Autumn, Third Age, Year 3021.
It was warm, unusually warm for the time of year. Autumn in Imladris brought a veritable rainbow of colors – bright reds, warm oranges, vibrant yellow and a warm orangish-pink now and again. Pure white clouds drifted on Manwë’s breath, making their sojourn from East to West across the bright blue canvas of the sky as if they were leading the way for the host of Elves that now left Middle Earth for Aman.
Glorfindel sat hidden in the tall, soft green grass high atop a hill that overlooked the road that wound down the mountains from the east. He raised his goblet and took a sip of the fresh-squeezed tomato juice that he had pilfered from Erestor’s private stash. Erestor had been hovering over his garden for weeks. It had been a cool summer and the Raven-haired Noldo had begun to fear he wouldn’t have one single ripe tomato; but then Anor came to stay for a few weeks, and the small green fruits turned into plump, red tomatoes. Erestor had been jubilant, gingerly picking them and celebrating all the way to the cold pantry. There would be a high price to pay when Glorfindel returned, but as he licked his lips and smiled he thought it was worth the Counselor’s ire.
The breeze ruffled the leaves of the aspen trees that grew around the hilltop meadow. He could smell fresh pine from across the valley, where the white-barked trees gave way to denser, darker forest at the base of the Misty Mountains. It was a beautiful day to wait for a loved one.
As Glorfindel listened to the aspen trees and the soft whuffling sounds that Asfaloth made as he grazed, he closed his eyes and let his mind wander. It had been many years since he had such a luxury. He thought about how much he would miss this place. Aman was his home, where he had always longed to be, but Middle Earth was special. So many things had happened here, so much life had been lived. His memories were both fond and saddening, and as he thought about the one he waited for, his thoughts traveled far back, to a place wholly unlike this one, a place of darkness: the place where it all began.
* * * *
Winter, Second Age, Year 3434.
The Elda grumbled as he made his way through the camp, the stench of sulfur and the reek of death filling his nostrils with every breath. He’d tried everything: tying a handkerchief around his nose and mouth, carrying a sachet filled with eucalyptus, even rubbing a balm on his upper lip that was made of camphor and some other potent herb that his lord Elrond had given him, but it was all to no avail. Everywhere he went he smelled death and saw nothing but fire and ash and darkness. And always Mt. Doom erupted, the explosion echoing through the wasteland where they were camped.
The sulfur was bad enough, but the ash caused him the most discontent. It had taken him years to get used to even the smell of wood burning and the sight of fire. To be truthful, he supposed it would always bother him somewhat and had often wondered why Mandos saw fit to leave him with all of his memories from a lifetime so long ago. The far off wail of a firedrake caused him to clench his fist as he stepped over a snoring Dwarf. He loathed dragons and all their progeny.
Across what was might have once been a stream but was now a small culvert that channeled rank water from behind the Black Gates, the Silvan elves of Oropher were camped. They camped away from the others in part due to the Dwarves, but Glorfindel knew that Oropher distrusted the Noldor as well. If it were not for Glorfindel’s own Vanyarin blood, he would have found himself rejected by the king. But, Oropher trusted Glorfindel, to a point. They shared a similar history: both had lost their homes to destruction. Given Oropher’s memories of the last time he had been in the company of both Dwarves and Noldor, Glorfindel supposed he understood why the king felt as he did. He remembered all too well himself what it felt like to see his home burn.
The Prince immerged from his father’s tent. Glorfindel knew it was Thranduil because of his build. The Prince was slightly broader in stature than his woodland cousins. Thranduil and Oropher were of Thingol’s people in Doriath. The Prince’s kin wore heavy armor, rode horses, fought with broadsword and spear as well as bow. The Silvan elves of Greenwood the Great lived off the land, moved by foot over vast distances and primarily relied on bow and arrow, and were quick and silent of foot, lean-built and skilled archers. There were similarities between the two peoples, but amongst the Silvan Elves, Thranduil had always stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb – nearly a head taller and several inches broader of chest and shoulder.
Glorfindel remembered Doriath. He was one of the few outsiders that had ever seen it. It was also how he knew the Prince; for it was there that he had first encountered Thranduil. Then, Thranduil was but an elfling – impetuous, curious, and frequently the cause of trouble of some sort. Glorfindel remembered how Oropher had immeasurable amounts of patience with the young menace, for that was how Glorfindel remembered Thranduil as a youngster – a menace, particularly after he decided that he wanted to make a bracelet out of a lock of Glorfindel’s hair, taking it while he slept.
The last time he had seen Thranduil, prior to Dagorlad, he was on a trip through Greenwood the Great. Glorfindel had been tasked with gathering intelligence regarding the movement of Sauron’s minions through the lands between Lothlórien and Greenwood. He had remarked at the time that the Prince was quite the soldier: serious, brave, and dedicated to his duty. Thranduil was in charge of his own regiment, the king’s guard, and he was as honorable a warrior as Glorfindel had seen in either life – this one or the past.
Now, as he gazed at the Prince from across the narrow divide he wondered why he was so fascinated with him since their recent reunion. Thranduil had been aloof upon their re-acquaintance, but not quite rude. There was a cold detached look in the prince’s eyes that gave Glorfindel pause. He wondered what was behind that icy gaze.
A wisp of his pale gold hair escaped from under the dark green hood of his cloak. Glorfindel could not stop looking at it. It was the pale yellow of summer wheat, and reminded him of the grasslands of Estolad in Beleriand.
“Musing on our fair friend?”
Glorfindel turned to find Erestor standing behind him.
“You move like a cat. Perhaps I should put a bell on you to keep you from sneaking up on me.”
Erestor huffed. “Try it and see how far you get.”
“Is that a challenge?”
“Oh, come now, Glorfindel. You know that I am quicker than you are.”
“Do not forget that you also fight dirty.”
Erestor grinned. “From time to time, when the need arises. I see no valor in dying without due process.” He stepped up beside Glorfindel. “You watch him from the shadows. Why?”
“I do not watch him.”
“You are a most terrible liar.”
Glorfindel opened his mouth to deliver a witty retort, but then found that he was simply too tired to engage. “We should return to camp. We begin another assault on the gates come morn.”
“Ah yes, we must add more grist to the mill.”
“You are such a defeatist.”
Erestor gently shook his head. “Tsk-tsk. I am a realist. No amount of Elves, Dwarves, Horses or bow will breach those gates. A simple frontal assault is not going to succeed. If the Council would heed the words of Lord Elrond—”
“That will not happen,” Glorfindel interjected. He sighed. “Politics have no place on the battlefield. I don’t know who is the more stubborn, Oropher or Isildur.”
“If it were not for Oropher’s irrational hatred of the Noldor—”
“Is it so irrational? It was the House of Fëanor that destroyed his home, caused the death of his king and his wife.”
Erestor nodded. “Aye, this is true.” He sighed. “If it were up to me, I’d tie them both up, gag them and get on with the real fighting. We need to send our swarthy, bearded friends up and over the walls. Someone or something has to get inside and open those gates from the inside.”
“Perhaps there is still hope that the Council will heed Elrond’s advice.”
“Certainly. As soon as Mordor becomes an ice field.”
“I am going to bed,” Glorfindel remarked as he headed back toward his tent.
“I am going to sniff out the remainder of that Dorwinion wine that the Northmen brought with them. I believe there is still some in the Council tent.”
Glorfindel waived Erestor off. “Do not be late in the morning.”
“When have you ever known me to miss an exercise in futility?”
Glorfindel shook his head, picking his way over sleeping Dwarves back to his tent.
* * * *
Warfare is chaotic. Even when plans are in place, soldiers know where to go and what to do, it eventually descends into chaos. It is the nature of the beast.
Glorfindel’s arms were growing weary as he hacked and slashed his way through the hordes of Orcs that spilled over the mountain walls on each side of the Black Gates. Few of them engaged him – they shrank back when confronted with the power within him – so he pursued, chasing them and cutting them down one by one. They flowed over the mountain walls like black water, hissing, growling and skittering down the steep slopes. No matter how many Thranduil’s archers brought down, and the number was impressive, they just kept coming.
Glorfindel heard the shouts of Elves intermingled with guttural sounds of Orcs and Cave Trolls, and as he removed what would be the one hundredth head of the day (if anyone were counting) he saw Oropher through the black dust and bodies. The king was leading a charge on the gates without the support of Elrond or Gil Galad’s regiments. It was a foolhardy move, and Glorfindel wondered what the king was thinking. Elrond and Gil Galad called out to him to stop, to regroup, but Oropher was undeterred.
Glorfindel fought his way forward to support the ultimately doomed action, only to watch Oropher and the over one thousand elves under his direct command become encircled and torn to shreds. At the same time, Amdír and his host from Lothlórien were being driven into the marshes adjacent to the battle plain. It was as if time slowed and each wail of agony, each drop of blood, each sputtering and wet last breath took a lifetime to pass.
