The Golden and the Black

Visitors

“Turnips!” exclaimed the raven-haired traveller, at long last goaded beyond all endurance as they moved through the cool forest shadows. “A month past, when we rode past fields of them, you scorned to nibble more than two. And now you have a craving for turnips? There are wild apples, peaches, the sweetest glade-grasses, and every form of edible leaf and bark in the forest around—but you—you must have turnips.”

His companion made a sound that was half a snort, half a sigh.

“Spoilt. Pampered and spoilt rotten,” the raven-haired one muttered, his diamond-bright silver eyes flashing in annoyance. Six months of searching through the wilds of Aman had not worn down his notoriously steely patience half as much as the incessant whims and griping of his companion had. “’Tis well you remained this side of Alatairë. Be grateful you never had to freeze and starve upon the Helcaraxë, nor suffer the dark terrors of Nan Dungortheb, nor fight at Lammoth nor in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad—”

His companion gave a clearly derisive snort this time.

“I do not go on and on about Endórë,” said Raven-haired, ducking his head to avoid a bough. “And ’tis only the third time I have mentioned Nan Dungortheb. In six months.”

The retort was a long, grumpy snort, as they picked their way down a mossy slope dappled with dancing patterns of light falling through the leaf-canopy overhead.

“He was a trusty steed, though only mortal. And he withstood terrors you could ne’er imagine—”

A half-squeal of outrage.

“Never did I imply you were craven. Had you to take me into battle, I know you would do valiantly,” said Raven-haired in a conciliatory tone of voice. But he could not resist adding, “But you would have complained every league there. And every league back. My feet hurt. Why must orcs stink so? I miss oats. I want to go home—”

A long, grumbling snort.

“You are a fine one to lecture me on responsibility,” Raven-haired said a little indignantly. “Both my Houses will be fine. I ensured all was in place ere we left. Egalmoth and Duilin will have little to do beyond a monthly inspection—and fining revellers for diving or tossing food into the fountain during feasts.”

A loud sniff.

“I know you miss your mare, and your meadow. But… I cannot give up. Not yet.” He was silent for a while. “You have had half a dozen foals in your time. I have none. He is the closest to a foal I have ever had. And if I must search for him a year, five years more even, I shall. You mayst turn back to Alcarinos and leave me, if you wish. But I shall carry on.”

An affectionate nickering was the reply.

“I tell you what,” said the rider soothingly. “I hear a stream singing yonder. We shall find a pretty place on its banks, and I shall give you a good rub down—”

Then, he saw it—a flash of white in the distance, through the trees.

“Stay here.”

Dismounting so as to move more swiftly and silently through the growth, Raven-haired went in pursuit. Heard, with a leap of his heart, a familiar voice, far off.

“Aha!!” the voice rang triumphantly. “Now I have you!”

“Not yet, you do not!”

“To flee is futile! But I love that you try.”

“I shall fight back. Be warned.”

“Oh, nothing would please me more!”

It is him! Elated, the traveller ran in pursuit as the voices moved away from him. The woman’s voice… he knew it too. Though something about it was... changed. It was flatter in tone. More abrupt.

A commotion ahead, and stray flashes of whiteness through the thick growth. A gleam of gold. Then, all went still. Muttered curses in the second voice.

“Well! That was a short fight!”

“Any fight against you is one-sided.”

“That is true. We should devise a handicap next time.”

“A blindfold and both hands tied behind your back should suffice.”

An amused chuckle. “And would that please my love now?”

“A tempting thought…”

“I saw your traps! Quite impressive. But then, of course, you grew up in a forest.”

“But obviously, alas, they all failed. Because here you are.”

The voices were coming from the middle of a cluster of trees and shrubs so thick, that the traveller, as he drew closer, could only see stray glimpses of gold and white and black beyond. One figure, all in white with a gleam of bright gold, lying atop another in white and black.

“Yes, here I am!” said the well-loved voice in a familiar tone of mischief and glee. “And now, my love, according to the rules of the game—”

“—rules which you make up as we go along—”

“—I get to do whatever I want to you—”

“—which you do anyway, all the time—”

“—oh, not all the time.” He added, meaningfully, his voice deepening ominously: “There is always… page two hundred and three.

A groan. “Oh, not page two hundred and three!”

“It has been quite a while,” he said, his voice slightly muffled.

Mmm… but the process is so… mmph… so complicated,” she protested half-heartedly in a smothered, breathless voice.

“It is all about build-up, love... mmm…”

“Not now,” she gasped. “Wait till tonight—aaah!—”

“Oh, very well. Tonight—”

“—uhh… no! Don’t stop now. Keep going.”

“As it pleases milady.” Heavy breathing and moans followed.

The traveller, listening in fascinated horror, began to edge away hurriedly, and almost did not notice the snare behind him. His foot triggered it, but he pulled away with such lightning fast reflexes that the noose went whipping up into the air without a captive.

Suddenly all the sounds in the thicket stopped. The whiteness he had seen through the shrubbery vanished, and the traveller cursed himself.

Then the familiar voice called out from behind him, “Ecthelion?”

He swung round to see Glorfindel looking out from behind a tree at him, azure blue eyes wide with astonishment. The golden-haired elflord stepped out into the open, a radiant smile lighting up his comely face.

“Great Tulkas, Ecthelion! I was wondering who it was trying to sneak up on me in the middle of the woods! If this was the mortal lands, I might have plugged an arrow into you!”

“Laurefindel!”

The two balrog slayers of Gondolin embraced in a tight hug.

“You look just the same!” said Glorfindel, when they at last released each other, looking into his friend’s face and speaking true.

A small but faithful following esteemed Ecthelion to be the most beautiful of the Lords of Gondolin, rather than Glorfindel, citing the flawless perfection of the Lord of the Fountain’s chiselled features. Even after six months of roughing it out, he still looked dashing and elegant. But the quiet, almost stern reserve with which he carried that dark-haired, silver-eyed beauty had always made him fade next to the golden glory and boyish charm of his joyous, ebullient friend. His beauty was even more understated now that the Lords of Gondolin had abandoned the extravagance of the First Age. There was still a gleam of silver woven into the braids in his dark hair, diamonds glittering in the clasp fastening his silvery-grey cloak, and silver embroidery on his midnight-blue tunic, but the display of gems and precious metals that had oft made Maeglin’s lip curl in derision was gone.

