Glorfindel had been awakened around noon by a clap of thunder and a headache so horrendous it felt as though a Mûmakil was stomping on his skull. The talan rocked as rain and wind lashed it, and Maeglin was nowhere to be seen.
Not sensing anything amiss, he had been in a tolerably good mood despite the headache. He swung his long legs off the bed and landed in a heap on the floor.
“Elven milksop…” “Weak as a day-old kitten.”
At least, that was all he really understood the voices were saying. The rest was probably far more caustic and more profane, but it was thankfully incomprehensible. He ignored them as he always did nowadays, crawled over to the chamberpot, and threw up into it. After cleaning his mouth with a paste of clay and wintergreen, he took a deep drink from a basin that had been filled by rainwater flowing down from the top of the tree… Then felt nauseous from drinking too quickly and too much, and had to return to the chamberpot. After cleaning his mouth a second time, he sipped at the water more slowly and judiciously, then dunked his head into the basin. These ablutions done, and the rain having subsided to a drizzle, the warrior pulled on a fresh tunic, combed through his damp hair, and felt human enough to face the world. And to search for Maeglin.
Walking through a light drizzle of rain, he headed towards the river. His legs were much steadier now, though his knees and ankles went weak at odd moments. Just stepping over a tree-root could end in his crumpling onto the wet ground.
“Wobbly as a newborn foal…” “And with legs as long and spindly too…”
There had been a time he had tried to talk to them, in the variant of Easterling he knew, the smattering of Balchoth and Variag dialects he had, and every variant of Westron known in Ennor. They either were ignoring him or could not hear him, though they could see him well enough. He had had no choice but to accustom himself to their ever-present babble of commentary on his daily life.
Back on his feet, Glorfindel was troubled that he had not the foggiest memory of how he had made his way back to the flet last night. No memory, in fact, of anything beyond Legolas refilling his cup for the seventh time. He had drunk far more than he usually did, there was no doubt of that. How much more, he was uncertain. He would surely not have been crazy enough to challenge the son of Thranduil to a drinking contest… or had he?
The voices began to murmur a little more loudly in their jumble of strange languages. He wished he did not understand any Easterling speech. It might have made it easier to ignore his shadowy cloud of companions.
He was grateful that whatever black abyss or void the spirits of slain orcs and balrogs and trolls and gaurhoth were sucked into, not one had lingered to disturb him. Glorfindel often wondered if the sons of Fëanor had been haunted after the kinslayings – or whether all slain elven souls obediently flew to the bosom of Mandos and did not linger to torment their slayers. Even Maeglin’s soul had done so, had it not? Had any of them been haunted by the spirits of Easterlings from the Nirnaeth Arnoediad? Glorfindel might be one of only a cursed few edhil with the power to sense and hear the spirit realm with such clarity, in the same way he could walk in dreams, and frighten off Nazgûl, and mend another’s fëa. Legolas and Elrond’s sons had seemed wholly unbothered, both after slaughtering humans in the War of the Ring, and after the Rhúnaer War. The one time Glorfindel had tentatively broached the subject, during a protracted siege of an enemy fortress, his friends had looked at him so oddly by the light of the campfire that he had decided he would never mention it to anyone again.
The first years at Rhúnaer and after had been far more terrible than this. The tormented souls had raged and hissed and cursed, howling profanities in their various tongues or weeping bitterly. Some days now, there were not many of them, just a few hundred. Most of them had subsided into moans of despair, or a grumbling commentary on Glorfindel’s daily life. Glorfindel’s tall frame had grown leaner over the last century, because of the harsh voices muttering longingly over his shoulder each time he dined.
“Food, oh, for food...”
“A strong cup of bloodwine, with cloves, and anise…”
“Call this food? Damned milksop elves...”
“Ay! Roast yak. Nothing beats roast yak...”
“I’d sell my mother for a taste of yak tongue again, charred just so, and bloody…”
“Silence, you barbaric lot! Now, a curd of pig’s blood, or a jellied goat’s eye, or an aspic with boar’s trotters… that’s what I miss…”
Torn between pity and disgust, there were days Glorfindel would be completely put off his food.
Winters were always worse, especially at Yule. As the dark nights lengthened, whether in snowy Imladris or mild Ithilien, the slain seemed to congregate more thickly in the shadows, and to grow more restive and tormented. And venomous. Though they were never as vicious now as in the first days, and were at times almost gruffly familiar towards their slayer, a century of their heckling and wailing had worn Glorfindel down. Ever so gradually.
And last night, the warm haze of Harondorian firewater had wrapped round him, comforting as a soft, downy cloak… and the voices of the slain mortals had seemed to grow more muffled and less strident with each cup he swallowed…
Between his headache and the voices of the slain, he did not hear the two elves ahead of him with his usually keen ears as he approached the pavilion. The slain ones were the first, in fact, to note what was going on as the warrior massaged a throbbing temple with one hand.
“Oho! A stallion has got pretty boy’s mare!”
“Or his mare has got a stallion!”
Glorfindel, startled, raised his head, and blinked at the sight before him. Then all hell broke loose.
He was barely aware of setting Maeglin into a chair after wrenching her out of Thranduil’s arms. Nor of spinning about with a lightning-fast left hook to the King of Eryn Lasgalen’s jaw. But the next thing Glorfindel knew, he was staring at the Woodland King sprawled on the wet ground outside the pavilion, and Thranduil, lying stunned on his back, was wondering if his right jaw had been broken.
“Good hit.” “Remember who the prick is!” “It was still a good hit.”
That wondrous first surge of adrenalin had worn off, though. As Glorfindel stepped out of the pavilion, his knees buckled, and he found himself flat on his front across his half-brother. Taking advantage of this, he then straddled the king and seized hold of Thranduil’s neck in a vise-like grip.
“Fight! Fight! Kill! Kill!” the slain ones were chanting.
“What did you do to her?” snarled Glorfindel, a darkness in both his face and his voice that no one, including Thranduil, would have ever have thought possible in the warrior of Valinor. Neither had the king ever heard the warrior snarl before.
“Nothing,” Thranduil said through the pain of his jaw. Not broken. But likely to hurt for a whole day like he had been hit by a rock giant, no matter how speedy elven healing was.
“You were assaulting my wife!”
“Rather, she was assaulting me.”
“A fine story. I know how you have been looking at her, you lecher. So now, you get her drunk? And take advantage of her?”
“She needed no assistance in getting herself drunk, I assure you,” Thranduil managed to say as the hands around his throat tightened. “Stop being ridiculous. Unhand me and get off me, you bastard!”
As a sharp, stabbing pain shot through Glorfindel’s skull, he winced and suddenly loosened his hold on Thranduil’s neck. Seeing his opportunity, Thranduil grabbed hold of the warrior and flipped him over his head, sending him sailing into a large, thick clump of bushes at the bottom of a rocky slope behind them. Rolling gracefully back onto his feet, the king watched with some bemusement as the greatest warrior in Ennor floundered on his back in the shrubs with an uncharacteristic lack of grace and his legs in the air. Glorfindel himself was frankly astonished when his body failed to obey him. He had no near-mortal wounds to his hröa, so why was it refusing to get out of the thicket?
