The First Year
“Rules,” Maeglin said sternly in the pre-dawn hour, as they dressed on the ledge by the waterfalls. “I go to your chamber, not you to mine.”
“Unnecessary. There is no one else in that wing but us—” Putting both their bedchambers in the east wing of the house, just two doors apart, was possibly the most brilliant thing Erestor had ever done, thought Glorfindel.
“I’ll not risk it.” The thought of his golden glow in that dark hallway... “And we shall conduct ourselves as before—no kissing in the hallways, no groping under the dining hall table. In fact, we should sit apart as always. And stay out of my workroom at the smithy. Clear?”
As Glorfindel pulled on his boots in silence, Maeglin knew in wretchedness of heart that he was angry. Very angry. He quietly strapped on his quiver, bow, and knives with unhurried, precise movements, and his brow was unfurrowed. But she was beginning to feel his hidden emotions through this new bond forged between them, and his resentment towered like a black cloud over her. His usually expressive face was schooled to blankness—probably a bad sign.
As they made their way down the hillside, she grappled with her refusal to be open about their love. How could she hope for him to understand what she herself could not? Maeglin dared not trust it, what they had… knew all too well from her parents that the bright fire of passion had its darker face, that just beyond the heights of pleasure lay treacherous depths of hurt. Neither could she trust this incandescent happiness she felt… it was too unaccustomed… too new...felt too fragile. She feared it. Feared that to grasp at it would be to destroy it. Shatter it like glass.
Already Maeglin felt she was destroying it. That is all you do—bring things to ruin. Pushing him away when all you long to do is cling. Speaking hard, curt words when all your heart truly wants to say… is…
No. Do not say it. Do not even think it.
The silence between them grew unbearable. “Wait,” Maeglin said suddenly, and they halted. They faced each other. She saw the hurt smouldering in Glorfindel’s violet eyes.
“I’m… not good at this,” she said.
“I can tell.”
Suddenly Maeglin was swamped by a sense of impending loss. How swiftly the midsummer enquië had flown past…already there was a nostalgic ache as she thought back on the carefree, rapturous joy of their six days in the hills. We may never be so happy again. “Let us not go down yet. One more day. Let it—let it not—not end yet.”
The anger in Glorfindel’s eyes melted away. “That would be the surest way of giving us away, melissë,” he said gently. “They expect us back. They would begin to send out search parties.” He reached out and stroked her cheek. “Why must you speak of endings? We are just beginning.”
“It will be different...back in the house.”
“True. But why should different be bad? We will still be together every evening. And,” he smiled impishly, “we will at last have the comforts of a bed. If you miss the hills, we could still meet at the love nest sometimes.”—which was what he called their high ledge by the waterfalls, an hour’s climb from the house.
After a lingering kiss, Maeglin turned to head directly down the slope, and Glorfindel to skirt around to the south and approach the house from the Bruinen… but then, with a suddenness that almost caught even him off-guard, she whirled back around, leaped upon him, wound herself tightly around him, and kissed him breathless. Then tore herself away, and swiftly raced down the slope.
Watching her as she disappeared, he thought with a pang, it is going to be a long day.
Maeglin had barely lifted her hand to knock on his door when it swung open, and she was pulled in and smothered in a golden whirlwind of an embrace.
“Was that only sixteen hours?” he exclaimed. “I missed you so much it felt like a month!”
She had felt it just as much if not more, but in the middle of the next hungry kiss, her black eyes widened as they wandered over his bedchamber.
“What have you here?” Maeglin gasped as she pulled her lips away from his. “An armoury?”
Glorfindel leaned his cheek against her dark hair as he held her against his side, and tried to see the familiar walls through her eyes. “Things gathered over five millennia. Keepsakes from my travels. Gifts from friends.”
It was a long, spacious, high-ceilinged room. A hanging tapestry of a stag and a hunting party in a forest curtained off his wardrobe and the entrance to the bathchamber. Against the tapestry was a bed whose four wooden posts, shaped like graceful birch saplings, curved upwards to grow into the pale stone ceiling on which a forest canopy of leaves, flowers, and birds was carved. Lamps carved like vines and fruit grew out from the walls and bedposts, but none were lit that night. White moonlight poured through the four arched windows in the far wall. But it was not any of these that had arrested Maeglin’s attention.
Arrayed on the walls was a range of exquisitely crafted swords, spears, battle axes, shields, chainmail, plate armour, helmets, and assorted lethal weaponry. Pulling him by his hand, she moved forward to examine his collection with a curious and critical eye.
“It’s… beautiful,” Maeglin said in a hushed voice.
Glowing with pleasure, he walked at her side and introduced some of his favourite pieces to her—each piece exceptional for its kind, or with a story behind it.
She crossed over to a ferocious-looking halberd mounted on the wall, took it down, hefted it, and gave it a swing. “I’ve not seen many of these. Would not have thought it your style. Arnorian?”
“Fifth century Gondor,” he replied. “And all because you’ve not seen me fight with one does not mean it is not my style.”
With a gleam in her eyes, she took down another halberd and tossed it to him. “Show me, then, my tutor.” And she struck a fighting stance.
“Only if I get to choose an item of your clothing to remove each time I score a point, cundunya.” His blue eyes sparkled as he twirled the two-rangar-long halberd. “And once it’s all off—you’re mine.”
Maeglin tingled with anticipation as she smiled, and hoisted the halberd. “Bring it on.”
The silvery moonlight spilling into the room showed the trail of clothes across the grey stone floor… and the halberds lying discarded near the windows. And illuminated the rumpled sheets at the foot of his bed.
“That was possibly the shortest fighting lesson in history,” Glorfindel said, as they both caught their breaths.
“And the most enjoyable ending.”
His eyes twinkled merrily. “I have to tell you, my shy and secret melissë, that if anything gives us away it is likely to be you.”
“Oh.” Maeglin frowned, worried, and chose to overlook his calling her ‘shy’. “Do you think anyone—?”
