Disclaimer:  I own nothing of the Lord of the Rings or THE SILMARILLION.  They are the creations of J.R.R. Tolkien.  I hope to do his ideas honor by expanding on them for entertainment only.

THE GREATEST TREASON by Jessie Syring

"The last temptation is the greatest treason:  To do the right deed for the wrong reason."            -T. S. Elliot

            Glorfindel sat at the edge of the fire's light, needing the comfort the light offered more than the warmth.  Others had a greater need for the heat, and they would be marching again soon.

            He tilted his head back and stared at the stars winking overhead.  He had been born in the light of the Two Trees and had never known a time without light.  The stars did not offer the same comfort to him, yet he found their sparkle somehow enchanting.  Others, including his father and Fingolfin, often spoke of the time before the Elves had gone to Valinor and living beneath the stars.  All those happy times were gone now, as dead as the Trees in the aftermath of Morgoth's treachery.  In the two years that had passed, he had grown used to the darkness and no longer feared it.  But he missed the light.

            Oh, Valar, the wind was cold!

            Hearing quiet whimpers nearby, the golden-haired Elf rose and looked around.  A handful of Noldor Elves---an elder female and several young children---were huddled together near a tiny fire.  They had thin blankets wrapped around their shoulders as protection against the weather but even at this distance, he could see them shivering.  Glorfindel went to them.

            "Lady, may I give you assistance?" he asked.  The female looked at him, gray eyes narrow.  He bowed slightly.  "Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower," he said.  "We have room at our fire for you and your family."

            She mumbled thanks through chattering teeth and began moving her children.  They moved sluggishly with cold and exhaustion.  Glorfindel helped gather them, taking a youngster hardly old enough to walk into his arms and leading them to the fire.  Several members of the House looked up at his approach.

            "Father," he said, walking to an older Elf bundled in a white fur cloak, "I offered the protection of our fire."

            "They are welcome.  Thaedros, find some more blankets for them.  And hot tea."

            Glorfindel saw the family settled but quickly pushed them from his mind.  He prowled the edge of the encampment, feeling unease.  Standing on a low hill, he pushed his wind-blown hair out of his eyes and stared into the east.  He could make out the lights of Alqualonde in the distance, glittering brighter than the stars against the dark sea.  He knew Feanor and his Houses would already be there, deep in negotiations with the Teleri for their aid and their ships.  Only a great need for rest and food had kept them from pressing on with Feanor.

            He was eager to go to this land, to see new things.  He smiled slightly, recalling how often his father had chastised him for wandering into areas best not explored.  His father had followed the lead of Fingolfin and sworn the oath Feanor spoke.  Personally, Glorfindel cared little for the grudges of the ill-tempered Noldor king.  But his House followed Fingolfin and he had followed Feanor's lead.  They would go where Feanor led them.

            Glorfindel's mind came back to the present when he heard his father call his name and he turned.  His father was approaching with a Noldor Elf, approximately the same age as Glorfindel and nearly as tall.  His clothing---black and silver---was travel-worn but still fine.

            "Glorfindel, this is Ecthelion of the House of the Fountain.  He wishes to speak to you."

            Glorfindel put his hand to his chest and bowed slightly.  "Lord Ecthelion.  How may I be of service?"

            The dark-haired Elf laughed.  "Just Ecthelion," he said in a lyrical voice.  "My father is the lord of the House."

            Glorfindel smiled---he already liked this Elf.  "What brings you to our fire, Ecthelion?"

            "We---" his gesture took in all the Elves "---will be moving along shortly.  Lord Fingon wants to take an advance group of able-bodied folks who can bring back blankets and food.  He is sending people throughout the camp to recruit help."

            "You may count on my help."  Glorfindel looked at his father.  "With your permission, Adar?"

            The older Elf snorted.  "It would be easier to hold back the sea.  Go."

            Glorfindel said, "Give me a few moments to gather my equipment."

