The Golden and the Black

As the Falcon Flies

Turgon launched the falcon out onto the wind from the top of his tower, and watched it wing south swift and straight as an arrow into the night.

The Ainur had no use for palantíri, and Turgon wondered if any of the innumerable invisible maiar of the air might already have whisked the news to Manwë on his mountaintop. Were the situation dire, an Ainurin visitation would doubtless already have descended upon the King of Alcarinos in his tower. That alone rather reassured Turgon. He could wait upon the two hours it would take for the falcon to fly to Taniquetil, and the two hours thereafter it would take to return.

He descended the stone stairs to his bedchamber, and sat awhile watching Elenwë sleep. Simply looking at her with her golden hair shining upon her pillow, her lovely grey eyes full of peaceful dreams, never ceased to give him the most intense pleasure. His space on the bed next to her warm body beckoned to him, but he resisted it. His dreams for the past month had not been pleasant. Deciding he would wait for the falcon, he rose and walked down another flight of steps to his study.

Despite his disturbing fears and dreams for the past month, it was not thoughts of dark lords, nor treachery, nor wizardry that oppressed him as paced the length of his study. Strangely, it was the face of Maeglin after his mother and father’s deaths. And Ecthelion’s words echoing in his head.

…what Lómion could have been… should have been… had the circumstances… and the events of his life been less unfortunate… a friend would have delved deeper and discovered the treachery… but Lómion had… no friends…

Aredhel’s funeral. Why should Turgon recall that now? Idril had wept freely for her aunt, but uncle and nephew had stood side by side, dry-eyed and pale. When it was all over and the cold marble slab, with an echoing rumble, had sealed the tomb, Turgon had turned to his nephew—and recoiled inwardly from the abyss that yawned in the obsidian eyes. An abyss that held up a magnifying mirror to the pain of Turgon’s own losses… my sweet Elenwë… little Arakáno… and now Írissë… wild little Írissë…

Turgon had felt for a moment something chilling and repellent about the boy—like a snake eyeing its prey. Then he had felt a pang of guilt, and seen only a boy lost and bereft.

Forgive me, Írissë, nésaya. Your son shall be honoured here.

Look not at me thus, boy. I am barren of all comfort, and no salve for such grief have I. But all I have to give, you shall have.

His face as stony as that of the freshly-carved statue of his sister in the mausoleum, Turgon had stooped to drop a feather-light kiss on each of his nephew’s cheeks.

“Sister-son Lómion, beloved to us as our sister was beloved,” he had proclaimed before all the lords and nobility assembled, “Receive, by right of blood and kinship, your place in this kingdom. Second only to our person shall be your authority in this realm, and at the right hand of our throne shall you stand.” And to the assembly, the King had declared in his resonant voice, “Ela! Lómion, Cundu i Ondolindeva.”

As the Gondolindrim had bowed in solemn silence, Maeglin had knelt and kissed his uncle’s hand. His lips and fingers had felt almost as cold and dead as his eyes.

Turgon had withdrawn his hand a little too quickly and ceremonially raised the boy to stand at his side. And as they walked in procession out of the mausoleum, the king had avoided looking at the prince again.

No, he had not liked his nephew. What could be said of a strange boy who seldom smiled save sardonically, who chose to wear naught but black, and who chose the Mole and a sable banner as his emblems? But he had been pleased with Maeglin’s quick mind and eagerness to learn and to work hard. And his efficient management of affairs within his own House and in the kingdom at large had inspired confidence in—and ultimately reliance on—his abilities.

Turgon had always believed he had done well by the boy, and that none could fault him for the generous favour he had poured out upon him. And all this he had done in spite of the lack of warmth Maeglin inspired in him. Or because of it.

And he had grown to trust Maeglin. Completely.

Now, six millennia later and on the other side of Mandos, Turgon had striven to think as little of his nephew as he could. The few thoughts he had, tended to be: treacherous ingrate… villainy incarnate… viper nourished in my bosom.

Seating himself at his desk, Turgon absent-mindedly rearranged the books and papers upon it, and was disturbed to again see in his mind that bleak, bereft young face at the funeral. The abyss of obsidian eyes.

Strange that for the first time, Turgon should now feel a twinge of something that felt like regret, or remorse.

As an even stranger drowsiness fell upon him in his chair, Turgon was visited by a familiar nightmare.

Howling wind and driving snow and his small daughter in his arms, her shrill child’s voice wildly escalating to hysteria in his ear.

“Ammë’s not gone—Nooo!—Ammë’s not gone, Atto—not gone—not gone… No! Noo-ooo!”

His own tears frozen in his chest, strangling him in his throat, he could only hold his treasured child close, so close, and rock her…

But no. Suddenly, it was not Idril. It was Maeglin in his arms, black-clad and tense and awkward, black head against his chest.

“Ammë’s gone.” His low, flat voice, so hollow, so bleak, sounded far younger than his fifty years. “Ammë’s gone.”

Turgon held his nephew close. Words caught in his throat, strangled him silent. He could only hold the youth close, so close, till the stiffness began to go out from his young body, till he began to shake, till a strangled, keening sound was torn from the boy’s throat, and the dam broke, and the flood of tears at last came…

Turgon stared at cool silver moonlight flooding across his desk, illuminating rows of leather-bound books on his study wall.

He touched his face and was baffled to feel it wet with tears.

Their long hair brushed out, comfortably attired now in the silk tunics and leggings they had worn beneath their robes, the Lords of the Pillar and the Fountain fell silent as they sat facing each other over a game of quiltyalië.

Ecthelion and Penlod had exchanged a meaningless stream of casual chatter as the servants divested them of their flowing garments and jewels, undid their braids, and brushed their hair... latest play at the great amphitheatre of Tirion… music festival at Alqualondë… Argon betrothed… broke heart of Galdor’s daughter… new garden extension for the Golden Flower… a petition to outlaw cats from fishing in the central fountain…

Both lords had breathed sighs of relief once the servants of the Fountain had departed with armloads of lordly robes and jewels. They could hear singing and music from the square outside.

As the Fountain stared wearily at the white and blue onyx quiltyalië stones scattered across the grid on the wooden board, he slowly wove his raven hair into one long, loose braid. The Pillar had left his silver hair unbound and it flowed like moonlight over his shoulders. He sat deep in thought toying with his small, white onyx stones. Neither made any pretence to be interested in the game. It was just for show. They nodded and spoke courteously to a maid who entered with wine and sweetmeats.

Once the door closed behind the maid, the Pillar said softly, “Ecthelion… I believe Galdor’s fears are much overblown.” He placed a white stone on the board without much thought for strategy. “And I very much doubt that there is danger to us here in Aman, or that Sauron is returned in any form. The Powers have grown wise regarding the nature and strategies of Moringotto and Sauron. They would not be taken unawares again.”

