Sleepless in Imladris
Glorfindel tossed in his bed, buried his face again in his pillow with a groan, and prayed to Irmo for sleep.
After most of the household had retired for the night, Glorfindel had remained in the Hall of Fire with Lindir and a handful of elves, singing and talking and drinking more wine. But it had been futile. The balrog slayer could not shake the strange girl’s eyes and face—and body—from his thoughts, nor the feelings that came with them.
Shortly past midnight, he had headed to his room. It was only his third night without sleep, and he did not physically require it, but he sought it, longed for it, fervently. It offered him the only escape possible from thoughts of obsidian eyes and bare white skin: the blissful oblivion of slumber, which, for him, was usually so deep that he seldom ever recalled his dreams once he woke. And he normally fell asleep almost as soon as his head touched the pillow.
Not this night.
It was almost two hours before he began to drift into sleep. And just then, a bloodcurdling shriek pierced the silence of the night and shocked him awake again. A scream of such imaginable torment that he leaped out of bed, quickly pulled on his leggings and ran out into the corridor with his sword drawn, anticipating an attack.
The corridor was dark and empty. And silent.
Had he been dreaming? The other five bedchambers in this wing would be empty, all of his neighbours having sailed west over the past millennium. He sighed, and pushed back his golden hair from his face. His head was throbbing slightly from the amount of wine he had ingested earlier. He was turning back to his door when a second shriek rang out.
The room two doors away from his. Glorfindel threw open the door, entered with his sword raised and ready, and froze.
In one glance he saw that there was only one person in the room—a slender figure in a white shift lying upon the bed, thrashing wildly. Another of those terrible cries of torment rended the air. Even before he saw the face that was obscured by the curtain of black hair, he knew who it was. Dropping his sword next to the bed, he quickly went to her and caught her by the shoulders, his heart wrenching with sympathetic pain.
“Echuio, meleth-nín!” Glorfindel said loudly as he grasped her shoulders and shook her. Stars of Varda, he thought, stunned, what did I just call her? He was in such shock at what he had uttered, that when she lashed out with a furious snarl, her fist caught the side of his face, and she kicked him so powerfully in the guts with her good foot that he was momentarily winded. Catching the flailing arms, he gathered her tightly against himself and sat on the bed, pinning her arms to her side, her back against his chest so that her thrashing legs could not kick him again. In a voice shaking with rage, she was spitting out Quenya expletives of such vitriol that Glorfindel was stupefied.
Glorfindel drew a deep breath. “Rainë,” he said as he held her, his voice calm and commanding. Closing his eyes, he called upon the healing of the fëa he had learned in Estë’s halls.
And found himself pulled into her mind.
Felt shackles on his hands, felt excruciating pain twisting through his guts. Smelt the dank, foul, fetid smell of a dungeon. Saw two molten red eyes in a dark visage beneath the incongruous strangeness of a pure, blinding radiance that held at bay the oppressive darkness that lay all around. And heard a form of Black Speech in a terrible deep voice like an earthquake:
Where is it, slave – the secret city? I grow weary of your insolence.
And a familiar, low voice growling out an enraged, exhausted reply, barely audible, in Quenya: “Never, filth-face. Go *@#*#@ —”
A string of colourful curses followed by another excruciating spasm of torment. And the screaming.
Into the darkness Glorfindel began to sing: a song learned across the ocean, into which was woven notes of the First Music and phrases of the Eldest Speech that few among the Quendi knew. A gentle, golden light emanated from him and danced over the form of the girl in his arms. The dark visage in the nightmare faded, the foul stench receded, and the white brilliance mounted in the Iron Crown swallowed up the darkness.
Then he was back in the room, and opened his eyes. The girl lay still in his arms. He cradled her gently for a moment and gazed down at her with both tenderness and dread, still overwhelmed by what he had witnessed. Who, and what, are you? he thought.
Looking at the bed, he saw that she had fallen asleep on top of the covers. Books lay scattered on the floor, and a burnt-out lamp sat on a table near the bed. She had been reading then, and fallen asleep, probably, as she read. The white shift she wore was not a night gown but the under-garment of the dress she had worn at dinner, which was carelessly draped over a chair by the window.
He turned back the bed covers, laid her gently down, and covered her with the blanket. He was picking up the books from the floor and looking at their titles when her eyes began to focus and scan the room in confusion, still glazed from their terrible dreams.
She gasped in shock at the sight of Glorfindel and sat bolt upright in bed, glaring at him with huge, dazed black eyes. The curtain of black hair, slightly damp with sweat, fell over half her face. Her hand had reached under the pillow instinctively, as though it expected to find a dagger there.
“What are—”she blurted out in Quenya, then hurriedly switched to Sindarin. “What are you doing here?” she managed in a ragged, accusing voice.
Glorfindel had been in numerous other situations which involved a bedchamber in the middle of the night, a skimpily clad maiden, and himself shirtless and barefoot. In no other situation, however, had the maiden been so displeased to see him. He set the books down on the bedside table, and noted how her fists clenched and her mouth set hard as he drew too close. Taking a step back away from her, he said calmly, as though all of this were perfectly normal, “You were having a nightmare, and I heard the screams and came. Please don’t be alarmed.” He observed her dilated pupils and the clammy sweat on her brow, and how heavily she was breathing. “Does your foot hurt? How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine,” she said between her teeth.