“If they were anywhere below these windows, yes, I’m sure they did.”
“I shall be quiet as a mole from henceforth.”
He laughed. “No! I like you not in control.”
“Really. Such as when I tried to slice you to pieces.” Her fingers began idly to play with a bright golden lock.
“Such as when you let go… allow yourself to be happy.”
“I would not be happy if anyone knew.” She took one of her own black locks, and began to weave their hair together in a four-stranded braid. Black, gold, black, gold, black, gold...
As he lay watching her, he was filled with sudden wonder. “Think of it… Just seven days ago I would never have dreamed of us—”
Maeglin interrupted him with a snort of derision and raised herself on one elbow. The silken braid fell from her hands and unravelled. “Oh, you most certainly were dreaming about us. Did you imagine I would forget the depraved propositions you made to me in the healing halls?”
Glorfindel looked at her in shock. “Depraved propositions?”
She told him.
“I did not!” he scoffed. “I would never have said such things. It never happened.”
“Are you accusing me of fabricating it?” she snapped, sitting up suddenly. “Or imagining it? I absolutely loathed you. You were the last person I’d ever have had such thoughts about.” And she jabbed him sharply in the ribs causing him to burst out in laughter.
“Ow! Not then, of course. But obviously my little flower is imagining them right now!”—He chuckled as “little flower” earned a clout on the head from her—“I definitely have no objections whatsoever if you want that. But I am certain I would never have uttered anything of that sort back then to you or any nís.”
Maeglin looked at him with the most regal hauteur. “None of that was from my imagination. I had no thought of such things before.”
“Did I deflower an innocent maid?” Glorfindel pulled her down to him for a wanton kiss. “Come on, my prince—whatever we have done, and you are thinking of now, you must have imagined doing with Itarillë. Daily. Confess it.”
She raised her eyebrows and feigned ladylike shock as she lay on his chest and looked down at him. “I never imagined anything of that nature with regards to Itarillë,” she said, with a primness incongruent with the way she had just kissed him. “My knowledge of such matters was too… basic for that.”
“Are you in earnest? Did your father never give you the talk on the ways of a man with a woman?”
“Perhaps he was saving up the finer technicalities for when he’d marry me off to some kinswoman of Thingol to strengthen ties with Doriath.”
Glorfindel was shocked. “He would not!” Political marriages among edain were commonplace, but unheard of among Eldar.
“Don’t put it past him. But he never educated me in the matters you did in that treatment room. Admit you did.”
“How can I admit what I never did? What exactly did I say?” His face was a study in innocence and perplexity. Perplexity because he truly had no recollection of the incident she recounted. He watched sparks of golden fire begin to flicker wickedly in her eyes. She smirked.
“Allow me to demonstrate, melindo.”
And to his surprise and delight, her lips and tongue travelled down the length of his body and proceeded to show him just what a pair of beautiful lips could do to a very sensitive part of his anatomy.
And the balrog slayer thought he had died again and the Second Music had begun.
“Ai! Hîr Glorfindel! Thanks be to Elbereth you are here!” cried the dulcet voice from on high. “Oh, please help me!”
High above in the summer foliage of a tall elm tree, a maiden dangled by her hands from a branch.
Glorfindel’s heart sank. Not again. But conditioned by millennia of chivalry, he merely smiled gallantly, and said, as he strode over to the elm tree, “Eiliannel, what happened this time?”
“I slipped,” she murmured forlornly. Eiliannel the lute-player had required some form of rescue by the hero almost every five coranári over the past two millennia. One had to admire her regularity.
Earlier in the Third Age, incidents of distressed Imladrin maidens who had needed help from the balrog slayer had occurred at least once a month, peaking in springtime.
If the fair one was not stuck up a tree, she might need to be carried to the healing hall with a twisted ankle.
Or she might most urgently need to move a heavy object. A weaving loom. A large harp. A wardrobe in her bedchamber.
Or she might have dropped something into a body of water, be it the pond, the fountain, or the Bruinen. Whatever had been dropped, be it a bracelet, a circlet, or a ring, it would unfailingly be too far out and too deep to be retrieved by any method except by diving in—which suggested to Glorfindel that the object in question could have been flung rather than dropped. And the elleth always seemed to have been mysteriously stricken by an inability to swim.
And all of these incidents would occur when there was no one else in sight to render aid except for the gallant golden-haired elflord.
Thankfully, the decline of the valley’s population had witnessed a decline in such incidents. This was the first in a long while, even given the fact that Glorfindel had been away for over a year. And he was glad he did not need to plunge into water this time. He was never sure which was worse—stripping down to his leggings or leaving his shirt on. In either scenario, the sight of him dripping wet seemed to delight his long-term admirers exceedingly, and that always disturbed and puzzled him.
“I can hold on no longer,” cried the fair one faintly. “Edraith enni!”
“Let go. I shall catch you,” said Glorfindel, positioning himself below matter-of-factly. After dangling from a tree so many times, she should know the drill.
Eiliannel released the branch, fell gracefully with a swirl of silken lilac skirts into his waiting arms, and clung to him tightly. “Ai, Hîr Glorfindel,” she cried with joyful relief, “How may I show you my gratitude?”
“Stay on the ground from now on, Eiliannel,” said Glorfindel, setting her down on her feet. “Life in the tree-tops is obviously not for you.”
Her arms remained locked tightly around his neck. Her hair smelled of honeysuckle and lilies. “Oh, hîr-nin, I missed you when you were away for so long.” She pressed her fair bosom and her warm, lithe body against his and smiled up at him sweetly with large amber eyes under long, brown lashes… just as Glorfindel looked over the sward and saw Maeglin standing framed in a gap between tall yew hedges leading to an intricate garden maze.
It was a fortnight since their binding, and they had agreed to meet in his chamber in the hour before dinner, but she must have come out to the gardens to surprise him as he returned from the archery practice field.
His blood ran cold as his eyes met the fiery obsidian ones of his bondmate. He feared she would come over and rip the lute player’s still-beating heart out with her bare hands.