            He hurried to the fire and found his gear.  It wasn't much---a bow and a quiver of arrows, a sword, and a small pack with a few pieces of travel bread and flint and steel for making fire.  He strapped on the equipment, checking to make sure the cloak didn't hamper his ability to reach the weapons, and then rejoined his father and Ecthelion.  His father took him aside.

            "Be careful, ion nin," he said, grasping Glorfindel's shoulders.  "I see there is much danger ahead for all of us."

            Glorfindel straightened and glanced toward the distant lights of Alqualonde.  "Where?  From the Teleri?" he asked.  "They are our kin."

            "Not the Teleri.  From within."  The older Elf lowered his arm and looked south and west, back in the direction they had come from.  "I am beginning to wonder the wisdom of the oath I took."

            This time, Glorfindel reached out to put a hand on his arm.  "We shall persevere, Adar."

            "You had better go before yon Elf decides to leave without you."

            Glorfindel embraced his father, lightly kissing his cheek, and hurried to join Ecthelion.  He paused a moment and looked back.  His father stood alone on the dark landscape, apart from the fires.  But he didn't look toward Glorfindel.  His gaze was still drawn back toward Valinor.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

            "What do you think this new land will be like?" Ecthelion asked his new companion as they walked through the darkness.

            Glorfindel shook his head.  "Father speaks of a place much like home.  Mountains and forests of trees so large ten grown Elves could not encircle a single one.  And many animals, both familiar and strange."

            "So says my father as well."  Ecthelion sighed and adjusted his cloak across his shoulders.  "But we must worry about Morgoth as well.  He will know the House of Finwe will not sit idly while he steals their treasures."

            Glorfindel stopped and turned to look at Ecthelion, his blue eyes staring into gray eyes.  "Is this right, Ecthelion?  Is it right that we go against the will of Manwe in pursuit of vengeance?"

            "Morgoth stole the greatest creations of our people.  Is it wrong to want them back?"

            "If I wanted Feanor's answer, I would ask him when next I saw him," Glorfindel said sourly.  "I want to know what you think."

            "I don't know," Ecthelion said after a moment's pause.  "What Morgoth did---destroying the Trees and all---was terrible.  But would we be right to kill him?  Even were it within our power?  Will that not mean we are no better than he is?"

            Glorfindel smiled slightly and placed a hand on the Noldor Elf's shoulder.  "Hannon le, gwador[1].  I was worried only I held these fears."

            "I think there may be more than you know.  Most of the soldiers in my House speak of the adventure, not revenge.  But we are not of Feanor's line, so the Silmarils do not hold the same magic for us."

            Glorfindel's response was interrupted by shouts of alarm and anger.  Both Elves looked up in response.  Elves were freeing their weapons and forming groups.  Many were already running in the direction of Alqualonde.  Flame and smoke could be seen in the sky.  Ecthelion grabbed the arm of an Elf running past.

            "What is it?" he demanded.  "What has happened?"

            "An attack!" the excited Elf cried.  "King Feanor and those with him have been attacked!  Many lie dead before the city!"

            "The king?" asked Glorfindel.

            "I don't know.  Lord Fingon is calling for all warriors to mobilize."

            Ecthelion turned to Glorfindel and said, "I must join my House.  Will you fight with me?"

            "No.  I need to join the House troops in my father's stead."  He clasped Ecthelion's forearm.  "Be safe."

            "You as well.  I'll meet you in Alqualonde."

            Ecthelion turned and jogged away.  Glorfindel searched and quickly located the soldiers of his house by their green tunics.  They responded to his call and quickly formed ranks before setting off at a fast jog toward the battle.

            The sound of battle reached their ears as they reached the open plains before the city.  There were corpses everywhere, bleeding out silver blood on the dark landscape.  Many were Noldor Elves, but he also saw the fair complexion and different garments that marked others as Teleri.

            "Telladan, Eriath, with me.  The rest of you spread out and find the king."

            Joined by the two warriors he named, Glorfindel separated from main troops and started toward the docks.  Several buildings there were burning and in the light of the fires he could see soldiers fighting, although he could not determine which troops were involved.