Glorfindel looked across and saw Thranduil at the right flank of the assault, valiantly directing his archer’s fire to cover both Oropher’s doomed warriors and the forces of Amdír, who were being pulled from their horses, heads bashed into the mire, bodies split with scimitars and axes. The great Silvan archers’ arrows arched over the field, felling Orcs in the thousands that were advancing upon the marshes and Oropher’s regiment, but there were too many beasts and too few arrows.
It was horrifying.
Glorfindel felt the ground tremble beneath his feet and he turned to find an advancing cave troll. He was filled with rage – rage for his dying comrades, rage for the scores of innocents who had fallen at Sauron’s hand, rage for his Sinda kin who died defending Doriath, and rage for the members of his House who had given so much during the fall of beloved city of Gondolin. With a great cry he charged forward, sword aloft, his shield held in front of him. Just before he engaged his foe, he saw Erestor’s helmeted head appear above the mottled skull of the troll, his sword held aloft. Erestor gave a great cry as he plunged the blade downward, straight into the beast’s brain.
Glorfindel barely escaped being crushed as the thing fell.
Erestor was flung forward, nimbly rolling and gaining his feet before he skewered an orc with his sword. “Eru bless Noldorian steel,” he said with a grin as he looked at his friend.
There was a great clamor and as Glorfindel took to his feet he stared in disbelief. The gates were opening and a great host poured through them. Sauron, in his ultimate hubris, had prematurely declared the battle won. Glorfindel charged forward with Erestor at his side as the great host of Elves, Men, and Dwarves met Sauron’s forces at the open gates.
* * * *
Glorfindel’s ears were ringing. He rubbed them and prodded them with his finger as he walked back from the bathing tent. He wanted a proper bath like he had wanted nothing else before but had to settle for washing his face and hands and wiping down his armor so that it wouldn’t rust. A proper bath was a luxury that would have to wait until after the battlefield.
His shoulders and arms ached, as did his head. He was considering visiting Elrond’s tent to see if his lord had some sort of elixir that would ease his discomfort. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Thranduil. The prince seemed calm enough, directing what was left of his warriors to take rest and nourishment. Only those that had been under Thranduil’s command, his archers, had survived. Two thirds of the forces from Greenwood had been cut down during the war – half of those during Oropher’s ill-fated assault. The forces from Greenwood no longer camped away from the others – while still ten thousand strong, they were too few in number now compared to the forces of the opposition. They all took refuge near the gates as guards from all regiments stood watch over the camp of the Alliance.
Glorfindel couldn’t imagine what the prince was feeling. Thranduil had watched his father die a brutal death in front of his very eyes and had been unable to stop it. There had not been enough of Oropher left to recover and burn, even. The King of Greenwood the Great had literally been torn to pieces, as were the ten thousand who had followed him.
Glorfindel approached slowly, watching the prince, who didn’t seem to notice him.
“How do you fare, my lord?” he asked quietly.
“I am as well as can be expected, Lord Glorfindel.” Thranduil turned and looked the Elda in the eye.
Glorfindel swallowed. Thranduil’s cool veneer of calm was showing its first signs of failure. “May I have a word with you, my lord? In private?” If the prince were to break down, Glorfindel wanted him to have privacy.
“As you wish,” Thranduil answered, pulling aside the draped door of his tent.
Glorfindel stepped inside and looked around. It wasn’t Oropher’s tent; he had been there before. No this was the Prince’s tent and it was sparsely decorated, unlike his father’s. “A soldier’s lodgings,” Glorfindel said quietly.
“That is what I am,” Thranduil answered as he lifted his quiver off of his back, giving his shoulders a slow roll.
Glorfindel noticed that the Sinda handled things gingerly. “Let me see your hands,” he said.
“No. I am fine.”
“That was not a request,” Glorfindel answered sternly.
Thranduil held out his hands and Glorfindel slowly peeled his ruined gloves back. “Valar!” he whispered. “Sit.”
Thranduil sat down heavily on the side of his cot as Glorfindel summoned one of his warriors, requesting warm water and clean cloths. “How long have they been like this?” he asked as he knelt before the Prince.
“Since yesterday, some time. There has been no time to tend to them.”
“It is a wonder you could still pull your bow string or hold it at all,” Glorfindel said as he received the supplies he needed. He removed the bracers on Thranduil’s wrists and paused. There, encircling the prince’s pale wrist was a thin, tightly braided lock of hair the color of polished gold. He looked up at the prince, who probably would have blushed under other circumstances. “That’s held up well.”
Thranduil murmured, “What?”
“Nothing,” Glorfindel answered and began cleaning and bandaging the prince’s wounds. “I am sorry about your father,” he said quietly.
“Thank you,” Thranduil answered, his voice wavering a little.
“You must be brave for your warriors, but that does not preclude you giving yourself time to grieve.”
Thranduil did not respond. Glorfindel finished his work and pulled his gloves from his belt. “Take these. Yours are now rendered useless.” He tried to look into the Prince’s eyes but Thranduil’s head was bowed.
Glorfindel rose to his feet. “You are in need of rest, my liege. I will—”
“Stay,” Thranduil said quietly. “I do not wish to be alone.”
“Very well,” Glorfindel answered. “May I remove your boots and belt?”
“I would be most grateful.”
Glorfindel helped Thranduil strip down to his leggings and shirt, then guided the Sinda to drink some water and take some sustenance before he fell asleep. He then took a seat in a chair next to Thranduil’s bed and watched as the prince’s eyes finally clouded with reverie.
* * * *
Glorfindel reached for a small piece of lembas.
“Sweet Eru, I am tired of lembas!” Erestor groused from over the Elda’s shoulder. “I miss vegetables and fruit, and fresh game like that fantastic Elk that Elendil brought down on our last hunt.”
“This is a battlefield, Erestor. Creature comforts were left far behind,” Glorfindel responded as he filled his water flask. “We are fortunate to have clear water.”
“I do not have to like this sacrifice.”
“Where were you last night? I procured more of that Dorwinion Wine from our friends the Northmen and came by your tent to celebrate our small victory, but you were nowhere to be found.”
“I do not believe that you sought me out. If you did you would have found me—”
“In Thranduil’s tent,” Erestor whispered as he leaned in close.
Glorfindel glared at the Noldo. “Why must you concern yourself with my comings and goings?”
“I am not as concerned with your goings as I am your—”
Glorfindel grabbed the dark-haired elf’s doublet and marched him away from the mess tent. “Do you really think that I would choose the night of his father’s death to seduce him?” he whispered heatedly.
“I was merely teasing, my puffed up friend. Though, no doubt I’ve struck a nerve.”
Glorfindel growled under his breath.
Erestor reached out and patted his friend’s chest. “Now, now, Glorfindel. No. I do not think you would be nearly so callous nor self-serving. You are far, far too good-natured and honorable for something of that sort. Though, sometimes I wish you were not.”
Glorfindel sighed. “He has not yet grieved. I worry for him.”
“Perhaps he wishes to wait until his work is done here. I am sure the last thing he wants is his warriors doubting him now. There is little time or room for grief on the battlefield. He has become king, Glorfindel, though no doubt he would rather remain prince. He is leader of what is left of their army. He must project strength.”
“It is much to ask.”
“Nonetheless, he is their new ruler.”
Erestor squeezed Glorfindel’s shoulder. “Perhaps we can bring him and his soldiers into our fold. Their numbers are far too small to be autonomous and they are still the finest archers in the entire Alliance.”
“That would be a wise course of action, if he agrees.”
“I have the feeling that he is not nearly as stubborn as his father, and if you are the one to propose it to him, put it to him that we need him, then he will most likely agree. He knows you and he trusts you.”
“You are nothing if not shrewd, Erestor.”
Erestor grinned. “And you are noticing this just now? You are wise in ways of battle, but you are not always the sharpest sword in the armory when it comes to matters of the heart.”
Glorfindel smiled and patted Erestor’s face. “This may be true, but then I have you to guide me. No?”
“Thank the Valar for that, my friend,” Erestor replied.
“Aye. I do. Come, let us eat before we kill again.”
“Yes, nothing makes me hungrier than the thought of more bloodshed.”
Glorfindel laughed and put his arm around Erestor’s shoulder as they made their way back to the mess tent.
* * * *
“There is an opening, there.” Thranduil shouted over the din of battle. “All we need do is slip through it then we can come at them from behind.”
“It is too risky, my lord,” Glorfindel responded as he leaned in. “If they catch you, you will be cut off from our aid.”
“My warriors are experts at not being seen, Glorfindel.”