As Maeglin swung around on her heel and stormed off into the maze, he murmured a hurried courtesy to Eiliannel, removed her arms from his neck rather unceremoniously, and gave chase. The astonished elleth blinked and turned, but her hero had already vanished into the opening in the hedges.
Eiliannel sighed dispiritedly, then consoled herself. There would always be tomorrow. And the next coranar…
Glorfindel caught up with his love in one of the corridors of the maze, and she swung around on him with a livid snarl.
“Damn you! Do not touch me, do not even come near me.”
“What did you expect me to do – shove her away and tell her to get lost?”
“Yes! That is precisely what I would have expected you to do. I would in your place!”
“That is not my way! I’ve been dealing with this for thousands of years, melmenya! There is always a gentle way of getting out of these things.”
“The way you let her press up against you – you disgust me!”
“Ah, but I did not press back! That is what matters.”
“You were enjoying it too much.”
“I was not enjoying it – all right, well, maybe a little. Wait! melmenya, I was teasing! I did not enjoy it at all. Truly. Do you know how annoying it is to have had to fend off female advances for six thousand years?”
“Obviously I do not,” came the reply, as frigid as the Helcaraxë, as Maeglin disappeared further into the maze.
And she did not thaw out for the next enquië.
Not one word. Not one look.
To be completely shunned and ignored, after two short weeks of the sweetest conjugal bliss, plunged Glorfindel into the most abject depths of misery.
He paced outside Maeglin’s door near midnight for the sixth night in a row, knowing that she could sense him there, as he sensed her within the room. And finally, he heard the bolt slide open.
“Get in here before someone sights you,” she growled, and retreated back into the chamber.
It was his first time into her room since that first night she had spent there, nine years ago. It was much as he would have expected. Dark colours. Elegant. Spare. He had little concern for furnishing or décor at that moment, however.
“Vesseya—” he began.
Maeglin held up a hand to silence him. “I will not have it.” Her voice seethed with anger. “Fool around one more time with any of those trollops, and it’s over.”
He looked at her stunned for a moment. “Stop it! You cannot shed what we have as easily as peeling off a pair of gloves. Were all the waters of Alatairë to sunder us, still we would be joined. As Elrond and Celebrían are. To attempt to undo our bond would be to rend the very fabric of our fëar.”
“I—will—not—tolerate you fooling around in that manner!” she snarled, and he dodged as a large book on a nearby table was hurled at him. He swiftly moved forward and caught her wrists before she could grab hold of a poker from the unlit fireplace. Her wild, angry dark eyes glared into his and he glared back.
“‘Fooling around’? I do not fool around! Ever! Listen—I cannot rebuff any in need of succour, whether they be neri or nissi, nor will I be harsh to them. That is not my way. But I swear this—I will do naught that dishonours my bond with you. My heart is yours alone. How the nissi choose to behave is beyond my control—they have been at this for millennia and will still be so… unless… you end it. End it by ending this absurd secrecy. Make our binding known to all.”
Her eyes narrowed and her jaw clenched.
Jealousy… Maeglin’s familiar demon. For a century and a half its black claws had raked through his tormented fëa, consumed him with hatred for the Lord of the Golden Flower, and then for the Lord of the Wing. And now, the irony. One that Maeglin had been jealous of had become the very one she was jealous over. And in her breast now surged a madness so much more intense than even that first had been, fuelling a murderous, possessive rage to hurt and maim and kill. For he was hers, and Maeglin’s greatest terror—that he be taken from her. Bewildered, she could not understand her irrational impulse to drive away that which she feared most to lose. In the end, it was her own self she hurt most.
Glorfindel watched her warily. He could feel the inner war within her. She said nothing, but after a while he felt her wrists no longer straining against his grip. He released his hold, and one of her hands went up to wind in his bright hair and pull his head down, the other to tug him towards her by his shirt, and she pressed her mouth to his. Relieved, he wrapped her in his arms, and they forgot all for a moment in the sweet heat of their embrace and kiss.
But when they pulled away from each other at last, Maeglin muttered, “If any of those trollops go too far, I’ll skewer her on a halberd.”
Glorfindel lay against the warm curve of Maeglin’s back, his arm draped over her waist, listening to her breathing and her heartbeat as she slept. Feeling them.
After a sleepless six nights, he was yet wakeful. Despite how very satisfying the passionate lovemaking of their reconciliation had been, something troubled him...
Apart from the insane jealousy.
Apart from her insistence on secrecy.
Apart from the fact that she had not once said she loved him… He did not need words, though they would have been sweet. How she touched him, how she kissed, told him enough.
What haunted him most was that moment she had drawn back sharply from his mind-touch on the mountainside. And never let him in again. We are meant to have so much more… He could feel, deep within, an empty place where they should be one, where their fëar should meet. But she had erected her Great Gate of Steel against his intrusion, and should he try to breach it, she might only withdraw further. Or take flight again.
What secrets lurked in her dark fëa that she feared him knowing?
Did he want to know?
Be content… what you have now is so much more than you ever dreamed of having…
He had begun to drift into sleep when he suddenly jerked wide awake. Her body had grown rigid against his, her breathing ragged, her heart racing. But it was the disturbance deep in his fëa, sensing hers, that had woken him. Rage, excruciating pain, terror.
He shook her. “A cuiva, melmenya!—” But as on that night long ago, his efforts were futile, and she dreamt on; the torment he saw in her face, that he felt tangibly with his fëa, was intensifying.
He could bear it no longer. Effortlessly, his fëa melded with Maeglin’s, and he slipped into her dream as he had once before.
Moringotto… the Iron Crown…
The onslaught of pain beyond imagining.
But something else, this time. A gloating face. A taunting voice. How could anything be so infernal, so heinous… and yet fair?
And though the face was strange to Glorfindel, he knew it. Knew it from the way his skin crawled, from the unlight of an aura familiar to him from an age past.
