Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction. Characters, settings and cultures are the property of the JRR Tolkien estate.

Note 1: Thank you to Adrienne for beta reading. Note 2: This story follows Fair Folk at the Free Fair, which can be found at my author page.


Far from Home

By Snowballjane


A thin sheen of frost covered the white city, glittering with the reflected light of the night's setting stars. At this hour, the constant sound of running water was interrupted only by the softly clinking footfalls of the ever-vigilant guards and the occasional stamping of hooves from the horses, which were no doubt snorting steaming clouds in the cold stables nearby.

So it was easy enough to believe – or at least to make believe – that time had folded in on itself and he was in Gondolin once more. A simple trick of the light, and he was still Captain of the House of the Golden Flower, the houses around him home to his kith and kin, none of them doubting the strength of those white walls.

It was a city of music and pure joy, where even the rivalries were ever in jest. Days were spent in the pursuit of exquisite beauty; crafting an intricate vessel or composing verses which might do proper honour to the fresh, vibrant nature around them.

The harsh crowing of a cock and coarse distant voices in the streets below shattered the brittle fantasy. Pale dawn light gradually revealed the city of men and Glorfindel stirred in his window perch, closing his eyes to the icy scene. This was Minas Tirith. The sound of rushing water came from the constant flow of the fountains in the courtyard and had none of the song of the bubbling natural waterfalls.

Gondolin was another lifetime - the city of his youth was gone. The elves who had lived there had naively believed their city would stand forever, but fell things had come and the white towers had crumbled in flames.

The city falling, the terrified screams barely audible above the roaring in his ears, the stench of evil in his nostrils, pain, terrible pain and a desperate hope. Then falling, falling into long darkness.

He opened his eyes. Only one star remained in the lightening sky. Yes, his hope had not been in vain. His sacrifice had allowed some to escape and in a fashion the city that was here and now was a part of the city that was gone, for those who had built it were of Eärendil's line.

Beautiful as it was to mortal eye, Minas Tirith was flawed and scruffy compared with any Elvish city. The townsfolk bustled about their business of living and dying, apparently keen to make as much noise and smell as possible in doing so. If Gondolin had been harmony, Minas Tirith was cacophony.

But these white walls had withstood the onslaught of fell creatures and an immense army intent on their destruction. Rather than tumble into ruin, the city had emerged from that artificial night stronger than ever.

The elf-lord watched the sun rise over the fields of Gondor, indulging his melancholic nostalgia a while longer.

He had been living in the city some six years, immersed in the life of the court. He played much the same advisory role for King Elessar as he had to the boy's foster father and he often thought young Estel had grown up surprisingly similar to Elrond, for all the conflicts there had been between half-elf and headstrong young man. For Queen Arwen, he was a willing ear when no one else understood the Elvish way of doing things. To the young prince Eldarion and his sisters, Ancalime and Miriel, he was strong, magical Uncle Elf. He had been accepted unquestioningly as one of the family, just as he had been at Imladris.

Celeborn had sailed. He had stayed just long enough to attend Eldarion's naming ceremony, though once stricken with the sea longing, he was visibly impatient to be going.

Glorfindel supposed that meant that by now Elrond knew himself to be a grandfather and he wondered whether that meant his promise was already fulfilled. That was the problem with loosely worded, rashly made promises. "Bring me word of them," yes, but the request had implied that he was to watch over and protect them, make up somehow for the "shortage of kin" the family provided. But how could his being here ever make up for the ways Elwing, Eärendil, Celebrian and Arathorn had unwillingly deserted their children?

* * *

The sun was fully up by the time Glorfindel left his dwelling, a fine house on the uppermost street of the city before the citadel. He strolled downwards through crowds of city folk, all of whom were scurrying about their business, wrapped in thick woollen cloths and huffing small white clouds of breath into the icy air.

Stopping before an elegant carved door, the elf lifted a heavy knocker and let it drop with a resounding clang. An instant later the door swung open and a warmly wrapped male servant bowed to him. "Elen sila lumenn omentielvo," said the dark-skinned young man with practised ease.

