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The aging structure
known simply as ‘the house’ sprawled along the bottom of the cliff
in a variety of styles and textures, colours and shapes. Seen from
above, chimneys jutted at unexpected angles and birds had their
homes in sheltered corners, new nests built upon old, mimicking the
house which was really a series of buildings co-joined to other,
older buildings. The roof was mainly thatched, although there were
tiles in odd places as well, their predominant shade being a dull
Caves honeycombed the cliff above the house, some large enough for
practical use, others no more than shallow indents where an elf
could sit quiet and look out across the rooftops at the valley or
follow the course of the tumbling river. It was to one such hollow
that Erestor made his escape on those days when the past spoke
loudest, a snug crevice just below the point where the cliff
straightened and became almost glass-smooth, disallowing further
The late summer air smelt of rock up here, with overlays of valerian
and sweet summer lilac, plants that needed minimal soil to root. The
birds and the river far below gave background harmony to the bees
that still droned lazily even though the sun sat low; the vista
promised peace and calm. Once he had been a soldier and the heart's
choice of a king, but that was a very long time ago, over a thousand
years. Now Erestor served officially as archivist to the household
that had formed around the family carrying the last strains of the
high lines of Sindar and Noldor on this shore, the descendants of
kings. Mainly the work satisfied him, most days now he was content
with his lot.
The task had begun as a matter of organizing the small store of
books available to a wartime refuge, a means to pass the time while
he waited for comrades recovering from injury in the security of the
hidden valley. Not originally a warrior by inclination, he had
sought but not found justice for his dead in the fighting after
Ost-in-Edhil fell and his parents and sister died. Lightning
reflexes and an unexpectedly lethal skill with a blade had kept him
in the forefront of the fighting for nearly two years. There had
been no chance to mourn before, and he found he liked the solitude
for thought the task offered.
The books provided time to heal, time to make peace. Months passed
and their number grew. Finally Elrond, who blended a love of
learning with a quite formidable sword arm, had sent for him and
asked whether it was his wish to go back to being a soldier. If not,
perhaps he would be prepared to stay and help build up a library of
works about the elves and their doings in Middle-earth, with maybe a
few notes about dwarves and men should such come their way? A
collection to be kept safe in this final great haven that would be
the king's fall-back position should the tide of darkness some day
turn against Lindon.
Soldiering had been born of necessity, not choice.. All his life he
had loved books, devoured stories of faraway places and unknown
people, feeding an endless, wide-ranging curiosity. And he loved
Imladris, loved the tall cliffs and dancing waters, loved the rank
upon rank of trees that marched down the valley, the deer, foxes and
wild goats that shared the refuge with them and showed no discomfort
at the presence of their two-legged neighbours. Absently tidying
back errant black curls that had slid free of their clasp, Erestor
had considered the view out the single window in the lord's study
And so the great Library of Imladris had begun. It had opened up the
best of all worlds for Erestor, giving him a place once more to call
home and a job that fed his love of information. An added bonus was
that it required regular trips to Mithlond to buy or borrow books.
He had never seen the great port city and capital of Lindon before
and, although he loved the ruggedness of the valley settlement, he
found the sea and the soft hills behind the domes and arches of the
city also drew him.
Years passed, and a chance encounter at a court function introduced
him to the most unlikely of companions. Later, animated exchanges
led inexorably to nights of naked passion, a passion kept heady and
intense by the necessity of regular returns to Imladris, a ten day
journey to the east. The grande misalliance, as they laughingly
dubbed it one night of sweat and stars spent outdoors just above the
beach, was their business and no one else's. No one suspected, no
one ever heard the tale, and at the end no one thought to question
his ashen face and dry, haunted eyes after the great, final battle
that saw the last High King’s reign end in fire.
For a time after the turning of the Age he had wandered aimlessly,
alone or with others of the Wandering Companies, but the years had
passed and the Valley of Rainbows and the work he had left began
calling him home. Elrond welcomed him back with no questions; soon
it was as though he had never left.