Annatar. Sauron. Tar-Mairon. Whatever the name, whatever the form, or the face, or the voice, he recognized that evil, and his hackles rose… and all his training in the gardens of Estë and all his instincts as a healer and warrior screamed out to him to launch into battle without delay, and rescue Maeglin out of that nightmare now.
But Glorfindel was also a lord of Gondolin, once betrayed… he wanted the truth, wanted answers. And he was a lover shut out from the beloved’s innermost chamber… desperate for an insight, a glimpse of the hidden secrets. I need to know… I need to understand…
And it terrified him… what he might see. What he might learn. But yet he held on. Waited. Watched it. Lived it. Moment by moment… the promise dangled… betrayal… a regret and horror that almost made him weep... the unexpected shock of the golden-haired prisoner... then Sauron lifting the prince off his feet…
A sudden, vicious onslaught of foulness and malevolence beyond comprehension. And pain. Pain that made the earlier torments laughable.
Suffocating under the vile assault, under the obscene abomination of this violation of every level of his being, Glorfindel could be still no longer. Light unfurled into the darkness like a banner of war, and his song of power flowed with healing into her fëa and soared up against the demons of the dream.
And it was gone.
As he had nine years ago, Glorfindel sat on the bed and held Maeglin in his arms. Only now she was awake, and shivering, and strangled whimpers and gasps came from her throat. He felt himself trembling as well, drained by his exertion, and shaken deeply by what he had witnessed. “You are safe…” he said gently, holding her close. “You are safe. It’s over. It was only a dream.”
Maeglin’s head lifted slowly. The horror in the black eyes was directed as him. As though it had been he, not Sauron, who had raped her mind and spirit.
“H-how—how d-dare you!” Her voice quavered, but she had strength enough to push him away, and with such force that she tumbled backwards, fell right off the bed, and landed hard on the floor.
In a split-second he was off the bed and at her side, but she struck out violently at him.
“Stay out of my mind!” Maeglin screamed, shrinking from him like a cornered animal. “You have no right—no right—get out!—stay out of my mind!” Scrambling to her feet, she stumbled into the bathchamber.
Made slow by shock and hurt, Glorfindel found himself shut out for a second time that same night. The door slammed, and the bolt within slid home with a loud clack.
He leaned his head against the door wretchedly, cursing himself.
He had made a promise to Maeglin on the mountainside to never intrude into her mind again. And he had broken it.
How can I ever win back her trust?
Yet how could he have stood by and watched her suffering, her torment, and done naught?
Leaning his back against the door frame, he closed his eyes and the scenes of the dream replayed in his head. All was clear now. All made sense. The changes they had observed in the prince when he had returned to Gondolin. And why Annatar’s charming, mocking smile had haunted Glorfindel as so familiar, when he had first seen it in Lindon.
The torment. The more Glorfindel dwelled on the tortures and the torment the traitor had endured… within Angband… and after… the greater his own anguish grew.
Two hours passed. He paced restlessly outside the bath chamber door. Then heard at last the slide of the bolt. The door slowly swung open.
Maeglin stood in the doorway with her black hair falling across her face and clothing her nakedness. She held herself as though cold, as fragile as thin glass. Through the curtain of dark hair, the obsidian eyes glittered, ringed with dark shadows. Their black depths were clouded with fear. And dread.
Glorfindel came forward. Cradled her face gently in his hands. Held her as she wept. Carried her back to bed and offered her love and healing in the way she understood best.
As the sky lightened outside her window, they lay entwined. He looked into her eyes, and saw that they were clear. And serene.
“Forgive me,” he said at last. “I know I should not have… but I could not see you suffer, and do nothing.”
Maeglin said nothing. Something has happened. She could not grasp it. Something had… been broken. In a place deep within, where only darkness had been, she saw light.
She buried her face in his neck and held him to her tightly. Breathing in his scent which always made her think of sun-warmed meadows and a forest after rain... the distilled essence of summer. She felt her fëa float feather-free in the light of his.
His heart bounded with joy like a deer, at that one word whispered soft to his mind.
And with that, the Great Gate of Steel fell.
“Just back off, Laurefindil!” The words shouted in his mind.
Early autumn. By starlight, he saw the flash of anger cross her face as they and the six other warriors of the night patrol picked their way through the corpses of orcs on the forest ground and regrouped in a clearing. Glorfindel had a quick word with the rest, and they mounted their steeds.
“Back off? Melmenya, what do you mean?” he asked her as he rode at the rear, still on the alert for danger in their surroundings. Emlindir took the front. She rode in the middle with the rest. They often had these little conversations now, mind-to-mind, throughout the day whenever they met, she maintaining perfect indifference toward him outwardly, and he the most detached courtesy.
“Let us look at your tally. Seven orcs? Nine? And how many did you allow me to kill?”
He swallowed. Probably two. No. Make that one. “Forgive me, melmenya. I could not help it. It is natural for me to protect you.” Silence. He looked at her straight, proud back, in front of him. “Melmenya?”
But Maeglin ignored him for the rest of the patrol.
Back at the house, he managed to get his shoulder in the door before she could slam it in his face. They stood in her chamber, dressed still in their orc-blood-spattered armour. She threw her sword on the bed—Idril’s sword—and cast him a death-glare before beginning to remove her armour. He began to remove his as well. By now they kept changes of clothing in each other’s rooms.
“Stop riding with my patrols.”
“It is perfectly usual for me to ride out with the patrols.”
“But why always my patrol? You stay close to me. You take down my foes for me. How do you think it looks?”
“In the heat of battle, honestly, my love, no one would notice.”
“This is not about others noticing,” she said bitingly, as she removed her last piece of armour, the breastplate. “I fought in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad just as you did. I led my house into battle just as you led yours. You insult me with your protection!” She stormed off into the bath chamber.
“I know you do not need my protection. That does not mean I would not want to give it!” he said, tossing his last piece of armour aside and pursuing her. “I love you. I will always want to protect you!”
To which Maeglin told him something obscenely rude that he could do, as she began to draw the bath.
