All in the Family
The invitation from Legolas arrived in spring.
“Are you insane, Glorfindel? Travelling to the Greenwood is a hundred leagues one way,” Erestor protested as he stirred his herbal tea. “And your children are so tiny.”
The great dining hall was no longer in use. The remnant of Elrond’s household sat gathered in a spacious parlour off the kitchen for their meals. On this spring morning, natural light poured in through large windows that opened onto the apple orchard. The buildings of the smithy and stables were visible beyond early-blooming trees laden with pink blossoms.
“Why is Legolas still in Eryn Lasgalen anyway? Did he not plan to reside in Ithilien?” Elrohir asked as he popped a dumpling stuffed with meat and vegetables into his mouth.
“Yes, I thought several of his people were ready to go with him,” Elladan said.
“Sadly, Thranduil has not given his blessing, and keeps him in the Woodland Realm,” Glorfindel replied. The warrior was facing a challenge tougher than any cadet he had ever trained: getting his younger son to feed himself rather than flick spoonfuls of porridge at Erestor, Thalanes and Camaen. And at himself. The balrog slayer blocked a glob of porridge before it could hit his bright hair, and managed to get Arman to shovel one more spoonful of porridge into his mouth. In his heart, the father could not fault the infant. Flicking porridge was more fun than eating it.
“Surely you are not going to take the babies through the mountains and through that ghastly forest?” Lindir’s arms tightened protectively about Arinnáro, oblivious to the fact that the tot was painting intricate patterns of butter down the front panel of the bard’s green robe.
“The forest is cleansed and fair again,” said Glorfindel, ducking under the table to dislodge his younger son from Erestor’s leg. “Lómiel and the boys would enjoy it.”
As he emerged from under the tablecloth tucked under his father’s arm, Arman scrunched handfuls of his father’s radiant hair with porridge-stained hands. He had a fetish for hair. And for people’s calves. Erestor pursed his lips as he examined porridge-handprints on his breeches.
Then Maeglin spotted what her firstborn was doing. “Aryo! Stop that!” She wiped butter off the guilty tot’s hands with a napkin and patted the hapless bard’s robe. “Lindir, I am so sorry.”
“Oh, no matter. It is but an old thing I hardly wear.”
“Look what you have done!” said Maeglin sharply. “Aryo, that was naughty and you know it. Say sorry.”
“Goheno nin, Lindir,” said the baby in a tiny voice with his rich golden head bowed and his grey eyes contrite. Lindir’s heart melted. Aryo enunciated his words with startling clarity for an elfling so tiny, not even lisping. In contrast, his pale-haired brother still had not said his first word. To have been out of the womb fifteen months and not be talking yet was most backward, and everyone was perturbed except for Glorfindel.
“Glorfindel clearly misses his days of adventure and travel,” grinned Elrohir, now cheerfully tucking into a honey pastry filled with berry preserves and cream.
“Well, by all means go, Glorfindel, but go alone,” said Elladan, to the visible horror of Erestor and a few of the others, for the balrog slayer was the only one who could manage both his sons effortlessly.
“No,” said Glorfindel firmly, to collective relief around the table. “I am not going anywhere without my family.”
Feeding time over, Arman was set down on the floor, and the infant began tearing around the room like a little whirlwind. Inspired, his brother joined him and they both raced madly around the parlour squealing at the top of their little voices.
Erestor gritted his teeth. Dreadful behaviour, for elflings. Almost as bad as mortal children. But what else could be expected, with such a father?
Glorfindel met Maeglin’s eyes across the table and smiled. “What do you think, melda? Shall we go?”
At that point, both parents quickly grabbed hold of the tablecloth just as their twins began to pull it and everything upon it onto the floor.
“I think it would do us all good,” replied Maeglin drily, glancing at Erestor’s pained expression.
Asfaloth and his companion Gilroch grazed on the sweet grasses of the wide, open plains of the Anduin valley, and watched idly as their riders romped in the open field. Behind them rose the great rugged peaks of the Hithaeglir. Before them, in the distance, ran the broad river, and beyond it lay their destination: the great forest of Eryn Lasgalen which stretched out as far as the eye could see both to the left and right horizon. Above them, in the vast expanse of cerulean blue sky, the descendants of Thorondor the Great still circled high, though they, too, would soon journey west.
The family had encountered wargs twice in the Misty Mountains, Glorfindel and Maeglin quickly dispatching the beasts with arrows. They had met no orcs, stray groups of which still lurked in parts of Middle Earth, hunted relentlessly by the men of Gondor and Rohan.
As the elf family sat on the grass, Glorfindel was singing a cheerful little ditty and tickling his sons. They rolled around in the grass with squeals of delight and peals of silvery laughter.
Watching them, Maeglin thought of her rocky initiation to motherhood a year ago. She had been clueless how to even carry the fragile things. Glorfindel’s laidback attitude to babycare had reassured her. “People complicate this too much,” he said, with a newborn balanced casually on each forearm. “Ensure they are fed, clean, do not drop them, do not drown them. That is all there is to it, really. There you go… support the neck and head.” He passed one to her and watched her awkwardly adjust the newborn in her arms.
“You can breathe,” he added helpfully.
He had happily done everything for the babies in the first days after the birth. Save one thing. “You know I would if I could, melimë,” he said.
There had not been an elfling in any of the elven realms for decades, thus no nursemaid could be found. Well, Maeglin thought, for all Aredhel had found it tedious, she had nursed Maeglin for several months. She would do the same as her own mother, till the babes could be weaned off onto thin gruel. Glorfindel had sat by, watching with a measure of tender awe as the babies fed.
“What are you staring at?” Maeglin had growled softly at him with narrowed eyes.
“I think that is one of the most beautiful sights in all Arda.”
She snorted. “You’re daft”.
With a smile, he took a baby from her and showed her how to burp it.
Maeglin was glad that now there were no more guards to train, and no more orcs to slaughter, the twins gave Glorfindel a focus for his energies. For herself, she had been amazed that she did not resent the twins taking over her life. An eternity of time for craft stretched ahead, but there were only these brief years of their childhood to enjoy. There was little smithing work to do with Imladris near empty, anyway; Camaen busied himself with maintenance work nowadays more than actual smithing.
Glorfindel’s song concluded and the fair-haired infants scrambled to their feet and tore away across the field through grasses that came up past their chests. As they slowed down to a trot, Aryo looked as though he was telling a long story to his brother. Arman chuckled in reply but was silent. Then he gave his brother a big hug that sent them both tumbling to the ground again, and they rolled around wrestling each other and laughing merrily.
“Stop worrying,” Glorfindel said, as they lay on the grass watching their sons. “Itarillë loved telling everyone how I started speaking late as well. And once I started no one could shut me up. Enjoy this while you can.”
“But you began at twenty-six months. Arman is past that now.” The twins had been out of the womb sixteen months; they were twenty-eight months old.
“Give him time. He’ll be fine.”
Arman began to turn somersaults in the grass. Aryo tried to copy him.
“Did you teach him to do that?” said Maeglin.
“No.” Glorfindel looked surprised that anyone would need to be taught. “It comes naturally.”
Arman tore away on swift, little legs, Aryo chasing after him.