The king frowned as he examined some mud stains on the skirts of his tunic and guessed that his back was probably far worse. What a day to have worn white. Then he watched as the warrior’s flailing entangled him deeper and deeper in the springy, slender branches of the shrubbery. Thranduil felt his tender jaw carefully. “You almost broke it.”
“You would have deserved it if I had,” growled Glorfindel blackly. “I saw what happened—she hardly drinks—I saw her struggle with you!”
“She drank enough to addle a dozen Dalesmen. I did warn her.” Thranduil looked over his shoulder thoughtfully back at the pavilion, where Maeglin lay slumped unconscious in a chair, and he recalled her strange words. Then he looked back down at Glorfindel, and chuckled at the sight of the long, bright golden hair tangled in the bushes, and the look of perplexity on the warrior’s face. A wicked glint came to his eyes. “I must say that after a few shots of urnen, she was… astonishing. A complete revelation.” He walked down the slope. “Who would have imagined so much fire beneath all that icy reserve? So much passion?” The king smiled mockingly at the balrog slayer as he went close to the bushes but stayed out of Glorfindel’s reach. “I could not have kept her hands off me if I tried. Oh, and her mouth. What could I say about the sweetness of her mouth—”
“You spawn of Sauron!!”
Several twigs snapped angrily, and the king found himself seized by the neck of his tunic and pulled into the clump of bushes. As a branch almost poked his eye out, Thranduil cursed himself for his misjudgement.
“You turd of a troll!!” Glorfindel cried out angrily as he tried once again to throttle Thranduil, “I could hang you from your ankles over Orodruin and roast you slowly, and the world would call it just. You kissed my wife?!”
“Did I say that?” Thranduil managed to gasp, as he tried to pry the warrior’s fingers from his neck.
Glorfindel paused and stared blankly at him, frowning through the hammering in his skull. “You said—”
“—I never said I kissed her.”
“—so… you did not?”
“—unlike you, falsest of friends, who kissed my lady love on Cerin Amroth.”
“Cerin Amroth?” Glorfindel’s brow furrowed in bewilderment, then his eyes widened. “You mean… Amroth’s feast at Lórien?”
Tuiad Lyth, Third Age, year 38. A golden-haired Noldorin lord and a black-haired Silvan maiden had pressed against the shadowed bole of a mallorn tree, lips locked in a deeply passionate kiss as they shimmered in the darkness. The King of Eryn Galen, the guest of King Amroth, had watched from a talan in another tree, his face dark with rage and jealousy.
“You idiot!” exclaimed Glorfindel. “You saw that? You held that against me all these years, and said nothing?”
“What was there to say? I took you into my confidence, you rancid bastard, and you betrayed me.”
Glorfindel looked utterly confused. “When? When did I receive this confidence? I had no idea then that you loved her!”
“Liar. On the ride south to Barad-dûr along the Anduin. I told you that if I fell in battle, I had one regret.”
“That was it?” Glorfindel painfully concentrated as he recalled the conversation three millennia past. “You said, ‘I regret Lothuial Laerosiel will hate me till the Dagor Dagorath.’ And I said, ’Fear not. ’Tis not for you to meet Mandos. You will have time anon to make your peace.’ And you said, ‘But should aught befall me, I would wish her to have this ring.’ And I said, ‘I tell you, it will not come to that. But should aught befall you, I shall see it done.’ Where was the confession of love?”
“The ring! Why else would I want to give her the ring, if not for love?”
“How was I to know that?”
“It was my mother’s ring!”
“I thought it but a token of peace, or friendship. You know, as from Finrod to Barahir. You did not utter the word love even once!”
“Why else would I call it my one regret, you numbskull, as I rode to fight in a great and dreadful war?”
“I was thinking myself that I regretted not being nicer to Erestor. I thought I should have been nice and given him my emerald hairpin that he admired so much. Why could you not have been more direct? ‘I love Lothuial Laerosiel and I never got to tell her. Should I die, please tell her and give her this ring as a token of my love.’ Why speak in such oblique hints?”
“I had no idea what a dense-headed dimwit you were!” Thranduil shifted as a twig pressed against his kidney. “Let go of me, you dunce!”
Glorfindel released Thranduil’s neck. “Verily I had no clue you loved her! You hid it so well, Lothuial loved you but thought it hopeless. There were murmurs you would marry Mithrellas of Lothlórien. Lothuial was distraught that Tuiad Lyth. She got hopelessly drunk, came to me in tears seeking comfort—and then grew muddled and started to kiss me. And called your name, I swear. I had not the heart to push her away, so... that was how it happened...”
Thranduil stared at Glorfindel. “She… loved me then?”
“Why did you lead me to believe you kissed Lómiel? Do you have a death wish? I could have killed you!”
“Your kind are famous for that,” said Thranduil bitterly, extricating himself with cat-like grace from the bushes and glaring at the golodh still trapped there.
“I am no kinslayer! You provoked me—you—” Still hopelessly entangled in the shrubbery, the warrior was now gazing at Thranduil without rancour, only confusion and hurt. “Why? Why do you hate me so much? Were we not once gwedyr? Did I not give service to your realm as best as I could over the years? Apart from kissing Lothuial, how—how did I ever transgress against you?”
“Why else do I hate you?” said Thranduil as he pulled leaves and bits of twig out of his long, silken tresses. “Where shall we begin? Let us start with the time you took my young son and disappeared without a word into the Withered Heath for five days and brought him home with a broken leg.”
Glorfindel flushed. “An honest mistake for which I have always accepted blame. Legolas and I each thought the other had left word for you. I tended and set the leg and it healed perfectly. I apologize once again for it.”
“Then there were the many other times you nearly got Legolas killed, captured by yrch and trolls, mauled by wargs, or eaten by spiders.”
“My presence for all those instances was incidental. You know as well as I that he did all that even when I was not around.”
“Indeed? He seemed especially accident prone in your company.”
“Uhh… you mean the time he was swept a league downriver?”
“And the time he had his gut sliced open fighting yrch. I have lost count of the times you have almost gotten my only son and heir killed—and made him love and adore you for it through it all,” said Thranduil scathingly.
“All those mishaps were only in his first În! He was young and reckless, and too eager to prove himself. I have brought him home with nary a nick on him ever since.”
“You have ever been the worst of influences on him. This latest madness is also your work. Since he was young, you have filled his head with fantastical stories of distant shores where the sands are pearl and there is no winter—”
“They are true tales of our far home. Yet it was the War of the Ring that led him to the sea. Not I.”
“—you lure him with your tales of riding with Araw Tauron, and of woods greater and fairer than Lasgalen—”
“—which they are indeed—”
“—and you gave him the shipbuilding plans, and the sea charts, and the maps of the sky paths beyond the Bent World—”
“—that is unfair! He asked them of Círdan, and I was only the courier!”
“—but your greatest transgression, your unforgivable transgression—would you like to know what it is?” In an icy, biting voice, the Woodland King said: “That you were ever begotten.”
