Nîndorien stood at the entrance to Rivendell, to bid farewell to the sons of Elrond, as had been her custom ever since the day they had ridden off in fury to rescue their mother from a den of Orcs. They were being sent off on some secret errantry by their father, and all she knew was that they were bound for the Silverlode. She had no wish to enquire further into their business. She kissed them both on the forehead, saying her customary words.
"Go now with haste, but most of all with care, and may the blessings of the Valar be upon you and the stars of Elbereth shine over your path."
She sighed as they turned from her, their eyes mirror images of regret at their parting, but eagerness to be abroad in the land once more. She passed back towards the Great Hall and from within she could hear the sounds of a great feast. The injured halfling had risen for the first time today, and all of Rivendell celebrated his recovery. Nîndorien paused at the door before moving away once more. She had no wish to join in the festivities and removed instead to the Hall of Fire, where she might spend time in quiet contemplation before it, too, became crowded and noisy. As she entered, she saw a familiar-looking figure, huddled against the wall.
"Greetings, Master Baggins. I see that you too have decided not to attend the feast."
"Lady Nîndorien, it is a pleasure to meet you; our paths do not cross much here in Rivendell. Forgive the rudeness of an old hobbit for not rising to greet a fair Lady of the House of Elrond, but I am at last feeling my age, and my joints and limbs do not obey my will!"
"You are but youthful by the standards of my kind, Master Baggins," she replied smiling, "but pray, rest a little, for I have no doubt that your young relatives will be glad to renew old acquaintances. How do you come to be sitting so silently?"
"I am trying to compose a song, my Lady," said Bilbo, feigning great concentration although his eyes sparkled at the thought of speaking with Frodo once more.
"And what is the subject of this song, might I enquire?"
"A song of Eärendil, the Blessed Mariner."
"I should very much like to hear what you have to sing about him," said Nîndorien, "for he and I were both born in Gondolin ere its fall, and, when we had escaped the city, I dwelled long by the mouth of Sirion, with Tuor and Idril Celebrindal and then under the leadership of Eärendil and Elwing. I can remember Eärendil well, for I used to sing to him beside my uncle’s fountains."
"Then, later you must tell me what you think! Although, perhaps to sing a song of Eärendil in the house of Elrond is a little risky!" Thus chuckling, Bilbo returned to his thoughts and Nîndorien went to the alcove in which she had sat with Glorfindel on the night that Frodo had arrived among them. Soon, she was lost in memories of a distant past and she paid no heed when the Hall began to fill up with Elves and the guests of Elrond. Once more, Lord Glorfindel sat beside her, and she smiled up at him. They spoke no words but sat in comfortable silence listening to the laughter and songs. After a while, the voice of Bilbo could be heard, and he sang his song of Eärendil. Nîndorien listened carefully from start to finish and laughed to see Bilbo engaging in light-hearted banter with Lindir, one of the Elves of Rivendell. She was soon distracted by an Elf maiden who approached her silently, shyly proffering a harp.
"Will you not sing for us, Lady Nîndorien?"
Nîndorien took the harp and glanced at Glorfindel, who nodded with encouragement. The Elves of Rivendell loved to hear the voice of Nîndorien, especially when she sang songs of old. She began to sing, noticing the halflings quietly leaving the Hall. Her clear voice lifted high with a song of the Blessed Realm.
*A Elbereth Gilthoniel
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
Fanuilos le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!
The following morning, Nîndorien walked restlessly through the passageways of Rivendell. The distant ringing of a bell reached her ears; the council was about to begin. Earlier, Nîndorien had met Glorfindel and Erestor, chief among Elrond's councillors, in deep conversation as they made their way to the council. They had looked more grave than usual, and stirred some feeling of apprehension deep inside Nîndorien, though she knew not why. It seemed that the world was changing and she ill-understood the turmoil that raged in the hearts of those who had arrived in Rivendell. She came to an oaken door and stopped suddenly, as she could hear two strange voices inside the room.
"Let me see, Merry."
"I think it is Gil-galad. You know, the king that Sam was singing about. I don't think Strider was pleased to hear that song, for it was a little disheartening"
Nîndorien opened the door gently, and saw at once who the speakers were - two more Halflings.
"Good morning," she said gently as she closed the door behind her. Both hobbits jumped and she laughed. "Nay, do not be alarmed. You do no wrong. This is the Long Room, where a great many of Lord Elrond's manuscripts and books are kept. All are welcome to enter and peruse the books and maps that are here. My name is Nîndorien, and I believe I am correct in assuming that you are Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck, although which name belongs to which hobbit, I do not know."
"I am Peregrin, although usually people call me Pippin." The younger hobbit stepped forward, fears forgotten. "And this is my cousin, Merry."
