Fields of Gold 2015
Chapter XV: Many Partings
Mithrandir arrived unlooked for the next morning, waving off his escort and striding towards the group gathered at the base of an enormous mallorn. A tall man, aged in appearance, and wearing a travel-stained cloak, he looked as though he had been travelling for quite some time. Shaggy eyebrows drew down over sharp eyes as he raked his gaze over the group. "Glorfindel," he acknowledged, nodding once as he swept the pointed blue hat from his head to reveal an abundance of wiry grey hair. "I had hoped to find you here when I was told you were not in Imladris. Come with me as I speak with Galadriel and Celeborn."
His word were not a request, but then the Istar was an old companion of the golden-haired elf and they did not stand on formality.
"We were just about to leave," Thalion hissed to his two closest friends, frowning at what he saw as a possible delay in their return to Mithlond.
Bushy eyebrows rose as the wizard turned to regard the elves gathered with Glorfindel, and a gleam appeared in his eyes as he saw the dismayed expression on the face of the elf who had spoken. "Elves in a hurry, hmm? Very unusual. Is there a problem?"
The words were spoken in a bland tone, but Glorfindel was not fooled and turned to his friends. "Let me speak with Mithrandir and see what has brought him here." He pinned Thalion with a mildly chiding look. "I will not delay you, but one ignores Gandalf the Grey at his own peril."
As her friend's eartips reddened, Bronwë set a hand on his arm. "Go. We will wait."
Even as he walked forward, Glorfindel heard the three break into whispers in Silvan and shook his head in mild exasperation. Wood- Elves. "You have need of me, Mithrandir?" He had accompanied the wizard on more than one journey, doing what he could to assist his endeavors in Middle-earth. It was no light thing for Mithrandir to ask for company.
"Yes." Mithrandir took hold of Glorfindel's arm, walking him far enough to be out of hearing of even the most curious of elves. "From here I travel to Thranduil's realm to see for myself of the darkening of the woods around Dol Guldur again. What I find will doubtless affect Elrond's decisions as well. I thought you might accompany me."
As he had thought, it was no frivolity that had brought the Istar to Lothlórien. That Thranduil had perhaps even asked Mithrandir to journey to Mirkwood was no small thing, and one he could not ignore. "Is this Council business then," he asked quietly.
Pursing his lips, Mithrandir nodded slowly. "You know Thranduil's requests are never a whim, if indeed he asks at all. He is losing patience with the attitude of dismissal with which they are met."
Glorfindel kept his expression carefully blank and gave only the smallest nod. The woods had ears, not only of the elven variety. One did not speak lightly of Sauruman, even though he thought the Istar's interest in the matter was lacking. "Thranduil requested your visit?"
"Not in so many words." A wry smile curved Mithrandir's mouth, crinkling the skin around his eyes.
For a moment Glorfindel found his attention focused on the wrinkles, fascinated yet again by this form his mentor from Aman had taken to cloak his hröa. He would never get used to seeing Olórin as an elderly human; it seemed entirely incongruous to his true nature at best! "I will accompany you." He made a moue of his mouth. "Though the timing leaves much to be desired."
"You don't fool me." Glorfindel snorted for at the innocent gaze offered in response, and smiled. "You meddle enough already in the lives of Men and Hobbits, pray leave my life to my own folly."
Chuckling, Mithrandir squeezed the elf's shoulder. "Shall I leave you to say your farewells, or do you wish to hear what Galadriel and Celeborn would say to me?"
"I've said my farewells to them already. I leave you to handle them as you see fit." Smile quirking his lips, Glorfindel gave a small bow. "Haldir will know where to find me when you are done."
"We leave before noontide, Glorfindel." Gazing up at the sky, gauging the time by the rising sun, Mithrandir stroked his beard. "I don't fancy searching for the trail into Mirkwood in the dead of night."
"The moon shares his light enough with those who have eyes to see."
It was an old joke shared between them, born of the Istar's seeming frailties in his human form.
