Life After - Part One

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'Life After'

 

LIFE AFTER


"Glorfindel was tall and straight; his hair was of shining gold, his face fair and young and fearless and full of joy; his eyes were bright and keen, and his voice like music; on his brow sat wisdom, and in his hand was strength."


AWARENESS

The rising sun was painting a line of pale light across the ceiling. Glorfindel watched through half open eyes and listened to the wind. He had been a guest in Elrond’s valley for almost a month now and was trying to learn the weather. There was only a soft breeze this morning, freshening from the south, the warm wind that came before the soft, short-lived rain. The growing rain was how he thought of it. He smiled at the imagery of flowers and crops raising their faces to the raindrops, a fancy of a kind that would have been foreign to his former, more prosaic self.

Gildor lay just touching him, and the first new-familiar slide of other flesh against his own upon waking was still a little unsettling. He had shared a bed with Gildor before, of course, many times after they arrived on this strange, bright shore where Morgoth had fled with Fëanor close behind, but that had been an eon ago, back when his body was still the one his mother had given birth to.

It was as well Gildor was not the cuddly type, at least there had been no waking up entangled in other limbs. Touch was still an uncertain thing for him, though in the past five days he had begun relearning its pleasures.

"Hey. Dreamer. You awake?" Gildor elbowed him good-humouredly in the ribs, yawning. The movement disturbed a sleeping cat, who clambered disgustedly over Glorfindel and left the bed. "Time for some early morning exercise – though not so early, I see the sun’s already up. And speaking for myself, she’s not the only one… "

His hand travelled Glorfindel's thigh and up to his groin as he spoke. What he found there, or failed to find, made him grunt. "Anyone home?" His hand quested, encircled, and Glorfindel found himself responding as nature had intended, hardening, his stomach muscles contracting in response to the first twists of pleasure. He sighed, turned slightly towards Gildor, unconsciously inviting.

"I'm sorry, everything’s still a little slow. My body’s adjusting, I suppose. Some things feel more familiar than others. Like this --- haven’t quite forgotten this...."

Gildor leaned up and over him, tousled red hair falling careless over both their chests. Glorfindel had been amused to find he still hennaed it - the colour was an old joke dating back to Aman, clearly one that had become a part of the legend of Finwe's renegade grandson. "I should hope not," the prince said, smoky blue eyes amused. "Come on, practice makes perfect. And after breakfast – perhaps it’s time you got reacquainted with those other sword skills you were such a master of before."


~*~*~*~
 

The barracks housed offices, the armoury, and living space for unwed warriors, and was a long, two floored building set against the cliff. To reach it they had to follow the path through the wood and then traverse the stone flagged river walkway. The last stage, once past the sprawling structure they all referred to simply as the House, was up steps cut ladder-like directly into the face of the cliff. They passed a number of elves on their walk, all of whom seemed busy, none of whom stared for too long. Gildor greeted a couple and ignored the rest while Glorfindel smiled and nodded in response to the quick greetings, ever intrigued by the new, more clipped form of Sindarin.

He looked around as he walked, noticing everything that grew along the way, seeing what bloomed, what faded. He liked the river path for the same reasons he liked the House; it felt timeless, showed signs of repair in places, and had clearly been laid down a very long while ago. Everything in Vinyamar had been temporary, nothing in Gondolin was more than five hundred sun years, whereas Imladris felt old and settled, more like the land he had recently left behind.

Once up the steps they could see an open air practice area beside the barracks, where a handful of warriors were busy with a form of stick fighting Glorfindel had not encountered before. He paused, fascinated, trying to memorise a couple of lines and stances. It would make an interesting sketch if he could just remember the details later…

"Through here," Gildor’s voice intruded, a hand briefly on his arm. "Need to find you a decent sword. They have training rooms inside, too. Suits me more than out there with a ready-made audience, though being watched never seemed to bother you much."