            A dozen Teleri Elves charged out of a building.  They had poor armor but were armed with swords and spears.  Glorfindel immediately went on the defensive, blocking with his own sword as he fought the attackers.

He heard an agonized cry and risked a glance behind him.  Telladan was down, a slender spear through his chest and protruding from his back.  Glorfindel immediately changed position so he fought back-to-back with Eriath.  A sword slipped past his defenses, slicing for his neck.  Glorfindel managed to get his sword up to deflect it but the blade sliced across his arm.  A spear came in low and he twisted out of its path before sending an attack that direction.  He felt the blade hit flesh but paid no more attention to that attacker---it had been a solid blow so the Elf surely was dead or disabled.

He heard shouts nearby but paid them little heed until several other Elves joined the fight.  They were Noldor and wore black tunics with a multi-rayed star device that marked them as Feanor's soldiers.  In mere moments the fight was over and they were already moving on.

Glorfindel looked around.  Telladan was dead, his eyes fixed in a sightless stare on the starry sky.   Eriath had collapsed to his knees clutching one shoulder.  Bright blood flowed past his fingers.

Glorfindel removed his own cloak and used his knife to cut a long strip of fabric.  He inspected the wound as he bound it.  It was deep and Eriath would be out of combat for a long time but he would live.

"Stay here," he commanded Eriath.  "The fighting has moved on so you'll be safe.  I'll send help when I can."

Eriath nodded gratefully.  "You are wounded as well," he pointed out.

Glorfindel looked at his arm and grimaced.  The Teleri sword had left a shallow but long cut.  It would heal cleanly but, in the meantime, it was bleeding freely.  He cut more fabric from his cloak and let Eriath bind it.  Finally he rose and picked up his sword again.

"If you see my father, tell him what is happening.  Keep him out of the city."

With that, Glorfindel headed once more toward the docks, following the Noldor who had aided him.  Dead Teleri and Noldor lay everywhere, some piled on top of each other.  Glorfindel paused, staring.  What had caused Elf to slay Elf? he wondered.  And some of the Teleri weren't armed with so much as a table knife.

As he fought his way toward the docks, he heard screaming over the sound of battle.  A woman, he realized.  Turning, he began moving away from the docks.  He could hear other sounds now, weeping and begging.  His course took him into an open courtyard surrounding a fountain.  Dozens of dead Teleri lay near the fountain.  A tall Elf in black stood near them, ignoring two females who were wailing and begging nearby.  Two Noldor Elves dressed in Feanor's colors dragged a Teleri male from a nearby building and forced him to his knees before the third Elf.

"No!" screamed Glorfindel.

He rushed forward but was too late as the tall Elf calmly beheaded the Teleri.  Glorfindel grabbed his arm and spun him around, then stopped in shock as he came face-to-face with Feanor.  The Noldor's features were streaked with blood and gore and his eyes burned with a horrible fire.

"What are you doing?" cried Glorfindel.  "He wasn't even armed!"

"Step aside, Vanyar," warned Feanor, raising his sword.

"I will not see innocent blood spilled."  Glorfindel took a defensive stance, sword ready.

"Remember your oath.  They denied us their ships."

"The harbor has been taken.  We can take all the ships we need."

A sudden movement behind him was all the warning Glorfindel had.  Something hard smashed down on the top of his head.  He staggered, blinded by blood flowing into his eyes, and tried to keep his wits.  A second blow brought him to his knees.  He was dimly aware of someone grabbing him by the hair and pulling his head up.

"Shall I kill this oath-breaker, father?"

= = = = = = = = = = =

            Coughing on the thick smoke from the burning buildings, Ecthelion paused to draw fresh air into his lungs.  He and his troops had been fighting a running battle since reaching the city and he had lost nearly half his soldiers.  He was beginning to realize something was amiss, though---many of the dead Teleri were unarmed and females lay among those slain as well.  He had begun regrouping to pull back to the harbor area when a burning building had collapsed, filling the air with foul smoke.

