The Golden and the Black

Restless in Aman

A white horse galloped swiftly across the sunlit meadow under a clear azure sky. On its back was a rider clothed in white tunic and leggings, golden hair streaming bright in the wind, bow and a quiver of arrows on his back. A series of archery targets were lined up to his left, and he had done this so often with so many different configurations of target that his eyes were dreamy and he could almost have done this run with his eyes shut.

“Faster, Asfaloth!” He nocked an arrow in his bow.

Oromë the Hunter and Manwë watched as the rider hit each target dead centre.

“He is an excellent archer, and Tulkas and Eonwë say that as a swordsman and a warrior he is unsurpassed among the Firstborn,” Oromë was saying. “A little restless at times, but a bright and joyous spirit withal.” He added with the deep rumbling sound like thunder that was a Vala’s laugh, “He leaps from the backs of eagles onto his horse, dives off waterfalls, and teases Huan mercilessly. If you wish to send him, do so before he kills himself or gets killed by my hound, and you have to wait a century to get him back from Námo.” A low growl came from Huan, who lay by his master’s side like a small hill, but his huge tail thumped the ground in amusement.

The elf in white, riding full tilt in the opposite direction, got gracefully to his feet on Asfaloth’s back and was shooting at the targets from that standing position, his golden hair whipping in the wind. His shots split the first arrows cleanly into two. He was of necessity using his other, weaker arm, however, and thinking about what to hunt for lunch besides, and the result was that the second target was off centre by a fraction. He shook his golden head self-deprecatingly. He went back and did a third, flawless run, splitting all the second arrows straight down the lengths of their shafts.

“Show-off. Needlessly destroying good arrows,” grumbled Oromë. “I shall put him to work making new ones for the rest of the day.”

“Call him hence,” said the King of the Valar.

Oromë blew on his horn, and the elf rode up to the Valar, dismounted, and bowed low and reverentially on his knee before them. “Rise, child,” said Manwë.

The elf rose and looked up at the Valar, for they towered over him. He would be counted tall among his kind, and very fair. The hair which gave him his name fell in waves to his waist. It was a rich and radiant gold which seemed to capture the light of the sun. His bright eyes were at that moment the same azure blue as the sky, but they could darken to violet with anger or emotion, and turn blue-grey when he was deep in thought. His form, lithe and slender as his kind were wont to be, held a coiled power, and there was strength in his shoulders. His face was open and true, and its expression was frank and curious rather than awestruck as he gazed into the face of the Elder King.

“Laurefindil of Gondolin, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower. In days of old there was a motto writ on your shield. Tell me of it,” said the Lord of the Winds.

“It was ′To serve and to protect,’ herunya.”

“Indeed. And the time has come once again for you to serve and protect. For the dark rises again in the lands beyond the Sundering Seas. And one of the line of Turakáno, to whom you did swear allegiance, is in need of your help.”

The elf’s eyes flashed with white fire, and his whole being glowed. His smile made the sunlit meadow seem even brighter. “I shall be glad to go! When shall I depart?”

“Such eagerness.” Manwë smiled upon him. “In this land of bliss where there is no fading, you have felt still a restlessness in your spirit, have you not?”

Glorfindel’s smile faded a little. “Yes.” It had seemed to him that he alone of all the Eldar in Eldamar experienced this discontent, this lack of purpose. It had drawn him into the mountains to train with Tulkas, to the Gardens of Estë to learn healing, to the forests and fields south to hunt with Oromë. And to the shores to gaze east over the waves and dream of the lands where he had been born, and had been slain. Then, to his surprise, whenever he had sought to return to Eldamar to find a means of service – either in the courts of Finarfin King of the Noldor, or with the fleets of Olwë King of the Teleri—the Valar had found various distractions for him. Years herding for Yavanna, or riding with the horses and hounds of Oromë, or sparring with Eonwë or with Tulkas, oft roaming the rugged mountains with the Strong One.

“A voice within speaks to your fëa. Of things undone, of a work unfinished.” The Vala leaned over and touched him on the breast. “And here, the merest whisper of a void. We bless you in this, reborn servant of light – in the lands over the sea, there shall be an answer to your deepest question, and there shall be found the missing piece for your soul.”

His brow creased by a slightly puzzled frown, the elf swept a deep and graceful bow to the King of the Valar. “May it be as you have spoken, herunya.”

Manwë raised a hand and called over a silver-haired maia with brilliant grey eyes. “Olórin shall be your tutor and companion for a season, till the appointed time to sail, and he shall explain many things to you of the lands to which you shall return.”

They had seen each other, in the Gardens of Estë, but had not spoken. There had always been a warm twinkle in the maia’s grey eyes that Glorfindel liked, and as they smiled at each other now, a friendship was born.

“Almost a millennium has passed since your rebodiment,” Manwë was saying, “And much of it you have spent in training with Tulkas, in the gardens of Estë, or here with Oromë. Go now to Eldamar. Olórin shall journey with you, and you may be with those you love and say your farewells.”