'Inside' took them through a simple foyer and down a passageway to a series of interconnected rooms lit by narrow windows set up close to the ceiling. From the combined scents of leather, metal, sweat, and oil, Glorfindel easily identified this as the armoury. Gildor led him briskly past ranked bows and quivers of arrows, past spears and staves and an entire room devoted to shields, to a short hallway where rows of swords were on display.

"That side, personally owned swords," he said, indicating the majority. "These over here by the door are practice swords and general stock. Borrow one till we have time to get one made for you. Need an appointment with the armourer too..."

Quietly Glorfindel interrupted him. "I don't think I need armour, Gildor. I don't really see myself bearing arms again any time soon, except for dire emergencies. I was sent back as an advisor, not a warrior."

Gildor made an impatient sound. "You say now, while everything still feels strange. You'll soon be more like yourself and the best way to get there is by spending time on the things you excelled at. Of course you’re feeling out of touch. Shutting yourself up in that cottage and playing with paint isn’t helping. You haven’t done that since you were a boy. "

"Can I help you, Gildor?" The new voice was slightly husky and mellow as honey, the tone deliberately polite. An elf clad in the muted green and brown Glorfindel recognised as the garb of the on duty warrior had come up quietly while they were – while Gildor was talking. Glorfindel felt the corner of his mouth twitching; Gildor had a long established habit of irritating the people he had chosen not to charm.

A small frown wrinkled the bridge of Gildor’s nose. "Morning, Erestor. No, we're fine, thank you. I was trying to find a halfway decent sword for Lord Glorfindel to work out with." He gave the available blades a glance eloquent in its disdain.

Glorfindel had been introduced to Erestor, Elrond's strategist and head of the Imladris military, but they had exchanged no more than a few polite words till now. On his arrival the vast, crowded house had seemed shatteringly loud and busy, and Elrond had hastened to offer him the cottage until he found his feet. Although he often took meals at the high table with Elrond and his family, he had been seated too far from the captain for conversation.

Erestor for his part had not sought him out, no doubt advised by Elrond to wait until the new arrival showed an interest in his former profession. Glorfindel was grateful, and it was reflected in the warm smile he offered now. "Gildor thinks sword practice would be good for me. I've not had a chance to choose a weapon yet, but I'm sure there will be something that suits."

Unusual golden-brown eyes considered him, then the captain turned to the swords, black hair sliding over his shoulder in a swathe of heavy silk. He ran a long-fingered, knowledgeable hand over hilts as though searching for something, finally coming to rest on one in the third row and about half way down. He withdrew it with a hiss of steel against scabbard. "Try this," he suggested, turning his grip to present the pommel.

The sword settled into Glorfindel’s hand comfortably, the weight evenly balanced and the length similar to his old blade. He nodded and smiled, impressed. "Yes, this fits."

Gildor took it from him before he could examine it further, holding it up to check the blade. "Where was this made? The metal’s uneven here, right below the hilt."

Erestor shrugged slightly. "My calling is the knife, not the long sword, but that seems to be a polishing flaw, scarcely vital," he said blandly, "certainly not during a practice bout. And it was made here, of course, as are all our weapons. Will it serve, my lord?"

His eyes were on Glorfindel and there was something in their depths, concern perhaps, something less invasive than curiosity in any event, that made Glorfindel wonder how much of their conversation the captain had overheard before he greeted them. He nodded, hefting the sword, then sliding it into the scabbard and hooking that to his belt. "It's fine, Captain, thank you. I'll return it in good order."

Erestor smiled and his unusual features -- brown eyes, well-defined lips, the small beauty mark near his mouth - resolved for Glorfindel's artist's eye into true beauty. "I'm sure you will, my lord. Anything else you might need, please don't hesitate to ask. Anyone here can usually tell you where to find me."

Impatient as ever, Gildor left him no time to say more than thank you before hurrying him out in search of a quiet training room, leaving the captain to tidy away the swords that had been taken out, tried and discarded as unsuitable. Glorfindel would have stayed to help, but the fuss would have spoilt the morning calm so he let it be, hoping that Erestor, who had seemed empathetic, would understand.