Now, nearly three millennia since its inception, the library at
Imladris had expanded beyond even Elrond's wildest dreams into the
acknowledged repository of the writings of the firstborn concerning
not just their own business in Middle-earth, but histories of men,
dwarves and any number of other beings that walked the face of Arda.
Representatives within other elven realms or at the courts of the
kings of men were charged with acquiring and sending back to
Imladris any work fitting the criteria laid down by the elves whose
centuries' long task it was to order and expand the facility.
Elves travelled from Lorien, from Círdan’s holdings in the remnant
of Lindon, even from the Greenwood, latterly renamed Mirkwood, to
research, to study, or to write histories and scientific treaties
and tales of adventures in far lands. Meanwhile, around this centre
of information and learning, the life of the valley went along much
as it had from the start.
Erestor had long since stopped doing copy work himself. He still
read many of the new additions before delegating them to be cleaned,
bound, translated, copied or whatever seemed most appropriate, which
meant by this time he had acquired a vast store of quite random
knowledge. Otherwise, he oversaw the housing and care of the books,
controlled the smooth functioning of the establishment, and promoted
interesting selections for the senior members of the household to
read. His occupation had expanded from senior archivist to include
oversight on Elrond’s behalf of many of the projects taking place in
the valley. Other than a frequently indulged love for riding, which
was the closest thing he had to a hobby, his hours allowed little
time for leisure, but that suited him well enough.
Some mornings he would study himself in the mirror while he brushed
his hair, and the face that gazed back at him with its wide brown
eyes and scattering of freckles looked far too young to be anything
as weighty as a senior archivist. In public he tried to give the
role the dignity it deserved, which meant he often seemed reserved
to new acquaintances although those who knew him better could tell
of a playful sense of humour and a fondness for late night
discussions over good dwarf brandy.
He had mourned his love long and deep in private, rousing himself at
last to find the world had changed around him as had his place in
it. If at times he was a little - bored, if at times he missed the
excitement of blood singing in his veins, if at times he was lonely
despite the distractions of work and friends, he told himself to be
both thankful he had good memories to look back on and grateful for
reaching a status far above anything his parents could have hoped
Over the years Elrond had come to rely on his advice and good sense
more and more, eventually giving him a seat on the little Council
that discussed and directed the affairs of the valley. As yet he had
no real title there, he was just one of Elrond's advisors, but it
was to him their half-elven lord was wont to turn when all others
had expressed their views and he wanted to hear the voice of calm
practicality. By now Erestor's well-considered advice was seldom
Perhaps there had been a dream, now forgotten, but Erestor had woken
that morning with a sense of restlessness. The day proved to be one
where memories of the smell of salt on the air, the fresh wind
whipping at his hair, and the feel of a horse's rolling muscles
beneath his thighs were seldom far away. A headlong gallop down
valley in the late afternoon might have helped clear his head but
would have raised questions in such a close-knit community, so he
discarded temptation in favour of sitting in the late sunshine and
watching the world go past below until he had made peace with his
lot in life once more.
He was almost ready to return to his alcove in the corner of the
reading room when he heard the sounds below of someone taking in
stride the ladder carved into the rock where the side of the ravine
rose straight with no natural footholds. Curious, he waited. It was
surely not the right time of day for the dye vats, and the few pelts
being cured required no more than one watcher.
A pair of broad shoulders and a head of yellow-gold hair came into
view further down the wide ledge. A lean but powerful body heaved
itself over and upright in a single fluid movement, and the pack
slung over one shoulder was shaken back into position with a single
easy shrug. The elf stood tall, looking to left and right as though
searching for something, and blue eyes paused a moment on Erestor. A
half smile, a dip of the head followed, both of which Erestor
returned. He was about to ask the new arrival – both to the ledge
and to Imladris - if he could be of assistance, when Glorfindel
formerly of Gondolin apparently spotted what he sought. Setting off
briskly, he made for one of the shallow caves scraped from rock,
well past and above the furrier's shelter and the dyer's outpost.