“How much like Arman were you as a child?” asked Maeglin,
“Worse, if you believe the other lords,” laughed Glorfindel. “All save Ecthelion ran for the hills each time they saw Itarillë approaching, those first years of my life. So did your mother. Irissë gave me a wide berth till I was about thirty-five years old and became, as she put it, ‘more interesting’.”
Maeglin gave a wry smile. Her mother had no interest in children… except, thankfully, her own son. In some ways, her mother had been a better friend than a parent. She had neglected Maeglin’s education apart from riding and hunting, and had casually and cursorily taught him to read and write Quenya only when he secretly asked her to, at the age of twenty. The sporadic lessons had not amounted to much. Years later, he had struggled to catch up under Pengolodh’s tutelage.
Glorfindel looked at Maeglin and thought how like and unlike her mother she was. The same pride and independence, yes… but Aredhel had been careless of duty or obligation, whereas Maeglin had always demanded much of himself, ever seeking to prove himself able and deserving of the positions Turgon had given him. Aredhel had been as ebullient and self-assured as Glorfindel. But whereas Glorfindel could channel his energies into running a house and training for war, Aredhel could only spend idle days riding her horse around the green valley, practising archery, and being exhorted to take up weaving or tending flowers or painting like other ladies. No wonder the valley had become, for her, a prison.
Glorfindel looked at Maeglin with soft eyes. Beneath the scowls and taciturn arrogance, Glorfindel saw—had always seen—vulnerability and self-doubt lurking. The softness of the porcupine beneath the quills. Such depths of tenderness and love had blossomed in her, over their years together, safe in his acceptance of who she was.
The children had wandered too far; the parents chased after them.
“Ah,” said Glorfindel, looking into the distance as they caught up with the twins. “Old friends.”
Three powerfully-built black-bearded men were headed their way. The leader looked to be taller than Glorfindel by a head.
“I would want to be their friends, all right,” Maeglin murmured. “Are those axes strapped to their backs?” She was armed and would have been unconcerned if not for their babes.
“Fear not the Beornings. They have ever been my friends,” said Glorfindel. “Almost all who pass this way use the Old Ford they maintain to cross the Anduin.” He whistled for the horses and sat Arman on his shoulders, whilst Maeglin placed Aryo in the cloth sling tied across her body. They walked towards the descendants of bears and men and he sent her his thoughts. “We are not dwarves so we need not worry. They like me enough to usually give me a discount on my toll.”
The Beornings looked down at the elven family with amused interest. “We knew not, Golden-haired, that there were still young amongst your kind,” said the tallest among the three, in a deep rumbling voice. His beard was grey, but his eyes were still bright and sharp.
“They are treasures rare indeed, in these days of our fading, Grimbeorn son of Beorn,” smiled Glorfindel, speaking also in Westron.
“Hail, good friends,” said Aryo clearly in Westron, startling his parents. Both he and his brother were gazing spellbound with huge eyes at the tall Beornings with their black or grey beards, ferocious eyebrows, hairy muscular arms, tattoos, and burly thickset bodies. Silent Arman was so rapt and fascinated that he kept very still.
The Beornings burst into laughter, showing two longer, sharp fangs like a bear’s among their teeth. Though tall for elflings, the twins were far smaller than Beorning infants of a year old.
“Hail, little elf!” rumbled Grimbeorn the Old. “That was well-spoken. If you would be friends indeed, come closer.” And he took the two elflings in his large, broad hands and sat them one on each shoulder. The twins laughed in delight as the Beorning chieftain walked toward the stone bridge spanning the river.
“Your elflings cross free with me. Just two silver pieces for you, your lady, and your horses.”
“My great thanks, son of Beorn,” said Glorfindel, making the much-discounted payment.
“You are a mighty goblin-slayer, Golden-haired. My father named you Friend from of old.” The sun was beginning to set as they began to cross the bridge, the powerful waters of the Anduin rushing beneath it.
“It would seem our goblin-slaying days will soon be past, Lord of the Beornings.”
“Aye, may the foul things perish from the earth.” The chieftain spat into the river.
“Have any been sighted here of late?” asked Maeglin.
“Not in these open plains for a seven-month. But have a care in the deep woods, especially with your young ones. They hide.”
On the other side, the twins held on to the Beorning chieftain’s neck as Glorfindel reached for them.
“No, Atto!” said Aryo. “Again, again!”
Arman made a wordless cooing sound that said the same.
“Shall I keep them till you return?” Grimbeorn bared his bear fangs in a smile again.
“You would regret it, Lord of the Beornings. They would try anyone’s patience dearly,” said Maeglin with a smile.
“Enough, boys! Time to go!” said Glorfindel in Quenya, his tone of voice brooking no nonsense. The twins reluctantly allowed their father to carry them down.
“Till we return, Grimbeorn!” said Glorfindel.
“Safe journey, ageless ones. Till we meet again.”
“Farewell!” Aryo chirped. Both twins waved.
Glancing over her shoulder as they rode away, Maeglin saw three great black bears, ambling slowly back across the river in the fading evening light.
“Did you teach Aryo Westron?” Maeglin asked Glorfindel as they mounted the horses and rode towards the forest.
“No, but he was present when Estel’s men were passing through to Arnor. He must have picked it up.”
“And when will you decide to speak, pityo?” said Maeglin to Arman.
The infant grinned radiantly back at her and said nothing.
They turned their horses toward the great forest.
In Eryn Lasgalen, even at noon, were places of a perpetual twilit gloom beneath a dense canopy of tall trees. The twins were sleeping, each in a sling tied around one of their parents.
“It reminds me of Nan Elmoth,” Maeglin said, her black eyes glittering. “But there is no dark enchantment here.”
“No longer. But you did not see it when I visited eleven coranári ago. It was evil then.”
Glorfindel then fell silent. For suddenly, looking at the back of his beloved as she rode before him on Gilroch, he was unexpectedly shaken by the memory of Aredhel. Again. Maeglin wore a white tunic he had given her, and she shimmered in the shadows like a moonflower. Her hair, braided for practicality since the twins’ birth, was today in a style that made her the spitting image of Aredhel on the fateful day Glorfindel had lost the princess in the gloom of Nan Dungortheb.
The first bitter failure of his life.
Pursued by monstrous spiders that made the Mirkwood ones look like docile sheep, the three lords of Gondolin escorting the princess had searched desperately for her for over two months. They found themselves helplessly going in circles, all their mental strength needed to withstand the assault of the evil oppression that lay upon that Valley of Dreadful Death. Their horses were tormented, trembling, ears down, and showing the whites of their eyes.
It was Egalmoth who finally said, weary almost to breaking, “It is hopeless. We can do no more.”
“No!” Glorfindel had protested, though he too could feel himself beginning to crack under the strain. “We cannot give up. We cannot lose her. How could we face the king and tell him we lost his sister?”
They looked at Ecthelion. They had eaten nothing for almost all their time in that accursed place, small hardship compared to no water for over a month, for they dared not drink from the poisoned springs around them. They had rested but not slept at all, for in that foul place to sleep was never to wake again. The valley oppressed their spirits like a waking nightmare, whispering despair and dark thoughts. The hardiest of the Noldor they might be, but they were so parched and weakened and disoriented that they could sustain it no longer. “Egalmoth is right,” Ecthelion had said finally in a bleak, cracked voice. “We have done what we can.” They would bring the grievous news back to their king, and submit to his punishment.
