The Sword Laid Down
“Four periain,” said Glorfindel. “How can you send four periain on such a dangerous quest?”
The company of three in Elrond’s study looked out of the west-facing windows. A little snow was floating down in soft, light flakes. Four small, furry-footed figures, looking like children wrapped in soft, thick cloaks, walked below them on the snow-covered terraces overlooking the gorge of the Bruinen.
Elrond was silent in response to Glorfindel’s question. He had, indeed, initially considered sending his Commander. For could there have been a more natural choice? The warrior had slain a balrog. He had driven Sauron out of Lindon and fought against him at Eregion and at Barad-dûr. He had defeated the Witch-King of Angmar at Fornost, and the Nazgûl fled before his power. There had seemed to be little need to even deliberate it.
But Gandalf had been seeking behind closed doors to persuade the Lord of Imladris otherwise, and when young Peregrin Took had loudly voiced his determination to follow the Fellowship willy-nilly if he was excluded, Elrond had relented—suddenly, and against his better judgement. And with that, four hobbits had completed the fellowship.
Glorfindel, standing behind Elrond as the decision had been made, had been stunned, then appalled, then up in arms.
Now, the elf-lord, the wizard and the elf-warrior stood by the study windows listening to the hobbits’ banter as it mingled with the rushing song of the Bruinen river.
“They barely know how to hold a short sword,” said the balrog slayer. “In an attack by yrch and wargs, they would survive a minute if they are lucky.”
“Thankfully, they will not be on their own,” said Gandalf.
“Yes, thank Eru. But the five of you should concentrate on protecting the Ringbearer and Samwise. Why have Meriadoc and Peregrin add to the burden? They are mere babes!”
As if to prove his point, the two younger hobbits began at that point to roughhouse each other over a disparaging remark about the wit of Tooks. Soon handfuls of snow, and guffaws of laughter, and silly words were flying wildly back and forth on the terrace.
Glorfindel, well-known to love a good snow fight, could only say with a sigh, “At least their throwing aim is good. If only snowballs and stones would be proof enough against the Nazgûl and against yrch wielding swords and spears. I have grown deeply fond of the periain. But I fear for them and the success of the quest if they are four out of the nine you send. I would have desired a month at least to train them in the fundamentals of swordplay, and they are leaving in a week.”
“I do not believe fighting prowess will matter greatly in this quest,” said Gandalf.
“With the armies of the Shadow overrunning the lands east, it is hard to believe they would have no use for it. And you have not given a single good reason why Meriadoc and Peregrin should go. ‘Trust to their friendship.’ What manner of logic or wisdom is that, Mithrandir?”
They watched the hobbits gaze south across the Bruinen gorge and huddle together in quieter, more earnest talk. They might have no idea of what lay before them, but they were feeling some of its enormity. As they looked towards the mountains, they looked smaller, more child-like, and more vulnerable than ever.
“Elrond,” said Glorfindel softly, sensing the slightest wavering in his lord. “Send me with them. Please. Surely it was for a time such as this that I was sent.”
“There are many reasons why it is not for you to go, Glorfindel,” said Gandalf.
“Since we rely on speed and secrecy, their number must be small,” said Elrond
“Why nine? Why not ten? Ten is still a small number. Nine walkers for nine riders is poetic rubbish. One more elf. Just one more.”
“This is the age of mortals,” said Elrond. “In many senses this is no longer our war, deeply though we may care about its outcome and the fate of these lands we are soon to depart.”
Glorfindel understood that Elrond spoke for the Eldar. For Legolas, half-Silvan in blood, prince of a people who had no desire to sail west and whose roots were deep in this land, it was still his fight.
“Can an elf not elect to fight for mortals? Would they protest?” he said in exasperation, even as he pondered if he, too, might not remain and thus make this fight his.
“Should we send two for the elves, you may be sure the dwarves will be up in arms,” said Gandalf. “And since secrecy is of the utmost importance, you cannot go. You would draw notice. Your light and power would shine like a beacon to the enemy.”
“And yours would not? You both know that I travel in the Wild all the time. Mithrandir, you have travelled with me! You know I can pass unobserved. Almost as well as you do.”
It was true. With his shining hair hidden by cloak and hood, he could pass as silently and secretly as any other through any terrain. Unfortunately, at the moment that he spoke, the winter sun emerged from behind a cloud and its beams shone through the study windows. His golden hair caught and magnified it in a dazzling halo, and his whole being was illuminated in a nimbus of light. It seemed to be as a verdict from the heavens.
Elrond and Gandalf looked at the luminous vision of beauty before them—Glorfindel at his least inconspicuous—and smiles played at the corners of their mouths.
“Do you need me to shear off my hair?” the warrior asked with a touch of desperation, almost half-serious.
“It is more than the hair.” Gandalf’s eyes twinkled. “One manifestation of your power in battle against orcs or the Nazgûl and we would be given away.”
“One flash of light from your staff would arguably do the same,” Glorfindel retorted. “If you can avoid using your staff and magic, I can avoid displays of power. I shall rely alone on my sword and my bow and the strength of my limbs, and those would surely be of use.”
“This quest is not a matter of strength, Glorfindel,” said Gandalf. “Not a matter of strength, or a warrior’s skill.”
“Strange is the wisdom of a maia. Is the quest then a matter of skill with a sling or pebble and a penchant for good food? The periain are neither quieter nor stealthier than an elf, and they are venturing into lands swarming with orcs armed to the teeth!”
“You are the tallest and mightiest of elf-lords and elf-warriors in Ennor, Glorfindel, and it is true that in battle you are worth an army,” said Elrond. “But this quest is not an open confrontation with the dark forces. It is that which is small, even that which is deemed weak and insignificant—precisely that which the Dark Lord would scorn to notice—which will ultimately be his undoing. This is not your quest.”
“I am sworn to protect. With the fate of all Ennor hanging in the balance, how do you expect me to stand idly by as the Ringbearer walks into the jaws of Mordor? It is a hard thing, as a warrior, to be told to lay your sword down when a war has begun. Mithrandir, you told me, some time ago, that my service in Ennor was not done. That there was a purpose to my being here.”
