Third Age 3018

Glorfindel stared listlessly into the small fire. He had walked for days without cease, for only in relentless activity could he find any sort of comfort. He wrapped his worn cloak closer against the chilly wind.

Long had he wandered in the wild, spending years without contact with his own kind, or indeed, any kind. Now a chilly night in late summer found him high in the hills of Forochel, looking across that lonely land to the bleak, ice-bound sea.

The sun had set an hour before, but the west still glowed with the last, clear turquoise light of the long Northern dusk. Overhead, the first stars glittered in a navy blue sky. Another little gust of wind eddied through the scrub, rustling last year's dry brown leaflets on the ground.

Suddenly he was alert. At the very limit of his hearing was the faint sound of someone moving almost noiselessly through the grass. He was on his feet in an instant and, drawing his sword soundlessly from its leather sheath he slid into the darkness away from the fire.

To his alarm, two dark-cloaked figures emerged into the firelight, drawn swords glittering.

"Hssst. Is that you Glorfindel?" said one of then in an undertone. " We can see you, you know. There's no point trying to hide."

Glorfindel circled round, moving closer, but not into full view, knowing that the dazzle of the firelight would make the deeper gloom away from it impenetrable.

One cloaked figure threw back its hood, and moved so that the firelight fell full on its face. It was an Elf, fair of face, even for his kind, but his expression was falcon-fierce. His dark hair glimmered in the flickering light.

Glorfindel's heart lifted as he recognised him, and a lump came to his throat. He came forward into the light. "Elrohir my dear friend. And is that Elladan?" The other figure also threw back his hood to reveal an identical face, and said,

"We have been looking for you for weeks." They kept their voices low, hardly above the sound of a breath.

"Only weeks? I thought I had covered my tracks better than that," said Glorfindel.

"You covered them all too well. We shan't bore you with the tedious tale of our search. Cirdan told us that you might be found here. Unfortunately, in the way of the foresighted, he just mentioned a hill in the north at dusk, or some such." said Elladan. His brother gave a dry laugh, and said,

"Have you any idea how many hills there are up here? I think we have been up and down every one of them, before we saw the smoke from your fire. Do you want some dinner?" He opened his cloak, and drew two dead rabbits from his belt.

Glorfindel shook his head, for he ate little these days, barely enough to stop his soul from fleeing his body for Namo's quiet halls.

The twins settled to skinning and gutting the rabbits. Elrohir took the offal away from the fire and buried it, while his brother butchered the meat, and threaded it onto green wood skewers with quiet efficiency. Soon they all sat companionably, side by side, holding the meat above the heart of the fire. The delicious scent of roasting rabbit filled the air.

Glorfindel felt something hard and blighted inside him start to open, like a flower bud in spring, in the warmth of the company of two of his oldest friends.

"I do believe a frost is falling in this Valar-foresaken northland," said Elrohir, blowing out his breath, and watching it steam in the still air. "And it's barely autumn." He reached under his cloak for a flask. "Here's something to warm you up, Glorfindel. You certainly look like you need it. In fact, if you don't mind my saying so, you look positively ill."

Glorfindel took the flask, knowing it would be Miruvor, and little wanting the surge of warmth and life it would bring. Still he drank a little of it, because not to do so would invite comment. A question occurred to him.

"Where are your horses? You never travel on foot," he asked.

"Tethered below. We knew you would vanish if you heard them. We'd better not leave them there, though. There are wolves about."

"Why have you sought me out now?"

"Sought you now? We have been searching for you for sixty years on and off. We've hunted high and low. Where did you go?"

"South for a while. Far beyond the lands our folk usually tread. Then North, when the company tired me."

"Well if Cirdan or Mithrandir knew where you were, they wouldn't say till now. Nor did Father know your whereabouts."

"Oh?"

"Yes. In fact we have come with a message for you. You are to return to our father's house. Why did you leave anyway? No-one knew why you had gone."

"Elrond did."

"Well he wouldn't say. Still. It's your business I suppose." Glorfindel, basking in the unexpected companionship, suddenly felt that he was accepted under false pretences. To leave his friends thinking he was an honourable man was, under the circumstances, ignoble. He saw in his mind how they might turn from him in disgust as he spoke, and ride away from him, sickened by his depravity. He steeled himself.

"No. I'll tell you." They waited expectantly, and who could blame Glorfindel for seeking for the most sympathetic phrases to explain himself. In the end, words failed him, and he said bluntly,

"I fell in love with Estel." There was no need to say more. He did not want to impugn Estel's reputation by implying he might have reciprocated. A vision of Estel waiting expectantly in the starlit dusk of a cornfield came to him with painful intensity."

"Oh, That. We knew about it. Well guessed anyway. Is that all? I still don't see why you stayed away so long." said Elrohir.

Of course, thought Glorfindel, he wouldn't. The twins' lives had no room for love, and its vicissitudes were unknown to them. Still, his secret was out now, and he had not been repulsed.

"Why does he want me to return?" he asked,

"Mithrandir got excited about a ring that one of the Periannath had found. He feared it might be the Ring. You know, the one that caused Isildur's trouble? He disappeared off months ago to do some research, and hasn't been seen since."

Elladan added,

"What's more, Sauron is on the move. Osgiliath has already fallen. I think that Father has foreseen something more, but he's not speaking of that either."

"We have wasted long enough looking for you. We should set off tonight," added his brother. "The horses may not be able to see by starlight, but we can guide them."

Glorfindel, so long absent from the hurly burly of the world, felt himself being swept along by a tide he was powerless to fight, and he was still bemused as he followed the brothers down the hill to where two horses, white geldings as always, stamped and blew in the shadows.

"You take that one," indicated Elrohir, as he and Elladan mounted the other, sitting close as lovers on the embroidered saddle blanket. Glorfindel obediently mounted, and they set off across the dark hills, with a jingle of harness.

There was something pleasant in riding by starlight again. Elrohir and Elladan were easy company, asking for little in the way of conversation. They travelled both by day and night, stopping only to rest and feed the horses, which being elven bred and trained, had a stamina beyond their kind.

So it was that in autumn, as the birch leaves turned to gold, and fell, Glorfindel, heartsick and tired, returned to Imladris after an exile of nearly seventy years. And strange it felt to be returning to that place, for that summer, when he had loved Estel had taken on jewelled tints as it receded into the past, until in the end it seemed to him as precious and unattainable as a beautiful enamel, locked in glass.