She is not here.
That inescapable fact tore at Glorfindel viciously, even as he continued down the ramp and desperately scanned the happy faces at the dock. It had been more than an Age; surely Lírinyellë would have been released from the Halls of Mandos before this! It seemed impossible to think that not only was the most beautiful woman of all of Gondolin still sheltering in the dark halls, but his sons and daughter…
Glorfindel blinked. Then again, if his sons and daughter had been released, there was a good chance he wouldn't recognize them. They had been so very young when Gondolin fell and they had perished, with Fëacalo less than a year old… What if…
He sighed as he cast his gaze with even more concentration among the crowd at the dock, searching for any eyes that would catch at his. Elven memory would surely keep his face in the minds of his older children; they would recognize him, even if the reverse weren't the case. But no matter how hard he stared, there wasn't a single person whose gaze seemed to lock with his. He had returned home, only to be alone. He had done as the Belain had asked, and they had given him nothing in return.
Even Celeborn, who had stood alone in the bow of the ship, stone-faced and grieving the entire journey because he still left so much of his heart on those receding shores, had found some solace in the embrace of his wife. Galadriel, as stunningly beautiful as ever, had dashed forward almost the moment the ship had nudged the dock for the first time to gather her prodigal mate close before he had even stepped foot onto the Undying Lands.
Elrond and Celebrían were there for their sons, and for Celebriel, their daughter by marriage. The quintet now stood in a tight huddle just a few steps from the boarding ramp, murmuring softly to each other. From a distance, Elrond looked so young and rested; so different from the exhausted, grief-worn Lord of Imladris that had ridden away on that morning over almost two ennin ago. And Celebrían looked every inch a mischievous, regal, radiant wife, ready to once more take charge of two imps of twin sons who were, in turn, the ones who looked exhausted and worn with cares. The family of the Peredhil was together again to the extent that it could be, with Arwen long passed beyond the circles of the world.
But there was evidently no welcome for him from his former life, not even his parents. No one waited for Glorfindel of Gondolin, the head of the House of the Golden Flower and slayer of balrogs. Neither had anyone come for Laurefindil of Tirion, a lesser son of the Minyar ambassador to the House of Nolofinwë, who had followed his father and the Noldorin lord into the horror that had been that endless trek across the lethal ice and then remained to watch over Turgon and his line past death into rebirth.
No one, that was, until he again glanced over at the hearty reunion that was that of his charges with their parents, and saw coming towards him a face that was both familiar and astonishingly strange in the changes that had been wrought in it.
"Welcome home, you manic Vanya!" Erestor's smile was wide and warm, and Glorfindel blinked to find himself gathered close by one whose very nature had always been remote and reserved.
Still, it was a welcome, and it was his. Slowly Glorfindel felt his heart thaw a little so that he could return the embrace. "It is good to see you, old friend," he said finally, when he could work past emotions that he didn't really want to examine at the moment. "And yet… Let me look at you." He set Erestor away from him by an arm's length and stared. "Where is the dour and stuffy Chief Counselor I have known for the better part of the last Age?"
"Oh, he still exists," Erestor replied, his eyes glinting in sly humor, "but he has had good reason to remember his sense of humor more often of late." Turning slightly, he reached out to a positively tiny woman and pulled her close. "Allow me to introduce my wife, Sedilwen. This is Glorfindel of Imladris, meleth, the bane of my existence and one of my dearest friends."
One of my dearest friends. Amazingly, five words restored some of the warmth of life to him, and Glorfindel put on the most radiant smile he could muster as he reached out for the dainty woman's hand and bowed over it. "You have my condolences, Lady, for you have chosen a most difficult beast to tame." He winked at her to take any offense from his words, and a gaze that had sharpened in surprise and consternation now softened into good humor.
"Oh, I have heard tales of you, my lord," Sedilwen replied with a tick of the head towards her husband. "Nevertheless, I am grateful that Erestor had you to help keep him in line all those years."
She quickly smiled impishly up at her husband, whose brows had already fallen a notch. "I refuse to allow him to corrupt you," he grumbled, with only the sparkle in his eyes giving lie to his words. "But perhaps we are preventing you from finding your…"
"No, you are not." The reality of the situation was like a dash of ice water, driving the smile from Glorfindel's face. "It seems you and your lovely lady – of whom you told me nothing for all those years, shame on you! – are the sum of my welcome."
