They were the sons of Imladris, twin stars as dark as midnight and radiant as dawn. Long had they been beloved by their father's people, admired for their prowess in battle and adored for their gentle nature when at home.
But as they passed through the halls of their father's house, stained with the marks of travel and fierce battle, carrying a blood soaked sack between them, Elrond's household paused, their greetings dying on their lips as they looked on in horror.
* * *
Glorfindel did not suspect anything was amiss until Lindir appeared at the stable door. Nor was the talagand's presence unusual, for his foster son often came to greet him when he returned from a patrol, sometimes helping him remove his mount's tack and rub down the horse's flanks as he had done when he was younger.
After several moments, Glorfindel realized Lindir had not said anything beyond the most cursory greeting and looked up from his work. The late afternoon light streaming in through the door backlit the talagand and it was difficult to see his face, but he did not seem to be smiling. "Why are you so quiet? Do not tell me you have broken one of your harp strings."
If anything, the jest seemed to upset Lindir; as he moved into the dark stable Glorfindel saw his eyes were red-rimmed and his face was pale. Slowly, Glorfindel put down the curry comb and held out his arms.
"Ai, pen-neth, what is the matter?" he said, stroking his foster son's dark hair. "I have rarely seen you this distraught
A moment passed before Lindir removed his head from Glorfindel's shoulder and looked up; a hand swiftly brushed the tears from his eyes. "Elrond's sons have returned from their travels," he said colorlessly.
"Have they now?" In the last few decades, Elladan and Elrohir had spent increasingly more time away from home, venturing far abroad with the Dúnedain or alone. "It has been three years since they last were here. How do they fare?"
Lindir bit his underlip. "They are…not themselves, ada."
Ever since their mother had been wounded and gone West, the two brothers had been moody and withdrawn, refusing all solace save the hunting of the creatures that had driven Celebrían from Middle-earth. "They have not been themselves for eighty years. What have they said or done to you that upsets you so?"
"I did not say that they—"
"You have not called me ada since you were a child," Glorfindel pointed out, "not unless something has truly bothered you, and you are a dreadful liar. Now tell me what they have done."
Lindir sighed. "I-I saw them in the thamas naur, after they had seen their father. There were some of us who were sharing songs and I saw they were sitting in a corner. They looked very weary and disheartened. I-I asked if they wished to join us. Those who come to the hall are always willing to hear a story or sing or some such, but not them." Lindir hung his head. "They snapped at me and told me to keep my empty-headed tunes to myself."
"They said that, did they?" It would not have been the first time since their mother departed that Elladan or Elrohir had snapped at someone. "And what did you tell them? I have never known you to be at a loss for a quick retort."
"What could I say, ada?" Lindir replied. "There was such violence in their eyes, I do not think even Erestor would have dared say anything."
Glorfindel raised an eyebrow. Anything that would render Elrond's sharp-tongued chief advisor speechless was grave indeed. "Did they harm you, ion-nín? Did they lift a hand to you or even threaten to?" He heard the anger in his voice, softening his tone only when he saw Lindir slowly shake his head.
Still, pain lingered in the other's eyes. "But there are other ways to do harm," he said. "I would they were still boys who stuffed healing paste into my flutes. Those were happier days, though at the time I lost much sleep over their antics and wretched singing. I think I would give much to have things as they once were."
* * *
A large object was burning in the grate. As he entered the study, Glorfindel nearly gagged on the acrid stench, and choked on the dark smoke that wafted throughout the room. His immediate thought was to open the windows, but saw someone had already done so.
Elrond, unable to work, was on the balcony taking in the night air. He looked weary and dejected, stirring but little when Glorfindel addressed him.
"Are you trying to stifle yourself, gwador?" Glorfindel coughed into his hand. "Need I ask what you are burning that puts forth such a smoke and stench, that you could not have had it burned outside?"
The master of Imladris turned and frowned at him. "I would not have everyone know what manner of gift my sons have brought me from abroad."
As Glorfindel ducked his head back into the study, to peer more closely at what Elrond had thrown into the fire, he felt a hand come down hard on his shoulder. "If I wanted you to see an orc's head soaked in pitch," Elrond said in his ear, "I would have called you in before I put it on the flames."
What manner of trophies are they bringing home? "Then the whispers I have heard on my way up here are true?"
"I know not what you have heard, Glorfindel, nor do I know that I wish to hear it. I have spoken many times to them about their rough manners, and told them that they may ride far abroad into the realms of wild Men, but when they come into my house they are to behave with the dignity and respect their mother and I taught them."