Glorfindel smiled in return. "Is the ambassador home?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. He is reading letters from Governor Fatimide but he will be glad to have your company."

The servant led the way along a dark corridor into a snug parlour, comfortably decorated in typical Gondorian style. The room offered just a few hints that its occupant was not native to that land. The fine, soft rug was of an unusual workmanship and across the dark-stained wooden desk were strewn scrolls in a broad looping script, which was neither Westron nor Tengwar.

A fire blazed in the hearth, allowing none of the chill from outside to remain in the air, nevertheless, the man seated at the desk was swaddled in almost as many layers of clothing as the servant. He was holding a scroll at arms length and staring at it intently, but as Glorfindel entered the room, he cast it aside.

"Greetings, my friend. This is bitter weather, is it not?" The man's voice was deep and low and carried in it a hint of rumbling laughter at the cheerful complaint.

"I do not feel it so much as you do, Mashara," said Glorfindel. "It would be considered mild in Imladris for this time of year. There, we did not reckon it winter until there was a snowfall deep enough that a dwarf could not see over it."

"Brrr," said Mashara, shivering and pulling a fur tighter around his shoulders as though chilled by the very thought of snow. "Still, you will take a warming glass of tea with me before we go up to the meeting?"

Mashara, Haradrim ambassador to Gondor, was an interesting and intelligent man and Glorfindel had been glad of his company – a fellow stranger in the city. The King and Queen were good friends, but oftentimes the elf thought it best to tactfully leave them to themselves. The ambassador had never met an elf before and for all his long years, Glorfindel had known but little of the Haradrim and their culture, so the pair found much to learn of each other.

By nature a man of peace, Mashara was just old enough to have seen action against Gondor as a raw recruit, although by his own admission he had been more a boy caught up in the excitement of his first Mumâkil ride than a skilled warrior.

He assured Glorfindel that he bore no ill-will against the country or its people and insisted that for the most part they returned the courtesy, although the colour of his skin marked him out as a foreigner as surely as Glorfindel's ears (and indeed height and bearing) marked him as an elf. However, Glorfindel had frequently walked through the city with his friend and his sharper hearing picked up the murmuring as he passed ordinary folk in the street. And even Mashara couldn't have missed the vicious words that had been flung against him by loud drunkards

As the servant poured out two glasses of tea, the ambassador rose from his desk and joined Glorfindel in front of the fire. The hoop of gold that the Haradrim wore in his ear brightened as it reflected the flickering flames. The hot liquid steamed, giving off an aroma of spices and heady exotic flowers. "A new blend," said Mashara, nodding his approval as he sipped. "A merchant from Tlemat was here last week, making arrangements for a regular supply to the city. It seems Gondor cannot get enough of our goods this year."

"Mm-hmm," agreed Glorfindel half-heartedly.

"You are distracted, my friend. What preys upon your thoughts?"

The elf shrugged. "It is nothing. Memories of long ago, thoughts of the future. I feel a long, long way from home this morning."

"Hardly nothing then. I must admit this cold has made me long for dry, hot deserts and the sun-kissed red walls of my family's home outside Todeka. They will all be there now and preparing for the Longest Night festival. Tonight I expect they will light the bonfires and my brothers will play bendir and tambourine while their wives and daughters perform the circle dances," he finished wistfully.

"It sounds good," agreed Glorfindel.

"And in your home? What will they be doing there now?"

"Gondolin is no longer there. It was destroyed thousands of years ago. It is far off in both distance and time."

"Perhaps they have rebuilt it since you were last there."

"Hah. Perhaps they did," he said, then sipped his tea thoughtfully. "Yes, no doubt they have built something, some place of beauty where my friends now dwell."

"They are building, building all the time in Harad now," said Mashara. "Since the shadow of Sauron lifted from the land of my people we seem to have done nothing but build and make things beautiful. I do not think I would recognise Todeka now, although it will be a while yet before we have anything to match even Minas Tirith. Your Gondolin must have been a marvel."