"Well met, my friends," Nîndorien bowed her head in greeting. She glanced at an open book that lay in front of the hobbits. "Were you reading this book?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Merry, having recovered his powers of speech. "Although it is all in Elvish, and Pippin and I are poor scholars of the language. Can you tell us who this is?"
Nîndorien traced over the image on the page with her fingers. "It is Gil-galad, last of the High Kings of the Noldor, and the book relates the tale of the Last Alliance, in which he fought and died." She studied the picture more closely and said softly, "Ay, it is a good likeness."
"Did you know him?" asked Pippin, astounded. "I had always thought that that battle happened years ago!"
"And you are right, Master Took. It took place long before your kind settled in the fair Shire," she replied. The hobbits were surprised that she knew of their home. She smiled although her eyes were solemn as she whispered, "But I was alive, even then, and I knew Gil-galad. Indeed it was here in Rivendell where I last beheld him, marching at the head of a great host, with Lord Elrond at his side, bearing the banner of the High King. Thus they went to war, and not all returned."
"War?" asked Merry and he shivered. "Do you think it will come to that again? I do not think I should have the courage for battle."
Nîndorien thought for a moment before speaking carefully. "Great things are afoot in Middle Earth, and even the smallest beings will have a role to play. I believe that there will be war and bloodshed before it is finally resolved, but we must put our trust in the decision of the Council of Elrond. Take courage, young hobbits, for the many of wise of Middle Earth sit yonder in council, and they shall decide on the best course of action. As to whether you still have a part to play, I do not know, but we must all prepare ourselves for changes and challenges. You shall not know the bounds of your courage until you have been tested, Meriadoc."
With those words, she turned and departed, and as she closed the door she could hear whispered words.
"Did you hear that? 'The wise of Middle Earth'? Should we have told her that Sam has sneaked in to the Council, Merry?"
Nîndorien laughed softly, and resumed her wanderings until the Council was over and she might speak with Glorfindel.
Later that day, when the council was over, Nîndorien walked with Glorfindel on the lawns of Rivendell. She looked up at the sprawling buildings, and could make out Gandalf speaking with the hobbits through a ground-floor window.
"The more I speak with the halflings, the more impressed I am with their spirits. They seem ever-cheerful, even though they are nervous about what lies ahead."
"As are we, my dear Lady. Shortly I shall depart Rivendell, for we must ensure that the Black Riders have been rendered shapeless and without steeds."
"Ah, must you also leave? I have already bid farewell to Elladan and Elrohir; I am loath to part from all my friends at once!"
"I must indeed go but fear not, I shall return before two moons have passed."
They walked in silence for a while, until they were interrupted by the noise of a horse fast approaching them. Glorfindel smiled as the great white horse came up to them, whinnying in welcome, and he stroked its ears and whispered to it. "Ah, Asfaloth, it seems that you and I must make another foray into the wild." Nîndorien smiled as the horse greeted its master with such love and trust.
"He shows no ill effects after his chase to the ford," she commented.
Glorfindel laughed. "It would take more than a mere race with those vile servants of Sauron to weary my friend here! He would carry me even to the black gates of Mordor with ne'er a stumble, if that were my wish." He turned to face Nîndorien, "but come now, hiril nín, what troubles you so that you desire my counsel."
She looked at him sharply, "I did not beg your counsel."
"Nay, you need not speak the words," said the Elf-lord, smiling. "I trust I know you well enough to sense when you have misgivings."
"As always, you surprise me, hîr nín," she sighed. "In truth I know not why my heart is troubled. I had speech with the halflings and I bade them trust to the will of the Council, yet I cannot fully trust in it myself."
"Indeed? Do you then doubt the soundness of the advice that we imparted to Lord Elrond?"
"No, hîr nín. It is just that I have little hope. How can the Dark Lord be defeated by the strength of Men? He is a Maia. How can the Edain win through, where the Eldar before them have failed?"
"Have you no faith in the world of Men?" asked Glorfindel gravely.
"How can I, when it was by the hand of Man that the Last Alliance failed, and the threat of Sauron lives on?" As she said the words, it at last became clear to Nîndorien what was troubling her, although she had not known until she had spoken. She looked at Glorfindel, and could see the beginnings of understanding in his eyes.
"You still feel that the Last Alliance ended in failure, even though the Lord Elrond himself believes otherwise?"
She nodded mutely and Glorfindel placed a hand on her shoulder and spoke carefully. "It was no failure; the power of Sauron was overthrown, if not wholly vanquished. You cannot condemn a whole race for the misguided actions of one. Did not Elendil the Tall fall at the side of Gil-galad? They were both fighting for the same end, and even now it is nearly achieved. Do not blame the Edain, for they have fought bravely in all the ages of Middle Earth, even against the Old Enemy."
