At the height of summer, after three weeks as a guest of Imladris, the High King took his leave. Once again the household was assembled along the road, this time to watch the procession depart.
Despite the heat that lay like a blanket on the valley, all wore their best clothing and the military units donned their ceremonial mail and armor. Banners stirred only slightly in the still air; even the one Elrond as the King's herald carried down the steps and handed to one of Gil-galad's warriors hung limply from its pole.
Glorfindel was close enough to see the sweat beading Gil-galad's face as he climbed into the saddle; he knew that once they were out of the valley, the King's party would stop and remove their stifling armor and cloaks for cooler, more practical gear. Glorfindel himself would do the same, as would everyone else, and life in the valley would gradually settle back into its normal, comfortable pattern.
The High King was not one who liked to linger over his farewells. All the courtesies that needed to be made, all that needed to be said was done the night before. In this, Glorfindel was of the same mind, and understood Gil-galad's need to move matters along smoothly and swiftly.
As the King rode past on his gray destrier, Glorfindel was surprised to see a certain feather hanging from his braid. His gaze dropped to the crowd, looking to see if Lindir noticed. And indeed, the child, who hung on the High King's every movement, was following the blue feather with rapt eyes.
The evening before, Elrond had persuaded Gil-galad to play the harp for a small, private gathering in his apartment. Glorfindel, among those invited, at the last moment remembered Lindir's love of music and desire to hear the High King play and so sent for the boy. Seated between Glorfindel and Erestor, Lindir was quiet throughout, occasionally tilting his head to better hear the music of the harp and the soft accompaniment sung by one of Gil-galad's captains. Afterward, Gil-galad himself had come over and commented that the boy seemed to have a natural ear for music.
Lindir shyly ducked his head and brought a slender blue object out of his pocket. It was a feather, probably from a blue jay, and from its bent state it was clear the boy had been carrying it around for some time. He looked up at Gil-galad and, anxiously chewing his underlip, offered the feather to the High King.
"Why, what is this for, pen-neth?" the King asked gently.
"For the pretty flute, aran daer, and…and because blue is one of your colors."
"Is it now?" Gil-galad carefully took the feather and twirled it between his fingers, smoothing the edges. "Aye, but you did not have to make a gift of such a pretty thing. Do you not wish to keep it?"
Lindir was firm in his insistence that the King accept his token, because his parents had told him this was what he should do whenever he received a gift, though Erestor later told Glorfindel what he had said to the boy about the spirit of gift-giving.
"About some things he is so very stubborn and literal-minded," said the advisor.
"I do not see the harm in it," replied Glorfindel, "and the King was quite touched by the gift."
Erestor rolled his eyes. "You empty-headed filit, that is not the point. He believes he must give some material object to show his love and appreciation, not knowing that this is not always necessary."
"Or perhaps, you noisy crow," said Glorfindel, "Lindir wishes to honor his parents' teachings in this manner. I do not see that it is a matter for concern."
Once the procession had passed through the stockade and the sound of trumpets receded into the distance, Glorfindel dismissed his gweth and went to collect Lindir from Hallacár.
"Come, pen-neth," he said. "It is too hot to be wearing this armor and I know you are no less uncomfortable in those stiff new clothes."
Through the dispersing crowd they wove, ducking into the shadier halls of the main house. Glorfindel's rooms were at the end of a long corridor and very plain; Elrond had offered him one of the larger suites that had been built for Gil-galad's party, and some of the furniture that had been sent from Lindon, but ostentatious surroundings had never been to his liking and he refused all but the most functional of the furnishings. He allowed himself a few books and ornaments from his apartments in Lindon, and the clothes that were the wardrobe of a great lord, for in his father's house he had learned that as a lord of the Golden Flower he had a duty to dress well no matter what the occasion. That habit persisted well into his second life, though Gondolin and its people were no more.
On several occasions since his arrival in Lindon eighty years ago, Gil-galad and Elrond both attempted to give him gifts of ornaments that subtly incorporated the device of the Golden Flower. He could not refuse without appearing rude, but made it clear that he would not wear them until he was ready to make it known that he was the reborn hero of Gondolin.
Lindir threw off his formal clothes with as much haste as was seemly, changing into the dusty tunic, trousers and sandals that were his everyday summer wear. Someday, when he was old enough to take a more active interest in his appearance, Glorfindel intended to teach him about the importance of being well-groomed. For now, he would simply let Lindir be the boy he was.