The last sight Erestor had of him when he finally set off home was
of a tall figure sitting cross-legged and very upright, apparently
watching the trees and water much as Erestor himself had done
earlier. Other than the pack, there was nothing in his actions for
the archivist to question.
Dusk covered the bottom of the narrow gorge far earlier than it did
the high lands; the sky was indigo and the first stars already
bright by the time Erestor arrived home. So deep and so narrow was
the ravine that sometimes the stars could even be glimpsed in the
afternoon on those days when the sky was a particularly deep shade
of blue. This anomaly should have suited an elf well and was greeted
with quiet joy by those ancients of days still remaining in Imladris,
but Erestor was of the second generation born after the Crossing.
With no personal memory of life under starlight, he merely found it
curious, preferring the rainbows etched by sunlight in the mist
above the falls.
He had been casually dressed for his afternoon's excursion and
needed first to change for dinner, which meant he arrived when most
of the household were already seated for the first course. He took
his place at the top table and noted as he offered a soft apology to
his lord for lateness that Elrond's sons were missing, that Arwen
had done something - strange - with her hair, and that the soup was
mushroom, which he loathed. Before he could decline, however, a bowl
was placed before him. Resignedly he took up his spoon and began
Conversation was minimal this evening. Celebrían ate in terse
silence while Arwen pushed food around her plate and sulked, both of
which told their own tale. Mother and daughter had been at odds for
weeks now over Arwen's friendship with a less than suitable young
archer, and he assumed it had all come boiling up again today.
Trying to walk his usual careful line between his women, Elrond was
engaging Caedion about the chances of acquiring a stallion or two
for breeding purposes from Fornost. The main course - river fish on
a bed of spinach and cress - was almost finished when something said
by Dólharno, the head of the small, specialized corps of warriors
who kept Imladris safe, caught his attention.
"… nothing special at all. The balance was a bit off someone said,
and the hilt's the standard one. Said he'd sort it out himself, make
it suit his needs."
"So he's been using practice swords till now?" This from Echon, who
fancied himself as having an eye for potential warrior material. "I
was watching him work out a few days back, never seen anything
"Oh yes, he's fast all right. Polite as you like, too, but - not
keen to learn modern ways of fighting. It's all twist and curve with
that sword, and his footwork worries me. Not solid enough."
"Are you talking about Lord Glorfindel?" Elrond asked, interrupting
his monologue on the quest for a larger work horse. "Is there a
problem? I thought I instructed he be completely outfitted with
whatever weapons he found necessary?"
He put his knife down as he spoke and turned his full attention to
Dólharno, who shuffled in his chair. He always seemed ill at ease
with Elrond. "My lord, yes, and I asked him what he wanted,
explained we don't go much for armour at the moment, but a good
sword … and he went to the store and picked up a few, hefted them,
and settled on something not very remarkable as I was just telling
"But you were meant to have one forged to his specifications,"
Elrond said sharply. A thousand years after having laid aside arms
to concentrate on healing, the warrior within had still not been
completely quelled, and he was also notorious for not suffering
fools gladly. Around them the muted hum of voices dropped
perceptibly for a moment.
"With respect, my lord, I offered to do so and he told me there was
no need, any sword with the right weight and reach would serve him."
"Well, it's true that except for so-called great heroes, most of us
manage well enough with any old sword so long as the balance suits
our height and strength," Caedion growled, chasing the last of his
fish around the plate determinedly. "Sounds sensible." He was a
veteran of several wars, and spoke with the authority of experience.
"But… but he isa
great hero," Arwen interjected, swallowing frantically to be able to
make her point. "He saved Grandfather and all those people…"
"My thought, he was just in the right place at the right time,"
Dólharno said. "Gondolin should never have been left open to attack
like that, and if her warriors were as good as we’re told, they’d
have pushed Morgoth’s forces back over the mountains. When we were
under siege here during the first war, we managed to hold the Ford,
Erestor considered the muscle twitching in Elrond's jaw. He wondered
if it were possible Dólharno was unaware of how their lord felt
about having the reborn hero of lost Gondolin in their midst at the
will of no less than the Valar themselves. Before he could
diplomatically change the subject, Caedion said, obviously with
similar intent, "Where is he tonight anyway? Skipped dinner? Not
like him. Good appetite, seems to like our food."