"And you glow brightly enough to make Ithil jealous." Shaking his head, he made a dismissive gesture. "Go and offer your apologies to the maiden who watches you so carefully."
Glorfindel let the comment go, merely turning and re-joining the Silvans who waited anxiously.
"He wishes you to accompany him?"
"Yes." Slipping an arm around Bronwë, he hugged her to him and let his gaze go to the other two Elves. "Something has come up that needs attending."
"We are still going." Not so much a question as a statement, said with no small amount of determination. Thalion turned to Faelon who nodded, though he looked to Bronwë.
"We must, and why would we wait here when Glorfindel will return to Imladris once he leaves Mirkwood?" Practicality had been a steady friend through all of her lifetime, and Bronwë saw no reason to abandon it as yet. Smiling for her friend's nods of agreement, she turned to Glorfindel. "Will the Guard go with us?"
"They will." It was a relief that she was not upset, but at the same time her calm acceptance of his leaving was rather lowering. Glorfindel offered a wry smile. "No doubt you three are ready to depart now, but let me go see if they are as well."
"Go on." Faelon shooed Bronwë after him. "We'll wait here." Noting two very pretty elven maidens walking past, he grinned. "And find a way to while away the time."
"Do not say you're sorry."
Bemused smile curling his lips, Glorfindel stopped and faced her. "You're determined to make me feel guilty."
"As if you ever do." Bronwë met his gaze as he took her hands in his, her smile fading. "I have heard it said the only sorrow in Aman is from those who chose to love someone who could not return their affections." Freeing one hand, she lightly traced over his knuckles, smiling at his light shiver. "I knew when I made the choice to love you all of those years ago it could lead to sorrow. You might not feel the same, or there could have been someone else. I knew your life was not entirely your own. You were sent back for a purpose, one that has priority over all things." Squeezing his hands, Bronwë looked up to meet his gaze. "It does not matter to me if today you cannot be with me so long as I know we will be together some day."
Glorfindel had not expected such easy acceptance, regardless that Bronwë had never demanded anything of him in all the long years he had known her. A wry grin tugged his lips. "I cannot decide if I should be affronted that you so easily dismiss me or admit my amazement for such steadfast selflessness." Stepping closer, he pulled her against him, wrapping his arms around her. "It gratifies me that you understand, Bronwë, but I would not leave were it not the most dire need."
She nodded against his shoulder. "Círdan leaves the shipyards when Mithrandir arrives, and you know only the most urgent of troubles pry him loose when he's working."
Hands on her shoulders, Glorfindel set her back and smiled. "There is one thing I will not leave without doing first."
She expected a kiss, and her eyes widened when he reached into a tunic pocket and brought forth a silver ring of delicately wrought design. "But I…I have no ring to give you."
Looking supremely satisfied as he slid the ring on her finger, Glorfindel raised her hand to kiss. Surprising her had been worth every bit of teasing he had received in Imladris when Erestor had discovered his plans. "I have all I want."
He would have happily dallied there had his time indeed been his own, but the sun was rising, a reminder of time passing. "And as attractive as that blush is, as much as I'd love to run away with you to some hidden grotto, we have others depending on us."
Drawing in a deep breath, Bronwë nodded. "The sweetest rewards are those longest denied."
Straightening, Glorfindel touched her face. "Be safe. Stay with the guard."
"I will." Bronwë took his hand. Admonitions of not taking chances were useless. He would do what he must. "Come to Mithlond as soon as you may." She met his gaze. "Namárië."
Glorfindel watched them leave, not looking away until the trees blocked them from view.
"They'll be fine."
He turned to find Elladan watching him, a knowing look lurking in his eyes. With a nod, he noted the bow the other Elf was holding. "Are you going or returning from hunting?"
"We've not yet gone." Elladan snorted, then flicking one dark braid back from his shoulder, and began walking. "Elrohir's been engrossed in a tome the past two nights, not even sleeping." Wrinkling his nose, he pushed the quiver so it rested further back on his shoulder. "He's like Adar in that."
