The library was the quietest place one might find in Imladris, a haven of silence in a household always bustling with noise and activity. Glorfindel did not consider himself a scholar, for he had always been more comfortable on the back of a horse with a sword in his hand, but on dark, gloomy days when he could not venture out, he might be found in the library with a book.
As he passed through the doors, the softly-worded lyrics of a song fell upon his ears, and he knew at once who he would be sharing the library with.
Gil-galad aran edhellen.
O den i thelegain linnar naer
i vedui i ndôr dín bain a lain
Athran ered ah i aear….
"Even when alone, talagand," he commented, "you cannot resist singing your own tunes."
Lindir smiled up at him from a stack of uncollated manuscripts. "But the occasion is appropriate, I think." He tucked a loose strand of dark hair behind one ear and gestured toward a corner of the library, where amidst a mess of crates and stacked volumes stood a glass case. Glorfindel was not close enough to see what it held, but above it hung the banners of the Star of Radiance and the Star of Eärendil.
"Now what is this, pen-neth?" Venturing closer, he saw the case held the blackened, half-melted remains of Gil-galad's spear Aeglos, all that had survived of the High King when he fell to Sauron. Beside it was a mithril circlet set with eight blue stars. "I was not aware that Elrond kept Aeglos."
"That and a great many other things." Lindir brushed the dust off his dark brown robes and joined Glorfindel by the case. "He was keeping them in a crate down in the cellar, can you believe such a thing? Lady Celebrían wants the space for an additional root cellar. I could not tell you whose idea it was to display these items, but I strongly suspect the lady threatened to leave them out in the damp if Elrond did not once and for all do something with them."
"I find it difficult to believe the lady would threaten him so," said Glorfindel.
"From what I hear, her attempts at gentle persuasion fell on deaf ears. How else was she to get him to display these things as he ought?" Using his sleeve, Lindir wiped an imaginary dust mote off the glass.
"And Elrond chose you for this work? I would imagine his first choice to catalog anything in the library would have been Erestor."
"Oh, perhaps it would have been, but he's been brooding over the texts he lost when the roof began to leak last winter. Now he is trying to replace them and cannot be disturbed." Lindir rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. "You cannot ask Erestor to do anything when it means neglecting his precious texts. He is altogether insufferable."
"You would behave no differently," Glorfindel reminded him, "were it your harps or mandolins in place of his books."
"That is true enough." Lindir turned from the case and began rummaging through one of the crates as if searching for something in particular. "I am glad you decided to visit," he said. "There is something here I have been meaning to show you. Now where is it? Ah, this must be it."
From the crate he pulled out a flat object wrapped in a protective sheet of onion-thin parchment; Glorfindel detected a faint whiff of mothballs as Lindir began unwrapping the parchment. The object within was a square of fabric, once a rich, dark green now much faded. "Look now," said Lindir, carefully unfolding the cloth with hands that smoothed it as they moved over the weave.
Golden threads gleamed against the appliqué design, a rayed golden flower on a field of green. Glorfindel lifted a hand to touch it, but stopped short of the edge of the fabric. "This is a banner of Gondolin," he said. "I did not think any relics of its fall survived."
"Nor did I, though I am told Pengolod sent Elrond the few items he had when he departed for the West. I could not say with certainty where Elrond acquired this," said Lindir, motioning to the banner, "but I know my heraldry well enough to know whose it is. It is the Golden Flower, and it is yours."
Glorfindel did not meet his eyes; it was easier to keep his gaze fixed on a dead length of fabric than it was to acknowledge living curiosity. If he asks now, how can I possibly answer otherwise? "When have I ever told you that I was Lord of the House of the Golden Flower?" He concentrated on keeping his voice even. "That Glorfindel died long ago."
"Yes, I asked myself the same question. I asked myself how you could possibly be the balrog-dagnir when you yourself had said that you were born in Tirion, that you had been named after the hero of Gondolin."
"I did not lie."
"No, but you did not tell the truth either. Not all of it, for it is clear to me that no one ever asked you the question directly, for who would have the gall to ask someone if they had died and been reborn out of Mandos? Even I did not believe it, for though we are taught that such a thing is possible, who among us has ever seen it?" Lindir stood at his shoulder, separated from him by only a hair's breadth, and Glorfindel felt the talagand's words as a warm breath in his ear. "I will not be so uncouth as to ask you directly, but I am not blind and not Erestor's student for nothing."
Glorfindel, trembling with fear and anger, shoved the banner away from him, into Lindir's hands. "Then keep this, and your counsel."