“It would have helped much had you opened your mouth to tell the king so,” the Fountain said curtly, pouring wine for them both.

“I have just arrived at my conclusion. I needed time to think. Besides, you know that look on Turukáno’s face as well as I do. He had made up his mind. Let him enquire of Manwë and talk to the young strangers to set his mind at rest. He will heed the Elder King. And I will have a word with him come morning if need be. Fear not, all shall be well.”

Ecthelion nodded, but still looked downcast.

“But ai! Laurefindel wed to Lómion!” Penlod made a face and shook his head. He chose a sweetmeat from the dish and nibbled it. “It will be long ere I come to terms with that.”

“I know, Pillar. I know.” Ecthelion emptied his wine cup.

“You seem to have, though. Come to terms with it.”

And Ecthelion was surprised to realize it. “Yes… I have.” He carefully placed a blue stone on the game board. “Lauro is happy. That is what matters to me.”

“When was Laurefindel ever not happy? He was our sunlit child of joy and song and laughter. The gallant Golden Flower could have had any one of thousands of exquisitely fair, virtuous maidens who utterly worshipped him, and who even now cherish hopeful dreams of his return. And he would not have needed to sever ties with his people and hide away from Eldamar. He got the worse end of the staff in this marriage, if you ask me.”

Ecthelion recalled a quiet morning outside the forest house. Sunlight sparkling on the lake water. Alassë sitting on the Fountain’s lap, frowning in concentration as she tried to dismantle his flute. The Mole and the Flower washing clothes side-by-side in the lake shallows, sleeves and breeches rolled up.

Ecthelion had caught a moment between the couple as they had held the opposite ends of a large bedspread and squeezed water from it. Obsidian and azure eyes had met briefly in a gaze as intimate as a caress, and they had exchanged a private smile. And for that moment, across Maeglin’s usually impassive face had flashed an expression that mirrored Glorfindel’s—a look of such melting tenderness and unabashed devotion that Ecthelion had been both astonished and embarrassed. Even more embarrassed, strangely, than by the conversation he had eavesdropped on from the rooftop.

But Ecthelion knew better than to say anything of that to Penlod. He sighed and swept the stones off the quiltyalië board. “Ai. It’s no good, Pillar. Let us give it up.”

“Lie down and get some rest, Fountain,” said Penlod, sorting the white and blue stones into two clay jars. “I’ll read a book.”

Outside the window, fireworks blossomed across the sky.

Arman was in a happy daze as he walked next to Nárriel to the House of the Tree, a soundly sleeping elfling in his arms. The retriever Titto ran ahead of them, turning back now and then to check that he had not lost his elves. Nárriel’s step was light as it had not been for a week, and Arman delighted to see a smile on her face. She hummed a snatch of dance music. Titto had paused to sniff and wag his tail at a small postern gate. Nárriel pushed it open, and as the dog ran in, she turned to look at Arman, her glittering emerald eyes gazing into his azure ones.

“Hantanyet,” she murmured, using the familiar address with him for the first time. Stepping forward, she kissed him lightly on the cheek, then took the child from his arms. “Harya mára lomë,” she whispered in parting. “May your night be good.”

Harya mára lomë, Nárriel,” he said softly. But as she closed the door, he murmured, “Namárië.”

As he walked away, Arman was torn between joy and anguish.

“Who would marry the sons of a traitor?” Aryo had once said in bitterness of heart. “I could not marry anyone, and keep such a secret from her.”

“I would like to think anyone I love enough to marry would be trustworthy enough to keep my secrets!” Arman had replied.

How easily the words had come from one who had known naught of love. Now… the thought of confessing his parentage to Nárriel, and seeing the horror in her face… The thought that even if she did not loathe him for it, if she ever returned his love she would for all time have to bear this burden of secret shame, perhaps be parted from her home and family. She has been hurt by love already. Would you hurt her more?

And Arman felt an unutterable weight upon his heart as he returned to the House of the Swallow.

He could never love anyone.

He would go to Aryo tomorrow, and tell him he was right.

They should leave.

They should never have come here.

Having tucked a sleepy Almion in his bed, Nárriel felt the need to think. Once again slipping out the great arched entrance of her House, she ran on light feet to the House of the Golden Flower.

She could not put from her mind the sorrow and sweetness in Arman’s eyes, the way he had wistfully uttered Namárië as she shut the postern door. Fearing to give in to an impulse to seize him and kiss him on his lips, she had continued to shut the door. What folly! You know naught of him, this youth with the face of a maia and a multitude of secrets. But ai! How one could drown in that smile and in those blue eyes…

And just a few hours ago had your thoughts not been entirely of another? How fickle and foolish could you be?

As she walked surrounded by moonlit flowers, she thought of how the open adoration with which she had always gazed at Argon now shone at her from another’s eyes. Her angry, wounded heart recollected the laughing, careless charm of an amazingly tall, feckless Nolofinwion and the ardour of his kisses. But never, not once, did Arakáno look at me as this boy does. What did I ever know of him? What does this boy know of me? Nothing. It cannot be love. And I know naught of him in turn—him and his lies and his secrets. And yet… were he now to disappear, were I never to see him again, and never to know who he really is…

The mere thought caused tears to sting her eyes, and through them she saw Rasco step into her path ahead and stand there, his demeanour dour.

“What is this madness, Narë?” Rasco demanded angrily. “Has there not already been enough talk? Do you relish scandalizing the city?”

“I mislike that tone, Rasco! You are not my father.”

“I care enough as your friend to speak thus! It is all over the city. Five dances?—”

“—May I not dance? Have I not wept enough? This from you, you who told me he was not worth my tears!”

“So, is this revenge? You desire, then, that it be carried across the city, and down to him in Tol Eressëa, that Nárriel the Jilt smiled and twirled through five dances in the arms of a nér?”

Did that sting because there was truth in it? And not just any nér. A beautiful nér. Oh, Nárriel had not been blind to the envious glances of many other maidens, though Arman had seemed so captivated by her that he had no eyes for any other maid. “I danced with Cúmaen,” she snapped, “because he is a sweet companion and a fine dancer and it gave me pleasure. I am done with grief and regret. I am young and I want to enjoy life again.”

“It is too soon, Narë! Too soon! Eight days ago you were madly in love and dreaming of marriage. Seven days ago your heart was broken. You need time, time to heal. I know you—have not we two been companions since we first learned to walk? Your passions run deep. Your love, thwarted, seeks an outlet, and directs itself to another. I beg you, let it not be another who will hurt you again! Be not deceived by fair face and winsome smile. He is a liar and false to the core. I shall prove it yet.”

Her eyes flashed. “Yes, he lied! And he has confessed it to me! But looking into his eyes, I know, in spite of all, that his heart is true.”

