3. Chapter Three
The creatures looked up at Glorfindel with wondering eyes. There were six of them, in haphazard leather armor over shirts and woolen breeches. No shoes were upon their feet, which were covered in curly hair. The hair atop their heads was also curly, and their ears pointed as though they were distant cousins of the Eldar, yet they clearly were not. What manner of creatures has Eru made? Glorfindel wondered. There were no songs or tales to tell of the making of such beings, and even Mithrandir had no answer when Elrond asked from whence the periannath had come.
“From the river-lands near the Gladden Fields,” he said, “but beyond this I do not know, for they could tell me no more. The kings of Arnor gave them the lands of the Baranduin for their own and there they dwell in peace. I have heard them call themselves kuduk, among other things.”
“Begging your pardon, sir,” said one of them, “but what’s a periannath?”
“Halflings,” answered Glorfindel. “That is what you are called.”
And they laughed amongst themselves, but it was a cheerful sort of laughter that made him smile even as he wondered what was so amusing. He waited patiently for an explanation, which came a moment later.
“Oh, no, sir,” said the dark-haired one who had spoken before. “We’re called hobbits.”
“Hobbits?” Glorfindel recalled that Mithrandir had once used such a word to describe the creatures. “Forgive me, I should have asked you what name you gave your people. I shall call you according to your desire, but you have not yet told me your names.”
“I’m Saradoc Boffin,” replied the first hobbit, who then promptly turned and began introducing the other archers in his company. “That’s Otho, my third cousin on my mother’s side, and his brother-in-law Tolman Gammidge but we just call him Tom, and….”
It quickly became apparent that these small creatures were obsessed with notions of kinship, and had woven amongst themselves a web of interrelationships that even the wisest lore master of the Eldar would be hard pressed to unravel. Glorfindel could only nod and smile as each hobbit was presented to him, and try his best to commit to memory their strange sounding names.
“Begging your pardon again, sir,” said Saradoc, “but I don’t think you’ve introduced yourself yet, and here we’re your guests.” His tone hinted that this was considered poor manners among his kind, and Glorfindel smiled, for a failure to name oneself in such a situation was also unseemly among the Eldar.
“You are right,” he answered, “yet so fascinated I am in meeting such folk that I have forgotten all propriety. Had we the time, I would offer you refreshment and a place to rest, but as we are about to march I can give you only my name. I am Glorfindel of Imladris.”
Saradoc blinked at him, while behind him the other hobbits murmured among themselves. “Pardon my asking, sir, but you’ve no other name?”
“I do not understand your question,” said Glorfindel. “I have an essi, which is the name given to me by my father when I was born, but I have not used it in many centuries. I prefer to be called Glorfindel, which means golden-haired in our ancient tongue.”
“If you don’t have a family name,” argued the one called Tolman, “how does anybody know who you’re related to?”
Glorfindel thought he understood now. “Among the Eldar we do not have surnames such as you bear. As my father’s son I am sometimes called Elvanirion, but that is not the name of my House. Our families are small, for not all of our kind wed and we are slow to bear children.”
“No children?” asked Saradoc. “Ah, that’s a shame, sir.”
He did not know why, but at that moment Glorfindel found himself blushing. There was something so earthy, so forthright about these folk that he could not help but feel humbled. And old, aye, he felt very old in their presence, in a way he had never felt among the other mortal races.
Clearing his throat, he informed them that they would be marching with him. “We are to take the enemy from the rear flank and rout them. Our small numbers will ensure an element of surprise, and your bows will put the enemy to flight as they are harried from the fore.”
Saradoc gave him a knowing look. “We’re not wanted here, sir,” he said. “We said we’d send men, just as we’re supposed to do when the king needs us, but we’re not blind and we’re not stupid. We know how they look at us, and know what they say. They don’t want us here.”
Glorfindel’s smile was sympathetic. “Master hobbit,” he replied, “my people walked Middle-earth in the days before the Sun and the Moon, when the race of Men had not yet awakened. There was a time when this land was ruled by a High King of our people, and his kingdom stretched from the sea to the reaches of the Hithaeglir, that your people call the Misty Mountains. But those days have passed and mortal Men now scrawl profanity and relieve themselves upon our ruins. It may be that they do not desire our presence either, yet we are here all the same, and I do desire your aid.”
“Well, since you put it that way, sir, we’ll be glad to go with you,” said Saradoc.
“Do not think that all Men dismiss you,” Glorfindel added gently. “It was a Man, Imrazôr of Dor-en-Ernil, who told me of your plight and urged me to send for you. He would put you among his own men, yet you are not mounted and he fears some harm will come to you should you be placed in the front ranks.”
The one called Otho gave Saradoc a look that said I told you it was thus. “I’d always said that Mr. Imrazôr’s a decent fellow. But we’re not children, sir, and if we go with you it’s not going to be with the baggage.”
Glorfindel laughed. “Well said, master hobbit. I shall place you with my own archers. Go now, and make yourselves ready to march.”
As they left, Elladan and Elrohir rode up to inform him that all had been made ready and it was time to march. Behind them, Náremir bore the makeshift banner; as he rode past with it, many Elves averted their eyes in shame that they had been brought so low.
Glorfindel cast a quick look at Asfaloth’s flanks, where he had secured a short pole with his banner tightly wrapped around it. Though he was tempted, he was resolved not to unfurl it save in a moment of greatest need. Had Elrond been there, no doubt he would have asked if Glorfindel was so ashamed of his House that he felt compelled to hide all tokens of the Golden Flower; the perelda had asked several times before, but the answer was always the same, that Glorfindel would not presume to draw undue attention to himself, or to set his House above Elrond’s.
