Author's Note: I'm leaving the first chapter as a preview and a placeholder, because...this story's not dead, but it won't be updated here!
While Fanfiction dot net doesn't allow author's notes posted as chapters, I did want to let anyone who's still following this know that I've continued it at Archive of Our Own. Below is a preview of the (slightly rewritten) first chapter. To read more, look me up on the Archive of Our Own under the username "thegreatpumpkin."
"For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word." Catherine Drinker Bowen
Glorfindel relished the gentle snick of the latch as he closed his door behind him, resting his cheek against the wood for a moment, comforted by the solidity of it. He would not be bothered tonight, if he were lucky, not tonight. It was highly unlikely that a domestic emergency would come up, and Elrond had long since stopped trying to draw him out to join the evening's entertainment in the Hall of Fire.
(because he would never, never speak that story again)
At last he moved away from the door, lighting a candle beside his chair to read by. Even so, the dim space would have strained mortal eyes; shadows swallowed up its usually airy corners, giving the impression of a cramped and small chamber. The architect would likely have been horrified to see how his carefully-planned open space was being abused, but Glorfindel liked the crawling dark. He liked it even better when the candle had been extinguished; it flooded the room, drowning him sweetly in those long hours before sleep.
Council had raged long today, and Inglor had been even more impossible than was his usual. Of course, Glorfindel could admit to being overly involved in a simple discussion of city waterworks, but it had been the least trivial matter they'd dealt with for days and he'd been dying for the council to make a useful decision about something. Inglor's ignorance of the needs of a city this size only served to heighten his frustration with the whole season's worth of meetings.
Summer was winding to a close, and for that at least he was thankful. Autumn he almost enjoyed, crisp and chill and full of flavour; when councils began to be in earnest again, to dispatch with important matters before winter required their full attention. He would be relieved to stop arguing over such petty concerns as what sort of stone was best to repave city paths, which invariably summarised the majority of councils held between June and early September each year.
Glorfindel crawled into his chair in front of the hearth, laying an open manuscript across his knees and reaching behind him for the quill and inkwell on the table. He was tall even by elven standards, lean and well-shaped, but he had a way of curling up sideways in the chair that made him look small and angular, knees and elbows sticking out oddly. His neck would hurt when he went to bed from bending low over his book; and if elvish faces grew lined as mortal ones did, with much use, his thoughtful frown would have been deeply drawn.
The book would have to be recopied, if he ever chanced to make a proper tale of it. There were months' worth of scribbled notes and ambitious beginnings left off mid-sentence, pages and pages of writing—some angry and fast, some done in a slow heavy hand. Some smeared and blotted where the book was snapped shut as soon as quill left paper. Much crossed out, bits of it so heavily even Glorfindel could no longer tell what had been there—not that there was anyone but Glorfindel to look.
He twisted around after a moment, stretching across the chair arm to reach the bottle and glass that resided, of habit, beside the inkwell. He filled the glass distractedly, half his attention already back on the pages before him, rereading what he had written; doing his level best to avoid reading what he hadn't written, for the same reasons that he hadn't written it in the first place. The bite of the alcohol soothed, more pleasant in its familiarity than these memories that never quite felt like his own, no matter how vividly they seared him.
What he needed, really, was a place to start. It was quite different to write an account than to tell it by the fireside, and certainly they had always told him where to begin back when he gave in to their ceaseless wish for the tale. He did not think it quite fitting to take the same sensationalistic approach in this record. After all, its purpose was hardly to give sheltered gossips a dose of vicarious adventure. He wished—needed—to capture that time as it had truly been, before the world changed too much and it was lost forever.
There was the founding of Gondolin, of course—the guidance and blessing of Ulmo, the glow of the rising towers and walls, the inimitable beauty of a well-kept secret. Or the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and the subsequent coronation of Turgon, a far sadder occasion than anyone would have guessed. The tale of Eol and Aredhel, that bred and tainted Maeglin; the slight of Idril that incensed him—perhaps that. Or Idril's wedding, or the birth of her son. All might have begun his record in a more or less satisfactory manner. But somehow he did not think the story stretched that far; or at least that if it did, he would be presuming much to try and chronicle it.
