1. Embodied to Return
Heat. Scalding, burning, penetrating heat so fierce it roared in his ears. In his blood. Quickening the very air he breathed to scorch his lungs, parch the moisture from his skin. Withering his sharp gaze with the stinging needles of flame.
Darkness. So profound, so complete as it writhed around him, seeking to consume all his light. All that he was. Corrupting his form and substance. Trying to corrupt the purity of an Elven soul.
Fear. Oh yes, even great warriors would recoil at the sight of such a foe. Even a warrior such as he, one whom others looked to for guidance, for leadership. And still, fear ate at him, widened his eyes, trembled his hand.
Fire. In his soul. In his heart. Burning rage against this foul creature that had been sent against them. A creature that sought death and destruction. Wanted nothing more than to see every one of them on that mountain trail dead.
Their city fallen. Their people fled, dying, wounded.
These few survivors wanting only to live to see another, brighter day.
A twisted creature, once created for good, now corrupted to evil, threatening those he protected.
No. NO! It roared in his heart, in his soul, in his mind louder than any cry of the great beast before him.
Ebony fire beating against him, seeking to crush him with every step he took. Casting one look back to see the others fleeing, Glorfindel, Chief of the House of the Golden Flower raised his sword, chanting words of bright defiance to the darkness that advanced on him. Terrible power full of evil glory in the towering dark creature that unfurled its wings and raised its own sword of flame to strike him down.
Glorfindel chanted louder, the words coming from he knew not where, pushing back the flames that sought to devour him, lending his arm strength as the fiery sword swept down to cleave him and instead was met with a flash of bright power. He pushed the flaming sword away and used the creature’s surprised moment of hesitation to rush forward, bright defiance of his cry piercing the darkness of the creature’s breast even as he plunged his sword forward.
Melting him. The smell of his hair burning, the agony of flesh and muscle melting to bone.
And still he pushed forward, driven beyond his agony and strength to end this here and now.
They were falling.
Tumbling down, darkness, then the white of snow through the red of his scorched eyes. Air singing in his charred ears as the sudden cold assaulted raw nerves now bare to the elements.
He stretched out his arms, fingers seeking to touch something; anything.
Nothing but a great blur of fog as if some great mist had fallen upon him.
Soaring as his soul and spirit parted from the husk of his burned, battered body, watching as if from a great distance as his body fell. As the Balrog fell. Both hitting the soil of Arda with the finality of certain stillness.
And did not move again.
He ascended, pulled so rapidly that the scene was soon but a speck, then gone as the mist obscured his vision and dropped him into oblivion.
Water. Waves lapping against the shore. Sharp tang of salt water so strong it almost teared the eyes.
First awakening all over again.
No stars this time.
Clear blue sky, reaching up as far as keen elven eyes could see.
Waking as if from reverie, the elf sat up to look around in dazed wonder.
Sand, sand and water as far as he could see in either direction. Before him the endless stretch of the ocean reaching to the horizon.
A cool breeze blew against him and it came to his bemused mind that something was different; that the breeze was touching all of him. Small thing that. Lifting his hand to stare at it in wonder. This now…this was the miraculous.
Flesh that had been blackened, charred… Now wonderfully and frighteningly, perfectly pale. He could see the veins pulsing with blood beneath the surface and almost laughed it was so amazing.
Arms. Not bulky in muscle, but lithe; muscle fitted cunningly to bone as to make movement and strength seem effortless.
Or not. He felt his legs tremble as he sought to stand, having to relearn balance; something so familiar it was as natural as…
Drawing air in and out. Freely. No hitches of burnt tissue, no wheezing or gasping here.
Setting a foot where he thought it ought to be, inching up to position the other leg beneath him, he stopped, poised to rise. Yes, this was the way. The sureness of it encouraged him and slowly, he rose, glorying in the stretch of muscle and flesh.
Now standing, looking down at the body that was at once both familiar and not.
Raised a hand to touch his face. His eyes, whole and healthy. Nose, not bloodied and crooked. High, sculpted cheekbones taunt over unblemished flesh. Lightly touched his lips with fingertips, shivering at the sensation, trailing them down the throat to his chest.
Felt the steady, sure beating of his heart, almost in time with the waves. Felt the muscle under the skin. The light that glowed inside, radiating out like the warmth his body shed. Slid the hand down across lightly chiseled muscles of his abdomen, down a flank.
Repeated the tactile exploration with the other hand.
Sensation of touch new again. Closed his eyes as one hand fell to his groin, amazed and delighted anew at the sensation of pleasure touch provided.
Laughing in sheer delight and wonder, he took a staggering step forward. Then another, and another, until movement was easier. Staggered to the water and waded in, meeting the rush of the waves with cries of delight, letting the ocean drench him. Wash over him and through him.
It slicked his hair and he shivered at the sensation of it dripping down his back, blinking moisture off his eyelashes.