“But you have no cover, my lord. There is nothing to hide behind, no trees to climb or find shelter in. No. It is too dangerous.”
“We are losing this war, Glorfindel,” Thranduil answered, grabbing the Noldo’s shoulders. “I cannot let my father’s death be in vain!”
“And I cannot let you die like your father did!” Glorfindel shouted. He placed his hand on the back of Thranduil’s neck. “You are their leader, my lord. You are their king. They need you. You cannot just rush in. Your survival is of utmost importance.”
“I will not send my warriors where I will not go myself. It is not our way.”
“We will find another way, my liege.” He leaned closer to Thranduil. “Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” Thranduil answered resignedly. “Though I know not why.” He sighed. “You did try to save my father. I saw you rushing forward.”
Glorfindel smiled gently. “All elves are my kin, Sire. It matters not that we are not of the same lineage.” He gave Thranduil’s shoulder a squeeze. “We will find another way.”
Erestor leaned in. “I hate to disturb this lovely moment of warrior bonding, but what of Durin’s regiment?”
Thranduil’s eyes brightened. “Yes! Disguise them as orcs and send them through. All we need is a few moments respite in the onslaught to allow my archers cover to get to higher ground. Once we are there—”
“You will rain down arrows upon their black helmeted heads,” Glorfindel said with a smile. “Aye. But we must gain Durin’s consent.”
“I have never known a Dwarf to turn down a challenge,” Erestor said with a grin. “Let me handle this.” He turned and headed toward Elrond and the other leaders.
“You trust our friends the Dwarves?” Glorfindel asked Thranduil.
“With this? Yes. With anything else? No.”
It was then that they heard a great roar. As they turned and saw what was approaching, Thranduil whispered, “Sweet Eru, what is that?”
Glorfindel swallowed. “It is the Dark Lord himself.”
The entire front line of the Alliance rushed forward to confront Sauron, and many fell. The Silvan arrows bounced off his armor, and Noldorian steel shattered like glass beneath the Dark Lord’s mighty blows.
Thranduil landed hard on his back as the body of a dead Númenorian soldier was thrown into him. Glorfindel scrambled to Thranduil’s aid, narrowly missing being crushed by a large boulder that had been launched into the lines of the Alliance. He pulled the dead man’s body off then pulled Thranduil to his feet as arrows, stone, and spears landed all around them. There was a great roar and the ground began to shake.
“This is where it ends,” Thranduil said in a whisper that Glorfindel could barely hear. “This is where the world ends.”
They heard a great cry from the host of Elves and Men, and Glorfindel turned to see The Dark Lord crumble before his eyes.
* * * *
“How fares my friend?” Glorfindel asked quietly as he stepped up beside Thranduil.
The now King of Greenwood the Great glared at Isildur and his regiment as they passed on horseback. “My father and my people died for naught.”
“This is not true, my lord.”
“Is it not? The ring survives and with it the inevitability that Sauron will return. The weakness of Men has betrayed all free peoples once again. Will we forever be caught in the dark web between them and the Dark Lord? Will we always pay for their never ending cycle of revenge upon one another?”
Glorfindel sighed. He wished he had an answer that would satisfy the king’s need for resolution, but he did not. “The Dark Lord is vanquished.”
“For now,” Thranduil answered.
Glorfindel could not argue for he shared the king’s doubts about the future. “Will you return to Greenwood in the morning?”
“We leave now,” Thranduil answered. “My warriors are preparing to depart as we speak.”
“Would it not be more prudent to wait for the safety of daylight? Sauron’s minions that survived may be seeking revenge.”
“They are not so bold,” Thranduil answered. “Without their Dark Lord, they are a mindless rabble. They are too busy hiding and tearing each other apart in their quest for power over one another to pay heed to us. We are still ten thousand strong.” As Isildur disappeared over a ridge, Thranduil turned to look at Glorfindel. “My warriors need to go home, they need to grieve, I need—”
“I understand,” Glorfindel replied.
“We ride for Imladris in the morning.” He sighed. “I would feel better if you would wait until we could travel together, at least until the Fords of Isen.”
Thranduil smiled. “It comforts me to know I have a friend in you, Glorfindel. Knowing that there is one who will always come when I call for aid will help me in the coming days. I hope we have many more opportunities to cultivate our friendship. I can learn much from you.”
Glorfindel lowered his head and smiled. “I wish the same, my liege.”
Thranduil put his hand on Glorfindel’s shoulder. “We will see one another again, perhaps under the green canopy of my woodland home.”
“I look forward to it,” Glorfindel answered, taking a step back and bowing to the new King of Greenwood the Great. “May the Valar watch over your journey, my lord.”
“And yours,” Thranduil answered as he smiled then turned to rejoin his warriors.
“He has grown much in little time.”
Glorfindel turned to find Elrond approaching. “My lord,” he said with a bow.
“He will be fine, Glorfindel. No doubt he has many trials ahead of him, but he will meet each and every one with honor and strength.”
“What is in his future, my lord? Have you seen?”
“Aye. Bits and pieces. He has a hard road to travel, Glorfindel, with many more losses to come. But he will prevail. Our Sindarin kin have suffered much.”
“We have all suffered much,” Glorfindel answered.
“Too much,” Elrond said. “But now is not the time for sorrow. Now is the time for rest and for journeying home.”
Glorfindel smiled. “I look forward to a bath.”
Erestor, who came forward, added, “and some real food.”
“You have spent too much time with our friends the Dwarves,” Elrond teased.
“They have certain habits that resonate with me, this is true,” Erestor answered.
“Go on, both of you. Drink some wine and get some rest. We leave at sunrise.”
“Yes, my lord,” Glorfindel and Erestor responded.
Elrond watched them return to the tents, and then turned his eyes toward the last of Isildur’s men that were disappearing beyond his line of sight. “We all have many trials to come,” he murmured, then he also returned to his tent.
* * * *
Late Summer, Third Age, 1055
Word of the spreading darkness in the great wood had reached Imladris, and rumors of a dark power spreading in the southern reaches of the forest caused great concern amongst the Elven leaders. Elrond feared that the origin of the dark power was the Lord of the Nazgûl, so he sent Glorfindel to investigate.
Many letters passed between Glorfindel and Thranduil over the years, and Glorfindel had made two trips to Greenwood since the beginning of the age. He knew that Thranduil had taken a wife and now had a young son. This news made him sad, in part. He cared deeply for Thranduil and had more than once imagined sharing a life with him, though the more reasonable part of him knew it would not come to pass. Instead, they remained dear friends and confidants, and he was happy that his friend had found love and comfort in another. But, his feelings had grown over the years. Whether through fond remembrance or simple absence, Glorfindel found that the more he thought about Thranduil, the closer his feelings felt to love.
He had chosen not to take a mate. It seemed unfair to enter into a relationship with one he could never give himself to fully given his growing affection for Thranduil. This had been difficult for Elladan, Elrond’s eldest son, for the peredhel had taken a liking to his mentor.
Glorfindel was not perfect, contrary to Elladan’s belief. He had entertained the idea, for the eldest son of Elrond was most beautiful, quite wise, and a fierce and honorable a warrior. And there had been a few moments when Elladan was pressed up against him that the thought of burying his hands in that rich, chestnut-brown hair and plundering that soft, ripe mouth appealed to Glorfindel’s baser nature. But when Elladan touched him and kissed him, Glorfindel’s heart overruled his body and he refused the half-elf’s advances.
Now, as they rode together toward the great wood, Glorfindel looked for signs of resentment from Elladan. While they were wiser than men, elves were not infallible, and the twins did carry some human blood in their veins. Elrohir, for example, was short-tempered. The naturally mischievous glint in Elladan’s eye was certainly dampened, but Glorfindel could sense no malice from the peredhel.
Elrohir, on the other hand, was quite discontent. Glorfindel could not tell if the younger was angry with him, or peeved about the nature of their journey in general. It did, after all, take him away from his lover, Erestor.
“Will you stop pouting, Elrohir,” Glorfindel said as they rode three across. “This journey is long enough without your poor attitude.”
“Perhaps his spirits will lift if we encounter orcs along the way,” Elladan mused.
“Stop talking, both of you,” Elrohir groused. “We had not been home more than three days before Father instructed us to leave again. I am beginning to feel homeless.”
Elladan grinned. “Tell me, Muindor. Is it home you miss, or what is at home?”
Elrohir urged his horse into a canter and pulled away from the other two.
“He has never taken well to teasing,” Glorfindel said.
“‘Tis true,” Elladan replied. “But I do understand his discontent. We spend months at a time alone in the wild. It is good to come home to the warm bed and welcoming arms of one who loves you.”
“I wager that Erestor is no joy to be around at the moment.”