Lindir took the banner and carefully laid it and its wrappings across the nearest table. "My memory is long," he murmured. "I have not forgotten the day you heard the children singing of the fall of the balrog-dagnir, and how you rebuked me and then fled. Being but a child, I thought you were wroth with me. I did not mark the tears in your eyes."
"And I remember telling you it was a sad song, and that I had no liking for sad songs," Glorfindel said tightly. "There are many who weep to hear it."
"Yes, I know it, even as there are many who weep to hear of the fall of Gil-galad. But you said to me then that you found it a sad song because you remembered that time." Lindir leaned closer, without quite touching him. "I have often wondered how your parents could have named you for the hero of Gondolin if you were born before his death."
Curse you, Erestor, for teaching your pupil to be so observant.
Glorfindel wanted to demur, to provide some quick and simple explanation, but Lindir's eyes plainly said his convictions were set. He knew the truth and would not be turned from it. "You cannot deny that the light of Valinor is in your eyes. In your joy and wrath, you glow with it. Why would you deny this grace of the Valar?"
"You are asking me a question for which I have not the words to answer."
A softness came then into Lindir's face, and he withdrew a pace, placing himself between Glorfindel and the banner. The sharp-witted talagand and his probing questions were gone; he looked again like the boy who went in fear of provoking or disappointing his protector. "Is it so a shameful thing to be reborn?" he asked gently.
More than once over the millennia, Elrond had asked that selfsame question, for which Glorfindel never had an answer. "I do not know that shame is the right word, pen-neth." He hung his head, staring at the floor as if it could somehow tell him. "I do not know what word I would use, only that I believe life was returned to me too soon. There were many others who deserved rebirth, yet I was the one chosen to leave Mandos and return to Middle-earth."
"Life is a gift of the One," said Lindir. "My parents deserved life also, and perhaps had the attack come but a second later, they would have lived. I do not know why Mandos decided it was their time, or why an Orc arrow took my ada and left me unscathed. I do not try to fathom the ways of the Valar; they simply are. Nor do I waste my days brooding over my loss. Life is too precious, too full of joy to spend lingering in the shadows, and I prefer to live."
"You do not question it," Glorfindel pointed out, "because you have never been dead."
"Is Mandos not a place of rest and healing?"
"Any healer might tell you that healing often means pain," said Glorfindel, "and there are wounds that do not heal save through yet more sorrow. It is the way of things." He glanced, his jaw set firmly against the threat of tears. "Is it not enough, to have my name? Do not ask for the memories of my death as well."
Lindir reached back with one hand, stroking the faded silk with careful fingers. "There is a place upon the wall for this, if you would have it."
"Nay, it is ill enough that I must endure such reminders of Gondolin in song, but it is one day out of the year and I have learned to bear it. But I would not have others look upon the Golden Flower when they come here and dwell upon a dead hero."
"I spoke not of a dead hero." Lindir pulled the banner from the table. It flowed from his arms and pooled on the floor between them. "Nay, I spoke of a living one."
* * *
Even at high noon, a thin mist clung to the walls and rooftops of Mithlond. Gulls shrieked overhead, their mewling as omnipresent a reminder of the sea as the mingled smells of salt, sand and fish.
Glorfindel loved the sound of rushing water, but the sea had no pull upon him. He wondered at Círdan, who had dwelt content upon the Hither Shore since the Teleri first beheld the Great Sea and built the ships that bore his people into the West while he himself remained behind. This he had never bothered to ask of the Shipwright, why he stayed, for Círdan's replies were often too cryptic to make it worth the effort.
And yet Círdan summons me now, for what purpose I know not.
Such an errand to Harlindon he had not undertaken since the days before the Last Alliance. Gil-galad was dead and Lindon stood abandoned to time and the elements; the one kinsman who might have had a claim upon the throne of the High King of the Noldor had refused the honor, renouncing even the title of lord to dwell as a healer and lore master in the haven he had founded.
On the road to Mithlond, Glorfindel encountered Men where once only Elves had ruled. He passed through lands bearing strange names, and upon crossing the bridges of the Baranduin and Mitheithel, he had had to pay tolls in the names of rulers unknown to his tongue. The inhabitants of those lands looked strangely upon him and whispered behind their hands when he came among them; after a time, he took to avoiding the roads and so came to Mithlond in secret.
The time of the great Elven kingdoms was past, said Elrond. Even in Thranduil's kingdom east of the Hithaeglir and in Lórien, the Eldar knew their time in Middle-earth was fading.
Círdan met him upon the steps of the Havens. Tall and robed in gray, the Shipwright waited quietly for Glorfindel to dismount his horse and give the reins over to a groom.