Glorfindel nodded. There had been nights he or Erestor had all but dragged their lord to his bed for much needed rest, moreso now that Celebrían was gone, and the rooms they had shared were full of memories too painful to face. "And what has occupied your time?"
Was that a slight flush on the fair cheeks of the eldest twin? Feeling the imp of an urge Glorfindel grinned. "What is her name and does your grandmother know about her?"
Scowling at being so easily found out, Elladan kicked a rock and watched it bounce ahead on the path before veering into a mound of ferns. "It's not….She…" Huffing, he glared as Glorfindel chuckled. "She's one of Arwen's friends and that is all I'm telling you."
"For now." Squeezing the youth's shoulder, Glorfindel nodded to his right, indicating the path that ran in that direction. "Mithrandir and I are going to Mirkwood. I'll return to Imladris from there."
"We'll stay a bit longer most likely." Elladan looked up through the newly-unfurled leaves of a birch, grey eyes reflecting the green for a moment. "Not long though. Elrohir and I have talked and we want to shoulder some of the responsibilities Adar is dealing with now. To take some of that from him and give him more time for things he might enjoy."
"Like reading dusty tomes." Glorfindel smiled his approval. "You two make me proud, you know. " Noting the expression of surprise that quickly turned to a pleased smile, he nodded. "I'll see you in Imladris then. Stars guide your path."
"And yours." Elladan let the sense of satisfaction warm him. He and Elrohir had been treated as adults and, if not equals, then certainly those worthy of regard. That was satisfying, but he really did long for venison for dinner. Whistling a jaunty tune, Elladan went in search of his twin.
Arwen looked up as a shadow fell across her loom to find Glorfindel stealing the sunshine from her. "Did you come for weaving lessons or to say farewell?"
"I am surprised to see you here in all honesty." Casting a dubious look at the contraption, Glorfindel touched the threads and nodded as a touch of power tingled up his arm. "Learning the fine art of cloak weaving from your Grandmother?"
"It seems a useful thing to do." Standing, she dusted her hands. "Seeing that you and everyone else will not let me roam with the marchwardens or keep watch."
A snort and Glorfindel followed Arwen as she walked out of the talan to stretch. "You miss nothing, you know. Long hours spent in lonely places with only your thoughts for company."
He was sincere, she could see that, but Arwen only shrugged. "Then why not teach my brothers to weave?"
Glorfindel grimaced. "Can you see Elladan patiently working with all of the colors and the concentration to keep the pattern? Elrohir might excel at it, but I daresay the designs he would weave would leave us all wishing he had not."
"They work at the forge."
"What is this about Undómiel?"
A wrinkle of her nose, and Arwen met his gaze. "I know what you and Mithrandir are planning. Promise me you'll do nothing foolish." As he started to protest, she held up a hand. "No, don't bother, I know what you'll say, so don't." A step closer and she poked a finger against his chest. "You need to start to think about Bronwë."
"I do!" Bemused, he smiled as she narrowed her eyes. "I did ask her to marry me."
"You did, and I am pleased." She stared at him for a long moment. "You won't be free to jaunt off at a moment's notice with the Rangers, or my brothers, you know."
"I don't jaunt, Arwen."
The arched eyebrow spoke of dubious thoughts, but Arwen finally sighed. "Life is changing. For all of us."
"Yes." Glorfindel took her hand in his. "It is inevitable, but not all for the bad."
Sometimes she wanted to be that child again, safe in the security that the adults around her would watch over and protect. That nothing bad would happen that they could not handle.
But that was not how life worked.
"I'll return to Imladris for the wedding." A dimple showed as she smiled. "A year from now, I take it?"
She was a butterfly, the chrysalis of childhood falling away to reveal the beauty of the adult, ready to fly away. "Next spring." He took her shoulders and pulled her closer to press a kiss to her forehead. "I'll see you then."
"Namárië." Arwen took a step away then turned to grin over her shoulder. "Gofi."
He shook his head as she walked away, laughing.
"You are very quiet, my friend."
Glorfindel nodded, absently running his fingers through his horse's mane as they made their way along the banks of the Anduin. She was a steady mare, and he'd promised Haldir he'd see her returned.