Rasco’ grey eyes were keen and eager. “Confessed? What said he?”

“He has trusted me with his confidence, and I shall not betray that. But this I know: never will he lie to me.

The grey eyes smouldered with anger. “Then you are as great a fool as they say, and have learned naught.”

She slapped him hard across the face for that. Then her temper cooled as quickly as it had flared.

“Rasco… forgive me.”

“I bid you a good night, Nárriel,” said the son of the Hammer stiffly. And he strode away, leaving her staring at a statue of the Lord of the Golden Flower.

And wondering why the marble smile that she had seen hundreds of times before, now reminded her of a honey-haired youth.

Any public interest in Nárriel’s dancing with a young stranger was soon supplanted by other rumours. If gossip spreads in genteel whispers, this news roared like wildfire through the streets and squares and gardens. It disrupted the dance circles in the streets, burst into solars and studies, kitchens and stables, dining halls and yuldacari across the city.

Not two hours after the Lord of the Fountain had retired to his bedchamber, and just after he had finally fallen asleep, he was shaken awake by Nossarto. He almost leapt out of bed as he had never before in this second life.

“My sword! Bring me my sword!”

“Shh… shh… Herunya, the king and his lords are here,” Nossarto said soothingly.

“All of them?” asked Ecthelion, frowning and rubbing his throbbing temples as he sat up in bed.

Not all. Tying the sash of his nightrobe, Ecthelion left his bedchamber to find Harp pacing about the solar in some agitation, twins Pillar and Snow conferring together, and the King awaiting him at the centre of the room, arms folded and with a face like thunder.

Through the window came the voices of a people in tumult, and over it, the Lord of the Hammer bellowing reassurances that the city was safe.

“A tongue among us has been loose,” snapped the King. “The city is in an uproar! It has been spread abroad that Sauron and the traitor have returned, that they have bewitched Laurefindel, that an assault is planned, and that their spies are among us in the city.”

“Whose tongue has been loose?” asked Ecthelion, appalled.

“None among the rest of us. Did you speak to anyone else upon your return?”

“No one.” Ecthelion could not help himself—he glanced at Salgant.

“I resent that look, Fountain!” burst out the Harp indignantly. “I uttered not a word to anyone, not even my beloved Híselótë!”

“Most likely servants or chefs listened at the door, aranya,” said Penlos.

“Well, the damage has been done,” said Penlod.

“Proclamations to refute this have been issued?” asked Ecthelion.

“Rog, Duilin, Galdor and Egalmoth have gone to different sectors of the city to restore calm. I myself shall address them soon to allay their fears,” said Turgon, surveying the King’s Square from the window. “But first, there is another matter.” The King turned and fixed a baleful eye upon Ecthelion. “Another rumour spreads. Harp?”

Salgant stepped forward and cleared his throat. “A most shocking rumour indeed did I hear in the Square—that Laurefindel is the son of Crown Prince Findaráto, begotten by him in Beleriand.”

Ecthelion was stunned. Such a rumour would make the prince’s present marriage to Amárië a sham, and the noblest of princes a bigamist. That was another rare word brought back from the Hither Lands, used to refer to the shocking social practice among some mortal tribes—chiefly the Easterlings and their ilk. “I have said nothing of the sort to anyone!”

“It is too much of a coincidence, Fountain. You return, and these scandals erupt,” pointed out Salgant. “So you would assert that there is no truth to the rumour? You have not heard of such a thing?”

Turgon, arms folded, was regarding the Fountain rather grimly.

This was not a secret Glorfindel had given Ecthelion permission to disclose, the honour of Finrod and the House of the Noldóran being at stake. So the Lord of the Fountain rather desperately equivocated. “If Prince Findaráto who loves our King dearer than a brother has said naught of this matter to him, how could it possibly be true? And how could it be so, when it is well known that Findaráto, noblest and most faithful of princes, was not in Beleriand wedded to any, but remained true to his beloved Amárië?”

The King probably saw right through this. A regal eyebrow lifted slightly, but he held his tongue even as Salgant went on to ask, “But then whence could this rumour have arisen?”

“I swear I am not the source. I said not a word to any as I rode in, and went straight from the stables to my chambers—” And that was when it struck Ecthelion. He groaned and covered his face with his hand. “Lossendol.”

They all stared at him dumbstruck. “Your horse?”

“Why would your horse say such a thing?”

Ecthelion hesitated. “Prince Findaráto visited Laurefindel whilst I was there.”

“You saw my cousin Prince Findaráto?” Turgon said sharply.

“Yes. Princess Amárië was with him. They both seemed very fond of Laurefindel and Lómiel. They stayed one night, then left.” Which was true. No need to mention that they had helped to build the lakeside house, and indeed had a bedchamber reserved for their use whenever they visited. “Prince Findaráto loves to travel with his princess,” Ecthelion added, as though all present did not know it. The emphasis on Amárië was key. Her presence would help dissipate any suspicions of Glorfindel being Finrod’s son by another. Any wife meeting a child of her beloved would know at once—and what wife would condone such a thing so sweetly?

That seemed to have the desired effect.

“Now we know where the Crown Prince and Princess have been,” said Penlod.

Penlos smiled. “And much is explained. That horse of Ecthelion’s cannot think further than his next meal of oats.”

“A natural confusion for Lossendol if he saw them together, Laurefindel and the prince both being golden-haired,” remarked Penlod.

“True. Do you remember how Lossendol mistook Elwë Sindicollo for our father, when he and Melyanna visited a yén back?” added Penlos wryly.

Insulted as he might be on behalf of his steed, Ecthelion loved the silver-haired twins at that moment.

“I shall have a stern word with Lossendol for gossiping in the stables,” said Ecthelion.

“Gather the people in the Square. I shall address them,” said Turgon, striding out of the room with the Lords of the Harp and Snow in his wake.

As the King climbed the steps rising from the Square to his palace, he said to Rog and Duilin “The two alleged sons of the traitor will have heard the rumours. Do not let them leave the city. Find them. Bring them to me.”

Then Turgon’s strong, resonant voice carried over the Square. It would appear the traitor has indeed returned from Mandos… yes, as a nís… and yes, it would seem to be true that she has wed Laurefindel of the Golden Flower…

A lament rose from many fair ones, some of whom burst into tears, and a murmur of horror swept the crowd. may be true that the traitor returned from Angband and walked in our midst possessed by Sauron. But Sauron was defeated in Endórë and no evidence exists for his return… no danger to our city is evident at this time... a message has been sent to the Elder King upon Taniquetil… nor is there any evidence that the Crown Prince took wife in Beleriand… slander against his noble name shall not be countenanced…

There was widespread laughter when they heard about the horse, and the mood lifted just a notch. With a goodly measure of calm restored by his voice and words, the King ended his address. Dismissed, the people still murmured among themselves. They milled about the Square and the streets, and with the mood for song and dance largely dissipated, many gravitated to tables where food and drink were served, and discussed the news as they ate and drank.

