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'East of the Sea'
East of the Sea
The sound of hoofbeats broke the morning hush that hung over the
Bruinen’s tree-lined banks, the sound heralding a small group
travelling at speed. The riders crossed at the Ford with barely a
break in stride, breaching the rushing water that was the last line
of defense set by the Power that dwelt within the nearby valley. The
water remained calm beneath the horses' hooves, for the riders were
elven and as such welcome in the realm beyond. Intruders would have
found a less placid river, rising up in outrage against them.
The riders gained the far bank, their hair streaming back in the
wind of their passing, mirroring their horses' tails and the
snapping banners of yellow and blue that they carried high and
proud. All save one in that company had the smoke-dark hair and
slender build of the Sindar. The other was fair, with hair like noon
sunlight deepening to gold. The riders surrounded him in a
protective phalanx, close yet apart, allowing him space to ride in
company yet still be alone with his thoughts and memories.
Tall he was, broad-shouldered and strongly built, his face fair and
open, his golden hair braided and twisted in a style that spoke of
another age and place. As he rode, his eyes and ears drank in the
snow-kissed land and the sound of falling water that grew ever
closer as they rode. He breathed in the scents carried on the crisp
winter air and wondered how it was going to be, living in this land,
being a part of these people.
For a moment an image of fire and smoke returned, the song of the
nearby waterfall was transformed into a roar like thunder, and dull
red horror rose up within him, temporarily blotting out the sun's
unexpected warmth, the air's clean sweetness. He drew breath slowly
and carefully, concentrated on his horse’s solid mass and smooth
rhythm and slowly the flashback ebbed and was gone again.
Once the world had settled, he reminded himself that he would soon
have new memories to overlay those final moments of fear and rage
above Gondolin. He had been told there was work for him here in this
new, soon-to-be home, people who had need of his experience even
more than his sword arm. He was by nature friendly, well-liked back
in Gondolin, and Círdan had said these were good people, his
cousin's great-grandson, his wife and children...
A sudden rush of wings accompanied by shrill chirping made him look
up, startled. Their passage had disturbed a flock of birds, little
brown things unlike any he recalled from Gondolin, and they were
circling now in an angry confusion of feathers. He watched them,
smiling, then reached out with his mind and for a moment was one
with their small world, lifting on sunlit air. They rode on, leaving
the birds behind, but the soft smile remained to tease at
Glorfindel's lips. He threw his head back and breathed in deeply,
taking in green scents overlaid by snow, the hint of water on the
mountain air. This was a good place, he decided. It should not be
hard to belong here.
The day dawned bright
and clear, no hint of snow or inclement weather. Imladris was astir:
word had been sent ahead warning of the approach of the honour
escort, Círdan’s compliment at a time when elves did not yet
hesitate to ride alone, except in the dark southern corner of the
Greenwood, about which there was an uneasy air. This was the first
time a reborn elf had been sent back out of the west, and in the
absence of protocol, the Shore Lord had been careful to treat him
with all the respect due an emissary of the Mighty.
While the senior members of the household waited on the steps in
front of the main entrance to the Last Homely House, jostling
carefully for position and expressing low-voiced hopes that
breakfast would not be too inconveniently late, Celebrían, Lady of
Imladris, was engaged in a last minute inspection and had turned her
attention to her children.
“But I distinctly said that you were to dress your hair properly
---- braids, jewels, like the lord of the valley’s son, not like an
The lady of the valley was herself clad formally in cloth of silver
with gold brocading, an outfit so grand it quite overwhelmed her
fragile blonde beauty. To look at her, no one could have guessed she
had spent the past few days dressed in an old grey robe and almost
reducing the household staff to tears in her efforts to see the Last
Homely House scoured till it shone.
Elrohir coloured, but had the sense to hold his tongue. One of the
warriors had a taken a tumble off his horse and he had just come
from learning how to set a triple break of the fibula. Next to him
Elladan half raised a hand to the thin warrior’s braid falling past
his right cheek, but thought better of it and let it drop. Perhaps
he had some vain hope of not drawing his mother’s eagle eye. If so,
he was sadly disillusioned.
“Elladan, what are you wearing? You are your father’s heir! That
outfit is barely suitable for breakfast. And your hair!”
Elrond chose this moment to catch Erestor’s eye and gesture towards
himself, an eyebrow raised enquiringly. He was wearing a simple robe
with a pattern of leaves, green on green, embroidered at cuff and
hem. Nothing told him apart from his household except the silver
circlet on his head. He needed no more – he had a King’s air of
quiet certainty. Erestor fluttered his fingers and smiled quick
reassurance, trying to tell him he looked well enough, and was
distracted by a soft giggle behind him.