~*~*~*~
 

That night they went to the house for dinner and then at Gildor's insistence were sociable and joined a large part of the household in the Hall of Fire for a cup of wine, or in Gildor's case for a small glass of something light brown and potent-scented which he introduced as dwarf brandy. Glorfindel took a careful sip, breathed deeply, and settled for wine.

They had seats near the hearth with Elrond Half-elven, and when talk turned to the situation in the south, something about which Glorfindel knew nothing, he stopped listening and took the chance covertly to study his host. In demeanour Elrond was grave but warm, and Glorfindel thought he saw a slight resemblance to Tuor in how he stood or sat. When he talked though, he used his hands in a way that was curiously reminiscent of Macalaurë. His web-fine hair and silver-grey eyes were indisputably Sindarin, no doubt the gift of Lúthien’s line. Glorfindel had never seen Lúthien, of course, though Artanis – he would have to remember to call her Galadriel – had described her once in caustic detail. There had been no love lost there.

"Why so quiet?" Gildor chided him teasingly. "You were never this retiring in the old days. I was telling Elrond about our sparring match this morning. You're not lost your speed, in fact, if anything you're faster. Now that you've had time to think, how did it feel? Up for more of the same tomorrow?" To Elrond he added, "I won, but it was due more to luck than skill."

Glorfindel considered the question. "It's good exercise, I suppose," he conceded. "I'll see tomorrow, we might try it again, yes."

"Excellent.” Smiling, Elrond began looking around. "Perhaps we can find a few more partners for you besides Gildor. Where’s Erestor...?"

The captain was sitting alone just beyond Elrond’s line of sight, drink in hand, his attention on the trio of musicians currently entertaining them. He had changed into a blue robe and his hair still hung loose, a fall of midnight black. When they came in, he had raised his cup in greeting and full lips had curved into a welcoming smile, but he kept his seat and did not come over to the fire as Glorfindel had half hoped.

"Right now I see it more as a means to get the stiffness out of my bones than anything else," he explained before Elrond could interrupt his captain’s evening. When he first said he had no current interest in resuming his role as a warrior, the grey eyes had looked sad and Elrond had sounded disappointed, so he kept his tone gentle. "I --- Originally it was very much a case of fight or die, or keep preparing yourself to do so, but now... My Lord, right now I would rather focus on the quieter interests I had no time for previously."

Interests like reading and painting that would have been frowned upon in the head of one of Gondolin’s great houses, he thought, but was careful not to say out loud.

Gildor was staring at him and now placed a hand on his arm as though to draw him out of a distraction. "Findel, I'm sure we all understand your wanting a little time to rest and find yourself, but you can hardly be serious about not getting back into training. Dark things are moving out there, I see signs of it every day while I'm on the road. We need to be prepared, all of us. Anyhow, saying you’d be content not to wield a sword is like saying Galadriel would be content with life as a – a seamstress."

Gildor’s tone matched the flash of impatience that came and went in his smoke-blue eyes. Glorfindel felt an urge to raise his voice, make the point again that he was not ready for this right now, possibly never, but he knew Gildor meant no harm. In fact he was doing what Glorfindel himself would have under like circumstances, which was to try and chivvy him into picking up his life and getting on with it. And being Gildor, worldly-wise and vastly experienced, he was probably right.


AUTUMN


He would not give up the cottage; about that he was adamant and Gildor was unable to budge him. After the quiet of Mandos, the peace of Aman, he was not yet ready for the bustle of Elrond’s house. It was only a short walk away he pointed out, close enough that the kitchen could even send meals over should he wish them, or so the head cook had said when he stopped by for supplies a few days ago. The library was available as was the Hall of Fire, the training grounds, and any company he could possibly lack.

Gildor had surveyed the parlour which currently served as studio and reading room, with its piles of books, pots of paint and unfinished canvasses, raised an eyebrow and then shrugged. Glorfindel, who barely recognised himself at times, understood only too well that whatever Gildor had expected to find when he arrived in Imladris, it could hardly have been a reclusive scholar and artist living in a cottage in the woods.