Maybe, then, best to start with the only element of the whole affair that was truly his own—himself. He could edit it out in the recopying, but presumably beginning with an explanation—an introduction—would help him to get a feel for the narrative. After all, that was who he really was. Not Glorfindel the reborn, biding a forced childhood in a place that was and wasn't home; not Glorfindel the soldier, commanding Imladris' troops at Fornost; not Glorfindel the seneschal, serving under Elrond son of Eärendil.
He knew who he was, within his own mind. He projected himself now as he had been then: Goldtress of the Los'loriol, Golden Glorfindel who now ruled a house (he firmly believed) not so much dead as sleeping. When all was said and done, that was who he would be; in the meantime he did not plan on assuming some other identity, whatever his circumstances.
He put his name at the top of a new page, much the way he made Elrond's sons write names on their coursework so that he could tell who had done what, their handwriting too much alike for distinction. He let his quill hover over the first line as if he were just about to begin writing, but even with such an easy start he was not entirely sure what to say. He knew that they didn't understand, the ones who asked him for the tale, and it had to be explained. Elrond might have understood, even though he had not yet been born when Glorfindel was Glorfindel; if only because he understood what it was like to be changed after loss, a loss that could never truly be regained. His brother, choosing the mortal life, would never be returned to him, not even beyond the white shores. Still, his seneschal—a temporary position, of course, only temporary—could not bring himself to admit what he was trying to accomplish, much less ask Elrond for help.
Glorfindel's glass was empty before nib touched paper again, and still the soft scratching was slow as he considered his words.
One must not make the mistake of believing the two Glorfindels are one and the same. This is the tale of the former, he of Gondolin; and has no bearing upon the latter, he of Imladris, save as its historian and scribe.
Sometimes, he thought, one must be allegorical to convey things properly to those who would not otherwise understand.
A muffled knocking broke his concentration, not that it had been particularly durable to start with, as he finished the second sentence. "Busy!" he growled out without glancing up, then as an afterthought— "Erestor can deal with it if it's important."
"I most certainly cannot," Erestor's voice came from the other side of the door, sounding distinctly put out. "His Royal Highness of the Greenwood has decided to grace us with his presence, and I'm a bit occupied with arranging a feast on no notice. Guestrooms and entertainment don't just present themselves on their own, so I'd recommend you get to it."
Glorfindel rolled his eyes skyward, pushing his empty glass aside to set down the book, open still to dry the ink. A month early, but of course. The backwards king of the backwoods kingdom could not settle for merely making a grand entrance. He had to make it clear and obvious that they were all scrambling at his convenience. Still, he couldn't quite muster the level of annoyance Erestor apparently felt, only a resigned sort of displeasure.
Erestor gave him a quick briefing as they walked. "They've just arrived, so you've a few minutes to get things in order without causing any serious offence by keeping them waiting. King Thranduil, his son, two counsellors and ten others. They should be in the Hall now. I left them with Lindir."
That put a bit of speed into Glorfindel's step. Lindir was clever enough in his way, but sometimes he didn't seem to have the sense he was born with. He could not be entirely trusted not to say something, in his irreverent way, to offend their visitors. Of course, he would not have meant anything by it, but harm unintended was not harm undone. Best to err on the side of caution, and remove Thranduil's party from his vicinity as soon as possible.
Glorfindel ducked into the office he and Erestor shared, snatching up a ledger off his desk and flipping to the back, where he kept record of guests and rooms. The Last Homely House tended to have a consistent flow of comings and goings, and Elrond had likely not turned anyone away from his door since before Imladris was built, when he and Gil-galad had guessed the nature of Annatar. Generally Celebrían handled such things, as the sweetly competent chatelaine and mistress of the holding, but she and Arwen were visiting her mother in Lothlorien and were not expected back for a fortnight at least.