“Well, you are looking better than ever, Lauro,” said Ecthelion. And it was true. Even without the adornments of a Lord of Gondolin, Glorfindel’s face and form were luminous with a joy and beauty beyond anything Ecthelion had seen in those days of old. He looked radiantly happy, dressed with rustic simplicity in a loose, open-necked white linen tunic worn unbelted over off-white leggings. The golden glory of his hair, falling unbraided down his back, shone brightly in the forest shadows. He looked… fulfilled.

“So it is true, then—you have been hiding away in these woods.”

A sudden touch of wariness came to the azure-blue eyes. “And where did you hear that?”

“It was going round Alcarinos that two hunters espied you.”

Glorfindel gave an incredulous laugh. “With thousands of golden-haired Vanyar in Aman, how in Arda could they have been sure that was me?”

“They were from the House of the Hammer, Lauro. They recognized you.”

“Strange then, that I saw them not. Were they skulking behind the trees? Why did they not approach with a greeting?”

Ecthelion hesitated before saying, slowly, “Well… they said you looked a little… preoccupied.”

And he watched as the azure eyes widened in comprehension and a deep red suffused his golden friend’s cheeks and spread to his neck and the tips of his ears. His silver eyes glanced away and scanned the surrounding forest. And where is your friend the White Lady now?

An impatient neigh interrupted. Still a rosy pink and looking deeply embarrassed, Glorfindel turned with some relief to look at a sea-grey stallion with a dazzling, snow-white mane and tail, then laughed and said, “Yes, noble friend, I guess I am his ‘foal’.”

“Laurefindel, meet Lossendol,” said Ecthelion drily. “Few are swifter of foot than he, but my mother pampered him so silly in my absence that he became as soft and lazy as a lady’s little lapdog. In a moment, he will ask you if you have turnips or oats.”

“I do, indeed!” Glorfindel smiled a little too brightly at them both, and stroked Lossendol’s muzzle. “Come! Let me show you both where I live. It is a little rough, but there is abundant drink and food. All the wine is finished for the moment, I am afraid, Telyo—but I have a very fine juice from forest fruits. And yes—there are both turnips and oats enow!”

And what of the lady? But Ecthelion kept silent. Imagined eyes a darker silver than his own watching them through the leaves surrounding… or perhaps she was long vanished, and would not return till he was gone.

The golden-haired lord led them on foot through woods too dense for riding, where only thin rays of sunlight slanted down. They went slowly.

“So, tell me of life in Alcarinos,” said Glorfindel.

Alcarinos was two hours’ ride from Tirion, in a fair green valley in the Pelóri mountains. No gates guarded the three mountain passes by which traffic came and went to it. And Ecthelion told him of Turgon’s radiant city, already two thousand years old, or New Ondolindë as some called it. He described the dazzling white towers and buildings, and how the Houses of old had been preserved, save for the Houses of the Wing and the Mole. He told of how he had governed both the Houses of the Fountain and the Golden Flower for the past two millennia, and how Glorfindel’s House still awaited his return. He described enticingly the rides and the hunts out of the city, though never far into the wilds south, and the games and friendly contests many of the former Gondolindrim still met to play, and which involved most of the Lords.

“It will surprise you that Salgant now voluntarily joins us. It is amazing how much more pleasant he is now. He has been almost likeable since he was rebodied.”

“I never found Salgant dislikeable. He lacked humour, and had atrocious ball-sense, but he was a good fellow.”

“You are kind, as ever. He was a right royal pain during all our war games, and when it truly mattered he was a coward. He regrets that deeply, however, and is anxious to make amends.”

“By joining the games?”

“Yes, quite the good sport now.”

“Has his ball-sense improved?”

“Not in the least.”

“I guess there was a limit to how much Námo could do. How about the sense of humour?”

“Better. He takes himself less seriously, but his attempts at jollity grate on Rauco no end. Oh, I must tell you… Rauco has married.”

“Oh? Who is the brave woman?”

“Nerdanel.”

What??”

Ecthelion smiled. “You heard aright.”

“Fëanáro’s Nerdanel?”

“There is only one.”

“That is amazing! Wait till I tell—ah—how did it happen?”

“None of us could have guessed how deeply Rauco admired her since he was a youngling. Almost one of the first things he did when rebodied was to go to Mahtan’s home and carry her off to Alcarinos. He knew Fëanáro was never coming back. The Valar gave her a dispensation to remarry.”

“Before or after he carried her off?”

“Hmm. That I am not sure of.”

“Well, good for Rauco!”

“And they have children.”

“No!”

“Oh, yes. A son and a daughter.”

“Nine children! She is nothing if not prolific. That must be an all-time record for the Eldar.”

“The first seven were already an all-time record. I imagine it is Eru’s way of comforting her for all her losses.”

“So the seven will never be released, I assume. Can you imagine the mayhem that would ensue if they returned to find their amil remarried?”

“A fourth kinslaying… anyway, this shows that the Valar will still bless a remarriage in certain situations.” Ecthelion added the last part rather meaningfully, but Glorfindel, looking serenely indifferent, was thinking of other things.

“So what kinds of games do you play?” Glorfindel asked with bright eyes, for that had been one of his great loves in the olden days.

“Oh, many variants of the old ones, including some of those you invented. Courses with physical obstacles and challenges of agility and strength, mostly, also many games involving all sizes and shapes of ball. There are hundreds of permutations of each game one can play, team or one-on-one, so it never grows stale. We meet almost every week, unless we go out on a long hunting trip.” Ecthelion paused. “We miss you, Lauro.”

Glorfindel was quiet for a while, then said softly, “I miss everyone too. You, most of all.”

“Come visit us then.”

We will not speak of your paramour, nor tell you to give up your love nest, nor berate you for shunning our city and our company, thought Ecthelion. Everyone knows. And even if they judge you, they will say naught. And hope you see nothing of it in our eyes.

“I… I love these woods... it will be hard to leave them.”

“Even for just a few months? Just to say aiya to a few old friends, and play a few games for old times’ sake?”

“I will see if I can, Telyo. Ai! Watch your step.” And the golden-haired lord stooped to disarm and dismantle a complex mechanism involving ropes hidden on the forest floor that would have winched its prey high into the trees. More sophisticated than the one Ecthelion had triggered, but with the same result.

And as he walked and coiled the ropes around his arm, Glorfindel began to enquire about Prince Turgon, and the other Lords of Gondolin they had not yet spoken of, and their respective houses, one by one.

