Sea and Stars
Halfway down the staircase, Glorfindel paused at a landing.
From the sounds that rose up the stairwell, he could tell that the earlier tension of an hour past had been washed away with a flow of wine and food and music, and a welcome feast to rival any celebration of Ulmo’s Day was underway downstairs. He had only counted thirty-eight elves in all, including his own travelling party, but the revellers seemed to be singing loudly enough for a hundred.
He should have been desirous of nothing more than joining the merriment, but suddenly, he wanted a moment alone. Just to let it all sink it…
He turned and went back up the stairs, past the floor where his and Maeglin’s bedchamber lay, until he reached the roof. The glass dome of the house rose at its centre, and he found himself in a lush rooftop garden of flowers and shrubs and small tinkling fountains, through which paths of silver-white stone meandered.
Flowers bowed towards him as he passed, offering him their scent and colour. At the roof’s edge, he gazed down to his left at Avallonë—a hillside covered with buildings and villas sloping down to the harbour. The city had been a fifth this size, five millennia past. There had been a grove of mellyrn, he remembered, on the hilltop where this house now sat. He had come up here with Asfaloth to gaze east over the ocean towards Ennor, in the time before the world was bent…
And now he was back. Back in the land he had dreamed of for five thousand years. He had been happy in Ennor, for it had always been his gift to find joy and friendship wherever he went. But this… this was home.
And I have returned with my duty done, and blessed with more love than I could ever have dreamed of… but yet I could not have imagined how beset with worries this homecoming would be. Nor that it would need be so secret.
His eyes scanned the vast and restless sea, then the skies above. From the position of the stars at this time of the year, he could tell it was past midnight. He then gazed down upon Elrond’s gardens. He saw gleams of three shades of gold in a grove. His sons and his foster mother were walking in the shadows of tall, slender trees on which snowy-white bell-like flowers bloomed, spilling their heady fragrance into the night. He climbed up onto the parapet that ran along the length of the roof and sat on it. He could hear Arman’s animated voice, and Idril’s light, silvery laugh.
Glorfindel smiled a little then sighed. His Amil. Never in his life had they ever been in conflict with each other as now. Never had any issue divided them, for they had been of one mind on all matters, including the excavation of the secret way. There had been that moment in the foyer when he had stood with Maeglin held at his side, and his eyes had met Idril’s, and she had known. Known how her son would choose—who he would choose—if mother sought to part hero from traitor.
And now this uneasy détente. He was glad Idril was speaking to the boys. She would discover what wonderful sons he and Maeglin had raised together. They would tell Idril of their mother, and the princess would surely see how false, how unfounded all her fears had been…
Peals of laughter from the stairs behind him. A couple stumbled out into the garden, kissing and groping each other. Gwendir and… Glorfindel peered for a while before he recognized the elleth… Meluineth, another of Estel’s childhood companions. Breathless and giggling and probably fairly tipsy, the pair vanished behind some flowering shrubs.
Well, if they were not married yet, it looked as though they would be soon enough, thought Glorfindel. He escaped down the side of the building, the carvings in the stone offering him easy handholds and footholds.
There had been a secluded beach just below this hill and west of the harbour that had been one of his favourites, and he decided to see what changes five millennia had wrought. All that he had ever loved of the shores of Nevrast came back to him upon that beach. He swiftly moved down the south-western face of the hill by a narrow path, then a descent down a steep, rocky slope which he took with feet lighter and surer than those of a mountain goat. At the foot of the slope was a sheltered bay along which ran a pristine beach of pearlescent white sands that shimmered in the starlight, lapped by waves laced with white foam.
It had barely changed. He might have been gone for five years, not five millennia—such was the enchanted timelessness of Aman. He walked along the shoreline, his boots barely leaving prints in the soft sand. Sand gave way to rocks, and as he climbed over them, he espied one addition since he had last been here—a small jetty reaching out into the bay.
He walked to the end of the jetty, and lay down on it. The sea breeze kissed his face and played with his bright hair as he lifted his eyes to the vastness of the open sky above, alive and alight with the multitudinous stars in their millions and trillions. He felt as though he was falling among them, floating in an ocean of rainbow-hued splintered light.
Ai, Varda Elentari…
And he heard softly whispered in the star-song, “Welcome home, child…”
He could feel the stars’ song and life humming through his fëa and the very veins of his hröa. He closed his eyes a moment, letting the celestial harmonies cradle him a moment upon their flood, feeling his fëa float like the foam of the tide washing against the shore. And all of a sudden he felt deep, deep within the dull throb of weariness and woundedness that he had unknowingly carried from his five millennia in the mortal lands, as a cliff is unaware of wind and sea wearing it down. And he felt the life of Aman begin to heal him…
He did not know how long he lay there in that half-trance, but suddenly he became aware that someone was there.