* * *

By the time Glorfindel and Mashara arrived for the meeting, several advisors and petitioners were already milling in the ante-chamber. Grey- haired Beregond, loyal lieutenant to Faramir and representative of Ithilien raised a hand in greeting before turning back to an animated argument with Galahil of Dol Amroth. Brand, the broad-chested, fair-haired son of the Lord of Dale (the third in his family to carry the name) was stooping uncomfortably as he made small-talk with a dwarf unfamiliar to Glorfindel.

"Excuse me, sir," murmured a servant in black and silver livery, beckoning Glorfindel aside.

"What is it, Erran?"

"The King wishes to speak with you before the meeting," went on Erran in hushed tones. "If you would follow me, please."

Striding along the corridors beside the young servant, Glorfindel wondered what scheme Aragorn must be concocting to require his connivance. They had planned tactical arguments prior to difficult encounters before, but today's meeting was nothing out of the ordinary. A few trade agreements, planning for road repairs – the ordinary business of government in peacetime.

So ordinary, in fact, that, when he entered the King's smoking room, Glorfindel was shocked to see Aragorn wearing a troubled frown. Perhaps there was some new and serious threat to the land after all. Serious enough to be keeping the king awake at night to judge by the shadows under his eyes.

"What's wrong?" he blurted out without further greeting.

"Miriel is sick. She was fretful all night, and she's feverish."

A fresh wave of worry flooded him. The mortality of mortal children was, after all, what had prompted him to come here. Every cough and sniffle of the royal children terrified him. How could he look Elrond in the face and tell him of tragedy?

"Is it serious?" he croaked, as cold fingers of dread tightened around his throat.

Aragorn shrugged, his frown deepening. "She is a healthy child and the healing knowledge in me tells me she will probably be crawling around after her brother again in a few days time. But as her father... it would set my heart at ease if you would take a look at her."

"Of course. I will pay a visit to the nursery and join you in the meeting as soon as possible."

* * *

In the austere, white stone-walled corridor outside the nursery Glorfindel found Eldarion and Ancalime playing quietly with wooden horses. As the little girl began to squeal her welcome, her brother whispered, "Hush, Annie. Mamma said we have to be quiet."

"Hello, you two," whispered Glorfindel, kneeling down and wrapping them both in a warm embrace. "How is your little sister?"

"She's sick," said Ancalime, too young to have mastered the art of sickroom whispering. "We were sent out because we were noisy."

"Well, I will go and see if I can help make her well then." Glorfindel stood up and pushed gently on the door.

Arwen, who was seated by Miriel's crib, looked up immediately and beckoned him to approach. A grey-haired healer woman on the other side of the crib gave him a smile of welcome. The healers of Minas Tirith had soon grown accustomed to his healing techniques when they found just how useful he could be and Glorfindel was grateful that they usually called for him only when their own methods had failed – otherwise he would have spent a good deal of time in the Houses, while Men's arts of healing suffered for lack of use.

"It is just a light fever, my lord," said the healing woman. "The child should take no ill effect from it."

Arwen nodded, tight-lipped and frowning as deeply as her husband had been. Yes, it was all very well for healers to say such things, but when it was a child of your own – or one you cared for deeply – all sickness and hurt cut to the quick.

The child, her face furious red against her lace-trimmed white gown, squirmed and mewled. Glorfindel reached out his long pale fingers and brushed her forehead. He could feel the unnatural heat singing beneath her skin. He felt deeper, but could find no more dangerous, harmful ills in the child. Closing his eyes in concentration he did what he could to lessen the heat a little, although it would do the child good in the long run to fight off the illness by herself.

"There," he said at last, addressing the queen. "I have drawn off the fever somewhat. She should be well soon enough. I would tell you not to worry, but I see it will do no good."

"Thank you, dear Glorfindel," said Arwen. "I don't know what we'd ever do without you."

