Over the Diamond Waters
"It seems like yesterday, our walk around the fountain," mused Ecthelion.
"I believe it was to watch the festivities," was Glorfindel's gloomy reply. Ecthelion laughed.
"It ended in tragedy, yes, but the city did have its last happy day."
The noise of the market drifted with the wind.
With a contented sigh, Ecthelion gazed upward. "Ai, Glorfindel, our home was so peaceful," he murmured.
Glorfindel nodded. And the peace was all the more beautiful, because it would be broken. The market stands they had broken during the hunt festival, the drinking halls where Glorfindel had answered to Salgant's insult to Ecthelion, the armory where Ecthelion broke his leg. All of them would be swept up in flames, all their memories – and the innocent shouts from the market and squabbles from the court would be all forgotten. Buried, in roaring flames and the drumming of death. He would never see the sparkling white city again.
"I hope you see well," Ecthelion's gaze swept across the city, "and remember." He smiled faintly. "How beautiful things once were-" he squeezed Glorfindel's hand, "-how happy we were."
Glorfindel stopped in his tracks.
"No, Ecthelion," he whispered, swinging to face his companion. "Let me stay."
The hubbub of the people was at its peak.
"You have a new home now," Ecthelion said gently. Glorfindel shook his head, a wild scream in his eyes.
"No, Ecthelion, no." Dark blue eyes zoomed in close, trembling. "I could not find you," he breathed, "I searched everywhere, even in Mandos' Halls – why did you not follow? Why did you stay?" He enclosed his hand over Ecthelion's. "No, don't make me leave you again. Please."
A golden head bowed mournfully upon intertwined hands. And hidden in curtains of yellow threads, his breaths were hot, broken.
"Was it very hot, the balrog?" the golden-haired elf breathed, "and cold – how cold it must have been, falling into the water. How you must have gasped for air – it was frightening, wasn't it? After so many of our brothers falling through the Ice – drowning – drowned by your armor. Oh, Ecthelion." Muffled sobs seeped from tangled gold and silver. "It should have been me."
White birds flew quietly above them.
Ecthelion looked into his face. A slow hand reached out, and tipped up the other elf's chin.
"Ai, Glorfindel…" sliver eyes looked into his, a gentle shimmer of dancing waters. "It was not your fault."
And under the circling birds, the golden warrior broke into a mournful cry.
All wanted to gaze upon the fair warrior's face one last time. They wished to lay flowers by his feet, honor his courage. But none were able, for the Chief Councilor did not budge from the chamber. He sat by the motionless warrior, his hand still upon the silent heart, whispering – fiercely, desperately.
The elvenlord watched in despair.
Erestor blinked. He frowned, stared down. Elrond started.
Hurrying next to Erestor, he moved the pale hand out of the way.
Erestor's eyes cleared. Elrond pressed his hand down.
Faintly but surely, the Vanya's heart had returned to its whispering beat.
"I heard it's a beautiful place," said Ecthelion.
They stood where they had first begun their walk. Glorfindel nodded.
"But nothing rivals Gondolin."
Ecthelion laughed. "Stubborn as always. You will grow to love your new home."
"I don't want to."
Ecthelion sighed. Glorfindel bit his lip.
At last something was broken, and the hard blue shield gave way to purging waves of emotion. A thick gloss welled up in his eyes.
"Ecthelion," he whispered, "I never wished to be reborn."
Ecthelion tipped up his chin, and Glorfindel stubbornly closed his eyes, a broken sigh. Ecthelion reached out and tenderly wiped wet lashes.
"You weren't scared when you faced the demon," he said, a gentle murmur. Glorfindel shook his head. Ecthelion smiled.
"I was scared, Glorfindel." He stroked back wet tangles of yellow hair. "And I was sad – because I knew I would never see you again."
Glorfindel had felt it, the piercing grief. And he had staggered against the walls of the caves, falling behind the refugees, for he could not breathe. And he had cried, cried to the horizons where the balrog loomed. Ecthelion had fallen. Brave Ecthelion, who raised his frozen voice for a song amidst the Ice to comfort the weary; noble Ecthelion, who stood between Glorfindel and the vile tongue of the court; gentle Ecthelion, who sang with him till dawn and watched the sun break over the blessed city – his dear, beloved Ecthelion; and Ecthelion had fallen.