            Through the clearing smoke, he could see a courtyard with a fountain.  Ecthelion weaved past corpses until he reached the marble basin.  Ash and soot dirtied the water but he didn't care.  He splashed the liquid on his face, removing grime and blood, and wet his lips and tongue.  Looking around, he saw a sight that disturbed him.

            A tall Noldor Elf with copper-colored hair---Maedhros, he realized, Feanor's eldest son---towered over a golden-haired Elf, holding his head up by the hair.  The second Elf seemed unconscious and blood ran down his face.

            "Shall I kill this oath-breaker, father?" asked Maedhros.

            "Stay your hand!" commanded Ecthelion, rushing forward.  Feanor and Maedhros both turned to look at him.  Ecthelion risked a glance at Maedhros' captive---it was Glorfindel, he realized.  "This Elf took no oath.  Enough blood has been spilled this day."

            Feanor looked him over.  "Your own hands are not so clean this day, House of the Fountain.  You have taken lives for the oath."

            "I will take no more lives this day.  I am sick at what has happened.  It has to end now."  He was aware of several Elves hovering nearby, all dressed in Feanor's colors and with weapons ready.  "Fountain, to me!" he called.  His surviving soldiers immediately joined them, positioning themselves near Feanor's guards.  "Maelion.  Taleth.    See to the injured Elf."

            There was a tense moment.  Then Feanor looked at Maedhros and nodded slightly.  The tall Elf let go of Glorfindel's hair, letting the Elf fall limply to the ground.

            "This battle is won," said Feanor and walked away.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

            A multitude of sounds assailed Glorfindel's ears as he slowly returned to consciousness.  Most persistent were the pained groans only wounded could make.  He could also hear sobbing and the keening wails of mourning.  The stench of smoke and blood filled his nostrils and sat heavily in his mouth.

            "Glorfindel?  Are you awake?"

            That worry-filled voice sounded familiar so he opened his eyes and immediately regretted it.  His stomach lurched in violent protest as everything spun wildly about him.  He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and clung to the blankets beneath him until the dizziness passed.  He opened his eyes more cautiously.

            A dark-haired Elf was leaning over him, his handsome features lined with worry and sorrow.  He held a bloodstained cloth in one hand and a waterskin in the other.  Glorfindel stared at the Elf, trying to gather his wits into coherent thoughts.  The face was familiar…

            "'thelion?" he mumbled, finally putting a name to the face.

            "That's right.  How do you feel?" asked Ecthelion.  Glorfindel winced and reached for his head, but Ecthelion grabbed his wrist.  "Don't touch.  I had a difficult enough time stopping the bleeding and the healers are busy elsewhere."

            "Thirsty."

            Ecthelion set down the cloth and put an arm under his shoulders, helping him sit up.  The injured Elf closed his eyes against the renewed waves of nausea and dizziness, grateful for the support.  Then he drank from the offered waterskin.  Feeling a bit stronger, he looked around.

            He was lying on a crude pallet made of blankets and furs near a fire.  Many soldiers---wearing Ecthelion's colors as well as his own---were hustling about to help the wounded.  There were a lot of wounded, he realized.  Females and children huddled nearby, helping where they could or just being in the way.  Memories came back in a flood.

            "The battle?" he asked hoarsely.

            "It is over," Ecthelion said bitterly.  "Feanor has his ships."

            "How many died?"

            Tears streamed down Ecthelion's face, mixing with the soot and grime there.  "We don't know for certain.  Perhaps as many as eight thousand.  Maybe twice as many Teleri."

            Glorfindel cried out in horror and grief, tears streaming down his own face.  Dimly he realized that Ecthelion still held him in a comforting embrace.  He looked into the face of the other Elf and saw deep sympathy and sorrow there.  Glorfindel looked around the group again, seeking another face.

            "Ecthelion, what of my father?  Where is he?"

            Ecthelion bowed his head.  "He arrived shortly after you fell.  He…was slain by a Teleri archer as he came to your aid."

            Glorfindel wept, his body shaking with silent sobs as he clung to Ecthelion.  The other Elf cried as well, supporting him as they shared their grief for all the innocent lives lost.

The End


[1] Thank you, brother.