Elladan chuckled. “Poor, Adar. This will be as long a time for him as for Elrohir and Erestor.”
Glorfindel smiled. It was good to be able to talk to Elladan like this again. He had missed his sometime pupil, oft friend. “I do believe you are correct in that, my lord. Come. We should not let him get too far ahead.”
“He can handle himself.”
“Of that I do not doubt, but we may need his assistance. All of that ire will be of great use if we do encounter trouble.”
Glorfindel and Elladan galloped ahead to catch up with their companion.
* * * *
They crouched low under cover of brush and tree, their keen eyesight scanning the Anduin Vale for sign of trouble. Sauron may have been vanquished in Mordor, but his evil had not left the lands of Middle Earth. The darkness of the southern reaches of Greenwood the Great were spreading, just as the reports had described.
Once noble trees, as tall as buildings and stout as fortress walls were now twisted and black, half dead carcasses. Thorny bush sprawled throughout and dank brackish water stood in black pools on the ground. There was no manner of natural fowl or beast left, only snakes, spiders as large as bears, and bats, many bats. And the land fell under the ever-watchful eyes of the Crebain.
“It may not be The Dark Lord that resides here, but this is a mark of his work,” Elladan murmured, his grayish eyes narrowed as he looked at the western border of Greenwood.
“Surely Thranduil and his kin have left this place,” Elrohir said. “It is uninhabitable.”
Glorfindel’s pale blue eyes searched the skies. “No Eagles,” he said quietly. For an age they have roosted high above in the mountains, but I hear no sound, see no sign that they are here.”
“This place is forsaken by Elf, Man and Beast,” Elrohir replied.
“When did you last hear from the king?” Elladan asked.
“‘Tis been half a year,” Glorfindel said. “His last letter told of trouble in the wood near The Narrows.”
“Perhaps we should move north, see if we can find any sign of his majesty and his peoples,” Elrohir remarked.
“Yes,” Glorfindel answered. “Let us make for the bridge at the Old Ford.”
“Well advised,” Elladan said, still glowering at the dark wood across the river. “I do not like what I see here.”
* * * *
“My Lord, there are close to ten spiders in a nest near the East Bight. Another thirty further west. Some are as small as dogs, others as large as wargs.”
“They breed faster than rats,” Thranduil grumbled.
“We cannot kill them as fast as they reproduce,” another of his warriors said.
He cast a glance toward his wife and son who were sitting nearby. “We must move further north. We are too few to both protect those who cannot protect themselves and combat this evil.” He rubbed his temples. “Everyday this darkness claims more of our home and I cannot stop it. They have pushed us clear to the Forest Road.”
“Who spreads this evil, my Lord?”
“It emanates from Amon Lanc, and there is no mistaking the nature of this blight.”
“There is indeed a dark force at work,” one of Thranduil’s generals said. “Whether it comes from the Dark Lord himself or one of his agents remains to be seen.”
Thranduil stood and surveyed their camp. “We move again at sunrise, across the Forest road and past the mountains in the north of the wood.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Thranduil rose and approached his wife and son.
“Ada!” the elfling cried.
Thranduil crouched down and held out his arms as his young son ran toward him on lanky legs. “Greenleaf,” he said with a smile as Legolas jumped into his arms.
Thranduil’s wife smiled and rose from where she and Legolas had been examining trail of ants.
“The ants are moving, Ada. They carry their families in their mouths.”
“Aye, Greenleaf. They move north as we shall soon do.”
“They move to where the air is clearer and water cleaner.”
“Why does the forest keep getting so dark?”
“Evil has taken hold far south of here, Greenleaf and it spreads each day. It is why we must move. We must all be safe.”
“It is the right thing to do, my love,” Melian said softly.
Thranduil looked up at his queen. “It pains me to retreat when I want to fight.”
“You are king now. You are responsible for the safety of all our people.”
Thranduil nodded and rested his cheek on the top of Legolas’s head. “You have always given me wise council, my love.”
Melian knelt down and placed her arm around Thranduil as she laid her head upon his shoulder.
* * * *
They made for the forest road at dawn. Twenty of Thranduil’s finest scouts had gone ahead to ensure the way was clear. Crossing the road would be the most dangerous part of the journey. The road was one-quarter mile wide with dense forest on each side. As they crossed they would have no cover.
Thranduil signaled for his people to halt as he waited for sign that all was clear. He heard light footsteps upon the ground and his ringed hand remained closed upon the hilt of his sword. Legolas stood motionless beside his mother holding her hand and watching his father.
There were more footfalls than Thranduil expected to hear, and some belonged to horses, though all were light. It was not orcs or dwarves or men that approached; it was elves.
Bright blue and silver velvet shown through the thick trees and brush, then Thranduil caught sight of familiar golden hair. A smile curved his lips and the grip on his sword relaxed.
“Who is it, Ada?”
“It is one of your ada’s dearest friends, Greenleaf. It is Glorfindel.”
As the travelers appeared through the trees, Glorfindel felt his heart quicken its pace. In some ways, Thranduil looked just the same: the same beautiful smile, the same deep blue eyes, but he was different in other ways. His expression was wiser, his body stronger, his bearing more regal than the last time he had seen the king.
As they drew closer, Thranduil stepped out from his regiment, greeting Glorfindel with a warm embrace.
“Mae govannen, Glorfindel,” Thranduil said softly.
Glorfindel smiled and tightened his embrace for just a moment before releasing Thranduil. “Mae govannen, your highness.”
Glorfindel stepped back, “I have brought with me the Sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir.”
“Greetings, my lord,” they said in unison, bowing their heads.
“Greetings,” Thranduil replied. “Though I wish our meeting was under less dire circumstances.”
“Your guard has informed us of the circumstances of your move north. We wish to aid in providing safe passage,” Glorfindel.
Thranduil put his hand on Glorfindel’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “We most gratefully accept your offer. Crossing the road will be most hazardous.”
Glorfindel knew he was staring into Thranduil’s eyes but could not seem to stop himself. In his daze he did not sense the elfling approach. When he felt a small hand upon his thigh, he blinked and looked down.
“You are famous,” the elfling said.
“I am?” Glorfindel responded, kneeling to come to eye level with the youngster.
“Aye. You are the great Glorfindel. My ada has told me many stories about you, and we are learning about the elder days from our tutors.”
“This is my son, Legolas,” Thranduil said with a smile.
Glorfindel felt the bottom drop out of his stomach for a brief moment before remarking upon how much the youngster looked like his father. He held out his hand in friendship. “Well met, my liege. You look much like your father did when he was your age.”
“You knew my ada when he was as young as I am now?”
“Aye. I met him ages ago. As I recall, he was the cause of much mischief. Tell me, Legolas. Are you like your father in this as well?”
Legolas smiled and looked at the ground, toeing a leaf. “My nana says I am too curious for my own good.”
Glorfindel smiled. As a beautiful lady approached, he looked up.
“This is my wife, Melian,” Thranduil said as he guided her forward.
Glorfindel bowed his head and swallowed the lump in his throat. “My lady, you are every bit as beautiful as your namesake.”
Melian smiled as she looked down on Glorfindel’s bowed head. “You flatter me, my lord. We are most glad to have your company. My husband has spoken so well of you so often that it is our honor to have you here with us.”
“Thank you, my lady. But the honor is all ours.”
She smiled at the twins. “Lord Elrond has sent his finest to our aid, including his own sons. We will forever be grateful.” She looked back down at Glorfindel. “Please, rise. You are among friends here.”
Glorfindel took to his feet. “Thank you, my lady.”
“There will be time for all of us to know one another more, but now we must move,” Thranduil said gently.
“Agreed,” Elladan answered. “The horses begin to grow restless. I fear that something approaches in the distance.”
Glorfindel looked to Thranduil. “Command us as you would your own guard, my lord.”
“You take the right flank with Galion and his men while the Sons of Elrond ride with the left guard. The Queen’s guard will cover the rear while my regiment will provide escort. Your horses might come in handy if they are stout of heart.”
Elrohir smiled. “Our horses have faced orcs, wargs, and winged serpents. They are indeed stout of heart.”
Thranduil smiled in return. “Then we are well equipped. Come, let us advance.”
* * * *
The road crossing was nerve wracking but they made it in safety. Elladan watched his twin carefully. Elrohir had some of their father’s ability in terms of foresight and the further north they advanced, the more concerned Elrohir looked.
“What is it, Muindor?”
“Something is wrong.”
Elladan’s eyes scanned the landscape. “What?”
“I cannot tell. I feel that something terrible is about to happen.”
Elladan looked around quickly. “Are we being pursued?”
“I do not think so. The doom I sense lies ahead, not behind.”
“We should tell Glorfindel.”
Elrohir nodded. “I will ride across and tell him what I sense, discretely. I cannot name it and there is no sense in causing distress amongst the others.”