"Él síla lúmena vomentienguo, Glorfindel." Círdan pressed a hand over his heart in greeting. In such matters, Gil-galad once said, the Shipwright was obstinate in his use of Telerin and it was most diplomatic to oblige him. Glorfindel returned the salutation, phrasing the words as gracefully as he could, then stood quietly waiting for Círdan to address him.
"Do you wonder why I requested your presence, malthener?" Círdan gently laid a hand upon his arm. "Come, walk with me."
Of all things in Arda, Mithlond was unchanging, seemingly immune to the fading Glorfindel sensed elsewhere. Perhaps because it was a point of departure and would always be thus. Through the tall, arched windows, he could see Círdan's people at work on the docks, laboring over an unfinished vessel. Always there was construction of some sort going on at the Havens, for Círdan always kept one ship at the ready for those who wished to sail West. Farther down the dock, away from the knock of hammers and the rasp of saws, the ship of departure quietly awaited its passengers; beside it were moored a pair of fishing sloops from which several Teleri were busily unloading the day's catch.
"Several visitors have come to me in the past week," said Círdan, "one of whom desires your presence. By name he has asked for you, and now awaits you."
The summons had come more than a month earlier, but Glorfindel did not bother to point this out. It was common knowledge that Círdan saw things long before they ever came to pass, and there were whispers that he had foreseen Gil-galad's death on the slopes of Orodruin before the High King ever joined his force to that of Elendil.
In the corridor they passed a tall white figure who met Glorfindel's eyes with a cold, appraising gaze. Glorfindel sensed power emanating from him and somehow knew he was neither Elf nor mortal. He turned to Círdan for some explanation, but the Shipwright's attention was focused elsewhere.
Through another corridor they passed, coming at last to Círdan's library. It was not as large or impressive as Elrond's library, and upon the nearest shelves Glorfindel saw row upon row of nautical texts. Books about shipbuilding, books about maritime weather and ocean currents, all of it suitably dull reading.
Tucked in a far corner of the room, studying a chart in the light of one of the windows, was a tall figure in gray. Like an elderly mortal he seemed, but as with the other being in the corridor, Glorfindel sensed he was not all he appeared to be.
"This is Mithrandir," said Círdan. And without any further explanation, he gave a little bow and withdrew from the room, pulling the doors closed behind him.
The figure slowly set down the chart and looked at him. Glorfindel returned his gaze, wondering what Círdan expected him to say to this stranger. I know him not, and yet Círdan sends for me to welcome him. What madness is this?
After a moment, the one called Mithrandir spoke. "We have met before, long ago." His voice was grave and measured, though not unkind, and somehow strangely familiar.
"Forgive me," said Glorfindel, "but surely I would have remembered such a meeting."
"Is your memory so bound up in the appearance of the hröa that you have utterly forgotten those you knew in Aman?" Mithrandir set one hand upon his hip and with the other beckoned to Glorfindel. "Come closer, unless you wish to shout across the room."
Only one being had ever spoken to him with such a voice, but the form he had worn was ageless and otherworldly. Still, Glorfindel complied and, drawing closer, sensed both the power hidden beneath the other's flesh. And his eyes, pools of compassion and strength, the first eyes that had looked upon him when he emerged from Mandos. "Olórin? But how can that be? The shape of Arda has been changed; there is no longer a Straight Road by which you could have come, and yet…."
"And yet I am here," Olórin finished. "There are powers set far above and beyond mine, of which you have never glimpsed, and it is by their agency that I am come to these shores. But no more may I tell you of whose will I serve and what task they have set me."
Glorfindel took Olórin's outstretched hand, marveling at the feel of mortal flesh. So fragile it seemed, with its seams and pores and wrinkles, yet it was but a glove for the strength of the Maia spirit within. Warm it was, the mere touch of a hand soothing his spirit, kindling both joy and hope within him.
Frowning, he looked down at the hand in his own and saw a band of gold where none had been before; from it winked a dark ruby like an eye of fire, like blood. I have seen this ring before. And then, he knew. It was Narya. "How came you by this ring?" he asked.
Olórin closed his hand about the Ring of Fire and in the next breath it vanished as if it had been a mere illusion. Yet the subtle aura of power remained, and Glorfindel knew Olórin had not removed it. "A gift," he said, "from the one who waits and watches upon this Hither Shore."
"Círdan gave it to you? Has it been in his keeping, all these many years?" As many who knew of the existence of the Elven rings, even the High King's own herald, had believed, the Ring of Fire had perished in the flame that obliterated Gil-galad. None had ever given thought to the possibility that the High King might have offered it elsewhere after Glorfindel refused it.