Sorrow and guilt had tormented them for a long season, as they thought of the fair, fey, free spirit they had left behind. Wondered if she lay dead or grievously injured somewhere, or if she had escaped the deadly maze by some extraordinary chance.
They would not know the truth for fifty years.
Even naturally resilient and joyous Glorfindel had been weighed down by grief and failure and the fury of the king… nagged by the thought that perhaps, had they searched just one more week, one more day, they might have found her. They would have brought her back safely from the visit to her Fëanorian cousins. She would have lived on in the safety of Gondolin… which would not have been betrayed… which would not have fallen…
For, had the lords not lost her in the Valley of Dreadful Death, there would have been no Dark Elf in Aredhel’s life, and no Maeglin.
“Are you all right?” Maeglin asked. “You are so quiet.”
“I was just thinking of your mother,” he replied. “I failed Turukáno, I failed her, that day we lost her in Nan Dungortheb. I could not forgive myself for it for so many years. But had I not… there would have been no you. No us. And no them.” He looked at his children and at his wife. So much tragedy and grief had come from the loss of Aredhel, that it made him feel wrong, guilty, wicked to find any kind of gladness in what he had gained from it.
“There is something you should know,” Maeglin said. “My mother sought to be lost that day. She was trying her best to shake off the three of you. She told me what a pain it was to be chaperoned, how Turukáno treated her like she was a child. Do not ever reproach yourself for it again.”
As they reached a part where the path broadened, she drew Gilroch alongside Asfaloth. “There was a time I cursed the day I was born, when I wished my mother never rode into Nan Elmoth,” she said, her black eyes gazing piercingly into his. “But what happened, happened. If we have the one good thing that has come out of all that muk, let us be thankful for it. Let us not regret you failed that day.”
And they leaned in for a long, deep kiss over the heads of their sleeping sons.
The beauty of Eryn Lasgalen had truly been restored. There were dreamlike stretches where the early summer sun fell in golden rays through the canopy above. There were sunlit clearings where the infants chased butterflies of many jewelled hues, and tiny, iridescent blue-and-golden bees. The liquid warbling of many fair birds could be heard each day, and bright flashes of wings seen in the treetops. They came to the Enchanted River, and followed it as it flowed north-east.
“The forests of Oromë are fairer by far, and larger by far than this,” said Glorfindel to Maeglin as they walked by the river, as he snatched Arman up by the scruff of his neck before the tot fell off the bank. “We could build a house there and enjoy perfect seclusion. No one else for hundreds of miles around.”
Maeglin took a red mushroom with white spots out of Aryo’s hands before the tot could stuff it into his mouth. He protested. “Not an edible one, Aryo. See the colour?”
“There are beautiful lakes in Oromë’s forest into which waterfalls cascade,” Glorfindel was saying. “The Great Hunter would welcome us there. A house on a lake shore—what do you think? Good fishing, and every type of fair bird and butterfly and woodland creature in the surrounding woods. No, Arman! – there could be snakes in there.” Glorfindel pulled his son out of a hollow log filled with dead leaves.
“Sounds nice,” Maeglin conceded, as she and Aryo made friends with a fluffy-tailed squirrel on the trunk of a tree.
“And by the rivers that run through the deep woods are caves. Glittering, comfortable caves. Forget about building a house—we could live there too!”
By nature open and forthright, the warrior was gently nudging his wife towards Aman as subtly as a Mûmakil charging through a Haradrin bazaar. She alternated between resenting it, and actually giving it consideration. Twilight was falling. She looked around the peaceful forest.
“It is fair enough in these woods. We could stay here.”
Glorfindel was momentarily silent, not just from disappointment. Having been momentarily distracted by the squirrel, his eyes were searching for his secondborn.
He looked up a tree.
How had Arman climbed up there so fast?
The father beamed with pride. “Look, vesseya! Look how well he can climb!”
Maeglin looked up and blanched.
Right on cue, Arman fell and was caught by his father.
“How did you let that happen?” she said angrily. “He could have been killed!”
“Never—I would definitely have caught him.”
“You cannot take your eyes off him for more than three seconds!”
“He is incredibly fast, is he not?” said the father with some pride, holding Arman up and nuzzling the laughing child’s tummy.
“What if you had not seen him in time?”
“Now I know he can climb, I shall be more watchful.”
Then the warrior’s head went up. She saw his expression change, and his eyes glint coldly as they gazed into the shadows around them.
“Quick. Get on Gilroch.”
The horses at an unspoken signal trotted to them and Maeglin unquestioningly swung herself onto Gilroch’s back. Glorfindel handed the infants up to her, and in a flash he had strung his bow and nocked an arrow, a battle-fire not kindled for a long time lighting in his eyes. Asfaloth stood by Gilroch, defending the dappled stallion’s other flank.
Maeglin fitted both babies in her sling and held on to them. They were silent, sensing their parents’ tension. Her fingers itched to reach for her bow.
A familiar stench, grunts, and crashing sounds through undergrowth. Glorfindel quickly assessed the threat. Eight orcs. Axes, blades, no spears, no arrows. In a flash, two dropped with arrows in their throats. One began to shriek a retreat in Black Speech before it too crumpled with an arrow in its eye. Then the bright warrior from Valinor was upon them.
Battle adrenalin sang in Glorfindel’s blood as his sword sang once again. He had missed this rush, he thought, felling three of them so swiftly they hardly registered his attack. He glanced back briefly and saw Maeglin struggling to keep Arman from climbing out of his sling. The seventh orc barely knew what hit him as the golden-haired warrior’s blade took off his head. Then, as Glorfindel closed in on the last orc, an arrow from above felled it with an arrow straight through the head.
Disappointment and annoyance flashed over the balrog slayer’s fair face.
“Suilad!” said a familiar voice from on high.
“Suilad, Legolas. That was my orch. Go find your own!”
The prince dropped lightly from above, jumped on the balrog slayer and hugged him.
“This being my forest, I have better claim on any yrch in it than you do. It is good to see you, Glorfindel!” The fair-haired prince turned to Maeglin with a radiant smile and swept her a deep and gallant bow. “Mae tollen, my fair lady Lómiel! It is a joy to see you once again, and to finally meet your children!”
Maeglin smiled and dismounted, Aryo still slung around her, Arman held firmly under her arm. “Mae g’ovannen, Legolas. It has been a long time. How does Gimli?”
At Estel and Arwen’s wedding feast at Minas Tirith, Gimli had remembered Maeglin from the reforging of Narsil, and had nodded at her good-naturedly enough as she made towards the space next to him at the table. Emboldened by this, she had said coolly as she took her seat, “Gamut sanu yenet, Gimli Glóinul.”
The dwarf had almost blown out a mouthful of mead at being addressed in Khuzdul by a heavily pregnant she-elf.
Glorfindel had returned to the feast, after a fascinating meeting with Éowyn of Rohan, to find Gimli and Maeglin getting along famously in a mix of Westron and Khuzdul. The dwarrow was pushing a tall cup of Rohirric mead before Maeglin, for the dwarf had concluded, like Estel, that the she-elf was half-dwarrow. The elflord had immediately snatched away the cup.
“Dwarfling livers may be strong as stone, elflings’ are not!” he protested to the dwarf in Westron.
“Nay, it will do her and the wee ones no harm!” snorted the dwarf. “Put hair on her chin, it would. Then what a fine dwarrowdam she would be. Ho ho!”
