9. And It All Goes Downhill From Here
Neldor whistled cheerfully to himself. The sun shone brilliantly in the sky, but not too brightly; Glorfindel had been moved out of the infirmary (and the mobs of ellith with him), birds sang in the trees, there was probably cake for luncheon, and Neldor had just successfully tested his latest invention (which consisted of a long, formidable-looking hollow needle, a cylindrical tube, and a piston) on some unfortunate sailor. And to top it all off, Neldor had a Plan. An elegantly simple Plan, which, Neldor thought, had a great chance of success, and would bring Glorfindel's memory back in no time at all. All Neldor needed to do was to look up some specific details, which could almost certainly be found without too much trouble. Smiling benevolently at a few terrified children, Neldor crossed the courtyard and entered the city's modest library.
* * *
Elrond did not like puzzles (because Gil-galad and his crew of generally incompetent advisors provided him with far too many to solve), and was mildly irked to find one before him now, in the form of a suspiciously contented-looking messenger from the Havens. Too tidy; too sleek, too rested. Couriers usually came hurtling in as if all Morgoth's dragons were hot on their heels, and more often than not resembled something Gil-galad's hound (who had a delicate digestive system) had regurgitated. They did not, as a rule, amble leisurely in, smiling, and say "I bring an urgent message from Círdan." Nevertheless Elrond put aside his suspicions and accepted the two envelopes, one addressed to himself and the other to the High King, before dismissing the messenger.
* * *
It was becoming quite clear to Mandos that he desperately needed help, preferably unquestioning, from one of the fellow Valar. Aulë had staunchly refused to assist Mandos any further, insisted he had "quite enough" of having to build dubious structures for Mandos, who, in his opinion (which, at the time had been very strongly expressed) should learn to "take care of his own problems", and if Mandos would excuse him, he needed to attend to the metaphysical structure of Middle Earth right now. So Mandos could only watch gloomily as Random-Newly Re-embodied Elf #2 wandered around giving motivational speeches to the dead. Mandos made a mental note to make some large-scale improvements as soon as the opportunity presented itself most of his halls were no barrier to flesh, and it was all he could do to keep the elf from wandering out of Mandos, much less imprison him in a cell. Well, he supposed he could clap the elf in chains, but of course he could not in good conscience do that.
"You should seek assistance from the others," said Vaire calmly from her loom. She looked closely at her current tapestry. "All is not well across the Sea."
"I know that," Mandos replied irritably. It irked him that Vaire seemed not feel the least bit guilty, but placed all the blame on him.
"Have you tried speaking to Irmo?"
Irmo, Lord of Dreams. Why hadn't Mandos thought of him before? Not that he could solve the problem at hand, but it would certainly help to have a form of over-sea communication. Yes, it might be worth a try.
"No," he said to Vaire. "But I will."
* * *
Elrond entered the study and bowed. "My lord."
"Ah, Elrond, you wished to see me?" called out the High King from somewhere behind a mountain of documents. His miniature hound, looking faintly ill as always, peered at Elrond from behind the desk and gave an annoying little yip before being silenced by Elrond's murderous glare.
"There is a message from Cirdan. I received a similar one myself," said Elrond, stepping forward. He held out the letter.
"Oh? What about?" Gil-galad's face gradually emerged as a pile of papers was carefully maneuvered to one side. "Bother the paperwork," he muttered, as he took the envelope from Elrond and opened it.
If he did not always leave it till the last minute ... Elrond smiled. "Cirdan reports that Glorfindel of Gondolin has returned," he replied, even as the king began scanning the letter's contents, making little noises of exclamation.
"Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower," Gil-galad frowned. "I think I met him once or twice, when I was very small. One of my uncle's favorites, I believe. Dead, re-embodied, and returned to this side of the Sea. Very peculiar."
"Indeed, such a thing is unheard of," mused Elrond. "Perhaps he has some duty to fulfill?"
"Duty? Bah!" scoffed Gil-galad. "I know his kind. Bloodthirsty, those Gondolindrim. Probably came back so he could kill things."
Elrond barely resisted rolling his eyes. Gil-galad bore a long-standing grudge against most Gondolindrim, dead or alive. He figured the reason was probably related to Turgon (or "my crown-stealing uncle", as Gil-galad liked to call him).
"And Cirdan kindly informs me that he will be borrowing you for an unspecified period of time," continued Gil-galad, in a tone that just about bordered on whining. "And without so much as a 'by your leave'! I believe he has quite forgotten the fact that I am High King."
Elrond laughed. "Very typical of him."