“Aye. ‘Tis wise. Go.”
Elrohir nudged his horse into a slow canter and crossed over to where Glorfindel was riding with one of Thranduil’s regiments.
* * * *
“Should we tell the king?”
Glorfindel’s brow was furrowed. “Aye, though what to tell him I do not know. Can you not sense more detail? Is it an ambush?”
Elrohir shook his head in frustration. “It is not clear. It is more of a feeling than a clear vision.”
“Perhaps it is the wood. This place unnerves me from time to time.”
“No. I am sure that what I feel is real.”
“Very well, I will inform Thranduil so that we may be on guard for what comes.”
* * * *
And on guard they were during their three-day journey after crossing the Forest Road. There had been evidence of more spiders near the mountains in the north of the forest, and they had skirted west around the range and were heading east, across the river. This stage of the journey had been the most hazardous, as they saw evidence of more spiders along the way and this part of the wood was, until that moment, uncharted by elf-kind. The entire forest was infested with Sauron’s work, it appeared.
Despite the abundant evidence of spiders, the air was clearer and the trees taller and straighter here. The darkness had not yet taken full hold of this part of the wood. They could hear the sound of a stream ahead and approached cautiously. Fresh water was needed by elf and beast alike.
As the travelers broke ranks for a respite, Legolas began to explore carefully, with the instruction of his parents to remain within eyesight. He spied a black squirrel, the first he had ever seen; they were usually a brownish grey in color. This one looked at him intently as it chewed a leaf. He crept up carefully, slowly, so that he did not frighten it away. He was almost in touching distance, when it hopped down from its perch and moved stealthily through the bushes.
Momentarily transfixed, he forgot his parents’ instructions and followed the creature through the bushes.
“Legolas?” Melian called. “Greenleaf! Where are you?”
The queen made her way through the thick brush, carrying the folds of her gown in her grasp so as not to become entangled in the bramble. She spied the source of the sound of running water that they had heard and saw Legolas walking very close to the edge of the stream. The water was dark, unclean, and she called again to her son.
“Legolas! Do not touch that water, it is foul!”
* * * *
Elrohir’s eyes shot open and he sat up from his resting place. “Find the prince and the queen!” he called out. “They are in danger!”
Elladan moved quickly to his brother’s side. “Is this what you sensed?”
Elrohir’s eyes were wide with concern. “Yes. We must find them, now.”
Thranduil, Glorfindel, the twins and several of Thranduil’s guard began searching the forest for the missing queen and prince while the remainder kept watch over the other travelers and the camp.
“Melian!” Thranduil called out. “Legolas!”
Thranduil and Glorfindel came through the thick underbrush, finding the queen rushing toward her son near the stream.
The queen called out: “Legolas! Do not touch that water!”
She reached out and grasped her son’s arm, pulling him away from the stream. The hem of her gown brushed the water as she moved him away. “That water is fouled somehow,” she chastised gently. “You must be more careful. We are in an unfamiliar place, Greenleaf.”
“I am sorry, nana. I was following a black squirrel. I had never seen one before.”
“Come,” she said. “Your father is here looking for us.”
“Melian? Is all well?”
“Yes, my love,” she said as she began walking toward her husband. “He was following….”
As the hem of her gown brushed her bare ankle, her eyes rolled back and she collapsed.
“Melian!” Thranduil shouted, running forward to his wife.
“Nana!” Legolas called, kneeling beside his mother and shaking her shoulders. “Ada, she will not wake up!”
Glorfindel was close on Thranduil’s heels as they reached the queen, his hand on the hilt of his sword as he quickly scanned the treetops for sign of danger. Surmising that their environment was safe for the moment, he called out for Elladan and Elrohir.
The twins arrived quickly, leaping over the bushes as they ran forward. Elladan’s sword was drawn, but Elrohir had put his away, the vision coming clear as they drew near the location of the fallen queen.
“Sweet Elbereth,” Elladan murmured. “What has happened?”
They found Thranduil kneeling on the ground trying to wake his wife who showed no sign of injury.
“Your sword is of no use here, Muindor,” Elrohir said sadly. He walked to where the queen lay.
“I do not understand,” Glorfindel said. “She has not been wounded. She just . . . collapsed.”
Elrohir placed his hand upon Thranduil’s shoulder. “My lord, let my brother and I examine her.”
“They are skilled healers, my liege,” Glorfindel added.
Elladan lifted Legolas into his arms. “Come, my young prince. Let my brother and I attend to your nana.” He handed Legolas off to Glorfindel.
Legolas buried his face in Glorfindel’s long, golden locks and began to cry. Glorfindel stroked the prince’s hair and murmured reassuring words. His gaze moved from the twins as they knelt over the queen, to his friend Thranduil, who sat on the ground beside her, wracked with worry.
“Why won’t she wake up?” Legolas sobbed. “What is wrong with her?”
“Ssshhh,” Glorfindel murmured. “All will be well.”
Elrohir laid his hands on the queen’s head while Elladan’s hands moved over the rest of her body. Their eyes were closed and their lips moved but no sound came from them. They seemed to be in a trance as they worked. As Elladan’s hands drew near the queen’s feet, they paused and he opened his eyes. He carefully lifted the folds of her gown and saw that the hem was wet. There was an intensely dark energy coming from the wet fabric, and then he saw that the skin above her ankle was turning a dark, purplish black in color.
“Muindor,” he said softly.
Elrohir’s brow was furrowed, as if he were fighting against something that no one could see. He opened his eyes and looked down at the queen’s ankle. “Oh, no,” he whispered.
Thranduil moved forward. “What? What have you found?”
Elladan looked at the stream, then looked at Glorfindel. Glorfindel’s eyes widened and filled with sorrow.
“It is the water, my lord. It is poison. The wet hem of her gown touched her skin and she has fallen under its spell,” Elrohir said.
“Then break it. Heal her.”
“We cannot, my lord. There is no waking from this sleep.”
“What are you saying? Are you saying you cannot help her?”
“Nana!” Legolas called out and Glorfindel tightened his grip on the now struggling youngster.
“There is no medicine or spell known by elves, men, or wizards that can break this sleep. She will never wake up,” Elladan answered.
“She is going to die?” Thranduil asked in a small voice.
“No, not exactly. She will not die, yet she is not alive. She will sleep, forever.”
“What of her fëa?” Glorfindel asked quietly.
“It is trapped,” Elrohir answered. “Only the death of her body can release it to Mandos.”
“No,” Thranduil whispered. “No, no, no, no…. She will wake. She must wake.”
“We are sorry, my lord,” Elladan said. He drew a knife from his belt.
“What are you doing?” Thranduil asked.
Elladan swallowed. “I am going to cut the wet cloth from her garment, lest it poison another . . . with your permission, of course.”
Glorfindel released Legolas who ran to his mother’s side. “Nana, please wake up. I am sorry. I will never disobey you again. I will be good, I promise. Please wake up.”
Thranduil took his son into his arms and held him tight to his chest as he held his wife’s hand.
Elladan took a flint out of a pouch on his belt and struck a fire, then burned the soiled garment, scattering its ashes in the poisoned stream.
“Is there nothing to be done?” Glorfindel whispered to Elladan.
Elladan looked sadly at the queen. “She should be freed.”
Glorfindel swallowed. “’Tis too soon to broach that subject. He is raw with grief.”
“She will suffer,” Elrohir said quietly. “The longer she lingers, the worse it will become.”
“I know,” Glorfindel said. “But not yet.”
Elrohir nodded and placed his hand on Elladan’s shoulder. “Come, we should build a sling to carry her in. We cannot stay here much longer.”
Elladan nodded, taking Glorfindel’s hand and giving it a squeeze before walking away.
* * * *
The king had grown nearly mute in his grief. He did little else but sit by his wife’s side and hold his son. Glorfindel took temporary command of leading the pack of Woodelves through the forest. They tracked northwest for four days, avoiding the dens of spiders and crossed a fair river that ran from the northwest to the Long Lake. There they found an outcropping of hills made of limestone. The lands near the hills were densely forested and provided safe haven.
He instructed Thranduil’s warriors to build flets in the trees to serve as lookout points and they established a perimeter around the area with traps for spiders and orcs alike. It was the seventh day since Melian’s fall when Thranduil finally spoke to Glorfindel.
They were sitting together upon the hill near where she lie. Legolas was with his tutor who was distracting him with lessons about the history of Doriath. Thranduil looked sadly upon the tent where his wife was kept. Her beauty had already begun to fade.
“She was good for me,” he said quietly. “She taught me to put my people first, to be a king before a warrior.”
Glorfindel said nothing. He merely sat close to Thranduil, so close that their legs touched.
