"Brother, if you cling behind the shields of the rearguard like that, you will never find your courage."
And then Nárello vanished in a red haze of flame and blood, and there was only the shrieking of the Balrog that clove Fingon's helm in two and drove the Noldorin king into the dust.
Above the gasps and screams of his brother's dying, they called to him, pulling him forward from the rear, thrusting into his trembling and bloodstained hands Nárello's sword. They called to him, his brother's men, Artamir and Hallas, in desperate voices, half-choked with fumes and grief, and he scarcely heard them before Turgon, the King himself, seized him with mailed hands and all but flung him toward the beleaguered captains of Gondolin.
"To the fore with you," grunted the king, and there was no pity in his eyes for the sudden horror of Nárello's death. "You'll hold the line with Ecthelion, or die trying with the rest of us."
He stood frozen, still clutching the sword that felt too heavy in his grasp, that was slick with blood, and when he turned to look at Artamir he saw only a pair of eyes dark with hopelessness and the golden flower stained with gore upon his breast.
When Idril the King's daughter asked him to help oversee the last phase of the construction of the passage, Glorfindel did not refuse, though for a moment he wondered why she should confide in him above the captains of the other ten Houses.
Her eyes were grave, never leaving him even as she instructed Eärendil's nurse to take the child from the room. "Take him, Meleth, and see you do not frighten him overmuch with your tales."
Eärendil kissed his mother. "Good-night, naneth. And good-night, laurëalót." Golden flower, because the child preferred it.
"He is a beautiful child," Glorfindel murmured as the nurse carried him out.
Idril paused to look toward the door with a mother's proud, proprietary gaze. "Meleth tells him too much of the tales of Melkor. Oft he is too restless to sleep."
"Even adults are made uneasy by such tales," he said softly. "But why do you ask me to see to this task and not others?"
For a moment she did not answer. "Because," she finally replied, her voice low and measured, "you feel the cloud of foreboding even as I do."
Glorfindel, too, was silent a moment, weighing his words. "Lady, I am sure there are others more trustworthy, more capable of this charge. Why you would ask me, I do not know."
"Do you not also dream of blood and fire?"
"There are many whose sleep is troubled now, since word came of the ruin of Doriath and Nargothrond." He did not tell her that his dreams had been filled with fire and blood long before that. He had never told her of the nightmare that had been the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, though she knew he had been there and that his brother, then lord of the House of the Golden Flower, had been slain there. No, he had not told anyone. Only Artamir and Ondollo, steward of the House, who both watched over their lord's restless slumber, knew of the visions that brought him trembling back to consciousness and filled him with unspeakable dread.
How does she know such things? For Artamir never would have spoken, nor would Ondollo.
But Idril was wise, he knew, and perhaps could see things men kept hidden. Such talent was not unknown among the great ladies of the Eldar. What she sees in me, I do not know.
"Another month or two and the passage will be ready," she said. "I will rest easier when I know the work is done, for something tells me we may soon have need of it."
Turgon would have told her to put aside such fears, that no enemy could ever find the hidden way through the Encircling Mountains. After Tuor's coming, the King had ordered the way destroyed, concealed under tons of dislodged stones, and now none might come or go from the city and thus inadvertently betray the path. Only the Eagles came to Gondolin now, bearing news from without.
"Why do you not entrust this task to your cousin, my lady?" asked Glorfindel. "Maeglin has the greatest skill in stonework and smithing. Many a fine blade he has made for my House. I do not—"
A shadow passed over Idril's face. I do not know what I have said amiss, but of Maeglin she does not wish to speak. I do not like him much myself, for his manner is strange, but surely she is better served by his talents than mine.
"My lady," he said apologetically, "I have little skill in such matters. I would make a poor architect."
She smiled then, a slight upturn of her lips in which some shadow or sorrow yet lingered. "Did you think I was asking you to trade your sword for a mallet?" she asked. "Nay, that work is given to Findion. He is skilled with the chisel and moreover owes no allegiance to the House of the Mole. Nay, when the hour comes Tuor and I will lead as many from here as we may. I would have you and your people stay near to us, for the House of the White Wing is not numerous and the road will be hard."