You'd do well enough, thought the elf as he walked back through the corridors towards the meeting chamber. He didn't begrudge the family his time and care, but what they thought of as their need of him was really convenience. Perhaps it was time to consider his own future.

* * *

He slipped into the meeting in the middle of a report about the tree nurseries at Isen. Good news it was, that the land there was recovering at last. Nature was reclaiming all that had been burned and damaged and men were working with ents for the first time to ensure that wood was only taken where it would not upset the growth of the forest.

The report was followed by a discussion about horse trading, in which both Mashara and Elfwine of Rohan heatedly insisted on the merits of their own countries' breeding stock. Glorfindel didn't bother following the finer points of the debate – it was hardly a new one.

After long discussions, the councillors filed out into the crisp sunshine of the courtyard. In the distance heavy snow clouds could be seen gathered around the tops of the high peaks, but directly overhead the sky was a bright blue.

A few deep breaths of the cold air were enough to refresh most of them and they turned to head back indoors to where a fine dinner awaited them. Glorfindel noticed that the King had sloped off immediately after the meeting and had no doubt he had slipped back to the family rooms to check in on his daughter. The lad really did take after his foster-father. He was a firm, sensible ruler of his people, but an impossible worry-wort when it came to his family.

By the time Glorfindel reached the dining table, Aragorn had rejoined them and the elf had no doubt he had been right in his surmise. The King's polite smile was no longer forced and when he caught Glorfindel's eye he nodded his thanks.

They sat down to an excellent feast. It might have been mid-winter but the Gondorian cooks could make fine sauces from preserved fruits and the spices traded from Harad and smuggled out of the more volatile Khand.

Seated between Galahil and Elfwine, Glorfindel found himself caught up in gossip about family and mutual friends. The pair were lively young men, who laughed at their own frustration at living in peacetime. Neither would have truly wished war upon the land, but they longed for something more than road-building and trade to occupy them.

A glint of steel caught Glorfindel's eye and he turned to see a liveried servant holding a long knife. A carving knife, nothing out of the ordinary for a servant to be holding, but there was something odd about the way he was holding it, as if poised for...

Suddenly his gaze caught the servant's notice and he saw panic flare in the man's eyes. He was half on his feet and calling out a warning when the servant flung himself through the air towards Mashara, screaming.

"You black-hearted bastard! This is for my family!"

Servant, ambassador, and chair toppled to the floor and a strangled cry told Glorfindel that the knife had gone home. He was immediately on his feet and running around the table towards his wounded friend.

Beregond and young Brand wrenched the attacker from the prone body of the ambassador and between them pinned him to the ground as the door guards ran to relieve them. As the guards dragged the servant from the room he was still shouting.

"They fought for Sauron! They're as bad as orc filth!"

Aragorn's eyes widened as he knelt beside Glorfindel saw the damage to the ambassador's shoulder. A little lower and it would have been instantly fatal. "Fetch me some water, Estel, and stop gawping," snapped the elf. "We've both seen at least one knife wound worse than this."

And it took all of Elrond's skill to save Frodo, he thought to himself. But this was no Nazgûl blade. Nevertheless, he felt fear pound in his chest as he looked into the eyes of his stricken friend.

Aragorn jumped up to obey his instruction, and Glorfindel was vaguely aware that the councillors and servants were staring at his accidental slip into treating the king as if he were still the boy who had learned healing skills beside his foster-father and his advisor.

"It seems I will not see the improvements at Todeka after all," said Mashara, his voice stretched thin with agony. Think of me when you get to your home and see what they have built, Glorfindel." He drew a sharp breath, every word clearly costing him pain.

"You will see them. I shall need a guide if am to see a little of the South before sailing into the West," said Glorfindel.

Another sharp breath. "Nay, do not lie to me. The knife cut deep."

"And you mistrust my skill? Hush now, and it will hurt less. Do you think that we would allow such a man as you to die? Just imagine the difficulty it would cause..." Diplomatic and otherwise, Glorfindel thought.