Mithrandir studied the profile of the elf riding next to him. Of course Glorfindel possessed the ethereal beauty of his race, but there was much more than that to this particular elf. More than most ever saw, even his own people, who were renowned for their great wisdom. "Something has changed in you."
Now he was granted a smile, one that warmed the elf's face and eyes. "You see it then?"
"I see there is a change, but I cannot say what it is." Even he had some limitations in his present form.
Drawing in a deep breath of the evening air, they would need to make camp soon, Glorfindel reached forward to rub his hand along the mare's neck. "Then perhaps I'll just say that you must promise to come and be present at my wedding."
"Wedding? Ahh..." Nodding to himself, the wizard hummed a soft song as they rode. After a time he nodded again. "Here will do for a camp, don't you think?"
There was a bend in the river, forming a cove of sorts that closed out the wind and put the hill to their backs. Glorfindel unsaddled his horse and grabbed a handful of grass to rub the mare down with before turning her loose. With a nuzzle to the golden hair, she promised not to wander far and began to graze.
Mithrandir unsaddled his horse and rubbed the gelding down before joining the elf, who had by then dug a depression in the sandy ground and encircled it with river rocks for a fire pit. Settling next to the fire, which Glorfindel was coaxing to burn higher, Mithrandir sighed in contentment. It wasn't often he had the company of his old friend, and it seemed he was soon to have it even less. "Galadriel sent along some lembas and I have dried venison as well." Digging in his pack, he pulled out the carefully wrapped food and offered it.
"I could fish if you wished for fresh meat." Accepting a small portion of each package, Glorfindel gazed around, senses alert for any danger.
"No, no." Leaning against his saddle, Mithrandir chewed on the jerky. "Thranduil's hospitality will be enough when we arrive." He chuckled as an image formed in his mind, gaining a curious look from his companion. "I was just thinking, you'll be settling down once you're married." Digging through his pack, he found his pipe and pouch of hobbit weed and began to fill it, knowing Glorfindel would not mind the smell...so long as it stayed downwind of him. "I should think it won't be long before you have an elfling of your own to tend." Blue eyes twinkled in the twilight, growing merrier yet as the elf blinked once.
Glorfindel sat cross-legged, bow and sword near should they be needed, and gazed up at the stars with an expression of deep contemplation. "Once I would have chided you for teasing me so, Mithrandir." Offering a smile, he reached to a small pile of wood and settled a larger piece on the fire. "I had thought such things were not for me."
He had known there were times his friend had been lonely, but Glorfindel's devotion and care for those he had returned to watch over had never waned. Such loyalty was a true gift of the Valar, and one Mithrandir had valued as much as the genuine goodness of his friend's heart. "What changed your mind?"
Lines creased the ageless forehead as the elf frowned. "Celebrían. Her leaving made me realize again how fleeting even our lives can be here in Middle-earth." Pulling a dagger and whetstone from his pack, he set to putting an edge on the knife that would easily split a hair. Always be prepared for the unexpected was one of his favorite sayings. "Elrond all but sent me from Imladris and told me to go make myself happy."
"Were you unhappy?"
Looking up, golden hair framing his face in the firelight, Glorfindel smiled. "Not truly, but there were times I was lonely."
Mithrandir nodded and puffed on his pipe, sending circles of smoke up to frame the rising moon. He knew the feeling as well. There were times he longed for his work to be done, that he could return to Aman, but the road was yet long before him. "Then it is good that you have found someone." Nodding, he met the elf's gaze and let his affection for the other show. "Though I am not certain Middle-earth is at all prepared to put up with the possibility of a child as wild and fearless as you were."
Chuckling, Glorfindel examined the edge of the dagger. "You just fear for that growth of hair on your chin."
Pursing his lips, the wizard stroked his beard. "Well, yes. It does seem to hold some fascination for younglings of all sorts, but elves are by far the worst for curiosity."