“Yes, and I should so love that,” Glorfindel had said dryly, raising both the cup and an elegant elven eyebrow at the dwarf, then chugging down the mead on his wife’s behalf.
Legolas, who had of course been seated on Gimli’s other side, had witnessed all this with the greatest amusement. With sparkling eyes, he now said, “Gimli is very well, Lady Lómiel, and remembers you kindly. He looks forward to welcoming you to Erebor, ere he departs for Aglarond.” Stepping forward, the archer smiled at the babies. “Suilad, little ones!”
“Suilad,” said Aryo shyly. Arman dazzled Legolas with a miniature version of Glorfindel’s brightest smile, climbed swiftly out of his mother’s arms, and hurled himself onto the prince, whose pale gold hair and blue eyes were identical in colour to his. Legolas caught the baby, and gazed, stunned, into his face.
Maeglin and Glorfindel exchanged a look.
“That is Arman. He looks a little like you, does he not?” said Glorfindel lightly.
“That is an understatement,” said Legolas, not minding as Arman reached out to grab a handful of princely hair as fair and silken as his own. He turned to look at Glorfindel as though suddenly seeing the elflord’s azure eyes for the first time, and looked thoughtful.
“Legolas, is it safe here?” said Maeglin, coming to her beloved’s rescue. “Where did the yrch come from?” Glorfindel quickly took Arman from Legolas before the tot could stuff the prince’s hair into his mouth.
“There are some yrch who have made a nest in the caverns of Emyn Duir, the mountains south of here.”
“They fled without even putting up a fight.” It had been almost disappointing, thought Glorfindel.
Legolas smiled. “I have been hunting them. They are pretty jittery and cowed by now.”
“How many?” asked Glorfindel, his face keen.
“We are not sure. Perhaps a hundred. We plan to mount an attack to eradicate them soon. The problem is, the caverns are a treacherous maze to battle in, and they run deep. It was once a stronghold of ours, before the shadow claimed it.”
“Let us study the ancient maps. The two of us should undertake a reconnaissance. Your father might know of secret tunnels created by the Silvan folk, which would open only to edhil, and allow us to enter unseen.” Glorfindel was glowing with anticipation of the challenge. “Once we know their numbers and the lay of the land, how hard can it be?”
The babies gurgled in what sounded like agreement, and their mother rolled her eyes fondly.
Putting distance between themselves and Emyn Duir, they journeyed north-east through the night. Legolas and Glorfindel led the way on foot, Maeglin rode behind them on Gilroch and quietly nursed the babies, while Asfaloth took the rear. Though Glorfindel had told her she could now wean them off, she had found herself oddly loath to surrender this special connection with them, and still nursed them once a day.
Legolas unburdened his heart. His triumphant return from the War of the Ring had brought his father more pain than joy. Seeing the sea-light in his son’s eyes, Thranduil had at once opposed Legolas’ going to Ithilien, and forbidden any of the Silvan folk to go with him. The Woodland King was a proud Sinda, like his great-uncle Celeborn and his father Oropher before him. They had turned aside from the Great Journey in the time of starlight, choosing the light of the maia Melian over the light of the Trees. They had rejected the west a second time after the War of Wrath, and journeyed east instead. This was a matter of ancient pride. All attempts by Legolas to reason or plead with his father had failed. It had reached a point where Thranduil would react in cold fury at any mention of Ithilien or the sea, and Legolas spoke of them no longer.
“Do you wonder?” said Glorfindel. “He would lose you. His greatest fear, I am sure, is that you sail to the west.”
Legolas was quiet, his glittering blue eyes sadder than Glorfindel had ever seen them before.
“He has lost me already,” the prince finally said.
Glorfindel was shocked. This was Legolas, the most obedient and dutiful of sons.
“I stay because he has enjoined me to,” said the prince in a resigned voice. “I shall not oppose his will. I shall give my strength to serve him and obey him as my father and king. But my heart is in Ithilien, and my fae yearns to the sea which sings to me. I love these woods and I always shall. My heart rejoices to see it fair and flourishing as it was of old. But I belong here no longer. And whilst I am here, I do not truly live.”
Maeglin listened silently as she patted Arman to sleep on her shoulder. Wondering if a day would come when Glorfindel in Ennor might echo those same sentiments, as the sea called him home.
And if it might estrange them, as it had estranged Legolas from his king…
The visitors had just passed through the vast stone gates of the elvenking’s halls and dismounted from their steeds when Thranduil emerged from a great stone archway in his green and gold riding clothes, flanked by attendants. Just as Arman went hurtling across the gravel of the foyer at breakneck speed, straight towards him.
Glorfindel could and probably should have intercepted the child, but chose instead to watch in fascination. He was not alone. As two of the Silvan attendants led the horses away, both Maeglin and Legolas stood rooted as well. They all watched.
King Thranduil had the strangest look on his face as the tiny elfling with pale-gold hair latched onto his riding boot. They watched as the king, after staring for a moment at the baby attached to his leg, stooped to lift Arman into his arms and gazed at the elfling much as his son had earlier. Looked into azure blue eyes with dark lashes, smiling at him. Looked at the curling wisps of white-gold hair like a bright nimbus on the baby’s head.
The elfling smiled shyly at Thranduil from under his long eyelashes.
“I should like to see you tell him,” Maeglin thought to Glorfindel, as she picked up Aryo before he could stuff a handful of shining gravel into her boot.
“Are you mad? Tell Thranduil that the Sindarin mother he adored seduced my golodh father? You’ll find yourself widowed before you can say ‘Kinslaying’. Either he hears it one day from our mother herself, or not at all.” He picked a piece of gravel from Aryo’s mouth. “Besides, you know I must speak first to my father.”
Legolas was stifling a smile as Arman reached out, took the crown of forest springflowers from the Woodland King’s hair, and took a mouthful of the glorious confection of bluebells, celandine, and wood violets.
Glorfindel was at the king’s side in the next instant, and Arman actually bawled and kicked as his father pulled him out of Thranduil’s arms. “Le suilon, King Thranduil. Please excuse my son.” The warrior smiled apologetically as he handed the slightly mauled crown back to the king. Without it, the king was a hand’s breadth shorter than his elder brother.
“No matter,” said Thranduil coolly, examining the crown in his hand rather absently. His gaze then raked over the visitors. He gave a chilly smile. “Lord Glorfindel. And your whole family, we see. A pleasant surprise.” Glorfindel gave Legolas a sharp look but the prince was gazing at his father impassively as he walked towards them with Maeglin. Two attendants followed with the visitors’ saddlebags.
“King Thranduil, allow me to humbly present to you my lady-wife Lómiel,” said Glorfindel, as Maeglin came to his side. “And may I present as well our sons Arinnáro, and his younger brother Arman, whom you have met.”
“Le suilon, King Thranduil,” said Maeglin dipping a reverential enough bow, but her voice as cool as the king’s. Their eyes met with equal hauteur. The corners of Thranduil’s mouth curled. An arrogant golodhrin wench with avarin eyes. Intriguing. As his eyes raked over her from head to toe, she relived the condescension of the Doriathrin nobility towards their vassals in Nan Elmoth. Glorfindel saw his beloved’s proud back stiffen, and spoke a soft word of caution to her mind, his free hand unthinkingly caressing the small of her back. She lowered her gaze slightly and her mouth curved in a charming smile that did not touch her eyes.