“I know I must let her go, but it requires an act that I am loath to perform. How will I explain to Legolas that I must kill his mother?” The last words were nearly choked off with grief.
“Let me do it,” Glorfindel said. “You should not have to carry such a burden.”
“But it is my burden.”
“What are friends for if not to share burdens?” He looked at Thranduil. “If Legolas is to bear someone malice for taking his mother away, let it be me. He loves you and will need you much in the days to come. Let him be angry with me, it will be better for you both.”
“I cannot ask you to do this.”
“You are not asking. I am offering.” Glorfindel put his hand on the king’s thigh and squeezed it. “Please, let me do this,” he said softly.
Thranduil closed his eyes and a tear ran down his cheek. “You have always been there when I needed you most.”
Glorfindel pressed his forehead against the king’s temple. “And I always will be,” he whispered. He sat back. “It will be quick. She will feel no pain.”
“You should both say goodbye to her before…”
“Yes,” the king answered, then he gained his feet and went in search of his son.
* * * *
“We must let her go, Greenleaf,” Thranduil said softly. “Her fëa suffers here. She will be at peace in Aman.” He cradled his son in his lap as Legolas cried quietly.
“She could wake up,” Legolas sniffled.
“No, my son. She will never wake. It is a kindness we do her. A selfless act of love.”
“It is my fault,” Legolas murmured. “I disobeyed her. If I had stayed with her then this would not have happened.”
“It is not your fault,” Greenleaf. “She would never blame you. I do not blame you.” He took Legolas’s chin in his hand and tilted his son’s face up so that he could see in his eyes.
“I love you more than life itself, my son. I will always love you, as will your mother. We are so proud of you.” He kissed Legolas on the forehead. “Come, let us set your mother free.”
* * * *
Glorfindel stood outside of the tent where Melian lie. Elladan and Elrohir stood by his side.
“I have never taken the life of one of my own,” he said softly. “Even when I witnessed the Kinslaying, I never raised my sword.” He rubbed his hand over his face. “Valar, how am I to do this?”
“With compassion,” Elladan said, placing his hand on Glorfindel’s shoulder. “It is a great act of mercy and she will thank you for it from the Halls of Mandos.”
Glorfindel swallowed and held out his hands. They were trembling.
“The prince will hate me all the days of his life. This could be the end of my friendship with Thranduil.”
“No,” Elladan said. “He will always bear you gratitude and in time the prince will come to understand it.”
Elrohir placed his hand on Glorfindel’s back. “Each moment you delay is another moment that she suffers. She is begging for release, I can feel it.”
Glorfindel nodded. “Where are Thranduil and Legolas?”
“On the other side of the camp,” Elrohir answered.
“Very well.” Glorfindel pulled back the flap and crossed through the doorway into the tent.
* * * *
Winter, Third Age, 2954
They had a simple funeral for the queen, and then burned her body upon a pyre. Elrohir had said that he felt it when her soul was freed and that she was now at peace. The prince would not look at Glorfindel any longer, all he could see were the hands that had stopped his mother’s heart. He did not blame the Elda, necessarily, but he could not look at him either.
Thranduil would bear the grief of his wife’s passing for many years to come, and Glorfindel wondered how that would affect their friendship. He dearly wanted to stay behind and help the king build a home for his people, but he knew he had to leave so that the prince would not have to see him everyday. It pained him to leave, but he knew it was the right thing to do.
He and the twins had departed the great wood in late autumn of the year 1055, before the first snows would cover the mountain passes making them impossible to cross. Glorfindel had frequent nightmares about ending the queen’s life, and it wasn’t until they returned to Imladris, when Elrond administered some healing herbs that Glorfindel could sleep. It would be many long years before he saw Thranduil again.
In the long years that had passed, those nightmares returned from time to time, and as the wind blew and snow fell heavy outside he awoke with a gasp just hours before dawn. He had another nightmare, but this time it was about the Kinslaying. Melian was there and he watched himself drive his sword through her breast. He sensed someone in bed with him and quickly turned to find Erestor lying on top of the covers watching him.
“I can hear you, you know,” the counselor said. “‘Tis one of the benefits of having adjacent bedchambers. The nightmares are returning, are they not?”
“Yes,” Glorfindel said, sitting up in bed and rubbing his face.
“If you did not spend so much time alone, you would cope better.”
“Are you propositioning me, Erestor?” Glorfindel asked wryly.
“You are not my type,” Erestor quipped.
Glorfindel smiled slightly. He could always count on Erestor to lighten even the darkest of his moods.
“Besides, even if you were, Elrohir would have my hide.”
“He is the jealous type, no?” Glorfindel asked.
“That he is.” Erestor picked at an errant thread on the coverlet. “There is one who could be of great comfort to you, if you would allow it.”
“You are so obtuse! You persist in denying yourself comfort. It is as if you are punishing yourself for some perceived wrong doing.”
“‘Twould not be fair nor honorable for me to give my body to one when my heart belongs to another.”
“You have no romantic bond with Thranduil.”
“We are bound together nonetheless.”
“When his period of mourning ends, and it likely will soon, do you think he will deny himself comfort? Did he not marry in your absence after the war?”
“What he does has no effect on what I know to be true of myself.”
Erestor sighed. “You are, without a doubt, the thickest-headed, most stubborn, most foolhardy elf I have ever met.”
Erestor reached behind him and retrieved a cup from Glorfindel’s bedside table. “Here. Drink.”
Glorfindel took a long draught of the tonic and felt a weariness come over him.
“Go back to sleep, my friend,” Erestor said as he climbed out of bed to return to his own bedchamber.
Glorfindel lay back down and closed his eyes.
* * * *
Spring, Third Age, 3017
“Are you not lonely, my lord?”
Thranduil looked into the large, pale blue eyes of the female elf that laced his doublet.
“From time to time.”
“There are many who would be honored to give you comfort, myself included.”
Thranduil gently caressed the lady’s cheek. “You are young and without a doubt fair, but my heart is not for the giving.”
She bowed and lowered her eyes, then departed the king’s bedchamber with the laundry under her arm.
“The messenger has returned, Adar. One of the Edain is with him.”
Thranduil turned to find Legolas standing in the door of his bedchamber. His son was dressed for travel, with his quiver strapped to his back. “Are you leaving?”
“I am bound for the southern border and sentry duty.”
Thranduil nodded and approached his son. He cupped Legolas’s cheek, brushing his thumb over his son’s cheekbone. “I miss my mischievous young child who found wonder in everything he saw.”
“I had to grow up, Adar. I hope you still love me even though I am different.”
“I will always love you, Greenleaf. Always.”
Legolas smiled. “Come, let us see what this Ranger from the North wants.”
Thranduil headed toward the throne room with his son.
* * * *
Glorfindel sat beside a swift running stream, rubbing his temples. He had to rely on the tonic more and more for sleep and his head ached and he felt weary. Soft footsteps on the grass behind him alerted him to Arwen’s presence. The soft cloth of her dress spread out on the grass as she knelt behind him.
“Is my favorite warrior suffering from headaches again?” she asked softly.
She placed her hands on his head and began to gently massage his scalp, working her long delicate fingers through his golden locks. “It is not fair that you suffer thus. I believe your heart is the cause of all of your discomfort.”
“You are wise, my lady,” Glorfindel sighed, closing his eyes and relaxing into her touch.
She leaned forward and whispered into his ear. “I know you love him, but what if that love is never returned as you wish? What if you are to be his friend only?”
“Then I will be a loyal friend.”
“Mmm… of that I have no doubt. It pains me to see you suffer so.” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “You have always been special to me, Glorfindel. I trust you above all others, save Elessar.”
“And for that I am deeply honored, my Evenstar.”
“Let my brother give you comfort. He knows you love Thranduil, he asks for nothing you have not already given him save your body. He wants to help you.”
“How is it a betrayal when there is no love bond between you?” She moved to sit in front of Glorfindel. “Elladan is no longer a young pupil. He has seen and done much. He is no innocent as he was before. Let him help you.”
“Elladan should find one to whom he can bind himself to, as you and Elrohir have done.”
“And what of you, one whom he loves most dear?”
“I will be as I have been. His friend.”
“Would I had the power to align the stars,” Arwen sighed. “My brother desires you; you only want his friendship. You desire Thranduil; he only wants your friendship. This is frustrating.”
“Are you laughing at me?” she asked with one dark eyebrow arched.
“Never,” Glorfindel answered, caressing her cheek with the back of his hand. “Do you hear that?”
“Horses?” she asked.
“Aye. That would be your love now. Go to him and stop fretting over me.”
She leaned forward and kissed Glorfindel’s cheek. “I will never stop fretting over you, my lion.” She caressed his hair then ran off to meet her betrothed.