"You and Círdan shall have to commiserate and plan together then." Glorfindel sheathed the dagger and rose in one fluid movement. Grinning, he took up his bow and quiver "I'm going to check the area. Don't stay up on my account. I know you're longing to serenade the night with snores."
Mithrandir snorted as the elf jauntily walked off. "Cheeky creature." But his smile held more fondness than exasperation.
Her greatest fear was that he would sacrifice himself yet again. Bronwë knew his character; Glorfindel would jest and tease, taunt and drive those around him mad, but all who knew him had no doubt he would willingly offer up his life if he thought for the merest moment it would save those he loved.
Was it a flaw to be so fearless? If so, it was one she both loved and loathed.
Pulling the hood of her cloak over her head, she shivered and leaned closer to her horse, reaching out to stroke his neck and whisper a word of encouragement. They were riding hard for Mithlond, as fast as the horses would carry them. The Shire was just ahead, and beyond that, home.
A snort from the side, and Nimbrethil tossed his head, slowing first to a trot and then a walk. The stallion was normally tireless, eager and pulling at the reins to be off and away, but his neck was lathered, and his nostrils blown large as his sides heaved. The other horses followed his lead, slowing to a walk.
"They need to rest." Faelon's tone of voice was adamant as he slid off his horse's back to walk alongside. "They would run until they dropped under us if that was our will, Thalion, but do not ask that of them."
Bronwë slid off to walk between her horse and Nimbrethil, smiling as the stallion nudged her. Combing his forelock with her fingers, she dropped her hand to scratch under his jaw. He had run with them since they had come down off Caradhras and found the horses waiting for them, joyous at their Elves return. The stallion had searched the faces of those returning, wuffling and butting his head against whomever would pay attention. Wondering where his master was. Bronwë had reassured him all was well and that Glorfindel was merely off on an adventure without him. Nimbrethil might have understood, but then again he might have just wanted to go with those who had grain.
"He thinks I am too careless."
Looking up as her friend dropped back to walk on the other side of her horse, Bronwë met Thalion's gaze. He had been pushing the hardest of all of them to get home, certain that something horrid was going to happen if they delayed.
With a last pat for Nimbrethil, Bronwë ducked under her horse's neck to walk with her friend. "Faelon has a stronger affinity for animals than either of us. He is anxious as well, Thalion. We all are." With a slight smile, she squeezed his shoulder. "Círdan has held Mithlond for centuries, against the forces of Sauron and the Witch King. Have faith in him."
Drawing in a deep breath, he heaved it out in a long sigh. "I know, Bronwë! I just feel in my bones that we must hurry. I do not mean it as a slight on our lord." Thalion offered a wry smile. "He alarms me at times. He can seem so mild and then transform into a fearsome power."
"Círdan holds Mithlond and will until our people have left Middle-earth," Bronwë answered simply. Her faith in the Elf Lord was unshakable. He had been a friend, a mentor and sometimes the only voice of reason she would listen to.
"There is a stream ahead." Faelon appeared out of the darkness, startling the two elves, deep in conversation. "We should water the horses, feed them and let them rest." Meeting Thalion's impatient gaze, he added, "Then I believe they will be willing and able to push on to home."
The smile offered soothed over the tense feelings that had been roiling between the two friends. Thalion nodded, letting his gratitude show. "That sounds good, Faelon. Thank you."
One nod, pale blond hair shimmering in the darkness, and Faelon moved ahead to direct the horses to a possible resting spot.
"We're almost home!" Thalion's joy shone in his eyes, and Bronwë couldn't help but answer with a smile of her own.
Soon they would have answers.
Glorfindel looked where the Mirkwood scout was pointing and frowned. The forest had a heavy feel to it, as if the trees and very air were pushing down on them. The feeling was oppressive, and he again stifled the urge to stand and charge forward, screaming his defiance of the darkness.
Instead, he balanced on the tree limb, keeping a wary eye for the black squirrels that were wont to skitter past. More than once the blasted creatures had the audacity to attack, but normally they just alerted the rest of the forest to intruders – that was a far worse threat.