In the long silence that followed, they held each other’s eyes.
Then, a look almost of relief crossed the warrior’s face. “So… you know.”
“What do I know?” challenged Thranduil in a quiet, steely voice. “Say it.”
“About… about our Naneth,” said Glorfindel quietly, the name coming awkwardly off his tongue.
Thranduil’s eyes glittered ferociously, and his mouth was hard. “You do not deserve to call her such!”
“Our Emel, then. Rílel daughter of Gilornel. She may have begat me out of wedlock, but her blood runs in my veins as much as yours!”
“Your veins are filthy with the golodh that defiled her,” snapped Thranduil contemptuously.
“You will not speak thus of my noble Adar!” cried Glorfindel irately, fire kindling in his eyes as he, at last, with a desperate burst of strength and a massive snapping of twigs, managed to tumble himself out of the thicket onto his knees, breathing raggedly. But his long hair remained snagged in the bushes and he winced as the branches pulled at his scalp.
“Noble?” sneered Thranduil, staying well out of reach. “Noble? That piece of golodhrin filth?”
“Thranduil,” said a calm, commanding voice. “For the love of your Naneth, stop taunting your Hanar and do not insult the Adar of your Hanar.”
The brothers turned to see Rílel’s guardian standing beneath the ancient trees of the grove, immaculate in a long silver-grey robe. He was coolly taking in the sight of his great-nephews in their muddied and torn clothing, and the stray leaves and twigs caught in their bright hair. The right side of Thranduil’s face was red and swelling, and Glorfindel had several scratches on his face and hands.
“For the love of Lady Galadriel, you mean.” The Woodland King glared coldly at Celeborn. “All these years. You kept it hidden.”
“Yes,” said the silver-haired lord, walking towards Rílel’s two sons. His hair flowed like moonlight down his back, and his ageless face was smooth and expressionless. “It was your Naneth’s secret I carried,” he said to Thranduil. “She never wished you to know. Or your Adar, of course. But it is time.”
“And what of the ravisher?” said Thranduil sharply. “Emel was your ward, your sister-daughter. How could you protect and shield the vermin? How could you let him go unpunished? For the sake of the Lady Galadriel?”
Celeborn looked at his Sindarin nephew with unruffled calm. “It was not as you think.” He went over to Glorfindel, who was struggling to untangle his famed tresses from the twigs. Kneeling by the younger elf, the erstwhile Lord of Lothlórien began with nimble fingers to tease the bright locks free.
“Your Naneth was young,” said Celeborn to both of them. “She fancied herself in love.”
Thranduil stood very still. He had turned pale.
“It was but the giddy romantic dream of a young maid,” Celeborn continued serenely, “and she came in time to see it as such.”
“And… the golodh took advantage of her vulnerability? And seduced and dishonoured her?” asked Thranduil, the fury in his voice edged with desperation.
Celeborn looked at Thranduil for a while, his piercing silver eyes glittering. Then he said gently, “Quite the reverse, I am afraid. Perhaps we should leave it at that.”
Thranduil was speechless, and for the first time in millennia he looked lost.
Continuing to free the entangled golden hair, Celeborn added, “As her guardian, the fault was mine for not offering my ward better guidance than I did. I little understood what measures an ardent young heart desperate for love might resort to. Until it was too late. Your Naneth had certain arts and spells none of us were aware of, Thranduil. She used them hoping she might beguile a prince into loving her. Then she repented, and used them to hide all trace of her misdeed, and start anew. You Adar never guessed, never knew, when he bedded her. And Glorfindel’s own Adar was, in all this, ignorant and innocent. Although,” he added to Glorfindel with a gentle smile, “I think it likely that the Lady Galadriel would have spoken to Finrod in Valinor, by now.” He had pulled free the last golden lock of hair. Rising to his feet, he gently ruffled Glorfindel’s hair as though he was an elfling, probably thinking as he did so of another, much beloved, with hair yet brighter.
Glorfindel sat on the ground, weak and drained by his struggles, his hair hopelessly mussed, and looked at his brother. His heart ached for Thranduil, who was looking as though everything he had ever believed in was being shaken and shattered. The son of Finrod averted his eyes from his proud brother’s pain.
“Thranduil,” said Celeborn kindly. “Your Naneth wronged the Adar of your Hanar and deceived your Adar, and she suffered dearly for it, whereas both men were spared much pain in all their unknowing. And in time, she came to love your Adar. Most deeply. She redeemed herself by being all that a devoted wife and mother could be. And you, Thranduil, you she loved better than she loved her own life. Do not think harshly of her.”
Thranduil hardly heard the ancient Sinda. He was thinking of only one thing at the moment.
She had died with the golodh’s name on her lips.
A league away, on a hill outside Parth Glórin, a young golden-haired elf and a dark-haired mortal girl reached the summit, hand in hand. They were laughing from the climb and the run, Arasael flushed and breathless, and her dark hair wild and tousled by the wind. They turned, and surveyed the wooded hills of fair Ithilien, which lay stretched before them bathed in clear luminous light. The scene was painted in the magical shades of love, and seemed to belong to them and them alone.
Aryo gazed at his princess lovingly. Arasael, princess of Gondor, was fair enough among her people, but there were highly un-elven imperfections in her face that made Aryo adore it all the more: the mouth too wide, but generous and laughing; the chin a little too sharp; the lightest sprinkling of sun-freckles on her small, pert nose; tiny crinkles at the corners of her lively eyes when she laughed. And the sun had kissed her skin darker than any elf’s over long hours of riding and archery.
As her eyes looked west where the sun was sinking lower in the sky, a sadness fleeted across Arasael’s face. She turned towards Aryo, and saw how his bright flowing hair and the flawless symmetry of his face caught the light of the sun and gave it back. She remembered how mesmerized by the bright beauty of the elven twins she had been as a small child. The elven twins’ visits to Gondor every four to five years had meant boating on the Anduin, trips to Ithilien, camping in the wilds beyond the Pelennor, all done with or without the company of her father and brothers. And over the years, her awe of their elven beauty had receded and they had become just… Aryo and Arman. Friends and familiars. She had been more boy than girl, more ranger’s child than princess—her hair always refusing to stay in its braids, her dresses always snagging on bushes and brambles and getting torn. She was the despair of her mother and the darling of her father. Aryo had never treated her like a girl. Nor had he spared her the sharp edge of his tongue whenever she did something particularly dangerous. “Stars of Varda! If your father does not beat some sense into you, you infuriating child, I swear I’ll do it myself!” He had taught her elven history and lore, and on his last visit, when she was fifteen, they had spoken long hours into the night of the fading of magic and the old races.
Then, four nights ago, as they camped north of Emyn Arnen and talked after eating a rabbit stew, the familiar had become new and strange once more. She had gazed at Aryo, his face lit by the shimmer of his own golden hair and the red glow of the campfire embers, and suddenly been overwhelmed by the entirety of all he was and had been to her over the years. And she had known that this elf was the man she wanted to be with for the rest of her life. And her year-long infatuation with dashing Galadil, prince of Dol Amroth, was exposed as a shallow fancy. Had she only a short while ago been dizzy with joy at the thought that the match was arranged, and dreamed of their betrothal? The only real and true thing in the world was the elf sitting next to her. Who was now frowning strangely at her.