"Many things he has seen," answered Olórin. "My road is yet untrodden, yet already he perceives I shall have a need to give hope and courage where it may falter in these dark times. I am told that a shadow grows in Dol Guldur."
Thranduil's people had reported that the ancient outpost of Mordor, pulled down and left in ruin after the Last Alliance, had become again a place of darkness. Strange vapors emanated from its stones, withering and blackening the surrounding forest in all directions. Not even the hardiest of the woodland King's scouts would venture near that place now; those who had reported eerie cries in the night, and then there were those who never returned at all.
It was clear that Sauron's evil, long thought ended on the plain of Gorgoroth, had returned.
"Three of us there are who have come this time," said Olórin. "Círdan has given us the name Istari, for he has perceived our true nature."
"He recognized also the Ithryn Luin," answered Glorfindel.
Long ago, after the fighting ended in Eregion, Alatar and Pallando had journeyed East. Reports of them came sometimes to Lindon, until all news ceased and they vanished into the wild lands beyond the Hithaeglir. Once in a while, Glorfindel thought of them, wondering what fate they had met.
Olórin could not tell him, though he did not think they had met an end in the bodies granted them. "For their spirits have not returned to Aman," he said. "I will have you meet the others, ere we leave."
"Where do you intend to go?"
"I have heard that Imladris is a place of sanctuary, of knowledge and healing, and that Eärendil's son is wise among lore masters. I think, perhaps, it is the best place to make a beginning, for I sense I shall have much need of Elrond's counsel in times to come," said Olórin. "I am not surprised to hear you have stayed with him."
Glorfindel nodded. "When first I came here, Círdan told me I had come in service to the star. I took that to mean I was to serve Ereinion Gil-galad, the Star of Radiance, for I had served his uncle in Gondolin."
"Yet that was not what Círdan meant. Ever mysterious, even ominous at times are the words of the Shipwright. That much I have learned in my brief time here. No doubt he meant you were to serve the Star of Eärendil, and that, too, is fitting. Were it not for your deeds, Tuor and his son would not have survived." Drawing closer, Olórin clasped Glorfindel's hands between his own, and once again Glorfindel felt the solid heat of Narya. "Much sorrow you have borne in the centuries since last I saw you. You still grieve for the lives you could not save."
"Time has done little to ease the memory of Gondolin. Everywhere there are reminders of what was." Glorfindel had permitted Lindir to hang the banner of the Golden Flower as one of the relics of Gondolin on display in the library, but stood firm in his refusal to claim it openly as his own.
"And yet all things must pass in time. It is not only to confront the shadow that I have come to these shores. I come to you also with words of comfort and renewal."
"Many words have already been spent on me, and many of those wasted. I would not have you—"
"Did I give you leave to speak? Twenty-seven centuries have passed since you left Mandos, and it would seem you have spent much of that time wallowing in self-pity. Did you think time in Aman was unchanging?" Olórin gripped his hands all the more tightly, as if to force Narya's warmth into him. "You fool of a Quendi, did you think you would be alone forever, that you would never again see those whom you have lost? Did you think they would dwell in Mandos forever?"
In the gentle sting of Olórin's reprimand, a wild hope stirred in Glorfindel's breast. He did not know if it was Narya he felt or his own heart thawing. "I-I do not—"
"Aye, nessimawë, that is obvious. But no more words now." Olórin raised a finger to his lips. "Upon the shores of Aman they await you, and many words of love and longing to see you again have they sent with me. Would you hear them now?"
Glorfindel was beyond answering. He laid his head upon the other's shoulder, feeling the coarse weave of Olórin's robe and hearing the beating of his heart beneath it, and his tears came without stopping. Once before he had stood like this, a bruised fëa thrust too soon into a new body, but the tears he wept then had been tears of pain and frustration. He never thought to weep with joy, or that it would be such release.
He felt a hand gently comb through his hair, tenderly smoothing the strands. "Perhaps," Olórin murmured into his ear, "I will wait to tell you."
* * *
talagand: (Sindarin) harper. Tolkien does not specifically say what Lindir's profession was, but because he critiques Bilbo's song in the Hall of Fire he is commonly taken for a minstrel or lore master of some sort.
The Fall of Gil-galad: The words are in as near a Sindarin translation as I could find. Tolkien does not say who composed the song; for the purposes of the story, I have given credit to Lindir.
pen-iaur: (Sindarin) old one
The realms through which Glorfindel would have traveled are Cardolan and Arthedain.
Él síla lúmena vomentienguo: (Telerin) A star shines on the hour of our meeting.
nessimawë: (Quenya) youthful one