He joined her and said nothing for a while. Then: “I could not bear it if anything happened to you. Anything.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Oh? Like you did last winter? Like you did in the Nirnaeth?”
Words Glorfindel regretted the moment they left his mouth. The only sound was water running into the bath. Piercing black eyes drilled into him, glinting dangerously.
“So,” she said slowly, “Does that mean I am weak? Inferior as a warrior?” She shed her undergarments, dropping them on a stool.
“No! You are a good warrior—” He was removing his own.
“Oh, ‘good’. Not great. Not the greatest warrior in Endórë.” She picked up his shed garments from the floor with a frown, having already told him a dozen times not to do it, and dropped them on the stool with hers.
“That is the truth. But I respect you—”
“I spit on your respect, if this is how you show it—”
“You have been wounded before. You could be wounded again! And I do not know how I could bear that. I am not as fearless as I used to be. The thought of you being hurt… of losing you…” Even for a while. How long would Mandos keep her, a second time? A century? Another six thousand years?
Think not even of death. Just the thought of her wounded, or in pain…
Maeglin looked at him with her sharp gaze. “Your scars outnumber mine by over a hundred.” The finest network of silver on his skin, glistening and visible if he stood in sunlight... “You almost died at Barad-dûr. You have almost died at least a dozen times since you set foot on Endórë again. Each time you ride out, I know that you will place yourself where the fighting is thickest, that you will take on ten times more than all the others, and risk yourself more than all the rest. And still I must let you go,” she said. “You are not the only one with fears.”
Glorfindel gazed back at her in silence.
“We are warriors. This comes with the territory.” She shrugged with a casualness she did not feel.
“Just promise me you will not be reckless.”
Maeglin gave a short laugh. “As you are not reckless?” She tossed a handful of bath salts into the water.
Glorfindel did not speak. He stooped to stir the bath salts into the water with his hand. When he finally looked up at her, his eyes were grave. “Very well. I shall let you fight your battles. As you let me fight mine. I promise.”
She smiled wryly, kissed him, and pulled him into the bath with her.
And he took down her foes for her no more.
Her eyes flicked up quickly from the piece of jewellery she was crafting. She sensed before she heard the sound at the smithy window that he was out there.
Two clicks, then the window latch flipped opened, and the shutters swung open to show a tall golden lord in an ivory and gold festive robe, crowned with a garland of red and russet-brown autumn leaves. Behind him, through the almost-bare branches of the apple trees, a huge harvest moon hung golden in the dark, star-strewn sky.
Music and laughter floated on the air over the frosty meadow and to the smithy. In the great house of Imladris, the Autumn Feast was in full swing.
“What are you doing? I told you—” Maeglin said sharply, her tools still in her hand.
“—to stay out of your workroom—and so I am!” Glorfindel tossed high the slender gold wire he had used to open the window, and caught it again. “But who said I cannot stand outside the window and talk to my wife?” He twisted the wire back into a hair clasp and pushed it into the braids at the back of his head.
“Oh, get in here!” she said in the voice of one goaded beyond endurance. “Hurry! Before someone sees you.”
He needed no further invitation. With a grin, he swung himself gracefully through the window frame, and closed the shutters behind him.
“Why did you not tell me you were skipping the feast?”
“I… wished to finish work on something.” She was wearing a silver circlet and a dress of deep wine red, and it looked incongruous with her smith’s apron. As though she had prepared to join the festivities then changed her mind.
“I can bear it if you ignore me the whole evening,” he said. “Just as long as you are there. Will you come in soon?”
Maeglin did not say anything. She removed her apron, went to him, and slipped something into his hand.
Glorfindel looked down upon a golden brooch shaped like a sun-burst blossom with eight petals. An exact replica of the one that had been pinned on the swaddling cloth of a baby as a parting gift from his father-sister. And lost in the fall of Gondolin.
“Begetting Day wishes of joy, melindo… a little early.”
“It is… perfect.” He was deeply moved.
She took it from him and pinned it on the front of his robe. No one would know its significance except they two. “Go. I need to tidy up this place. I shall lock up the smithy and come later. Go now.”
“Not yet—there is something I would like to do first.” He swept her a gallant bow, and with a graceful flourish, his hand stretched out to her in invitation. “Come, my love—may I have one dance?” His smile lit up the workroom almost as much as the lamp did, and his azure eyes sparkled bright. The merry lilt of lute and pipe carried to them through the closed window shutters.
Maeglin’s eyebrow lifted. “You know full well I do not dance… cousin.”
“Allow me to teach you! None may see us here. Who knows—you may like it! How would you know, if you never try?” He caught hold of her by the waist, lifted her, and spun her around till she was dizzy, and she laughed in spite of herself.
“That is enough,” she said as he set her back on her feet. “There. I have danced. Satisfied?”
“Nowhere close. Here—” Holding her hand in his, he skilfully spun her across the floor between the worktables until she fell into his arms, dizzy and chuckling. “Did you like that?”
“Not as much as I would like this.” Laughing, she slipped a knowing hand into his robes and begun to undo the fastenings of his breeches.
“You merely seek to distract me!” he said indignantly.
“And why would you not let me succeed?” she murmured as she kissed him.
In one moment, they had swept one worktable clear, and in the next she was on the table with her skirts up and her legs wrapped around his waist when cheerful voices suddenly sounded somewhere outside.
“Ae! Lómiel! Open up, mellon-nín!”
“We know you are there!”
Maeglin stifled a curse and there was a brief scuffle as she attempted to shove Glorfindel into the small store room nearby. Glorfindel, after a silent but vehement exchange of thoughts with her, rolled his eyes skyward, heaved an exasperated sigh, and allowed himself to be shoved. As she closed the door, the loud voices and laughter were directly outside the shutters of the workroom.
Scowling as she opened the window, she saw Elrohir, Thalanes, and Camaen standing there and grinning at her, autumn garlands on their heads.
“Mellon-nín! You don a lovely dress, then hide yourself here?” Thalanes reproved her.