They walked a meandering route thirty minutes through the trees, which at last parted to reveal the breathtaking beauty of a shimmering lake. On its northern bank was a natural structure of wood and stone which seemed to blend into the forest that sat behind it. Near the house, Ecthelion saw a wooden jetty and a sailboat tied, bobbing gently on the smooth ripples of dark water. There were two outlying buildings further away, one of which might be a stable. Lossendol, after being pampered by the two elves with a rub down and a massage, and some oat mash with turnips, soon joined a gleaming white stallion and a dappled pale-grey mare grazing in a sunlit clearing nearby. In the distance, waterfalls cascaded down misty blue hills into the lake waters. The whole place breathed of peace and serene loveliness.

On a sheltered porch overlooking the lake and a fair garden filled with a wide variety of herbs and flowers, Ecthelion sat on a couch. Glorfindel disappeared behind some drapes drawn across a wide stone archway leading into the house and brought out a bowl of meat and vegetable stew, and fruit juice in an elegant cup of glazed fired clay that Ecthelion examined with some admiration. Hungry, the Lord of the Fountain ate a mouthful of stew. “This is good,” he said.

“Thanks. I made it.” Glorfindel had thrown himself into an armchair across from Ecthelion, and now lay casually sprawled in it.

Amusement flashed in the silver eyes. “Since when have you even stepped into a kitchen?”

“I will have you know I frequented the kitchens of my House to chat with my cooks!”

“Lauro, everyone knew you could not cook to save your life. You left it to the rest of us every time after a hunt.”

“I skinned, gutted, and cleaned the beasts. And started the fire.”

“Then lazed around till it was time to be fed.”

Glorfindel laughed. “That all changed in the Second Age. I oft travelled alone in the wilds of Endórë, so I began cooking for my own well-being. And then I found—I had a knack for it!”

“No servants here, then?”

“None are needed. The house is not large.”

Ecthelion ate silently for a while. He knew Glorfindel well enough to feel the tension in him, casual and relaxed as his pose on the chair across was. “Are the halls of Oromë nearby?”

“Not far. An hour’s ride to the north-west. He visits, occasionally. Would you like more gravy or a piece of bread with that?”

“No. This is perfect.”

Ecthelion was bewildered. Oromë visits, occasionally. Could it be possible that the Valar condoned this affair? Approved of it, even? There were grounds aplenty for Aredhel to have her first marriage annulled… but if it were annulled, then why would the two lovers be hiding in the wilderness, instead of riding into Alcarinos and Tirion as husband and wife? Neither were the sort to be secretive, or to care what others thought. Unless…

He tried another tack.

“When the Lords dined with Turukáno at the Spring Feast last year, just after Salgant was released by Námo, we were all accounted for but for three. Tuor, of course, which is sad for Itarillë. You. We had heard the rumours of your return, and hoped to see you soon. And third of all is, of course… Lómion. We expect he will never be released, like Fëanáro and his sons.”

Glorfindel was still poor at disguising his emotions. Ecthelion at once saw the flash in the azure eyes, and the hardening of his mouth. The Lord of the Fountain continued: “It may be for the better. There is still anger and hatred against him.”

Glorfindel’s eyes were sparking with white fire. “Even among the rebodied?”

“Not so much. For myself, there is no hate or bitterness. Just—incomprehension. Of how he could have done it. Simply thinking of it repels me. We talk of it occasionally, and I gather the others feel the same. But it is mostly the survivors who fled to the Havens who still harbour anger and hatred, who still cannot forgive or forget. Their bitterness at the horrors and hardships is unfading, especially as not all sought the Gardens of Lórien for healing.”

“Perhaps Estë and the Valar should have made it a requirement for all disembarking from the mortal lands,” said Glorfindel rather darkly. “Aman is a place where surely all hatreds should be put aside, and forgiveness should be found.”

So that is why, thought Ecthelion.

“Do you ever think of Nan Dungortheb?” asked Ecthelion.

“Not if I can help it,” replied Glorfindel.

“It still haunts me. Not the horrors themselves, but how I failed Irissë. I cannot imagine the torments she must have endured there.”

Glorfindel laughed shortly. “You have no idea how wrong you are. Irissë was tougher than any of us, or Beren Erchamion. She emerged out of that ghastly maze without even the shadow of nightmares and rode straight to Turkafinwë’s.” He smiled wryly. “Had she been in Mithrim with Findekáno instead of in Ondolindë, perhaps she should have been given a sword and loosed on the dragons in the Battle of the Sudden Flame. She might have trounced them so silly none of the other rot that followed would ever have happened.”

Ecthelion laughed as well. “You could be right. She would have ridden forth after her father to the gates of Angband itself.”

“She would,” Glorfindel said proudly. “And I would have been right behind her, had I been given half a chance.”

The memory of High King Fingolfin’s death, however, was too painful in the memory of all the Eldar, no matter that he now lived quite happily in his palace at Kortirion and ruled over the Noldorin exiles on Tol Eressëa. The two friends grew sober and fell silent. Ecthelion noted that Glorfindel was twisting the ends of a golden tress with his left fingers.

“So… how often do you see Irissë?” Ecthelion asked quietly, placing his empty bowl on the low table before him.

Glorfindel started a little. “I? See… Irissë?”

“Well… she spoke to you about Nan Dungortheb, did she not? You may be the only one who has spoken to her since she was rebodied. It is known she lives now in these parts.”

“I… see her now and then,” Glorfindel said, cautiously. “You know her. Never stays in one place for long.”

“She was always restless, like you.” And suddenly, Ecthelion was sick of the evasion and pretence. “Lauro… I know. The Hammers saw you with her. They recognized you both at once. I saw… and heard you… both… just now…” He cleared his throat, embarrassed. “I admit it surprised me. But there is no doubt you two make a handsome couple… and she has always had courage and confidence to match yours…” Ecthelion paused, uncertain how to continue.

Glorfindel was staring at his friend strangely. There was an intensity in the blue eyes that was discomfiting, and his face had grown uncharacteristically expressionless and inscrutable. For a moment, Ecthelion was reminded of Lómion.

“The… the Valar know about your relationship?” asked Ecthelion finally.

Glorfindel gave a nod. “Yes.”

“So… her… first marriage… is…?”

Tell me it is annulled. Tell me you are hiding away here because of Lómion. Please.

“Well… Eöl resides still with Námo.”

Ecthelion’s heart sank. “So he is her… husband still?”

“Her one and only,” Glorfindel said calmly.

Ecthelion stared in unbelief for three long heartbeats at the boy he had raised. Had taught all the laws of the Eldar. And he saw six thousand years of unknown life gazing back. Millennia of self-sacrifice and service, victories and losses. And secrets. And changes. Suddenly he was staring at a stranger.