"Only until Elrond notices that you…" Erestor began.
The soft word and the tap on the shoulder made him turn slowly. Facing him was a tall man dressed in the whites and golds of the House of the Golden Flower and wearing a circlet that indicated his leadership role in that House. Golden hair, so obviously inherited from him, fell long over his shoulders, and grey eyes that came from his mother gazed at him with not quite animosity. Behind him stood another young man, alike enough to the first to almost be a twin, equally recognizable as his own, and equally ambivalent in expression. Finally, next to her brother stood one who could only be his own Calimanárë, the living echo of his beautiful Lírinyellë except for wearing his own burnished gold hair rather than Lírinyellë's pale hue.
Glorfindel's astonished gaze returned to the man who had called to him. "You are…" he began, very uncertain of himself and stumbling to reply in Quenya instead of Sindarin.
"I am Laurëtarmo," was the reply, accompanied by a formal bow. My eldest son. Glorfindel's heart skipped a beat when he remembered an excited lad that had only just begun to learn to wield a wooden sword in the last days of Gondolin and compared that memory to the proud and stiff man who stood before him. "That is Fëacalo." His younger son gave him another shallow bow, nothing like the babe in arms in his memory.
My children. Someone did come after all!
Glorfindel's eyes filled with tears. "You have…" he started, then swallowed hard. "You have all grown up so well."
"We have missed you," his daughter said in the soft and musical tones of Gondolin that he hadn't heard in so long, tones that rang with regret and accusation. "You have been long removed from us."
Neither of his sons nor his daughter had made a single move to embrace him, however. This was a greeting, and not a welcome, Glorfindel realized and felt a chill run down the back of his collar. "And your mother?" he asked, wary of the answer. "Is she here?"
"She is in Lórien," Fëacalo answered for them all. "When she heard that you had not remained behind to wait for her here, that the Valar had demanded you leave us behind to return to the marred lands, her heart was broken. And even though Lord Turucáno has built a new city for us, and all of us have rejoined him there, she remains in Lórien, determined to wait there until you come to reclaim her."
Glorfindel gaped. "King Turucáno has built…"
"Ah yes. One of the more interesting developments of the last Age here," Erestor supplied from behind him. "They call it Artalindalë, and I believe they have styled it after the original plans of Gondolin. Many who dwelled in Gondolin originally have gravitated there in the ennin since its completion." Leave it to Erestor, the loremaster, to know these things.
"I have been waiting for many ennin to return authority of our House to you, my father," Laurëtarmo said formally, reaching up to remove his circlet. "To restore to you all that you lost so long ago, and what the Valar had no right to deny you when you were released…"
"Wait." Glorfindel held up a restraining hand. "It is too soon for this, my son. Until I have had a chance to get my bearings in this new-old land, I am quite content to leave you in charge of our House."
"But…" Calimanárë's face folded into worry. "You are coming home to Artalindalë with us, are you not, Atar? Our House has been making plans for your welcome home feast since we heard of your return."
Glorfindel's gaze flicked guiltily toward Elrond and his family, and then lit on the face of his old friend. "I should…"
"I can tell them," Erestor offered with a nod of understanding. "And I can tell you from experience that they will be glad to know that you are reunited with your kin at last." He tightened his arm about the shoulders of his diminutive wife.
"Besides, your presence in Artalindalë will give us all an opportunity to visit," Sedilwen remarked with an impudent grin, "and you know that both Elrond and Erestor will desire the grand tour and for you to tell them all about the differences between this new place and the Gondolin you remember."
After another guilty and almost wistful glance in the direction of the Peredhil family, which he had adopted as his own for centuries, Glorfindel finally nodded agreement. "It will be good to have you visit," he told Erestor with heartfelt sincerity, "if only to disabuse you both of all of the errors in your beliefs about Gondolin that I have had to endure for so long."
Erestor's snort, along with Sedilwen's cough that covered a quick laugh, was almost enough to make Glorfindel rescind his decision. The three young people who stood so woodenly before him and claimed him as father were strangers to him, whereas Erestor had been like an older, pesky brother. The ties of family had somehow gotten very skewed in his mind, he realized, to have him wishing to remain with Elladan and Elrohir and Erestor and Celebrían, rather than go home with his own long-lost children.
"Come to visit soon, my friend," he added in a soft voice. "I have a feeling I will be in need of a familiar face and wit in the days to come."