* * * *
Late Spring, Third Age, 3020
“My lord, we’ve received reports that Sauron’s forces are moving against the Woodelves of Thranduil. I ask your permission to travel to Mirkwood, to confirm this latest report from Lothlórien. If it is accurate, Thranduil’s people may require assistance,” Glorfindel said to Elrond
“You should not go alone,” Elladan said. “The roads become more dangerous each day. Elrohir and I have rousted three separate encampments of Orcs at the foot of Hithaeglir, near the borders of our lands.”
“Agreed,” Erestor said. He turned to Elrond. “We four should travel together to Mirkwood, your sons, Glorfindel, and I.”
“You?” Glorfindel asked.
“It is time I left our nest of Imladris and took to the road again. It may have been many years, but I assure you I do remember how to wield a sword and I enjoy felling an orc as much as Elrohir does.”
“The four of us would be safer together than Glorfindel is alone, Adar,” Elrohir said.
Elrond sighed. “I suppose if I refuse I will have a mutiny on my hands.”
“That is a surety,” Erestor said. He stepped forward. “I am growing restless here. I need to take to horse and hack down a few orc.”
“And if I let you do this, you will return and resume your duties as my chief adviser?”
“Aye. I will, no doubt, be clearer of focus as a result, my lord.”
Elrond smirked. “Very well. Go. But be careful.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Glorfindel said bowing his head as they departed Elrond’s study.
* * * *
‘Tis . . . so . . . much . . . easier without . . . armor,” Erestor said as he wrestled an orc to the ground and slit its throat.
“Armor is indeed . . . a hindrance,” Elrohir agreed as he sliced the head off of another orc.
“Must you . . . two talk . . . so much?” Glorfindel queried as he skewered another.
“We have runners!” Elladan shouted as he took to horse. Glorfindel and Erestor had the last two cornered on the field, so Elrohir vaulted upon his horse and followed his brother, chasing down the last few within a few hundred yards.
Glorfindel stood over the body of his victim and looked at Erestor, who seemed positively energized after battle. “How does it feel, my friend?”
“Good. Very good,” Erestor responded with a smile, climbing to his feet. “But now I need a bath, and some of that brandy you secreted away from the pantry.”
“First we must cleanse the field, then we celebrate our victory.”
“I hate this part.”
Glorfindel grinned as he began dragging orc carcasses into a pile.
* * * *
Erestor lay on his back on his bedroll, looking up at the stars. Elrohir was snuggled comfortably against him, the peredhel softly nuzzling his ear.
Elladan approached Glorfindel and stretched out beside him. “You need sleep.”
“I am fine.”
“No, you are not. You need sleep. Do you have the tonic?”
“It dulls my reflexes. I will not take it here.”
Elladan pushed at Glorfindel. “Sit up.”
“Stop being contrary and sit up.”
He slid in between Glorfindel and the tree that was at the head of his bedroll. “Now, lay back.”
“Do as you are told.”
Glorfindel reluctantly settled back between Elladan’s legs. The peredhel took his head in his hands and began gently rubbing his temples.
Glorfindel began to relax immediately, a soft groan emitting from his lips. Elladan smiled and continued his work, slowly coaxing all tension from the Elda’s body. As Glorfindel’s eyes slid shut, he reached down and pulled the bedroll up over them both, wrapping his arms around his friend. “Sleep now, my friend,” he whispered. “I shall watch over you.”
* * * *
It took two weeks to reach the Caves of Thranduil, and it was the longest two weeks of either of Glorfindel’s lives. The wood was terribly burned in places, and signs of a fierce battle were plentiful.
They were met at the Forest Gate by the prince and his warriors. At first, Glorfindel did not recognize him. Legolas did not stand out from his woodland kin the way his father did. There was a fair amount of Melian’s lineage that came through as the prince had grown. He had his mother’s build – lithe and elegant – but his father’s coloring. It wasn’t until Glorfindel looked into his eyes that he realized who Legolas was.
He knelt before the prince, and the others in the traveling party bowed their heads. Legolas stood over Glorfindel for a moment, looking at the golden crown of his hair, then sighed quietly. He had resolved his feelings about the Elda long ago. The things he had seen and done since he had come of age gave him a different perspective on Glorfindel’s act of mercy toward his mother.
“Welcome,” he said softly to Glorfindel.
Glorfindel looked up. There was forgiveness in the prince’s eyes. “Thank you, my liege.”
Legolas cocked his head. “Come. It is rarely safe outside the walls of my father’s palace. It is a three day journey from here.”
They traveled in silence for the most part. The general mood of excitement that they had felt upon leaving Imladris was dampened by the darkness of the wood. Glorfindel kept his eyes fixed on Legolas’s back when they passed the fateful place where Melian had fallen ill. Glorfindel knew they were close now.
The elves had built a hand-pulled ferry to shuttle them across the Enchanted River, but it still gave all of them pause as they floated over the deadly waters.
When they came upon the clearing that Glorfindel had led them to so many years ago, they found a great bridge crossing the river. The bridge led to massive iron gates, then to a path underground.
Entering the caves, Glorfindel could see the influence of Menegroth on this place, though it was neither as large nor as grand.
They stood in the throne room awaiting Thranduil and all were silent, even Erestor who could be counted upon for an inappropriate comment at just about any time of day or night.
When Thranduil entered, Glorfindel felt his heart clench. The king was at once imposing and beautiful, weary and fiercely strong. He had the build of a warrior who had seen much battle with the broadsword and lance, strong of shoulder and well muscled, but his eyes were those of a weary king who had been asked to bear too much.
Thranduil saw Glorfindel and bypassed his throne, heading straight for his friend. He caught the Elda up into such an embrace as if he were to crush him. “Glorfindel,” he whispered.
“My lord,” Glorfindel responded, holding the king tight in response.
“I have missed you,” Thranduil said softly.
“And I have missed you,” Glorfindel responded, tempted to bury his face in Thranduil’s hair and breathe deep. As they separated, he asked, “We heard reports of an attack by the Dark Lord’s forces.”
“Those reports were accurate. We lost much both in terms of life and land, but we were able to turn them back.”
“You fought yourself?”
“I grew tired of running.” He cast a glance to his son. “Legolas is of age. He no longer needs his Adar to be safe. I will not send my warriors and my son to do what I will not.”
“I wager that Legolas would dispute the fact that he no longer needs you, but I understand. It is hard times we live in.”
Thranduil looked at Erestor and a smile spread slowly across his features. “Erestor. It has been many years.”
Erestor smiled and bowed his head. “Aye, too many, my lord. ‘Tis good to see you in health.”
“And you.” Thranduil held out his hand to his son. “Legolas, come forward. I want you to meet someone.” As Legolas approached, Thranduil said to Erestor, “I see that years behind a desk has not changed you much.”
“I do what I can to remain fit and useful, your highness.”
“And you are no doubt still the most resourceful elf in all of Middle-Earth.” He spoke to Legolas: “I fought with Erestor on the Dagorlad and on the Plateau of Gorgoroth.”
Legolas smiled at Erestor. “My father has told many tales about your exploits, Erestor.”
“I can imagine,” Erestor said with a smile.
Thranduil looked at the Sons of Elrond. “It is good to see the both of you here again as well.”
They bowed their heads. “It is our privilege, my lord.”
“Do you remember the sons of Elrond, Legolas?”
“Aye, I do. I am glad to see you again, my lords.”
“It is our pleasure,” Elladan said, looking intently into the prince’s eyes.
“Galion!” Thranduil called his seneschal.
“See that our visitors have comfortable lodgings, fresh water and feed for their horses, and the opportunity to bathe before dinner.” He looked at Glorfindel. “We have much to talk about this evening.”
Glorfindel nodded and followed Galion, falling in behind his companions.
* * * *
“The prince has grown, no?” Elrohir asked, sprawled across Elladan’s bed.
“One would hope, given the duration of time since we saw him last,” Elladan answered as he unpacked his belongings.
“He is quite fair.”
“Aye, he is.”
“I think he is interested in you.”
“Go back to your own room and work out your amorous frustrations on your lover.”
“You are in a foul mood.”
“I do not wish to have you play matchmaker. When will you understand that things are as I wish them to be in my life?”
“That is a load of horse droppings, Muindor. We both know you’ve been carrying a torch for Glorfindel since you passed your majority.”
“Glorfindel’s heart belongs to Thranduil. I accepted that long ago.”
“But it didn’t change what you have done with your own heart.” He rose from the bed and crossed to where Elladan stood. “I know about matters of the heart, Elladan, and I can tell that the prince is intrigued by you.”
“Go to your room,” Elladan said flatly.
“Fine, but you will see.” He stopped at the door. “Do not let what has become a habit keep you from happiness, Muindor.” He exited the room and closed the door behind him.