“So… you and she…”

“Yes?” Glorfindel said, his face all wide-eyed innocence. Ecthelion, remembering all he had overheard in the forest not long past, restrained an impulse to reach out and shake him.

“Are… not wed?”

“Irissë and I? Most definitely not wed.”

“And yet… you are…”

“Are what, Ecthelion?”

And Ecthelion saw red. “By all that is good and holy, Laurefindel! I would never have dreamed—you—of all people—would have—”

“Would have what, Ecthelion? Fallen in love?”

“Is that what you call this? She is married to someone else! How can you sit there and pretend there is nothing wrong? You know it is wrong! By all I and Itarillë ever taught you, by the immutable laws of Eru Ilúvatar himself, this should not be.”

Glorfindel sighed. He pushed the heavy, silken tresses of his golden hair back from his face, bit his lip, and looked away.

Thank Eru you have at least the good grace to look guilty and remorseful.

But finally, Glorfindel said, “Ecthelion—Irissë and I are not doing anything wrong.”

Damn it! How could you, of all people, tell a lie? And to me? I recognized her voice—I heard you both—talking and—and I heard… or could it be that you are suffering from some extraordinary form of self-delusion?

Ecthelion took a deep breath, calmed himself and spoke in a more level voice. “Look. I wish it had all been different. I wish we had never lost her, and that whole mess with the dark elf never happened, and the traitor had never been born, and the city had never fallen—”

Glorfindel’s blue eyes had turned icy, and his face had become an inscrutable mask once again.

“—you would then have been able to woo and win her hand. Turukáno always loved you, and I have no doubt you could have won his blessing to wed his sister.”

“I doubt that,” Glorfindel said flatly. “Foundlings of unknown lineage do not marry into the House of Finwë.”

“Is that what bothers you? I should think Irissë would wed you regardless, knowing her. What I am trying to say is—I have regretted my failure in Nan Dungortheb on so many counts, because of what came after, and now all the more that I realize you love her. But there is a way to redeem all this. Irissë’s first marriage was a mistake, a tragedy—the Valar themselves would not deny that she, more than any other of the Eldar before or since, has valid grounds for a dispensation, even more perhaps than Nerdanel did. She was bewitched by dark spells, tricked into marriage—”

“You believe that as well? Do you really believe a nís as strongminded as her could be held against her will for fifty years?”

Ecthelion stared in some bewilderment and frustration at his friend. “I am on your side, for Eru’s sake! Irissë and I were never the best of friends, as you well know, but if she makes you happy, so be it. She should seek an annulment. Then you twain would be wed, and there would be no need to hide in the wilds like fugitives. You could come to Alcarinos, and govern the House of the Golden Flower again, and with your lady lawfully at your side. There are no more gates to shut her in—she would be free to come and go as she pleases. Neither need she shun us on account of Lómion—there is no ill will towards her in Alcarinos. None. No one holds Lómion’s treachery against her.”

Glorfindel sprang to his feet and looked down at Ecthelion with white fire sparking in his violet eyes again. “Do you think Irissë has any wish to go where the son she loves is hated? Do you think I have any wish to go where Lómion is vilified still? There may be no hatred and bitterness among the majority, but neither is there love. And there is judgment. And condemnation!”

“How could one but condemn an act so heinous?” Ecthelion retorted in some surprise, getting to his feet himself. At that, the look on Glorfindel’s face grew so grim that Ecthelion was taken aback and regretted his words.

Glorfindel bent to pick up Ecthelion’s empty bowl and cup, and when he straightened, his face was calm once again.

“You speak with good intent, I know, Ecthelion. But you cannot understand. Come, I will show you your room. You must be looking forward to a good bath and a good rest in a proper bed after months in the wild.”

This was not the note on which Ecthelion wanted their talk to end, but Glorfindel’s tone was final. His fair face was shut and his violet eyes angry.

Hantanyet,” the Lord of the Fountain said. He had not slept for a month, and it was true he was tired… he followed this new Glorfindel who was a stranger, feeling desolate.

Ecthelion’s sharp eyes took in the spare, classic interior of the home as they walked through it. An array of weapons was mounted on the walls. He noted spaces where pictures might have been removed. His eyes rested curiously on a smooth globe the size of a head that stood on a pedestal at the centre of the hallway, a tiny wisp of light dancing in its dark depths.

The large chamber he was shown to upstairs had a view of the lake as well. After Glorfindel closed the door behind him, Ecthelion tossed his cloak over a chair, ignored the tempting soft bed, and went out onto the balcony and leaned his elbows on the railing. His silver eyes were smouldering.

With an ache in his heart, he remembered the tiny elfling he had played with, disciplined, scolded, cuddled. He had not given up on the restive bundle of mischief when even Egalmoth and Rog had cursed and yelled and thrown up their hands in frustration. He loved that boy. His mischief had ever been an overflow of his wild energy, rather than naughtiness or rebellion. A sharp reprimand had always been sufficient to bring contrition to the large azure eyes, and at this moment Ecthelion acutely missed that sweet, innocent elfling. As Glorfindel had grown up, the child had become more than the son Ecthelion never had. He had become his otorno, and his best friend. And now the Lord of the Fountain felt helplessly that he had lost him more truly than when they had been divided by the Sundering Sea.

For three millennia, Ecthelion had waited for his friend’s return. Four years ago, he had heard that the Lord of the Golden Flower had returned quietly to Aman—and mysteriously disappeared almost as soon as he disembarked from the ship. Ecthelion had waited, believing that Glorfindel would naturally seek them out at Alcarinos. After a half-year passed, Ecthelion had been perplexed. He had spoken to Idril and Eärendil, when they visited Alcarinos at Tarnin Austa. But mother and son would only say that they had met Glorfindel briefly on Tol Eressëa, and that he had looked well… but that he had then left… leaving no word of where he was going.

Ecthelion had then sailed to Tol Eressëa twice to speak to Turgon’s great-grandson and his household.

“Lord Elrond is not at home,” a grave, green-eyed elf in fine purple robes informed Ecthelion. “He is gone a-riding with Lady Celebrían.”

“I shall wait. When will he return?”

“Good heavens, I have no clue! The last time they went a-riding they vanished a month.”

“Tell him Ecthelion of the Fountain came to pay his respects. I serve his great-grandfather, Prince Turgon—”

“Ah, Lord Ecthelion!” The green-eyed elf beamed. “My family is of the House of the Fountain. What an honour! We shall have a feast!”

“Are you a friend of Glorfindel’s?”