Now for the horse. Turgon went alone to the horses’ quarters of the House of the Fountain, and found Lossendol in the large paddock which the stalls of the stables faced. The stallion was overawed by the king, and pawed the earth of the paddock nervously with his front left hoof. He had been rather strongly reprimanded by Ecthelion, who had snuck down whilst the attention of all was focused on the King’s address in the Square.

Oh, I am so sorry for the trouble, aranya… Laurefindel is Ecthelion’s foal, isn’t he?… but I thought Findaráto and Laurefindel look so PRETTY together… you know, those golden manes… why, they LOOK so much more like father and foal… don’t they?... and Findaráto said I had a beautiful white mane…

And Lossendol shook his white mane at Turgon with a toss of his head.

Nothing more could be gotten out of the stallion.

Retiring to his palace, Turgon ascended his tower to await either his falcon, or the sons of the hero and traitor.

His thoughts went back two millennia past, to the time he had emerged from the Halls of Mandos. As he had accustomed himself to his new body and resided at Elenwë’s home at Valmar, his cousins Finrod and Angrod had been among the first to visit from Tirion, even before any of the Gondolindrim made their way to pay their respects.

Apart from their golden hair, Turgon had always thought these two sons of Finarfin had little in common. Finrod wore the title of Crown Prince with an easy grace and gentle humour. Angrod was always more aloof. His grey eyes had a touch of iron in them, even in this second life. His mouth had a determined set to it, and his manner of speaking tended to be emphatic and forceful. Aegnor’s remaining in Mandos had been hardest on him. They were Iron and Fire, the middle children of Finarfin, born but twenty-two years apart from each other and inseparable most of their lives. Although the two brothers had bickered and traded insults frequently, they adored each other.

“A few of your lords reside on Tol Eressëa now,” Finrod had said to Turgon, after they had talked of many other things. “Has Itarillë told you?”

“Duilin and Galdor, she tells me,” Turgon had replied. Messenger birds had flown swiftly between Valmar and Tol Eressëa, and even now Idril was riding towards Taniquetil. “And she informs me that Laurefindel has been sent back to Endórë.”

“Oh, the valarauco slayer killed by his hair?” Angrod had said, cracking a nut, and not noticing how his brother suddenly sat very still. “I’ve heard interesting rumours about that one. Itarillë found him on your palace doorstep as a baby, did she not?”

“Which strikes me as odd,” Finrod had said intently, “for surely your guards were remiss in their duty, if they espied not who left the child there.”

“That was but the tale Itarillë spun for a child to hear,” Turgon had said. “And when the balladeers took it up, we let it be.”

“So… what is the true story?” Finrod had asked, his grey eyes eager and curious.

“Only your sister knows.”

And Turgon had told them of the secret meeting with Galadriel on the edge of the Woods of Núath—and the golden-haired infant, but a month out of the womb, that she had placed in his arms, and the heirloom brooch she had pinned on swaddling clothes woven in Tirion.

Finrod had fallen very quiet.

Angrod’s brow had furrowed as he chewed on a walnut. “I know that brooch. It belonged to our grandmother Indis. I was present when she gave it to Artanis.”

Then, thunderstruck, the third son of Finarfin had turned to gaze at his eldest brother. The nutcracker had fallen from his hand upon the table with a clunk. “Mountain of Manwë! Ingo… could it be…?”

On the fair, luminous face of Finrod the Faithful, as he returned his brother’s gaze, had been a strange mix of apprehension and expectancy.

Angrod had arisen abruptly and paced about in agitation, then swung round to look at Finrod, though he seemed to be thinking aloud more than addressing his brother. “I did not think it possible—Holy Eru!—Could it be? I cannot believe it! What would Amil and Atar say?”

Finrod cleared his throat. “Let me—”

“You see it too, do you not? That rogue brother of ours! I knew he could be feckless, but ne’er did I think him capable of siring and hiding a child from us. If ever he emerges from Mandos, I’ll tan his hide if this be true!”

Finrod’s eyes had widened.

Turgon had leaned back in his seat looking curiously complacent. “So you believe… Aikanáro married rashly, then regretted it, and kept it secret?”

“What possible reason would you have to believe that the babe was Aikanáro’s?” asked the eldest son of Finarfin.

“How many golden-haired quendi were there in Beleriand in the First Age? This babe was born whilst Turno was at Nevrast. Remember how roaring drunk Aiko was at the Mereth Aderthad—and how, once he sobered, he had no recollection of romancing that Sindarin chieftain’s daughter?”

“It takes far more than kissing to make a babe,” Finrod murmured, blushing slightly.

“They went a bit further than kissing, if I recall. But not far enough to be wed and make babes. And the Mereth Aderthad was decades before Laurefindel was begotten,” Turgon pointed out.

“When was the boy begotten?” demanded Angrod.

“The fifty-first Year of the Sun, in yávië,” said Turgon.

Angrod stifled a curse. “Aikanáro had another liaison, right about then. Another lissom Sinda of a hill tribe in northern Dorthonion. Claimed he had plighted his troth to wed her, but he protested he had no mind to marry any. We had a time of it placating the tribe, who were our allies. And now I learn that a year later Artanis arranged to dispose of a mysterious baby. With golden hair. A child who certainly cannot be her own, nor mine, nor yours—”

“Angaráto—” Finrod had begun, with a sigh.

“—and Artaresto was already wed, with Finduilas on the way, so it could not have been him, or I might have suspected that spineless sod. So who else but Aiko? He would not be the first to wed rashly and sire a child after a drink too many, and awaken to his folly and a wife he could not love, and thereafter seek to hush the marriage. Were he in Valinor he would have sought an annulment. Sweet Varda! It would explain how intensely tormented he was over his love for Andreth—not merely that she was mortal, but that he knew himself wed and not free to marry another. No, no, no, this is madness! He could not have been such a selfish turd as to send his own flesh and blood away. He was feckless and wild, those early years in Beleriand, but his heart was always noble. And he loved children as much as the rest of us.”

“No father would send a babe of his away if he knew he had a babe,” Finrod had said feelingly. “But what if he was… rendered insensible during the event, and hence ignorant of the begetting?”

Angrod had snorted with derision at his childless brother’s words. “Ignorant of the begetting! Impossible. No matter how drunk or insensible he might be, no nér could not know he has begotten a child, except he be an utter idiot. As a father, I can assure you of that. Am I not right, Turno?”

“Quite so,” Turgon had agreed. “Any quendë would know. A child one sires is sensed within, is part of one’s fëa.”

