I have reached my journey's end; the legendary Elven refuge of Imladris. The Elves, and their Master Elrond, have been kind, the House is fair and the valley is pleasant enough. Yet I yearn for my own land, the City I left behind, my men and my kin.

The scouts left without me, the morning after the Council. I would have gone with them, but was not even asked. Lord Elrond says they needed to hasten, and since I knew not the land into which they forayed, I would have slowed their pace.

I wished to spend my time here usefully, sparring with other warriors, keeping my sword-arm and wits sharp. Yet these Elves regard me as a clumsy child, caring not that I am the Captain-General of Gondor, commander of the armies of the greatest of the realms of Men! They say I must rest, save my strength for the quest that awaits us. They say I could be hurt. Who are these fair folk to judge me such a weakling? They seem to know little of hardship or loss, living in this protected vale. And they are swift, but still made of flesh and bone. I would prove them wrong!

Biting my tongue, and remembering that I am not Captain-General here, but alone and friendless, I tried to turn to other pursuits. I walked through the valley for exercise. I played chess with Master Elrond and cajoled more tales of the Last Alliance, and the valor of ancient warrior-kings. I even spent an afternoon in the library looking at maps, before I left, wearied of musty parchments, to seek fresh air.

I feared that if I took more rest, the idleness would drive me mad. Perhaps my brother should have come on this errand; Faramir is a man of letters. And he has more patience.

Today, as I watched the Elves whirling in their sorcerous dance of sword and spear, one Elf watched as well, unchallenged. I had seen him once or twice before. He was a tall, slender fellow with such a pretty head of long, golden hair that when I first beheld him dressed in robes of state at Elrond's Council, I mistook him for a lady. He had a boyish smile, and had struck me as another of these useless, sheltered Elves when he spoke of throwing the Great Ring into the Sea. I knew naught else of him.

Thinking that perhaps the golden-haired Elf was some youngster new to arms, who might welcome a round of practice with the Captain-General of Gondor, I asked him to spar with swords alone.

He gave me a piercing glance that reminded me of my brother, of all people, then agreed. When he returned bearing a longsword as easily as if it were part of his arm, I began to understand that this was no stripling.

Shortly afterwards, I lay on my back, the point of that blade at my throat. It had happened too quickly for understanding. The Elf reached out to help me up; but I righted myself, thanked him, and asked for another try.

We sparred again, and again, until I lost count of how many times he bested me. Each time, I lasted longer, but still he parried all my strokes, moving like a dancer rather than a soldier, and cut into my guard with vicious speed. I have known and commanded many warriors; and counted myself the greatest among them save perhaps for my uncle, but I never saw anyone fight like this pretty Elf.

The sun descended as we continued to strive. An hour passed, then another. I grew weary. So did the Elf, I saw with grim satisfaction. Drops of sweat formed on his pale brow. I actually heard him grunt. And even better, I was able to penetrate his guard, not once, but twice, then three times. It did little good; for he still bested me.

My legs trembled as I continued to batter at him. He was beginning to tire, but still outfoxed me with magnificent footwork, drawing me in with feints and reaching my throat or heart while I still sought to heed where his blade had gone.

At last, when I thought I could scarcely endure another round, I pulled back, and, as he lunged, I swerved round, rallied, and threw all my strength into a stroke that caught his blade in mid-swing and knocked it from the Elf's grasp and him off his feet. Instead of falling, though, he cartwheeled back and then rose again, seizing the sword as he stood.

I straightened, ignoring the twinges of very tired muscles, and resumed the guard position. The Elf gazed down at me from his great height. Then he raised the sword in a salute, lowered and sheathed the blade and inclined his head. Vastly relieved, I did the same.

The Elf laughed then, and grinned as broadly as one of the hobbits. He strode somewhat stiffly to me and clasped my shoulders with very strong hands. "Wonderful! O, well done!" he cried in his strangely accented Sindarin.

No sooner had I croaked out similar praise then we were assailed by the large crowd who had gathered to watch our bout as it progressed. The halflings chattered excitedly; even the quiet Ringbearer, Frodo, seemed cheered. The dwarf handed me a cup of something cold. I passed it first to my doughty opponent. The golden Elf took a delicate sip, then returned the cup to me. I drained half the cup, grateful for the restorative properties of its Elven brew. I gave it back to the Elf; who thirstily drank the rest.

During five courses of dinner that night, I learned that the golden Elf I had first taken for an untried youth was Glorfindel, who had fought at the side of the last King of Gondor at the Battle of Fornost - over a thousand years before! Most Elves were daunted by his hardihood. He had despaired of finding a worthy practice partner before the return of Elrond's sons and someone named "Estel". So said Glorfindel himself, with a playful punch of my shoulder that nearly caused me to spit up a mouthful of ale. The youngest halfling, Pippin, told how Glorfindel saved Frodo from the Dark Riders at the Ford of Bruinen. Other Elves said something about a lost city of Gondolin, and a fell creature called a Balrog, but by then my head was spinning and my understanding of the Elves' prettily-lisped Sindarin was all but gone. I did not miss Glorfindel's praise of our contest and my sword-work.

The Elf and I drank deep, swore eternal friendship over our third toast, then embraced as comrades on our fourth. And we gladly agreed, to another bout, in two days' time, with shields as well as swords!

I think that Glorfindel guided me to my chamber, whose location I failed to remember after the sixth toast. For the first time since I arrived at the Elvish haven, I fell almost instantly into a deep and restful sleep. And I dreamt neither of broken blades nor gleaming rings, but of bright swords vying in a joyous test of skill.