Aryo had been quite earnestly explaining to her his latest efforts to re-create the palantiri, but his voice had trailed off, and he was staring at her in silence. He looked almost stricken.
She had cleared her throat. “And so, what did the dwarves have to say about that?”
“What?” Aryo had said, like a dazed man just awakened from a dream.
They had been sitting almost shoulder to shoulder then. When their hands had reached out and clasped, it felt both wondrous and natural. And after a moment, they had leaned closer to each other, and kissed.
After an unknown length of time spent kissing, Aryo had murmured, “This is insane. Your father…”
“Hush, I know,” she had replied. “I do not care.” And silenced him with another kiss.
Stupid words spoken by starlight, she realized now, as they stood in sunlight on the hill in Ithilien. Already as she gazed westwards, she felt the future looming. Felt all the weight of the fading of the old races, and saw a white ship carrying him away from her over the edge of the Bent World. She tried to blot it out of her mind.
I do not want to think of the future. I just want to be young, and foolish, and live this moment. Live fully this joy so new, so fleeting. It may be all we shall ever have.
But he was looking gravely at her, as though he had read her mind. And taking her hands, he said, “I will not take ship west with my people, my love. I shall stay in Ennor, and we shall be together always.”
She felt her knees go weak, and herself begin to tremble. Such conflicting emotions of leaping joy and hope and wrenching heartache swept over her that she was bewildered and lost. It was the heartache that won.
“Always,” she repeated. “But—it would not—it could not be always. You would watch me grow old… and white-haired… and then…” It was not her beautiful, still ageless grandmother Arwen she saw in her mind, but her father’s nursemaid, who had just passed away – a tiny, snowy-haired, toothless creature with face and hands wrinkled like a dried prune.
“Do not say it!” Aryo said sharply, as though not speaking of the dread reaper of the edain would deny its power and existence. All the blood had drained from his face. “It is many years away. Why think of it now?”
“It is eighty years more only, a hundred perhaps. What is that but the life of a mayfly to an immortal? And all the beauty and joy of Aman, all the magic and lore and light and the powers of your people—what would you give it up for?” Her voice broke at the thought of him alone. Already she saw him facing the long, dark years in mortal lands, the last of his kind, and the way to the west closed forever.
His face took on a stubbornness she had seen before and never thought she would love so well… as she loved each nuance of emotion and expression that crossed his features.
Aryo had witnessed old age and mortality before. At Imladris, he had sat by the deathbeds of childhood playmates, and witnessed their last breaths. He had watched lines of age and disease and care form on their faces and etch themselves deeper over decades. And agonizing though the thought of it happening to Arasael was, he knew with the ardent lover’s absolute certainty that he wanted to be the one holding her in his arms as she breathed her last. The anguish at the thought of the eternal separation that would follow was so great, that he felt pain constrict his own breath.
“For the happiness of eight or eighty years with you, I would be willing to give up all of Aman and much more. I would treasure every day and every hour Eru gives us,” he said. “I have never known Aman… I could barely miss a place I do not know.”
“But… Arman? And your father, and mother? And the household of Imladris? Will you not miss them? And what would it be like, once my father is gone… and I as well?”
Arman. The thought of Arman was like a knife through his fëa, but he could not think of that now. “All mortals lose kin, do they not? I may not be able to stay the hand of time, but I will find comfort, as mortals do, in what is left to me. We will have children, my love.” His face glowed with joy at the thought. “And I would watch over them, and our descendants. I would see you and I and our love live on in them, through all the ages of men till the Second Music.”
Or you would fade from the grief of loneliness and pain, numbed at last from loss upon loss. You would fade from weariness and regret, from the heavy weight of the long years, and your heart and spirit would sicken at the decay of this mortal realm, thought the girl, remembering the dark prophetic words she had read in the ancient elven texts, which had till a few days ago meant no more to her than words on crumbling parchment.
“I cannot let you do this,” she said, shaking her head, her grey eyes full of pain. “I cannot. I cannot.” And the tears welled in her eyes and spilled down her face as her heart broke.
Whispers carried through the elven settlement, swift as the wind, among those who were awake, for many slept till the sunset when the feasting would begin once more.
Legolas swiftly climbed one mallorn, and as he arrived at one talan, he heard several gasps of surprise, and saw five pairs of eyes glittering at him from Arman’s bed.
Legolas smiled wryly. “Nínim, Dílloth, Aníriel, and Nemirwen—I must have a word with Orlin.”
“Oh, hîr-nin, do join us!” “You should rest, to feast and dance all night!”
“No, my blossoms,” said the Lord of the Ithilien Elves.
Arman and the ellith rose from the bed. The young elf straightened his clothes.
“Legolas,” said Arman. “I—”
“I know, I know. ‘Nothing happened’,” said Legolas. “But your brother... you should go to him now.”
Arman went racing through the woods and hills towards the river, arriving at the jetty in time to see the small ship disappearing upriver, towed along the shoreline by horses, and Aryo standing forlornly alone, staring after it. Arman paused, a lump in his throat as he felt his twin’s pain lance his own heart. Then he sped on light, silent feet to his twin’s side.
As Maeglin stirred to consciousness, the wild cries of seabirds were harsh in her ears and caused her to wince. Her throat was dry, so very dry. Soft strands of silken hair blew across her face and she lifted her hand to brush them away.
“Finally, melmenya. How do you feel?” said a well-loved voice above her.
Her eyes had shut when she passed out. She opened them now, and saw the carved wooden beams of a roof, and his face looking tiredly down at her. She was lying with her head on his lap, his glorious bright hair, rather dishevelled, falling about her face. He was seated on the wooden floor and leaning his back against one of the supporting pillars of the pavilion. There were blue shadows under his eyes, and he was pale, and there were thin red scratches on his cheeks and forehead. But he was still more beautiful at his worst than most elves would be in all their immortal lives.
“What happened? You look like muk,” she croaked from her parched throat.
“You’re not looking your best either.” He gave her a wan, weak smile. “I feel like muk too.”
“Such language… What depraved company have you been keeping?”
“Oh, the worst sort. A foul-mouthed brat who should know better than to touch uruinén.”
She tried to sit up, winced and fell back onto his lap. It was so comfortable and warm there, she decided to remain there for now. “Thranduil—”
“Left. With Celeborn.”
“Celeborn? What happened?”
“I shall tell you only after you tell me what happened between the two of you. You were guzzling uruinén like a fish, according to him.”
“I… am going to be sick.”
And he helped her out of the pavilion, and while she bent over the roots of a venerable olive tree, he held back her waterfall of black hair for her because that is what husbands are for. Then they slowly made their way down to the river, and she drank some of it and freshened up. They sat leaning against each other on the banks of the Anduin, choosing some rocks which were less damp than the surrounding grasses and vegetation. They gazed westwards at the sun sinking over the distant plains of Lebennin, across the wide river.
