In the Whispering Wake
Winter was harsh that year. Elrond's entourage failed to set out for Imladris in time. Snow hit the roads in a fierce storm, and the entourage stayed in Lothlorien.
The valley was quiet. Erestor was in a deep sleep, unmoving as the frozen lands.
And every night, the elves whispered that they saw a phantom enter his chambers – a golden elf, alight with sorrow.
On a cold winter morning, Erestor was found sitting up on his bed, looking out the window. He turned a pallid face toward an entering healer and asked for Lord Glorfindel. The healer came running back, fear in her eyes.
Erestor turned away then, realization washing over his face like a soundless wave. And when councilors hastened in to see their leader at last awake, haltingly reported that Lord Glorfindel had disappeared, he only continued to look out the window, into the silent winter lands.
A raven sat at the end of his sightline. Erestor watched it fly over the pristine snow until it disappeared from view.
Elrond returned with the people as the snow began to melt. He embraced the lithe elf who stood at the porch of the Last Homely House, and noticed him scouring the entourage with desperate eyes.
When the hubbub of the new arrivals began to spread through the house, he took Erestor's hand, and led him ito his study.
Erestor stared back.
Elrond placed a hand on Erestor's forehead. "My chief councilor looks like he has been dead at least twice, and my seneschal has all but disappeared from the face of the land."
Erestor said nothing. Elrond left in search of more cooperative advisors.
Vanished, they said, just vanished one morning. The morning Lord Erestor came back from the gates of the dead. His chamber was untouched, dust in its silent wake. As if he had never been here at all – a ghost, all along.
Toward nightfall, Elrond gave up his hunt through the valley. He looked questioningly at his head advisor.
The younger elf smiled sadly. "He has gone home."
The black crystal twirled in the fading light. Erestor slowly reached up to touch it, pressing it against his heart.
"Elrond," he murmured, "how long do you think hair will take to grow back?"
Without a word, Elrond gathered him into a silent embrace.
Spring came, and with it a regular flux of travelers between Imladris and Lorien. The Last Homely House continued to expand, and a bustling peace filled the valley.
"We should get some animals in here," Erestor contemplated one day, as the elvenlord was strolling through the new gardens the chief councilor had designed.
Elrond looked surprised. "Don't we have enough?" he detached his robes from the mouth of a nibbling deer. Erestor pointed upward.
"There are no birds still," he said, "which is strange."
"Strange indeed." Elrond swept his gaze across the elegant balustrades that wove in and out of the gardens. "Which birds were you thinking of, exactly?"
Erestor smiled. "Let us begin with the easy ones."
The seasons passed.
Vilya grew in power. The demography of the hidden valley became more varied and robust. Memories of war faded, and refugees settled into peace.
And Glorfindel did not return.
The house grieved for their lost Glorfindel, but the grief faded with the passing of the seasons. Talks of him quelled, and memories of him paled.
Amid the bustle, the Chief Councilor led the house with skill and insight. His words lengthened, rounded. His clear voice grew, his dark eyes softened. A faint smile occasionally graced the fair face that was ever laden with sorrow, and elves in the household spoke fondly of the young councilor perpetually garbed in mourning black.
He worked ceaselessly, but when offered assistance in carrying scrolls or sorting papers, he smiled, and announced that he would stop for the day. And on such days, he would spend many an hour staring out the window, especially when the sky was gray. And he began to write.
It was a tale of a brave and gentle elf, one who had been engraved in legend and yet walked the lands in sorrow. As the seasons passed, and the elf's legends faded, he wrote on, steadily, and on his page the lonely elf breathed on.
The first babes of Imladris were born. Erestor oversaw their education; the first generation of peace was blessed, he said, and had to know war in order to appreciate it. He appointed scholars, minstrels, artisans – all who were masters in their art to be tutors of the valley's new generation.
"What of battle and tactics?" asked Elrond, during a council meeting.
Erestor hesitated. All thought of their lost Lord Glorfindel.
With a resolute breath, the Chief Councilor announced that he would teach battle and tactics to the children.
And as the lithe elf taught the young children in the courtyard – half-taught and half-romped – elves would occasionally hear soft laughter. And as children clung to him, and maidens confided in him, and the elvenlord vented frustrations upon him, he listened with a gentle smile, and watched the coming of a new age.
And as the seasons came and went, Erestor grew taller, his eyes darker, maturing into a lucent black crystal of Imladris.
Imladris' bird project expanded into a massive venture, calling for more travel in and out of the hidden valley. But Erestor looked pointedly at Elrond when he announced that he was going to Lorien for the third time of the year. Elrond averted his eyes and took a very long drink out of his wine glass.
