The Dance of Shadow and Flame

The Whereabouts of Peace

"That advisor of yours has a sleeping problem."

Elrond looked up from his table, and raised an eyebrow at the balrog slayer who had walked in without so much as a knock. And Glorfindel stood before him, hair still wavering from his brisk steps, hands on his hips. Elrond put down the scrolls in his hands and stood up.

"I can think of at least three drastically different responses to that statement," he replied, moving around his table and guiding the golden-haired elf toward the middle of the room by his arm.

Glorfindel did not seem impressed.

"My guards almost trampled him this morning when they were taking out their horses for the routine. He was sleeping in front of the stables, Elrond."

Elrond approached the fire and began to kindle it.

Glorfindel paced. "He sleeps in every place within the borders of Imladris – no, Elrond, you need not bother – except in his room."

Elrond turned away from the hearth and raised an eyebrow again. Glorfindel was all but scowling at him.

"Well, Glorfindel, what do you suggest I do? Tie him to his bed?"

Glorfindel growled. "You know that is not the problem."

With a sigh, Elrond returned to where he had been, and perched himself on top of his desk, swinging a leg under his long robes. He could see why the youth enjoyed this posture so. He began to finger a plait of hair as he motioned for his companion to continue. The balrog slayer crossed his arms.

"Orc activity decimated in the west, my lord, and awaiting reply from a contact down south."

"Which one?"

"A Ranger."

"I see." Elrond looked thoughtfully out the window. He would be leaving soon. "So what is this about an advisor of mine?" He turned back to Glorfindel. The blond elf looked at him expectantly. Elrond held up his hands. "Why is it a problem if he finds peace in other places?"

Glorfindel did not answer. Elrond lowered himself from the table and began to walk toward the motionless warrior. "Do you fear that Imladris will eventually be too small for him?"

The blue-eyed elf stiffened. Elrond seemed to pay no heed to his sudden silence as he idly began to circle him, hands comfortably behind his back.

"If he keeps moving from one place to another, fleeing his nightmares, he will eventually use up all hidden places in this valley...and then he will have nowhere else to go. Is that what you are saying?"

Glorfindel brushed a strand of hair out of his face. "Yes."

With an innocent face, Elrond turned and began to pace around the warrior in the opposite direction. "So tell me, Lord Glorfindel," he mused. "Is your fear that he will forever be a refugee, never to be free of his past?" He stopped, and tilted his head. "Or is it that he may have to one day leave this place, and never return?"

Glorfindel looked as if he had been slapped.

With a quiet sigh, Elrond moved to stand before the youth, and leveled his gaze. He placed an affectionate hand on stiffened shoulders.

"I was his first friend, and I remain the only friend still." He tilted his head slightly, dark eyes shimmering in a faint smile. "Perhaps you can change that."

The halls were empty. A large population of Imladris was preparing to leave the following day. Many smiths, who had originally escaped from Eregion, would accompany Elrond to Lorien, as well as others who wished to live in the Golden Woods. And in turn, Elrond would return with Lorien refugees who wished to start anew in Imladris, especially scholars.

It seemed that the entire house was drained of its inhabitants already. Erestor smiled ruefully. He alone walked the halls in the fading daylight. His silent steps halted when a distant laughter rang out in the halls.

A young maiden. Erestor walked on. And he stopped.

A clear, rich baritone. Glorfindel.

Gently, gently, his voice flowed, light with vibrant laughter, rolling with tales untold. It spread into the gray air. Erestor turned the corner, watching.

He was chatting amiably with a maiden in the hallway, under the great tapestry of Gondolin. On the forefront stood many magnificent elves, and he was pointing them out, ever patient, ever humorous. Sending the maiden into awed reverence and unrestrained giggles. Though he carried a white ceramic ewer in his hands, evidently on his way somewhere, he stood in the middle of the hallway to indulge a maiden's curiosity about a long-lost past. As he spoke, he glowed with golden charm, a shard of beauty unmatched.

"Lord Ecthelion was a bachelor, then?" squealed the maiden. Glorfindel laughed.

"Aye, my lady, he was. He and I were the most available bachelors in the city. But he had it worse."

"Oh, do tell, Lord Glorfindel."

Glorfindel did not see the sleek black figure leaning against the wall. But he did feel the cool moisture of his presence, the dark abyss. A familiar comfort, this forbidden territory. His smile did not waver.

"Being a social elf, I was experienced in deflecting many a hint. But Ecthelion, righteous and valiant soul that he was, was deathly mortified of courtship." He chuckled. "Ai, the look on his face, poor soul. How he would hide whenever he saw a band of ladies."

The maiden's laughter ricocheted off the walls. She whirled in delight.

"Lord Erestor!" she exclaimed. "Come listen to Lord Glorfindel's-"

Her sentence was cut by a crash. Glorfindel blinked dazedly down at his feet, standing still among the broken white shards of the ceramic. A black flash slid swiftly into view. He stared down at elf crouching by his feet.