“Ay! what is this, híril-nín?” scolded Elrohir, climbing in. “First Tarnin Austa, and now the Autumn Festival displeases you?”
“We brought you a garland.”
“If you will not deign to come to the feast…”
“The feast will come to you!” By now the three of them had climbed into the workroom through the window, and Elrohir placed the garland on her hair.
“Say, has anyone seen Glorfindel?” said Elladan, coming up at the rear. “I have not been able to find him.”
“My thanks to all of you, mellyn-nín,” Maeglin said hurriedly. “Please return to the house. I shall join you shortly.”
“Oh, we can make merry here! Never fear!” Elrohir seated himself on the cleared space on the table as Elladan began to climb in through the window.
“What happened here?” said Camaen, bending to pick up tools from the floor, swept from the table by the lovers as they cleared it. It was unlike her, for she was neat and organized to a fault.
“I was careless. Please, allow me.” Maeglin gathered up the remaining tools and looked at them all. “You should search for Glorfindel, mellyn-nín. He might be with Erestor and Lindir.”
“Let us all go together to find him, then!” said Elrohir.
“Oh, very well.” She hurriedly tidied her tools. “Done. Let us go.”
“What was that sound?” said Elladan, turning his head towards the store room.
“Could it be a mouse?” said Camaen. “We should catch it!”
“Of course not! When have we ever had mice in the smithy?” said Maeglin sharply, as Camaen headed towards the store room to investigate. “It was nothing. Let us go.”
A golden head appeared at the window. “There you all are!” Glorfindel said severely. “How could you have a private celebration without me?”
“Glorfindel! We were about to return to the house!”
“Where were you? I searched!”
As they walked away from the smithy, a silent exchange took place amid the laughter and noisy chatter of the group.
“How did you get out?”
“The store room window.”
“What?? It is too small, too high, and locked!” The key hung by the forge, at the other end of the smithy.
“I have skills.” Glorfindel’s robe was pristine, and not a leaf was out of place in his autumn garland.
Maeglin could not help but smile at him in admiration.
But the slender gold wire of the hair clasp had been bent so out of shape, that it needed some repair by her the next day.
Glorfindel found that love made him do that which he would usually not. Like eavesdrop on his captain disciplining a maethor.
“What were you thinking?” said Captain Aníraeth sharply. She was a lean, wiry veteran of the Last Alliance with chestnut-brown hair. “Breaking ranks against my explicit command! Putting yourself and your comrades at risk!”
“I do not see that I did. The two yrch were escaping and I gave chase. I knew I was their match.”
“And you saw the fourteen yrch coming in from the south, outnumbering and outflanking us.” Aníraeth’s voice was dry and hard.
“I did. I judged that I had the speed to slay the two and regroup in time. And I did so.”
“Barely. You exposed yourself to danger needlessly. A warrior who disobeys orders has no place in the guard. Am I clear?”
The tense silence that followed was almost unbearable for the Commander of Imladris. Exactly what he had feared when the prince of Gondolin joined the Imladrin patrols. The pride. The arrogance. The inability to take orders from another. The reckless risk-taking.
“I apologise, Hest-nín,” said the maethor quietly and clearly. “It will not happen again.”
Quickly looking around to see that no one observed them, Glorfindel fell in step with Maeglin as she left the guards room and walked back with her to their wing.
“You were listening in,” she said without looking at him.
“Yes.” He was bursting with pride, and trying not to smile. They ascended the stairs to their level.
Maeglin shrugged. “I am neither cundu nor cáno now. I am ohtar.”
“You could be promoted to cáno some day. But you would have to leave the smithy.”
“Never. And I know why you were listening. You were afraid I was going to quarrel with her.” They reached the door of her room.
“It would have been like you, cundunya,” he said with a smile as she opened the door. Once he was safely in through the doorway, he could not resist adding, “A more arrogant and overbearing brat there never was.”
“Brat?” Her eyes flashed golden fire. She flung her gauntlet at his head, and he caught it with a grin. “Brat?”
“Mm-hmm.” He closed the door behind them.
“Was that the common opinion of all the lords of Gondolin?” She demanded as she began to strip off her armour and hang the pieces on a rack.
“Pretty much, though we never actually voiced it.” He gave her a hand with some of the lacings. “You always managed to get your way. What did Turukáno ever deny you?” …Besides his daughter. Words that did not need to be spoken. “A House of your own? It’s yours, Lómion. The best smiths of the city for your House? Of course, Lómion—”
“I invited, they accepted. I made no demands of the king for men. I never stole anyone from Rauco—”
“Who would dare refuse you? Leave Tumladen to mine ores? Certainly, Lómion. Refuse to remain in the city as regent during a war? No problem, Lómion—”
“His love,” Maeglin said abruptly. “Turukáno gave me all I asked of him. But not his love.”
And Glorfindel suddenly saw that it was true. The King had honoured his dead sister’s son in every way he could. A blind love, many had called it, for it seemed the boy could do no wrong. Aredhel was barely cold in her tomb when the young half-blood had been officially declared Prince of Gondolin. In ten years, he had his own house and became the youngest Lord of Gondolin. During the Nirnaeth, he had been chosen as regent, though he had declined. And years later, when he had re-appeared after a mysterious absence, the King had not even questioned him.
But it had been guilt, not love. Guilt for the little sister Turgon had failed to protect. For the boy he had orphaned. Turgon saw his dead sister each time he looked at his nephew’s fair face, and the dark elf he had executed each time he looked into the prince’s obsidian eyes. From the beginning the king had seen, in his nephew, blood tainting forever the city that had been pure white.
Maeglin’s armour was stripped off. She stood there proud yet vulnerable, strong yet slender in her undergarments. And Glorfindel gazing into her dark eyes saw briefly the orphaned boy who had just lost his father and buried his mother. Alone and adrift in a strange city.
Then it was gone. “Stars, I’m damn hungry. But I want a bath before breakfast.” She walked briskly toward the bath chamber. “Care to join me for a quick one?”