Erestor had seen this topic pursued before and decided to cut off
speculation about what they really ate in Gondolin before it could
begin. "I think he went for some air, I saw him taking a walk." What
Glorfindel was doing up above the house was his own business,
Erestor saw no need to mention the destination.
"He does that a lot," Celebrían offered softly, speaking for the
first time. "He told me he wanted to get the feel of the valley,
meet the trees and the water. My father does that." She had
mentioned before that Glorfindel reminded her of her father, that
ancient prince of Doriath who had fought battles under starlight
before the rising of the sun. She made no reference to her mother,
distant kin and of similar age to the lord from Gondolin, but then
Galadriel was unique.
Caedion grunted and nodded while Echon, less diplomatic than some,
said, "My father was like that, too. It's the old ways, getting to
know the land first instead of letting it grow around you until you
fit in with it as we do."
"We should do a Gondolin night," Arwen exclaimed. "Have the kinds of
food they ate and the music and… would anyone know what they wore?
Is there a book, Erestor?"
"There are books on customs in Gondolin, of course. But an
inadequate attempt at recreating Lord Glorfindel’s home might be the
last thing he needs right now." Erestor said this firmly. He was
well-acquainted with Arwen's determination, which he usually,
although not always, admired.
"He'll seem less strange in time," Elrond said in a slightly worried
voice, speaking to no one in particular. "He's still living very
much in the early part of the first age, perhaps even before then.
He was born under the light of the Trees, of course… like your
mother, dear, yes," he added hastily to Celebrían. "He has been gone
a long time, and it will take a while for him to adjust to our
modern ways. In the meantime, I would take it as a personal favour,"
with a hard look at Dólharno, "if everyone tried to make him feel
comfortable rather than treating him like an exotic new species."
Erestor, who was feeling a good deal of sympathy for the soft-spoken
newcomer, nodded and turned his attention to the dessert that had
appeared before him almost as soon as his plate was removed. Baked
After dinner he spent a while tidying away his correspondence and
bringing order to his desk, a task forbidden his assistants. He had
come a long way to actually have assistants, he thought, surprised
at his own surprise after so many centuries. When he was done he
walked through the general section of the library, the shelves and
pigeonholes allocated to books freely available for anyone's
perusal, mainly novels and lighter reading. The specialist works,
geography, botany, history, science, were kept in separate archives,
as were language studies and original copies of rare works.
Everything was in good order. A party of young elves sat reading
together, possibly engaged upon a joint project, and the thin,
silent scholar from the Greenwood kept his usual corner, a book
propped open while he took notes. Erestor nodded to him and received
an uncertain bob of the head in return.
He went to sit in the Hall of Fire for a while, helping himself to a
cup of wine from the table by the door. Near the hearth, a group was
working on a chorus of some kind, Lindir was playing a desultory
piece on the big harp, looking vaguely bored, and someone unseen was
singing an ode to Nimloth that Erestor knew ran to twenty-four
excruciating stanzas. He sought out one of the darker corners, drank
his wine in solitude, and left, depositing his cup on the tray for
Once outside he wandered down to a paved area, forbidden to
children, which overlooked the racing river. Spray leapt high as the
water thundered past, heading for the waterfall just ahead, and the
air was cold. Erestor stood watching with sightless eyes, trying to
place what it was that bothered him, the feeling of there being
something he should do before seeking his bed.
It was only when he turned to face the house and the cliff rising
behind it that he remembered Glorfindel and wondered if he had
finally come back down for dinner. It was true, the rehoused warrior
never missed a meal. Erestor started to wonder what had taken him up
to the heights so late in the day and also what had been in the bag.
A final detail slid into place, something seen but not previously
registered. He had been wearing a sword.
Erestor remembered Elrond explaining the general ways of the valley
to the newly-arrived lord, including the fact that no one went armed
within the confines of Imladris, and recalled the warrior agreeing
in his soft, accented voice that yes, he could see there would be no
call for weapons in a protected settlement such as this was. And
yet, he had been armed.