They had known, for it was their fate as guardians of the city – to die in battle, to live against their will – and when the Lord of the Fountain promised to follow, the Lord of the Golden Flower had left the city to protect the refugees, and they had both known it was not to be. For Ecthelion had not budged from his last stand, bargaining every minute of Glorfindel's life with his own. And as the city crumbled, licked by the raging flames, he had breathed his last to take the enemy with him, had thrown himself into that tumbling sea of tears. Drowned, in his beloved fountain where they had met so many a time – drowned, in the depths of his sorrow, the sparkling waters of his lament for the end of his journey, for little Glorfindel would be left to walk it alone.
And the flames in Glorfindel's eyes were already extinguished when he leaped up to face the balrog, the song in his veins silent as he looked down to watch the demon drag him down by the hair Ecthelion had loved so well. Into raging fire, his inferno of sin.
And he was still being punished for it.
Ecthelion squeezed his shoulders. "I believe the Valar are kind." Glorfindel glanced resentfully. Ecthelion smiled. "They must have been touched by how bravely I fought to buy you time – and revived you despite your foolish efforts to kill yourself."
"They are punishing me," Glorfindel said dully. "I am cursed to walk the land once again, carrying the weight of my sin." He smiled, mirthless. "And no one is here with me."
The birds cried overhead.
Slowly, Ecthelion pulled Glorfindel close, held him tight. "Glorfindel," he whispered into warm hair, "I thank them with all my soul – that they have sent you to me, one last time."
The waters lapped, glimmering gold.
Glorfindel opened his mouth as if to speak, and then hesitated, lost. His eyes welled up with a sea of sorrow. For he was noble Glorfindel, and he knew his fate.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, voiceless. "I'm so sorry."
The birds were gathering about them. Feathers floated in the air, gentle flecks of white among crystal waters.
Ecthelion stroked Glorfindel's hair idly. "Kind is your heart and heavy is your burden," he said, slowly. The winds swept up his voice, a jingling star. "But willingly you returned to Middle-Earth to protect it, and there more great deeds will be done."
The wind grew stronger. He brushed dark hair out of Glorfindel's eyes.
"Late is the hour that I come," he whispered. A gust blasted full force, a chill breeze of spring. Gold and silver tangled in a wild dance. "But I come to bid you farewell."
Glorfindel stood still, silent.
"Go now, brother." Echthelion smiled into silver-glazed eyes. "After the dusts of Arda mold in your steps, we shall meet again in the land of eternal joy."
The wind swept up their hair, a whirl of white feathers.
Ecthelion smiled, just as he had smiled that night, a streak of silver tears before leaping into the flames – and he was beautiful, beautiful.
"Let go, Glorfindel," he whispered. "Let our City sleep in songs." His translucent gaze caressed the other elf. "Be again the happy Glorfindel I loved so."
"I can't," whispered Glorfindel.
The sounds of the bustling city scattered into tender winds. Birds began to raise their wings, prepare for flight.
Ecthelion pulled him into a slow embrace.
"Dear, gentle Glorfindel," he whispered, a tumbling breath into golden threads - "you need tell my story no more."
The birds took off into the skies. And in the uplifting rush of winds, the two stood still, entangled in gold and silver, as the silver haired elf slowly leaned to place a kiss upon the golden one's forehead.
Erestor was guarding the door when Elrond let out a whisper.
Erestor started, hastened to Elrond's side – and stopped.
Glorfindel lay staring at the ceiling, eyes unseeing, and yet seeing so much, those tumbling seas of sorrow. And he continued to lie still, as silent tears fell, a soundless river that bathed him in this new life.
And when Elrond called him, shook him urgently, he slowly moved his gaze, and at length the look of recognition surfaced – and then, as realization settled, it was drowned by the depths of utter loss. He slowly turned his back upon them.
And the two dark-haired elves stood still, wordless, for they knew they could not step into his world, nor partake in his age-old grief, as a fallen warrior mourned in solitude for a past forever lost, a future that could never be.
Erestor looked away toward the window. The ravens were gone.