Erestor quickly drew him aside, turning him so that both of their backs were to the others. "Listen to me: I am not blind to what is going on here," the former librarian whispered urgently. "Something is very amiss, and it is something that has been known to happen with many of us who waited until the very last to sail. Do not hesitate to call upon me – or even Elrond – if you have need of us. We may not have the ties of blood to bind us, but we are all family nonetheless."
Glorfindel was taken aback by the sincerity and almost protectiveness with which Erestor spoke. "I have missed you more than I thought," he said, clasping Erestor's upper arm tightly. "And I will do exactly as you suggest. Besides, I truly wish to get to know the lady who finally captured your heart."
Erestor's hand moved to clap Glorfindel's shoulder. "Go on with you, then. Enjoy your reunion."
"Our carriage is this way, Atar," Fëacalo stated, holding a hand out to indicate direction and very pointedly speaking in Quenya. "I shall take your bundles…"
Glorfindel cast one last, longing look at the Peredhil family, where now the youngest were pulling their old tutor and disciplinarian into warm embraces. That was a welcome. But what he had would have to do. He turned, handed his bundles to his younger son and prepared to follow where they led him.
"We are not going all the way to Artalindalë this very day, are we?" Glorfindel asked in alarm as the carriage turned to follow the shoreline, as if in search of another wharf.
"No. Our Lord Turucáno has rented a small estate just outside of town in which to stay when he or one of his retainers have cause to be on Tol Eressëa," Laurëtarmo told him with a small shake of the head. "We have commissioned a small boat to take us to Alqualondë on the morrow, where we will again spend the evening before our carriage will begin the last leg of the journey home. After you have time to recover at home in Artalindalë from your long ordeal, we will make arrangements to travel to Lórien."
"We realize you must be very tired, and feel out of place," Calimanárë added, and her voice had lost a little of its edge. "All of that time in that horrible place, far from anyone who loves you…"
"Imladris was anything but horrible, and I have not been unhappy," Glorfindel felt moved to correct his daughter. "I have been as family to the Peredhil…"
"Yes, well, you need be so no longer," Fëacalo interrupted brusquely. "Once more, you have your own blood and kin about you, and can take up your fealty to your King to serve him as you used to. It should be quite the relief."
Glorfindel's brows rose. "You seem to have my future planned out for me."
"It is what is expected of all the returning exiles, Atar," Laurëatarmo explained in a very patient tone. "Long has it been since you were here, in Aman, and surely much has changed. It is considered best that the returnees, whether newly re-housed or finally sailed, spend time with their families in familiar surroundings, slowly learning the way in which things are done in Aman."
"You should know that I have friends from Ennor that I have no intention of simply abandoning," Glorfindel stated firmly. "Furthermore, my fealty has been to Elrond Eärendilion for more than an Age. Frankly, I have yet to decide if I shall return to King Turucáno's service, as I had no idea that such would even be possible."
Both of his sons were shocked. "You would turn your back on your King?" Laurëtarmo asked, aghast.
"I have no idea what I shall do," Glorfindel stated tiredly. "It is too early for me to be making such monumental decisions. I am tired, and I am out of sorts, and I feel very much a stranger here."
"You shall have all the time you need, Ata," Calimanárë pronounced, shifting closer to her father and threading her hand about his upper arm and hugging it. "You are right that it is too early to be making such big decisions. We need to have patience, and let you settle into life here in Aman at your own speed." Her brows furled prettily in a silent warning to her brothers – an expression all too much like one Glorfindel had often had aimed in his direction so long ago by Lírinyellë.
The very fact that his daughter, the little treasure of his life that had been, now shared that mannerism with her mother brought new tears to his eyes. He pulled his arm from her keeping and wrapped it about her shoulders. "Thank you, Cali," he told her softly, finally remembering the abbreviated epessë he had given her very much over Lírinyellë's objections. His daughter stiffened slightly, then relaxed against him. Perhaps she does not want to be called that. "Do you have another epessë that you prefer?" he asked quickly.
"Haru calls me Nárë," she said, sounding guilty. "He told me once that you used to call me Cali, though, when I was very small. You may call me that if you wish…"
"Which would you prefer?" This young woman was not the tiny child who had ridden about the city on his shoulders. She had become an adult while far from his keeping, and he needed to cater to her present likes and dislikes, not try to force on her those from a long by-gone day.