Mithrandir nodded, pursing his lips. His eyes narrowed as he stared at the top of the hill where a structure, all but swallowed in the inky shroud of night, and surrounded by a warped ring of trees, sat. "It has the feel of him." He glanced to his right where Glorfindel perched, a soft glow illuminating his form. "Do you agree?"
"Yes." The answer was hissed from between his teeth. Glorfindel was furious. They had driven this evil out once, and it was back. Back and corrupting the once-beautiful forest. It was a deadly threat not only to Thranduil and his people, but to all who still dwelt in Middle-earth. Eyes glittering, battle rage rising, he met the Istar's gaze. "Will you move against him?"
It was clear what the Elda wanted to do: attack and destroy the threat. Wipe him from the face of Arda as they had not been able to do in the battle against the Witch King. Glorfindel was still, at his core, in his heart, a warrior.
There was more at stake here than the golden-haired elf was considering at the moment. "No." Ignoring the incredulous stares of both the Mirkwood scouts and Glorfindel, Mithrandir returned his gaze to Dol Guldur. "No. The time is not yet mine. I will inform Sauruman." Arching an eyebrow, gaze imperious, he met and held Glorfindel's gaze. "You will tell Elrond. Círdan as well, if you go that way, but we will not move without first conferring."
From the rising of tension in the air, it was clear Glorfindel did not like the answer. Jaw tense, he gripped the branch he was resting on, and sent a baleful glare to the structure housing a hated enemy. Confer. Committees. He detested the necessity that now detained him from acting, even knowing it was the most prudent thing to do.
"So we just leave." His whisper was harsh, and he caught the surprised expression on the Mirkwood scout's face. Few would speak to Mithrandir this way, and he rarely did himself, but this decision went against his every instinct. "Leave him here, to threaten and terrorize Thranduil's people."
It was not a mature thing to say, and he knew it, but oh...this goaded him. To be so near and unable to do anything.
"To come back another day and deal thoroughly with it, yes." Mithrandir's voice was terse and the Mirkwood scout suddenly decided to move several trees over . "I know you do not like it, Glorfindel. I do not either." He sighed, shaking his head, grimacing as his beard caught in the bark of the tree. "We need the others. You and I could come against him here, but what if we only alerted him?"
Lips drawing back in a grim smile, Glorfindel's face was suddenly quite feral. "Trust me, I would do more than merely scare him."
"Use your sense, Glorfindel!" Mithrandir reined in his temper visibly, to speak in a calmer tone. "This is not our battle, my friend." He watched as the elf frowned deeply, gaze going again to Dol Guldur, crouched above them like some wary bird of prey. "You must see that."
"I do." Shaking his head, golden braid dancing along his back, Glorfindel let go of his tension and offered a grim smile. "I know, but I do not like leaving him here, as a threat that I know will only grow."
"Nor do I."
The pair of old friends gazed together at the structure, both unhappy and brooding.
"We should not linger." Glorfindel dropped lightly to the ground, his movements soundless looking about, wary for any threat. His gaze went to Mithrandir, also perched in the tree, and reaching up a hand he drawled, "Do you need help or are you able to manage it...old friend?"
Muttering about disrespectful, smart-mouthed elves, Mithrandir ignored the hand and dropped to the ground. If his movements were not quite so light and graceful, nothing was said, for both knew he was far more than he appeared. "We should part now. You to Elrond and I to Thranduil's palace."
Glorfindel nodded. "You to a warm bed and good Dorwinion and I to a long journey over a cold pass infested with Orcs."
"It seems a fair trade." Mithrandir offered an innocent smile. "I am the elder of us, after all."
With a grimace, Glorfindel reached out to squeeze the Istar's shoulder. "Be careful. Stars light your path, Mithrandir."
"Elbereth guide yours, old friend." With a fond smile, the wizard turned and gestured for the Mirkwood scout to precede him. When he glanced back briefly, just to see if the elf was watching or not, Glorfindel was gone.
Mithrandir shook his head and ducked a twisted branch, following his guide.
It's all new material for the next three chapters AND...an ending! Thank you for your patience and for reading! :D