“Glorfindel!” huffed the elf. “Speak not of him to me. He was a thorn in my side, the bane of my life. Gwendir! Wine for Lord Ecthelion!”

When Ecthelion had come to a couple of days later, nursing a giant hangover, he had been on a small ship sailing back to the mainland, and his memories of the feast and all he had heard whilst in various stages of inebriation were exceedingly murky. The clearest memory had been the silly way most elves of the household had burst into song when asked any question pertaining to Glorfindel:

Glorfindel brave, tra-la-la, Glorfindel fair,
No truer gold, tra-la-la, than his bright hair…

Ecthelion had returned a few months later.

“Ah,” said Erestor regretfully. “You just missed Lord Elrond. He is gone blackberrying with Lady Celebrían.”

“There are no blackberries on Tol Eressëa.”

“Well, dear me, I don’t know the names of all these new, strange Aman fruits yet. Those little, dark currants they like to eat with shaved ice and syrup here. Whatever-berrying. They are likely to stay in the woods of Alalminórë for ages. His sons? Off climbing the Pelóri this past year. Have some wine, Lord Ecthelion! A very fine vintage.”

This time, Ecthelion had declined the wine, but found that sobriety helped him no better. The household had crystal memories of everything Glorfindel had ever worn or eaten for breakfast, but all knew naught of his plans or whereabouts in Aman. And save for solemn Erestor, they all burst into song at the smallest excuse.

Ecthelion had left Tol Eressëa wondering how Glorfindel had survived the company of such idiots for so many millennia.

On his ride back to Alcarinos, he had puzzled over the rumours that had come west with travellers over the past few millennia, most of which were contradictory, and few of which he could give much credence to.

They were mad for Glorfindel… hordes of females… and, at last, the poor ellon gave up the fight… numerous paramours among the Avari. And the edain. And the periain. And the naugrim…

Who told you that crap? Glorfindel never had the slightest interest in romance… the Celebrimbor affair was tragic… Silver-fist was besotted with the balrog slayer… gave him a comb of mithril. Of mithril!!... but the Fëanorian knew his love was hopeless, and it unhinged him… what followed was that whole disaster with Sauron and the rings…

Glorfindel never liked women… that much was obvious… I heard of a romance with the last king of Gondor… then alas! Eärnur vanished… ah well, the mortal would have died anyway, eventually. But poor Glorfindel never got over it…

Did you not hear? Glorfindel was in love… an Avarin elleth… left him for a Woodland King… oh yes, he was utterly distraught…

That’s orcshit… his true love was of Fëanorian descent… Maglor’s daughter no less… they had a big wedding… she spoke Quenya… smithed with the skill of Celebrimbor… cursed like grandsire Fëanor… she will never sail for Aman. She would know better than to come here… damned Fëanorians…

Wife? What wife? Glorfindel never married… Oh no… but he sired children… oh yes… with various edenith… one daughter slew the Witch-King…

Variants of each of these rumours would surface every now and again. And in the past four years, there had been sightings of the legendary golden-haired hero. At Tirion, during yestarë. In the forests near Taniquetil, riding a silver horse. At Formenos, in a dark cloak.

And finally, this report from the hunters of the Hammer.

A huge scandal in Alcarinos had erupted, and aroused Turgon’s ire. It had taken Ecthelion a while to convince his prince not to send forth search parties to bring in the illicit couple. “You know your sister well. It will drive her to naught but fury and defiance should you command her. And Laurefindel… do you think aught less than fifty men could take on your best warrior, knowing his prowess? Let me go alone, and speak to them quietly. He will listen to me.”

Or so Ecthelion had thought. He had come here, half-hopeful, half-dreading what he would find. And the facts puzzled him. If one wished to conduct an illicit affair, why would one do it in the heart of Valian country? And in Oromë’s own woods? True, the Great Hunter loved both Aredhel and Glorfindel, but no vala, surely, would condone such unheard-of adultery, such depravity as was heard of only amongst the edain

Just then, Ecthelion’s exceptionally sharp ears heard voices. Very faint voices.

It was easy as breathing for the Lord of the Fountain. Up onto the balcony railing, onto the roof, and over the roof, lightly and soundlessly, till he was just near enough to make out the words. Sneaking around like this was not something he would normally have done. It completely went against his sense of honour. But he did it anyway. Because he had ridden out a thousand leagues and searched six months. Because he loved Glorfindel and needed to know more, needed to understand how to reason with him. And by the mountain of Manwë, he was not going back to face Turgon without the answers he had come for.

He dropped into a graceful crouch not far from the edge of the rooftop. The voices came from a window on the opposite side of the house from his room.

Aredhel was sounding reproachful. “Had you not gone to him, you would not be facing this dilemma. We agreed. No contact.”

“I know. I am sorry. But… you know what he means to me… once I saw him, I could not stay hidden…”

“And you bring him here.”

He sighed. “Would you have had me greet him then abandon him? He deserves better from me.”

“Well, it is done. So what now? Will you go with him?”

“No. Of course not.”

“Perhaps you should. You should not have to give up your people, your friends, your house.”

“I have given up nothing I regret,” Glorfindel’s voice said gently. “We are happy here. We have all we need. Each other.”

“For how long? You are not by nature a creature of solitude, melmenya. You thrive in the company of many. You have always been the heart of the life and merriment at every feast. You should not forgo it because of me. A month or two of games… you would enjoy nothing more.”

“And what shall I reply to all their questions? I would rather be asked none and tell no lies.”

“You trust him?”

“With my life. You know that.”

“Then tell him something.”

“No. I wouldn’t do that to either of you. To let you be exposed, or to burden him with such a secret.”

“Not everything. Something. Tell him your lady is a shy, solitary creature of woods and shadows that shuns cities. Eru knows that is plausible enough. And not a lie.”

“And would you meet with him to lay at rest the gossip?”

Long pause. “No.”

A silence followed. “I will ask him to leave, tomorrow.”

“You think he will just ride away and leave you here, now he has found you?”

Glorfindel gave a wretched sigh. “I hope he will. If not, I will… have to make him leave. And I hope he will forgive me. Then we will leave this house, love, and start over again. And not be as careless in future. I should not have grown complacent and let the Hammers see us. I cannot believe I failed to notice them.”

“I do not wish to leave this house. What next? Caves?”

“Yes, why not? We would be much better hidden, and you would enjoy it.”

“We could stay here. He would never be able to find his way back through Oromë’s fence of protection without you leading him.”

“We would have to stay within the fence and never leave, then. Or we will be seen by yet others. How could we venture beyond to hunt?”

“Damn! I hate this! I hate hiding.”