"I am used to Nárë," she admitted finally.
Glorfindel forced himself to smile. "Then Nárë you shall be, daughter. Tell me," he spoke louder, obviously including his sons in those he addressed, "do you all have husbands and wives of your own now? Does the House of the Golden Flower prosper?"
"My wife, Calassë, is in Artalindalë," Laurëtarmo replied, and even his voice took on a softer tone when speaking of one he obviously cared about greatly. "She would have traveled with us, but she is great with our first child, and Haru's healers said that it would be better that I brought you home to her."
"A child?" Glorfindel felt as if all of the wind had been knocked out of him, despite having pondered this very possibility many times in the past. Then it had been a simple mental distraction. Now... Me? A grandfather already? "How soon?"
Laurëtarmo face grew wistful. "Not for another three twelve-days. We shall be home long before then."
Stunned by this, Glorfindel's gaze moved next to his youngest, who shifted in a manner that looked distinctly guilty. "I have yet to find one who makes my heart sing, Atar," Fëacalo said stiffly.
"Not for lack of trying," Calimanárë quipped with a sly grin that made her little brother's face flush furiously. "He is known as the rake of Artalindalë, Ata. I believe he has cast an eye at each of the available young ladies of the city repeatedly, and disappointed no few of them when his attention wanders quickly to the next one."
Fëacalo's mouth worked soundlessly for a moment, and Glorfindel found himself chuckling sympathetically. "Women have a sad tendency to assume attachments sometimes where there has been nothing said, and they take it very amiss when the gentleman in question knows nothing of these dreams. As long as you have promised nothing you are not prepared to give, my son, you have nothing to be ashamed of."
His youngest straightened and gave his father the very first glimmer of a smile. "That is as Haru has advised me, and as I have done. But…" He sagged. "It does not always help."
"It never does." Glorfindel now tightened his arm about his daughter. "And you, Nárë?"
"I am betrothed," she replied, now taking her turn to blush. "We are to wed one year hence."
"And who is the lucky fellow?"
"Hyarnon, son of Ringondo, who was a past ambassador of the Vanyar to the court of Turucáno," she replied, lifting her chin with some pride. "Hyarnon and I were tutored together for a time, and we have known each other for all my… well… since not long after I was rehoused and brought to Haru to raise."
"My Atar took you in?" Glorfindel asked, suddenly hearing the number of times that a grandfather had been named.
"No, Amillë's father," Fëacalo said with a quick shake of the head. "Your parents live in Tírion, and are still aligned with Nolofinwë. It was thought that we would be happier closer to those whom we had known before. And Haru has never swayed in his loyalty to Lord Turucáno."
That explains some of it. Elmálo was always very strong in his support for Turgon; if he raised them, they will have absorbed and accepted that this level of fealty is to be expected.
"It is a lot to take in, we know," Calimanárë sympathized as Glorfindel began to rub the space between his brows. "There is plenty of time for you to hear all our stories, and to tell us yours. Look here. This is the house provided for our use while here in Avallonë. We have arrived."
Glorfindel felt a rush of angry satisfaction at the sound of the slam of the door behind him, and he truly didn't mind that he had absolutely no idea of where he was going, provided that it took him away from the quagmire of long-festered animosities harbored against him and the Valar by his children. Overhead, the stars had never looked brighter or more near, but other than to note the difference between the night-time skies in Aman and Ennor, he gave them not another thought.
He hadn't expected them, and so the attitudes and expectations of him evidenced by his sons had taken him utterly by surprise. He'd heard hints at the docks upon his arrival, but it was over the evening meal that the canopy had been ripped away from the true attitudes of those who had awaited his return. Despite Nárë's assurances, and several half-hearted pleas to her brothers to give him some time to accustom himself to his new fortunes, he had learned that, as far as his sons were concerned, his stories from Ennor weren't desired after all. His penitence for having agreed to the Valar's wish that he continue in his task of protecting the line of Turgon was far more precious to them, it seemed, as was his leaving all vestiges of his life for the past millennium behind.
"And you will not need to suffer their visits either," Fëacalo had told him in a very firm voice. "Artalindalë has reclaimed much of the character lost when Ondolindalë fell, and that includes a preference to not mix with others. We need no assistance, and are perfectly capable of caring for ourselves."