She told him briefly of her exchange of words with Thranduil, and her failed attempt to smash the Woodland King’s face.
“Well, I punched his jaw for you.” He gave a very small chuckle because it hurt to laugh. “He led me to believe that you threw yourself at him and kissed him. I almost choked him to death for it.”
She drew away from him at that, with a frigid glare. “I see. You believed him. You believed that I cast myself at him like a wanton.”
His smile died and he blanched. “I never said that.”
“You as much as did. You thought me capable of being faithless.”
He sighed hugely and looked pained. “Of course not, melimë. The uruinén—”
“Once a traitor, always a traitor?” Her voice dripped with icy bitterness.
“No! I merely did not question what Thranduil said—”
“Of course. Thranduil does not lie. Whereas you have always known that I, ally of Moringotto, pawn of Sauron, am a traitor and deceiver of blackest tar.”
“You know how much I loathe that man!”
“Well, you loathed me up to the moment you coupled with me, did you not?” The words escaped his lips before he could think.
A dreadful silence fell. Her eyes narrowed and her face grew grim. “So… that is how it is. You believe all it takes is a few swigs of uruinén, and this lowlife Moriquendë skank would throw herself at the nearest man, regardless she is wed?”
“I never said that!” he sputtered. “But… is that not how it happened with us?”
“Two centuries of marriage and two sons, and you think all my love boils down to is a swig too many of uruinén!”
“No! I mean, I… I sometimes wondered… over the years… you kept us in secrecy for six decades... you seemed so uncertain about us. I loved you for nine years before we wed… but for you… it was too sudden. You never had a proper chance to choose.” He looked tortured for a moment. “We have been so happy… But I wondered if you ever regretted it… if you never saw this as something that could last for all time.”
“After all these years and two children – how could you possibly doubt me?”
“As Imrazôr never doubted Mithrellas? You have thought of leaving me. Do not deny it.”
Her heart lurched to realize he had sensed those treacherous thoughts. “I have no such thoughts now. Truly.”
“But you did before. How were you even able to think it? Will you ever think it again? What does that say of your commitment to me?”
She found herself on the defensive. “They were the most fleeting of thoughts only…”
His eyes were wounded. “Not that fleeting. You were mulling them the year the boys came of age. And again, the year when we first saw silver in Estel’s hair. I wondered at times, truly, if I might awaken one day like Imrazôr and find you gone.”
“All right. I had thoughts. But never intentions. Never. No plans to carry it out.”
“But why did you even think them? Were you so unhappy?”
Her mind was a confused turmoil of thoughts, and the lingering effects of the urnen were not helping. “You had… withdrawn from me. You needed so much more than I could give you. And as Aman loomed… I thought how much better it would be for everyone, for you, and for our sons, if I was not there.” She looked grim. “Across Alatairë are all those who love you, and love me not. Think of facing Itarillë—”
“I have thought of it for the past hundred and fifty years. Itarillë loves me, and I know she will love you when she sees how good for each other we are—”
“Ecthelion. Rauco. Duilin. All the other Lords—”
“I could not care less what they think—”
“I care!” she snapped. “Can you imagine it? ‘Meet my wife. Yes, we were all Lords together before.’”
“If they do not accept you, they do not accept me!”
“You could give up all your friendships? Your beloved house?”
“In case you have not noticed, I have done without those friendships and without all the Golden Flowers for six and a half thousand years now. I am sure all of them have been doing just fine without me too.”
“And what of our sons? Do we wait for one of the Gondolindrim to walk up to them in a street in Eldamar, spit in their faces, and tell them their mother was Maeglin Lómion?”
“We should tell them now. They are old enough, surely.”
“No!” Maeglin said sharply. “They cannot know. They must never know. We cannot do that to them, and destroy their lives.”
“You trust so little in their love for you?”
“I am not cruel enough to hurt them that way. If I never go to Aman, they need never know. For Eru’s sake, Lauro, you cannot tell them that their mother is the greatest villain ever born of the Quendi, the orc-blooded monster and coward and lecher who sold his city and his people to their greatest enemy.”
He was appalled. “Who told you about the orc-blood rumour? Did you read it?”
“Our sons told me.”
“It was an absurd, a disgusting fiction generated among the refugees at the Havens of Sirion, and Quendingoldo recorded it in his histories. It is beneath contempt or even notice.”
“Oh, our sons noticed. And so will everyone we meet in Aman.”
He glowered and clenched his teeth. “We shall dismantle all these falsehoods, and destroy them with the truth. And our sons shall learn the true story of the prince of Gondolin from us. There will be little shame in it.”
“There will be when they have to face the condemnation and judgement of Eldamar.”
“Forget Aman, then. We will tell the boys nothing, and I will stay here with you.”
“No. I… I want the three of you to go. I am so serious about your going to Aman that I would drug you, haul you onto Círdan’s ship and chain you to your bunk if need be.”
“Love, I would like to see you try. Angainor would not hold me down if it keeps me from you,” declared the elf who two hours’ past had not been able to get out of a bush.
“The sea calls you. Your fëa yearns towards Aman… you need to go. You need the healing and wholeness that Estë can give you. You need to be free of these atani that have been plaguing you.”
His eyes widened. “H-how did you know?”
“Do you remember nothing? You told all in your drunken stupor last night.”
He groaned. “I shouldn’t have. You shouldn’t worry about me.”
“I have been worried about you for a century. You must go to Aman. What if you stay, and one day, you awaken with regret, hating me, and there are no more ships west?”
“I will not regret it.”
“We are fading! With each century, we lose a little more of our powers. Unless I craft a new Vilya, we will weaken until we may become no more in strength than the atani are, but yet immortal.”
“Or become more fëa than hröa. There is none who can say.”
“I do not think I could have crafted Vilya or any of the elven rings at the peak of my powers. Now, I could not hope to even try.”
“No matter what happens, I will stay with you. If we fade, we fade together. Whether we sail or do not sail, let us work it out. Together. Please—” His eyes begged her. “Don’t attempt to run. I am not getting on any ship without you. I will hunt you down across Ennor if I have to, as your father hunted down your mother.”
She looked at him, and smiled rather sardonically. “Will you bring a poisoned javelin?”
“For Thranduil. If I find him anywhere near you.”
“You big silly. You know I detest him.”
“Stop saying that. Need I keep reminding you that you ended up in bed with the last nér you detested?”
They laughed at that, the kind of laughter just beyond which tears lurk, and kissed gently and affectionately.
“All right,” she said. “I won’t leave you.”
He smiled wanly. “Ever?” he said softly.
“One and bound for always?”
“Say it again.”
She sighed. “I am yours. For always. Please do not make a big production of it.”
As their heads leaned in for another kiss, a seagull swooped past with a raucous cry. They both winced.
“Kill the damned birds,” she said.
“It is a lesson to us. Never will I drink that much again.”
“The last time I ever drank this much was one night in my father’s forge. I hit him and bloodied his nose. He had me by the throat. At one point he flung me against his anvil and almost broke my back. I pushed him against the wall and shouted obscenities at him. If Ammë and his retainers had not come in and pulled us apart, one of us would have slain kin that night.”