"I understand what you say, and indeed I long to put my faith in Men, for I perceive that we stand at the beginning of their time of dominion in the world. I feel that I do a disservice to them with these thoughts, but how can I believe otherwise?"
"What of Huor and Hurin, who sacrificed themselves so that the warriors of Gondolin survived the Nirnaeth Arnoediad? What of Tuor who led you and your mother, and the Gondolindrim to safety when all seemed lost?" Glorfindel's face grew stern and Nîndorien caught a glimpse of his hidden might, thinly veiled beneath the surface. By degrading Tuor's achievement in leading their people safe out of Gondolin with Idril Celebrindal, Nîndorien felt that she was also belittling Glorfindel's great sacrifice.
" I did not mean to wound you, but pray, do not be angry with me, Lord Glorfindel, I am trying to hope, but-" At this Nîndorien's voice wavered slightly. "I am ever grateful for Tuor's great deeds but always I think of the Last Alliance. I cannot but feel that they made a mockery of my own lord's sacrifice. All of his counsels and deeds were undone at the very cusp of victory. Now we must place our faith once more in the strength of Men, yet who now can live up to the deeds of Huor and Hurin, or Tuor, or even Elendil?"
"I am not angry with you hiril nín, but it strikes me as strange that you should be so untrusting of Men when Gil-galad trusted them implicitly. By all accounts, he had great faith in them, and indeed, Lindon would have fallen were it not for the timely arrival of the ships of Númenor." Glorfindel paused. "There is one who can live up to the deeds of his forefathers."
"How can we be sure that Estel does not have the same weakness?"
To Nîndorien's surprise, Glorfindel laughed. "My dear Lady, if the Ring had any power over Aragorn, I do not believe that the halflings would have made it unscathed to Rivendell. The other evening, you and I spoke of love; well, it is love that carries Aragorn on. Love for Arwen, undoubtedly, but also love for his people and the belief that they will rise again, and that the line of Kings shall be restored, noble and just. Forget not that the blood of the Eldar runs in his veins, however distant."
"You speak the truth, "Nîndorien said humbly, "but how can I put blind trust in a race who pride power above all things?"
"I do not ask you for blind faith, hiril nín," said Glorfindel. "Although that is not necessarily the worst kind of faith. Note how Asfaloth will do my bidding because he trusts me without question. I must also reciprocate his trust, else I would never believe in his ability to carry me safely."
"Ah, but Asfaloth is a horse, hîr nín!" laughed Nîndorien. "How can he question you? He is a fine animal but, alas, without the power of speech!"
Glorfindel smiled and stroked Asfaloth's ear. "It is good to see you smile, hiril nín, but it is unjust of you to insult my steed thus! I know you are not deliberately misinterpreting me, but let me give another example. The hobbits put their faith in Aragorn in Bree. He led them hither, defending them from the Black Riders, with little thought for his own safety. He has more than repaid their trust in him. Can you not also put your trust in him? He cares not for power, although it will surely come to him if this quest is successful. He is like the Men of old, and perhaps he will even surpass them in stature, for a great burden is laid upon him and if he falls, so shall the world of Men."
The two Elves look up and realised they were nearing the house once more. They stopped and Nîndorien spoke in a low voice, lest anyone should hear her. "Once again, my Lord Glorfindel, I must thank you for speaking with me. I apologise for my words, if they wounded you."
"Do not apologise, hiril nín. I can only hope that I have in some way strengthened your faith in the might of Men."
"It will take time hîr nín, but your words, as ever, shall help me come to my senses!"
"I do not believe you ever took leave of your senses. I realise that this time must be difficult for you, stirring such memories." Glorfindel stroked her cheek. "It is strange; you seem to have more of the look of Ecthelion about you. He always questioned everything. Perhaps it runs in your blood." His heart lifted as Nîndorien smiled once more. He glanced up at the sky; the sun was beginning to set.
"I'm afraid that I must take my leave of both you and Rivendell, hiril nín. The hour grows late and I have to go abroad with others of the House."
Nîndorien saw young Lindir waiting at the front of the buildings, standing beside his horse. “My Lord Glorfindel! It has been very remiss of me to keep you so long in conversation in your last hours in Rivendell!"
"Do not fear, hiril nín. I should not have wished to spend that time in any other way."
Impulsively, Nîndorien kissed his forehead and spoke the words she so often said to the sons of Elrond. "Go now with haste, but most of all with care, and may the blessings of the Valar be upon you and the stars of Elbereth shine over your path, lord protector of the Gondolindrim."
Wordlessly, Glorfindel mounted Asfaloth, and rode to Lindir's side. Soon, the two Elves were but specks in the distance, one black as the deepening shadows, the other seeming to glow with a faint white light that lingered long in her mind's eye, recalling that parting from her beloved, many years ago.
*from the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; 'Many Meetings'
hîr nín – my lord
hiril nín – my lady
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