"Don't move," warned Erestor, deft fingers flying among the jagged pieces. He tossed his hair back impatiently, and swept up his sleeves. And continued to gather the pieces. White arms, pale as doves, blurred in his sightline. Glorfindel slowly bent his knees, crouching before the slender elf. He reached out for the fragments, but Erestor's hand caught his wrist and pushed it away.

"Don't touch it," he warned. "You'll hurt yourself."

Glorfindel took no heed.

Erestor started when Glorfindel pulled back his hand, a smooth trickle of red sliding onto the carpet. Erestor grabbed the wrist and inspected it. The blood was brilliant crimson, almost bawdy against the pure white of the porcelain. Erestor bit his lip. Glorfindel chuckled mirthlessly. The maiden fidgeted.

Without a word, Erestor withdrew his hand, and turned up an edge of his sleeve. Glorfindel pulled back, but Erestor's hand gripped him tight, and gently wiped the stream of blood from the blond elf's skin. Glorfindel gazed down at the red that slid against the shattered ewer. And blood was beginning to seep and spread on the dark-haired elf's sleeve.

He sighed.

Erestor stepped into his room, and halted in surprise. On his empty bed sat the golden-haired elf, looking up intently.

"I thought you had abandoned this room for good."

The faint smile gracing the warrior's lips died as Erestor slowly approached.

"You can have it."

The leaves were falling outside. Swirling into a world of gray.

"And you will soon abandon your new room."

"You can take that too."

The air was quiet. Evening would be coming soon. But not yet.

Glorfindel looked long at Erestor.

"No matter where you run, the nightmares will follow you."

Erestor did not move any further. Glorfindel remained still. Waiting.

"Why are you here?" A whisper. Glorfindel turned to look out the window.

"'Tis a gray day."

Erestor's black eyes followed Glorfindel's gaze. Autumn was ending. The clouds were ever shadowing the lands.

"Elrond asked me to accompany him to Lorien."

Erestor held his breath. Glorfindel's fingers traced an invisible trail on the smooth linen. "Artanis calls."

Come with me to Lorien, Elrond had said, looking into his eyes. And his eyes were kind. Be among your kinsmen. Rest your weary soul, and heal.

He knew. He knew of Glorfindel's hollow heart as he swung his sword, his forlorn gaze as he rode out to battle. His directionless steps that haunted the peaceful valley. And he wanted him home.

And the resurrected warrior had gazed back, silent. And his gaze was as dark, as infinitely bottomless, as Erestor's had been when they first met.

The raven-haired elf stood before him now, eyes trembling with light.

"You will leave tomorrow, then." His voice was stilled.

Glorfindel shook his head. Gentle waves of gold tapped against his waist. "I am not going." He looked out the window. "I am Glorfindel of Imladris now – and here I shall stay."

Gray daylight darkened. The clouds were moving.

Erestor looked down. His pale hands protruded from the depths of endless darkness, the ever-present black robes he wore. He slowly raised his eyes.

"Glorfindel of Imladris," he whispered, "do you believe that?"

Dark blue eyes turned back to meet his gaze. And Erestor smiled fleetingly, and whispered. Ever gentle.

"Why did you kill yourself?"

Dark eyes hardened into a glitter. Sweeping up the gray stillness in the air, Glorfindel rose from the bed, as if burned – and in a golden swirl, he passed by Erestor, and began to pace about the room. Watching, Erestor slowly seated himself on the bed where the warrior had just been. Heated breaths filled the room, and silence tensed.

Glorfindel stopped, and turned sharply back at Erestor. Blue eyes looked searching into black, seeking answers in the bottomless abyss. Drowning. Erestor lowered his eyes.

"Perhaps we are both being punished." He smiled woefully. "Perhaps we are punishing ourselves."

Perhaps that is why you came back to life, and why I did not fade.

"I hate you."

Erestor looked long at Glorfindel, standing before him, lost, weary. And smiled.


A cry of a raven pierced the sky.

As if drawn to a dream, Glorfindel slowly moved back toward Erestor, until he was standing before him, staring down at the black phantom. Erestor held out a hand, and the warrior sank down to the floor before him, placed his hands upon Erestor's knees. Pale hands gently pushed back threads of golden hair, and dark eyes smiled again. The smile Glorfindel knew from ages ago – the smile he had seen before death consumed him, before the balrog even appeared. The day when Glorfindel of the Golden Flower was shown a dreadful truth, a truth he had refused to believe.

Erestor slowly stroked thin strands of hair, warm and soft, pulsing with life.

"What do you seek of me, innocent warrior?"

But the truth was buried, long dead. Until another one came along and unearthed it. And with it the death of everything Glorfindel knew and loved. Glorfindel rested his head on the knees to which he clung. Golden hair sheathed black robes. Clutching the darkness, the whisper was broken.

"Give me peace."

Erestor raised his eyes to the ceiling, the smiling lips parting for a sad whisper.

"You ask too much."

Another cry tore through the skies. Glorfindel clutched harder. Erestor did not plug his ears. He slowly pulled Glorfindel closer, wrapping his arms around the golden hair, burying his face in the warmth of the crown of his head.

"You ask too much of me."

And thus he remained, unmoving, as the two stayed silent, entwined in light and dark, as the raven continued its mournful cry under the gray skies.

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