Glorfindel had been nonplussed. "Have you not even trade agreements with the rest of…"
"Of course not! Our valley is fertile, and our people industrious. By staying apart, we do not have half of the political problems endured by others." Laurëtarmo stared at him. "It was ever that way, Atar, in Ondolindalë. You know this."
"We were that way out of necessity, however, not choice in a land where there is no conflict," Glorfindel countered. "You and your brother and sister were too young to know of this, I understand, but your Haru should have explained…"
"When Artalindalë was built, all who wished to live there gathered and decided to resume our lives the way they were before Moringotto ruined everything. You were happy there before the valarauco, Atar, you will be happy again. Especially when Amillë is back with us…"
No, the argument over the meal had been anything but pleasant, only managing to make Glorfindel feel even more out of place and out of sorts. He had returned to the suite of rooms designated as his, retrieved his bundles of possessions, and stormed from the lavish estate with no intention of ever returning. And now that he'd been walking for a while, he slowed and turned in a circle in confusion. Where am I?
"Have you the slightest idea where you are heading?"
The strangely familiar voice spun him around to drop into a battle-ready stance after the events of the last hour or so, only to espy a wry-faced Ecthelion leaning nonchalantly against a pole that held up one of the strange, blue crystals that illumined the byways of Avallonë. Glorfindel glowered at him as he relaxed back into an erect posture. "And where did you come from?"
Ecthelion shrugged. "I was on my way to welcome you. What did you think?"
"I have no idea, as nothing has been as I expected it," Glorfindel snapped, all patience with this new world around him utterly spent. "I suppose now that you are here, you will also tell me that I should simply forget the last four thousand years of my life and retreat to Artalindalë where my life can be dictated by ties I have considered long-severed?"
"Nooo…" Ecthelion drew out and straightened away from the pole. "As I said, I was on my way to welcome you; and I had just begun to wonder that perhaps you would want some time alone with your family on this first night, when I saw you come bursting through that door as if Moringotto's valarauco was again after you. I followed so as to be of assistance when you finally had put enough distance between yourself and whatever had chased you out the door." He tugged on his tunic and brushed at it distractedly. "I had hoped that those two would at least give you the evening and one good meal before starting in on you – or that Nárë would be able to keep them in line for at least one night. I take it that was not the case." It wasn't a question.
"No, it was not." The exasperation and ire that had carried Glorfindel through the streets suddenly abandoned him. "Is this the way it is going to be here, 'Thel? Am I going to forever be torn between an expected fealty to Turucáno from a lifetime ago and my friendship and loyalty to Elrond and his family, who became my own in a second life granted me by the Valar? Are my own wishes in the matter not important to anyone here?"
"It should not be this way for those who return to us wearied and worn from across the sea, but the sad truth is that this has happened more often than we would care to admit, 'Fin," Ecthelion said sympathetically. "It must be worse for you, however, because you served your King unto death once, and then turned around and served another for an even greater amount of time, only to return here to face the expectations of others that you should pick up the threads of the life you left behind." He finally stepped close and put a companionable hand on Glorfindel's shoulder. "In this case, however, I blame Elmálo and his… enthusiasm… for what has been a re-founding of Ondolindalë – with all its strengths and weaknesses – here in the Blessed Lands. Were he and others of similar mind to have their way, the Great Gate of Artalindalë would be barred even as Ondolindalë's was; none would enter except by invitation, and no one would ever leave. And he was the one who raised your children in the end."
"Ondolindalë flourished and fell, as was foretold us," Glorfindel said sullenly. "I fell with it, only to rise and be given a new destiny. I honestly did not expect to come to the Undying Lands and be obliged to become the head of my House again in a restored Ondolindalë – and to simply forget the Age I just spent in Ennor as if it had never happened." He finally looked into Ecthelion's eyes directly. "Tell me truly: am I being selfish to wish some say in my own future?"
The hand on his shoulder tightened and shook him slightly. "No, 'Fin, you are not. They are, to demand you capitulate to their demands without even a chance to rest and draw breath." A nod in the general direction of the house he'd fled clearly indicated whom Ecthelion accused. "And so, as my welcoming gift to you, instead of sharing some of the finest wine in all of Eldamar and lolling before a comfortable fire talking through the night, I shall take you wherever you would wish to go. It occurs that I am considerably more familiar with Avallonë than you are." Ecthelion's smile was sad. "And you looked rather lost a moment ago."