“Your place and purpose is here in this realm, and at my side,” said Elrond. “Stay and protect this valley, for we do not know if any dark assault will come against it.”
Glorfindel sighed deeply, and folded his arms, struggling within himself.
“Be sure that there will be many battles fought across Ennor in the struggle that is to come,” said Gandalf. “You do not have to walk with the Ring to play a part.”
Glorfindel gazed out of the window across the valley he loved so well and was silent for a while. “When I rode out with the scouts, we encountered some wargs, but I felt it deep in my fae: there will be no dark assault upon this place. I know it. The battles of this war will be east and south of the Hithaeglir. My sword would be idle here.”
And Elrond and the wizard knew deep within them that he spoke true. The balrog slayer turned to face them, his fair face stern. “I have heard your reasons, and I remain unconvinced. I am not convinced that only nine should go, nor that my power would endanger the quest, nor that only one should go for the elves, nor that the unhappiness of dwarves over two elves on the quest should even be a consideration. If nine walkers it must be, I can only beg you one last time to change your mind about sending four periain. I offer the Company more than fighting, tracking or hunting skills. I am a healer. I cook. I know the lands and peoples between the Hithaeglir and Barad-dûr well. I speak all the languages of the Free Peoples fluently, and a smattering of Black Speech for reconnaissance and interrogation purposes. Let me replace young Peregrin Took! Send the boy home to the Shire, or I will use the same threat as he did: you will have to lock me up, or I swear I will follow after the Nine when they leave. Unless Eru or his Valar themselves tell me nay.”
And with a bow to them, he turned and strode out of the study. The room grew darker once he left.
Elrond shook his head. “I fear he may make good on his threat,” he said to the grey wizard.
Gandalf chuckled. “Well, well. He has called upon the name of Eru and the Valar. I have the oddest feeling he may just get an answer.”
Maeglin was humming—actually humming—as she returned to the house from the smithy.
Her mind was filled with glowing images of her accomplishment: the reforging of the sword shards of Narsil. Into that work had gone all her expertise and experience from her years in Gondolin and her years under her father’s tutelage. Every fibre of her being was singing and alive. She did not feel weary after the long day of work, though Camaen and Hatheldir were exhausted. She felt as though she could climb a mountain, take on a balrog alone.
Glóin had watched as the three elven smiths subjected the ancient sword of dwarven make to repeated rounds of welding, regrinding, hardening and tempering. He had glowered at them from under his thick white eyebrows, disapproving and dour, as they cast elven spells upon the metal and set many intricate runes of power and engravings of the sun, moon and stars upon the blade. When Gimli and Estel joined them at the smithy, Maeglin caught sight of discreet hand signals between father and son. Bets were on as to whether the sword formed from the fragments would be weak, whether it would lose length, or whether the metal would be thinned.
I’ll show you, you arrogant bastards. The blade will slice through stone like butter, and be neither thinner nor shorter by even a hair.
If Hatheldir had been unnerved by the dwarves’ scrutiny, and Camaen had been cheerfully oblivious, Maeglin’s eyes had glinted with relish at the challenge. She wondered what the dwarves would have thought had they known that Maeglin as a boy had watched the birth of this very sword in Telchar’s forge six thousand years ago. Some of the techniques being used now in the Imladrin forge had been learned by Eöl from the dwarves themselves, and refined and developed by him. And what would those proud stiff-necked dwarves think if they knew that those ancient and revered techniques of the great Gamil Zirak and Telchar, lost by the dwarves over the Third Age, survived now only in the memory of a she-elf in Imladris? And a faint smirk had graced her lips as she worked.
At last, the Sword-that-was-broken was made whole, and reborn as a weapon of surpassing beauty, lethal and strong. Not the slightest trace of the fault lines remained, and after they had given it its final grind and polished it, it had gleamed bright with a reddish hue as Camaen laid it in Estel’s hands. The resurrected sword had sung and flamed as the descendant of Elendil had swung it through the air and in a ringing voice given it a new name: Andúril, Flame of the West.
And Maeglin, catching sight of the hand signals between Glóin and Gimli, reckoned that if those signs had not changed too greatly over two ages, she could read there some grudging approval and respect amid the nit-picking critique. She met their eyes as they rested on her with some curiosity and wonder. And when she bowed respectfully to them, they bowed back.
Maeglin retired to the chambers she shared with Glorfindel wearing a triumphant glow.
In the end, it had been she who had moved in with Glorfindel after the wedding. With its two side rooms, his quarters had more than ample space for them both. Bilbo had moved out of the large adjoining room and chosen a smaller, cosier, south-facing room in the same wing. “I am only a little fellow, and I don’t want all that huge space and high ceilings. It’s all very good for you tall folks,” the hobbit had said, “but it gets too chilly in winter for my old bones.”
The smith was stripping off her sweaty, work-stained clothes when her warrior opened the door. One look at his face would have been enough to tell her his day had not gone as well as hers, even if Estel had not brought her word of who had been chosen as the nine walkers. If she was honest with herself, she would have realized it was another reason for her good mood. It was as though she had been holding her breath for two months, and could now at last breathe freely.
“Come here,” she said, clad only in a white slip and opening her arms to him.
Without a word, he tossed her onto the bed and dove in after her. Bilbo would have been thankful he was no longer in residence next door.
Sometime after that, as they sat in the bath, he shared his frustration and told her about his concerns regarding the hobbits, and recounted what Elrond and Gandalf had said.
“What it comes down to is this,” he said at the end, as he rinsed soap from her hair. “Is it not my duty and responsibility to be on this quest?”
“You were sent to help the perelda. Not to bring Sauron down.”
“Ah, that help to Elrond has from the very outset included bringing Sauron down. All the more since I have come to love these lands and these people.” And to hate Sauron with a vengeance. He remembered the deaths of Celebrimbor and many other friends in Eregion and at Barad-dûr. He thought of Maeglin. Gently towelling her hair dry, he realized how very personal this had become for him. He frowned as he caught sight of her thigh. “You’re bruised. Was I too rough just now?”
