Elrond emerged from the room, looking tired and downcast. He took a moment to compose himself, then lifted his eyes to look at Glorfindel; he ignored the desperate eyes of his children, or rather, did not seem able to meet them.
“She is not well,” he whispered to Glorfindel. “I have done all that I can.”
All at once, Elrond’s sons and daughter clamored forward, only to find themselves physically held back by Glorfindel. “Leave your father alone, híni,” he told them. “He is weary and cannot answer your questions at this moment.”
Stung by the reprimand and alarmed by her father’s gray pallor, Arwen retreated, but her brothers angrily pressed forward, demanding to see their mother or at least be told something more of her condition than they had already heard.
“Hauta! U bedo,” snapped Glorfindel. “You were there when she was rescued, you know well enough that she has a broken arm and a wound to the shoulder—”
“And we know what manner of foul substances these creatures use on their weapons,” hissed Elrohir. His eyes darted to his father. “Is the wound poisoned?”
Laying his hand on Glorfindel’s shoulder, as much to steady himself as for comfort, Elrond nodded. “I have removed the poison,” he mumbled. “Beyond her wounds, she is cut and bruised, but no other harm was done to her.” He made a half-hearted dismissive gesture, but lacked the energy to enforce it.
Glorfindel noticed and gently but firmly pushed the boys away from their father. “You heard him, ónoni, now go rest and leave your father to do the same. None of you have slept since your return.” He wrinkled his nose, flicking Elladan’s dirt-and-blood soiled jerkin with his fingernail for emphasis. “Nor have you bathed. When your mother wakes, she will not wish to see or smell you thus.”
He hustled Elrond’s children from the room and shut the door, while Elrond himself stumbled toward the nearest chair like one blind; he slumped bonelessly into it. Glorfindel took a place opposite.
“You did not employ your customary arts, Elrond,” he said. “I can see it in your pallor. You used Vilya, that is plain to see.”
No mention of the Ring of Air had been made in centuries; few were even aware that it resided in Elrond’s keeping, for it was safely hidden in a locked casket somewhere in Elrond’s study, and even Glorfindel did not quite know where it was stowed. Little use there was for it, for Elrond’s healing skills were such and Imladris peaceful enough that its residents were rarely injured beyond what was in his power to mend.
Elrond put his hand to his face, trying to rub the weariness from his eyes. “I could do nothing else, and I do not know that even that magic will be enough.” He sighed. “I should have known that in the end my joy would not last—”
“What madness are you speaking? It is only your own weariness that makes you speak thus. Celebrían is ill from her injuries and no doubt frightened by her ordeal, but she is safely home now. Her wound will heal and she is the daughter of stern parents. It will take more than this for her to fade.”
“There is some ill in the air, gwador. I can sense it.”
“The only unease is your weariness and your sons’ anger,” answered Glorfindel. “I would not be surprised if they rode forth and slaughtered every Orc within ten leagues of Imladris.”
“They already killed the creatures that held their mother,” said Elrond. “Such anger does not become them.”
“Though some good may come of it. The minions of the Shadows have grown more numerous and bold. If Elladan and Elrohir wish to expend their anger in securing Imladris’ borders, it is more profitable than keeping them at home to chafe and fret. And they are grown and must choose for themselves what they will do.”
Elrond shook his head. His eyes were drooping. “I will think on it, gwador. But I-I cannot—”
“Nay, you should not concern yourself with the matter now,” said Glorfindel. “You are weary. I will have a cot set up in Celebrían’s chamber, for I know you will not sleep if you are plagued with worry.”
Moving quietly, Glorfindel opened the door to the lady’s bedchamber and set up a cot for Elrond at the foot of the bed. When all was made ready, he helped the peredhel into the room, for Elrond had not slept in days and could scarcely walk unaided. He removed Elrond’s shoes and outer robe and drew the covers over him. “I will set a guard on the door that you are not disturbed. Erestor can attend to any paperwork that needs doing and I will increase the border patrols.”