“Well, I hope I am wrong about Aiko.” Angrod had sat down again and shaken his head. “I love him dearly, and he did settle and grow wise and capable, those years in Ard-galen. We were so close. Had he married quietly, sired a child, then decided to part ways with his wife and send away the child to save face for them both, would he not have turned to me rather than Artanis for help?”

“I doubt that, Ango,” Turgon said drily, “given your inclination to call him an utter idiot and tan his hide.”

“—well, Artanis would have surely done worse. Fearless warrior that he was, she could make him nervous as no one else could. He would have turned to you, probably, Ingo, had you not been off wandering the wilderness. Damn… I should think he would at least have confessed this to me sometime during those years in Ard-galen.” Angrod took a deep breath. “So… the father may not be he. I desire with all my heart to believe he could never have been so selfish, so feckless.”

“I know he could not have been,” Finrod had said quietly. “I know there is another explanation—”

“We may never know it, if Artanis never returns.” Angrod had looked grim. “Let the mystery be. And let us forget I ever spoke of it. Not a word. For the scandal it would bring upon Atar and our House, and the sorrow it would bring to Ammë—”

“Scandal from this child? Atto and Ammë would rejoice to know they have another grandchild. They would love him all the more, knowing how unjustly he was sent away and hidden, even were he not a hero renown for such valour and virtue.”

“They would, Ingo. The scandal and the grief would be the abominable behaviour of their youngest son.”

“They would have a right to know. And we know their loving hearts. Were there any wrongdoing on the part of any child of theirs, they would bring correction, but they would also be forgiving.”

“Perhaps. But the scandal! Scandals are dangerous poison to a king. And there is no way to prove or disprove this.”

“What if I—” Finrod had begun.

“—Nay, Ingo! Not a word more of this valarauco slayer and his birth,” Angrod said with finality. “And not a word to any. Especially not to Atar and Amil. I never spoke of this.”

“Never,” Turgon had affirmed with a nod. “Well, I shall be visiting my father soon. And I hear my grandson is now a star…?”

From that encounter, Turgon’s recollection, as he paced the large chamber at the top of his tower, went back almost seven thousand years, to the moment he had seen Glorfindel as a babe in Galadriel’s arms, under the eaves of the Woods of Núath.

That first instant he had laid eyes on the babe had brought a flash of recognition. Though baffled and bewildered, he had felt it—that this child was the flesh and blood of his cousin and best friend and soul-brother. The name Laurefindë he had bestowed upon the child in that moment had sprung from that moment of insight.

But over the years, watching the child grow into a youth, Turgon’s rational mind had contended with his instincts. The thought that Finrod could have secretly fathered a child and sent him away violated all Turgon had ever known of this beloved cousin he had grown up with, and who was in many ways closer to him than even his own siblings. Finrod’s honour, his open nature, his love of children and intense desire for his own, could not be reconciled with his sending a son of his away as a babe, unless there was some terrible peril the child needed protection from. But those had not been the dark days as when Fingon had sent Ereinion to Círdan. No grave danger had threatened, those early years in Beleriand; they had freely explored the Hither Lands, found them good, claimed territories of their own, and imagined the Siege of Angband might soon end. And who was the mother? Finrod had never gotten drunk in his life. And his love for Amárië made marriage to any other unthinkable.

And if Finrod had for any reason married someone else in Beleriand, what did that make him now he and Amárië were married in Aman? And would Amárië not have sensed at once in her fëa that her beloved was wed to another?

So it was the differences Turgon began to note as Glorfindel came of age. The youth had Finrod’s warm laugh and beautiful voice, and his noble, unassuming, generous nature, but he did not have Finrod’s scholarly tastes, nor his aptitude for magic, nor his harp-playing skill, nor his artistic talents with painting or sculpting. Instead, the child took to the sword as though he had been born to it. Given his fearless daring and his playful and impulsive nature, Turgon’s suspicions as to his sire had eventually settled on… Aegnor.

Just as Angrod’s had.

Who knew Aegnor better than Angrod? That he could suspect his own younger brother of fathering Glorfindel was to Turgon confirmation enow.

But now… all because of a rumour spread by a silly horse, which surely should be given no credence whatsoever, Turgon found himself going over the details of that meeting with Angrod and Finrod again.

And now, he recalled how silent and preoccupied Finrod had looked after that. How several times over the years, Finrod had seemed to be on the brink of speaking something to Turgon… but had always drawn back.

And troubled in spirit, Turgon wondered if his first instinct about infant Glorfindel had been right after all.

To this, the highest peak in Arda, a million voices flow each minute.

Some of these are spirit-whispers from the far lands. Some are borne by thousands of maiar who move ceaselessly on the winds. Some arrive on tiny wings from every corner of Aman.

The halls of Ilmaren soar heavenwards in icy, glittering spires, crowning the highest peak of Arda. Hewn of stone and ice, whirled about with freezing winds and blizzards as cold as ever the Helcaraxë was, no life should there endure. And yet… on the slopes outside Ilmaren grow silvery grasses that shimmer in the moonlight and dazzle in the sunlight. White snow-roses glisten pure on these heights, and gracefully sway on slender stems amid a shrieking wind that should shred them like knives, but does not.

Most unexpected of all are the swift little maiarin winds that weave through the howling blizzards. Warm as milk, soft as down, these balmy breezes catch and cradle each bird that ascends these treacherous slopes, and waft them in a heartbeat to the very throne of the Elder King, unhurt by frost or cold.

The falcon rested on Manwë’s great shoulder, and in small squawks and chirrups delivered its tale.

Manwë inclined his head attentively, his hair brighter than Tilion’s light high in the sky above. “Say first to Turukáno: is silver that has passed through the refiner’s flame not pure enough? What dross survives the silversmith’s crucible? Then say: the Shadow beyond the sea is long scattered on the winds, and beyond the sea it shall remain. Not veil nor form may it assume again, not till the Final Strife.”

After the falcon had departed, the Elder King said serenely, “Now let us observe how these events unfold.”

Other whispers came then on the wind of which the falcon had known naught.

One maia at Manwë’s elbow asked, “Lord, think you chaos and fear will spread like wildfire among the children, even to the other cities?”

“It may,” said the Elder King. “For it is in their nature for their tongues and fancies and fears to run wild. Yet I would hope that the ages have tempered at least some of their number with wisdom and discernment.”

“And what would signal that we should intervene, Lord?” asked another maia at his feet.

“Intervene?” replied Manwë, lifting snowy eyebrows. His ancient eyes flashed like lightning, and his ageless face smiled. “Ah, but we already have.”

It was now three hours since the King’s supper with his lords had ended, and not all in the city had heard the scandalous news making their rounds. Yet.

High on the rooftop of the House of the Heavenly Arch, the Pyromaster of Alcarinos was lost in his own world of magical light and flame, and continued to send up wondrous works of blossoms and butterflies, lions and eagles, ships and castles into the air.