“No. I liked it.” Maeglin took a comb and passed it through his golden tresses, then asked a question she had wondered about for a long time. “Why did you and Elrond not sail back to Aman after the Second Age?”
“The Dark Lord might have been vanquished, but we were uneasy… Isildur had refused to destroy the One Ring, and with his death it remained at large. Elrond had other reasons to stay, besides. Neither he nor his new bride had any memories of Valinor, and his bride’s family desired to remain here. He himself had little longing at that time for a reunion with parents he could barely remember. For a while he kept alive hopes of finding Maglor, though that has waned over time.” He in turn combed through her hair. “For me, whilst Elrond remains here, so will I.” A silence fell… Elrond was preparing to leave soon, and the dreaded spectre of going to Aman hung over them.
They did not speak again until they stood in their wardrobe, choosing clothes. “Surely not the midnight-blue again, melmenya,” Glorfindel said. “You have been wearing that every week.”
With an arched eyebrow and a wry smile at him, Maeglin put back the midnight-blue and searched through the dresses further. “You were saying that you saw going on this quest as a duty.”
“In the last hundred years, I had begun to lose sight of my purpose here. Now we know that Sauron has returned, I have found it again. I need to see this to the end. To finish what was left undone at Barad-dûr by the Last Alliance.” Glorfindel was looking through robes of a dozen shades of blue and wondering which to wear.
Maeglin took out a dress of deep purple that she seldom wore. “You cannot bear to miss out on the adventure.”
He was about to retort that with the fate of Middle Earth and all its Free Peoples at stake, and given the grave dangers of the quest, adventure would be the last thing on anyone’s mind, when he caught her eye.
“You are right,” he admitted after a pause. “It is also that.”
“And I begin to see the meaning in Elrond and Mithrandir’s arguments. Sauron expects the armies of the wise and mighty to rise against him. He expects the War of Wrath and the Siege of Barad-dûr again. He would never expect the foolishness of nine walkers and the folly of small feet creeping into Mordor under the gaze of the Eye, barely armed.”
“I am capable of creeping into Mordor with the best perian! And I would want to make sure that they get that far… though I know you would rather I stay here.” He pulled on light grey leggings and searched for his blue tunic with silver trim.
“Of course I would,” Maeglin said, a catch in her voice as she laced up her white undergarment. “Had you been chosen, I would have said nothing. But you have not been chosen—”
She froze and caught her breath. They both did.
They felt it at the same time.
It was very small, very bright, very alive, and just come into being.
Their eyes, azure-blue and obsidian-black, grew wide as they looked at each other.
“Just now?” Glorfindel said, his eyes darkening with emotion. “It happened just now?”
Maeglin said nothing, still in shock, her black eyes dazed.
“How can it be?” he said softly in wonder. “During a war. Of all times, it shouldn’t happen during a war—”
Then another little light kindled. And Glorfindel, still gazing into Maeglin’s wide obsidian eyes, found himself equally bereft of speech.
Dropping his tunic on the floor, he stepped towards her and kissed her tenderly. Lifting her in his arms carefully, he laid her down gently on their bed. He looked at her belly for a moment, then stooped to kiss it.
He looked up at Maeglin’s face. She still looked stunned. Even aghast.
Smiling, he gently brushed a damp strand of dark hair back from her face, lay down beside her, and held her in his arms.
And as his fëa reached out to the two tiny, bright fëar in loving welcome, and drew hers close to cradle it gently in the reassurance of his light, Glorfindel knew he would not be following the nine.
Elrond stole a sidelong glance at Glorfindel, as the warrior sat lost in thought on a window ledge of the Star Dome. A chill winter breeze lifted his golden hair, and a light snow was falling, but he did not feel it though he wore only the thinnest of grey woollen cloaks over his tunic. There was little shelter from the elements in this high stone rotunda, despite the roof and the glass dome. Large open windows were set on all sides of the tower, giving clear views of the valley north, south, east and west. The Lord of Imladris himself wore a dark-red cloak trimmed with fur. Hardy as they were, not all elves were as impervious to the cold as the warrior of Valinor was.
It was now over a month since the Company of the Ring had set forth. As they had bidden farewell to the nine on a midwinter dusk, Glorfindel’s face had been serene. In fact, for the past month, Glorfindel had seemed to glow with a preternatural calm. The thoughts of many in the household were with the Company as they journeyed south, so the mood was more sombre, and there was less jollity and laughter in the Hall of Fire. But Elrond sensed his Commander was deep in thought over other issues. He had decided it was time to have a talk.
“They should have gone past Nanduhirion by now,” Glorfindel was saying to Elrond as he gazed south, “if all has gone according to plan.” He sat perched precariously on the window ledge, oblivious to the hundred-foot drop below it.
“I would feel better if you got down from that window, Glorfindel. Even you might be hard put to survive such a fall.”
The warrior swung himself gracefully onto the tower floor and stood next to Elrond.
“Glorfindel,” said Elrond gently. “I hope you do see why you could not go?”
“Yes. You were right. It was my pride that could not accept it. I have lived by the sword for five thousand years. It feels strange to lay it down.”
The border patrols continued to go out as a precaution. They had killed a few small packs of wargs in the first two weeks after the Company had left, but there had been nothing since. To have no work for one’s sword should be good news, but not when you know that there are vast battles afoot in far lands.
“Your sword need not be idle for long. Have you decided whether you will ride out with Elladan and Elrohir to join the Rangers?”
“I have decided.” Glorfindel paused, and Elrond saw a wistful look cross his face. “I will not go,” the warrior said quietly and firmly, looking out of a window.
Elrond followed his gaze out of the west-facing tower window. From it, one could see the Imladris smithy lying beyond the rooftops of the great house. Wrapped in a dark blue winter cloak, a slender figure was carrying a load of firewood from a shed to the smithy.
“Excuse me a while, hîr-nín.”