That was true. Tuor's House was comprised mostly of castoffs from other Houses diminished at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Those survivors of Fingon's House who had found no haven elsewhere were welcomed into the House of the White Wing, as were Idril's own loyal servants and those others who were drawn to the Man's charismatic presence, but there were not many who would serve one of the Secondborn, regardless of the favor Turgon showed him. After nearly fourteen years, Tuor was in some respects still as much an outsider and upstart as Glorfindel felt himself to be.
"Do you recall the words of warning the Lord of the Waters gave my husband ere sending him to us?" asked Idril.
"I do, my lady."
"The Valar tell no falsehoods. Nor have they forsaken us as utterly as many believe, though we have turned from them. Nay, Thorondor and his kin that guard the heights of the Echoriath are Manwë's own servants, and Tuor my husband wears the favor and emblems Ulmo himself chose for him. Tuor is not to blame if others do not listen."
Glorfindel knew Idril had spoken in secret to many folk, urging them to rally to her and Tuor should the city or its king fall. They had only laughed, saying Gondolin would stand as long as Taniquetil itself; he knew this, for Idril had given her warning to many members of the House of the Golden Flower and he had heard their scorn, even as his own heart grew heavy.
If the city falls, it will be from a treachery and evil greater than I or any other save the Valar can withstand. It will be more foul than the Unnumbered Tears, and none will be left to sing of it.
After their long retreat back from the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, once the seven Gates were shut fast and the blood and smoke washed away, Turgon had praised his captains, as was the custom. To Ecthelion and Galdor and Egalmoth he had given many jewels, and to Duilin a bow inlaid with ithildin runes. And to his newest captain the king had given a fine sword that Glorfindel did not wear; the bright steel, like Turgon's words, could not take away the horror and desolation that had come before. Nárello screamed as the Balrog burnt and trampled him, and Turgon shouted. Glorfindel wore Nárello's sword instead, saying it was an heirloom of his House.
"I-I am honored by your confidence, lady," he finally said, "but there are better men than I. Galdor is the most valiant of us, and Ecthelion the most loyal. Rog is stalwart and—"
A gentle hand fell upon his arm, the lightest of touches. "Do you not think you also have something worthy of giving?"
"My doubts would be of no help to you, my lady."
"Think you that you are like Salgant, and faint of heart?"
The image of the lord of the House of the Harp, squat and heavy in his armor as he had hewed down a mob of Orcs at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, leapt into Glorfindel's mind. "I have never known Salgant to be cowardly," he murmured. He spends overmuch time fawning upon Maeglin, but that is not proof of a faint heart.
"There is much that may change, and much ill thought that may bear fruit, ere the end," she said.
Many of the younger members of the House of the Golden Flower chafed at the strictures of the Tarnin Austa. There was too much of silence these days, and though there would be the soft music of harps to ease the night, they wanted laughter to drive the brooding air away.
"You know nothing of silence," grumbled Ondollo. "When the Trees died upon Ezellohar, that was silence. And when we crossed the Helcaraxë, there was only the wind and the crack and crash of distant glaciers, and that was a sound as desolate as Nienna's tears. You know not how many long months of that we endured, and here you complain of one brief night."
"Leave off, steward," Glorfindel said softly. "They do not remember." He himself had been very young at the crossing of the Grinding Ice, young enough that he had to be carried on Ondollo's shoulders. He thought he remembered something of the time before, the mingling of the lights of the Two Trees and the weeping in his father's house when they died. He had a hazy memory of a beautiful Vanyarin lady robed in green and gold, a soft lap and sweet fragrance; Nárello said their mother had died crossing the Helcaraxë, but Glorfindel did not remember that. His first true memories were of Nevrast and Vinyamar by the sea, and the long march east through the Echoriath to Tumladen where Turgon had built Gondolin.