“I-I would…. Later…send Lindir in…music was a comfort…in childbed. She….” Before he could finish the thought, Elrond drifted off into reverie and Glorfindel did not press him for more.
* * *
When morning came, he found Elrond fumbling about in the bedchamber, picking up discarded clothes and bundling them into chairs and onto chests; it was clear he had not the slightest idea how to properly put a lady’s things away.
“Come,” said Glorfindel, tugging a torn, soiled skirt from his hands, “lay that aside and let the servants tend to it.”
Elrond gave him a look that warned him to keep his voice down, for Celebrían was still asleep in the great bed across the room. “I do not wish everyone to see how ill-treated she was.”
“Then I will take it away and discard it myself,” answered Glorfindel. He did not point out how little blood was on the clothing; the minions of the Shadow had learned millennia ago not to violate their Elven captives if they desired any further sport or profit from a living prisoner. It was fortunate they had recognized Celebrían’s worth as the lady of Imladris, for they had not been so gentle with the other members of her party; the pass of the Hithaeglir where she was waylaid and taken was littered with their mutilated remains, and somewhere in the rear of the Orc cave where she was held, where they tossed the refuse from their meals…. No, he would not dwell on what they did with prisoners they deemed not worth the keeping.
As he bundled up the clothes, a button or other small object dropped and clattered to the floor. Elrond bent and swiftly picked it up, and Glorfindel saw it was a golden bead. Its oblong shape aroused his curiosity. “What do you have there?” he asked.
Holding it up between his thumb and forefinger, Elrond showed him the bead. Right away Glorfindel recognized it. A golden flower snagged with strands of dirty silver hair. “Did you give this to her to wear?” he asked. He heard the dread in his voice half a second before he felt the shadow descend on his heart.
“Whenever she has left my side to visit Lórien I have given her this to wear, that she may have some token of me in my absence,” said Elrond.
There is some ill in the air. Glorfindel remembered the peredhel’s words of the day before; he had dismissed them as a symptom of Elrond’s weariness, but as he looked at the gold in front of him he saw the malaise that clung to it and began to realize there might be some truth to them. And I saw it centuries ago, when Nárello offered those beads to me. I should have destroyed them when he died. Ondollo, you well-meaning fool, curse you for taking this one out of my hair and keeping it when it should have gone with me to my death.
“Elrond,” he said slowly, holding out his hand, “give me the bead.”
Elrond hesitated, then closed his hand protectively around the gold. Glorfindel seized his wrist. “It is Orc gold, gwador, and cursed with shadow. All who have held it have died or—”
“No!” Elrond’s eyes flicked toward the bed then back to Glorfindel. “You are speaking foolishness such as mortals believe,” he said.
Still holding Elrond’s wrist, Glorfindel leaned in so their eyes met. “My brother took this gold from a party of Orcs trying to scout out Gondolin’s Hidden Way; he had it made into many such beads. Half he gave me and half he kept for himself; he was wearing his when he died at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. I was wearing all the others but one when I died at Cirith Thoronath. And Ondollo, this bead had just left his hand when Maedhros cut him down, and Elros—”
Elrond’s eyes became dark pools of fear and denial. “All these centuries I have held it and lived, it cannot be true.”
“And how much grief have you known? Give it to me before it claims yet another whom you love. Give it to me and no one will ever be harmed by it again.”
“And if you speak true? Then whatever ill is in this thing will pass to you.”
Glorfindel allowed himself a little smile. “I do not think Mandos is ready to receive me a second time. Even if he is, I will make certain this thing harms no other before my fëa departs. Elrond, give it to me.”
Tears slipped from the corners of the dark eyes. “It is the last piece of Elros I have left, I cannot.”
“He would not wish you to keep this thing if he knew what ill it contained,” murmured Glorfindel. “He would never have given it to you had he known. Please, give it to me and let me see it destroyed.”
It was only with great reluctance that Elrond opened his fingers and let the bead drop into Glorfindel’s hand. Then he squeezed his eyes shut and turned away, leaving Glorfindel to do as he would, to stay or leave and take the bead with him.