Glorfindel vaulted out of the west-facing window even as he spoke, onto the snow covered rooftop that lay twenty feet below. “Give me two minutes,” he called back over his shoulder as he raced swiftly across the different levels of roofing to the other end of the house. He swung himself down by the bare trees growing there, and vanished from sight for a moment. Elrond watched as he reappeared, took the load of wood from his lady and carried it into the smithy for her.
And it occurred to Elrond that maybe he should start observing Lómiel as well.
Glorfindel came swiftly back over the roof, scaled the tower with ease using the rough masonry for hand and footholds, and swung himself back into the window, glowing from his exertions but not even breathing faster.
“There are stairs,” said Elrond drily.
“Ah, but that was so much more fun!” said the warrior, smiling radiantly. “Now. Where were we?”
“Why would you choose to stay here?” Elrond demanded. “You are restless from idleness here, and your energy has no outlet. You know you want to ride with the Rangers. You were desperate to walk with the Nine, and now there are battles in which you are needed!”
Glorfindel looked deeply conflicted as he began to pace slowly around the stone platform. Then, as though it had everything to do with what they had just been speaking of, he said, “Whatever the outcome of this war, whether the Ringbearer succeeds or fails in his quest, you will sail west.”
“Yes. It is so.”
“I might not sail, peredhel.”
“What?” said Elrond in shock. “I know you have longed to return home to Valinor for five millennia, though you have not said it. Your family waits for you. Our family waits for you.” Four-and-a-half millennia of bearing Vilya had wearied the Lord of Imladris. He longed for rest. He longed for his wife.
“Home and family are wherever my love chooses to be. And I think that she may choose to stay.”
“She is young. Perhaps she cannot feel yet the call of the sea, yet surely she will go wherever you choose.”
“She does not wish to go to Aman. There are… reasons.”
“Ah.” Elrond nodded. “I have had my guess about her… origins.”
“You have?” Glorfindel eyed him questioningly. “And what might that be, if not the prince of Gondolin?”
From the balrog slayer’s wry, gentle smile, Elrond could not tell if this was said in jest. “That she might be descended from Fëanorians.”
“Aahh,” said Glorfindel, with a laugh. “Now, that would make perfect sense, would it not? The secrecy about her parentage and where she comes from. That pride bordering on arrogance. That dark, fiery spirit. That ruthless devotion to and skill in craft. I must say she does seem more Fëanorian than Celebrimbor ever was!”
“It would explain much,” said Elrond. “Including her fluency and preference for Quenya, and her accent. And her aversion to going to Aman. You did come across a couple of their strongholds as you travelled the Ered Mithrin, did you not? And they had intermarried with the Avari.”
“Yes. Yes, that is so.” Glorfindel was looking amused.
Elrond hesitated a moment, then added, “And for some reason… I have thought of Maedhros at times when I looked into her eyes.”
“His eyes were grey, were they not?”
“Yes. It was not the colour, of course, but something elusive… in the expression. A haunted look at times. That was in her early years here.”
The torment and darkness of one who had known the tortures of Thangorodrim.
“I am amazed, peredhel,” said Glorfindel, still gently smiling. “You were thinking this all these years, and never once told me?”
“I thought it unnecessary. You would have loved her regardless, and I had no wish to trouble your heart. Kinslayers are much hated. I grew up among them, and I can tell you they knew all too well their names are accursed. I would understand why a child of their clan would fear to go to Aman.”
Glorfindel looked deep in thought. “Then you understand why we might not go.”
“A child of her years surely need have no fear of judgement for the sins of her fathers. That was six thousand years ago, and has naught to do with her. You should assure her on that point.”
Glorfindel looked away for a long while, a light frown on his fair brow, as though debating with himself. At last, his glittering blue eyes turned to look calmly and gravely into the grey eyes of his friend.
“Elrond, it is for her own sins that she fears judgement.”
Glorfindel saw the astonishment and perturbation cross the peredhel’s face. He waited.
“You are not still trying to tell me—” said Elrond at last.
“You have loved her and been wed for sixty-seven years, believing that she is…”
“She is.” Then, knowing that Elrond needed to hear it, Glorfindel said solemnly: “She was Maeglin Lómion, son of Aredhel Ar-Feiniel and Eöl Lord of Nan Elmoth. Prince of Gondolin. Lord of the House of the Mole. She is now Lómiel, sent here in the body of an elleth to Imladris after six thousand coranári in the Halls of Mandos.”
Elrond gazed into the clear, lucid eyes of the balrog slayer and was silent.
The warrior smiled wryly. “Still you do not believe me. You think me mad.”
“No,” said Elrond slowly, quietly. “I am afraid I do believe you.” In his study room years ago, it had been easy to dismiss the balrog slayer’s nonsensical babblings as those of a mind deranged by the pressures of guilt, overwork, and repressed love or lust. Elrond could not dismiss what he now saw in those sane, calm eyes of azure blue.
“Thank you,” said Glorfindel quietly. “But there is no denying how mad it sounds. I do not blame you for disbelieving me.”
“When did you first know?”
“Elrond, from the very first moment I looked her full in the face.”
“How were you able to—when you had known her as… as… an ellon…and knowing…”
“It is all right, Elrond. You may say it. When I knew she was The Traitor.”
Glorfindel seated himself on the stone table at the centre of the room, pulled up his long legs and crossed them. “It was a struggle. You saw that.”
“I was repelled… yet I could not but love her.” Glorfindel rested his chin on his hand. “Then love overcame judgment… and at the last, truth nullified that judgment.” He told Elrond Maeglin’s tale. “It is one more reason I desired to walk with the Nine, Elrond. What Sauron did to her… it became personal in a way that even the deaths of Celebrimbor and all the others at Ost-in-Edhil had not made it.” He looked warily and slightly defensively at the peredhel. “So, do you now think ill of her?”
“No.” By now, Elrond was sitting on the edge of the cold stone table, next to his friend. “Not only because of what you have told me, but because I have never felt any evil in her. Pride but never malice. Secrets but never deceitfulness of nature. She has proven herself brave and selfless on the borders time and again. I admire her craft, and I trust in her sense of honour. She is a friend to all my children. She saved my son’s life. I have no reason to think ill of her.” Elrond paused, then asked, “Is this the redeeming work of Mandos? How… changed is she from the man she once was?”