“Nana spent days looking up norms and customs in Gondolin,” Arwen
whispered. “I think she would have liked to rebuilt Imladris out of
white marble. Instead she just settled for dusting it. I told her
the House is so old it probably needs dust to look authentic, and
anyhow Gondolin probably wasn’t spotless, but she just got cross. I
don’t know what all the fuss is about, it sounds like such an awful
Privately Erestor agreed that Gondolin had always sounded a grim
kind of place to live, regimented and restrictive despite its
physical beauty, but he understood well enough what was motivating
Celebrían. She had been raised on stories of the heroes of the First
Age and was clearly in a full-blown panic. The warrior who had slain
the balrog on the Christhorn Pass was coming to live in her home,
and to make matters worse, he was kin to both her and Elrond.
“Your father’s next,” he whispered back with certainty, and Arwen
Elrond had however been raised to believe the best defense was
attack. He interrupted his son’s attempt to justify his dress sense,
his tone light but firm. “Elladan, why don’t you and Elrohir take
horses and meet them on the path? I can think of no better escort
for the last stage of the journey than my sons, his own distant kin.
That way,” he added, turning to Celebrían with the sweet smile that
responsibility was reducing to a rare pleasure, “he would hardly
expect them to be dressed as though ready to welcome Eönwë bearing a
message from great Manwë himself.”
Celebrían drew breath as though to argue, then nodded, smiling in
return, a hint of relief in her clear, blue eyes. “He’s my mother’s
cousin, too,” she reminded him, her voice softer. “I - think she
might like that gesture?”
“Adar, that is so unfair!” Arwen pushed past Erestor, barely
coherent in her outrage. “Why should they get to meet him first
while I have to stay down here and wait, just because I’m the girl?
That is so not fair!” She turned to her mother in appeal.
“Grandmother would not have stayed here tamely and…”
Erestor felt a rush of sympathy at the way Celebrían’s frantic
attempts to get things right were being thwarted by her family.
Before he could say anything, Elrohir spoke up. “I don’t see why
Arwen shouldn’t come with us. She would make it seem less like a
warrior’s greeting, and anyway she looks prettier on a horse than
The tension that had been growing broke into laughter and Elrond
shrugged slightly. “This is turning into a deputation,” he said.
“Although you have a point, Elrohir. Arwen shall ride with you. And
Erestor,” he added. “My seneschal’s presence will make this seem
less like what it really is – my children being eaten alive by
Erestor blinked. He was unsure how he felt about any of this. He had
told the twins the story of Glorfindel the great defender when they
were tiny and had later read the tale to Arwen, showing her the same
pictures in the book her brothers loved. At the time he had thought
it would be a wonderfully romantic thing to meet this best known of
Gondolin’s lords, but it had been no more than a dream, an idle
fantasy about some day in the Undying Lands… And now he was almost
here and if truth be told, Erestor doubted the reality would match
his innocent fantasy.
Celebrían’s relieved smile suggested that King Turgon, too, had had
a Seneschal to do his bidding and see to matters affecting his
household and guests – Elrond was ever the born diplomat and he
understood his wife. With a half bow to her, Erestor addressed
Elladan. “Give me a few minutes to change into something more
suitable for riding, and I’ll meet you at the stables. Let’s see if
we can help our guest feel less like a curiosity."
The trail down from
the moors above the valley was Elrond’s defensive masterpiece. It
curved and twisted back on itself, passed against sheer rock in
places or between thick tree cover. Some parts were graveled to make
them hard to cross quickly, and it was overhung sufficiently for it
to be easy to keep the most cautious visitor in clear view at all
times. The residents of Imladris, or at least those who had occasion
to leave the valley, swiftly learned where to ride on the verge and
where dismounting and leading the horse was the best choice.
Erestor rode beside Arwen with her brothers ahead of them. The air
was very still, carrying the sounds of birdsong and the eternally
rushing waters of the Bruinen even above the sound of their horses’
passage. “Should we go about half way up, wait there?” he asked,
raising his voice to include the twins in the conversation.
Elrohir looked back, an eyebrow raised in a manner startlingly
similar to his father. “I don’t know, Erestor. How about the place
where the trail turns and you can see right out across the valley?
It would give him a really good first view of Imladris.”
“Ooh, yes,” Arwen said at once. “That would be perfect. So we could
show him where he will be living without making a big fuss about
“Elladan?” Erestor asked. All three would follow his instructions,
having grown used over the years to him occasionally standing in for
their father when decisions needed to be taken, but it was still
courteous to offer the final voice to the Lord’s heir.
Elladan, who was by nature easy-going until roused, shrugged and
nodded. “If Wen likes it, we’ll do it,” he said. “Otherwise we’ll
never hear the end of it.”
“I am not a nag,” Arwen snapped.
“Not today,” Erestor and Elrohir said almost simultaneously. The two
could go on for hours if left unchecked.
“Hush, I can hear something. Let’s hurry.”
The trail led downhill between trees and rocks, angling down into a
steep, tree-filled ravine. He was about to ask how far they still
had to travel and where the houses were when they rounded a sharp
bend and he saw a sudden vista of fields and little clusters of
buildings within the embrace of the mountain's grey-green walls. The
sun sparkled off snow, and for a moment he forgot he preferred
He had no time to look his fill, because they were no longer alone
on the trail. The horses were being reined to a halt, his own
following suit. Four elves stood waiting under the trees: a pair of
almost identical twins, a very young girl with blue eyes and dark
hair, who reminded him of someone he could not at once put a name
to, and behind them an elf with light brown eyes and the blackest
hair Glorfindel had ever seen. He wore it fastened back from his
face but loose down his back in a manner that would have been
thought undisciplined and lacking dignity in Gondolin. Glorfindel
rather liked it.
