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Not A Substitute But A Fortification: 4. Dandelion
The dandelions had all closed when the darkness had descended, and in the long dark there were no flowers. Ecthelion eyed the gold among the grass and decided that Glorfindel was not like a dandelion and could not be mistaken for one even after such a long time without seeing a real one. But he was an unmistakable glimmer of brightness among the dark, breeze-stirred grasses.
Glorfindel had finished eating before they had even arrived at the stream bank, and his first action upon their stopping there had been to flop down on his back in the grass and fall asleep. He was not deeply asleep, his eyes a faint dull glitter and his posture a relaxed sprawl in the deep grass. Ecthelion broke his bread carefully in half and stowed one piece in his pocket wrapped in a handkerchief before slowly and deliberately eating precisely half of the other half. The quarter that was left he set down on a rock beside the stream, and then lay flat on his front, letting his head dangle over the stream, and put his hand in the water to bring some up to drink. In this position he was surrounded by the water's sound, and he stayed that way for a while listening in contentment.
After a little while he became aware of another sound, and raised his head, still letting his hand trail in the water. Humming. Glorfindel was awake and humming to himself. Ecthelion sat up, trailing water droplets from his hand, and turned to look at him.
Glorfindel had turned over onto his side and was absently fiddling with a blade of grass, tying it into an intricate series of knots and humming to himself. His song interwove with the music of the stream, but unconsciously; he didn't seem aware of the stream, or interested in the sounds it was making.
"Hm?" Glorfindel noticed his regard and sat up on an elbow, his hair sticking out wildly in numerous directions. "Did you say something?"
"No," Ecthelion said. "I was wondering what you were thinking about."
"Not very much," Glorfindel said with a laugh. "I did have a pleasant nap, though. What were you doing all that time?"
"Thinking," Ecthelion said, "but not about very much either." He dried his hand on the hem of his tunic. "And listening to the stream."
"Does the stream talk?" Glorfindel asked, yawning. He stretched, sitting up, and his arms were very long and thin.
"It sings," Ecthelion said. "Can you hear it?"
"No," Glorfindel said, and yawned again. "Maybe. I did dream that you were singing. Were you singing?"
"No," Ecthelion said. "Er, that was you."
"You were singing," he said. "Not me."
Glorfindel laughed. "I know," he said. "I was singing to myself when I woke up. But I dreamed you were singing." He sighed, and looked into Ecthelion's face. "I imagine you must have a lovely singing voice."
Ecthelion laughed out loud at the innocence of the question, and Glorfindel looked utterly charmed at the sound. The expression was much more effective than the dozens of people who'd told Ecthelion he had a beautiful laugh, and he found himself quite charmed in return. "It has been said, yes," he said. "But what makes you say that?"
Glorfindel seemed to have trouble in finding words for a moment, and blinked in seeming confusion at Ecthelion. "Your voice has music in it when you talk," he said finally.
Ecthelion sat straighter, settling himself in a more comfortable position. "So does yours," he said. "Will you sing for me?"
Glorfindel looked confused again. "Me? For you?" He shrugged. "Sing what?"
"Teach me a song," Ecthelion said. "Then I'll sing for you, and you can see whether you were right."
"Teach you," Glorfindel said. "I am sure you must be a great singer. There can't be many songs you don't know."
"Oh no," Ecthelion countered. "There are thousands of songs I have never heard. For instance, if you are related to the Lady you must be part Vanya. I have never been among the Vanyar, so I don't know their songs. I am sure you know dozens of songs I don't."
Glorfindel looked thoughtful. "You have never been among the Vanyar?" he asked. "Truly?"
"No," Ecthelion said.
"I thought you were from Tirion."
Ecthelion shrugged. He had been avoiding the mention of Alqualonde for some time now. His reaction to the Kinslaying had effectively ended his policy of not mentioning his Telerin heritage and the decades he had spent there under his great-grandmother's tutelage, but since then the rawness of his feelings on the topic had kept him silent. Much as he liked speaking to Glorfindel, he didn't feel ready to open that up for discussion just yet. "Didn't have any Vanyarin neighbors," he said. "Not many left there."
Glorfindel nodded, looking somber. "I would sing you a Vanyarin song," he said, and his voice was a little tight, his face oddly weary. "But I do not think I could face it just now." He bent forward a little, tightening his arms around his knees.
"Would it make you homesick?" Ecthelion asked, leaning forward to speak more quietly.
"In a way of speaking, yes," Glorfindel said, uncomfortable. He raised a hand and flapped it loosely. "Pay me no mind. I am no good at all when I am gloomy."
"I am sorry," Ecthelion said. "I would not have brought up a sensitive topic."
Glorfindel managed a laugh. "I am like a new-weaned pup," he said. "Hungry and whining."
Ecthelion retrieved the quarter of his loaf of bread from the rock beside the stream where he had left it, and with a laugh tossed it to Glorfindel. Glorfindel caught it easily, his reflexes quick, and made an amused face at Ecthelion when he realized what it was. "Do not expect me to nobly refuse this," Glorfindel said.
"I do not," Ecthelion said. "By all means, take it. It will not be long now until dinner."
"Good," Glorfindel said. The piece of bread disappeared with astonishing rapidity and thoroughness, and he carefully licked the pads of his fingers. "I am beginning to wonder where all the food I eat goes, if it does not fill me up."
"Perhaps one of your legs is hollow," Ecthelion said, and looked down at his own legs, remembering his great-grandmother's voice repeating the old joke during one of his growth spurts.
But Glorfindel was laughing, and evidently the old chestnut wasn't in circulation among the Vanyar. "Hollow," he said, and extended one of his legs in front of himself. "I don't know, they're very skinny. I don't think I could put very much into one of them."
"No," Ecthelion said, and laughed. Glorfindel's legs were skinny, almost all bone; he was wearing a long robe with short trousers beneath, and the skin of his leg gleamed pale in the starlight. Ecthelion looked up, squinting at the stars, and realized with a jolt that more time had passed than he had noticed.
"Oh," he said. "Dinner will be quite soon. I have to go home and change clothes." He stood up.
Glorfindel stood as well. "Change clothes," he said, a little alarmed.
Ecthelion looked him over. The robe he was wearing was rather shabby, and far too large for him. "Yes," Ecthelion said. "Dinner is a, well, an occasion. We all gather with our lord and his family, and there is entertainment as well as the food. Turukano likes to keep things as they were when he had his great hall."
"Oh," Glorfindel said. He looked down at himself, and his look said he had nothing else to wear.
"Come," Ecthelion said, casting a keen eye over him. "We are much of a size. I have something I can lend you." Glorfindel was thinner, but Ecthelion's clothing would fit him better than the robe he was wearing, which was large enough that it wrapped around him nearly twice.
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