“Are you ready to stop hiding, then, my love? Ready to face them all together with me?”

A sigh. “No…” After a silence, she added, “I know how much you love him. Do not quarrel with him because of me. Go with him at least for a season, and meet with all the lords.”

“No. What will I say when they ask about us? How could I bear the scandal and whispers behind my back? Above all, how could I face Turukáno? I could tell no lies that would hold up under scrutiny, and I have never been inclined to lie. You are my life now. We remain here. Together.”

“Very well...” Another sigh. “What other news did he bring?”

“Some Moles have asked forgiveness and been taken in by Rauco.”

A silence. “Well, many of them came from the Hammer to begin with. I am glad. The rest?”

“Mahtan has taken a few of his former apprentices. A fair number are with Aulë. The rest are… unaccounted for.”

“In hiding.”

“Very likely.” A more upbeat tone: “Salgant apparently is much improved.”

“Ah. Well, there was much to improve. And how do the lords occupy themselves?”

“The usual House duties. And they meet weekly for games.”

“What kind of games? The same we played at house meets?”

“All kinds. Even some creations of mine, apparently.”

“You and your games.” A short laugh. “Remember the time Turukáno sent word he would be two hours late for the Council meeting, and you made us play that ridiculous game whilst we waited?”

Ecthelion had been listening with increasing unease. Now, he felt the world spin for a moment.

“I did not ‘make’ anyone play! The lords agreed. And it was not ridiculous! It was brilliant, for a game devised on the spot.”

“It was my first time seated in the Great Hall with the august Lords of Gondolin. I was stunned when the others agreed to your stupid game and started to remove their robes.”

“Not all. Salgant immediately sat out, remember? With your addition to the Council, we had an odd number for two teams. He loved you for giving him that excuse.”

“The look on the King’s face when he walked in and found his fine lords running around the Grand Hall of Council like rowdy elflings—it was priceless.”

“Turukáno blamed me. Immediately,” he said mournfully. “And gave me a severe reprimand before everyone.”

“And deservedly so. Though,”—a low chuckle—“it was obvious to all he was trying not to laugh.”

You enjoyed yourself at any rate, for all you looked so dour and disapproving at the start.”

A snort of derision. “I did not enjoy it. Childish idiocy. Unbefitting the dignity of the Lords of Gondolin. A waste of time. When I think of all the productive things I could have done had I returned to my forge—”

Glorfindel laughed. “Liar! You enjoyed it. I saw the unholy smile on your face as you tackled Galdor. And you were smirking as you armlocked Duilin. Admit it.”

“What were you doing watching me, when you should have been defending your position? No wonder Fountain’s team won in the end.”

“Keeping an eye on the new lord.”

“Why? Did Turukáno order you to? Hmm?”

There was the sound of a tussle and stifled laughter. “Ow! No! Just that as we lined up for the game you were scowling so darkly and giving me your death-glare. I felt much vindicated seeing you smile with such glee in the end.”

Hmph! You exaggerate, as usual. I never smiled with ‘glee’.”

“Well, you looked happy. Just for that brief moment.”

“‘Happy’ is also an overstatement. Maybe ‘satisfied’.”

A sigh of exasperation. “Very well. ‘Satisfied.’” Then tenderly, “But you are happy now, are you not?”

Indifferently, “Perhaps.”

Teasingly, “I know how I can make you happy.”

There were sounds of laughter and a scuffle, then a silence punctuated only by breathy murmurs.

All right, thought Ecthelion. I am going to leave. Right now.

His body refused to budge.

Mmmm… Should you not be preparing dinner?”

“I have time. Dinner is simple. And we still have page two hundred and three...” Both voices were breathless. A sudden, throaty laugh followed, and the sound of a door opening.

“No!” the other voice whispered. “Put me down! Here.”

“But our bed is just two doors away,” said Glorfindel, sotto voice.

“Too close. You know how sharp his ears are.”

“As it pleases my prince.” The door clicked shut, and was followed by a soft thud. “Tell me later if you’re ‘happy’... or just ‘satisfied’.”

Ecthelion visualized a body being pushed hard against wooden panelling. Began to visualize too many other things as sounds and smothered laughter floated up from the room. And as he had only cursorily scanned the table of contents of the book on connubial joy that he had passed to young Glorfindel on the beach of Nevrast, Ecthelion was wondering in some bewilderment: What in Eä is page two hundred and three?

Then Ecthelion heard a scrabbling sound on the roof tiles behind him.

“Wuff!”

Almost jumping out of his skin, Ecthelion turned.

There are innumerable things in Arda one does not expect to see on a rooftop in the middle of a forest. The Lord of the Fountain found himself looking at one of them.

A very young hound puppy the size of a large sheep was standing on the roof not far from him. It was as white as the fluffy clouds in the sky above them, its mouth open in a big, silly grin, tongue hanging out and tail wagging.

Ecthelion’s heart sank. Hoping that the couple in the room below were too engrossed in each other to take heed of anything up here, the Lord of the Fountain tried to speak soothingly to the pup’s mind to calm it down.

There’s a good boy... let us keep very very quiet now…

At his mind touch, the pup’s tail wagged even more delightedly and Ecthelion’s mind was assailed with happy doggy thoughts. Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes! Play with me, yes, play with me!

Let’s be very calm now… sit, boy…

Tail still wild with joy and thumping the roof, the puppy sank down heavily on its haunches. Ecthelion was just breathing a sigh of relief and edging away towards his room when a child’s sleepy voice sounded sweet and clear.

“Canyo? Canyo, where are you?”

And Ecthelion gaped as a tiny elfling in a white dress appeared on the roof behind the puppy, black hair tumbling down to her shoulders, yawning and rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

Then she saw Ecthelion, and instantly her silver-grey eyes were huge and sharp in her little face.

Wuff!” barked the puppy, still obediently sitting.

“Who are you?” demanded the tiny elfling imperiously. “What are you doing on our roof?”

As Ecthelion stood there speechless, the elfling commanded, “Go get him, Canyo!”

And with a wild scrabble of its oversized paws, the puppy launched itself at the Lord of the Fountain with the lightning speed that the hounds of Oromë were renowned for, his large forepaws landing on the lord’s chest.

Evading even an oversized puppy of the Valar might normally not have proven too hard for one of the foremost warriors of Gondolin. But as he was at that moment rather confused and emotionally distraught, and had not slept for a month, and had been caught completely off guard, his reflexes were not all they should have been. The weight of the pup sent him flying backwards. He fell hard onto the roof tiles and saw stars, slid down to the edge, and managed to stop just before the fifteen rangar drop.