He played in the water until he tired and walked up the shore to where a large rock crouched in the sand. Its flat surface was warm and he sat, letting the warmth creep through his limbs. Draped his arms around bent knees, resting his chin on a knee, to stare out at the ocean.
What could it mean?
They found him sitting on the same rock. Watching with keen sapphire blue eyes as they rode nearer. Wondered at their surprised expressions, then remembered, memory sparked by their raiment.
Naked. Yes, that was what he was. Unclothed.
It didn’t trouble him, so he sat with the uncanny stillness of his race and simply watched them ride closer, golden blonde hair rippling in the breeze around his shoulders and down his back.
He must have looked fey sitting there, the rosy golden light of sunset gilding his skin and hair, blue gaze sharp and bright. Watching them with the alert interest of a king gazing at the approach of retainers. His mouth curved into a slight smile as they stopped several metres from his rock.
“Noldor.” He spoke it as the name came into his mind, called forth by their dark hair and blue-grey eyes. A memory of a people misty in his mind, but one that drew him powerfully.
The riders looked at each other then turned to him again. The one with a more rounded face and regal bearing bowed his head slightly. “Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo, Vanya.”
It was a lyrical thing, the words that came forth, but his mind made no sense of it, and he shook his head, smiling ruefully.
“Perhaps Sindarin?” The other murmured.
More words, sounding a bit different, but still making no sense.
Finally the first one to speak dismounted and walked slowly forward. He put a hand to his chest. “Quendi.” Pushed dark hair back, indicating the curved shape of his ear, then pointing towards the solitary figure on the rock. “Elf.”
For some reason it struck him as funny, and he tossed his head back, letting his laugh peel out loud like a bell ringing.
“Well, that was some sort of response,” the other said with a wry smile. “What do you suppose he’s doing here like this?”
“Shipwrecked perhaps, though he has not the looks of Círdan’s folk.” The one on foot shook his head. “No, he does not appear wounded at all.” Regarding the fair elf he shook his head again. “He looks Vanyar, though…they left these shores long ago.”
“We cannot leave him here, unclothed and as simple as a babe.”
“No.” He sighed. “You’re right, Elrond. But how will we convince him, hmm?” He turned to slant a grin at his companion, but whirled abruptly as he sensed movement.
The elf on the rock stretched, reaching up with his arms, before lithely climbing down to stand before the others.
“He seems to have some understanding,” Elrond commented wryly. One of his eyebrows arched as the blonde stood before them, utterly unselfconscious of his nudity. “Perhaps you should lend him my cloak, milord?” He unclasped the garment and held it out to the other. “An unclad elf would, no doubt, attract a fair amount of attention even amongst Círdan’s people.”
Gil-galad chuckled at the comment, taking the cloak. “I shall never understand your-“ He stopped as the other elf stepped past him to stand before Elrond. “What’s this…”
Elrond Half-Elven found himself under the intense scrutiny of the stranger whose eyes mirrored the blue of the deepest sky. “Do you know Círdan?” It was impossible to guess the age of the one before him. Once an elf attained a century only cares and battle would put any telling marks upon their visages. Age would never be clear by looks alone. There was something hauntingly ancient in the eyes of this one, though just a moment before there had been only the innocence of a child.
“Círdan.” Something passed behind the sapphire eyes, like a cloud over the sun, and was gone. He blinked and raised a hand to Elrond’s horse. The creature snuffled at him curiously before submitting to having the flat between his eyes scratched.
“I fear we’ll get little else.” Gil-galad draped the cloak around the stranger, who didn’t even look up from his attentions to the horse, even when the dark-haired elf leaned in to close the clasp. “Come my friend.” He touched the blonde’s arm, gesturing for him to follow. “Walk with us and we will bring you to Mithlond. You will be welcome to stay with us.”
Elrond nodded as the blonde looked to him as if for confirmation.
With a last finger-combing of the horse’s forelock, the blonde cast another look at the sea then followed.
“Círdan would have to be out on one of his blasted boats.”
“Ships,” Elrond murmured. He arched a dark brow as Gil-galad frowned at him. “They said he’d be back in a fortnight.”
“Two bloody weeks…” The Elf King paced to the window and sighed as he looked out. “Perhaps someone else will spark a response in him. Another of the older elves?”
“Celeborn is here.” Elrond pursed his lips, considering the other elf’s colouring. “Galadriel as well.”
Gil-galad nodded. “See if you can bring them here. We need to discover who our guest is, Elrond. There is something about him that tells me he is no lost wanderer.”
With a nod to indicate he heard, Elrond swept out of the room to find the other Eldar.
He was fairly certain he had never been there. Looking around him nothing was really…familiar. Nothing called to him.
Walking around the chambers he had been shown to, feeling the odd brush and pull of clothing over his skin, he touched items as he came upon them.
Book. He opened it and stared at the curling, flowing letters on the page. Tantalizingly familiar, they coalesced into nothing more than beautiful shapes. He traced a finger over the words, frowning as the whispers that had been in the back of his mind since the two dark-haired elves had found him grew louder.