Through the window, Glorfindel looked down on the Street of the Folkwell, where the lamplighters were busily hanging silvered lanterns from the boughs of the new-leaved trees. Tonight jeweled lights would play in the Court of the Fountain, and the pools would glitter, reflecting their light and the gleam of the two trees Glingol and Belthil, that Turgon himself had made in memory of the Two Trees of Valinor.
"Here, Erunámo." As the steward draped the green and gold cloak about his shoulders, Glorfindel bit his lip at the sound of his essi, his father-name. Ondollo was the only one who called him that now; the others either respected his wishes or knew him only by his epess. But Ondollo never listened, always pretending to be hard of hearing when his lord reminded him of his chosen name.
He accepted the cloak in silence, though it was not midnight and words were permitted. Ondollo came around to his front and fastened the green silk with a brooch in the shape of a golden flower. More golden flowers, tiny beads threaded through his hair, glittered among his braids. "Ah, pitya laurëlótënya," said the steward, beaming. "Now you look like a proper prince."
My little golden flower. Glorfindel snorted at the steward's affectionate exclamation. Nárello looked more the part than I do. I feel queer and half-dressed. Admirers of both sexes told him he was beautiful, but he did not know that they saw. Ecthelion, his dark hair glittering with the silver and diamonds of his House, was beautiful, if such a word could be used to describe a male. Idril Celebrindal was beautiful, and the king's sister Aredhel Ar-Feinel, Maeglin's mother, she had been fair, though white and stern like gleaming frost. As for me, my nose is too long, my mouth too thin and I am not particularly comely.
"Perhaps my lord will catch the eye of some lissome maiden at the feast, no?" Ondollo winked suggestively at him while plucking a bit of invisible lint off the gold-shot silk. "They looked longingly at you at the Nost-na-Lothion and you, foolish Erunámo, you said not a word."
"Nor will I say anything at Tarnin Austa, as custom dictates."
"And you shall become as stuffy as Elu Thingol was, and you barely six hundred years old."
"You met Thingol but once," Glorfindel pointed out.
"Yes, and it was enough."
Until midnight might he speak, but Glorfindel was noted as a lord of few words. There would be feasting and dancing from sunset until midnight, and he anticipated being assailed by several maidens, including one persistent, dark-haired lady of the House of the Swallow.
"Ah, there you are," said Tuor, greeting him in the hall of the house of the King. Idril's husband was resplendent in a tunic of silk that was like fishes' mail, turning to silver, then sapphire or green as he moved. His cloak was fastened with a luminous sea-jewel set in silver. The son of Huor was tall for a mortal, yet even so Glorfindel found himself looking slightly down upon him and it seemed rude. "We are going up to the walls to watch the sunset. Will you join us?"
Behind the Court of the Fountain and the white Tower of the King, terraces ran along the length of the king's house, looking down upon the falls of Amon Gwareth and the vale of Tumladen nearly six hundred feet below. Turgon's men, their lances decked with flowers, stood at attention among the trees while the lords and ladies of the city gathered to watch the sunset.
Glorfindel found a place between Egalmoth and Varniher, one of Galdor's lieutenants; the lord of the House of the Tree was engaged in a spirited conversation with Laiqalassë, one of his other lieutenants. He saw Idril, her white skirts turned to gold in the light of sunset and rippling in the breeze, and Eärendil, whom Tuor lifted onto his shoulders so he might see the view over the terrace. Tuor, in a fit of paternal pride, told Glorfindel and Egalmoth that this was the first Tarnin Austa the boy was allowed to stay up and celebrate; he need not have said anything, for Eärendil himself proudly relayed this fact to everyone he could.
In a final wash of crimson and gold, Anor set behind the Echoriath and twilight fell over the city. The first stars began to appear.
"Adar," Eärendil said to his father, "is Anor coming up again?"
Glorfindel felt Egalmoth nudge him. "A charming little prince, is he not?"
"In the morning, yondo," laughed Tuor. "But come, there is a feast waiting, and the cooks have prepared all your favorite dishes."