He opened his eyes and was stunned to see a strange ellon standing over him and staring down at him.
The warrior reacted without thinking, and the next moment he had thrown the ellon onto his back, and was kneeling astride him and holding him down.
The ellon, not in the least fazed, gave a warm chuckle. “Valar! You are fast!” His voice was admiring and amused. The stranger was unremarkable in appearance, and dressed in a simple long, belted tunic over breeches and boots. Grey eyes. Hair the colour of ripe wheat. Typically Vanyarin features.
“I—I am so sorry,” Glorfindel stammered in his best Vanyarin Quenya as he pulled the stranger to his feet. “You startled me.”
Of all the kindred in Aman, the Vanyar were possibly the ones Glorfindel and Maeglin needed to worry the least about. They wished to stay as far as they could from the Noldor and Sindar of Gondolin, and they suspected the Falmari might mislike her Noldorin looks, but from the Vanyar they could expect naught but acceptance and hospitality. Tulkas, Eonwë and Glorfindel had not had an easy time turning the Vanyar into fighters for the War of Wrath. It had been such long ages since the First Ones had lifted weapons against the dark creatures and dangers of the Hither Lands, and they were such a peaceable people by nature, that moulding them into fierce warriors had been an uphill task.
Glorfindel had never seen this particular Vanya before.
“I feared you might be hurt,” the Vanya was saying. “Your eyes were shut.”
“I was… I was listening to the stars.”
“Ah,” the stranger nodded understandingly. “Star-dreaming. No wonder.”
Glorfindel was staring at the long, shining white sailboat that was now moored at the jetty.
Unbelievable, he thought… no elf should have been able to sneak up so close to him without his hearing or his sensing it, no matter how deep in star-song he had been lost… what more an elf with a boat? And what was a Vanya doing with a boat?
“Umm… this is yours, I assume?” the warrior asked as he admired the vessel. It could take no more than three sailors, and thus was of no use for the crossing he planned for his family, but it was beautifully built, sleek and graceful, and looked to be most swift.
The Vanya glanced fondly at the sailboat and nodded. “Ná. Is she not a beauty? Her name is Falmalírë.” Wavesong.
“I never knew of a Vanya who sailed before,” said Glorfindel.
“My mother is a Teler,” said the stranger with a smile.
“So is mine,” said Glorfindel, smiling in return.
“Do you sail, heldo?”
“Oh, yes!” Glorfindel’s face lit up.
“Well, come on, then!”
And in the twinkle of an eye, they were out upon the sea, and Glorfindel’s new friend watched with approval as the warrior set the sails with skill. The warrior laughed with delight and exhilaration as they rode the waves swiftly, and the wind whipped at their fair hair. He had seldom sailed during his years at Imladris, though he had brought his twins to Mithlond one summer when they were thirty, and taught them how to. The Vanya laughed as well, seeming to delight in Glorfindel’s joy, and for a while they simply revelled in the thrill of speed and the freedom and beauty of the open sea and sky.
“Tell me how you learned to sail,” said the Vanya.
And Glorfindel gaily told him of learning to sail at Vinyamar when he was tiny, and how excellent a teacher Ecthelion had been—“He is half-Teler as well”—and how much they had missed the sea when they moved inland. And the Vanya told in turn of learning as a child to sail from his mother and uncles at Alqualondë, and how idyllic and carefree those seasons by the sea had been.
“I sail whenever I can, nowadays, but too oft there is business that requires me to be situated either at Valmar or Tirion.”
“Whence came you, this night?” asked Glorfindel. “I thought all on the island would be at the Falassë Númea?”
“Oh, I was. But I needed to escape the crowd.”
“It was very large?”
“Ná. And growing larger every hundred years. The celebration stretches all the way north to Eagle’s Claw now.”
Glorfindel gave a low whistle of disbelief. “Are the celebrations just as huge at Alqualondë?”
“Not so. The numbers here are swelled by the exiles, both Noldor and Sindar, and even by the Moriquendi who landed here over the Third Age of Endórë. It is a purely Falmarin affair, at Alqualondë. Only Arafinwë and some of his family attend it each year.”
“So… the hurt has not been forgiven.” Glorfindel’s face darkened.