"Pen-neth," he said, "did you mark how the High King wore your feather?" When the boy nodded, he continued, "Such a pretty thing, yet did Erestor not tell you that you need not have given Gil-galad a gift where none was required?"
Lindir's fingers paused over the lacing of his sandals and he looked up, already chewing his lip. "I didn't want him to think I didn't like his gift."
Glorfindel laughed at that. "Of course he knew you liked it, child. Before he left, he reminded me to see about finding someone to teach you to play. But that reminds me also, I have been meaning to ask you a very important question, which I have sadly neglected for a very long time."
Sitting down in a chair, he motioned for the boy to come sit on the stool beside him. "I am not accustomed to having children in my house, so I do not always remember certain matters as I should." He cleared his throat, suddenly embarrassed by Lindir's intent gaze and his own foolish oversight. "It has come to my attention that you have not had a begetting day celebration since leaving Ost-in-Edhil."
The boy's reaction seemed to waver somewhere between joy and sorrow, as if he could not decide what he felt. "No, ada," he answered softly.
Even now, he does not want to blame me for being such a fool. "Well, then perhaps I should ask you what you would like for the occasion. What sort of gift should I give you? Somehow I do not think you will want more new clothes; I remember that I never liked such gifts when I was a boy."
Once again Lindir chewed his lip; it was apparent he had not expected such a question and had not given the matter any thought. "I don't have anything to give you, ada," he said softly.
Glorfindel frowned, thinking perhaps there was something to Erestor's concerns. "Did your parents expect you to give them a gift in return then?"
"No, ada, but they always said it was important to show the giver how much you appreciated their gift, and I always gave my parents something." Lindir clamped down on his lip, biting back what was clearly a painful memory. "Sometimes I found things, like the pretty robin's egg I once found in the courtyard, or one of the servants would show me how to make something. My ada--my real ada, that is—he kept them on a shelf with all his books."
"Hush now, child," murmured Glorfindel, pressing his lips to the boy's forehead when he saw the tears start in Lindir's eyes. "Nay, you do not have to tell me, and I do not expect a gift when I give one. Now if you do not know what you would like for your begetting day, you may think on it and tell me later."
Lindir nodded slowly. "Ada," he asked, "when is your begetting day?"
"My begetting day? Ai, I thought I had already answered that question."
"But you did not tell me," Lindir said.
"Child, I have not celebrated my arad en-edonnol in so long that I no longer remember the day." Glorfindel twitched uncomfortably at telling such a blatant lie, and had Lindir been looking at him he would have seen at once that it was an untruth. But though his heart tugged at him to tell the boy the truth, that he was reborn and had two begetting days, he knew Lindir was not ready to hear it.
Lindir, his eyes bright with inspiration, looked up at him. "Ada, would you like to have my begetting day?"
"I-I do not quite understand what it is you are offering me, child," answered Glorfindel. "Why would you offer me your begetting day?"
"Because you need one, ada, and this way we can share."
For a moment, Glorfindel was speechless. Such a simple gift and yet so very precious, the boy was offering him a part of himself that Glorfindel knew he should not take. "Nay, that day belongs to you and you alone. I would not have others forget your begetting day in remembering mine."
"But you need one," protested Lindir.
"I will choose another, if it is so important to you that we celebrate mine, but I will not take something that belongs to you." Then, seeing the boy's crestfallen look, he quickly added, "Though the gift is a generous one and much appreciated. Now I am not certain, but I believe my begetting day was sometime in ethuil, perhaps Lothron." This was his first begetting day, for in that moment Glorfindel chose the day on which his fëa was created; he did not remember the day he had come out of Mandos, as the seasons were static in Valinor and Olórin never told him the date. "I will try to remember the exact day."
Now, he realized, they had come to that question Glorfindel most dreaded, for he had never bothered to ask Lindir what the date of his arad en-edonnol was. "Pen-neth," he began, "you must forgive an empty-headed warrior for not remembering your exact begetting day. Would you remind me again?"
The look Lindir gave him said he knew exactly what Glorfindel was doing, and that he forgave it. "It's the eleventh day of Hithui, ada. And you're not empty-headed, no matter what Master Erestor says."
Glorfindel gave a start. "What's that, child? Ai, what has that quáco been saying about me now?"
* * *
filit: (Quenya) bird
ethuil: (Sindarin) late spring, the equivalent of the Quenya tuilë.
Lothron: (Sindarin) May
Hithui: (Sindarin) November