11. Of Gardens and Plots
Ellie found herself lying in a bed of geraniums. Sitting up, she looked about her and saw a garden of unearthly beauty, every square inch of ground covered in flowers or graceful ornamental trees, many unknown to Ellie (and thus presumably, to modern science). A fountain tinkled somewhere in the distance.
And she was herself, Ellie realized dizzily. I must be dreaming, she thought, gazing with wonder at one hand (her hand) while running the other through her short hair.
A glint of gold among the verdant green caught her eye. She stood up to get a better look, and gasped in surprise when she recognized the handsome face that had stared back at her in the mirror the past week or so among the vegetation. Glorfindel's eyes were shut, as if in slumber, and he looked like a particularly beautiful garden statue brought to life (or not-life—Ellie wasn't quite sure).
"Glorfindel?" ventured Ellie, as she picked her way through the flowers (trying not to crush too many). Tentatively, she reached out and shook him. "Glorfindel! Glorfindel!" He was warm to the touch, but did not wake, and Ellie felt a sense of dread wash over her.
Oh dear, she thought, and woke in a cold sweat.
Across the Sundering Sea, Lórien peered into his pool, poked at the swirling liquid with his favorite stick, and frowned.
* * *
Elrond, quite determined to reach the Havens as quickly as he possibly could to foil whatever nefarious plot he was sure Neldor must be hatching, readied himself in record time and headed back to the stables despite the waning light. Rochael had (very wisely) been turned out in a paddock to work off his friskiness, and Suldal, the mare Gil-galad had loaned him, was waiting for him in the yard, the very picture of equine tractability.
Until Elrond got on, whereupon the mare abruptly shot off like an arrow (well, it would have been like an arrow if she zig-zagged a little less), leaving the startled Peredhel clinging on for dear life until he finally managed to find his balance again.
"Well named indeed," muttered Elrond, wondering what exactly the grooms had been feeding the horses.
Several near-accidents involving overhanging tree branches later, Suldal finally seemed to tire, and gradually slowed into a sluggish trot, much to Elrond's relief. Suddenly able to think again (processing any thoughts more complex than "oh, no" becomes well nigh impossible while hurtling at full speed through a wood), Elrond could not help but wonder if this was perhaps more than a coincidence. The bundle and kit, yes, he was sure of Neldor's involvement, and perhaps even Rochael, come to think of it, but Gil-galad's own horse? He doubted the culprit could have anticipated his borrowing of this particular mare. No, it was probably Gil-galad's own assessment of his horse that was in question. "Mild and quiet, I'm sure," grumbled the Peredhel, as he very carefully steered Suldal out of the undergrowth and back onto the forest road.
* * *
Feanor was at it again. Mandos watched in gloomy frustration as the spirits of the dead clustered around the elf, held rapt with attention by his oratory. By the looks of it, Random Newly Re-embodied Elf #2 (or Alhael, as he discovered was his name after finally bothering to check the List) was not doing much to resist the takeover, either. Or perhaps he could not help it—Feanor could be very persuasive at times. Mandos supposed he should be glad that Alhael's voice was thin and reedy and thus not quite so effective for making rousing speeches (he could pick up waves of suspicion coming from a good few).
"That is quite enough now," he boomed, crossing to where the elf stood in a few strides. He clapped his hands on the elf's shoulders. "You will come with me."
"Ah you see?" cried Feanor-as-Alhael (or Alhael-as-Feanor) to his audience as he struggled beneath the Vala's grip. "Such disregard for the intrinsic right of every person to the freedom of—"
"Enough," hissed Mandos, and took them both out of the Halls in an eyeblink.
"Ah, brother, I was just thinking I wished to see you," said Lórien as Mandos approached. He made a graceful, circular hand motion in the direction of the now-slightly-bemused-but-still-defiant Feanor-as-Alhael. "The… erroneously re-embodied Spirit of Fire, I presume? You have brought him for rest and healing?"
"In a manner of speaking," replied Mandos. "For now, I would like to request that you put him to sleep for an indefinite period of time in some remote corner of your gardens. I cannot keep him in the Halls—very bad influence on the dead."
Lórien, somewhat bemused, sang a short, wordless song, and the elf slumped to the ground. Mandos conjured a small breeze to fan away the suddenly very heavily lavender-scented air in front of his nose.