Far below, in the vast complex of smithies and craft workshops in the House of the Hammer, more than a few smiths and craftsmen remained engrossed in their labours. And one of them, mindful that he was supposed not to sit or stand too long, decided it was time to stretch his legs. He would get some fresh air, he thought, and head to the courtyard.

Out of politeness, as Aryo headed to the door, he called to the other smith who had once been a Mole, “Friend, I shall take a break. Perhaps a drink. Care you to join me?”

To his astonishment, the once-Mole smith gave a nod. It must be easier to face the Gondolindrim with a companion at your side, Aryo guessed. And surely as a newcomer he must be curious to see the city as well. Well, Aryo decided, he would buy a flagon of wine with the little coin he had, and he and the once-Mole could find a quiet corner of a garden, and watch fireworks, and talk.

They walked down long, wide corridors through the large complex, and at last came to the heavy door. The moment Aryo pushed it open and stepped into the moonlit courtyard, he felt a change in the atmosphere.

Just a few hours ago, a sense of lightness and gaiety had permeated the city, and the music of Meren Calameneldë had filled the air. Now, he saw small groups standing in huddles, murmuring, and the music had fallen silent. Only the fireworks still lighting the sky above gave some festive cheer. Nearest to him was a group of five—three smiths still wearing their work aprons, sleeves of their tunics folded up, and two neri in colourful silk robes who must have come from the festivities. As he overheard what they were saying in Quenya, Aryo froze in shock.

“…one thing is certain, the traitor has a fetish for golden hair.”

“Hah! The Mole hated the Golden Flower. It was well known!”

“Well, no better revenge than this, eh? He’s the Mole’s bitch now.”

“I hear he or she bewitched the Fountain as well.”

“No! Never our pure Fountain!”

“Oh yes. He would tolerate no ill spoken of her, it seems.”

Signs against evil were sketched in the air, a superstitious First Age custom started by some in Gondolin, hardly witnessed in Aman these days, and quite alien to the youngster from Ennor.

“These black spells are potent. Witness the fate of the White Lady.”

“Let Laurefindel beware! He, too, might come to a bad end.”

Ná. That Mole was always a nasty piece of work.”

“Cold as ice, and cunning as a wolf.”

“The king should have shoved him off the Caragdur with his Atar.”

“The Valar should shove the evil whore back into Mandos right now—”

The powerfully-built smith of the Hammer who spoke that last sentence broke off abruptly as he was yanked backwards by his long, dark braid of hair, spun about by his shoulder, and caught a flash of golden fire in angry grey eyes before a lightning-fast jab, cross and hook to his face downed him.

As two elves tended to the smith who lay on the flagstones with a bloodied and bruised face, the other two attempted to hold his attacker off. These were men of the Hammer, skilled warriors who had boldly stood against firedrakes and decimated swarms of yrch ere they fell defending Gondolin. The young smith side-stepped their lunges and skilfully used the momentum of their attack to toss them aside with careless ease. One landed in a flower bed, the other in a pond. Eneldur cried out, “Stop it! Stop! Let’s go!” and pulled Aryo back through the door, and latched it.

“They will get through the door soon enough,” said Eneldur, grabbing Aryo’s hand and racing with him back down the corridor. “We must seek another way out.”

And Aryo, still in his fighting daze, realized Eneldur was speaking in Quenya to him. Corridors. Stairs. A verandah. More stairs. More corridors. Then, seeing people ahead of them, a climb onto a parapet. Rooftop. Onto the rooftop of the next building.

At last, Eneldur ducked into a shadowy corner where the roof formed a valley with a gable, and where they would be hidden from eyes watching from other buildings or the street. Aryo huddled there, blood pounding in his head. His back was throbbing with pain.

Eneldur gripped and shook him by the shoulders, speaking in a terse, hushed voice. “What were they saying? Tell me—what was it they were saying, about the Mole, and the Golden Flower, about the Fountain, and spells, and being sent back to Mandos? What did it all mean?”

Aryo shook his head, still in shock, dazed with rage at himself. You fool! You wretched fool! He had not lost control that way for over a century, and the memory of the smith’s bloody face was making him ill. I think I broke his nose. It was all over, now. He needed to get hold of Arman. They had to leave. At once.

“Why did you hit Beldo? You understood him. Damn it! You understand Quenya. I know you do. Tell me!”

Aryo swallowed, and replied at last in Quenya, “He insulted my Amil.”

“Your Amil?” said Eneldur. “Who is she? Please—why did they insult her so coarsely? I must know.”

“You won’t believe it…” said Aryo, feeling shame on behalf of his Amil, knowing well her pride, and wishing to preserve it before one of her ardently loyal men, who had known her only as a strong lord. “If I tell you, you won’t believe me.” But even as Aryo looked into the other’s face, he could see that Eneldur was guessing something, only unable or unwilling to accept it.

“The Lord,” said Eneldur, “has the Lord returned? Lord Lómion?”

Ná,” said Aryo reluctantly. “Only… he isn’t… really… himself anymore.”

Eneldur stared, stunned, into Aryo’s face. “I was thinking from the moment I saw you… you look so much like him. Like the King too. Are you the blood of Nolofinwë?”


“The Lord… you are… his son?”


“The Lord… he is… your…”

Aryo nodded slowly, urging him on with his silence.

“…your… Amil?” Eneldur whispered it.

“Ná.” Aryo nodded again. He felt strangely apologetic. “I am sorry.” For your shock, your disappointment, perhaps your horror.

Then they fell silent, hearing voices float up from one of the verandahs of the building beneath them.

“…possessed by Sauron himself.”

“So he was a puppet, then, and could give no warning.”

“Puppet! Hah! A willing accomplice I bet you he was, that orc-blooded monster. None can be possessed save he who of his own free will opens a door to the darkness...”

Eneldur was gripping Aryo’s arm so tightly that the young elf winced.

The voices below faded as the unseen elves turned a corner.

“Sauron,” breathed Eneldur. Shock contended with horror, then was overtaken by a strange relief. “So, it was Sauron all along. He incited us, he accused Tuor of treachery. That was why we attacked the Wing… through it all, it was Sauron. It was not my Lord! Now, now I understand!”

Aryo watched something close to elation light in the once-Mole’s eyes, and make him look beautiful.

“I must leave this city,” said Aryo. “And you... you have been seen aiding me. It may be best that you leave as well.”

“I’ll come with you.”

“You… want to?”

“I wish to meet my lord again.”

“But do you not understand? Your lord is… gone. This is no longer the lord you once served. There is no more House of the Mole. We live a quiet life in a forest.”

“Then I wish to meet who my lord is now. If your… your Amil was able to impart to you those techniques and skills I saw in the workshop just now, then… my lord lives. And if I may work under… her as you have, I would be honoured.”