“You are welcome to Eryn Lasgalen,” said Thranduil. “We are sorry that we were not better prepared for your arrival. Someone was remiss in informing us of your visit.” Reprimand weighted his words, and his eyes rested on his son.
“Forgive me, Adar.” Legolas bowed. “I did inform you ere I sent the invitation. But I was in the forest when the bird brought the reply, and I have just only returned now.” Which immediately told Glorfindel that Legolas had spent a whole month hiding away in the forest. “There are yrch still in Emyn Duir, Adar. I have been hunting, and killed a total of twenty-one. Glorfindel encountered and killed another seven three days back. With him, we will exterminate that orchrin nest, Adar.”
“Let Lord Glorfindel tend to his family. He is not here to deal with a handful of yrch we can easily handle.” The King’s eyes lingered on Arman again. “Show our guests to their chamber,” he continued to Legolas, “And we shall speak further about Emyn Duir when we return.”
Arman was looking back at Thranduil with huge eyes. “I must say, he really likes you.” said Glorfindel. No accounting for taste, he thought.
Thranduil smiled at the infant. A very rare, fleeting smile, and a genuine one this time, that made him look young and boyish for a moment. “A fine boy,” the King said. “His colouring is rather different from your own. Or your lady’s.” He scrutinized them both.
“Yes. Strange, is it not?” Glorfindel smiled brightly at Thranduil. “Enjoy your ride, Sire. It is a beautiful day. Eryn Lasgalen is all that I remembered, and more.”
“Ammë, Atto, where are we going now?” Aryo was saying in Quenya as Legolas led them into the underground halls.
“Speak Sindarin here, Aryo. Nana, Ada, mas ledhiam?” said Glorfindel.
Silent Arman gazed at Thranduil over his father’s shoulder.
They disappeared through the high stone arch.
Thranduil stared after them for a while after they had gone, lost in thought. Then he tossed the damaged flower crown casually into the hands of a non-plussed attendant. His attendants could make a new one along the way. Anemones this time, he decided. Not golden celandine.
He walked swiftly to where his spirited grey horse waited, pawing the ground restively.
“Tomorrow, Glorfindel and I will try to enter the caves and scout around,” said Legolas. “The old maps will serve only as a rough guide. They are a thousand years old.”
Thranduil frowned as they looked down on the maps of the forest and of the old cavern system of Emyn Duir on the table before them. “Just the two of you? Bring four of the guard.”
“The fewer the better. Glorfindel is like twenty warriors in one anyway,” said Legolas, smiling at Glorfindel.
“He shines like twenty as well,” said Thranduil, cuttingly. “Hardly wise, for secret movement through dark caves.”
Not again. “I shall wear a cloak and hood,” sighed Glorfindel, wearily.
“It might be simpler and more effective to dye the hair,” said Thranduil drily.
Glorfindel laughed, but Legolas said in shock, “Oh, surely not, Adar! That would be inconceivable!”
“And what will the lady and infants do whilst you two explore caves?” asked Thranduil.
Glorfindel’s smile faded. Maeglin would have a hard time managing Arman and Aryo by herself, and it would put her in a foul mood.
“She will have two attendants to wait on her and the children,” Legolas reassured Glorfindel. “And the children could play in the private gardens, could they not, Adar?”
Thranduil considered it. “Certainly,” he said.
The Woodland King stood by a window and watched as Glorfindel and Legolas rode out the next morning, talking animatedly to each other, and brooded. It should have been good to hear Legolas laugh again, but the father could only feel a stab of jealous anger at how much pleasure the prince took in the golodh warrior’s company.
Just the previous night, Legolas had sat across from the king at the royal dining table, giving polite answers in a flat voice, and gazing at his plate with distant, dreamy eyes and averted face. Already an ocean apart from his father in spirit.
The Woodland King heard his son’s bright laugh at something Glorfindel had said, and glowered at the balrog-slayer’s disappearing back.
There had been a time Thranduil and Glorfindel had similarly been friends. He recalled the day, late in the Second Age, that he had brought the balrog-slaying hero home to the Greenwood.
As the Woodland Prince led the elflord of Imladris into the throne room, he had watched his beloved father Oropher turn pale upon his throne, his eyes frozen on the golden-haired warrior. The prince had watched bewildered as Oropher’s mouth hardened in an angry line and his eyes burned with something close to hatred. The Imladrin elflord, at a loss as to why he evoked such hostility, decided that perhaps he should reassure Oropher that he had never ever played any part in any kinslayings. As part of this attempt to mollify the king, the warrior introduced himself by emphasizing he had spent most of his first life in Gondolin, and been killed there.
Oropher, still pale, had asked a strange question: “And where begotten?”
“Not in Valinor, your highness, not at all. In Beleriand.”
“Where in Beleriand?”
Before a hall of Sindarin and Silvan lords and ladies and the guards at the entrance, Glorfindel had blushed red in embarrassment and Thranduil had cringed on his behalf. “Forgive me, Sire,” the golden-haired lord had said finally in a level, quiet voice. “I do not know where.”
A soft murmur had swept around the room. Oropher’s eyes had narrowed. Then came an even stranger question still: “The year?”
“The fifty-first year of the First Age of Anor. In Iavas.”
At this reply, the king’s face had gone so livid, Prince Thranduil had murmured something polite and hastily pulled his golodh friend out of the throne room.
“What did I do wrong? Was it something I said? Is there something wrong with my Sindarin?” Glorfindel had said, quite upset and bewildered.
“Nothing is wrong with your Sindarin,” Thranduil had said, equally upset and bewildered.
“Well. I think I had better leave at once,” said Glorfindel. There was no point causing a serious diplomatic incident with his presence. He would have to report this to Elrond, and perhaps Erestor would have to visit the Greenwood shortly to smooth things out.
Knowing his father, Thranduil had agreed. He had walked his friend to the great stone doors, and watched him ride his white horse away.
His father Oropher had not spoken one word about the incident ever again. Had never again acknowledged the existence of the golden elflord, and behaved as though the visit had never taken place.
It went without saying that Imladris never sent the golden warrior to the Greenwood ever again in Oropher’s time.
During the Battle of Dagorlad, Glorfindel had gone to Oropher’s side, cut down the orcs around him and borne the severely wounded king off the battlefield. It was unjust, perhaps, but Thranduil wondered if Oropher, seeing who his saviour was, had received a death blow to his pride and heart in that moment. Thranduil owed his own life on that bitter battlefield to Glorfindel and the Imladrim. But deep within, he blamed the warrior for his father’s death. And once his beloved father was buried and his memory enshrined sacred in Thranduil’s mind, it would have sullied that memory to continue friendship with one who had angered Oropher so intensely in life.
Glorfindel and Legolas had by now disappeared into the forest. Thranduil turned away and swept down the corridors of his halls, his long leaf-green robes trailing behind him. He climbed the stairs to his private gardens, from which one could see the forest canopy spreading out below. Erebor loomed in the east. Attendants following him poured out wine for him as he seated himself on his usual chair.
He watched as two tiny elflings ran around the far end of the garden, watched over by their black-haired mother and two Silvan attendants.
His eyes rested on the child with white-gold hair. An infant so much like Legolas at the same age that his heart ached to see it. The laughing little blue eyes, the sweet, adoring smile. So full of life, so innocent. So happy.