“I thank you, Lord Manwë.” The elf bowed deeply again. He glanced sheepishly at Oromë. “I shall fashion new arrows ere I depart.”

“Good,” huffed Oromë sternly. But the eyes of the Lord of the Hunt rested fondly enough on the elf.

“It is said that you didst once persuade the Strong One to leave his mountains for some days of leisure by the sea,” said Manwë.

“Ye-es,” admitted the elf. “But I can assure you that Lord Tulkas enjoyed it as much as I did. We rode on the waves with the Teleri, and he wrestled with a kraken. Lord Ulmo will vouch for it.”

The thunder of the Valar’s laughter was heard again.

Emboldened, the elf smiled and added, “Heruvinya, may I have one request?”

“Ask it,” said Oromë with a smile, for the elf’s eyes were upon the Lord of the Hunt.

There was a brighter sparkle in the blue eyes. “May Asfaloth go with me?”


Glorfindel had few belongings after a thousand years in Valinor. So much of his time had been spent in the forests of the Lord of the Hunt, in the mountains training with Tulkas the Strong, or travelling remote parts of the undying lands, that his room in Idril’s house at Tol Eressëa did not have a lived-in feel. He packed everything in ten minutes. One bag for all his clothes and personal items, another larger one for his weapons.

He felt Idril’s presence before he actually turned and saw her at the bedchamber door. Her beauty lit up the doorway. A beauty that had once stirred a darkened heart to forbidden desire. A beauty that had incited that dark heart to treachery and brought the hosts of Angband upon a white city hidden in the mountains.

Idril Celebrindal held out a long, slender sword whose hilt and scabbard glittered with crystals and were inlaid with gold. “Take this, pitya.”

“Your sword, Ammë? But why?”

In Ennor, they had not used these childhood terms of address since he came of age, when she was the daughter of the king and he was the Lord of the House of the Golden Flower. But strangely, since he had been rebodied, they had fallen back into the habit of his early years.

He made no move to take the sword, but gave her a mock-wounded look. “You would return my gift to me, Ammë of mine?”

She smiled. “Precious as it is to me, it is a shame to keep so fine a sword idle here, where there is no use for it.” She unsheathed the sword and admired the shining blade. “There will be more use for it where you are going.” She slid it back into its scabbard.

“But what should I do with a lady’s sword, too small for me?”

She stooped and slipped her sword into the bag which held his own two magnificent swords, crafted by no other than Aulë himself.

“You may find someone to give it to,” she said as she straightened. “Someone who can use it as it deserves. Someone…” she arranged the collar of his tunic and smoothed out the creases in its front, in that proprietary way mothers seem to have. “…special.”

“You never do give up hoping,” he laughed.

“Well, I have a feeling…” she began playfully but then her voice trailed off. Their eyes met and abruptly she looked away, the smile dying from her face as she seated herself in a chair by the window.

Glorfindel awkwardly stood by her. What could he say that might lift her spirits and make the parting easier? Outside, the sea was dark and vast in the night, and the resonant sound of the waves rolling in reminded them of the distance that would soon yawn between them again. A brilliant white star burned in the heavens, as Idril’s other son, the son of her blood, sailed the night skies in his white ship.

And Glorfindel said the only thing that came to his head at that moment. “Tell me again, Ammë, the story of how you found me.”

A long time ago, in another bedchamber, across the ocean, when Idril’s foster son had barely reached her knee, he had sat on her lap and listened to the sound of the waves at Nevrast as she told him that tale.

The princess raised her eyebrows and looked up at the tall warrior, leaning her cheek on a slender hand. They both knew he could remember every word she had ever said. “Why would you want to hear it again, now?” She laughed lightly, but looked a little discomfited.

He had no idea why he did. With a small shrug and his boyish smile, he said lightly, “A silly whim, is it not? But I just do.”

“Well then, come and sit here, yonya,”she said in the indulgent, caressing voice she had used for him when he had been tiny.

So with a smile he sat his tall frame on the floor by her, leaning his back against the leg of the chair. She combed her slender fingers through the soft waves of his golden mane, darker and richer than hers, and began in a singsong storytelling voice:

“It was an autumn evening in Nevrast, just after the feast of starlight. I was running, running, running home. I had spent the day dancing along the beach and picking shells, as I often did, and the time had flown away on swift wings. ‘Oh Varda!’ thought I to myself: ’How cross Atto will be that I am late for dinner again!’

“The stars glittered bright in the sky, and already a light autumn frost sparkled on the ground. I heard a sound some way before I reached the palace steps—a sound, like an angry kitten mewing,” she pulled his earlobe teasingly. “And there—there at the top of the stairs, was a white bundle of cloth, and it was moving.

“I caught it ere it could fall down the stairs and saw, peeking out at me from swathes of white linen, the littlest, brightest, summer-blue eyes. You were so tiny, pitya, no more than a month or two old, but already such a little charmer. I was yours from the moment you smiled at me.