For all of half a second, that is, until the weight of the pup sliding down after him nudged him over the edge.

Dangling by his hands from the edge of the roof, Ecthelion found himself staring into the faces of a very dishevelled and half-naked couple who had come running to the window at the commotion.

They stared back aghast.

Ecthelion!?” Glorfindel burst out incredulously, his beautiful face blushing with embarrassment and outrage.

Aredhel was clutching her white dress in front of her, just barely, and Ecthelion, who knew he should avert his eyes, found himself instead staring mesmerized at her delectable décolletage, and up to her pale shoulders and throat and her lovely face.

No. Not Aredhel.

Ecthelion’s bright silver eyes met the piercing gaze of liquid black obsidian eyes glinting with golden fire, and he almost let go of the roof edge.

The Lord of the Fountain cleared his throat. “Aiya, Lómion,” he said with a calm dignity remarkable for someone losing his grip as a giant puppy above slobbered over his fingers with a very wet tongue.

Aiya, Ecthelion,” replied the black-haired beauty in a flat, expressionless voice. Her eyes were dazed with horror.

Atto! Ammë! Look what I found!”

“Stay where you are, Alassë! Stay back from the edge!” Glorfindel called up to the roof.

“Wuff!” barked the puppy above as Ecthelion’s fingers slipped. His fellow balrog slayer caught him and hauled him into the room before he plummeted to the ground.

In a matter of seconds, Glorfindel and Maeglin managed to get sufficiently dressed for decency, and Glorfindel disappeared up onto the roof to get the puppy and his daughter back into the house by another way.

To their mutual dismay, Ecthelion and Maeglin found themselves alone with each other.

“Amusing, is it not?” said Maeglin drily, tugging her dress into place. “I assure you, Námo did not consult me beforehand.”

Ecthelion looked deeply uncomfortable, and faltered awkwardly, “You look… uhh, you look lovely.”

“Eyes away from the chest or I’ll break your knee, Fountain,” she muttered, flushing as she turned away and tried to pull her neckline higher.

Realizing only then that he had been staring, he looked away quickly. “Sorry, Mole.”

Ecthelion saw that they were in a weapons or training room of some sort. It was empty of furniture, save for a rack with some swords and staffs.

The silence between the two lords was thick and heavy with embarrassment and memories and accusation and guilt.

Now fully dressed, Maeglin turned to face him, her usually pale cheeks still tinged with pink. “Let us go downstairs. We shall meet Laurefindel there,” she said in a quiet voice.

As they walked down the corridor, keeping some distance between them, Ecthelion said abruptly, “I will not tell, have no fear. And I shall leave at once.”

Maeglin suddenly stopped and turned to look at the Lord of the Fountain. He halted and stared down into her black eyes.

“Do you not trust me?” said Ecthelion.

“I do.” She seemed to struggle within herself for a while, a frown on her lovely brow. Then she blurted it all out in a rush. “You are a good man, Fountain. We did not get along, but I always respected you. I—I am sorry. There is not a day I have not regretted—what happened—what I did—” In her mind she saw again the image from her dreams—Ecthelion sinking into the fountain with Gothmog, the crimson stain spreading through the waters. “I am not asking for forgiveness. I just wanted you to know—I am sorry.” Her voice faltered at the end, hating the utter inadequacy and futility of the words.

Ecthelion stood very still and his silver eyes were haunted by the memory of all those he had watched fall under fire and arrow, sword and spear. Good men. Friends. Innocents. All the deaths. Yes, they lived again now, but the agony, the bloodshed, the cries of death, the horror… the memories were as real as yesterday. And the pain. His mouth hardened. He had forgiven everything in the Halls of the Dead, but elves never forget, and recollection brought back the anger—

A door flew open, and the puppy bounded out and hurled himself at Ecthelion, followed by Glorfindel carrying the tiny elfling.

“Getting that puppy back down was a nightmare! Canyo! Sit! Are you all right, Ecthelion? They climbed up the tree by their balcony. There is a huge, sloping bough running like a road up to the roof.”

“It is surprising they did not find it earlier—and that we failed to notice it,” said Maeglin, taking the child into her arms.

“The tree has had a magical growth spurt. We fed it too well. I had better stop singing to it.”

The tot was glaring at Ecthelion as he got back gracefully to his feet, wiping puppy slobber off his face with his sleeve. Silver eyes met silver.

Alassë? The Lord of the Fountain thought he had never met a child more badly mis-named.

They all went downstairs in uneasy silence, the puppy’s wagging tail flailing wildly and his huge, clumsy paws sliding down the steps.

On the terrace by the lake, the three Lords of Gondolin found themselves unable to look each other in the eye.

“I should go,” said the Lord of the Fountain helplessly.

“Oh, no, no, no!” both the Lords of the Golden Flower and the Mole protested almost in unison.

“Stay for the night, please!” said Glorfindel.

“Have a seat,” said Maeglin.

In a daze, Ecthelion seated himself on the same couch he had taken earlier, and Glorfindel and Maeglin sat side by side on a couch across from him. Maeglin half-buried her face in her child’s soft raven hair.

“Your secret is safe with me,” said Ecthelion.

“We know,” said Maeglin.

“We owe you an explanation,” said Glorfindel. He sheepishly took a luminous gold ring out of a pocket in his leggings and slipped it back onto his right forefinger. Ecthelion looked at it, and the matching gold ring on Maeglin’s finger.

“How long have you two been...” Ecthelion began.

“Almost two hundred coranári,” said Glorfindel.

“One hundred and ninety-four, to be exact,” said Maeglin.

“I am five,” said the elfling.

I need a drink, thought the Lord of the Fountain.

With the elfling there, it was impossible for the adults to talk about anything that was weighing on their minds. The sun was beginning to set, and flooded the terrace with soft, rosy light. The puppy sat by Ecthelion’s feet, gazing up at him adoringly and licking his face with an extremely wet tongue. He managed somehow to maintain his calm and poise. He scratched the head of the puppy and it collapsed in a heap onto his feet, whimpering with bliss.

“Is—is he one of Oromë’s hounds?” he said, breaking the awkward silence.

“Yes,” said Glorfindel. “Oromë gave him to us. He is completely devoted to Alassë.”

“He likes you,” said the elfling, looking jealous and resentful as she glowered at Ecthelion. As the puppy licked the lord’s hand, the elfling said meaningfully to Ecthelion, “Canyo is hungry. Canyo is always hungry.”