The sense that had come to him during dinner of how isolated the
returned hero must feel in this strange place and new time was
joined by curiosity and a trace of concern. He stared past the
lantern-lit house and up at the cliff face. There was a light
burning in the furrier’s cave where someone was always on watch in
case a stray draft fed the smouldering coals. Otherwise, all was
darkness. He paused, every instinct save one telling him this was
nothing to do with him. The exception was the little voice in his
head, sounding uncannily like his long dead lover, which sometimes
surfaced to tell him when to take a chance, when to do the
unexpected. As ever, he heeded it.
He began walking slowly along the paving, then took the path that
led up past the house to the vegetable gardens and the stables. A
twig caught at his surcoat and as he lifted the cloth free, he
wondered if he should change. He was dressed with some formality in
a deep charcoal surcoat, calf length, trimmed and laced with gold
and worn over a dress robe of pale grey with darker embossed leaves,
the wide sleeves banded in black and gold. Good for dinner -
Celebrían liked them to dress for meals in the dining hall - but
scarcely suitable for climbing. He shrugged. Some things should be
done while the impetus still remained. A return to his rooms, time
to think, and he would likely leave Glorfindel to his own devices.
Probably a good idea, common sense suggested, but now he had come
this far he was loathe to turn back.
The passage up the rocks was awkward enough to tempt him to tuck his
skirts up around his waist. He had a faint memory of his mother
carrying food and wine to his father, moving with easy grace up the
steep, rocky slope behind their home, unencumbered by her trailing
skirts. Women were probably trained to it by their mothers, he
decided. He had several women friends, but had never been close
enough to one in a way that would offer this kind of inside
The ladder proved tricky, but Erestor was nothing if not stubborn
and he managed, stopping half way to regain his balance and wonder
what he was doing. The rock against his cheek was still warm from
the sun, and the loudest sound was the river far below – the river
and … something else, a sound from above, faint, eerie, blending
with the night.
He reached the top of the ladder and almost tumbled onto the ledge,
where he sat for a time while he got his bearings. The sound was
closer now, clearer. A voice, half singing, half chanting. Erestor
had no doubt who he was hearing, his only question was whether it
would be wise to intrude. The words were indistinct, the rhythm
suggested Quenya. He had an unimpressive grasp of the formal version
of the language, which he had been told bore small resemblance to
that spoken in Aman. He had found little call for it as even the
oldest manuscripts, save for a mere handful, were in Sindarin. Elu
Thingol had done his work well with his edict against the tongue of
Before finding his feet, he looked down at the dark, sprawling mass
of the house. Because it was built against the cliff, there were no
back windows to shine light, and those few underneath the eaves were
mainly unlit. The river was motion under the stars, a different kind
of darkness. The song, if song it was, continued faintly, and the
night wind made soft shushing sounds around it, no louder than the
river far below. Erestor shook his head, swinging back long black
hair. He had no business here.
He was turning over the idea of going along to look in on the
furrier's cave, which would make a tale and a half later for the elf
on watch, when his foot dislodged a few loose pebbles. They fell
almost soundless over the edge, but the voice stopped at once. He
stood quite still, waiting for it to resume, but then off to the
left he felt – something. Moments later a quiet voice said, "Good
evening, Erestor. May I help you?"
Glorfindel was a tall shape, black against a dark sky. Erestor could
make out few details, but the Elda stood easy and - waiting -
further down the ledge. There was nothing threatening in his aspect,
but Erestor was chillingly reminded of how very ‘different’ everyone
said he was, and that what had set him apart in his first life was
the ability to fight and kill a balrog. He shook his head again,
this time in annoyance at himself. "Good evening, my lord," he
managed in what he hoped was a casual tone. Here he stopped, unable
to think of an explanation for his formally-clad presence at this
"You missed me at dinner and wondered where I was?" Glorfindel
suggested, and Erestor twitched, recalling the rumour that Galadriel
could read minds. Perhaps it was common to those born across the
He stopped this line of thought, out of patience with himself. "That
is true my lord, at least in part," he acknowledged. "I wondered if
you would like me to arrange for the kitchen to keep you a plate of
food or if anything was amiss, but when I got up here I thought it
best not to intrude. I was about to leave..."