* * * *
Dinner was passed in conversation about the comings and goings of Sauron’s forces and the building of Thranduil’s underground stronghold.
The years that passed since they first arrived at this place were the longest that Thranduil’s people had ever spent in one place. There was a neat, efficient city underground, with a market, kitchens, great halls, stables, offices, a library, baths, a school, and many apartments wherein Thranduil’s people lived. There were more above ground, for those who did not wish to adapt to living beneath the earth. There was enough space for all of Thranduil’s folk to take refuge in an attack, as well as provide save haven for the livestock that came with them.
Glorfindel sensed that Thranduil still bore the grief of his wife’s passing, but it was not as raw as it had been. After the meal, they retired to the king’s chambers where they passed the time in front of a fire talking of years passed and the events that filled them.
Elrohir and Erestor retired to their own room, where they would spend the night making love to one another on a soft bed – a welcome change from a week spent on hard ground.
Elladan was left to wander the halls and explore the environs of Thranduil’s underground palace. He paused to look at a tapestry that depicted Menegroth and the lands of Doriath.
“It is where my father grew up,” Legolas said from over Elladan’s shoulder.
Elladan had sensed the prince’s arrival, though he had to admit he had not heard his footfalls. “Aye. I have seen this image before, in my father’s library in Imladris.”
“What is it like there? I have oft wished to travel outside of the great wood.”
“You have a wanderer’s spirit.”
“I suppose. Perhaps it comes from moving so much as a youth.”
“Imladris is one of the fairest of all lands, surrounded by tall mountains and waterfalls. Our city is carved into the mountainside and all levels are linked by winding paths. We have gardens and rivers, large trees and expansive meadows, and everywhere the sky is broad and beautiful.”
Legolas stared at Elladan as he described his home, watching his full lips move, remarking at how his grey eyes sparkled as he spoke. The peredhel was, in a word, beautiful.
“You are of blood both Elvish and Edain?” Legolas asked.
“Aye, from my father’s side. And you are also of mixed peoples, both Sindarin and Silvan.”
“That is correct.”
“My mother is of both Silvan and Noldorian blood,” Elladan said.
“Your grandfather is Celeborn, no? Your grandmother Galadriel?”
“They are our kin also.”
“Then we have much in common,” Elladan said with a smile.
Legolas smiled back. “We do.” He reached out slowly. “May I . . . touch your hair?”
Elladan smiled and frowned both. It was an odd request. “Yes.”
“It is so rich of color. So unlike any I have seen elsewhere.” His long fingers caressed it softly. “‘Tis the color of fine wood.”
“And yours is the color of the grasslands of the Wold in the summertime.”
“I have never seen that place.”
“Perhaps you will, someday.”
“Perhaps.” Legolas frowned then turned his gaze from Elladan’s hair to his eyes.
“Please do not mistake what I am about to say,” he began. “While I am no innocent, I am not flippant with my feelings. I find you attractive.”
Elladan smiled a little. “And I you.”
Legolas smiled. “That is good.” He looked thoughtfully at the peredhel. “I do not know how long you will be here, so I find it prudent to move quickly. I would like to kiss you.”
Elladan raised an eyebrow. It was one of the strangest seductions he had ever seen. “I think I would like that,” he answered.
“Good,” Legolas answered with a smile, then he leaned in and lightly kissed Elladan’s lips.
It was a sweet kiss at first, a brief meeting of the lips. Then the kiss deepened.
The warm press of Elladan’s mouth to Legolas’s drew a soft moan from the prince. Legolas’s hands travelled to Elladan’s waist, pulling him closer.
Elladan was surrounded by the scent of Legolas, by the way he tasted, by his soft, quiet moans and firm embrace. He opened his mouth, drawing the prince in. Legolas arched into him, sliding his hands down Elladan’s long back.
As quickly as it began, it ended, with the prince pulling away with his eyes still closed for a moment. “Yes,” he whispered. “Just as I thought it would be.” He opened his eyes and looked at Elladan. The peredhel’s eyes had deepened a shade to a stormy grey. Legolas knew he had a pleasing effect. “Tomorrow,” he murmured. “I shall show you the wood surrounding this place.”
“Tomorrow,” Elladan answered and he watched the prince depart. What Legolas lacked in finesse when it came to wooing with words, he more than made up for in skill with his mouth in other ways. “Tomorrow, indeed,” he murmured. Then he made for his room with the taste of the prince still upon his lips.
* * * *
Thranduil sat beside Glorfindel, who lay upon his back on the banks of a small pool fed by a clear running waterfall. He listened to the sounds of their surroundings: the waterfall, the birds as they flapped their wings perched on a rock in the spray, the sound of the wind in the tall pine trees as it whistled and whispered softly. He was in his favorite place, with his closest and dearest friend, and for the first time in a long time he felt at peace.
“You have no lover,” he said matter-of-factly. It was the first that either of them had said in hours.
“No,” Glorfindel responded, not offering a further explanation.
“Have you not taken comfort from another, even if not for a night?”
“Surely you have had offers.”
“But you turned them down.”
“Yes.” Glorfindel turned the questions back to his friend. “And you? Have you a lover?”
“Not since Melian passed.”
“You grieve her still.”
“I do, in part. But I have also come to accept that she is at peace in Mandos’ Halls.”
“Of that I am confident.”
“So, you have not taken a lover since your return to Middle Earth?”
Glorfindel shaded his eyes and looked at the king.
“Why this sudden interest in my amorous pursuits?”
“Frankly, for years I thought you and Erestor were lovers.”
Glorfindel barked out a laugh. “I am not his type,” he answered with a grin.
“Yes,” Thranduil replied with a smile. “I see that now. Clearly he prefers one of darker complexion.”
“He and Elrohir are to be bonded soon. They have been lovers for many a year.”
“I was relieved to discover that you two are, in fact, merely friends.”
“The thought of challenging him for the right to sue for your affection was not something I relished. I have seen the Noldo with a sword; he is quite formidable.”
Glorfindel sat up and stared at Thranduil in disbelief. For years beyond count he had locked his heart away from all others, saving it for one whom he thought he would never get the chance to love, and Thranduil broached the subject as easily as pondering the merits of a fine Dorwinion wine. “Are you…”
Thranduil smiled and leaned closer. “I am. If you will have me.”
Glorfindel reached up and slid his hand underneath the king’s hair and cupped the back of his neck. “I will have no other,” he answered softly and kissed Thranduil.
Thranduil wasted no time in responding. Within mere moments, Glorfindel found himself flat on his back with a lap full of beautiful, powerful Sinda. Clothes were quickly discarded and they made love for hours in the sun with no witnesses save two Robins who were perched on a rock nearby.
* * * *
“I am loath to leave this place so soon after we’ve finally come together,” Glorfindel said.
“I am as reluctant to give you leave,” Thranduil answered. “But you and I have remained bound through thousands of years, through war, death and destruction. We will remain so.”
Glorfindel smiled and nodded. “Aye. I know this to be true. That does not mean that I cannot still protest the distance.”
Thranduil pressed his forehead to Glorfindel’s. “I would have it no other way,” he answered, and then he took his lover’s mouth in a deep kiss.
Elladan stared into Legolas’s eyes, and the prince smiled broadly and nuzzled his lover’s mouth. “We shall see one another again soon, yes?” Legolas murmured against Elladan’s full lips.
“As soon as I can find an excuse to ride east once again.”
“Perhaps I can travel to Imladris come autumn, spend the winter in your fair lands.”
“I would be most pleased and honored to host you there, my prince.”
Elrohir leaned over and whispered in Erestor’s ear. “All is as it should be, is it not?”
Erestor also smiled as he watched the two pairs of new lovers. “It does indeed seem to be.”
Elrohir smiled slyly. “Perhaps it is now my turn to tease Glorfindel and Elladan when their moods turn sour after parting from their lovers.”
Erestor nodded, “I have faith that you will make the journey nigh on unbearable for them, my love.”
Elrohir chuckled then mounted his horse.
* * * *
Glorfindel sat hidden in the tall, soft green grass high atop a hill that overlooked the road that wound down the mountains from the east. The breeze ruffled the leaves of the aspen trees that grew around the hilltop meadow and he could smell fresh pine from across the valley.
He had been lost in thought for quite sometime. With his eyes closed he had still tracked Arnor’s path across the sky. It would not be long now.
Asfaloth uttered a soft whinny and the Elda opened his eyes. He saw a lone rider in the distance, mounted about a powerful black steed. He was tall and broad of shoulder, his cloak the hue of the deep forests of the east. From beneath his hood a slip of flaxen hair fluttered loose.
Glorfindel smiled and took to his feet. It had been indeed a beautiful day to wait for a loved one. But now the wait was over.