Maeglin abruptly got to her feet with her daughter in her arms. “I will bring Alassë to play on the lakeshore, and let the two of you talk—”

Just then, a carefree voice familiar to all three of them came lilting on the air.

Oh paint for me the full moon
Sing for me the trees
Whisper me the golden leaves
Sighing on the breeze…

Canyo scrambled to his feet and shot off towards the woods. The song and voice grew louder and closer.

Oh catch for me the full moon
Race me ’neath the trees
Fly with me like golden leaves
Dancing on the breeze…

And sauntering out of the forest with the puppy gambolling around her was the White Lady of the Noldor clad in a flowing silver dress, her bow and arrows on her back, two squirrels swinging from her hand, and a straw basket over her other arm.

Aredhel’s bright silver eyes surveyed the group which was now walking towards her from the porch, and her eyebrows lifted. “Eh-te-li-on!” she called musically, drawling out the Quenya name of the half-Telerin warrior. “Well, this is a surprise. What brings you to these parts?”

“My eyes are gladdened to see you once again, Princess Írissë.”

“And mine to see you.” She smiled brightly. “You have not changed one bit, Ehtelion!”

Aredhel was almost the only one who insisted on using the Lord of the Fountain’s less-preferred Quenya name. To annoy him, he suspected. She showed her daughter the heap of mixed berries in her basket, and kissed her granddaughter. “Why, precious! When did you wake up?”

Amil, why did you leave her alone?” Maeglin’s voice was fond but also exasperated.

“She was sleeping so soundly,” said Aredhel, kissing her daughter with a smile, “and Canyo was with her—”

“He is not Huan yet, Amil! He is but a puppy. He cannot take care of a child.”

“Well, nothing happened, did it?” Aredhel said, as Glorfindel took the squirrels from her hand.

“He went onto the roof, and she followed.”

“Really?” Aredhel was more interested than alarmed. “And?”

“They almost pushed Ecthelion off the roof—”

“What was Ehtelion doing on the roof?” said Aredhel as Ecthelion blushed crimson. “And how did one of my brother’s best warriors almost let a five-year-old and a puppy kill him?”

“Never mind that,” said Maeglin hurriedly. “The important thing is Alassë could have been hurt, Ammë.”

“The important thing is she was not.” Aredhel lovingly ruffled Maeglin’s hair, then popped a blueberry into Alassë’s mouth, to the tot’s delight.

“No harm done, melmenya,” said Glorfindel, soothing the former prince of Gondolin by pulling her to him with an arm round her waist, and planting a tender kiss on her lips.

Ecthelion added that to the list of things he could not unsee and unhear that day.

“And did you two children manage to enjoy yourselves?”

“Yes, Ammë. We are always grateful when you babysit Alassë. Do not think I am not.”

Aredhel grinned fondly at Maeglin, and stroked her cheek. “You were always such a serious child. The Flower here is good for you.”

Maeglin smiled wryly but lovingly at her mother. Just then, a long, lilting whistle pierced the air. Canyo rushed off again into the darkening forest.

At-to! Am-më!” sang out a melodious, cheerful voice. “We are ho-ome!”

“So much for the surprise,” said a quieter voice.

“Oh, that would have surprised them, all right,” said the first.

Two riders emerged from the forest, bathed in the fading roseate light of the sunset. The first young elf had white-gold hair that streamed silken in the wind as he rode. He leapt off the back of his horse, but became still as soon as he saw Ecthelion, his blue eyes curious, and uncertain. Canyo gambolled around him and almost knocked him over. The second rider, seeing Ecthelion early, dismounted behind the first and walked quietly up. The second had hair almost the same shade of gold as Glorfindel’s, and his grey eyes were calm and alert.

“Ecthelion,” said Glorfindel. “These are our sons, Arman and Arinnáro.”

A current of excitement sparked and flowed between the twins, and they both moved forward and spoke at the same time, hero worship shining in their eyes.

“The one and only Ecthelion?”

Atto’s best friend!”

“You slew Gothmog!”

“By Tulkas, you slew more balrogs than Atto!”

Atto and Ammë told us all about you!”

“You taught Atto sword fighting!”

“I am delighted to meet you both,” said Ecthelion, feeling the events of the day grow yet more surreal.

“We did not look to see you for at least another month,” said Maeglin, as she and Glorfindel went forward to embrace their sons. Canyo began to tear around happily, feeling the air charged with excitement.

“Not sent away in disgrace, I hope?” said Glorfindel jokingly as he hugged them.

“Of course not!” said Arman.

“My big boys! We are going hunting tomorrow!” said Aredhel, pulling both twins to her in a powerful hug that left them grinning.

“But we saved the biggest surprise for last,” said Arman with a grin. And both the twins turned their heads to look back at the forest.

Standing there under the trees quietly, next to his silver stallion, was Finrod, and next to him his consort Amárië sitting on a grey palfrey. They smiled as they gazed with pleasure upon the gathering before them.

“It is good to see you again, Ecthelion,” said the prince as he walked forward. Finrod often visited Turgon at Alcarinos, and he had known Ecthelion since the Years of the Trees. “Thank you for raising my son.”

Ecthelion was dazed as the golden prince embraced him warmly. “Prince Findaráto… your… your son?” The Lord of the Fountain looked at Finrod, then down at Amárië as she kissed him on the cheek, then at Glorfindel, and looked utterly bewildered and overwhelmed.

Atar, Ecthelion and I need to talk,” Glorfindel said apologetically.

“Of course,” said Finrod with a smile at his son and the visitor. He took Alassë from his law-daughter and niece Maeglin after greeting his cousin Aredhel casually. The elfling wrapped her tiny arms tightly around the prince’s neck and planted a big kiss on his cheek. Then laughing and talking, the descendants of Finwë began to troop into the house. Aryo took the squirrels from Glorfindel’s hand. Arman took two wineskins from his saddle, and passed one to Glorfindel with a wink.

“I shall join them,” said Maeglin quietly to Glorfindel, and was about to kiss him when she stopped herself. She gave a small bow to Ecthelion, and disappeared into the house with her son’s arm around her shoulder.

Glorfindel handed a cup of wine to Ecthelion. They stood on the terrace side by side, looking out at the lake and drinking.

And by the silvery light from the stars and the white radiance of a hunter’s moon, Glorfindel began to tell his friend of the rainy night in Middle Earth that a black-eyed maiden had been found by a border patrol.


Glossary

Alcarinos [Q] – glorious/radiant city

Lossendol [Q] – snowy-head, snow-top

Otorno [Q] – sworn brother

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