Glorfindel reflected for a while, taking no offence at the question. “Much. She is no longer the cunning, self-serving prince she once was.” He smiled. “She is not even scheming or manipulative in the little ways that an elleth might employ to twist her ellon around her finger. She cares no longer for power or the playing of power games. It amazes me at times, how content she is with the quiet life we have, who once had the ear of a king and a say in the lawmaking and rule of a kingdom. She has found acceptance here, and love, and they have wrought as much of the change as anything Námo did in his Halls.”
“That Námo should send her here, rather than release her in Aman… does that mean she is exiled?”
“I do not know. I… I have not dared speak to her about that matter so openly yet.” He twisted the ends of a golden lock of hair in his lap. “It is the one thing we dare not speak of. But if exile it is, my desire would still be to sail with her to Aman. There, I would petition the Valar with all I have. Should they even then choose to turn her back to Ennor, I would share exile with her… But I have faith in their compassion and wisdom, if not in their friendship with me, that they would hear my plea, and relent. The only question is whether she would agree to sail.”
“If more time is needed for you to persuade Lómiel to sail, then take it. Mine will not be the last ship, and it will be a number of years ere Círdan himself departs from Ennor and ships are built no longer at Mithlond.
Glorfindel nodded. “It is still my hope to persuade her. But there is another matter I must speak of… Should she reject the west, if the Ringbearer succeeds and peace comes, once you shall depart perhaps she and I might remain here in Imladris. Or go to the Greenwood to live among the Avari. But should the Ringbearer fail…”
He looked away south again. The sky was grey, and the snow was beginning to fall more heavily.
“Should Frodo fail, Elrond, then you must do one thing for us. I would ride out to join Estel and the Men of the West,” he said calmly, “And we will fight the Shadow with all the strength that remains to us. And I know her. Once she is able, she will come to fight at my side.” The blue eyes fixed Elrond with a penetrating gaze the peredhel was more used to seeing from Galadriel. “But our children, Elrond… Take our children with you to Aman.”
Elrond drew a deep breath, a suspicion that had been forming in his mind now confirmed. “You are expecting… children? Twins?”
“Two boys,” said the warrior, with a luminous smile. Having boys more than girls seemed to run in the family, both sides.
“The first elflings to be born here in over eighty coranári… Twins in the time of fading! I am amazed—and delighted.”
“No less than we are, believe me.”
Elrond remembered Gandalf’s words and chuckled. But then he saw how worry contended with joy in his friend’s fair face. “It is wondrous news in dark times! Be of good hope. It is not like you to let your thoughts of the future be so dark.”
“One cannot have children without thinking of their future. You would know that. One plans for the worst, and hopes for the best. But you are right. In my heart of hearts, I do not think the Ringbearer will fail.”
“I understand now why you wish to stay here and not ride forth.”
“Not wish. Need. I do not think either of us can imagine how hard this is for the prince of Gondolin. Nothing—nothing could have prepared Maeglin Lómion for motherhood.” His smile was rueful. “She is by turns happy and resentful, throws me out of the smithy, snarls when I carry heavy loads for her...” He laughed. “Sometimes I imagine what Princess Idril would have to say if she only knew her cousin was carrying my children. It makes me want to both laugh and weep. Can you imagine us meeting your grandmother? I have tried to think of all the different ways that could go, Elrond. None of them have been good.”
“Could Lómiel’s past not be kept a secret in Aman? There are some things it is better none know.”
Glorfindel shook his head. “I do not believe we could keep such a secret from Idril, or Eärendil, or Turgon, or a hundred thousand Gondolindrim. I recognized Lómion the moment our eyes met. Perhaps it was destiny. Perhaps it was true love. But… perhaps it could be that any other who knew him in his first incarnation would also know him in this one. And it is not my nature to lie. We have withheld the truth, but there has been no need for deception in Imladris, since only I in this place know Maeglin Lómion as he once was. But in Eldamar? How could I live so great a deception till the unmaking of Arda? How could I withstand the scrutiny and questions of all who had known us in our first lives? I would rather it were known, and make a plea for understanding and forgiveness, than live a lie. ”
After a moment of deep thought, Elrond said, “When I go ahead of you, this shall I undertake: that when I meet our family on the far shores, I shall speak with them… my father, my grandparents… and I shall do what I may to prepare them. Even if only for your sake and mine first, they would surely welcome Lómiel. Over time, they would see, as I have, that she has been good for you.”
Gratitude shone in Glorfindel’s face. “Gi hannon, peredhel.” Then he looked hesitant. “Elrond… one more thing.”
“Should the worst happen, and you take our children to Aman with you… could you ask Lady Galadriel to bring them to my father?”
In the silence that followed, Elrond stared at his friend. “Is there to be no end to the revelations of this day? Your father?”
Glorfindel nodded. “Lady Galadriel knows. Forgive me that I cannot tell you. It is not my secret alone, obviously.”
“Mellon-iaur, you tell me you know who your father is, then in the next breath that you will not tell me?
“But even he does not know I exist! ’Tis only right that I reveal myself to him first, then submit to his wishes. He might not ever wish it to be known.”
Elrond did his best to keep his face neutral as he understood what Glorfindel’s words implied about his birth. “I understand, mellon-iaur.” There was a pregnant silence for a while, as both gazed to the south. “I have my guesses,” Elrond said after a while.
“Rather obvious ones. I marvel I had not thought of them before.”
“Whatever spells Lady Galadriel wove over me at my birth must have been profound. It may be that you are able to think these thoughts now because I have openly spoken of the matter to you.”
“Eagles of Manwë, I may be thinking of this for the rest of the day.”
The two old friends laughed, then abruptly Glorfindel’s smile faded as though he heard a summons. “Pardon me, Elrond. I must take my leave.” He vaulted out of the west window again and raced over the rooftops, turning briefly only to give his lord a wave of farewell.