He gently pushed back strands of black hair that were blowing across her face.
“From that day, there were no more nights drinking together. No more visits to Nogrod. I kept out of the smithy as long as he was there. I began to dream of the world beyond that forest, and dream of freedom from shadows. I made a rule never to drink more than five goblets of wine at one sitting after that night, and never would I touch urnen again. I never wanted to lose control again. Never wanted to be like him.”
“You will never be.”
“But I was. I hated the bastard. Hated him for all of him I saw in me. The more I ran from his shadows, the more I found them within me.”
“No longer. You are free of them now.” And taking her face in his hands, he finally took that second kiss. But the shadow she saw in his own eyes mocked his words. And she tried not to think of the dead Lords of Gondolin.
“And you,” she said quietly, when their lips separated. “Was it so bad last night that you had to get yourself drunk?”
He looked sheepish. “I did not mean to…”
She looked cross. “All these years. You lied to me. You pretended everything was well.”
“The atani could not hurt me in any way. And there was nothing you could do. I did not wish you to worry.”
“You shut me out,” she said reproachfully. There were tears pricking her eyes, and she struggled to hold them back.
Without a word, he reached out and wiped away one tear at the corner of her eye with his thumb. The sun was setting, and the stars were lighting in the sky one by one.
“Forgive me,” said his mind to hers. And he kissed her once again, deeply and tenderly. But as her hand went to the fastenings at the waist of his breeches, he shook his head, “Sorry, melimë. I have the most splitting headache. I don’t think I could.”
She caught herself and retied his laces. “Sorry. It was almost a reflex action. My head feels abominable too.”
With a smile, he got to his feet and reached down to pull her up. Then they saw their sons, walking slowly and forlornly along the banks of the Anduin under the stars and drifts of windswept clouds. Aryo’s bright head was bowed, staring at the ground just before his feet as he walked. Arman saw them and cried out, “Atto! Ammë!”
“Yonyat? When did you arrive?” called Glorfindel, as the parents moved towards their sons.
Aryo looked oddly at his mother, pale-faced but dry-eyed. “Atar does not know?”
Maeglin shook her head, whilst Glorfindel looked bewildered. “Does not know what?”
“No matter,” said Aryo in a flat voice. “It is over. She told me she would never allow me to forgo Aman and remain in Ennor for her sake…”
“Who?” asked Glorfindel, almost bursting. “Who is she? What is over? What is this about remaining in Ennor?”
Then, at the stricken look on his firstborn’s face, a look Glorfindel had seen before on the faces of warriors who had received a mortal hurt, the warrior fell silent. He and Maeglin stepped forward, and together with Arman, they folded their tall son tightly in the overlapping circles of their arms, and let him weep.
As sounds of laughter and song from the celebrations at Parth Glórin travelled up to their flet, Glorfindel and Maeglin, after a good, hot wash at the bath house, were preparing for an early night.
After letting Aryo pour out his heart and his woes for an hour or so, it had seemed a better idea to encourage him to take part in the feasting, to be surrounded by sweet music and merry companions than to mope and brood, and Legolas and Arman had promised solemnly that between them both, they would not let the heartbroken youngster drink himself silly.
But as the hero and traitor of Gondolin lay snuggled against each other, sleep eluded them.
“Are the ‘voices’ bothering you, vennoya?”
“No more than usual, vesseya.”
“There is something I never told you. About the night we bonded.”
His heart sank. “And that is?”
“The uruinén helped, but was not the cause. I loved you long before.”
He raised himself on an elbow and stared down at her. “You did?”
“Since when? Our sword lessons in the basement?”
He was both stupefied and ecstatic. “Then… when?”
She shrugged with a show of indifference. “Sometime during the years you made such a nuisance of yourself at the smithy. I got used to you being around.”
“Nonsense. You had over a century to get used to my ‘being around’ in Gondolin and it did naught but irk you.”
“The mystery of love. I have no idea why or exactly when, but I do know that loved you before I married you.” She paused. “Ardently.”
His glow was so bright, the sun seemed to be rising in the talan. “Why did you never tell me? This changes everything. It’s wonderful!”
“What changes? We are married no less and no more than before.”
“You proud, cruel prince. You led me to believe you loathed me!”
“Of course I did. I have no idea when I stopped, though.”
“It would seem we have more secrets than I imagined, after being married for two centuries. Have you other confessions to make?”
“That summer in Gondolin, when you and Ecthelion went swimming in the mountain lake and your breeches disappeared, that was me.”
“Oh, that I guessed long ago!” He laughed merrily and smothered her with a kiss.
She smirked as she surfaced from his kiss. “How is your headache now?”
“What headache? I feel marvellous!”
And somewhere in the hours between then and the rising of the sun, there was a lot of love, and laughter, and no sleep.
And by the time the first light of dawn stole into the talan, Maeglin and Glorfindel had a reason to be rapturously happy, and had both reached, unanimously, a decision that they would sail to Aman, and build a home in Oromë’s forest.
Two nights later, it became known that Thranduil and his guard would leave for Eryn Lasgalen the following day.
As the last festivities for Yule were held, Glorfindel went out in search of his brother. He found the king at last, strolling through a moonlit glade in shimmering silver-grey robes, with a herd of deer and their stag at his side. Thranduil and the deer turned their heads as the balrog slayer appeared on the edge of the glade, clad all in white. Then the deer and stag carried on grazing. Thranduil’s jaw had long healed, and so had the superficial scratches Glorfindel incurred during his tussle with the thicket. But other wounds lingered.
“I have nothing to say to you,” said Thranduil coldly to his half-brother.
“Please. You leave tomorrow. We may never meet again. I just… want to talk.”
“What is there to talk about?”
“You are my hanar. Can we not part as the mellyn we once were?”
“No one can turn back time.”
“Let us move forward, then. Let us at least make our peace.”
“The only peace there could be between us would be that of silence.”
“I would hope rather for the peace of understanding. Why hate me for something I had no power over? Is my very existence such an affront to you?”
Thranduil gritted his teeth and looked away from his bastard brother.
“Our Naneth loved you and your Adar,” Glorfindel said. “You are true-born, love-born, able to name father and mother all your life. I never even knew who my parents were, for almost seven millennia. I have no ill will towards you. Why should it be you who hates me?” His azure eyes were baffled.
“Why?” Thranduil said bitterly, swinging around on the warrior, and the deer startled slightly and moved away a few paces. “Do you really want to hear it, spoken plainly, you simpleton? You were conceived by her love for my Adar’s rival. I was at her side as she died, and her last thought and her last breath were for him. And all I ever believed about her, all I ever thought I knew about her… it was all a lie. And my Adar knew it, the moment he laid eyes on you. You killed him long before Dagorlad. You killed him the day you walked into the throne room of Eryn Galen.”