The voice sounded, unexpectedly, as though it danced on the edge of
laughter. "My needs are few, Erestor. And yes, it is an intrusion,
but no harm done. As for food, I brought bread and fruit. I expect
to be here until closer to breakfast." Not waiting for Erestor to
frame a response, he went on, "Would you like to join me for a
while, make your climb worth the while? It's just along here…"
As he spoke he made a wide, beckoning gesture with hand and arm as
though embracing air, then walked back along the ledge, every
movement fluid with grace. Erestor paused for the space of a
heartbeat, then followed.
The cave was not much larger than the one where Erestor had watched
the river earlier, a shallow scooping out of the rock face where the
ledge tapered and would soon fade back into the cliffside.
Glorfindel had already gone in and was seated at ease, his back
against rock. A small lamp burned very low at the back, shedding
just enough light to pick out a few items, including the sack
Erestor had seen earlier. There was something that at second glance
turned out to be a small grindstone, plus a flask - oil, perhaps -
and, atop the pack, an apple. He took a step forward then stopped,
hardly needing Glorfindel's swift inhalation to ward him. A glint
had already caught his eye as light touched the cold metal of the
sword lying on a rumpled cloth on the floor.
He sat opposite Glorfindel with his legs curled under him and to the
side, eyes moving from weapon to warrior. Glorfindel looked as
though he had been carved out of the rock, like those giant statues
currently being raised on either side of the Anduin on the borders
of Gondor, or like one of the artworks that graced the meditation
areas within the house. His hair, now unbound, hung loosely over
shoulders and chest, he had taken off his jerkin and rolled up his
shirt sleeves. He had removed his boots as well, Erestor realised,
his eye lighting on a well-shaped, bared foot.
Glorfindel sat through this scrutiny with legs crossed, hands
resting lightly on thighs, He seemed to be thinking. Finally, as
though he had almost forgotten about Erestor, wide blue eyes, dark
in the night, found and fastened on his face.
"They let me have this sword," he explained. "I brought it up here
to sharpen and name."
"Name?" Erestor felt as though he had missed an important point
here. "And - they would sharpen it for you in the armoury, surely?"
His father had always insisted he see to it personally that his
knives and sword were sharp, but they were not part of an
established military force back then. It had all been far different
to the way things were done in a place like Imladris.
Glorfindel was smiling at him. "Yes, of course they could," he
agreed in that light though potent voice with its lilting accent.
"But not under starlight, and not as I would sharpen it. Not in a
way the sword would remember and hold to. And they could not name it
for me, nor draw the runes."
Erestor opened his mouth, then closed it again. All his life he had
loved discovering how things worked, what people did in ways
different to those he knew, and he had found very young that you
often learned most by keeping quiet and encouraging others to talk.
He looked down at the sword, curious, and noticed for the first time
that a stylus of some kind lay beside it on the cloth, a length of
metal with a rounded, wooden base. A graver, he realised.
"We seldom do such things now, my lord. Just choose the sword for
weight and length and practice till it fits the hand well. I have
read though how in the past there was often more to it than this.
There were some famous swords…"
Glorfindel nodded to himself, approving his honesty perhaps, and
then his hand went to the sword's hilt, hefting it and placing it
over his crossed legs, resting on his knees. He shifted his position
a little as though seeking light, although there was no moon yet and
the only illumination came from the stars and the glow of the tiny
lamp. "There is more to a sword than a sharp edge and a good
balance. It must also have virtue. You can remain if you wish, if
you are curious. All I ask is silence while I work and that you
leave quietly if the night grows too late."
His hand went out, seeking a rag that lay beside the stylus. He
touched it, examined his fingers and then, apparently satisfied,
wiped it over the metal. Oil. Finished, he reached next for the
"Would you like me to bring the lamp closer?" Erestor asked, half
Glorfindel shook his head. "There is no need, I can see well enough.