“The time of the great Houses of Gondolin and their splendor is gone,” he added. “We no longer have Houses that would make such display a necessity.” He would have added also that his father and brother had long ago been released from Mandos, as had all the other members of their House, and that it was his father and not he who had the right to bear the banner of the Golden Flower as the Lord of the House.
And I do not wish to become a curiosity, to have people look on me as the only Elf in Middle-earth to die and return from the West. Such things are commonplace now in the Undying Lands, but here death is yet a mystery, he thought. Whatever grace the Valar have bestowed upon me, I do not intend that it should set me above others.
To the north he led them, the hobbits riding behind his own archers as they skirted the shores of Lake Nenuial; they could shoot from the saddle, they told him, though they were not used to such big horses. They had not brought ponies, they said, only because they were not accustomed to riding. Glorfindel could see that in the way they clung to his archers as they passed; they would have to dismount before they could fire.
In the distance, he heard the sounds of battle as Eärnur engaged the host of Angmar. A cloud of dust rose from the south, and he sent a scout ahead to see how the battle was going. Mírimon returned a half-hour later with word that Gondor had put Angmar to flight with its superior numbers; most were fleeing toward Carn Dûm, but a few pockets of resistance remained as some of the Witch King’s forces turned and attempted to stand their ground. Glorfindel led his gweth to the scout’s position to look for himself, then sent down most of his archers to aid the Gondorian cavalry.
The hobbit archers dismounted clumsily, but were very businesslike in making themselves useful. They remained close to the fringes of the battle where they would not be trampled and could take cover if necessary; however, Glorfindel heard them soundly berating the Elven archers for anticipating their shots.
“They are competent, if a bit slow to shoot,” commented Elladan.
Without taking his eyes off the action, Glorfindel nodded. “That is because they are not accustomed to killing others. It is one thing to shoot down a hare or a wild buck, but to take down a man or yrch is something else entirely.”
Elladan’s next words were cut off by an unearthly shriek that set the hair on the back of Glorfindel’s neck on end. I have heard that cry before…. His memory took him back nearly two thousand years to the Dagorlad, to the minions in black whose shrill screams were enough to set hardened warriors to flight and despair. Raising himself up slightly in the saddle, his gaze skimmed the battlefield until he saw the figure in black, armored in cold iron and steel.
“What is it?” Elladan’s hands were clapped to his ears, and the fear that was the Nazgûl’s chief weapon showed itself on his face.
“The Witch King,” said Glorfindel. “He is turning, gathering his minions to him….” And a moment later he saw why, in Eärnur’s relentless charge. The prince of Gondor was not content merely to drive his enemy into retreat, but had mustered his Rhovanion cavalry to ride them down.
I know well the mind of Eärnur. Not by the hand of man will the lord of Angmar fall, and to you I entrust the discretion to know when to act. Mithrandir’s words came to him even as he saw Eärnur’s mount rear and bolt, and heard the Witch King’s unearthly laughter across the plain. Already some of the host of Angmar were turning, falling back upon the ranks of Gondor and Rhovanion that froze in terror in the shadow of their enemy.
Seizing the pole, Glorfindel sliced the twine with his knife and tossed the banner to his left hand even as he drew his blade with his right. The green cloth whipped and flew in the wind as he nudged Asfaloth’s flanks and plunged down the hill. Somewhere in the background he heard Elrond’s sons call after him, and others shouting in despair or amazement as he passed. He heard nothing of what they said and cared not what they saw, for in that moment the utmost need drove him. A white light filled his being and he perceived his enemy without fear.
* * *
The tide of battle shifted with the turning of a single figure in black. Eärnur heard the shriek and felt ice-cold dread grip his heart, but with a snarl he thrust his fear away and plunged ahead. His mount, however, was not so stouthearted and reared before bolting in the opposite direction.
Seeing the haughty prince of Gondor brought to such humiliation, the Witch King threw back his armored head and uttered a laugh that made even his own minions quail in fear. For there was no opponent upon this battlefield who was worth his measure, none who could stand against him, and he laughed again at the hapless folly of his enemy.
And then, from the north a burning light assailed his eyes and he perceived a figure galloping headlong toward him. Blinding white like the mingled light of the sun and moon, it took the form of an Elf upon a white horse, wielding a sword in one hand and a banner in the other. What is this annoyance? he thought, growing more uncomfortable by the moment. Only an Elda of Valinor was capable of such grace, and their like was all but extinguished in Middle-earth. He wanted to laugh in the face of this glowing menace, this immortal insect that he would crush like all others, yet his laughter died as he heard the Elf’s battle-cry.
“Nin á ista, rauco nuruhuinëo, ar har áva tulë, an nanyero i mancë Valarauco, túlina Mandoselló mahtië macil elyenna!”
The banner caught a sudden wind and furled outward, revealing the four-rayed golden flower on its dark field, and for the first time in two thousand years the Witch King knew terror.
* * *
According to the language resource for Westron at Ardalambion, which draws on Tolkien’s own notes, the hobbits called themselves kuduk, but for the sake of clarity I decided to go with Tolkien’s familiar, “translated” form.
Elvanirion: son of Elvanir. The name of Glorfindel’s father is a fan invention; Tolkien never gave any information on the subject.
Asfaloth: In an earlier story, it is established that Glorfindel always rides a white horse, which he always names Asfaloth.
Glorfindel’s battle-cry is in Quenya and translates as: “Know me, demon of death-shadow, and come not near, for I am he who hewed the Balrog, come from Mandos to wield a sword against thee.” Thanks to both Nath and Aerlinnel for the battle-cry and accompanying translation.
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.