He also knew his living space looked eccentric, but he had been a great lord with household staff in Gondolin and was still getting used to sorting out his own mess. In time he assured both Gildor and himself, he would find a routine.

This aside, there were few disagreements. Gildor talked and Glorfindel listened and began to build a picture of the shape of Elven history since his death above Gondolin. In the past they had been a casual but good couple, riding, fighting, drinking together, always with a crowd of friends. When Glorfindel had followed Turgon while Gildor remained with Fingon, there had been no intent on either side for the parting to be permanent, but then no one had understood how utterly Turgon planned to seal his city off from the world. Despite the separation, when they met again in the final stages of the Tears, it was as though they had never been apart.

Now, after their second parting, things were very different and the fault, Glorfindel knew, was all his. Gildor hadn’t changed. A little less willing to tolerate fools and with a greater need to be up, about, moving, but these were characteristics that had always been part of him. He was not the one who shunned crowds and had given up his sword in favour of paint and charcoal.

Despite all this, Gildor settled in with no great show of impatience or of any eagerness to return to his nomadic lifestyle. It was a testament in its way to their history, because it was a long time since he had stayed in one place for more than a few weeks at a time, save for winter when he and his company of wanderers sought secure shelter. He said merely that he would winter early, stay close, support Glorfindel while he adjusted to his new time and place, and would see what spring brought.
 

~*~*~*~

He had been there almost a third of a month now as the stars measured such matters, and already Glorfindel was having fewer dreams filled with smoke and heat, from which he would wake gasping for breath. When he did, the familiarity of Gildor sleeping peacefully beside him, his red hair spread across the pillow, brought its own kind of peace.

They went up to the barracks almost daily for their morning practice. Gildor was already put off balance by all the changes, and Glorfindel thought it only fair to continue this one interest they could share, especially as Gildor claimed to need the exercise during this time of comparative inaction. Glorfindel had swiftly grown faster, his accuracy deadly. Sometimes his new body surprised him, sometimes it made him almost uneasy in its speed and poise. He knew he looked the same as before, but there were subtle differences which he was finding slowly, one by one. That he bore no scars was the least of it.

This particular morning, Gildor had stopped to speak with an acquaintance and Glorfindel had gone ahead to retrieve his sword. A sound behind him made him turn, but it was just to find Erestor standing in the doorway carrying a sheathed sword. They had reached the stage of greeting one another in passing and once or twice Erestor had joined the group around Elrond when he and Gildor had been there, displaying a quick, dry wit and an infectious laugh. Now, Glorfindel smiled a greeting. “Good morning, Captain. Planning a workout yourself this morning, perhaps?”

Erestor shook his head, extending the sword. “Not quite, no. I have a mountain of paperwork to go through today, there’s a council meeting this afternoon and I need to make the case for a larger budget – again. No, this is for you. The other was a training sword, this is more suited to a prof – to a master.”

Professional rather than master was the word he had first chosen, and Glorfindel hid a smile at the quick recovery, appreciating the implied diplomacy. He took the sword and drew it, and it came out of the scabbard with a whisper of sound. The blade gleamed in the morning sunlight, moving obedient to the slightest shift of muscle and tendon. The hilt was silver, leather wrapped, with a dragon chased upon it, and there were decorative whorls along the blade, though he saw the runes of protection and speed in their rightful places. He stepped back, tried a few passes.

“This is a beautiful weapon, Captain. Not new but well cared for and moves as though it knows me. May I ask its history?”

The smile made Erestor look quite young despite the memory of long years in those dark eyes. “It belonged to my brother. He passed to Mandos at the end of the Age and I’ve kept his sword since. Not sure why, it’s not my weight and he was tall like you. It’s a waste to have a good blade gather dust in a corner. I thought it would please him to offer it to you, so I had it sharpened. You may keep the practice sword instead, of course. Whichever suits you best.”