I left the lamp to burn for company. I used it to warm the oil for
sharpening, it works better than cold for metalwork. For most
things, in fact." The smile turned inward at some private joke.
Erestor sat back down. An owl called somewhere close at hand, and he
saw a blur of movement as winged death fell from the sky and far
below a life ended. He jerked minutely at the sound, aware of his
isolation and of how very quiet the night was this far above the
activity of the house and the rush of the river.
Ash-pale in the night, the golden head bent over the blade. Stylus
touched metal and moments later the song began. Glorfindel's voice
stayed low and bell-clear, and the air itself seemed to vibrate with
the timbre of it. His hand moved steadily, independent of the song,
and his face grew intent, closed to everything but the design he
drew in the metal. Erestor could see the muscle of his forearm flex
and strain at the pressure he was using. His other hand rested flat
and firm above his knee, holding the blade immobile. The air around
him began to glow softly as though he drew down the light from the
stars and wrapped it about him like a cloak. The tip of the stylus
shimmered too, a diamond twinkling in starlight.
The song wound through the air and inside Erestor's head. He had no
idea how long it lasted, all he knew was that when it ended his head
rang as though in the aftermath of a great bell tolling. He let out
a breath he had been unaware of holding and felt almost dizzy. When
had he stopped breathing, he wondered? He looked over belatedly at
the Elda, who was studying his handiwork with careful attention, his
head tilted slightly as though he listened as well as looked. The
star glow seemed to have faded except for faintly about his eyes, as
Erestor saw when he was eventually favoured with a glance.
"Look," Glorfindel said, slanting the sword towards him.
Erestor could make out what seemed to be random whorls and lines
scratched into the surface of the metal. "It's too dark…" he began.
Glorfindel considered him with slightly raised eyebrows, seemingly
amused. "Your generation lacks the eyes for starlight," he said, not
accusingly, simply stating a fact. "You grew up with sunlight in the
day and bright lamps everywhere at night. Come, sit here. Look
Without rising Erestor moved across to sit beside him, close enough
to feel the faint warmth that emanated from him. Glorfindel pointed
carefully, and now that he was closer Erestor could see the detail
of the fine, careful lines and curves. He squinted at them. They
looked familiar but not completely. He looked up at the elf beside
him, who was watching with a waiting kind of air. "I can see them
now," he said, keeping his voice soft out of respect for what had
gone before and would no doubt follow when he had been educated.
"Are these runes? They look as though I should be able to read them,
The golden head shook, and strands of very soft hair brushed
Erestor's face with a touch like gossamer. "You would not recognise
them, no," Glorfindel told him. "These are the old marks, from long
before Rúmil made the Sarati. He was a kinsman of mine, did you
know? When I was young I wanted to be a scholar and studied with him
for a time. No, our fathers brought these to Aman when they crossed
the first time from this shore. Not writing as such but signs of
power, potent with meaning and not to be used lightly. Even Fëanor
never thought to try and alter them, although he was all for new
innovations without end…"
The runes extended about two thirds of the way along the blade.
Erestor studied them, fascinated. He felt like a child again, being
told the tale of the Music for the first time. "What do they… Can I
ask what they mean?" he amended himself, uncertain as to the degree
of the mystery being shared with him.
Glorfindel indicated with a dip of his head, and Erestor obediently
drew closer still, so close that their shoulders touched. This,"
Glorfindel said, pointing beside the first mark with the tip of the
stylus, "is for the strength of the auroch. These two here signify
will and truth. Placed together thus, they stand for justice. And
this rune is for the swift summer lightning that strikes without
warning from a clear sky." He smiled then unexpectedly, and the
warmth of it seemed to wrap them both around. "A small fancy of
mine, that last," Glorfindel admitted. "But the sword will know what
Erestor nodded slowly, quietly awed. "And you can see clearly enough
by starlight to carve something this intricate?" he asked
wonderingly. "Have we really lost so much? I have to strain my eyes
to see the detail."