The black haired elf gave one of the twins a less than discreet
shove, noticed Glorfindel was watching and rolled his eyes. The
young elf, who had been staring at him with an expression of
undisguised awe, stepped forward on cue, opened his mouth - and
closed it again. The girl giggled softly, while his twin carefully
looked past him as though nothing untoward were happening.
Clearly older and less impressed, the other elf shook his head and
stepped forward. "Lord Glorfindel, I think what Elladan was trying
to say was 'welcome to Imladris'. Yes?" He gave the youngster a
level look and got an embarrassed nod in reply.
"Yes I know. I won't tell your father. I can't speak for your sister
though. You'd best think up a bribe." He returned his attention to
Glorfindel, who was sitting his horse and trying very hard not to
laugh. "These two are my lord Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir -
no need to try and tell them apart yet, it'll come soon enough. And
this vision of innocence and decorum is their sister, Arwen. My lord
thought it a friendly gesture to send them on ahead to meet you."
The vision of innocence and decorum, who had her skirts hitched up
and snow in her hair, gave him a wide smile. "Welcome, my lord. I
hope you will be very happy living here with us." She stepped
forward and offered her hand as she spoke and he took it, bowing
over it as courtesy required. She quite ruined the formality of the
moment by shooting her brothers a look of gleeful triumph, instantly
winning his heart.
Keeping the laughter in check, Glorfindel turned his attention to
their companion. "And you, my lord? Are you also a member of Lord
The elf’s face lit up with amusement and he laughed, a low, mellow
sound that suited his slightly husky voice. He shook his head and
smiled up at Glorfindel. "Hardly, my lord. No, I am just plain
Erestor, Lord Elrond's seneschal. He thought it would give things a
touch of decorum if I came with them. There is a more traditional
welcome party waiting at the house, of course. All lined up, right
on the front step."
Glorfindel had a flash of uncertainty at the thought of a formal
ceremony when he was still disoriented from his journey across the
sea and brief sojourn in Círdan's house. Erestor must have seen it,
because he smiled again reassuringly, which was when Glorfindel
noticed the dimples. "Oh, it’s not as bad as it sounds. They just
want to make sure you know how glad everyone is to have you here and
how honoured. It's very important to Lady Celebrían, she feels her
mother will expect it. Normally we're very informal down here. I
hope you'll be comfortable with that? Prince though he is, Elrond
was never one to stand on ceremony."
It took him a moment but then he remembered and understood. Elrond's
wife was the only child of his formidable cousin Artanis, now called
Galadriel. She had never been particularly easy to please.
"I think the informality will more than suit me," he promised
Erestor, hoping for another smile. "It's exactly as I was thinking
on the way here, it won't be a difficult place to settle down in,
not difficult at all. It would be easier though," he added, turning
to Elladan with a friendly look, "if people talk to me. I'm not the
first person to kill a Balrog, you know."
"No," Elladan said, words bypassing his brain to trip off his
tongue. "But you're the first person to come back and tell us about
Erestor closed his eyes as though in pain and murmured, "Oh ‘Dan."
Even Arwen was suitably stunned and clapped a hand over her mouth,
but not in time to mask a very unladylike snort. Glorfindel looked
down into Elladan's horrified grey eyes and surprised himself by
"That’s much better than respectful awe," he observed. "Perhaps
while you're still talking to me you could tell me how far we are
from your home? It’s been a long journey. I may have been riding
since I was a boy, but my new body still needs time to get used to
Erestor’s unusual eyes sparkled. "I think we'll have to introduce
you to the hot baths as soon as we practically can. Hero or no,
you're going to ache all over for days."
They were all grinning now, Lord Elrond's children, Círdan’s honour
guard, the Seneschal, who looked far from the part of a household
administrator to Glorfindel. He suspected there might be a good
"You're - just like us, aren't you?" the other twin, Elrohir, said
thoughtfully, looking him up and down. This was the first thing he
had said and Glorfindel gave it the dignity it deserved.
"I think so, yes. Well, almost. Just a bit taller, perhaps. And
blond. And quite old."
"And not really like us at all," Arwen finished off helpfully,
getting ready to mount her horse, "but you'll fit in here anyway,
people usually do. Won't he Erestor?"
Glorfindel’s eyes met Erestor's, an action that was unplanned but
seemed somehow natural. Erestor's gaze lingered on him a little
longer than necessary and when he looked away his lips were curving
into a small, inward-looking smile. ""Oh yes," he said, "you'll fit
in here perfectly. You survived being greeted by these three, after
all. In my experience, things can only get easier after this.”
AN: Birthday fic for
Minuial Nuwing, with thanks to Red for the last minute high-speed