"I wish you would not do that," he complained.
"I cannot help how it works," replied Lórien, shrugging slightly. "It is as Eru wills." One of the many Maiar in the vicinity came forward and picked up the unconscious elf.
"Put him in one of the walled gardens," Lórien instructed. The Maia gave a little bow and whisked the elf off.
"What did you wish to speak to me about?" asked Mandos, once the troublemaker was out of sight.
"My dear brother," said Lórien. "We have a slight problem."
* * *
Neldor very, very carefully mixed a white powder, some yellow granules, and crushed willow charcoal in his mortar, taking care not to use his pestle with too much vigor. He then tipped the mixture out onto a piece of paper, and folded it up into a packet, securing it with string. Slipping the packet into the pocket of his healer's apron (of which Neldor was inordinately fond and wore at all times except when sleeping) Neldor mentally reviewed all the possible scenarios in which he could conceivably use his concoction without getting into too much trouble. In a bonfire? No, too conspicuous. In the hearth? Too small a space—might be dangerous. Though he could adjust its composition so it would not blow a hole in the wall. Or perhaps he could lure Glorfindel into some secluded open space, where the mixture would be cleverly hidden, and then set alight just as he walked past. Neldor's herb garden would do nicely—no one dared to enter without Neldor's permission, and Glorfindel already seemed to like the area. Neldor felt a faint twinge of regret at the thought of the inevitable burnt patch that would result. But, thought Neldor virtuously, one had to make sacrifices for the sake of the greater good.
* * *
When at long, long last the long-suffering Herald and his untrusty steed arrived at Mithlond, Círdan was waiting at the gates. Delighted to see his old mentor again, he greeted Círdan enthusiastically and was rewarded with a hearty thump on the back that knocked all the wind out of him.
"Well, young Elrond," said Círdan. "You have had a safe and pleasant journey, I trust? The scenery is astounding at this time of year."
"Ah. I must have been somewhat preoccupied," replied Elrond. He followed Círdan into the city, through the meandering cobbled streets and into Círdan's vast dwelling.
Though the hallways were empty, Elrond could feel dozens of pairs of eyes upon him. Every visit to the Havens never failed to unnerve him. There was just something too… forward about the female population.
"Glorfindel is often in Neldor's herbarium these days," said Círdan conversationally as they walked (or rather, Círdan walked, and Elrond maintained a sort of undignified half-jog to keep up). Elrond wondered if he was even aware of the … problem within his halls. Or perhaps he simply pretended it did not exist. "He seems to have an interest in plant lore, and strangely enough Neldor allows him the run of the place. Very unlike him. At any rate it seems to calm Glorfindel down; he does not get agitated nearly so often."
"It is the duty of a healer to place his patients' welfare above all else," recited Elrond primly.
"I wish Neldor understood that," replied Círdan dryly.
Elrond was showed his rooms, and Círdan bade him rest. Though tired and aching, Elrond's infallible intuition told him he should remove Glorfindel from Neldor's insidious care as soon as possible, before something unthinkably horrific could happen.
* * *
Alarmed by the sudden high-pitched squeal, Neldor's knife slipped, ruining the unfortunate plant he was in the midst of harvesting. Haneth flounced into view, curls flying about her brainless head. It would have to be her, of course. No one else would be so foolish as to court their own doom by entering his private herb garden without his express permission.
"What is it, niece?" he asked, as amiably as he could manage.
"Elrond Peredhel is here!" sang Haneth, clapping her hands like an excited child.
"Oh?" Neldor felt his heart sink. So soon? That fool Lindir must have bungled up, as usual.
"Everyone is talking about it," continued Haneth breathlessly. "You know how he is so very popular and gentle and kind and modest and…" She paused to draw a great lungful of air. "And I came to tell you, uncle, because I know you and he are such good friends…"
Neldor mentally rolled his eyes. Yes. Such good friends, that they were practically enemies.
"Well, I must be going now," said Haneth. "They will be needing extra help in the kitchens today. She turned to leave, giggled and flushed a little at the sight of Glorfindel half-hidden behind a tree, and, rustling her skirts, then fairly ran out of the garden.
Neldor was glad to see her go, for he had very little time, and much to do.
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.