There were available chambers in plenty, and many of acceptable size and furnishing for even a king—not that the Silvan lord with an exaggerated view of his own importance ought really to count as such. They were, however, dotted here and there; it was obvious the party couldn't all be quartered together, of which his Highness would surely complain. Well, of course the Prince would have to be quartered with his father—whether he was old enough to require his own chamber, Glorfindel didn't know, but he marked off a set of rooms side-by-side in the west corridor for their use in case. The counsellors could share, and so be placed at the end of the same corridor. As for the rest—well, they could either be packed together just around the corner from the counsellors, or spread out in smaller chambers on the lower floor, depending upon how close at hand Thranduil desired to have them.
Satisfied with his arrangements, he tucked the ledger beneath his arm and headed for the Hall of Fire. At this time of evening it was more a crossroads than a gathering place; dinner had not been eaten yet (and likely would be late, as Erestor hurried to make it appropriate for the guests), and the songs and tales here were for many only a dessert of sorts. The king's party was easy to spot, shifting uneasily in the least comfortable seats to be had in the entire hall while Lindir chatted away cheerfully. The expression of distaste on Thranduil's features amused in a small, mean way, but Glorfindel supposed it wouldn't do to keep him waiting.
The first time he'd been in Thranduil's presence, he had found the king profoundly attractive, but now he could see none of what had struck him then. It was not that he appeared any different; it was simply that somehow, as Glorfindel's perception of him changed, those features had lost their previous appeal. He supposed, somewhat wearily, that there was a danger of being remembered, with his Vanya hair—though on the other hand, the king was probably no more interested in playing out the awkward small talk of professional acquaintances than he was, thank Eru for small mercies.
He gave the rest of the party a quick looking-over as he crossed to them. The two counsellors were marked by overly nice clothing and jewels at their throats, as if they'd come from a ball rather than a journey. Despite the vanity, they seemed approachable enough, talking lowly and laughing occasionally. With luck Glorfindel could make allies of them in ensuring the visit went smoothly. The attendants were largely uninteresting, resting more or less quietly from the trip. It took a minute to spot the prince, who sat almost in the shadow of his father; silent but smiling, he listened to Lindir with apparent interest. He was clearly old enough for his own chambers, which settled that question, though he was young still—his father's features were reflected in softer ways upon the prince's curious face, and he was conspicuously small of stature beside his father's men. Let us hope, Glorfindel thought even as he hailed Lindir, that he is as well-behaved as he appears...
"...So I am certain he could arrange a tour for you during your visit," Lindir finished enthusiastically, then turned to greet the seneschal. "Ah, and here's Glorfindel to commandeer your company all for himself I'm sure. Rest well tonight, Greenwood gwedyr, for he likely has a score and more of interesting things planned for your stay."
Glorfindel smiled ingratiatingly and sketched a small bow of deference. "If your Highness would care to follow me, rooms are ready for your party to rest until dinner. I did wish to consult you on quartering your attendants—" he opened the ledger to a layout of the House, pointing out rooms. "They can be placed here, near your own chambers, a few men to a room, or they might spread out more in a lower corridor. Here. At your preference."
Thranduil barely glanced at the page, waving a hand as if the very question wearied him. "It is your arrangement, Seneschal, put them where you choose."
Glorfindel kept his expression patient, sending Lindir to take them to the lower rooms, then ascended the far stairs with the remaining four. He took a bit of a roundabout way there, coming up the far end of the hallway so Thranduil could see where his counsellors were roomed. He was not entirely sure why he bothered, as little as the king seemed to care. At any rate, he was glad to leave them at adjacent doors with a promise of their things being brought up momentarily. The king gave a brisk nod and disappeared inside.
The prince, however, turned a little of the smile earlier given to Lindir upon him and inclined his head in thanks. "Hannon le, Master Glorfindel."
"Ú-trasta nin," Glorfindel lied, though the smile he gave in return was true enough. Perhaps he might find an ally where he'd not thought to look.
The prince nodded once more, and slipped into his chambers, closing the door quietly. Glorfindel, for his part, was off to find ways of keeping the visitors busy and happy while they were in Imladris. He suspected it might prove to be tricky.