"It is not my place to discipline them," Glorfindel said tightly, "nor would I presume to instruct you in that matter—"
Elrond frowned again, wafting the smoke away from him with a gesture. "Yet your very tone suggests to me that you have come to do that very thing."
"I will not sit idly by while my own charge is wounded by their rough words," he finished.
"They have done some harm to Lindir?"
Glorfindel shook his head. "They have not drawn their swords upon him, if that is what you fear, but their words hurt him all the same. It is not the first time they have snapped at someone, and I have not interfered, but I will not tolerate it where my foster-son is concerned."
Elrond's mouth curled as if he would say more, then his face fell and the weariness returned. "I had heard from Mithrandir that they had become fey, for he met them not long ago in the wilderness, mutilating the orc corpses they left in their wake; he did not say more on the matter, save that it was not in his power to drive the anger out of them.
"Lord Aragost has also written to me. They are much honored among the Dúnedain for their valor, my sons, yet the Rangers have begun to whisper among themselves, and they are rough Men, some of them, much hardened to cruelty and war." He lifted a trembling hand to his face, covering his brow while he braced himself on the railing with the other. "I do not know what to do with them. I do not know what to say."
And what little you have said is little better than a puff of air. "And instead, they are throwing a tantrum with swords and bows," snapped Glorfindel. "I know exactly what to say to them."
Elrond rounded on him. "And you think I have not contemplated disciplining them so?"
"Whatever you have done has not been enough. Lindir is no coward that he cannot defend himself, yet he tells me there was violence in their eyes, and he feared to say more. Next time they may well draw their blades, for I deem they have spent too much time in the company of Men who do not think their recklessness acts of kinslaying. And I will not presume to tell you what I will do if their wrath falls so upon one of my own," answered Glorfindel. He felt his body tremble even as he heard his voice quaver with emotion. I will not stoop to that which Men call justice, but they will not go unpunished and I will be the one to drive them forever from Imladris.
In the shadows, he saw Elrond reach for something, a glass which he brought to his lips, drained and refilled from a decanter; he shuddered briefly at what was obviously the icy sting of miruvor. Glorfindel had never known the perelda to drink himself into oblivion in the way of Men, even in the dark days when Celebrían lay wounded and fading; when he focused again on his advisor, his eyes were as sharp as before.
"Do you not think I have told them this?" he asked Glorfindel. "Do you think I have not condemned their bloodlust? And yet, when they tell me that blood is the only thing that washes away their pain, do not think that I do not sympathize with them, that if I were not bound to stay here and govern that I would not ride forth with them."
Long had Glorfindel known of Elrond's restless anguish, and thought perhaps it was his mortal ancestry that made him wish to repay his pain in blood. Certainly he believed it of Elrond's sons; in them the blood of Men was paradoxically diluted and yet called to them all the more strongly.
And, too, he knew Elrond's fear, that when their time came to choose, they would take the path of Elros and accept the doom of Men. He knew Elrond's anguish, that all those whom the perelda had loved had left him, or been seized and taken out of his world by the cruel fate that was the music of the Ainur.
But you are not the only one ever to have lost all you knew or loved, Glorfindel thought.
At last, in a quiet voice, he said, "There is not one here in Imladris or in Lórien who bears arms that does not rue not riding forth with your lady on that fateful journey, and I speak also for myself, gwador. There have been nights where I have lain awake wondering if such sorrow would have come to pass had I been among the guards."
Elrond looked at him, his lips parted as if to speak, but fell silent. Once again, words failed him and he hung his head. "They believe it of themselves, and they believe the same of me, that we are all to blame. If you can convince them otherwise, if you can ease this ache where I cannot, then you have my leave to try."
I would have confronted them whether you gave me leave or no. "It must end here, Elrond," said Glorfindel, "else the price they pay will be rendered in their own blood. That is not a threat from me, but a warning from one who knows."
"If it must be so," murmured Elrond. He began to nod, then paused and bit his lip in uncertainty. "Only, do not hurt them, gwador. They are my sons and have known pain enough."
Glorfindel put a hand on his arm. "You who are a healer should know what pain there is in the closing of a wound. I will do what is best. I cannot promise it will be gentle or without pain."
* * *
Lindir as Glorfindel's foster son is a fan invention introduced in an earlier story
talagand: (Sindarin) harper
thamas naur: (Sindarin) hall (of) fire
perelda: (Quenya) half-Elf. It is a quirk of my Glorfindel that he oftentimes uses Quenya instead of Sindarin.