Glorfindel took time now to examine the weapon more carefully. Old, not flashy and ornate but the trusted tool of a warrior. He nodded slowly. “It – may never be used outside of a practice hall, Captain…”

“Erestor,” the captain corrected him. “If you would. And no, my lord, I realise you have no intention of joining the next patrol crossing the Ford, but it’ll be in use, and that’s better than being put aside as a memory – a memory from long enough ago it took me days to remember I had it to offer.”

“I’ll call you Erestor if you’ll call me Glorfindel,” he responded smiling, still testing the sword, cutting the air, pivoting and thrusting. “I am simply Glorfindel, sent back to Endor to be lord now of nothing larger than a cottage. And thank you, I am honoured by your gift.” Not just by the sword, though it was a fine one, but by the compliment implicit in its offering.

For some reason he did not care to examine too closely, he did not share his new weapon’s history with Gildor. The moment never seemed right.`

~*~*~*~

They fell into a pattern, which surprised Glorfindel almost as much as Gildor because patterns had never appealed to either. In the mornings they went to practice – with the sword, with staves, Gildor’s favourite, and increasingly with the bow, archery being Glorfindel’s weak point. After that his time was shared between exploring the valley, which Gildor knew well, painting, or cultivating his tiny patch of garden. Gildor teased that this at least would have made his mother happy – she had been known for her love of gardening.

He also found it easier, more comfortable, to meet the residents of his new home individually rather than en masse, and getting to know his neighbours made him feel closer and more a part of life in the valley. He had always been friendly and curious before, and that seemed not to have altogether deserted him.

At night he read while Gildor spent time in the Hall of Fire with friends both from amongst his own people and from Imladris. Glorfindel went along with him on a fairly regular basis, had a glass of wine, chatted with Elrond, his family and whomever happened to join them, then went back to the cottage, leaving Gildor to wander home when he was ready. It gave him reading time and meant Gildor had no need to give up what he saw as the perks of a winter in Imladris.

Almost imperceptibly their relationship became centred more on friendship and shared memories than on any physical need. Gildor was true to his word after his fashion, leaving only for brief sojourns into the north and west, taking him away from Imladris not more than a few days at a time. He seemed to understand Glorfindel’s need for the familiar, and to hope, assume even, that over time he would slowly find his way back to who he had been before.

He saw little of Erestor; the captain was riding with his men, determining the best routes for winter patrols. He remembered doing this in Gondolin and found himself smiling in sympathy.

WINTER

It was a cold afternoon about three months after Glorfindel came to the valley. He was marking the perspective lines on a canvas and filing in outlines preparatory to painting. The subject was a view of the trees on the edge of the meadow, trunks bare and smooth, their branches leafless against a grey sky. He was wondering where best to add the touches of colour he had planned, hints of red and blue, traces of pink, when there was a knock at the cottage door.

Still dressed for patrol, his hair in a series of neat braids fastened at the nape of his neck, Erestor stood on the doorstep The north wind gusted in the door past him, stirring papers and making the cats look round disapprovingly. The dog hadn’t bothered to rise, Glorfindel thought they must have met before. “Erestor? Come in. Welcome back.”

Erestor smiled and entered, looking around. Glorfindel cautiously did the same, trying to see the room through other eyes, Gildor’s perhaps. It wasn’t that he was naturally untidy, just somehow since his rebirth his attention went more readily to a robin’s flight or the sunlight touching dew on a spider’s web than on the mundanity of housework. It was a point Gildor raised on a regular basis: in the House there would be cleaning staff, unlike the cottage where someone only came along once a week to scrub floors and dust.

“It’s a mess, I’m sorry. Let me clear these off here…” He made to remove a pile of books, newly collected from the library that morning, from the couch. Of the other chairs, one was occupied by the two cats who seemed to have called a truce on account of the weather, while the other had a pile of clean clothes brought down from the House a few hours ago. Glorfindel had no idea how they got things dry there, but he was immensely grateful.