Alone with his thoughts, Elrond sat on the stone table and gazed out of the tower to the south. All thought of Glorfindel’s origins quickly faded from his mind, and he was thinking of the nine walkers and their burden as he looked towards Hollin in the south, his grey eyes pensive.
As Glorfindel opened the smithy door, letting in a soft flurry of wind and snowflakes, Camaen and Hatheldir greeted him with relief.
“She was fine one moment, then she rushed in there and barricaded the door.”
“I was just going to look for you.”
Glorfindel moved towards the shut workroom door. “Melmenya, I am here. Open the door. Please.”
He was prepared for Maeglin to tell him rudely to sod off. Instead, they heard the sound of a table being dragged away. Glorfindel leaned against the door and it opened. He closed it quietly behind him. His beloved was pacing about the room in her workclothes and her leather apron, weeping.
“Damnation! What is wrong with me?” she said, her voice strangled with misery and resentment as she impatiently brushed away the tears on her face. “I cannot stop crying, like a fool. And I cannot work! What in bloody Arda is happening to me?”
He went to her and wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her, and gently wiped her tears away with a corner of his cloak. As he did, he reached out with his fëa to his children to reassure them, feeling their distress at their mother’s tears.
Even since the day of their children’s begetting, Maeglin had been fragile. If Glorfindel had cherished secret hopes of children in a far future, perhaps one day in Aman, the thought of children had not once crossed Maeglin’s mind. She had woken the next morning hoping it had only been a dream, and the first week or so had seemed surreal. Even as the Fellowship had prepared for departure, and there had been swords to sharpen, and arrowheads to make for Legolas, she had alternated between a state of stunned disbelief, and sudden moments of aching tenderness for the two tiny sparks of life growing in her. Then had come flashes of resentment at the unfairness, a sense of once again being toyed with by a capricious fate.
“Damn it all! I never asked for this!”
Just yesterday morning she had appeared so luminously happy, Glorfindel thought wretchedly. Just last night, before he left on patrol, she had seemed calm.
“They never asked for this!” Maeglin ranted on. “Who in their right mind would bring children into a world at war? How can we have children in a time such as this?”
“We do not know when the war will end, vesseya. It may be over in months!”
“And on what do you base that empty hope? That our fates are in the hands of periain less than a ranga high who can barely hold a sword, and are walking straight into the lair of Sauron himself? If they even survive that far. If you dare say ‘How hard can it be?’ I swear I am going to kick you in those nuts which got me into this mess.”
Glorfindel fought to smother a smile. “No, I would not say that. But let us hope and believe for the best, melmenya. I would like to think Eru Almighty in his wisdom would not have given us children had the world been heading to utter ruin and darkness.”
“That is complete muk, even for you,” Maeglin muttered, pulling out of his arms and wearily pushing her hair away from her face. “I wish Eru had kept them.”
“Love, you do not mean that!”
“Well, you can have them! Since you are so happy over the whole affair, you can bear them, bring them forth, nurse them, raise them if you will and leave me out of it!”
“Vesseya!” Just when Glorfindel thought Maeglin could say nothing that would shock him anymore... Amil did not mean that, little ones. Amil’s having a bad day… “I know I cannot understand what this is like for you… but I know adjusting to this must be tremendously difficult,” he said soothingly, pulling her back into his arms and stroking her black hair. “Give it time, love. You will be just fine.”
“What do you know?” Maeglin snapped, pushing him away. “Spare me your platitudes! You never had this happen to you. You will never have this happen to you. Nothing has really changed for you, Golden Boy of Gondolin, but everything has changed for me. It stinks to bloody Angband! It is not fair!” Suddenly she swept a worktable clear with one arm, sending tools and pieces of armour flying, and grabbing the mightiest warrior in Ennor by the front of his tunic, shoved him roughly back upon the tabletop, her eyes glinting golden fire.
“Now?” Glorfindel said, somewhat stunned by her aggression, but also aroused by it.
“Yes. Now,” Maeglin growled. And the prince of Gondolin climbed on top of him, and devoured his mouth with a kiss, fiery and deep and fierce.
At least she was not crying any longer, Glorfindel thought, and hoped fervently that for the next hour neither Camaen nor Hatheldir would try opening the workroom door that had no lock.
“Damn it, Flower, stop handling me like I’m made of eggshells. Touch me like you mean it!”
Glorfindel chuckled. “Yes, my prince,” he said meekly.
Maeglin was calmer, after that, her anger spent. They sat leaning against the stone wall, her head nestled in the crook of his neck, his arm around her. He folded his cloak and placed it between her back and the cold, hard stone.
“You should really move a couch in here. Or at least some cushions.” He turned his head and kissed her brow tenderly. “And put a latch on that door.” Now that the walls of her rage had fallen, he felt a strange, dark discordance within her fëa, something she was hiding from him. “Something happened,” he said, an edge to his voice. “What is it? Tell me.”
Maeglin’s voice was flat and hollow and her dark eyes were haunted. “I dreamed of him last night. I dreamed he took the children, and gloated he would do with them as he had done to me.”
Glorfindel’s blood ran cold. He had been away patrolling the borders all night, and when he had returned she had gone early to the smithy. “I would never allow that to happen. Never! He would have to go through me first.”
“That, too, is my fear.” She drew a deep, shuddering breath.
He tightened his arms around her. “It was but a dream, my love. Not a portent.”
With such certainty did Glorfindel speak that Maeglin’s fear was soothed, even though her voice was cynical. “As though you could know. Are you speaking with Sight?”
“Deep in my fëa, I know it. This place is safe. Our children will be well, and safe.” He gently tucked some loose strands of silken black hair behind her ear.
“None would rate their chances of survival as high, with me as a parent,” Maeglin said bitterly.
“I truly believe you will fare much better than you think.”
“Huh,” she snorted derisively.
“You will. I can see you as a good Amil. You love them. I know it, no matter how you rant.”
