“What is it?” Erunámo had a vague idea what it was, for under the light, smooth folds he could see golden threads gleaming. No, it was not his new livery, for the King’s own tailor had delivered that several days ago and he had specifically instructed the steward to put the finery away until he absolutely must wear it. Ondollo knew he had no interest in jewels or silks, certainly not in the outrageously ostentatious garb he was expected to wear at Turgon’s court, and knew better than to try to lift his spirits thus.
The steward shook out the folds and, still holding one end, stepped back so the cloth spread wide. A rayed golden flower set in a lozenge, picked out in metallic thread, its heart a gem like honey, glimmering in the strands of sunlight that fell through the window. All along the edges of the lozenge, a repeating design in bold, glittering Tengwar, was the motto Laurëalótalië.
Erunámo looked at it in disinterest. All along one edge, where Ondollo gripped the fabric, grommets pierced holes where a cord or metal rings might be run through for display. “Banners we have,” he said. “Why go to the expense of ordering a new one?”
Ondollo stepped toward him, gathering up the green silk as he went. “All the Houses have ordered new banners to replace the ones lost during…. They have ordered replacements, herunya. And it has always been the custom for a new lord to have his own—”
“There was nothing wrong with Nárello’s banner!” snapped Erunámo. Except that it had been thrown down when Nárello fell under the Balrog’s sword, and was trampled and burnt beyond recovery; the warriors of the Golden Flower marched the sad road back to Gondolin without their banner or their lord’s body.
Erunámo waited for the steward to remind him of this fact, but Ondollo did not speak. “I suppose next you will tell me that it is the custom for the new Lord of the House to have a new sword made because his predecessor’s is not good enough.” He instantly regretted the harshness of his tone; he had done nothing, it seemed, but snipe at Ondollo since his return to Gondolin. You should put me in my place as you used to, herendur. Lordship is not a license to abuse you so.
Turgon had already sent him a sword, one of the many gifts he had bestowed upon the surviving lords and captains of Gondolin. The sword, of richly worked and bejeweled steel, lay at the bottom of a chest while Erunámo wore his brother’s battered and scored weapon; it was the only thing he had been able to take away from the battle that had been Nárello’s.
“Herunya,” Ondollo said calmly, “do you remember the elanor that grew on the green hill of Túna?”
“You know my memories of Valinor are very faint,” answered Erunámo, “and what has that to do with this thing you bring me?”
Ondollo gave him a tolerant look. “When your father first came to Nevrast and chose his banner and you saw it waving in the sea breeze for the first time, do you remember how delighted you were?”
“That was nearly five hundred years ago.” Erunámo reminded himself to speak more gently, but if his steward wished to allay his grief he could have chosen a better topic than his slain kin.
“Herunya, if you would but look at the silk. You are right, banners we have, and this one is not new.”
Erunámo had not noticed the threadbare edges, where the banner had been whipped by the breeze and begun to unravel. Holding it to the sunlight, he saw the color was not the rich, deep green of his House, but was faded and blotched in places. “You used secondhand fabric,” he said irritably.
“No, pitya laurëlótënya.” Ondollo cuffed him gently on the ear. “This is Lord Elvanir’s own banner. Nárello wanted his own banner, of course, so I packed it away with the thought that perhaps someday he might change his mind. But ever stubborn was your brother, and he told me he did not wish to bear such things that would remind him of what his House had lost.”
The first part sounds like Nárello, thought Erunámo, but say rather that he did not want atar’s cast-offs and I would believe you. Ondollo, however, would never be so undiplomatic as to ever say such a thing.
Taking the fabric between his hands, he tried to glean some memory from it. All he remembered was watching from the willow-marshes as his father’s gweth rode past, and their father’s dark hair streaming in the salty air as he led them; he did not even notice his sons watching from the reeds, else he would have stopped and demanded to know why Nárello brought his younger brother so far from the shelter of Vinyamar’s walls.
Nárello pointed out the fluttering banner, saying that it was new. Their father had shown it to Nárello, explaining with much pride what the symbols and words meant, but Erunámo had not been present for the display.
“Atar no longer rides under Finarfin’s banner, pitya laurë findo,” Nárello explained, “and Lord Turgon has gathered many Houses under him, so we must have our own banner.”
“But why a golden flower?” Erunámo asked.
“Because atar’s naneth is one of the daughters of Finwë, and her emblem is a flower. And we are descended on both sides from the Vanyar, so it is only fitting.”
Later, perhaps prompted by Nárello, Elvanir sent for his younger son and showed him the banner, letting him touch the soft yet sturdy silk and the golden threads that would blaze brightly in the sunlight. They had never been close, Erunámo and his father, for in the years after they came to Nevrast and his wife faded, Elvanir left his sons in Ondollo’s care and went to supervise the building of the new city in the mountains.
For a time after they came to Gondolin, the family dwelt together again under one roof, yet the demands of Turgon’s court meant the Lord of the Golden Flower was often away on royal business. Sometimes he took Nárello with him, but did not give the same attention to Erunámo; his manner suggested that he was for some reason blind to the fact that his younger son had grown in his absence.
“One day he will notice, pityawë,” Ondollo assured him, “for you will be great among the lords of this city. Your own mother said so to me when you were born, and whatever a mother sees in childbed is a gift of the Valar. It was she who first called you laurëlótë, long before Lord Elvanir took that emblem for our House.”
Whatever amilesse tercenyë his mother gave him, it was no comfort; Erunámo had not known her well enough to find solace in such memories, and his father never spoke of her. He knew only that he was ignored, dismissed, and in his moment of frustration his temper rose like bile.
“Perhaps,” he said sharply, “he would remember who I was if you and Nárello did not call me by so many pet names.”
Elvanir spent increasingly less time with his sons, acting as the king’s emissary to Fingolfin the High King. He had fallen in an ambush on the road to Hithlum; Fingolfin’s men had not been able to recover the body, but Elvanir’s banner the High King sent back to Turgon with many rich gifts. All these years, Erunámo assumed Nárello had borne their father’s banner; he now recalled a bolt of rich green silk that had been among Fingolfin’s gifts, and he realized to what purpose Nárello had put it.
Erunámo crumpled the silk in his hands and brought it to his face. The cloth smelled of moth balls and the cedar wood chest in which it had been stored. Beyond it, he smelled the willow-marshes of Nevrast and that indefinable thing called memory. All that he ever was, or had, or lost was in that fabric, and it brought tears to his eyes.
“Oh, now, herunya,” Ondollo said behind him, “if you are going to weep, please, you will leave marks on the silk.”
* * *
Notes: All terms are in Quenya unless otherwise noted.
Laurëalótalië: People of the Golden Flower
amilesse tercenyë: a mother-name of insight. The Eldar of Valinor often had two names, a father-name and a mother-name, the latter often given with some prophetic implications. Additionally, a third name, an epessë, or use-name, might be acquired or chosen by the individual later in life.
In The Peoples of Middle-earth, “The Shibboleth of Fëanor,” Findis and Lalwen are named as the daughters of Finwë and Indis. They are not mentioned anywhere else in Tolkien. There has been some speculation that Glorfindel could have been descended from Lalwen, who followed Fingolfin into exile.
pitya laurëlótënya: my little golden flower.
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.