When Glorfindel did not move, he turned with anger snapping in his eyes. “Already you have taken half my heart,” he hissed. “Why do you linger with it?”
“The sorrow will pass, gwador,” answered Glorfindel. “But I would not leave you thinking I did this out of malice. I would not take it from you if I was not certain.”
“Then take it and do not speak of it or let me see it again.”
From the bedchamber, Glorfindel knew exactly where he must go. It was not enough to take the gold away, even to bury it where none would find it, for in time the land would move, wear away and uncover its gleaming treasure for another to discover. No, it must end as its mates had ended, in the fire.
With Elrond’s grief and anger still sour in his throat, he went down to the north side of the house, past the stables and the courtyard where the border patrols drilled, until he found the smithy. He was known to the smiths, for it was his task to ensure the arms used by the patrols were of the best quality, and that their mounts were properly shod. He remembered that one of the smiths was also an artisan, one of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain who had escaped the ruin of Eregion in the last Age; he knew well how to work with gold.
Arminas was surprised to find Glorfindel standing at his worktable; Elrond’s captain had little interest in ornaments other than what he might give another as a gift, and to the smith’s knowledge there were no forthcoming begetting days or other special occasions for which Glorfindel might visit him with a commission. “Suilad, mellon-nín,” he said in greeting. “If you are looking for Amandur, he is shoeing Camegil’s horse; he should be back shortly.”
“Nay, the work I have is for you,” answered Glorfindel. “You should find it a simple task.” From his pocket he carefully withdrew the bead and handed it to the jeweler, who took it to the light of the open doorway to inspect it.
“This is beautiful work,” commented Arminas, “and looks to be very old. What did you wish me to do with it?”
“Melt it down, destroy it. I do not wish to see it again.”
The jeweler’s eyes went wide. “You cannot be serious, mellon. This is the work of a tano of Gondolin; I can see the hallmarks of his otornassë on the reverse. Why should you wish me to smelt down such a rare and lovely thing?”
Glorfindel met his gaze. “Rare and beautiful it might be, but there is an ill in this thing of which I will not tell you save to say that it is a darkness on this house.” he said firmly. “Do not gainsay me, Arminas, or question me further. Melt it down and then take the gold and cast it away. I would not have it worn or used by anyone else.”
Arminas gave the bead a last, remorseful look. “You are certain?”
“I am certain,” he replied. “I will watch you do it. I wish to see for myself when this thing is melted down.”
He found himself holding the bead again while Arminas went for the bellows and his tools, which included a crucible and a pair of thick leather gloves. Wood and charcoal were added to the fire, and the flames stoked by a blast from the bellows until Arminas judged the fire hot enough for his work. Laying aside the bellows, he put on the gloves. “Here, give it to me if you are certain and we will see.”
Glorfindel watched the bead disappear into the crucible, saw the steam rising as the gold heated and began to melt. He would have watched had the heat of the fire permitted, but was content to imagine the bead losing its shape, the flower’s petals softening, falling and running into a liquid mass. He imagined the taint rising and dissipating in the steam that wreathed the crucible, yet it might just as easily have been the warm air in the forge.
Once the gold was melted, Arminas poured it out into a stone depression by the hearth. “It will be some time before it is cool. Do you wish to return for it?”
“Nay,” answered Glorfindel. “You heard my words before. I do not wish to see this gold again. Cast it away where none will ever find or use it. There are gorges enough in this valley that should make the task easier.”
Arminas nodded, though a sad look was in his eyes. “If you are certain,” he said, “it will be done.”
* * *
While he waited for the gold to cool, Arminas turned his attention to the task he had been working on before Glorfindel had come. With a pair of tweezers, he carefully resumed the work of wrapping gold wire around the setting of a brooch; beside him, scattered across a piece of soft chamois, were the green and blue stones he would set into the gold once the wrapping was done.
Such an odd request the Elf-lord had had, but perhaps it should not have been surprising. Glorfindel was sometimes given to strange humors, fits of melancholy or hyper vigilance that surely recalled his fate in his first life. Amandur commented that as the forces of the Shadow grew in strength, Glorfindel’s thoughts must turn now and again to the fate of Gondolin.