“Your white linen cloth was of the finest quality, woven with a pattern of leaves in the border, such as we used to have in Valinor in the palace of my grandfather, the King of the Noldor. And pinned in the cloth was a golden brooch, shaped like a flower with eight fair petals, a sunburst like the yellow flowers that blossom in the gardens of Estë.”

Both cloth and brooch had been lost in the fall of Gondolin, he thought with some regret. They had yielded no clue to his parentage then, but here in Aman he might have traced their origins…

“And I thought, surely this babe is of high-elven and noble birth,” Idril said. “And surely his parents must have loved him so, to leave him at the doors of Prince Turakáno’s palace. They must have wished him to be well-cared for… and safe…” Her voice trailed off a second time.

Glorfindel turned to look up at her, and saw in her eyes the dark haunted look she always had when she remembered. Remembered the day he had been dragged down into the depths of a chasm by his hair.

Kneeling before the chair, he wrapped his arms tightly round her and held her. “Hush, amya, hush,” he murmured. She sobbed and clung to him, recalling the horror of empty blue eyes and a scorched body covered in blood. He frowned as his mind caught wisps of images from her memories. “No, no, not that. Look at me. Ammë, look at me!” Once he succeeded in possessing her gaze, his luminous smile dispelled the horrors. “See? Here I am. Very much alive.”

Her sobs subsided, and she was able to speak in a level voice. “Yonya, do not go. Let them send another. Why need it be you?”

“I know not why I was chosen, but ai! How my heart leapt as Manwë spoke! Forgive me—I would not turn aside from this path. It calls to me. And all shall be well, I know it, have no fears.” He added lightly, “You did always long to have news of your grandson, did you not? I wonder if he be more like unto Eärendil, or unto Elwing? When I find him, I shall tell him all the tales of Gondolin. About his grandparents, the peerless Princess of the Silver Foot and the valiant Lord of the Wing. About his august great-grand sire, King Turukáno. And what his imp of a father was like as a boy.”

With a small smile, the Princess said in her crystalline voice, “And tell Elrond that we await him here.”

Glorfindel nodded, and added blithely, “Together he and I shall vanquish this Shadow that is said to arise, and before you know it, I shall be back—with him.”

Idril did not believe this optimistic prophecy in the least, but she smiled bravely. Taking her foster son’s face in her hands, she kissed his forehead, then pushed back his heavy, famous golden mane from his face, and said huskily, “Take care not to wear your hair too long”.

“Yes, my princess. I am relieved you do not insist I shear it off or bun it up,” he joked.

Idril shook her head and smiled wryly. “Knowing you? You’d return to Mandos first,” she said with a catch in her voice.

And abruptly, she embraced him as though a balrog sought to wrest him from her again.


Late that night, Glorfindel sat on the ledge of his window and stared out across the vast darkness of sky and ocean. His hair, as it streamed in the strong sea breeze, seemed to gather the cold, silver starlight and weave it into the golden glow of a sunrise.

Your deepest question.

Ever since Manwë had spoken, Glorfindel had pondered that. He had been seeking for a purpose to his second life, and the Valar seemed to have finally given it to him. The only other deep question that he might have was the one he had buried so deep within his heart that he had refused to even think of it for almost one and a half millennia. The question of his parentage.

That must have been what prompted him to ask Idril once more for the tale. And now he had heard it a second time, it disturbed him. Every detail was as she had told him when he was a child. Yet something in her voice, now he heard it as a grown elf, had not rung true.

That Idril could lie to him was inconceivable. But he could not shake it – the conviction that something in the story was false. Or being withheld. Yet she had been so upset just now, that he had not wished to question her further—this remarkable foster Amil, who had loved him more than any mother of his flesh and blood could possibly have.

The answer, said Manwë, lay back there, in the mortal lands beyond the great ocean.

Much of his first life in Ennor had been spent hidden away in a secret mountain kingdom. Now, he might have a chance to search those lands—at least, the parts of them not sunk beneath the waves in the War of Wrath. He allowed himself, for the first time since childhood, to wonder about the ones who had given him life. Leaning his golden head against the hard stones of the tower window, he began to dream as he drowsed. Of being a treasured son lost, stolen away by enemies, and mourned and sought for long years. Of being an unwanted child, discarded, and rejected once more on his return.

He was awakened by a gentle touch on his arm, and saw the first rays of Arien as she lighted the horizon with the blazing fruit of Laurelin she bore. He looked over his shoulder to see a silver-haired maia standing behind him.

“I am glad you did not manage to kill yourself last night by falling out of the window,” said Olórin with a smile. “The ship awaits.”

And with a smile as dazzling as the sunrise, Glorfindel shrugged off the heartache and hopes of his dreams. Jumping down from the window ledge, he picked up his bags and followed the maia.


Glossary

Herunya (Q) – my lord

Heruvinya (Q) – my lords

Pitya (Q) – little one

Ammë (Q) – Mom/Mommy

Yonya (Q) – my son

Atto (Q) – Dad/Daddy

Amil (Q) – mother

Amya (Q) – my mother

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