The Vanya’s face was shadowed as well. “Not wholly, sad to say. Even now, when most of the slain have returned, and swanships yet fairer and swifter than those that perished fill the harbours of the Falmari and sail the sea.”
Glorfindel frowned slightly. “Have not Nolofinwë and his people sought to make peace?”
“The apologies have been tendered formally and publicly, and graciously accepted. But no Noldorin exile will find warm welcome at Alqualondë. Apart from Arafinwë’s children.” The Vanya tilted his head to one side and regarded Glorfindel gravely. “That distresses you?”
“It grieves me that unforgiveness should mar the blessed harmony of Aman,” Glorfindel replied. “I had hoped that surely in five thousand years those hurts could have been healed. Though the quendi never forget, it is in our power to forgive.”
“It is indeed,” said the Vanya. “And in this lies the path to peace.”
“If only all would think as the Vanyar do...” Glorfindel muttered. Then in his heart he thought: What do the Vanyar understand truly of the price of forgiveness? They who have known so little of betrayal or loss? It is his Telerin blood that can understand… “I wish all thought as you do.”
They sailed on in companionable silence. As they had spoken, they had sailed the ship together with an ease and harmony that was as natural as breathing. So comfortable and familiar was their interaction that it was only now that it struck Glorfindel that they had not even introduced themselves.
“I am Laurefindil, heldo.” Glorfindel had for one moment thought of giving another name, but deceit was not in his nature. “Eleni sílar lúmenn’ omentiengwó,” he added courteously.
The Vanya laughed at this sudden formality. “And I am… Írehirmo. The stars shine indeed on this meeting, heldo, and your hair is indeed of a wondrous gold.” He gazed admiringly at the glorious tresses flowing in the wind, glowing with a radiance that rivalled the stars above. “Such a hue is not seen among the Vanyar save in the line of Ingwë. And even there, I have not seen such lustre.” He paused to adjust the sail of the ship as they tacked across the bay, before adding softly, “There is only one who has hair that could surpass yours, and she is of the line of Finwë.”
Glorfindel’s eyes had widened and his heart had begun to pound. As the other had spoken, his features had blurred and shifted, his hair had transformed into a bright, rich gold that shimmered luminously in the starlight, and his voice had grown more musical and resonant. His very frame grew taller, and his garments began to change as Glorfindel watched. The tunic was silk of a deep blue, embroidered with a pattern of leaves and birds in threads of silver and gold, and there was a silver circlet set with white gems on his brow. He radiated a calm, gentle power and inner stillness, a strength like the centre that holds at the eye of a storm. His face was now revealed to be of astonishing beauty, despite the faint silver marks that ran across it—the relics of a horrendous mauling in a previous life. His grey eyes shone with the light of the Trees, and they were lit with an incandescent warmth and love as they turned to rest upon the warrior. Their gaze ran like a shock through Glorfindel as even Lady Galadriel’s never had. It was the shock of knowledge. Of recognition.
“I came straight from Ulmo’s festivities,” Glorfindel’s companion said apologetically in exilic Quenya. “I had no time to change raiment, so it is well I was not in a long robe, which would have been less than ideal for sailing. Once Artanis told me that you would arrive tonight, Amárië and I would have joined her for the ride overland. Alas, most unfortunately Turukáno caught hold of us, and we could reveal naught to him. If he knew you were returned, he would most certainly have wished to come as well. To my dismay, he and Elenwë insisted on our company for the evening feast, and then volunteered us both as judges for a singing contest. I had no means of escape. I finally had my chance when Voronwë took him for a cruise up to Eagle’s Claw. Whilst Amárië distracted Elenwë and remained to keep her company, I lost myself in the crowd, slipped away to my sailboat at the wharf, then sailed here as fast as I could. Amárië is so incapable of lying, we agreed she should simply tell Turukáno and Elenwë the truth—that I have gone for a long, long sail…”
Glorfindel’s mind was completely blank. He discovered that he had been holding his breath and took a gulp of air into his lungs. He stared at the other with wide azure eyes. His lips parted but no sound came forth.
“Forgive me the disguise. It was not planned, but as you opened your eyes I… panicked.” And the one who had contended so mightily against Sauron with songs of power, and who had slain Sauron’s mighty gaur with his bare hands and teeth, gave a disarmingly self-deprecating smile. “After five thousand years thinking of all I wanted to say to you, once you stirred I could not think of a single word!”
The words sank in. “Five thousand years?” Glorfindel whispered. “You knew?”