Again he saw the face of his beloved son at every dinner for the past year. The remote gaze of the sky-blue eyes. Lost in a reverie as he pushed food around his plate, absently nodding when his father spoke to him, Legolas was already wandering in a forest in the south, dreaming of the sea…
Pain clenched the father’s heart. He would do what he had to do to keep his only child away from the Sundering Sea.
Thranduil drank his wine and watched Arman climb a tall statue of Yavanna swiftly, his mother desperately grabbing him by the seat of his pants as he swung from the Valie’s forearm.
How had Glorfindel fathered a child with pale-gold hair? Thranduil looked at the black-haired elleth with the children. The suspicions playing in his mind as he finished his wine were not pleasant ones.
They mostly revolved around four golden-haired brothers who had visited Doriath often, and been welcomed as kin by the great Thingol. The brothers had all been slain by the time Thranduil was born, but he knew, as he thought of the Lady Galadriel, how they would have looked. Tall, with deep, rich gold hair. Like Glorfindel.
He thought tenderly of his mother. Her beauty, her sweetness, her devotion to himself and his father and sister. The memory of her death still brought so much pain he seldom thought of it.
He had only seen eleven coranári when the kinslayers descended on Doriath at Yule. The noise, the screams, the terror.
The blood. On his mother’s shimmering lilac dress, on her long white-gold hair. He had watched it spread, dark crimson, over the stones of the floor. The tiny child had looked up in terror at the tall golodh warrior towering over his mother’s body, still stunned with horror at how brutally she had been struck down. He had trembled before the warrior whose dark hair fell in waves over his blood-spattered armour, silver eyes blazing fiery like a demon’s, a face shining with inhuman, terrible beauty. The child quaked uncontrollably as the sharp edge of the bright cruel sword, still dripping with his mother’s blood, was pressed against his own neck. Clinging to his mother’s body, he had waited for the blade to pierce him.
Instead, as the demon’s eyes stared down on Thranduil, their fire had faded, and the silver eyes had glittered softly.
The point of the sword had withdrawn, leaving a line of red. Mother and son’s blood mingled.
Then the demon had turned, and with the swirl of a dark-red cloak, had quickly walked away.
Thranduil had placed his hand on his mother’s face. It was so cold. Her blue eyes were fixed on something far away. Her lips were moving. Shaping a word. Or a name. He could not make it out.
It had not been his name, or his father’s.
Unconsciously, the king lifted a jewelled hand to touch the white scar at his neck, that he always took care to have covered by his collar. A golodh demon had taken his mother’s life and ripped his childhood away from him.
Now, the more Thranduil thought of it, they might have done more to her, in an earlier time.
As he drank his fourth goblet of wine, he brooded on the accursed golden-haired golodhrim who had been so welcomed into Doriath by their king. Thought of one of them taking his lovely mother in the flower of her youth. Forcing himself on her. It filled him with cold rage to think of it.
He felt surer of it the more that he thought.
As his father Oropher had been sure, the moment he had set eyes on Glorfindel’s face, and seen his wife’s lovely eyes and smile in the face of a scion of Finarfin.
That Glorfindel might thus be his half-brother did nothing to endear the warrior to Thranduil. Not when he came from a race of ravishers and murderers. The king remembered the sadness he had seen haunting his mother’s beautiful eyes. He understood it now. And held Glorfindel accountable for it.
An elfling’s bright, silvery laughter. He watched the pale-haired infant, so like another that it could be his very own blood running across the lawn. And he found he could not ascribe any sin of its fathers to it. He could only gaze, and recall a time eight-and-a-half centuries ago, and yearn.
Thranduil invited Glorfindel’s wife to join him for lunch in the garden. She was not much of a conversationalist, but then it was not talk he sought. He idly admired the delicate loveliness of her face and the curve of her white throat and full bosom. One of the boons of motherhood. Like a good host, he had ordered dresses sent to the guest chamber, the previous evening. She had chosen to wear a deep green gown. His eyes roamed over the rounded swell of creamy white skin as it glowed translucent and flawless above the low-cut bodice. It was ever a pleasure to be surrounded by beautiful things.
He found himself amused more than offended by the arrogant lift of her golodhrin chin, the hauteur in the cool avarin-black eyes. She spoke to him courteously, but without deference, as one used to supping with kings. One or two casual comments betrayed a keen mind. She coolly pushed all sharp and breakable objects on the table out of range as her son lunged at them. Her elder son was being cared for by the attendants, who already adored him, but the younger one needed special handling and she had apologized for bringing him to the table. He was at a stage where “no” and “stop that” in any language of the Free Peoples meant “this is fun”. Left on his own to rampage through the garden, he would have massacred all the king’s prize blossoms, and left bare patches on the lawn.
Most pleased to have the boy near, the king summoned an attendant to cut the mother’s food for her since her hands were too occupied with her restless son to manage a knife.
She made some attempt at small talk, mentioning that Elrond’s sons would soon be heading to Gondor to visit their sister and foster brother.
“King Elessar and Queen Arwen are expecting their first child,” she said.
“Ah,” said Thranduil. “An heir early, one hopes.”
“Not unless the laws of the land change. It is a daughter.”
“What a pity,” said the king, as he sliced his venison.
He saw her eyes narrow ever so slightly and glint with annoyance. He was certain as she stabbed that next piece of venison with her fork that she was visualizing his jugular. His lips curved in a small smile.
As the dessert was served, the infant slipped under the table. Tossing her napkin on the table, the mother quickly followed him under.
The king looked down as tiny arms latched around his left calf, and stooped to pick up the infant just as the mother’s hands made a grab for him.
Thranduil smiled down at the shocked black eyes looking up at him from under the table, as she crouched at his feet like a supplicant. And admired the view to Rohan down the neck of her gown.
The shock in her eyes deepened, and in the next moment fury smouldered in them and he saw her fists clench. She swiftly crawled out from under the table, her mouth a hard, angry line, and he was certain she intended to throw a punch at his jaw. He returned her livid gaze calmly, lifting one brow in mild surprise, as though an ornamental vase had decided to throw a tantrum.
For a moment she saw herself half a head taller, lifting the king out of his seat and throttling him with one strong hand…
Then her hands unclenched. She reached them out to retrieve her son.
Thranduil held up a hand. “Leave him here a while. He seems perfectly comfortable.”
And it was true. Arman sat on Thranduil’s lap and gazed up at him with huge eyes. He was not fidgeting.
“It would appear you have a calming effect on him, King Thranduil,” she said, grudgingly.
“So it would seem.”
As the mother retook her seat, Thranduil leaned back in his chair, goblet in hand, looking down at the tot. The silky pale locks. The velvet curve of the tiny cheek. The long, dark lashes. Arman was peering at the contents of the king’s wine goblet, deeply fascinated by its ruby depths. A faint smile hovered on the king’s lips.
The mother’s eyes narrowed. Thranduil’s blue eyes met her black ones ever so briefly and glinted wickedly. Dipping a finger into his Dorwinion, the king placed one drop of the wine on the infant’s tiny pink tongue. Arman tasted it thoughtfully, then hugged himself in delight with his little arms and gave the king a huge, blissful smile. The king smiled back.
The mother froze. That presumptuous balrog-****ing peacock.
With the slightest hint of steel in her coldly courteous voice, the mother said, “Sire, it is not our custom at Imladris to give our children any strong drink before their fifteenth year.” Especially not a potent Dorwinion vintage.
