1. By the Tree
March 25, 1421
Glorfindel strode through the gardens of Imladris paying no heed to the torrential rain. The sodden ground squelched under his feet, spattering mud high up his gown, but in his furious concentration walking silently or elegantly did not concern him. What did trouble him was the whereabouts of Elrond.
He berated himself under his breath as he crossed the eastern glade. He should have realised that this date was coming and effect it might have. Yet it was only as evening was drawing in that he had heard that the hobbit Bilbo had been stricken with sudden illness and grief. It was then he’d realised he hadn’t seen Elrond all day
He had searched the libraries, the private family rooms and the peaceful spots favoured by anyone who sought solitude. There was no sign of him anywhere indoors. So now, despite the wild weather, he searched the gardens.
Relentless cold rain poured out of the leaden sky, plastering Glorfindel’s golden hair to his face. At last, in the far distance, something caught his eye. At first he thought it was a boulder in the midst of a group of tall chestnut trees. But if it was a rock, it was one that had not been there before.
He quickened his pace to a sprint and it was not long before his keen elven sight revealed the Lord of Imladris crouching at the foot of a tall tree, the palms of his hands resting on either side of its trunk.
He did not stir at Glorfindel’s approach. His grey gown was soaked and his eyes were tightly shut - his eyebrows knit in a fury of concentration creasing a small line in his otherwise ageless brow.
As Glorfindel gazed down, trying to fathom what his friend was doing, Elrond turned his face upwards. It shone with rain so that Glorfindel was unable to see whether tears mingled with the freely flowing water. He didn’t need to, for the storm-grey eyes of the elf-lord revealed his despair.
“Look, Glorfindel,” said Elrond, gazing at the branches hanging down around them, bearing great five-lobed leaves broader than dinner plates.
Glorfindel looked. What he saw was so unthinkable that at first his mind clutched at a more improbable explanation – that a 200 year-old tree had tired of plain green and was suddenly growing patterned. His heart sank as he realised that the mottled black spots on the dripping leaf spoke of something far more disturbing. Disease had made its way into the garden.
“I can do nothing,” murmured Elrond, still gripping the tree and shuddering as the rain fell between the branches and splashed on him in large droplets. “I have no more power to give. I cannot even heal a tree. The elven rings fade. I cannot keep back the end.”
His eyes squeezed shut as if he was in pain and he rested his forehead on the trunk. “This sanctuary is fading and without Vilya there is nothing I can do to prevent it. I cannot keep back the Shadow.”
“The Shadow is gone,” said Glorfindel. He was shocked beyond words to see Elrond’s lips tremble with misery at his attempt at reassurance, and in desperation he sought something better to say. “This is no dark magic, it is simply the ordinary evil of sickness.”
“Ordinary evil,” said Elrond, and laughed a harsh mirthless laugh, still bowed against the tree. “This is what defeats us. Ordinariness seeps into Imladris.”
But Glorfindel did not believe Elrond’s heart was truly in the bitterness of his words and was not to be so easily put off. “The hobbits,” he said.
Elrond pushed away from the tree, sitting heavily on the wet ground, and turned a furious glare on him. “They have no power, we can ask no more of them,” he said.
Glorfindel smiled. “They have power indeed Elrond. For they have cared for their trees for centuries with no magic rings. As I remember, Samwise is a gardener of considerable skill and would no doubt have some traditional remedy for this blight, something he could dig into the soil or rub into the bark maybe.”
The crease vanished from Elrond’s forehead, which now bore a dirty smudge where it had rested on the tree, and his dark scowl faded a little. “Defeat ordinary evil, with ordinary good, you mean,” he said. “Perhaps that is the way things should be.”
“Now you speak wisely.” Glorfindel reached a hand down to the soggy grey lump of elf that was Elrond. He took it, a brief flash of a grateful smile quirking the corner of his mouth as he rose unsteadily to his feet. Glorfindel’s heart lurched as his friend staggered backwards giddily. In the blink of an eye he moved to catch the darker elf and steady him on his feet.
They made more than half of the journey back to the house in silence. Glorfindel’s arm, tucked companionably around Elrond’s waist, was in truth bearing most of his weight. Ahead of them in the distant windows of the Last Homely House, lights began to be lit, their cosy glow making indoors seem all the more inviting.
“I shall… Glor… this… all of it… I shall miss it, miss you.” The jumbled mess of words spilled out, revealing so much. Glorfindel reeled. He had known of course; that it would happen, that it was inevitable. Yet somehow it was also unthinkable. If one elf seemed bound to Arda, it was surely Elrond, who opened his doors to dwarves and men, whose brother and now daughter had chosen mortality.
“You intend to sail soon?” he asked neutrally, trying to mask his shock by speaking as if Elrond had just announced his plans for a picnic. He felt the half-elf’s shoulders sag, saw the small forehead-crease reappear and regretted speaking so coolly. This was no time for sulking at the fate of the elves.
“I am sorry, Glorfindel,” said Elrond. “I did not mean to tell you in such a manner. Galadriel and Mithrandir are agreed that the ringbearers should leave together. Bilbo already suffers the effects of great age, and Frodo - Frodo simply suffers. I would not have either of them wait. Without Vilya’s powers I am no longer useful here and….” His words trailed off as they crossed a small bridge over a stream swollen with the storm water.
“Celebrian,” said Glorfindel.
“Yes, she is there. I both hope for and fear what I will find in the Undying Lands. But waiting longer will not make it any easier.”
They walked in silence for a while, for Glorfindel could think of nothing comforting to say which would not be a guess or a lie.
“I only…” Elrond said, then hesitated.
“What, my friend?”
“I wish I could stay long enough to see my grandchildren. Too many of my line, and my brother’s, have had to make do with a shortage of kin.” Pleading eyes were turned on Glorfindel. “Will you stay? At least long enough to bring me news of them?”
It was a hard thing, to promise to stay behind when so many of his kind would surely leave with their lord and the valley would be all but empty. But even for his own sake he would be glad to watch over Arwen and Estel. It would be good to know that their line had been established and to be assured that they were happy in their choices. Besides, it was not a thing he could refuse, especially when asked out of such depths of pain. “Of course I will,” he said.
They reached a carved wooden door and stepped into the dry hallway. Glorfindel watched Elrond’s back as he walked away down the torchlight corridor, his step still a little unsteady, his shoulders slumped.
It was wrong that he should be so bowed with care - now, after all that had been won. Glorfindel drove the side of his fist against the doorframe in rage, wishing there were some way that he could ease the sorrows that preyed upon his friend.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.