Mashara almost laughed, then gasped again, passing out as Glorfindel's fingers probed the wound.

* * *

"We can sail to the City of Umbar, it will be easier than riding and the city is best seen first from the sea," said Mashara as the healer fixed the dressing back in place with a pleased nod. The ambassador quickly tugged the blankets back over himself with his healthy arm.

Glorfindel listened to the suggested itinerary for their journey with growing enthusiasm. He didn't know why he hadn't thought of it before. Eternity could only and forever take him further from Gondolin, but that need not always be a cause for grief. The lands to the south were filled with wonders.

They were interrupted by the captain of the guard knocking tentatively at the open door and poking his head into the room.

"Come in, come in captain," called Mashara. "I owe you and your men my thanks for your prompt action."

The young soldier flushed and fidgeted, an awkwardness which would have been less noticeable had it not caused his chain mail to rattle like sleigh bells. "N-no sir, we – I – owe you an apology for allowing you to be injured at all while under the protection of the Tower Guard," he stammered.

"No matter. I appear to be mending." The ambassador gave a jovial grin and the captain visibly relaxed, his armour chinking once again as his posture altered.

"That is good to hear. I thought you might like to know that we have your attacker in our custody. He will be punished according to the law," said the captain.

"Do not be too hard on him. He seemed to be suffering great anguish."

"That is generous spirited of you, Mashara," said Glorfindel, "but he did try to kill you."

"That is what men do in war and had he killed me all those years ago on the Pelennor Fields – or later when the King came south and laid his claim to our lands - he would no doubt still be telling the tale of it over frothy beer on New Year's night."

"But the war is long over," said the elf.

"Not for him it wasn't. Who was it he lost in the battle, captain? He spoke of family."

"Almost everyone, it seems. Sergeant Corlin remembered him. He wasn't a soldier but, as you know, every able-bodied man was called on to fight. He was knocked out cold early in the fighting and woke to find half his family was dead. Father, younger brother, a nephew. He was never quite right after that, although they don't really know whether it was the blow to the head or the shock of grief."

"You see. Poor man. Such things are not easy to forgive. Thank you captain," said Mashara. The soldier bowed and left the room, leaving the pair to return to their travel plans.

* * *

It had snowed. A tall, slender elf crunched slowly across the fresh whiteness, mildly amused by the depth of his own footprints. The reason for his heavy tread was obvious, as he was lending an arm to a walking mound of furs and blankets.

"I do not think this wise, Glorfindel. Ow. See, I am still ill. I should go indoors," complained Mashara as his feet slithered on the icy ground.

"Nonsense, nonsense. The fresh air will do you good. We must toughen you up before we go travelling," said Glorfindel, catching the ambassador as he wobbled on a slippery patch of ground.

As they entered the courtyard, two tiny figures wrapped in bright coloured woollens jumped up to greet them.

"Look, Glorfindel! I built a snow hobbit!" called Eldarion

Glorfindel examined the mound of snow which had pebbles for eyes and an old pipe of Aragorn's sticking out of it. "Well, my goodness, it looks just like Peregrin Took."

"I'm building Gandalf," announced Ancalime, who had so far constructed a slightly less convincing mound of snow.

Ploff! A soft ball of snow struck Glorfindel a glancing blow to the shoulder. Spinning around he discovered the king wearing an impish grin and gathering up another ball of snow.

"Excuse me," he said, letting go of Mashara's arm and stooping to collect his own ammunition. His aim was true, and soon Aragorn was spluttering as he shook snow from his beard. They were interrupted by a low, sweet laugh and turned to see the queen handing over the well-wrapped Miriel to a nervous-looking guardsman. Seconds later she was dashing breathlessly into the snow-battle flinging the cold missiles with unerring accuracy.

Their laughter rang out across the roof tops of the city below and even as he was caught up in the silliness, Glorfindel paused and realised something.

Life in Gondolin had never been anything like this.

The End