Shaking his head he closed the book, stalking over to gaze out the window. There was a restlessness growing inside of him that he did not understand. Was it merely from being taken from outside and put here in this enclosed place?
No, not completely, though he missed the breeze and the sun warming his skin. He had dwelt so long in the darkness…
Where had that come from? What darkness?
Consuming. Enveloping. It had swallowed him and held him there.
With a start, he looked around.
Why was he in this place? Where? Who was he?
That was the gnawing sense of unease – the feeling that he should know the answers to these questions.
He should know who he was.
It was important.
Something grew in his mind, bringing a burgeoning light, and he turned to face the entry before he even heard light footfalls that spoke of elves coming to him.
He leaned back against the window sill, eyes widening as if an animal hunted and cornered.
She entered. The light gleamed within and around, dimming even that of the others accompanying her. Long, flowing hair, the colour of spun gold. Pale skin. Tipped ears. Light blue eyes that alighted on him with an intensely piercing gaze
He straightened, eyes narrowed, brushing off the mental touch as easily as lint off a sleeve. A word came to him, unbidden, and he spit it out, fully aware of what and why. “Kinslayer!”
The elves accompanying the golden lady recoiled as if slapped, staring at him in shock. All but one who watched from behind the others, a dark brow winging upwards as he watched the strange elf confront one of the eldest among them. It was no idle insult the other threw at the lady. He looked to know exactly what he was about, and seemed not a wit intimidated by the lady’s presence.
Or of those with her.
“You speak hastily, stranger.” Celeborn looked as if he would take umbrage at what the other called his wife. His strange silver-blue eyes gleamed in contained annoyance.
The fair elf raised his chin, suddenly appearing as haughty as any of the High Elves of old. Long hair fell loosely around his shoulders, gleaming a deep, burnished gold, as if lit with an inner fire.
The power around the three elves fairly crackled throughout the room, creating a sense not unlike that of lightning about to be called down to strike.
The lady raised a hand to her husband’s chest, her gaze chillingly distant as she gazed at the other elf. “Glorfindel, of the House of the Golden Flower.” The smile she offered was not warm or welcoming. “I did not expect to see you again this side of Enndore.”
“Glorfindel?” Gil-galad stepped forward, intentionally stepping between the three who seemed intent on glaring the other to Mandos' Halls. “Of Gondolin?” The Noldor King looked to Galadriel. “But he perished battling the Balrog.”
Galadriel made no answer, for indeed, she had none to offer.
And that, above all, vexed her.
She had not foreseen this. Had not ever expected to set eyes upon her distant cousin. They did have shared blood -- cousins, both descendants of the House of Finarfin. But where her hair was the gold of wheat sheaves, his was the burnished gold of the Vanyar that almost seemed to capture the sun's glow. His eyes the vivid blue of his father's folk, sometimes almost shading to violet.
Both exceedingly fair. Eldar of the purest blood.
But Glorfindel had never agreed with his Noldor cousins. Had, instead, stayed apart from them, preferring the company of his Vanyan kin.
Had ever held himself as better than she.
Had been glorified in song and story when he had perished killing the Balrog. Galadriel had thought never to see him again, for she was banned from ever entering Valinor.
He had returned from there.
“Tell us, cousin…” The word was a subtle slight with her intonation, but he gave no acknowledgement that he caught the insult. “Whyfor wert thou returned from Mandos’ Halls?”
If he understood, nothing showed in his countenance. Crossing his arms and leaning back against the windowsill, a small smile curving his mouth, his gaze never wavered from Galadriel.
Elrond shook his head as Gil-galad looked to him for some suggestion. They would get nothing further from the newly arrived elf. Whether because he could not speak as of yet, or would not, Elrond could not tell.
He recognized the air of immovable finality in that gaze that would never be budged.
It was what convinced him, beyond Galadriel’s claim, that this was truly Glorfindel of Gondolin come back to Enndore. Surely this must have been the look on his face as he turned to face the foe following his charges, maybe even yet unknowing precisely what followed, but determined to see it eliminated.
Elrond hid a smile as Galadriel made an aggrieved noise and whirled in a flurry of white gown. She strode regally from the room, followed by her husband.
At the entry Celeborn paused to turn and regard the stranger with a warily curious expression, holding his gaze before turning to leave.
Gil-galad sighed, rubbing a hand across his eyes. “That did not go well.” He turned his regard to the silent elf. “You have alienated yourself from a two powerful allies today, my friend.” Receiving no answer other than a rather wry smile, the king turned to address his herald. “See if you can get him to talk, Elrond. I have Galadriel and Celeborn to placate. Though that all-seeing attitude of hers annoys at times, they are friends.” With a last rather glum look for the blonde elf, Gil-galad strode out of the room.
Leaving the mystery to Elrond.
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.