“I am a healer… and… it is clear to me you have had a great shock. Please let me prepare something that will help you recover. I shall return shortly.”
And Glorfindel picked up his sword and left before she could say anything. He went briefly to his room. Set down the sword. Snatched up a tunic. Pulled it on as he ran down the stairs to the healing halls. Prepared a calming draught. When he returned, she was sitting at the foot of the bed, wrapped in a dark-grey, long-sleeved robe. She watched him warily as he entered, as though suspicious that he might pounce on her. Her breathing had evened out somewhat, but there were deep shadows under her eyes and she looked exhausted.
“Please have this,” he said, holding out the cup to her. “It will calm you and help you to sleep without dreams.”
She made no move to take it. “Le hannon, hîr-nín. But I shall not be in need of it.”
“As it pleases you. I shall leave it here all the same, in case you might need it later,” he said, and set it down on the table. “Forgive me for intruding upon you. I wish you a good night and dreams more pleasant than the last you had. Losto vae.” And with a deep bow to her, he left, closing the door quietly behind him.
Maeglin went to the door, pushed a chair against it, then returned to the bed and collapsed upon it.
It had taken all her pride, strength and will to contain her trembling and weakness before him. Now he was gone, her wounded foot throbbed with pain, and she could barely move for weariness.
She still felt the aftermath of the nightmare in her body and her mind. To combat it, she focused her attention on Glorfindel.
If that idiot thought that she was going to consume anything prepared by him, he was sadly mistaken. His reputation as a prankster had been foremost on her mind as he held out that cup. He had placed a special herb in Penlod’s cup at Galdor’s wedding, so that when the grave and lofty Lord of the Pillar and the Snow had risen to toast the happy couple, half his tongue had gone numb and he had uttered perfect nonsense in the most solemn of voices. And who could forget the time Glorfindel had dyed Salgant’s face blue as the Lord of the Harp had lain in a drunken slumber at Yestarë? It did not matter to her that Glorfindel’s behaviour in her room had been perfectly proper, and even subdued. He had always been most dangerous when he looked most innocent.
Also on her mind, and she reluctantly and angrily faced it now, had been an awareness of her vulnerability, in this accursed female body.
There had been too much marketplace gossip in Gondolin about all the women seen leaving the golden lord’s chambers late at night. For all the high and lofty morals of the Calaquendi in Gondolin, Maeglin, raised with very different values in the Nandorin realm of Nan Elmoth, had always been sceptical of the claims by both Glorfindel and the various ellith that nothing had ever happened. His easy charm with the ellith had always reeked of womanizer to Maeglin, and now that she was herself one, she had feared he might actually make some attempt at seduction. Looking at him as he had towered over her, shirtless and muscled, she had been painfully aware of how much weaker this stupid female body was. She knew how to fight, but she had to concede her poor chances against the very master who had trained her to fight. Had he wanted to, he could have easily overpowered her and had his way—as her own father had with her mother at their first meeting—and her mother had been one strong woman. The result had been Maeglin’s birth a year later. And had Maeglin not, as the prince of Gondolin, wanted the same with Idril? And had Maeglin not recognized that look in Glorfindel’s eyes at dinner?
When he had left, Maeglin had felt a tiny twinge of disappointment, which she quickly denied. Relieved. She was relieved. What a relief to be rid of that dolt. She would leave the chair against the door, and if none of the doors in this house had bolts, no matter, she knew how to easily fashion one herself. It was not just about avoiding being deflowered; with that idiot around, Maeglin wanted to ensure she did not end up with her face blue or with itching powder in her shoes. For that latter reason alone, her chambers in Gondolin had been locked and bolted.
She un-bandaged her foot and swore. It was red and swollen. She would be limping back to the halls of healing for treatment that day.
Desperately weary as she was, after that horrible nightmare she did not dare go back to sleep.
Maeglin re-filled and lit the lamp, and continued to read about the reign of Gil-galad in the Second Age.
Glorfindel shut the door of his own room behind him. He leaned his back against it. And slowly slid down till he was sitting on the floor.
And suddenly the mightiest elven-warrior in Ennor was shaking, shaking uncontrollably. Only by the grace of the Valar, he thought, had he managed to speak to her and behave with such self-control and composure.
He had been struggling, ever since before dinner, not to think. Not to think about this girl. Why she was familiar. How he felt about her. But now, it all came down upon him, and everything in him was in complete chaos.
At the edges of Glorfindel’s mind throughout dinner and the talk in Elrond’s study had been the thought that this elfmaid might possibly be the distant descendant of some kin of Eöl the Moriquendë, or maybe even of Maeglin, who might have fathered a child in Nan Elmoth he never spoke of, since the laws of the Laegrim were not as those of the Calaquendi.
But that nightmare. Oh, Eru, that nightmare changed everything.