And following her, Glorfindel promised himself he would give her all the love she would ever need.
“Don’t leave me.”
Waking to find Maeglin clinging tightly to him, Glorfindel guessed easily it was another dream. Through the autumn and the dark winter months he had thought he had seen the whole gamut of nightmares from her infancy to the last breath of her first life. But this was new. As he entered her dreamworld, he saw there no vivid scenes of the first life.
No angry fathers screaming curses, no orcs or dark lords, no dungeons, no blond mortals.
Just a huge darkness. A formless emptiness like the Timeless Void.
And Maeglin, an infinitesimal, insignificant speck lost in it.
“Don’t leave me. Please.”
The voice was so hollow, so desolate, that it chilled Glorfindel. Had it been the plaintive, pleading voice of a child, had it wept or raged, he would have borne it better. Not this hopelessness. This bleak futility, this fatality: that everything, everything in the end, would always come to ruin and nothingness. Abandonment. He remembered the night of Aredhel’s funeral again…
Glorfindel held her close to him and kissed her hair. “Who’s leaving?” he said softly. “I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere.” Into the black void of her dream, his light gently stole. “You won’t get rid of me so easily.”
A small noise escaped from Maeglin, half a whimper, half a sob. In her sleep, she buried her face in his neck, and clung to him so tightly that his heart broke.
He held her through the night, singing softly, and fell asleep just before dawn.
And when she woke in the morning, as the first rays of the sun began to thaw the valley from its winter whiteness, she recalled nothing.
“Come with me to Lindon.”
“No! What excuse could I give?”
“What need is there for any excuse? Just say you desire to see the world. You have been here for ten years. Camaen could hardly begrudge you a leave of absence for a few months.”
Maeglin looked about the workroom. “There is all this work…”
“Truth is, you have given Camaen less and less to do over the years. Which is why he was able to finally find time in his life for a little romance. But now that he is betrothed to Thalanes and nicely settled, it is your time to rest. Especially since Camaen has a new apprentice.”
“That child. He knows next to nothing! All the more I need to be here.” A young lad of thirty-five, one of Estel’s childhood companions, had just joined the smithy.
“Camaen managed for forty-seven years by himself before you came here, meldanya. He can manage for five months alone. You take too much upon yourself. And work far too hard!” Glorfindel chided her. “Camaen would be the first to agree. Come with me! There is so much I want to show you!”
Maeglin looked at him uncertainly. “If we leave the valley at the same time, and are away for so long, it would be too obvious.”
“They can guess for all I care. You know how I feel about all this secrecy.”
In the end, despite all her misgivings, both the thought of being separated from him whilst he visited Círdan and the lure of travelling with him were too great.
So she travelled westward on foot with Gildor Inglorion, who usually wintered in the valley and departed with his company of Noldorin exiles as the first buds of spring began to open.
Glorfindel headed to Mithlond on horseback by a different route across Eriador, escorting a group of Imladrim who were sailing west. His errand completed, he visited Círdan briefly, dispatched a message to Elrond, then rode back eastward with Asfaloth.
Ten leagues east of Mithlond were the Emyn Beraid, and rising from the hills were three elven towers, built by Gil-galad—the first cousin Maeglin had read so much of but never met. The towers rose tall, white and slender beneath a windswept sky.
The lovers met at the foot of Elostirion—the tallest tower on the tallest hill—and all around them the world was verdant with the life of spring, with lush green grasses and spring wildflowers. Hand-in-hand, they climbed to the chamber at the top of the tower. There the high windows faced west, and from them Maeglin had earlier had a glimpse of an expanse of water in the distance: the Gulf of Lhûn, and her first glimpse of the sea. And there, at the centre of the chamber on a stone column, sat the one palantir through which one could still glimpse Eldamar.
Glorfindel turned to Maeglin as they set foot in the chamber. “Will you look into it with me?”
“No,” she said shortly. “Gildor invited me to. I declined.” The wanderer and his men had bidden her farewell just that morning and headed north towards Lake Nenuial, whilst she supposedly headed towards the southern ranges of the Ered Luin.
Glorfindel said nothing, but crossed over to the white globe and gazed into it as he had several times since Gil-galad had built the towers for Elendil in the last years of the Second Age. As Tol Eressëa appeared, fair and green through a rainbow mist, he felt Aman call to him as always… the city of Avallonë and its glimmering lights… the bright beacon of the Mindon Eldaliéva… glimpses of the Pelóri mountains… the soaring snow-peak of Taniquetil.
Always, this vision of beauty beyond all words had sung to him of home. More even than Gondolin. More even than Imladris. The rest and fulfilment that had eluded him there once, he would find there at last, when his time in Ennor was done.
But now, within him for the first time, a disquiet.
Glorfindel lifted his head and turned to Maeglin. She stood watching him, dread lurking in her dark eyes.
What did that land across the seas have to offer Maeglin? Over there could be found the multitude she had betrayed… one she had lusted for in vain… one she had sought to kill... one hundred thousand whose deaths were upon her.
He knew where home was now, this moment, for the two of them.
As the western sun poured through the high window and illuminated the palantir with a brilliant white fire, he turned his back on it. And went to her.
The sun shone warm and golden on a beach of white rocks and pebbles, and little blue waves edged with lacy white foam lapped the shore of the sheltered cove.
Glorfindel sat sprawled among the rocks above the tideline, leaning his head back and soaking in the sunshine of what was proving to be an exceptionally warm spring, and looking as though every muscle in his body was completely and blissfully relaxed.
He opened his eyes and watched Maeglin as she walked at the edge of the eddying waves. It had been a joy to him to see the wonder of her first encounter with the sea, along the Gulf of Lhûn. They had wandered a hundred miles along the Harlindon coast, and spent some weeks swimming, fishing and gathering clams. As they walked the shoreline, or rode along it with Asfaloth, he had told her of his life in Nevrast, and they had swapped childhood tales.