Finrod looked pensive. “The moment I laid eyes on you, I knew. As a ship took you away from me, to Ennor. I was too late. Forgive me, yonya. For not knowing earlier. For the manner of your birth. For being six-and-a-half thousand years late for your whole life.”
Tongue-tied and shy as an elfling, Glorfindel found his heart too full for his lips to utter a word.
There is nothing to forgive. I know you were not to blame. All that matters is that you are here now. I regret nothing of the past. I am just glad to be your son.
Finrod’s face lit with joy and the warmth of a summer morning as his son’s thoughts tumbled into his mind. And I am so glad, so very glad and proud to be your father. Then a shadow crossed his face and touched it with wistfulness. But I will always regret all the days and seasons of your life I have missed, yonya.
At that, tears sprang to Glorfindel’s eyes, and he moved forward impulsively and wrapped his arms tightly around his father, almost capsizing the sailboat. They quickly balanced the vessel, exchanged another, more careful hug, then grinned at each other.
Finrod’s eyes sparkled. “Shall we get back to land, yonya?”
“All right, Atar.”
And at the sound of that word, the father thought his heart would burst for joy.
The early hours of the morning sped by as they walked along the shoreline beneath the stars, skipped stones across the waves, and talked. By some agreement of minds, they skirted the recent past and delved far back into their memories. Two childhoods by the sea. Two lives in two white cities set high on two hills. Alqualondë and Vinyamar. Tirion and Gondolin. As one tale led to another, they ended up swapping stories of their extensive travels in the Hither Lands, and found there was one place both had explored—the Ered Luin. That started them on dwarves. Glorfindel was delighted to hear that Gimli had found a new lease of life, and dwelled for a season with Aulë in his deep halls.
“I have always liked dwarrows, and occasionally they have liked me,” Glorfindel said, as he stopped by a rock pool to rinse off a beautiful conch he had picked up from the sand. “I managed to pick up a little Khuzdul even, but Lómiel laughs at my accent whenever I speak it. She learned hers from the Firebeards of Nogrod. She oft went there with her father, when a child.”
Finrod looked at his son thoughtfully. This was the first time in the four hours since they met that Glorfindel had mentioned his wife, and he did now with obvious pride and love in his voice. The warrior felt his father’s gaze, and studied the conch in his hand carefully.
“Did Lady Artanis tell you about Lómiel?”
“Yes,” said Finrod simply as they climbed some rocks above the rock pool. “And it would give me great joy to meet Irissë’s child, now my daughter. One so beloved to you will also be beloved to me.”
“So… you have never spoken to Turukáno about me, or about Lómiel?” Glorfindel asked.
“Never,” said Finrod. “Apart from Artanis and Elrond and Itarillë, I have spoken of you and Lómiel only to Amárië, and no other.”
They sat atop the stack of rocks, gazed out across the starlit ocean, felt the wind and listened to the waves.
Glorfindel sighed. “I know that Lómiel and I are a problem.”
Finrod’s beautiful face was solemn. His glittering grey eyes were gentle as he held his son’s blue eyes with their gaze. “A problem?”
“I… I understand all the reasons why you should not acknowledge me. And I do not wish you to. I am… úcarehína.” Glorfindel remembered the word whispered in the corridors of the palace at Vinyamar, in the marketplaces of Nevrast. A child’s first sense of shame. “And not only úcarehína, but married to the traitor of Ondolindë. We have no wish to stain the honour of the House of Arafinwë, nor stir dissent or outrage among the Noldor. You are the Crown Prince, and your father the Noldóran.”
Finrod’s gaze did not falter. “I have no worries for my own honour,” he said calmly, “Though it is true I cannot be careless about the honour of my House or of my father. Yet I do wish to acknowledge you. I have always believed rumours should be met with openness and truth.”
“There will be no rumours if I am not seen at all. My beloved is… not a popular figure. Turukáno is your closest friend, and he would have no love for the nephew who betrayed him and ruined his city. Awkward would not begin to describe any meeting between them. It is best we both disappear.”
The grey eyes widened with shock. “That is no solution. Have I just found my son only to lose him again? And does Mandos release souls from his care only for them to hide in the shadows like vermin till the Second Music? No. If she was deemed ready to take up life again, she is worthy to live openly among the Eldar.”
“Well said, Prince Findaráto,” said a familiar voice. Two golden heads turned to see a silvery figure, shimmering in the starlight, sitting near them on the rocks.
“Olórin! So are the Valar, who sent Irissë’s child back among the living, prepared to justify her before the living?”
“They are,” replied the maia. “I think the real question is whether she is prepared to be justified before the living.”