Aryo did not doubt the shining sincerity he saw in Eneldur’s face.

“Come then. But there is something I must collect first.” The small palantír in his room. The King might send people there soon, and search through his things. They must not find it.

They were not far from the wing wherein Aryo’s small room lay. They crept lightly over the roof, climbed down carefully by carvings in the wall, and through the window. Eneldur kept watch at the door as Aryo swept notes, papers, tools into a bag—anything that might give a clue who he was and whence he had come—and most important of all, the small, heavy globe slightly larger than his fist. Eneldur hissed a warning. “Lord Rauco and some of the guard are coming down the hallway!”

Out of the window and up upon the roof again. They kept to the shadows as much as they could, but this time the hunter’s moon and the fireworks were not their friends. They heard a shout from below, and knew they were discovered.

Aryo’s heart sank, even as Eneldur pulled him into a shadowed recess by a large tower. They could not stay here long, and soon their pursuers would be here. His first thought was of Arman and his parents. He could not reach Arman by osanwë, but his parents… he drew out the small, heavy globe, as Eneldur watched in wonder. His mind reached into its dark depths, and golden light swirled as it turned south into the great woods…

And found no one. He prayed: please, please let someone be there. And even then he thought, What should I say? Be on your guard—the secret is out. Forgive us. We should not have come here. We love you… we shall see you soon…

But there was no response from the palantir in the house by the lake. Aryo stared helplessly at the crystal. He needed to destroy it, linked as it was to the palantir in their home. He would dash it with all his strength against stone of the tower, and shatter it into a hundred pieces…

He raised the crystal, then heard Eneldur gasp.

Turning his head, Aryo saw a nís walking towards them on the roof. She was tall and strongly built, her glowing hair cascading in thick copper waves to her hips. The sleeves of her dress were rolled up to her elbows, and Aryo noticed her lean, muscular forearms and her large, strong, shapely hands. One look into her grey eyes, shining with warmth and gentleness and wisdom, and he knew who she was. From those generous hips had come eight sons and one daughter. This tower must house the quarters of the Lord and Lady of the Hammer. Hearing the shouts and sighting the two fugitives from her window, she must have climbed out and followed them.

“Are you the son?” she asked Aryo. “Tell me, please—it is true that Lómion has returned from Mandos?”

There was such a glow of expectancy in her face as she asked, and such a kindness and excitement in her voice, that Aryo said, “Yes, herinya, I am her son. My Amil’s name is Lómiel.”

She did not have the classical beauty that the Noldor cherished—her jaw and cheekbones too strong, her skin too freckled—but at his answer, her face blossomed with an incandescent loveliness. “Eru Iluvátar be praised, there is hope,” she said huskily, her eyes moist. “Do not fear, child. Come, come this way.”

The mother of kinslayers held out her hand.

And Aryo, without hesitation, took a bemused Eneldur by the arm and followed her.

“Gone?” thundered Turgon.

“Cúmaen is not in his room. All his things are gone.” Duilin sighed and shook his head. “I trusted that boy.”

“Aros was last seen on the roof. I have a score of men up there searching for him now,” reported Rog. “And by the attack on Beldo he has confirmed himself the son of the traitor. And that he understands Quenya.”

“Lying little wretch,” muttered Turgon.

“And he was not alone. A smith of the Moles was with him,” adds Rog.

Galdor swore. “He seeks to gather those loyal to Lómion. What did I say?”

“I already have men guarding the mountain passes and the river,” said Egalmoth.

“And I have men guarding the stables across the city,” said Salgant.

“Their own horses, especially, must be watched,” said Galdor. “I have moved them to the stables of my own House.”

“Are we hunting them as dangerous fugitives? They are boys, who are hearing their mother vilified as a witch, and an ally of Sauron!” protested Penlod, for it was now Penlos who accompanied Ecthelion in the House of the Fountain. “Do you blame them for seeking to flee? By all accounts, Beldo called their Amil an evil whore. Do you wonder that Aros attacked him?”

Before Turgon or the others could reply, there was a flutter of wings at the window.

The falcon sat on the sill and fixed its proud, fierce glare on them.

Then, as Turgon held out a leather-gloved hand, it flew to him, and chirruped its message.

Let us go back a little in time and to a place a hundred leagues away.

Three days ago. The hills south of Taniquetil. Less than an hour’s walk from the massive Halls of Aulë on the southwestern face of the mountain, and four days’ ride from Alcarinos.

The white-bearded dwarf beams contentedly as he crawls out of the small cave. Sinking down on the grassy slope outside its mouth, he surveys the land of woodlands and emerald-green rolling hills that lie before him basking in the warm evening sun.

“Here,” he says with a satisfied nod. “This place.”

The pale-haired elf who has followed him out of the cave sinks morosely onto the grass next to him. “You have years left, Gimli. Why need you choose your tomb now?”

“Ah, how could an elf understand? I have lived a good, long life. The final leg of the adventure beckons. These old bones have served me well, and ’tis meet I settle their housing. Then all is in readiness for the journey onward! A large granite stone, now, for the entrance. Nothing fancy or too elvish. Where’s some stones to mark this place?”

“No need for markers, mellon. I’ll not forget.” Not this cave, nor this moment, nor any word you have ever uttered to me.

“Aye, you forget nothing, Master Elf,” Gimli says gently, smiling at the sadness of the huge, azure eyes. He claps Legolas on the back. “Ho! Be of good cheer, khuzsh! I’m not about to pop my clogs tomorrow. Or the week after. I have found a house for my bones—that is all. Plans to move in can and will wait. Now, let us re-join the others.”

As they walk down the warm, south-facing slope of the hillside to the meadow full of flowers, Gimli walks with the supple-legged spring of a young dwarrow, and keeps up easily with the long stride of the tall elf by him.

Behind them soars the colossal peak of Taniquetil. Before them spreads the northernmost borders of Oromë’s forests. At the foot of the hill, they come to something strange—a garden. Between them and the eaves of the great forest lies the wild splendour of gently rolling hills and woodlands and flower-filled meadows. But with no house nor hut nor any form of building in sight, there it stood—as fair and fertile a garden as any in Yavanna’s lands, with neat rows of vegetables and bushes of pipeweed, and well-trimmed beds of herbs and flowers, and a couple of child-sized wooden chairs beneath the spreading branches of an oak tree.

And in the side of the hill, the strangest of sights in Aman—a small, round, green door with a knob at the centre.

A silver-bearded maia in white and grey robes is gently closing the green door behind him. Another three maiar of Yavanna hover over the garden and meadow, tending each new shoot and bud and nourishing the soil. They appear not in elven form, but manifest as strange creatures of earth and tree bark and leaf and root, with long, nimble fingers shaped like twigs, and torsos and legs like young birch saplings, and their voices are like the rustle of the wind in the treetops, and soft rumblings like burrowing creatures deep in the earth.

