take his eyes from the ship till the white speck has vanished from elven eyes over the curve of the horizon.

Had he only known, had he only seen earlier, he would not have let the ship leave, would not have let the Valar themselves take his child from him without a fight.

I have a son. I have lost him in the moment that I found him.

He turns to look into the sweet, sad eyes of his niece, Idril.

“Let me tell you about him, tyenya Findaráto,” she says, and reaches out her hand to him.


Herinya (Q) – my lady

Indo-ninya (Q) – my heart

Goheno nin (S) – Forgive me

Grodelin (S) – underground stars – glow worms

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