Glorfindel was silent for a long while, then he said awkwardly, “Naethen. I am sorry about Naneth, and about your Adar. I am sorry for how I came to be. But thorn in your side that I may be, yet I will always be your hanar. And pain in the neck that you can be, yet I will always see you as my mellon. When I go to Aman, I will seek our Naneth and your Adar, should they already have left the Halls of Mandos. I will seek to make peace with them. Have you naught to say to them? You may send messages by me, if you will not by Legolas. I will not fail you in this, however else I may have grieved you.”
As he left, Glorfindel paused and turned back to say one last thing.
“And should you decide to sail, hanar-nín, if you will not get on a ship with a naugol… know that you are always welcome to board one with this golodh.”
And Thranduil stroked the neck of the stag that walked at his side, and was lost deep in thought.
There was more to come that night, Thranduil discovered. Reluctant to return to his talan at Parth Glórin, he lingered in the wooded hills, and let the beauty of the moonlit forest soothe him.
He sensed her before he saw her in the shadows—dressed in a flowing blue dress of so dark a hue, it was the blue sheen on a raven’s wing, almost black. The contrast with the alabaster whiteness of her skin in the moonlight was almost too stark. She had a glow to her that was almost ethereal, and looked lovelier than he had ever seen her.
But remembering their last meeting and the words they had exchanged, the king’s mouth hardened. Maeglin held up her hand in a silencing gesture before he could speak. A very queenly gesture. Or a princely one.
“Three things would I speak, Âr Thranduil. Then I shall leave you in peace.”
“First and foremost, I crave forgiveness that I insulted your father.”
“And the second?” he said frostily.
“I regret nothing I said of Thingol. I stand by my judgement as true.”
“And the third?” he said even more icily.
“You are far better a king than ever Thingol was. An able king.”
In the silence that followed, he inclined his head to regard her piercing, smouldering eyes of midnight—unnerving black eyes—with a fairly penetrating gaze of his own. “Did your husband send you here to say that?”
She lifted her chin at him a little defiantly. “I am no man’s lackey, to be sent. I acted of my own will.” She curtseyed. “No vaer i dhû, Âr Thranduil.”
As she turned to leave, however, he spoke.
“Of course. You were his peer, if I recall the history rightly. And his prince.”
She froze, then slowly turned and looked at him with raised eyebrows. “I have no idea what you mean, Taur.”
“It means I have solved your riddle.”
She gave him a wide-eyed innocent gaze. “A riddle? You mean… my wild words, my drunken drivel? I was, as you rightly observed, raving.” She bit her lower lip daintily, then delicately pushed a lock of hair behind her ear with a slender and graceful hand. “I do hope, Âr Thranduil, that you will forgive—and forget—the nonsensical babblings of a silly elleth who cannot hold her drink.” And she smiled at him, sweet as honey. A smile that was almost simpering, almost a travesty of femininity.
A knowing smile touched Thranduil’s lips. “Of course… híril-nín. All is… forgiven.”
Their eyes met in understanding. She swept him a deep curtsey. “Le hannon, Taur.”
Then, with a small, mocking smile, she disappeared back into the shadows.
Legolas ran a loving hand along the hull of his great ship. It was finished. White as a pearl, graceful as a swan, stronger than Ossë’s wrath, and—he knew—it would be swift as the wind. But amid his pride and his joy in his ship, Legolas’ heart was heavy, and Arman saw the sorrow in the Aranion’s azure eyes, and the grimness in the set of his fair mouth.
“Legolas, please,” begged Arman. “Go to him. Talk to him!”
Legolas sighed, and turned to look sadly at his pale-haired companion. “Arman, do you think I have not tried? It never seems to end well when I do. I love my Adar. I want nothing better than for him to sail with me… you have no idea how many times I have sought to persuade him. I have a feeling, mellon vuin, that you would enjoy more favour and success with him than I.”
Not long after, the stars could still be seen in the sky through the mellyrn branches as Arman made his way up to the king’s talan. Legolas had given his father the largest and most luxuriously furnished flet in the settlement, though the king had spent little time there.
“I brought you some breakfast, Âr Thranduil. Legolas prepared the tray with his own hands.”
The king nodded at him, already dressed for travel. Arman made to carry down the travel packs, but Thranduil stopped him. “Later. Sit with me a while.”
Arman sat on a couch across from the king as he ate at the table.
Thranduil had had no food, the previous day, and he quickly put away the fresh pastries and delicacies that the kitchen had prepared and Legolas had chosen. All his Adar’s favourite morsels.
“You have served me well, young one,” said the king to Arman. “But I do now release you from your oath and from my service.”
Arman’s eyes widened. “Aran-nín, I planned to return to Eryn Lasgalen—”
“There is not a soul here who does not know of what has befallen your twin. I would not keep you from him, and he would not wish to return to the Woodland Realm. So, I shall free you of the dilemma of choosing between your duty and your heart. You may go.”
Arman was silent.
Thranduil raised an eyebrow slightly. “I was expecting a little gratitude, or enthusiasm.”
“I am. Most grateful, Aran. Yes, it is true. I need, I wish to be with Ornor my twin… but if we part now, Âr Thranduil, it is likely I shall not see you again ere we sail to Aman.”
“And that would grieve you?”
“Yes.” Arman went to the king and knelt before him. “Aran, you have been as a second father to me. You are a great king, and I have been honoured to serve you. I ask permission to speak freely, out of the love I bear you.”
“Aran… do you miss Rîn Lothuial greatly?”
After what felt like an eternity, Thranduil replied, “Of course.”
“It could be no less than she misses you. Have you not thought she might be awaiting you, across the sea?”
Thranduil pushed away the tray of food, and drank slowly from his goblet. “She knows my duty to our people and shares my love for Eryn Lasgalen. She would not be awaiting me.”
“Yours is a great love, Aran—hers for you, and yours for her. I have no doubt that she would be yearning for you, whether she believes you will come to her or no. And so would your Adar and your Emel…”
As the king’s face darkened, Arman realized to his confusion that he had erred, and quickly added, “And of course, Legolas shall be there. Your son loves you dearly, Aran. He has just spoken to me of how his heart’s longing is for you to sail with him.”
“Did Legolas put you up to this, then?” said Thranduil softly, leaning back in his chair. “Could he not come himself to speak to me?”
Arman flushed. “Sometimes it is hardest to speak to those we love most deeply and whose wrath we fear. He knows your objection to his plans… it is hard for him to voice his wishes.”
Thranduil smiled wryly. “It is true. Those who imagine you are identical to Legolas fail to see that he is truly my son in some ways, as you are your father’s. It was not thus, before the War of the Rings… but now… we clash against each other like iron against iron.”
“Aran, you have freed me of my duty that I may follow my heart. All those you love most dearly will soon be across the sea. Will you not free yourself that you may follow your heart, and join them there?”
Thranduil looked at Arman for a while, frowning. “Rise and be seated,” he commanded.
Arman rose from his knees and sat himself in the nearest chair. The king was still gazing at him, but there was neither anger nor offense in his face at the youngster’s audacity. Arman saw in Thranduil’s eyes the sadness and weight of thousands of years.