They turned to look at Glorfindel.
“The answer is no,” he said, quietly. “You are speaking of a public proclamation of the Valar that would draw to her the very attention and scrutiny she most dreads… And no matter how justified by the Valar she is, I fear it will not mean forgiveness from all the exiles. Itarillë is the most compassionate of souls, and has been to the Gardens of Estë, and yet she has not forgiven. I would not have my love bear the judgement of a hundred thousand Gondolindrim now.”
His father eyed him quizzically. “If not now, yonya, then when?”
“Perhaps after our babe is born.” Perhaps never.
Finrod started with astonishment, then exclaimed with delight, “A babe? Another grandchild?”
“Yes, Atar. A girl, due in a month.”
Finrod was glowing with joy and excitement. “I pray you, reside in Taniquetil with Amárië and me for the birth of the child! It is peaceful and secluded where we are. None will disturb you.”
“If my Lómiel consents, we shall,” replied Glorfindel, smiling at the thought of Maeglin’s face at this invitation. She might prefer it to having the child under Idril’s scrutiny though…
“All her strength, hröa and fëa, is bound with the child now, and will be for the first years of the child’s life,” said Olórin.
“Ná,” agreed Finrod. “Quiet and peace in a place of refuge will be best for now. Too much disturbance will be bad for both mother and child.”
“For a few coranári at least,” said Glorfindel. “Five, perhaps ten. Then we shall speak of it once more.”
“And I shall wait till after that to present you as my son as well,” added Finrod.
Glorfindel looked apprehensive. “Atar… presenting me may truly not be wise.”
“If the Valar themselves have favoured and chosen you for millennia, yonya, it can mean nothing that you are úcarehína. And if there was any ‘sin’, it was definitely not yours.”
“But that is the point! There is both your honour and my mother’s to think of.”
“Your mother has declined to return among the living, yonya. I am sorry,” said Finrod. “And her lord has chosen to remain with her in the Halls of the Dead.”
Glorfindel was silent for a while. He had thought so many times of all he might say to the elleth who had given him life when he at last met her. It had ranged from “I forgive you” to “How could you have done that?” to a simple “Emel… I am your son.” There had been the fears of Oropher’s wrath, and worries of the scandal that would taint both the houses of Oropher and Finarfin should the secret be exposed. But stronger than that had been the simple desire to know this mother of his, a chance to love her and thank her for his life, and for surrendering him to the world he had been privileged to inhabit. There had been a childlike yearning to at least hold her once, and be held by her, and call her Naneth.
And to have that taken away…
“Ai,” he sighed at last. “Perhaps… perhaps it is for the best. But what of your honour then? Even if you do not care about it, I do.” He remembered Thranduil’s slurs against his father. “I should hate it if ever it is whispered that you ravished or seduced my mother.”
“Have no fear, Glorfindel. I think none but the most foolish or malicious would ever believe Findaráto to be a deflowerer of innocent virgins,” chuckled Olórin. “And hopefully it would seem just as improbable that he had been drugged, bewitched, and seduced by a young maid.”
Finrod smiled with some amusement at the maia, and said nothing. But Glorfindel looked troubled still. “Then think of Amárië, Atar... might it not be wondered if you were not true to her, but took a wife in Endórë? And worse, that she is thus not your true wife?”
Finrod’s fair face grew grave. “You have voiced my greatest fear—that Amárië would suffer from such slurs. But those rumours will not stand scrutiny. There is no one who could produce this ‘wife from Endórë’. And the Valar themselves would uphold our marriage. As ever, truth will overcome falsehood.”
Glorfindel was so naturally optimistic himself that he wanted to believe it would be as his father said… he was unprepared for the pain that suddenly lanced through his abdomen and caused him to wince.
Finrod had not seen the grimace, but he felt in his fëa his son’s spasm of pain, and turned his head to see the azure eyes unfocused and dazed.
“Yonya, what is amiss? Are you hurt?” asked his father sharply.
“No… it is Lómiel,” murmured Glorfindel. “I must return at once.”
Leaping down from the rocks, he raced over the soft white sands like the wind, and vanished where the beach curved away behind the escarpment.
The maia and the prince exchanged a look, and swiftly followed.
Heldo (Q) – friend (male)
Eleni sílar lúmenn’ omentiengwó (Vanyarin Q) – the stars shine on the hour of our meeting (thanks to dreamingfifi of realelvish.proboards.com for help with the translation!)
Írehirmo (Q) – desire-finder / one who has found his desire (thanks to dreamingfifi again)