As one born in Beleriand and highly favoured by the Valar, the pure-hearted warrior of light had not been counted by them among the rebellious. He had been permitted to fight in the War of Wrath, as even Finrod the beloved had not been. Assigned by Eonwë to fight under Ingwë’s banner, Glorfindel had stood with the Vanyarin host, following the fall of Thangorodrim, and looked on the face of the Great Enemy, now bound in chains. He recognized what had been in that girl’s nightmare. The stench of Angband was still in his nostrils, the pain of the torture in his very bones, and the sound of Morgoth’s voice echoed in his mind. He wanted to deny it, wanted to explain it away, but he could not. The exchange of words between the dark lord and his prisoner. The prisoner’s voice.
Yes, that voice. It could be none other but Maeglin Lómion.
That Maeglin had resisted Morgoth, had fought back, earned him a measure of respect from Glorfindel. It painted him in a far better light than Pengolodh’s history did. But the horror that lay before Glorfindel was this: that if he accepted that this was Maeglin, by some special dispensation of the Valar reborn in Ennor in the body of an elfmaid... then… Oh, Eru, then…
Glorfindel could still feel her warmth against his body, her fragile bones as she had struggled so wildly in his arms, and now, as he remembered it, he was wracked with longing and lust. Now, he fought to suppress memories of the prince of Gondolin as he had once been: strong of shoulder, almost as tall as Glorfindel in frame, with a long stride that recalled the feline grace of a mountain cat. Glorfindel could see him standing sharp-eyed and silent next to the King’s throne dressed all in black, or sparring with a demonic fury in the training room, or wielding hammer at his anvil, his muscles rippling and gleaming with sweat… Glorfindel pressed his palms against his eyes until he saw stars, desire and repulsion warring within him. Eru, have mercy, deliver me.
If this was Maeglin—his despairing heart clung to the “if”—why would the Valar have sent the traitor back to Ennor, and not just anywhere in Ennor, but close to Imladris? And why, why as an elleth? So dark was Glorfindel’s torment that he could not believe this was not a scheme born of darkness to bring ruin on Imladris, or at the very least on him. It was destroying him now. It had happened before that Aman had not been as secure as the Valar had thought. As the Necromancer’s power rose in the East, had Mandos’ own halls over in Aman been breached? And was the return of Maeglin a plot to bring evil into this haven of light? It must be so. Mandos would not release a soul from his halls without the approval of Ilúvatar the all-wise, or who had not completed the cycle of cleansing and restoration. The screams he had heard just now and the dream he had witnessed were not from a soul who had been cleansed and restored.
And if this was Maeglin, did she know her host was the half-elven descendant of the mortal she had hated so deeply in her last life? Or that Estel was as well? Glorfindel remained the protector of the descendants of Turgon, and of Tuor: Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, and Estel. He would watch her closely, watch her like a hawk. Sent back as an elfmaid, if she meant mischief, her weapons might be stealth, and poison. Yes, he must keep her very close…
And at once a yearning to hold her again consumed him.
His resolve to take her down could not be trusted, if she were an enemy, so compromised was his heart. He had to share this with someone. He could not do it alone, not in this pathetic state.
No, no, no, Glorfindel too easily persuaded himself. They would put down the dream to an excess of wine at dinnertime. And truly, it was a crazy, far-fetched tale. Better to keep this a secret, and watch how it unfolds.
And, whispered a quiet voice in his breast, mayhap this has been done by the merciful will of the Valar and of Eru Ilúvatar. Mayhap a remorseful traitor is simply being given the grace of a second chance, a fresh start in a new world…
So eagerly did Glorfindel listen to that voice that he could barely trust it. Immediately he recalled how impeccably Maeglin had always carried out his duties. He may not have been likeable, but nothing would have led anyone to think him evil. He had been heroic and brave in battle, and, one could tell from the dream, he had been obviously strong under torture. Up to a point.
Glorfindel stared across his room in the darkness, troubled, feeling the agony of the torture wrench through his body again. How would he have fared, in Maeglin Lómion’s place?
Would he have been resolute, as Maedhros Fëanorion had been?
Would he have had a breaking point, as Maeglin had his?
He liked to believe that he would have held strong, but honestly, he did not know.
But if he believed all this to be an act of Eru, why should the reborn traitor be sent here? And why was this happening to him? And suddenly the whispers in his mind were of a divine punishment for his failings, and they said that he was no longer the favoured of the Valar, that he had fallen from grace.
Exhausted in fëa more than in body, his mind wandered to the scent of her black hair and its silken feel against his cheek and mouth as he had struggled with her. He wanted to comfort her through all her future nightmares, every night from henceforth. He wanted to flee from Imladris, and never look into her black eyes again. He groaned in anguish, and leaned his head back against the oak door.
He knew that if he lay down now, he would not find sleep. He would have given much for the oblivion to be found in a cup of that sleeping draught. He should have taken it when she declined.
The sky was already lightening in the east. With a sigh, Glorfindel dragged himself to his feet.
Two rooms away, Maeglin flung the undrunk draught out onto the beds of flowers below her window.
Echuio, meleth-nín (S) – wake up, my love
Rainë (Q) - peace