Giving him an amused look, the Captain of Imladris pushed the clothing to one side, and sat. After a moment’s hesitation, Glorfindel claimed the couch. “Tea. Would you like some tea, perhaps?”

Erestor inclined his head slightly. “If you’ve a mind to it, although I won’t be staying long. I stopped by to make a – suggestion of sorts. Though I would enjoy a cup. This has been my first break for hours.’

Glorfindel went through to the kitchen, built up the fire in the stove and put the kettle in place while he found clean cups. There were also some little honey cakes begged from the kitchen, but they were yesterday’s and not what his mother would have called guest fare, so he left them be. He considered going back into the parlour while the tea brewed, but something about the easy way Erestor made himself comfortable suggested it might not be necessary to keep him entertained. There was something very agreeable about the thought.

When the tea was ready he took it through to find the dog had gone to lie at their guest’s feet, while Erestor was staring up at the top of the three shelf bookcase with its glass-paned doors. He rose to accept his cup. “An owl?” he asked, indicating the bookcase with a graceful inclination of his head.

Glorfindel shrugged, half laughed. “He found me. His wing was hurt and I started feeding him till he could hunt again and – somehow he moved into the cottage during the day.” Gildor had a strong division between outdoor and indoor animals and had been less than impressed when he refused to allow the owl to be persuaded outside onto the porch.

Erestor nodded. “He looks very at home. Do you still feed him?”

“Not now he’s able to fend for himself again. Gildor told me mortals like to hand tame birds, but it seems very wrong to me. No, he hunts – though he’s been known to hunt the dog’s food at times if I don’t watch him.”

“I wondered. Keeping a wild creature dependant on you – I’ve known it done but it has a wrongness to it.” Erestor sipped his tea, smiled quickly. “Tastes good. Having animals around, that’s important to you, yes?”

Glorfindel considered the question. “I’m – not sure? I suppose so? They’ve just all found their way here somehow. The dog lived with a couple who left to visit kin in Mithlond and will be gone beyond the animal’s lifetime and I offered him a place here, the cats just – arrived…”

“As cats will,” Erestor agreed with a laugh. They drank tea while he looked around the room some more. “Did you paint before? You have a very sure hand.”

Glorfindel was surprised by how ridiculously pleased he was at the compliment. “Only when I was a boy, longer ago than I care to count. Later my duties as my father’s son meant there was no time.”

“That’s a shame,” Erestor murmured. “The one you’re busy on, that’s the view from the corner, those trees just before you reach the door. “ His eye lighted on the boards stacked neatly against the wall near the bookcase. “More paintings? May I…?”

Gildor had stopped passing comment once he realised the aberration was there to stay for a while at least, which left Glorfindel with no experience in responding to queries and compliments.. “Canvas is scarce, so I only use it for more ambitious projects,” he explained instead. “And yes, of course. They’re just ---- attempts, the ones I want to keep. I paint over the others.”

They ended up sitting together on the floor and finished their tea with Glorfindel’s work of the past few months propped against wall and furniture. Erestor had been interested in everything, asked questions, and was not slow to offer criticism where it was warranted. Glorfindel wondered aloud if he also painted in his spare time, but Erestor laughed and said he could barely draw a straight line, which was probably one of the reasons he had so much respect for those who could bring a scene alive through line and colour.

Eventually, sitting with arms clasped about up-drawn knees, his eyes on a series of sketches of the owl, Erestor said, “I can understand wanting to get in touch with this place inside yourself after so long. It’s always sad when talent has to make way for more immediate needs. In fact, that was the point of my visit.”

Now we’re coming to it, Glorfindel thought, bracing himself for the request to take his ‘rightful’ place amongst the warrior class. Erestor favoured him with an amused look, however, that implied he knew exactly what Glorfindel was thinking and was about to prove himself less easily predictable.

