Based off of the books rather than the films, but should pretty much adhere to either. Set in the Fellowship of the Ring when Bilbo has gone to live in Rivendell.
Like most of my stories I started this years ago, forgot it existed, found it again and managed to finish it at last. It's not even like it's very long. Anyhoodle; a 'missing scene' and some backstory from FotR. Do I own anything? Of course not! Why would I be writing fanfics if I could be directing films?!
The mithril gleamed in the fire-light, reflecting the warm glow as the whetting stone hummed along the blade, gently caressing the edge.
Bilbo had arrived at the Last Homely House the previous evening, and had spent the better part of the day settling in; which of course meant a lot of ordering Elves around and complaining that he had forgotten various bits and pieces. Not to mention a great many trips to the kitchens.
He had already stated his intentions to leave again soon on a visit to Dale and Erebor, but for the next week or so he had decided to spend his time getting accustomed to his new home.
Dinner that evening had been somewhat of an impromptu feast to welcome him, and he'd been called on to read a few of his poems – something that always pleased him. Now the household had retired for the evening, most of them settling down in the hall of fire to sing and talk well into the night.
Bilbo sat in a cosy corner near the fire, Sting in one hand and whetting stone in the other as he brought an edge back to the blade. Mithril – as a rule – needed little attention, but the small sword had been neglected for a fair few years as a museum piece and despite not intending to ever use it again he wanted it back in fighting condition.
It was a pleasant activity, and meant that he could listen to the tales and songs at the same time without disturbing anyone. It therefore came as a surprise when he felt someone's gaze on him.
Raising his head the old hobbit looked around the room, but was unable to pin-point who it was he had sensed staring at him. Of course, in a roomful of Elves, it was quite probable that the person had made themselves inconspicuous. He lowered his head again, but continued to steal glances up at the room, certain that he was still being watched.
"Good evening Master Baggins."
Bilbo yelped and dropped his sword. However, it didn't have a chance to hit the floor as a hand shot out and caught it. He looked up at the Elf now standing next to him and smiled as he realised he recognised the interloper.
"Lord Glorfindel, I presume?"
"Indeed. I apologise for startling you."
The hobbit shook his head with a chuckle. "If every Elf to make me jump apologised we would be here for a very long time. You people do sneak up on one so." He stood up, although his companion towered over him, and held out his hand. "We haven't been formally introduced, although it appears we already know who the other is. Either way, I'm very pleased to meet you."
Glorfindel smiled, reaching down to shake hands. "And I you. I've been wanting to meet again for a long time."
"We have met before?" Bilbo knew that with age his memory was not what it had once been, but it wasn't that bad. He moved across a little on the bench so that Glorfindel could sit down.
"But of course. I helped escort your good self and thirteen Dwarves across the river many years ago." The Elf's eyes were sparkling with amusement. "Do you not recall? Thorin was most impolite at the time."
The old hobbit's eyes widened. Of course he remembered the event, but at the time he had been cold, hungry and exhausted and in the dark one Elf had looked very much the same as another to him. He had a brief memory, however, of the Elven leader talking with Thorin, as they had made the crossing and whilst he hadn't seen the Elf's face he remembered the distinctive golden hair. He'd just never put two and two together as to who it might have been.
"Of course, you were the one so rude as to sing of our misfortune." He smiled as he made the accusation, to show that there were no hard feelings.
"Thirteen Dwarves? The opportunity was too good to miss. Tra-lal-lal-ally down in the valley in June." Glorfindel sang the single line softly, his amusement all too clear.
"Hardly becoming of a great Elven lord of old, I must say!"
Said Elven lord shrugged lightly. "Master Baggins, when you have reached the age I have, and seen the things I have seen you may understand that sometimes we older ones are allowed a little merriment at the expense of others."
"It certainly didn't help to endear your race to Thorin."
"Nothing could have endeared my race to him. And after his treatment at the hands of Thranduil I can't say blame him." A mischievous look crossed the Elf's face, making Bilbo realise that old as Glorfindel was he still possessed a very playful spirit. "By the way, I have always wanted to personally congratulate you on how you thwarted the Mirkwood Elves. Relations between our kingdom and theirs are somewhat stretched, and many here thought that what you did was nothing short of spectacular. He will never admit to it, but Lord Elrond was particularly amused."
Bilbo grinned, remembering the occasion well. "Thank you, although it was mostly down to luck and a bit of magical assistance." A sudden look of shock crossed his face. "I say! How does the woodland king feel knowing that I carried and used the One Ring in his kingdom?"
"He's less than impressed." The Elven lord was still holding Sting and now he was turning the blade over and over in his hands. "I heard that Thorin was buried with Orchrist." He added, almost offhandedly.