“It was but a drop,” said Thranduil, lifting his eyebrows slightly. “And he enjoyed it, did you not, pen dithen?”
Arman smiled enthusiastically.
“He also enjoys grabbing at knife blades. That does not mean it is healthy for him.”
“Legolas too had a little drop now and then at his age. It did him no harm.” He dipped his finger again and gave a delighted Arman another drop of Dorwinion. On his lap, he saw another infant in another time.
The mother seethed with outrage.
“Your majesty has borne with this imposition most graciously.” Her voice was as icy as the frozen wastes of the Forodwaith. “But it is time for the children’s nap. I beg that you will excuse us.”
Arman was playing with the ends of Thranduil’s pale gold hair, but not trying to stuff them in his mouth. The mother actually wished he would.
“Not at all. We have had quite a delightful time together, your son and I.”
If he tries to give my son another drop, I am going to break his wrist, so help me Eru.
“Say thank you and goodbye to King Thranduil, Arman,” said the mother.
Arman gave a happy gurgle, stood up on Thranduil’s lap and with tiny arms wide open, threw himself against the king’s chest and snuggled his little cheek against his neck.
And Thranduil had to fight against the lump that rose in his throat.
Legolas and Glorfindel returned in three days, glowing and triumphant from their expedition. The secret entrances marked in the ancient maps had still been accessible and the orcs had not even scented them. Based on their surveillance, the orcs probably numbered about two hundred and fifty, and the elf warriors had sketched new maps of the cavern system. The next few days would be spent planning the assault with the Greenwood guard.
After spending some time reporting all they found to Thranduil, Glorfindel returned to the guest suite for a long, well-scented bath. The caves had been so foul from orcs and bats that even though he and Legolas had washed thoroughly in the river once they were safely in the woods, their elven noses imagined a lingering stench for a long while after. As he sat on the bed towelling his hair dry, he recounted his adventure to Maeglin. The children, tired out from the day, were asleep in an adjoining room.
When he had finished, she told him about her day with the children, and ended with what Thranduil had done.
His damp hair glistened bright in the lamplight of the subterranean chamber, and the sculpted muscles of his bare, lithe torso gleamed as he turned towards her, tunic in hand. “Just two drops? That’s harmless, melimë.”
“Not according to a study done in the First Age—” Her eyes flashed.
He pulled the tunic over his head and raised an eyebrow at her. “Is this from that book that Idhren gave you?” Shortly after they arrived home from Lothlórien, Idhren had slipped her a book from the library titled Principles and Practices for the Raising of Healthy and Whole Elf-Children. Glorfindel had flipped through it and declared it paranoid parenting. “I have oft said it, and I will say it again: do not believe everything you read. One study says this, the next century, another study has contradictory findings. You know that.”
She glared at Glorfindel. “Any amil would agree alcohol is not good for a developing elfling. Is this the nér who denied me even a sip of mead at Minas Tirith?”
“Oh, come on—they were in the womb then and their livers and brains were tiny little things. They are running around and far better able to handle it now. Did your father never slip you any? Ecthelion used to give me one secret sip at every feast from his cup.”
“Exactly! Secret—and why? Because Itarillë would have brained him is why.”
“Yes,” he conceded, “She was furious at him. But we are talking here about two drops! If Thranduil was ladling it down Arman’s throat, I would throttle him myself. But a tiny taste of it will hurt him none. Do not overreact! You detest Thranduil. You would like nothing better than to shred the man’s hair with hedge clippers. And we both know how that can affect your judgement, ná? So please do not blame every little problem in Arman’s development from this point onwards on two drops of Dorwinion. If he doesn’t talk, it will be because of the two drops—”
“—my father first gave me wine when I was twelve, not two!!” she snapped.
“—and if he isn’t a loremaster like Quendingoldo, it will be because of the two drops—”
“—any dolt with half a grain of sense would know that two years old is much too young—”
“—and if he runs off and marries a hobbit, it will be because of the two drops—” His eyes were laughing, and as he spoke, he hugged her around her again-slender waist and pulled her against him.
“—and he had no right giving intoxicating substances to my child without my permission and especially when I had objected,” she said angrily, breaking away from him.
“That is true,” said Glorfindel. “Thranduil is an ass in that way.”
“And I caught him looking down the front of my dress.”
Glorfindel’s eyes flashed with outrage and his jaw set. “That misbegotten son of a misshapen urco!”
“Men!” said Maeglin in disgust, throwing herself back onto the bed.
Then she heard herself.
She froze. And looked at Glorfindel out of the corner of her eye as she lay there, with her black hair spread about her. She bit her lip.
He looked at her with his hands on his hips, his blue eyes dancing with laughter.
“Let all Eä witness,” he began in a mock-declamatory voice to an imaginary audience, speading out his arm in a graceful flourish, “In this first year of the Fourth Age—”
“Damn you, Flower, I did not mean anything by that—” She covered her face.
“—a watershed in the history of Maeglin Lómion—” he climbed onto the bed and caught hold of her by the hip as she tried to crawl away from him.
“It just came out! Will you stop being such an ass—” They tussled, she pushed him back onto the bed, and pummelled his pectorals as she sat astride him.
“—a defining moment, as it were—” He caught hold of her wrists and pulled her down to him.
“Shut up, you idiot!” She squirmed half-heartedly as he playfully nuzzled her neck.
“—when, against all the brute oppression and lecheries of the idiotic néri—” His eyes twinkled as his hands slid over her supple curves, groping her mercilessly.
“Not another word if you value being able to have any more children—” she growled, her knee taking position near his gonads.
“—the Lord of the Mole didst cry out, in unison with all of Eä’s gentle nissi—” He cheerfully continued, quite undeterred, flexing his hip and flipping her onto her back.
“Aaah!! I hate you!” She tried to twist away but he pinned her down with his body, and captured her wrists again.
“—’MEN!!’” he concluded in tragicomic mimicry of her disgusted tone, and dissolved into fits of helpless laughter, as she squeezed her eyes shut and groaned.
“I’ll make you pay for this—” she began, but he stopped her mouth with a warm, masterful kiss.
He felt her body relax under his weight as she tangled her fingers in the heavy, silken locks of golden hair that fell across her face and breast, then slid her hands over the strong, hard muscles of his back. They were sinking more deeply into kisses that were building in heat and hunger when a sleepy little voice called from the inner room:
“Ammë, Atto, we’re hungry…”
Their lips pulled apart with a soft pop and a sigh, and their eyes met in dismay.
Then came the faint creak of a door hinge.
With wry smiles, they turned their heads in unison to see two pairs of tiny eyes peeping out at them from the crack in the inner door, grey and blue.
“Just a moment, yonyat.” As the parents reluctantly rose, the two tots had already run across the floor, and were pulling themselves up onto the big bed.
Four hours later, the two little whirlwinds had been fed, played with, bathed, told stories, tucked back into bed, and sung to sleep.
The parents flopped onto their own bed, and he rolled on top of her again and looked down into her eyes. They smiled at each other, and exchanged a gentle peck.
“Look,” he said. “I am sorry that I am going off to fight urqui and leaving you holding the children. Just a week more, I promise. Then we shall go to Erebor and Dale for a fortnight, and you may talk to dwarves all day long about forges and furnaces and stones and ores, and debate ancient and modern techniques for making lethal weapons and shiny stones. I will take care of the babies. Is that fair?”