“They say strange things are moving in the quiet corners of the Greenwood, with the Lady cautioning vigilance from the Wood. And Elrond’s foresight, which I’ve learned to place faith in, says we need to make ready for the storm. I know you want time to paint and read, you made that very clear from the start. But I watch you spar with Gildor and your skill far surpasses anything Imladris has to offer now that so many have sailed.”

A smoothed board and a stick of charcoal lay atop a pile of books beside the couch, and Glorfindel picked them up almost without thinking. Holding the board in his lap he started sketching while he listened, trying without much hope to capture the slant of an eye, the fingers of a gesturing hand.

Erestor began playing idly with the dog’s ears, and the animal looked immensely contented with life. “My job is more organisational than about riding out after stray brigands,” he continued. “Mainly it’s about making sure we strike a good balance between action and training. What I need most isn’t another warrior, no matter how experienced. What I lack is someone to help train the younger ones who have never seen anything more threatening than a stray orc or misplaced Easterner. I came to ask if you would consider helping me with this.”

“As an – instructor?” Glorfindel was surprised and intrigued.

“Exactly. I thought to present it as an extra option, beyond the standard training. Your reputation will make them want to be part of any class you offer, and your knowledge will keep them coming back. A few mornings a week, nothing too time consuming. Come with me once or twice first, watch how they’re trained and then you can think what to add and how. If you’re willing, that is?”

Clear eyes, almost the shade of Gildor’s dwarf brandy, studied his face seriously. Glorfindel wondered for a moment if this was a ploy to tempt him back into the fold. He could picture it, one small step followed by more until he found himself armouring up and riding out with one of the patrols that ceaselessly covered the countryside three, four days’ ride beyond Imladris. But there was no guile in the captain’s face or in that steady look, and everything in their interactions suggested Erestor accepted the way he chose to live his new life.

“A few mornings a week could be interesting,” he declared at last. “I want to help here, I was sent back to do my part, whatever that might seem to be. If I have something to add to the training, then I’d be happy to try.”


~*~*~*~
 

Winter settled in around Imladris, wrapping the valley in rain followed by snow that sat heavy and full on the trees covering the slopes. The cats claimed a corner near the fire, and because hunting seemed scarce Glorfindel fed them alongside the dog with scraps begged from the kitchen. The dog had an ambivalent attitude towards snow, happy to go out and run but less pleased to be wet. The owl lived as owls do, although he slept more than before.

One day they woke to find the snow half way up the front door, and Gildor had to climb out the window and go round to dig them out. When he was done they stood looking at the snow with cups of hot tea that Glorfindel had made while his prince worked.

“Might want to think about moving up into the main building for a while,” Gildor suggested, leaning against the doorpost and surveying his handiwork.

It had become a half-humourous battle of wits between them. Glorfindel shook his head, unbound corn-gold hair shifting and rippling with the movement. “No, I think not. Though next time it’s my turn to dig. I doubt it will get much worse than this, and it’s nowhere near as cold as it was in Gondolin in midwinter.”

Gildor’s forehead creased momentarily, then he tried another approach. “Much easier over there. No need to find our way home in bad weather after dinner.”

“Well, if it got really bad I’m sure Elrond wouldn’t mind finding one or both of us a room for the night,” Glorfindel replied mildly. “Though this far it’s not been impassable, we’ve just got a little wet. Soon dried off.”

“You don’t want to leave your paints behind, do you?” Gildor asked with laughing exasperation, gesturing into the parlour as he spoke. It had been Erestor, not he, who had sorted out the chaos of Glorfindel’s eclectic lifestyle by the simple expedient of providing a table for his art paraphernalia and temporary loans from the library, and sending two of his men over to build extra book shelves. Once everything had its place, Glorfindel found it easier to keep things in order.

He shrugged, half smiling. “There are no blizzards in the valley, I’ve asked. The snow might be high, as it is today, but there is no reason to move up to the House. I’m – happy here, Gildor. Perhaps when spring comes I’ll be ready to have people close about me all the time, but not yet, it’s too soon. Now I need to dress. I have a class today.”

~*~*~*~*~

Part Two

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