"Indeed he was; we thought it only right."
"As it was. I heard that he wielded it in battle with great skill." There was a wistfulness to Glorfindel's voice that made Bilbo wonder where this sudden line of questioning was leading. "It was found in a trolls cave I hear tell?"
"Yes. His, Gandalf's and this one." He nodded to Sting. "Elven make apparently, I've always liked the thought."
"It makes me wonder what battles it may have seen."
Glorfindel leaned back against the cushions on the bench, staring down at the short sword in his hands. "Were you told the heritage of the three swords?" He asked, his voice now oddly stiff.
The hobbit was fully aware that something was bothering the Elf now, and realised that it had something to do with the blades. "Lord Elrond told us that they were from Gondolin, and that Gandalf's once belonged to the king."
"Glamdring. Yes, it was once King Turgon's. He wielded it the day that city fell. It was lost that day and for millennia we had assumed it lost for ever." Glorfindel smiled, but all his earlier humour had gone and he turned Sting over and over in his hands with a lost expression on his face.
Bilbo racked his brains. He was very knowledgeable on Elven history from the beginning of the third age onwards but knew little from the previous ages. He'd been hoping to learn more now that he had access to Elrond's library.
Gondolin. He tried to bring to mind all that he knew about the city.
It had fallen, everyone knew that. And it had done so due to a betrayal by…Maglor? No, no Maeglin. Elrond's father and grandparents had escaped from the battle, along with a group of refugees and they had eventually settled elsewhere.
He knew that he had missed something, but could not for the life of him remember what.
"So, you wanted to know more about this blade?" Glorfindel interrupted his musings, now smiling again, although the sadness lingered in his eyes.
"I'd be grateful for anything anyone could tell me." Bilbo looked at the sword, once again admiring the beauty and elegance that had been crafted into the weapon. "I've been calling it Sting ever since I used it to kill a Mirkwood spider, but if it has another name I would like to know."
"In the common tongue it was once called Quicksilver."
The hobbit rolled the name around in his mouth. Quicksilver. It did suit the short blade, but he preferred the name he had personally given it.
Glorfindel lifted the sword up so that the firelight danced across it. "This once belonged to a great lord of Gondolin; he used it as a dagger although I dare say it's big enough to be a long sword for you."
The look on the Elf's usually cheerful face was blank, but his eyes were filled with raw pain. "Ecthelion. Lord Ecthelion of the Fountain."
Bilbo recognised the name – he had heard tell of Ecthelion's heroic final stand in songs and tales.
"He fought a…fire drake, was it?"
The Elf smiled slightly. "A Balrog. Three in fact. I will admit to believing that his weapons went down with him."
Bilbo glanced back at his sword again, watching the firelight reflect off the polished mithril. "And to think I was awed by the simple fact that it was of Elven make. It has a history far beyond me."
Glorfindel's smile warmed and he spun the blade in his hand to point the hilt to his companion. "You are more than worthy of its heritage, Master Baggins."
"It deserves more than just sitting on my mantel piece being admired though." The hobbit curled his fingers around the richly patterned hilt, buffing the edge with the polishing cloth again. "To think that this blade might have helped defeat a balrog!"
Bilbo had the impression that he was being gently mocked and sniffed disdainfully. "You assume I have no idea what I speak of, correct?"
"I assume you have no idea what a balrog is truly like."
"I have read books! There are fearsome descriptions of the beasts. As tall as houses, wings of flame and fire, breath of sulphur and ash. Not something to meet on a dark night."
"Indeed. Nor on a bright summer's day." Glorfindel was looking more than a little amused. "Were you aware that those descriptions were written by those who only saw them from afar?"
Bilbo scowled; highly aware that there was something brewing and probably at his expense. "I would imagine that would be because none lived who fought them. All that were left were the spectators."
The Elf nodded in agreement. "That would be accurate, I believe."
"Precisely. And just how much would the description need added, besides? We are told what it looks like and how it sounded, what else could an author add?"
"Why Master Baggins, everything." And there was a flicker of something in Glorfindel's ancient gaze, a glint of starlight and fire. "A spectator can not know what it is to feel the heat of such a creature washing over them. The deep pain that a warrior has to endure to even step within striking distance. Armour made from anything less than mithril would melt, running in molten rivulets along its wearers' arms and chest. Leather would catch aflame. A spectator could not understand the fear that strikes even the strongest heart to step forwards and willingly allow themselves catch ablaze in the hopes of felling the beast. That is what they can not add."
The Elf raised his hand, drawing Bilbo's gaze to the large fire warming the hall.