Maeglin was enjoying herself, he knew. But he could also see the restlessness of one so used to work that she scarce knew how to be idle.
“Come here,” he said lazily. “You’re giving me a headache pacing about like that.”
As she sat between his legs, he kneaded the muscles in her neck and shoulders. “You have to learn to relax, melmenya. Feel the sun. Just enjoy it. Just be.” He pulled her back to lie against him. “Do not think.”
“How can one not think?”
Glorfindel was baffled by the question. “Just—don’t. Be the sun on your face, and the wind on your skin. Be the happiness in your heart, that you are alive...” He kissed her cheek. “…and that you have me…” he teased, and wrapped his arms around her. “…and just be.” He leaned back and closed his eyes again.
And Maeglin took a deep breath, and lay back against him, and closed her eyes, and tried.
The moon hung vast and white in a cloudless, starry sky. They walked through the still majestic ruins of Himring, hand in hand, listening to the haunting, melancholic booming of mighty waves pounding against the rocky shore. This sea was a different animal from the sheltered waters of the Gulf of Lhûn. It was a wild beast roaring and flinging itself against land, seeking to break it down and devour it. Ossë ruled here, not Uinen. Glorfindel found it exhilarating, Maeglin both feared and was in awe of it.
The strong sea winds whipped through their hair, golden and black, as they stood looking out at the restless ocean from beneath the ruined stone arches and columns. There was a desolate beauty in the moonlit landscape. All that remained of the ancient elven realms of Beleriand. Her fingers traced in wonder, on one pillar, the faint outline of the burning flames of the house of Fëanor engraved in stone, discernible even after over six millennia of ceaseless assault by the elements.
“Maitimo used good stone,” she said approvingly.
They looked out at the ocean, where all they had once known now lay, beneath the waves.
“So your grave is still there, above the waves, as legend says?” she asked. Upon it, fair stalks of eight-petalled golden celandine blossomed still.
He smiled indifferently. “Yes. But what does it matter if it is or not? I am here.” He had visited it once, in the early Third Age. It had been, strangely enough, Lady Galadriel and Elrond who had prevailed upon him to return there. Glorfindel was not inclined to be morbid.
Also strangely enough, it had been Maeglin’s idea to sail to Himring and look across the waters to where the Echoriad and Gondolin used to be. He had been afraid she would suggest going out to the island where his grave lay. But thankfully, she did not; perhaps it would have stirred her old demons too much.
They had found passage on a small Egladhrin vessel, which had promised to return to bring them back to the mainland in three days. Once back on the mainland, they would meet Asfaloth and journey back to Imladris past Lake Helevorn, down through dwarf country east of the Ered Luin, and through the Emyn Uial.
Maeglin was gazing to the south-west. “Nan Elmoth would have been there.”
Glorfindel scrutinized her face with some concern, but saw nothing to worry him. Coming here was her way of coming to terms with her past. There had been no more nightmares for a long while. The healing was on its way.
Midsummer was still chilly in Himring, even for the Eldar. Feeling her hand grow a little cold in his, he gathered her in his arms and held her to warm her. Her black hair beat against his face, and she moved out of his embrace and lifted hands to braid it back.
“You do not have to do that,” he said, knowing how braiding annoyed her. “I like your hair loose.”
“And flying about in your face?”
“I mind it not at all,” he said truthfully. “Unless,” he added teasingly, “you are afraid your hair is starting to tangle.”
“My hair does not tangle! Ever!” she snapped at him, ceasing her attempts to braid. “Does yours?”
“Never,” he grinned, and reached out for her.
Later that night, as they camped in a corner of the ruins more sheltered from the wind, Maeglin watched Glorfindel as he slept.
She lay on her side, propping her head with an arm, lost in thought as she gazed at his serene, beautiful face, his azure eyes dreaming, and his golden hair gleaming warm in the cold moonlight.
She looked to their future with a twinge of trepidation. This warrior of Valinor would sail west… and she was certain she would never. Whenever she thought of it, it seemed to her that they had no future, and their bond no permanence. And so terrible was the anguish of that thought that she shrank from it, and thought instead of the past year.
One coranar. The most wondrous coranar of her two lifetimes. Home for her now was wherever this hero sleeping before her was, and sailing to Aman a distant prospect. And as she looked at him, she felt him and all that he was, and was suddenly flooded with an incandescent joy that blotted out all fears of the future.
She was happy now. Happy with a happiness she had never dreamed of possessing just a year ago... Suddenly, it seemed to Maeglin that it had only been Glorfindel she had ever loved, that even in Idril, in the other life, it had been he that Maeglin had been searching unknowingly for. A surge of intense tenderness for him and gratitude to all the powers that be flooded her. As she listened to the rhythmic thunder of the waves against the shore, and as the silver light of the stars and moon shone down on them, she murmured, “Melin tyë, Laurefindil.”
“What did you say?” he said, his blue eyes focusing into consciousness.
She rolled over and lay on her back, and stared up at the stars. “Nothing.”
He leaned over her, his golden hair falling over her face. “I heard you! Say it again.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. You must have been dreaming.”
He began to tickle her. “Say it! I am not stopping till I hear it again.”
“Stop that!” she punched him, laughing. “Stop that!”
“I am merciless. Yield. Say it!”
And finally, after laughing so hard she hurt, Maeglin said through her chuckles, “I love you, I love you, I love you! Stop it!”
Glorfindel stopped at once, his eyes dark violet and full of wonder. Then he kissed her. She smiled, and closing her eyes as she surrendered to his kiss and tangled her fingers in his bright golden hair, her fëa spoke to his:
“I love you.”
And there was no more sleep that night.
enquië (Q) – elvish week of six days
Melissë (Q) – lover (female)
Melindo (Q) – lover (male)
Eiliannel (S) - “eiliant” (rainbow) + “el” (star).
Edraith enni (S) – save me
A cuiva (Q) – awaken (imperative)
Hest-nín (S) – my captain
Cáno (Q) – commander, leader