Under the Golden Sun
The city sparkled under the golden sun. A soft breeze nudged his skin as it slid by; a faint scent of spring perfumed the air. Somewhere distant, a silver tune drifted his way, sweet and tender.
As he walked, white stones paved the way beneath his feet, disappearing into a river of white under the sun. And all around, the bustle of people could be heard – have you heard of the young lord's daughter, that's too many eggs, one more roll of silk please, fish, fish for sale – as people moved about, merchants shouting in the marketplace, maidens giggling in street corners as young troops walked by, minstrels sitting in the sun and caressing their harps, and children ran about, laughing and shrieking – and there were gleaming scabbards, snow-white laundry baskets, sweet-smelling trays of bread –
Everyday chores, a busy bustle. Peace.
And under the strides that matched the humming of his peaceful heart, the shimmering white stones led, block by polished block, to the center of the square.
He raised his eyes.
The great fountain spread before him. As zephyr winds whispered, golden sparkles bounced dizzily about the waters. The source of the melody leaned against the rim of the fountain, eyes downcast as he played a flute – and behind him, bound in warrior plaits, dark hair trickled in a silver stream, dancing like mirrors in the wind.
The breeze calmed. The waters quieted, held in a timeless peace, as did his steps – and his heart was hushed to silence. And trembled, a million strands of light.
The figure raised his eyes, lowered his flute. Silver-lined eyes moved to meet his, and dazzling rays in those crystalline depths spread into a smile. He held out his hand.
"Walk with me, Glorfindel."
A tremulous smile tumbled forth, as his gaze met those crystal eyes – an eternal silver moon reflected in those endless, gentle waters.
And from a stilled breath, a whisper left his lips, a trembling prayer.
Erestor followed Elrond to his study. Elves stood outside, afraid to ask.
"I have seen to housing of the newly arrived," he said, hands clutching at his black robes. "Further assignments will be discussed tonight with the other councilors."
"Well done," said Elrond wearily. "We were able to find a safe threshold due to your placement of the troops."
"It was Lord Glorfindel's blueprint."
Elrond raised his eyes.
Erestor stepped near. "Why does he yet sleep?"
A short sigh. "He does not wish to awaken."
Finally, a dream that did not wake him with tears and cries. A sweet, beautiful dream – a dream that could never be, a dream that was long past when the warrior woke alone in a future time.
He wished to dream on. He belonged in that world, after all.
Elrond closed his eyes.
No one could condemn him his choice. Glorfindel of Imladris did not exist.
He looked up, faced the trembling light in Erestor's eyes. "You have not been visiting him." It was not a question.
Erestor lowered his eyes. "It was my fault."
Elrond rose from his seat. Erestor held his breath as he was pulled into a slow embrace, and finally gave way to the groans of his soul. And entwined in hushed comfort, they stood still in the gray of day.
A flock of birds circled the sky, a dapple of white against azure blue. Tresses of gold and silver tapped gently in the wind.
They walked side by side by the rim of the great fountain. Their eyes were upon the same distant horizon, their gaits identical, as they always had been. Glorfindel gazed at the endless waters, listening as his companion hummed.
"Do you remember?" he murmured. "You used to sing during the Crossing."
Ecthelion glanced his way. Glorfindel lowered his eyes, a brittle smile. "I thought maybe, if you kept singing, you could thaw the unforgiving ice."
A gentle laughter. Ecthelion peered into Glorfindel's eyes, threads of silver hair spilling forth.
"Perhaps someday," he said. "So what of that song, Glorfindel?"
Glorfindel sighed. "Almost finished. It's difficult to harmonize with the harp."
"Still not done?"
Glorfindel cast a sour look. "I'm not the one who wanted to turn our childhood playsong into a ballad."
"But you wanted ideas for a duet." Ecthelion shrugged. "What's wrong with the song?"
"Aside from the fact that it's a rhyme about bunnies learning to hop?" Glorfindel spread his arms. "Nothing at all."
Ecthelion burst into a peal of laughter, a silver chime. "Do you also remember the story that goes with the song?"
"Ah, your bewitching tales." Glorfindel looked up toward the circling birds. "You should have seen my mother's face every time I came home late." He chuckled. "Ai, I was such a deviant elfling."
"Yes, yes you were." Ecthelion reached down to hold a limp hand. The blue skies were ever gentle upon his eyes. "And I loved you for it."
Rippling blue eyes turned. Glorfindel watched him, taking in the chiseled face that he knew so well. The tenor-baritone voice that lilted with such soft clarity, a tingling tremolo of the silver dawn. Dark hair shifted in the sun, playing its enchanting tricks, dark blue one moment and translucent silver the next.
Glorfindel let out a shaky breath.
I missed you. He breathed in.
The birds came crashing down, a flapping flock of white. And in the gust that encircled them, gold and silver hair danced, and faces were hidden – and Glorfindel clutched his companion's hand tight, afraid to let go.
Ecthelion smiled. And how tender it was, this smile.
"Brave Glorfindel," he murmured, a hushed whisper. He reached up, and gently caressed Glorfindel's face. "How lonely you must have been…"
And amid the dizzying dance of feathers, all the white stone pillars in his heart crumbled down, and Glorfindel bowed his head.
Healers held their breaths. Advisors exchanged glances. The elvenlord raised his eyes.
Silence followed. And then, understanding.
Stifled sobs broke. There were no comforting embraces, for comfort could not be found.
Elves left the room, and the great doors opened to find a more elves standing in pensive silence. And slowly, sorrow spread among them, as soft wails rose and the house was shadowed in grief.
Erestor remained. His eyes were fixed upon Elrond.
"Bring him back."
Elrond's face contorted.
"He does not wish it, Erestor." The words cracked heavily, heavily – and Erestor was falling, tumbling down. He fell to his knees, clutching the warrior's hand.
"Rise, Vanya!" he hissed. "Do not be so weak! Return once more and look me in the eye!"
Elrond bit his lip. Erestor's hand clutched the warrior elf's robes where the heart had stilled its faint whisper.
"Do not run from me!" The snarl ripped into the muffled wails outside the door. "Return and fight!"
Elrond reached out, gently wrapped his hand around that of Erestor. The young elf's shoulders trembled. Elrond closed his eyes.
The Valar were cruel in their jokes.