“Love is not always enough,” Maeglin muttered, thinking of her mother. Unreliable, irresponsible, free-spirited Aredhel. She had almost lost baby Maeglin a dozen times in the forest, forgotten to change his diapers till they overflowed, and oft left him to play unsupervised. As he grew older, she had hardly ever disciplined him, allowing him to run wild when he was not being apprenticed in the forge, hiding him from Eöl when he faced punishment for failings in his father’s sight. Yet she had completely, unreservedly adored her son, and he her. It was only now, as Maeglin faced motherhood herself, that she could see her mother’s failings as a parent.
“Love is the most important thing,” said Glorfindel, pulling her to her feet. “And I pledge to take charge of diapers, feeds, and baby baths. I have abundant experience in that.”
“I am sure.” Maeglin thought of a long line of infants stretching from Eärendil down to Arwen.
“You see? All organized and ready. All you need is to be strong and of good cheer for another ten-and-a-half months.”
And as she grimaced and groaned, he bent his head to hers and took her mouth in a deep kiss. After all these years, the familiar taste of him was still as heady as wine, and by Aulë’s hammer, he knew how to kiss…
He gently pulled away and rested his forehead against hers. “We had better go out.” His azure eyes twinkled. “I can sense Camaen and Hatheldir are growing rather anxious.”
“Let them.” Grasping a handful of golden hair, Maeglin tugged him back towards the table.
“A couch,” Glorfindel said, letting her pull him along. “I swear I am going to commandeer a couch from the house.”
Maeglin pushed pieces of carrot, potato and lamb around her plate listlessly. Eventually, she gave up the struggle, laid down her fork and sighed.
Glorfindel looked at her anxiously. She had eaten two pieces of fruit and nibbled halfheartedly on a tender piece of stewed bird he had placed on her plate. It had been this way for three weeks now, and already he could see her wrists were thinner, and her beauty was increasingly ethereal and fragile.
He had asked her several times if there was anything, anything at all that she felt like eating. She had shaken her head. Until finally, reluctantly, on this night, she named a food that they both knew.
“Laiqua Arancornë…” she sighed under her breath, and Glorfindel’s heart sank.
It was an herb bread that had been served only at Turgon’s table. Glorfindel had not been terribly fond of the bread himself, excellent though it was with certain dishes, for the herbs in it had been a little overpowering to his taste. The prince of Gondolin had not been particularly partial to it either. It had been one of Idril’s favourites, though, and she had craved it when carrying Eärendil.
Glorfindel’s heart sank because the herbs were probably found only in a valley which now lay drowned forever beneath the ocean waves, and both Maeglin and he knew it. Glorfindel had no idea even whether the tiny grain the flour was made from could be found anywhere in Middle Earth now.
Armed only with a clear memory of the taste and texture of the bread, Glorfindel went to the kitchens of Imladris. By now the whole household knew Maeglin was expecting, and her recent lack of appetite had much distressed the chefs, who took great pride in the hundreds if not thousands of years they had spent perfecting their recipes and producing the most exquisite of dishes.
The team of chefs adored Glorfindel. The warrior never returned from his travels without special or exotic ingredients for them from different parts of Middle Earth, and in between his warrior-training sessions, when he dropped by hungry for a snack, he would chat with them as he ate, occasionally washing dishes, chopping ingredients, or carrying in firewood. Thus the chefs took up the challenge he presented. They listened attentively to his descriptions of the lost Kingsbread of Gondolin. A light, crisp golden crust…a moist, fluffy, slightly chewy crumb…the savoury loaf studded with different types of nut, and redolent with the distinctive fragrance and flavour of herbs native to the valley of Gondolin.
“We shall find substitutes,” said the head chef. He fired off a list of herbs, and one chef went out to gather them from the kitchen gardens.
“My guess is there was a cheese in it,” said one of them.
“The grain was tiny, I believe,” said Glorfindel, wishing he had paid more attention to such things back then. It had been the House of the Tree that had overseen the grain crops. “But it was neither teff, nor amaranth, nor millet.”
“We shall experiment with all,” said one chef heading to the pantries to fetch the grains as another prepared the stone mill for grinding.
And so it was, that as hundreds of leagues away the Company of the Ring was scattered, and armies of Uruk-hai were on the move, the greatest warrior in Ennor sat in a kitchen sampling herbs, nuts, and bread mixes while the Imladrin chefs fussed over him affectionately like mother hens.
Two nights later, when Maeglin polished off the golden loaf set before her together with a large serving of stew, a jubilant Glorfindel bounded into the kitchens and gave each chef, male or female, a big kiss, lifting each of them off the ground in a huge bear hug.
And the chefs, beaming and blushing, basked in the glory of yet another culinary success.
The snows began to melt and the days slowly lengthened. There were no more tears, and fewer mood swings. Maeglin began to wear a luminous glow.
Then came the day when the elves of Imladris turned their heads south, and felt their hearts lift as the Shadow’s power was destroyed, and the spirit of Sauron, of Gaurthor the cruel, dissipated into the harsh winds sweeping over Mordor, never again to take form until the Dagor Dagorath.
Then there were songs of gladness throughout the valley that day, and dancing and a feast of celebration. The following morning, the entire household set into motion preparations long planned, for a journey that would have an end both joyous and bittersweet.
Glorfindel and Maeglin had a quiet evening in their chambers as they packed for the journey. As usual, he packed in ten minutes. He then lay on the bed watching her, observing with a wave of pleasure and tender protectiveness the very noticeable swelling of her belly now showing beneath the skirts of her green dress.
He raised an eyebrow as Maeglin slipped a pouch with smithing tools into her bag. “If you think I am going to let you mend horse shoes on the road,” he said, “you are much mistaken. Let Camaen and Hatheldir do such work.”
“Very well,” she said mildly, to his surprise. “But I will still bring the tools. It would feel strange to be without them.” As she folded a dark blue dress with silver embroidery, she glanced at him and saw his eyes still on her.
“I will be fine. Stop worrying.”
“Do I look worried? Have I said a thing?” he said, smiling.
“I can read your mind. A long journey, the road is hard. I am carrying not one but two of your children. My condition is delicate. Blah blah. Why else did you ask Asfaloth to carry me on the journey instead of you? That he agreed surprises me.”