Perhaps coming back from Mandos is a grimmer business than I thought, Arminas reflected. Not that he or anyone else ever intended to ask Glorfindel what the Halls of Waiting were like. He did not think even Elrond had ever asked. It simply was not considered polite to ask someone about their death.
His thoughts were interrupted by his apprentice, who hurried into the smithy and breathlessly informed him that Amandur needed his assistance. “Camegil’s horse will not keep still for the shoeing, and Camegil is not there to quiet her.”
I am never going to finish this commission, Arminas thought sourly. “Fetch me my tools and I will go. While I am gone, make certain you sweep the ashes from the forge. I’ve a piece I intend to cast tomorrow and the area must be clean. Oh, and do not forget to lay out the flux.”
As he gathered his hammer, gloves and a length of hithlain rope from Laer, Arminas reflected that he would be quite surprised if the apprentice actually managed to do any of these things by the time he returned. The youth meant well, but was not exactly the most industrious assistant he could have had.
It simply is not a day for getting anything done, he sighed.
* * *
Laer grumbled to himself as he began to sweep around the forge. Do this, fetch that, go there—and when he did it was just more of the same. One would think a smith of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain might occasionally have something to teach him, since there were so few of that guild left, but no, Arminas simply gave him all the grunt work and kept the secrets of his trade to himself. Perhaps a mortal jewel-smith would have been keener to teach him.
He swatted the heather broom against the hearth in frustration. I could have stayed at home if I wanted to sweep floors and kept a lot cleaner. For someone who never did any actual smithing, he wore as much soot and sweat as if he had. But he did not complain, for even on the best of days neither Arminas nor Amandur were of a mind to hear any grumbling, and these last weeks had been grim ones for all in the valley.
Master Elrond’s lady was ill, wounded by Orc-shot, which everyone knew was usually poisoned, and the house was tense with waiting to see how well she would recover. Laer listened for news with everyone else, and scurried out of the way when Elladan and Elrohir came riding up to have their tack and weapons professionally tended before venturing forth again. The transaction was no different than those the smiths carried out with all the captains and warriors of Imladris’ border patrols, except it was quite clear these two meant to go looking for Orcs to slaughter rather than simply guarding against them.
While watching Amandur wrestle with Camegil’s unruly mount, Laer spied Lord Glorfindel leaving the forge. Probably on some commission for his gweth, as the lord rarely purchased jewels and neither Asfaloth nor his tack were in evidence. “One of these days,” Laer grumbled, “I ought to just pack my bundle and go home. Or maybe I could join a gweth. Sweeping floors isn’t much of a trade.” With a small hand broom, he whisked the ashes off the top of the forge, dusting around the crucible rather than picking it up to get underneath it.
The glimmer of gold in a shallow stone depression caught his eye. Laer had spent enough time in the smithy to know Arminas always poured molten gold into some sort of mold. But this was such a small amount, in such an odd place, he must have accidentally spilled it while working.
The gold was quite cool to the touch. Rubbing it clean against his tunic, Laer took it back to the jeweler’s work bench and found the small wooden cabinet where he kept his precious materials. There was a drawer for silver shavings and another for bits of gold culled from other projects, and yet others for natural and polished stones, odds and ends Arminas used in his work.
Laer found the drawer, neatly labeled in Cirth, where Arminas kept his gold and tossed the piece inside.
* * *
híni: (Quenya) children
Hauta!: (Quenya) stop
U bedo: (Sindarin) don’t speak. Glorfindel is mixing Quenya and Sindarin in this sentence. He is doing what many actively bilingual speakers do in emotional outbursts: engaging in a practice called “code switching,” in which the speaker switches back and forth between the mother tongue and the secondary language, often within the same sentence.
ónoni: (Quenya) twins
Suilad, mellon-nín: (Sindarin) Hello, my friend
tano: (Quenya) craftsman, smith
otornassë: (Quenya) brotherhood
gweth: (Sindarin) a troop of warriors
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.