“You are so very, very young, infant,” said the king at last. “At your age, your heart and its desires and dictates are all. It is no light thing to be a king. You belong first to your people and your realm, and last of all to yourself. You do not follow your heart’s desires, but the needs of your people. It grieves me that Legolas has forgotten this.”
“I love Eryn Lasgalen and its people, Âr Thranduil. When I am there, it is easy to forget that this is the age of fading, and that our race must pass away. It grieves me to think that it may succumb to the ravages of time in ages to come... I would that you and your people go to Aman, before that befalls you.”
Thranduil shook his head. “My people will not sail. They chose not to cross the great Hithaeglir in the time of the stars, and nothing will make them leave now for the great unknown. They will stay, come what may. And if it means fading, so be it. And I shall stay for their sake, and hold at bay the ravages of time and men for as long as I may. And whatever their fate will be, I will share it. The shepherd does not abandon his sheep to wolves. I shall not desert them for something as selfish as my own heart.”
At this, tears began to spill down Arman’s cheeks, but he continued, almost despairingly. “There are forests of matchless beauty in Aman, my Adar says. In them, perhaps, now live many of thousands of your people who have fallen across the ages. Imagine how they would rejoice to have their king with them, to be reunited with those they have left here in Ennor.”
“My Adar would be there as their king. It is not in the land of the belain I am needed. It is here, as time and the realms of men encroach upon my people and their woods.”
Arman had spent the last arrow in his quiver, and they had all fallen short of their mark. He sat empty of words, and tears trickled down his cheeks. Thranduil gazed gently at him. “There are things in life more important than happiness.”
“It is hard to accept anything could be more important than love.”
“The needs of the many over the needs of the few. I can barely hope that you could understand, infant. But Legolas does, though he has chosen otherwise.”
“I think I do understand,” choked Arman. “And that is why I sorrow.”
They sat for a while in silence, until pale fingers of morning light crept through the mallorn branches and stole into the talan.
“Go, now,” said the king. “Fare you well, Orlin Glorfindelion. Cuio vae. Live well.”
And Arman knew that later, when the king descended the mallorn, it would be Legolas’ moment of farewell with his Adar. The king and his son would walk away beneath the trees, and speak words only for each other’s ears. And when at last they returned, Arman and all of the elves in Ithilien would be assembled there. The young elf would stand to one side with his own family, and contain his sadness, and watch as the king and his son said their last, formal, public words to each other. Then the king and his guard would mount their horses, and ride away. Thranduil must be bracing himself now, for that moment. And so was Legolas, somewhere below them in the glade.
Arman dried his tears on his sleeve, and rose slowly and reluctantly to his feet, his heart heavy as lead. Taking up the decanter, he refilled the king’s goblet for the last time.
“Fare you well, Thranduil, Aran Eryn Lasgalen. Cuio vae.” He knelt and kissed the king’s hand, then quickly crossed the flet to take up the travel packs. At the top of the ladder, he turned and blurted out, “We leave Imladris for Mithlond the day after the Autumn Feast.”
Then he vanished down the ladder.
Thranduil held the goblet of wine, not drinking it, and gazed out into the west.
Legolas, Celeborn, and Glorfindel and his family journeyed to Minas Tirith and joined the household of Imladris there. The elves all knew it was their last time in the City of Kings, but no one said it. King Elessar looked still hale, Queen Arwen was as fair as ever, and they feasted, and laughed, and sang, and rode out on hunts, and spoke fondly of days past. The King called Maeglin Naugwen, and sparred with Glorfindel for old times’ sake.
Arasael was away in Dol Amroth. No one mentioned her impending betrothal to Prince Galadil, only that she was visiting distant kin. Aryo’s golden glow had dimmed, and he spoke little, and never once said her name, and Eldarion was gentle with his old friend.
At the end of spring, Legolas returned to Ithilien with Gimli, and the household of Imladris made the long journey home. Elladan and Elrohir would have stayed longer, but it was time to prepare for their voyage west.
They arrived back in Imladris in time for Tarnin Austa. And Maeglin had another dream.
She races through Gondolin with Glorfindel, trying to find the way of escape out of the city. They are separated. She stumbles across Duilin and watches as fiery bolts strike him in rapid succession. His eyes hold hers as flames lick his hair and cloak. He falls, ablaze, from the high battlements over the great Gate.
She comes upon Rog, swinging his mighty mace at the orcs and balrogs ringing him around. A ferocious blast of firedrake flame reduces him to ashes.
Then Penlod, slowly sliding down a wall pierced with an orcish spear, the light fading from his silver-blue eyes as they stare at her accusingly.
Then Ecthelion. As he and Gothmog fall into his fountain, he turns steely and grim eyes upon her. Waters that flow dark red close over him.
As the ship pulls into the harbour at Aman, they wait on the landing for her. Tall. Silent. Armour battle-battered and bloody. The light of their dead eyes cold, condemning…
Then the dream disappeared, as Glorfindel rolled over to hold her, and comforted her with his light and his warm kisses.
But something disturbed her. And for some reason, she did not wish to ask Glorfindel.
Maeglin walked among the half-empty shelves of the library, where Erestor was sifting through books, choosing which to pack for the voyage to Aman. He looked up as she scanned the remaining books in the history section.
“Yes, my dear. How may I assist?”
At her reply, the councillor gazed at her strangely with his emerald eyes. He took a book from the middle of a pile on the floor and passed it to her wordlessly.
Maeglin went to a window seat, curled herself in a corner, and opened The Fall of Gondolin. She found the place, and read the description of the ends of the four Lords who died in her dreams.
She was shaking before she finished, yet she could not set it down.
She looked up finally to see Erestor standing by the window seat, his green eyes glittering with compassion. He took the open book away from her trembling hands, glanced at the pages she had been reading, and sat down at the window as well, shaking his head.
“You look like you have seen a ghost,” he said, for she was pale and ashen. “Or several.”
She mastered herself enough to say in a flat voice, “It is an affecting read.”
“Why must you read this now?” he said, waving the open book at her. “Have you not carried all these deaths enough without putting yourself through the graphic descriptions?”
She stared at the councillor in shock. His parents were Gondolindrim, of the House of the Fountain. His family had been betrayed by her.
Erestor explained gently, “Lord Elrond told us before he sailed.”
“The Lords Elladan and Elrohir. Myself. Lindir. Camaen. Thalanes. While you and Glorfindel were having your babies in Lothlórien. Once he told us, everything we had wondered about you over the years made perfect sense.” His tone was pleasant and matter-of-fact. “He advised us not to let on we know. But I could not see you torment yourself like this today and keep silent.” He quirked an eyebrow at her. “It cannot be easy for you to sail.” He patted her hand sympathetically. “And understandably so.” Erestor gave one of his rare smiles, an oddly reassuring and paternal smile. “But if it helps any, my dear girl, you will not be going there alone.”
Then he closed the book, stood up, went back to the other end of the library, and slotted the book back into the middle of its pile.
Tuiad Lyth (S) – Birth (Sprouting) of Flowers – the Sindarin version of Nost-na-Lothion [translation by dreamingfifi on realelvish.proboards.com]
Hanar (S) – brother
Rîn (S) – queen