She lifted an eyebrow as she gave it serious thought. “Fair enough,” she decided airily.
“And I remain able to have more children?” With a mischievous smile he gently ground their hips together.
She looked stern. “Hmmm… for now.” She shifted her hips, tangled her legs with his, and with a firm hand pulled his head down to resume their kiss.
In the end, it was far more than a fortnight. The family had a splendid summer in Dale and Erebor, in the course of which Maeglin did not steal Orcrist, the twins did not kill themselves jumping from Dale’s bell towers, and the dwarrow smiths were not too proud to let a she-elf share the techniques of Gamil Zarak and Telchar handed down to her by her father.
They spent the end of summer back in Eryn Lasgalen, and, when autumn winds began to blow, departed for Imladris. Legolas was to journey with them to the edge of the Anduin plains, and he was radiant with excitement and happiness when he met them at the great foyer before the stone doors.
“Adar has just spoken to me. He has given his blessing for me to go to Ithilien next spring! With up to a hundred of the woodland folk, if I can find enough willing to go!”
“That is wonderful!” said Glorfindel.
“But what brought about his change of heart?” asked Maeglin.
“I have no clue. But he did ask me to give this to Arman.” It was a tiny bow and quiver set. “It looks identical to one he did give me when I was four years old. And,” he continued, “So that Aryo should not be left out, I found another one for him as well.” He pulled out another set.
“We will come to visit you in Ithilien so you may teach them how to shoot,” said Glorfindel.
“Rot! This from one who received the Lord Araw Tauron’s tutelage?” scoffed Legolas, as he ruffled the hair of his tiny cousins. “No pathetic excuses are needed. Just come to visit me.”
“Cû,” said Arman, bending the little bow in his tiny hands.
After a stunned silence, his parents and cousin went wild. “His first word!” “Say it again, Arman! Cû!” “Oh, that’s a great future as an archer he’s going to have.”
Arman was gazing upwards with huge blue eyes. He waved the little bow. “Galu.”
They all turned and looked up. Thranduil was watching them from a high window. They smiled and saluted him, and he acknowledged them with a royal nod of the head.
The Woodland King watched as they rode out, and the great stone doors swung shut.
The pain of his imminent loss contended with the joy of receiving his son’s smile and embrace again.
Mae tollen (S) – welcome
Gamut sanu yenet, Gimli Glóinul (Khuzdul) – well met, Gimli son of Glóin
Mas ledhiam (S) – where are we going
Iavas (S) – autumn
Yonyat (Q) – sons (two) [I was baffled as to the noun form for addressing two sons. This was the best I could figure out with my limited grammar. Thanks to dreamingfifi on the RealElvish forum for saying it is correct! Whew!]
Urco/urqui (Q) – orc, orcs
Pen dithen (S) – little one
Cû (S) – bow
Galu (S) - goodbye
Finally, my deepest apologies and a big hug to Zoya52, who has been a wonderful encouragement to me throughout this rewrite, but who frankly dislikes the way I portray Thranduil in this fic. I am sure some of you find my Woodland King as questionable as she does, so here are some necessary clarifications:
I like Thranduil and I thought I portrayed him quite sympathetically and did not make him a douchebag. I would be sad if you think him one.
Thranduil loves and is devoted to his late Silvan wife. (She will be mentioned further two chapters from now.) He is a connoisseur of beautiful things, including women, and to him that in no way detracts from or compromises his commitment to and love for his wife, whom he loves wholly, as a person. Other women to him are useful (guards, servants, concubines) or ornamental (which is how he views Maeglin here). He is a Sinda ruling the Silvan, and like his sister he has embraced their culture in the area of sex, and for him he is able to separate sex from love/marriage as the Eldar absolutely cannot. He has both desire and love for his wife. He is able to have desire alone for the others, and still love her alone. Did he sleep around while she was alive? No. He does it now to assuage the ache and emptiness he feels at her loss. I’m not in support of this, but we all know individuals like him do exist. Do they grieve their women? Yes. Can they see anything wrong with what they do? No.
As a fanfic writer, once I messed with the fact that sex = marriage for elves, I got thinking about how that would work at the level of the fëa. I don’t break with the canon that when two elves love each other, the act of sex bonds their fëar together eternally. The Valar understood this and LACE upholds it. My take on what could happen among the Avari who do not hold with LACE and have sex-without-love before marriage is that multiple partners messes with the nature of the marriage bond, and it would no longer be as strong as it could be if an elf had just one partner. There would not be the same strong mind-connect, the same level of utter intimacy, the ability to be One, as too many people have been in there already. But then, I figure that would not make their marriages any worse in quality than mortal marriages. Marriage for them would still be for the life of Arda and exclusive because that is in the nature of elves. Mortals who previously had multiple partners could also be faithful and committed once they settle down. They would just be settling for what we have. And that ain’t bad… is it?
And since I’m still on the roll with these ramblings… thanks for bearing with me… a bit on osanwë. I’m fascinated by it and I wish I had access to more of what Tolkien had to say about it. If you have resources on it, let me know. The little I have found has been titillating and frustrating. So I created my own rules for this particular fic: osanwë for all elves is for the most intimate of their relationships… spouses, close siblings, parents who are very close to a child, and most often when they are very young. Osanwë is a mind-gift stronger in certain individuals who have greater powers, like Finrod and Galadriel and Elrond. That enables them to use it with all individuals and non-elves, even those not close to them, and across distances.
I am sure each of you has your own thoughts on all this!
Two more little things:
I figure that since elves celebrate begetting days and not birthdays, age would be counted from the begetting day not from birth. So in our parlance, the twins would be one-year-old.
Elf babies hit their developmental milestones rapidly: “They grow slower than mortals though their minds are faster, learning speech before the first year. Their wills master their bodies quickly so they learn to walk, dance, etc by their first year. Elf Children at play would resemble fair happy children of men with little need for governing. Their words, and mastery of their bodies would make them seem older than they appeared in body. Might appear to be seven when actually in their 20’s, having adult size 50 and full maturity at 100.” [Tolkien, J.R.R. (1993). Morgoth’s Ring, The History of Middle Earth Vol. 10.] Yup, note that bit about “little need for governing”. Unfortunately, Glorfindel’s younger son is as hyperactive as he was as a child, so in these first couple of years quite a bit of “governing” is called for.
My thoughts on the masking or cloaking spells cast by Galadriel over Glorfindel’s parentage: she was able to exert them over a certain distance, and they were good for his first life in Beleriand. When he returned to the Hither Lands, she renewed them when they met shortly after in Ost-in-Edhil and maintained them for as long as she remained in Ennor. Unfortunately, she focused the spells on masking only Glorfindel’s connection with her own siblings and herself, and whether it was oversight or intentional, she did not extend it to Rîlel, which is why Oropher was able to recognize his dead wife in her firstborn immediately, especially as the connection between spouses is so deep. Now Galadriel has sailed, the spells are pretty much lifted. It could be that Finrod or herself could choose to cast a new spell if Glorfindel goes to Aman. It is unlikely Finrod would want to or allow her to. I have not given this any deeper thought, but such wizardry would be related to the “arts” that Finrod used to make eleven beautiful edhil and one adan appear like gross orcs enough to deceive a maia (since Sauron suspected them only because of their actions, not from their appearance).