The evening trotted too quickly by; though Glorfindel passed on both dinner and entertainment, the only thing he'd finished by midnight was the alcohol. It was the wrong time of the season for festivals, and while technically he could have arranged feasting and dancing for every evening of the king's stay to keep them busy, he suspected neither Erestor nor Elrond would ever forgive him for the effort and expense required to do so. A tour of the place, if Thranduil was even interested enough to view the parts of Imladris necessity didn't dictate, could occupy a few hours. There was a tournament or two to come, and the garden to explore, but if the king was still intending to stay the originally planned six weeks, Glorfindel would have to do a great deal better than that. Even if (as he hoped) Thranduil and his two advisors shut up in council meetings and discussion with Elrond most of the day, that still left the prince to be kept busy.
Presumably Elrond would expect him to play host, if that were the case. He couldn't say he'd mind missing a few councils, though they might pick up a bit if the king had any negotiations in mind for the visit; but he didn't relish the idea of being responsible for the prince. Glorfindel supposed he could take lessons with Elrond's sons if Thranduil was willing (if, he amended, Thranduil cared one way or the other). But he was a bit older than the twins—had he already finished his lessons? What did they teach in the Greenwood, anyway? Perhaps the twins could be relied upon to entertain him the rest of the time. Presumably they would know best what sorts of things the sons of rulers interested themselves with at that age.
Glorfindel was well aware that his plans depended entirely on how well Elrond and his sons could keep the Silvans busy, but that was the best he had to offer the moment. He was a lord, not a trained pony, and he could only do so much for their amusement.
As for the manuscript—ha, lucky indeed if he were to make any headway there. His train of thought had been entirely disrupted, and there was no use trying to regain it. It seemed he had intended to write a little about himself; but what and why, he could not recall, and the lone few sentences there didn't jog his memory at all. He reflected idly that he should like to finish it someday, if only to get a reaction to those sentences. Everyone knew some version of his role in the Fall of Gondolin—what if they were suddenly to be told he were not the same elf at all? He smiled a little bitterly as he let himself imagine. Betrayed, they would feel, as if he owed them something for their misguided beliefs. They would call him fraud and many things worse, and say he had never looked like the paintings, he had never acted like the tales, and they had known all along.
And he would finally find some peace from their questions. Maybe that would save him the sleepless nights from dreams that cropped up when they begged for details and he gave in. Maybe it would stave off the despair that settled in when they insisted on introducing him to this or that descendant of one of his men, whether or not he remembered the face. Such eager, bright eyes he could barely stand it—as if they were all sharing some nostalgic bond, as if the sight of a dead comrade several generations removed should have him sighing with fond memory.
Even now, shut up in his chamber when the city had gone quiet around him, he could not bear to think of it. Or perhaps because he was shut away and closeted up—too much thinking space. He decided to chase it out with night air and stars, if he could, folding open the balcony doors and striding out to lean on the rail.
Fireflies had hovered earlier in the evening, but now it was too cool and dewy for their tastes. The drop in temperature had cleared the humidity some, and the stars sparkled unhindered by cloud or fog. He was not surprised to see other watchers on other terraces; what did elves love better than stars?
He was, however, a bit surprised to see four pale heads spread along balconies on the other side of the house—even so late, after a long journey, all of the Silvans housed in the west corridor had come out to look up at the sky. The counsellors looked on silently, but the king and his son talked, pointed—smiled occasionally. Glorfindel was fairly certain they had not seen him; he watched silently some minutes, distracted from the stars by the stargazers.
It was possible he had mistaken Thranduil—who was currently giving every indication of being a lover of beauty like any elf. Perhaps a tour would not be as ill-received as he'd originally thought. And truly, it wasn't as if he were adan, the man had to have some elven decency buried somewhere. Glorfindel was encouraged at the thought.
At last, he withdrew, leaving the night and its treasures to the guests. He was sure they had a more deserving appreciation than he did, this night. His bed or bottle would do better to dispel his sorrows, anyway.