"No, adar. She is coming up again now, see?"
"Silly child," said Idril. "Anor rises in the—oh, Elbereth! What is that?"
From where he stood, several paces back from the edge of the terrace, Glorfindel heard the murmurs of dismay before he saw anything. He heard the king questioning Tuor and Ecthelion, for it was plain the light Eärendil saw was nothing natural. Then the captains were pressing forward, pulling him along with them, and the terrace was cleared. At last he could look out and see what the cause of the commotion was.
Against the black mass of the Echoriath, where the North Gate cut into the rock, a red glow lit the foothills like firelight. No summer bonfire was this, for even the greatest fires lit by the farmers of the vale should not have been visible as anything more than pinpricks so high up.
"The North Gate is strong," Maeglin was saying. "I strengthened its defenses myself. 'Tis nothing more than a child's passing fancy."
"If this is some fancy, then we can all see it," Tuor answered stiffly. "Even you cannot be so blind." He was no longer holding his son, but had given Eärendil back to his mother.
Hostility hung thickly in the air between them, but the king's nephew merely dismissed him with a gesture. "We are in no danger, mortal."
And then, one of the ladies still on the terrace screamed. Glorfindel turned, even as Turgon went to the wall and braced himself on the edge to look out. More voices took up the cry; he heard someone begin to weep. There were more panicked gasps and cries, more women began to quail in fear. Tuor told Idril to take Eärendil back to their house, and to take as many women as would follow her.
"I see it also," murmured Egalmoth, shifting over so Glorfindel could look. "There, against the hills, do you mark it?"
Glowing, writhing down the slopes, serpents of flame slid into the vale of Tumladen. Between them, it seemed the shadows themselves were moving. That is an army, from the north, from the direction of Angband. They have found us. No—oh, Eru, this cannot be. Gall choked him and he trembled against the edge of the terrace, clutching the marble to hold himself upright. "Yes," he croaked, "I see it." How can Maeglin be so blind in his arrogance? The North Gate has fallen, and we are finished.
naneth: (Quenya) mother
Nirnaeth Arnoediad: the Battle of Unnumbered Tears took place thirty-nine years before the fall of Gondolin.
Helcarax: Tolkien does not explain how Glorfindel comes to Middle Earth from Valinor, or if he was born after the Crossing of the Grinding Ice. If he was born after, this would make him about five hundred years old or less at the time the story takes place, as Gondolin fell in FA 510. Elsewhere it is implied that those who have seen the Two Trees are imbued with a greater spiritual power, and given the comments Gandalf makes to Frodo about Glorfindel in The Fellowship of the Ring, that "those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power" (II.1:294), it seemed likely that Glorfindel had lived in Valinor during the Time of the Trees.
I have taken the liberty of making Glorfindel about six hundred years old, old enough to have lived in Valinor but not old enough to have actively participated in any rebellion against the Valar. Tolkien never specifies, but given that he is later reembodied and sent back to Middle Earth as a special emissary of the Valar, I think it unlikely Glorfindel could have participated in the Kinslaying at Alqualondë. Therefore, he probably crossed the Helcaraxë with Fingolfin's host.
essi: (Quenya) the father-name, usually given at birth. I have taken the liberty of giving Glorfindel the essi of Erunámo, which roughly means "judgment of Eru."
epess: (Quenya) a "use" or personal name, usually chosen by the individual.
Laurëalótë: (Quenya) "Golden-flower"
Nost-na-Lothion: Birth of the Flowers. The festival probably coincides with Beltane or May Day.
Tarnin Austa: The Gates of Summer. This festival probably is the equivalent of the summer solstice.
Laiqalass: (Quenya) The name means "green-leaf." In "The Fall of Gondolin," Tolkien uses the Sindarin form "Legolas," but as I did not want readers to confuse this Noldorin elf with the son of Thranduil, I chose to use the Quenya version of his name.
adar: (Quenya) father
yondo: (Quenya) son