Legolas and Gimli and the silver-bearded maia, the last of a fellowship of nine, join a dozen elves who are gathered in the garden. Surrounded by a riot of the fairest roses and columbines, delphiniums and coralbells, hydrangeas and irises, the elves sit or stand gracefully, singing of the deeds of the periain in Ennorath.

A hundred and thirty coranári have passed since the Company of the Ring was formed and set out from Imladris. Three life-sized statues mark three small graves. So here beneath a bush of hydrangeas sits Bilbo lazily smoking his pipe, and there by the roses is Frodo writing intently in a great book, and over the elanor—just planted on the newest and freshest grave—stoops a smiling Samwise, shears poised to prune. The elves laugh at times as they sing, and sigh at others, and make fair flower garlands to crown the heads of the halfling statues.

“In song and memory they live with us forever,” says Galadriel as the last notes of Lindir’s lute at last fade away.

Savo hîdh nen gurth, Sam,” murmurs Legolas, a tear slipping down his fair face.

“Legolas looks grim,” whispers Erestor to Elrond.

“The death of Samwise reminds him that Gimli, too, will journey on,” replies Elrond, gazing with much empathy at the pale-haired prince, and perhaps thinking of all those he has lost in the Hither Lands.

“But it will be Gimli’s gift to lay his life down when he is ready. As it was Tuor’s, and the Ringbearers’,” says Glorfindel, his azure eyes solemn.

“The issue is when Legolas will be ready to release him,” says Olórin. “I believe Gimli will hold on till then. But leave us he must, in the end.”

Crouching by the statue at Bilbo’s grave, Maeglin seems to be admiring Finrod’s handiwork, shaped out of stone from the quarries below Aulë’s halls. Seating himself by her on the grass, Finrod whimsically slips a large yellow flower behind Bilbo’s ear, which gives the hobbit a raffish air.

“How did you sculpt these in so short a time?” she asks, running her fingers over the carved creases in Bilbo’s stone waistcoast. Finrod had transported the rough stone a league with Legolas and Glorfindel’s help, and finished the three small statues in little more than a day and a night.

“The size of halflings was helpful. And several millennia of experience in sculpting,” he says lightly. He sees her question for the camouflage it is. “You knew Bilbo Baggins well?”

“Barely,” she says, her face an expressionless mask. “He visited a dozen times, but he was only a true resident at Imladris nineteen years.”

Finrod has heard a different tale from Glorfindel. The elderly hobbit had befriended every elf in the household in his years there. When he had sat at Maeglin’s side during dinners, they had talked of dwarves and Erebor and she had taught him what khuzdul she knew. He had sat occasionally with Estel outside Maeglin’s workshop window as the Dúnadan and hobbit composed songs together. Glorfindel had been dumbfounded when he first returned from a patrol and found his wife having tea with Erestor and Bilbo in the hobbit’s room. During the War of the Ring, as the twins had grown within her, she had walked in the twilight with Arwen and the elderly hobbit and even tolerated him singing his Eärendil song.

“It is not easy for us of the quendi to witness the Gift of Men, no matter how much death by battle or mishap we have seen,” says Finrod. “Death-by-nature is so unnatural to us. Bëor was my friend only forty-four years. He died in my arms.” Even after so many millennia, his eyes are soft with sadness at the loss. “The fírimar… so frail yet so strong, so ephemeral yet so doughty. They touch our lives a brief season, but leave a mark that endures forever.”

She shifts her shoulders in something close to a shrug. “I did not witness Bilbo’s passing. It touches me not.” The aged hobbit had died in the Blessed Realm ninety years before the last ship from Mithlond sailed.

Finrod smiles gently. When they arrived at the hobbit hole two days ago, Maeglin had not even wished to enter it, choosing instead to hover outside the round door, to sit far from either Frodo or Bilbo’s graves, and gaze—wistfully? nervously?—at the mansions of Aulë in the mountainside, just visible over the ridge to the northwest.

“Samwise and I hardly know each other,” she had said shortly. “I see no need for farewells.”

Again not quite true. There had been journeys to Bree and the Shire when the twins were elflings, and over the first three decades of the Fourth Age, Arman and Aryo had played in turn with each of Samwise and Rosie’s thirteen tiny children.

What finally compelled Maeglin to venture into the Ringbearers’ smial as evening fell, none could say. She had witnessed Samwise breathe his last, witnessed Olórin gently closing his eyes. Finrod had raised his gaze from the hobbit’s peaceful mien to Maeglin’s stricken one, and seen a single, sudden tear slide down her pale, perfect cheek. Then she had turned and fled, and Glorfindel had run after her.

Bilbo was dear to you as you will never admit. As others were dear to you in Endórë and have now passed beyond the circle of this world. In that single tear at Sam’s deathbed was all the grief for their mortality that you seek to deny.

But all Finrod now says in the face of her denial is, “Bilbo passed on peacefully in his armchair one morning after second breakfast. Frodo and Olórin stood on either side of him, and held his hands. He breathed his last with a smile on his face.”

Glorfindel interrupts them. “Others come,” he says softly.

And turning their heads, Maeglin and Finrod see that a score and seven elves have appeared on a ridge to the northwest, some on horses, some on foot.

“I recognize some elves from the Halls of Aulë, and others from Tirion, and yet others from Tol Eressëa,” Finrod says.

“Swiftly have the birds borne tidings of Samwise’s passing,” remarks Erestor. “Eldamar comes to honour him.”

“And shall hear the Lay of the Ringbearers again, if they desire it!” exclaims Lindir, relishing the thought of a new audience.

“It is time I flee,” mutters Maeglin. “Too close to Eldamar is this for comfort. Novaer, mellyn.”

The hastiest of farewells are exchanged. Hand in hand, Maeglin and Glorfindel walk away swiftly through the meadow to their horses, then ride towards the eaves of the woods that will swallow them into its shadows.

“I wonder that Arman and Aryo did not come,” says Legolas.

“Ah, my grandsons are in the Crystal Caves,” says Finrod. “They could not be reached by palantír. Methinks I shall ride south, and seek them there.”

“Ah, that.” Gimli gives a cough. “I wouldn’t ride south to find the lads, felak-gundu, if I were you.”

Finrod eyes the dwarf penetratingly. “What do you mean, khuzsh?”


Ela! Lómion, Cundu i Ondolindeva [Q] – Behold! Lómion, Prince of Gondolin

Harya mára lomë [Q] – have a good night

Khuzsh [Khuzdul] – friend

Nésaya [Q] – my sister

Quiltyalië [Q] – quilta (“encircle”) + “tyalië” (“game”). It resembles the strategy board game Go.

Savo hîdh nen gurth [S] – Have peace in death (Rest in peace)

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