"And I do not understand Glorfindel's need for medical attention," continued Gil-galad. "Is he not fresh come from Valinor, a place of rest and healing? Círdan is being damnably vague about the whole thing."
"The Haven's chief physician has attached a report," said Elrond. Privately, he was surprised that the infamous Neldor had managed such a display of professionalism. "It is not entirely clear what ails the elf, but they suspect memory loss brought on by the trauma of re-embodiment. He does not recall anything of his past life, and has even forgotten the Elven-tongues, and speaks instead in a strange language. The physician is of the opinion that Glorfindel thinks himself a dwarf."
The High King looked as if Elrond had just turned into a newt. He gaped for a few moments, seemed to recollect he was the monarch of a modestly sized realm, and shut his mouth firmly.
"Well," he said after a pause. "There seems to be no help for it then. Leave as soon as you can, fix him up, and bring him back."
Elrond inclined his head and made to leave.
Elrond turned. "Yes, lord?"
"Good luck, and do not, for whatever reason, wander Círdan's halls alone. Remember."
Elrond shuddered at a distant, unpleasant memory. "I remember," he said.
* * *
Lindir thanked and dismissed the courier, set down his harp and eagerly took up the envelope. Breaking the seal, he found inside two sheets of paper, held together by an ingeniously designed twist of metal, and a tiny paper sachet attached to the second sheet that seemed to hold some kind of powder. The first sheet, tinted a rose color and giving off a heady scent (which could be very loosely described as "floral") that made his head spin, was instantly recognizable. Dear, sweet Haneth, he thought happily, though he wished, as always, that she would use paper that was not quite so odorous.
"My dearest beloved," the letter began. Twenty or so lines of long-winded endearments followed, making Lindir smile and sigh longingly. The rest of the page was dedicated to the idle gossip circulating about the Havens. He flipped to the other side of the letter.
"Ah, before I forget, Uncle Neldor wishes to ask a favor of you. I know you find him a little frightening, Lindir, but he is a darling, really, and so very kind! He said he needed to get some important business done in Minas-en-Elenath, but did not know anyone he could trust. Then I of course said he could trust you, and he smiled and said I was very clever, why did he not think of that? Then he remembered that you are a very popular musician there, and said he should not take up your precious time, and looked very sad. So of course I said you would only be too glad to help, and I know you will, because you are generous and like to make people happy."
"Well, anything for my dear Haneth," he declared to himself, privately pleased that he was so well thought of (even by that very peculiar relation of Haneth's). He resolved to help settle this "important business", as Haneth put it-after all it would not do to disappoint her. He read the rest of Haneth's letter (which mostly involved clumsy but endearing comparisons of Lindir's attributes to natural phenomena like the moon and stars and rock pools), then began examining the attached sheet, covered in Neldor's excruciatingly neat hand. He read it once, blinked, swallowed, and read it again. Then he reached for his harp with a shaking hand.
Some elves can foretell their own demise-they see their fates in visions, dreams, or simply know. Lindir was not one of these elves, but it did not take the gift of foresight for him to deduce that his doom was at hand, so to speak. Plucking a familiar technical exercise in an effort to soothe his nerves, he surveyed his options. The very idea of following Neldor's "suggestions" to make Elrond's journey "less wearisome" unnerved him-Elrond was after all, very, very high in the High King's regard, and Lindir merely a guest, here in Gil-galad's abode only by gracious invitation. Then again the thought of incurring Neldor's displeasure absolutely terrified Lindir. He decided to play it safe. After all, the Peredhel was (mostly) merciful and kind.
Ellie quite liked her new rooms. They were three times the size of her modest flat back on Earth, overlooking the sea, and simply, but elegantly and comfortably furnished. Best of all they seemed out of bounds to the average elf, even if the doors were left wide open (except for the odd exceptionally bold maiden who might peer shyly in, but usually fled when Neldor magically materialized). Ellie herself knew better, by now, than to wander too far afield. Best of all, the bedroom contained an ornate, full-length mirror (Ellie didn't know why the infirmary had no mirrors, but guessed they were perhaps expensive to produce). Now, Ellie had never been vain, but one cannot acquire a new body without finding out how it looks. And Glorfindel was exceedingly good-looking. Ellie felt faint just looking at her own reflection. Lovely, glowing skin, lustrous hair (which was so golden it looked almost dyed), and cheekbones that no plastic surgeon could ever hope to achieve. And the muscles! Ellie rolled up one sleeve and experimentally curled a bicep. The resultant, tastefully large bulge was probably harder than granite. So, thought Ellie, she could hardly be blamed for spending extra time in front of the mirror. Neldor had given Ellie one or two odd looks upon discovering her gazing intently at her own reflection, but otherwise gave no sign that he disapproved of Ellie's new preoccupation.