The advisor drummed his fingers on the table. Elrond fidgeted.
"Lady Duilya?" said Erestor. Elrond choked.
"Is that a yes or a no?"
"Ah. Lady Imryll, then?"
Elrond looked mortified. "Of course not! She's been betrothed for ages."
"I didn't know that. Lady Holone?"
"Who on Arda is Lady Holone?"
Erestor shrugged. "I don't know. Just in case."
"Not a lady, then, but a lord? Elrond, I didn't know your tastes lay in that-"
After all was said and done, however, it was Erestor who arranged for the young lady of the Golden Woods to visit Imladris.
The clouds were shadowing the lands that day. Elrond's welcoming party did not return with the Lorien entourage. Instead, news from a scout: the two parties had missed each other.
"Orc attacks," explained the dark-haired scout. "Apparently someone who had moved to Lorien from Imladris is guiding the party through the shortcuts."
The shortcuts were treacherous. Erestor closed his book and rose, calling for an assembly of elves out in the courtyard. He looked out the window worriedly, eyes sweeping over the stretches of gray clouds, when he froze.
Circling the distant skies was a speck of black. The shape was vague, but the sound – he had not heard it for many years, but he knew that sound as surely as the whispers of his heart. He ran out into the courtyard.
A tall elf stood alone, dust-covered hair tapping against his chest. His armor of green and gold shifted as he turned to look at Erestor. The advisor slowed to a halt.
Dark blue eyes, deep and ancient, looked into his. Silence stretched.
"Well met." The voice was soft. He bowed. "I am Glorfindel of Gondolin, come to accompany Lady Celebrian upon this journey."
A gust of wind blew about them. Strands of black mingled with yellow threads.
"Well met, Lord Glorfindel." Erestor touched his heart with a deep bow. "You are most welcome in the Last Homely House."
Amid the circling winds, the raven flew in silence.
They were all waiting. And Glorfindel seemed perfectly aware. When time came for Celebrian to leave, she looked at Glorfindel, and already knew the answer.
"Come with me?" she said. Glorfindel smiled.
"You will return, child."
She cast a furtive glance toward Elrond, who stood a respectful distance away. Glorfindel touched her face. "Give Artanis my greetings."
With a promise to return, the daughter of the Golden Woods left on a cold autumn morning. And the ravens remained.
It was long after Lord Glorfindel had decided to stay in Imladris that he accepted a request from the lord of the valley.
"I do not expect you to train them, or organize a battalion," said Elrond, "but I need help in getting these ridiculous youngsters into some kind of shape."
"Who has been in charge?" The warrior elf asked, his eyes now a level higher than those of the elvenlord.
"Erestor has been teaching battle and tactic to young children," replied Elrond, "but he is too busy to move onto the adolescents."
Glorfindel had no more duties than those of a friend, an honored guest. But to answer for the elvenlord's hospitality, he agreed to oversee the outer affairs of the household.
That night, Erestor was passing by the Hall of Fire when he spotted a single fair-haired elf occupying the hall. He stood still, watching.
"Will you join me, Lord Councilor?" a gentle baritone called.
Glorfindel pulled out a chair as Erestor entered. Before his wine bottle rested an empty glass.
"Thank you," said Erestor quietly. Glorfindel handed him a filled glass. Erestor lowered his eyes. "I heard you agreed to take over the teaching of the children as well."
"Not in a systemized class as you are wont to do, mind you," said the taller elf, a smile in his ageless eyes. "Just a few lessons to those who want them. I am no captain of Imladris."
"From where do you hail then, my lord?" Erestor smiled.
Glorfindel raised his eyes. "Hmm," he mused. "Valinor, the Grinding Ice, many bloody battlefields and more," he said, low voice rolling rhythmically. "I call Gondolin my home, and now I travel to a faraway land and time, seeking to find a new place to rest a while."
The fire sparked melodiously at the hearth.
Erestor tilted his head. "You must miss your old home. Your dear family and friends."
"I do, greatly," admitted Glorfindel. He swirled the wine in his glass. "I still cannot bear to hear the song of its fall. I can be no one's hero, and I can be no one's savior. But," he breathed, looking down upon a pale hand that rested on the table, "I can be a friend."
Erestor's eyes twinkled, a tremulous sigh. He gently grasped Glorfindel's hand. "That would be my greatest honor, my lord."
Glorfindel looked down upon their hands, silent. At last, he smiled a little. "Glorfindel."
"Yes," Erestor smiled, "if you stop calling me Lord Councilor."
Glorfindel laughed. The fire burned quietly as they raised their glasses in a silent toast.