“On Asfaloth, you will not feel the slightest jolt even on the hardest road. He agreed after choosing another steed for me.”
“I thought you would ride my Gilroch. Whom did he choose?”
“Alarcaro.” A black stallion with a white star on his forehead. “Gilroch has agreed to take Lindir and Hatheldir.” Those who barely ever—or had never before—left the valley had no mounts of their own. There would be some sharing of horses necessary, as many of the household took turns to walk and ride.
“I am sure Alarcaro felt honoured.” The other elf-horses had a great deal of reverence for Asfaloth, the shining white horse of Valinor, and for his rider. “I am glad you did not ask me to stay behind with Bilbo.”
“Would you have heeded if I had?”
“No. But it spared us a fight.”
“I know you would not miss this for the world. And truth is, I want you there at my side.” Glorfindel interrupted her packing, folding his arms around her from behind, resting his chin on her shoulder. “What do you think of having the babies at Lothlórien on the way back?”
“Varda, I am not planning on being away that long!” Maeglin laughed, moving out of his embrace to finish her packing.
“It would mean we could travel at leisure, perhaps spend some time with the ents. Should Elrond and the twins decide to spend more time with Arwen in Gondor, we may depart from there only in early autumn. It would be unwise to travel too near to your date. We could spend late autumn and winter in the Golden Woods. You would love it there.” And he wished her to experience its beauty ere the power of Nenya waned.
“I was told an interesting story at dinner,” she said nonchalantly, checking through his bag to see if he had forgotten to pack anything for himself. “Did you take note of a woman large with child in the remnant that escaped from Gondolin?”
“Not really, I was too busy making sure everyone was not killed, and then getting killed myself. Why?”
“She was not of your house. Ecthelion’s. She endured the hard road on foot, with little to eat, hard-pressed with dangers on all sides. In fact, she gave birth on the road to the Mouths of Sirion. And both she and the child were fine.”
Glorfindel looked at Maeglin curiously. “And who told you that?” he asked, wondering who would have unknowingly had such a conversation with the traitor of Gondolin.
“Erestor told me. He was the child.”
“Have you known him five thousand years, and never known of his parentage?”
“He never once spoke to me of it. Why does he hate me so then, since I saved his unborn skin?”
“Because you delight in playing such pranks on him. He liked you much better when you were still the dead hero.”
“That is a lie. I have not pranked him since the early Third Age, when peacetime in Imladris grew mindnumbingly boring. I cannot believe he has not gotten over it in three thousand years. The man needs to move on.”
“Not pranked? What do you call the snow drift from the roof that you dropped on his head just after the midwinter feast?”
“An opportunity too good to be missed. There I was, on the roof, and he chose to stand below in the perfect position. Anyway,” he added as he set both their bags by the door, “seeing how Erestor turned out is the strongest argument for our not undertaking the journey home too near your date. It obviously damaged him for life.”
Maeglin laughed and kissed him.
“This is home. I want to have our twins here.”
Pleased as Glorfindel was that she so loved this valley, he felt a pang at the thought that she would resist leaving it.
“As you wish, vesseya.”
They stood at the windows to enjoy the cool of the spring night… the beauty of the gardens, beginning to be lush with new life, the flowers fragrant just below their windows. The roar of the Bruinen beyond the garden terrace, swollen with meltwater, rushing through the ravine and to the south.
Yet already they could feel a subtle difference. In the air. In the earth. Deep in their fëar. With the unmaking of the One Ring, the power of Elrond’s ring Vilya was passing away. Slowly, ever so slowly, time and mortality would begin to steal into the beloved valley.
Among the rose bushes beginning to bud, they saw Elrond and Arwen, walking slowly together, heads close as they spoke under the starlight. The Evenstar lingered at her favourite spots, reaching out a hand to say farewell to a particularly beloved tree.
Glorfindel and Maeglin followed father and daughter with their eyes, till they rounded a bend in the path and vanished.
Ahead of Arwen, the joys of a bride, the glories of a crown, the shadow of mortality, the sundering from kin. Beginnings and endings, joys and sorrows, blending together in the cool spring night.
Glorfindel saw sadness haunting Maeglin’s eyes. He did not entirely understand why, nor did she. It had something to do with Arwen’s choice and Elrond’s loss, certainly… the tragedy of parting from a loved one. But it was also the first time Maeglin found herself affected as she contemplated the mortality of the Secondborn.
Maeglin had never liked the Secondborn, and her orc-hunts with Glorfindel or the twins in the company of the Dúnedain had not entirely erased her disdain. “The frequency with which they need to rest, to eat, to answer the call of nature,” she had once said to Glorfindel, watching the Rangers as they ate dinner and huddled around the fire somewhere high in the Hithaeglir. “Had it been just us, we would have travelled at twice the speed, and needed a quarter of the rations. And by Manwë’s nose, why do they stink so badly? Faugh! We have journeyed and gone without washing just as long as they.”
But now, thinking of Arwen and Estel—the only one of the Secondborn whom she did love, and whose smell did not repel her—Maeglin was struck by the sadness of how transient the ties between the children of Ilúvatar could be… how fleeting the bonds one had with mortals, whether of friendship or love, as time flew by on swift wings in these mortal lands.
“We will not sail with Elrond,” her Firstborn love said gently. “Elladan and Elrohir shall remain here, for a season of time... for as long as Estel reigns as king. And so shall I, for as long as the elven line of Turukáno abides in Endórë.”
Maeglin laid a hand on her swollen belly as she glanced at Glorfindel, her heart full. “That is good, vennoya,” she said at last. Then suddenly, she clung to him tightly, and he, who had said farewell countless times to countless shortlived mortals, could only hold on to her, somewhat baffled. When she finally released him, she kissed him more gently than she was wont to, then gave him a smile that could only be described as sweet and tender and wifely.
As she turned away from the windows and headed towards their bed, he stared after her, completely dumbfounded.
Periain (S) – halflings/hobbits (plural)
Mellon-iaur (S) – old friend
Perelda (Q) – half-elven