Glorfindel shrugged. "Our fathers needed to," he said simply. "And
the light of the Trees was something beyond beauty, but… nowhere
near as bright as you might have been led to believe. Your needs are
different, and so your sight is tuned to sun and moon. As it should
be now. Everything should fit its time and purpose, not so?"
Erestor thought this discussion about the runes was the most he had
ever heard Glorfindel say on any one subject. But then, he was the
hero returned and was treated with the slightly uncomfortable
deference his legend inspired. It did not make for casual converse.
He looked again at the blade. "Space for … two more?" he hazarded.
"And of course there is still the other side." Glorfindel was
laughing at him, but with the kindness all who met him noted, even
those who reckoned him singular and withdrawn. Self-contained might
better describe him, Erestor thought. Not yet at ease in his new
land and role, but always courteous, always pleasant, while knowing
how he liked to do things and clearly unconvinced everything from
the elder days should be discarded in favour of current practices.
What had he just said about Fëanor and new innovations? Not what he
had said, more the way he had said it. There had always been change,
some less desirable than others. Erestor did not need centuries of
reading to know that.
"What goes on the other side then?" he asked, moving back a little
to give the Elda space to work. "More of the character you want the
sword to own?"
Glorfindel looked surprised. "Her character was not for me to
choose," he said firmly. "These are part of the promise she offers.
There will be more, and I will write them here and on the other
side. And her name. And then I think the night will be done."
"Ah yes, most definitely. My previous sword was male. I suppose he
was left where we fell." For a moment Glorfindel looked pensive, but
quickly threw it off. "This is a new sword for a new day, and one of
the reasons I chose her was for the sense of the feminine strengths
within her. A sword to protect and defend, not made for adventure
and sudden attack. Does that seem right to you?"
The half moon must have been edging up over the cliff, because the
night was definitely lighter. Either that or Erestor's eyes had
finally adapted as they should. There seemed more colour to
Glorfindel, hints of gold in his hair, blue in the eyes that waited
expectantly, an eyebrow raised slightly in query. "That seems
right," Erestor agreed, speaking slowly, giving it thought first.
"We do not go out seeking enemies now. We just try to protect what
we salvaged from the fire."
For a moment that fire returned in memory, a mountainside, a battle,
a monstrous shape, searing light. And then it was gone, but it must
have left the marks of its passage on his face, because a strong
hand rested briefly on his shoulder before returning to the sword
"I am not arrogant enough to believe I am the only one with losses
to mourn. Perhaps when we know one another better, you will tell me
the tale of yours?"
Without waiting for a reply, Glorfindel turned his attention once
more to the sword, seeming to measure in his mind's eye the best way
to fit what he needed in the remaining space. Then, after a glance
up at the sky and a few silently-mouthed words that could have been
a prayer, stylus touched metal again and the calm voice resumed,
singing songs of power. Erestor sat quiet, at one with the voice and
the night and the gift of starlight, while time flowed past him and
through him, meaningless until the night's work was finally done.
When he finished it was almost dawn and sunlight caressed the
upper peaks of the Misty Mountains. Glorfindel, tired but satisfied,
held his sword up to catch the early morning light. “Tirissë,“ he
said with pride. "Safeguard of the weak, defender of the just
“The guardian," Erestor murmured. He had heard the name earlier, in
the dark hour before the first strands of light, and it had
resonated within the web of sound and sparkling imagery the song had
woven before his waking eyes. "The spirit of the sword."
Glorfindel looked at him, surprised perhaps. "You understand that?"
He sounded delighted, a teacher with an apt pupil. "Yes, hiding
within the metal. The songs, the runes, were just to draw her out.
Now she knows her name and her place." He glanced out and down in
the direction of the house far below them, and a smile lit his eyes,
much as the sun was starting to light the sky. “And after tonight,
so perhaps do I.”
there it is, my baby. It’s lived in my heart for a long
while, but it was time now to stop tweaking and send it
out into the big, cold world. Dedicated with love to
Miniual Nuwing and Red Lasbelin - just because.
Beta: Red Lasbelin