Speaking of Neldor, Ellie was getting rather fond of her caretaker. She still hadn't forgotten the club incident, of course, and still found the memory disturbing and Neldor's behaviour inexplicable. But the healer regularly went out of his way to make Ellie comfortable, and it was impossible not to trust him in the face of his gentle, charming smiles. Besides, reflected Ellie a tad mournfully, it wasn't as if she had any friends in this world (well, it wasn't as if she had many friends in that world, either), so she had better start making some now.
* * *
Neldor tore wildly at his hair in utter frustration. His research was not going well. Given the pivotal role of Balrogs in killing off major heroes of the First Age, one would think that someone would have written a proper treatise on the subject. No, instead there were all these ballads about generic monsters of "shadow and flame" and useless hundred-page arguments on whether or not they had wings (strangely enough, all the authors managed to circumvent the issue of any other features altogether). And the only illustration he had managed to find looked more like a winged cow on fire than anything else ( which he highly doubted was to any degree accurate, unless Morgoth's strategy involved incapacitating his enemies by making them howl with laughter).
He let out a long despairing sigh. Perhaps Cirdan would know.
"I do not know," said Círdan, when Neldor asked.
Neldor frowned. "Were you not in the War of Wrath?"
"Well, so were you," pointed out Cirdan.
"But I was not at the front," reminded Neldor. "I was busy sewing men back together, if you recall."
"Ah, yes, indeed," said the Shipwright, stroking his short, sparse beard. "I never saw the Balrogs though- the Valar took care of them. Kept well away from all the lightening bolts and fireballs and odd mushroom-shaped clouds."
"But you are so old," pressed Neldor. "Surely, once in your life..."
"Ah, but I stayed near the Sea most of the time. No Balrogs ever came near the Falas. Hypersensitive to salt spray, maybe. Or perhaps they do not like the wet."
Neldor rolled his eyes. "Then I have no further questions, my lord," he concluded, and made to leave.
Neldor paused hopefully in his steps.
Cirdan furrowed his brow. "Why exactly do you want to know how a Balrog looks like anyway?"
Neldor pretended not to hear and scurried quickly away.
Lindir slipped into the stables and crept noiselessly along until he came to a stall which housed a big bay horse. Elrond's horse was much like his owner - kindly, intelligent, and too fond of sweets. The gelding eyed Lindir, wary curiosity showing on his expressive face. "Come, Rochael(1)," said Lindir, a little nervously. "See what I have here!" He held out a piece of confectionery, carefully made to Neldor's written instructions. The horse gave him a Look which reminded Lindir eerily of Elrond.
"No? You do not want it?" Lindir waved the sweet tantalizingly in front of the horse. "Crystallized beetroot and candied apple, with a dash of mint." And whatever that was in that sachet, he added silently.
Rochael remained annoyingly cautious, stepping further back away from the elf, snorting softly at Lindir's outstretched hand.
"Look, it's a treat!" exclaimed Lindir, a hint of frustration creeping into his voice. Horses, in his experience, never rejected treats. "I am not poisoning you!" At least, I think not. Again, the bay favored him with another expression entirely too close to one of the Peredhel's for comfort. Lindir wondered briefly if the two were actually somehow related, then shook his head. There was a more important issue at hand. Lindir considered his options. Three sweets in the bag-Neldor said to ensure the horse ate all of them. But surely, one less was better than none...
He turned to the facing stall, which housed an unfamiliar grey mare, and softly read the name inscribed on the door. "Suldal." The mare, upon hearing her name, came forward and puffed friendlily at Lindir's hair. Making sure that Rochael had full view of what was happening, he offered the confectionery to the mare, who lipped up the treat and crunched merrily upon itt.
Opposite, Rochael, who had been craning his neck to observe the goings-on, stomped his foot in equine jealousy. Humming a triumphant air, Lindir walked up to him and fed the rest of the sticky cubes to the eager horse.
Lindir was surprised to find that he actually rather enjoyed this. Perhaps his recent success buoyed him up; perhaps because it was so different from what Lindir normally did. Lindir the minstrel, people called him, Lindir who had the voice and brains of a bird (admittedly, that had been a very low whisper--but Lindir had very sharp ears), Lindir the Short and Not Terribly Clever. No one would suspect him, ever. Task completed, he slunk out of the stables towards the palace. The labors of Lindir had just begun.
(1) Rochael (S.): Wise Horse.
Many thanks to the angels of GoI for their wonderful beta work.
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.