"One who stands on the sidelines and watches does not know what such a beast would smell like." He continued softly. "They would not know the stench of bitter ash and choking fire. They would not experience being unable to draw breath as the heat chases the very air away, leaving the combatant to struggle and gasp through poisonous fumes. They would not feel the crushing pressure on their lungs nor the searing pain in their throats."
The dancing flames flared brighter as if in response to the quietly woven words. The light bathed both Elf and Hobbit in gold.
"But above all, Master Baggins, the author would not know what it is to stand infront of such a monster and to know that they and they alone must destroy it. The author would not understand that terrible fear – the knowledge that failure will result in death not only for them but for all they love too. They would have no way of knowing how it feels to stare up up up into the face of a tortured Maia, trying to stay standing against the force of beating wings, and grasping the already-charring hilt of a burning sword. There is no way to write down the feeling of armour glowing red with heat, pressing down to burn the wearer rather than offering protection. No way to explain how it feels to stand there in flaming clothes and burning armour and knowing that there is no one else. No one at all to offer assistance. Just a lone warrior, knowing he faces death."
Glorfindel looked down at the horror-struck hobbit, firelight playing across his face. "Could any scribe truly apply that to paper and have their reader know what it is to stand before a balrog?"
Bilbo stared at him, open-mouthed and his mind filled with the vivid imagery the Elf had painted. Sting lay loose on his lap, forgotten for the moment.
He had never encountered such a description before. Of any creature.
It was not someone conjuring up a picture from their imagination, nor retelling what they had heard from another. What Glorfindel had spoken of was of real experience. It was the voice of one who had faced those horrors and had to live through them.
"You speak as one who was there…" He said slowly. "As one who has faced up to such a monster. How can that be so?"
Glorfindel looked back to the fire, his voice soft. "None who have faced a balrog lived long after. However, I was brought back from my final rest after I fell." He lifted a hand and curled his fingers and small flames appeared across his skin, dancing obediently on his palm. "I faced the horror, slew it as I was slain and then was returned. I alone am one who remembers what it is to thrust a blade into the belly of a balrog even as my arm is burned off in return."
"You were in Gondolin?" Bilbo stared at the conjured flames the Elf held so effortlessly. There was no evidence of pain or ill effect.
"I was the Lord of the House of the Golden Flower." A small smile returned to Glorfindel's face. "And I wielded the blade Orchrist."
There was silence between them for a few moments – the singing and laughter from the rest of the hall muted. Bilbo's mouth hung open as he stared up at the Elf, awe and shock warring across his face. The tame flames were dancing on Glorfindel's palm like a child's pet snakes and when he moved his hand they moved accordingly; skipping across his fingers.
"I…I had no idea that any still lived from those ages gone by." The hobbit finally managed to stutter.
"There are not many of us, it is true. The Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn of the Golden Wood are such as I, and the King of Mirkwood is older than he would have most of us believe." The Elf closed his hand and the flames vanished. Without them it suddenly appeared darker, although they had been too small as to have had much of an effect on the surroundings. "Those ages were filled with as much tragedy and pain as they were with splendour. It is right that they are remembered, but also right that they should be put to rest." He gestured to the sword that lay forgotten on Bilbo's lap. "This is a new era, Master Baggins, and new eras do often require new names. Sting is an admirable one. Ecthelion would have approved; he ever hated the name it was forged with."
Bilbo laughed, hefting his small sword again. "I am glad then." He buffed it with his sleeve, before glancing up at the Elf once more. "I thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Master Glorfindel although I fear I may not sleep soundly for nights after that harrowing description you wove."
Glorfindel laughed. "You have faced dragon fire, Master Baggins; I believe a tale of Balrogs and war will not keep you awake."
"And you do not regret that you will not wield Orchrist again?"
"I believed that blade lost for millennia, she belongs with the warrior she last served and I hope she did her duty by him."
Bilbo recalled his last memories of Thorin in the final battle before the mountain, of seeing the proud Dwarf king magnificent in his fury as he took down foe after foe, his sword gleaming like starlight. It was an image that would never fade from his mind in all his years.
"She did her duty."
"As did yours, no doubt." There was a strange sheen to Glorfindel's eyes as he once more glanced at Sting. "And she will again. That little sword has not seen the last of its battles, Master Baggins."
"How can that be so? I certainly do not plan on having any more adventures!"
The Elf laughed. "I don't doubt it. However, Sting's tale has not finished yet. In your hand, or perhaps another's, she has a greater story yet to weave, and lives yet to save."
And so it was, years later, that those words rang through Bilbo's memory once more as he watched his nephew pack for an adventure that promised danger and excitement. And he passed the short sword over, telling Frodo her name with pride.