Glorfindel sagged beneath that warm hand. "I want to go home," he stated, hating the apparent weakness in his voice. "My place, for over four thousand years, has been with the Peredhil family. I have waited a long time to greet Elrond, and an even longer time to speak to his lady-wife. I guarded his back, and the backs of his sons and kin, and it was a privilege rather than an onus. That is the life I know, and a life I enjoy, even if that is difficult for some to believe. Mistake me not: I love my wife, my children…" He finally glanced guiltily over his shoulder. "But I am not the same man they remember. I cannot turn back Time, nor can I become someone I no longer am just to please them."
"Then I shall take you to the inn that your Peredhil family has taken over for their use. The celebration there is still in full swing, I believe. I have heard tell that Elrond brought his bard with him and several newer music students to provide suitable entertainment, and that the innkeeper there has been dubiously blessed by an invasion by the kitchen heads of both Imladris and Barvedui…"
"Barvedui?" Glorfindel barely noticed that Ecthelion had started pulling him forward.
His friend nodded. "That is the name of the estate the Lady Celebrían built for her husband while she waited for him. It lies in the bottom of a valley in the foothills outside Alqualondë, and those who know say it is built much in the fashion of Imladris, so as to make Elrond feel at home quickly. And indeed, it has been difficult to convince him to travel very far from it, except when ships arrive from the east. The grumblings of Kings wishing to count him as a valued member of their privy councils has reached even Artalindalë."
"Wait! Where do you live? Is it here, in Avallonë?" Glorfindel pulled Ecthelion to a halt. "I would very much like to spend that evening before a fire with excellent wine and an old friend that you were offering a few moments ago…"
"I live in Artalindalë, with my wife and family, and I will see to it that it is known that you have my invitation to come visit me there," Ecthelion answered quietly. "I am once more the Warden of the Great Gate. For me, coming back to nearly-familiar surroundings and duties was a more comfortable way to regain myself after leaving Námo's care. Those who survived Gondolin and Sirion, or who were rehoused before me, saw to it I was eased back into the life I knew from before among those familiar to me." The grey eyes glinted in the blue crystal light. "I do not know how you did it, my friend, to die as we did, to endure what we did in Mandos, only to be rehoused and immediately sent to a new and different place, to dwell with people you had never met before."
"It was not easy," Glorfindel admitted. "But Elrond is…"
"His reputation as a mediator and a host is unassailable, and stories are told of those he sheltered in the Marred Lands – but the claims are almost beyond belief. Even the Naugrim…" Ecthelion's head tipped. "Tell me, did he really…?"
Glorfindel nodded. "More than once. The doors of Imladris were open to all who needed her, or the aid of her Master, without regard to race."
"No wonder you wish to return to his service. I imagine that openness would be infinitely preferable to secrecy, once one gets used to it. My fealty is Lord Turucáno's without question, and as such, I am bound to do his will; but I at times question the need to perpetuate part of the reason Ondolindalë fell in the end. Our segregation from the rest of Eldamar has not been well-received by all, and it has made some quarters quite ambivalent. In some ways, I envy you, 'Fin."
The understanding in Ecthelion's voice was a balm to his faer, which had taken more of a beating than Glorfindel wanted to admit. "Thank you."
"Come on. It is not much further now…" And indeed, the strains of harp and flute and tambour and viol could be heard, blended intoxicatingly with the murmuring sound of happy voices.
The lights within the inn were bright, and the sounds of laughter and music were enticing. "Will you come in with me?" Glorfindel asked as Ecthelion delivered back into his hands the two bundles that had come from Ennor with him.
"No, I would not intrude on your welcome…"
"Glorfindel? Is that you?" Erestor's voice came from the shadows, and then the former Chief Counselor of Imladris moved into the pool of blue light with his wife securely tucked under his arm. "But I thought…"
"I decided that I wanted to come home," Glorfindel interrupted in a tone that told his other old friend not to question his decision. Instead, he turned. "I would introduce you, however, to an old friend of mine: Ecthelion of the Fountain. This is Erestor of Imladris, one of my dearest friends over the past ennin, and his lovely lady Sedilwen."
Erestor's eyes widened, and he pressed a hand to his heart as he bowed. "It is an honor to meet you, my lord." Beside him, Sedilwen mirrored his actions.
"As it is mine to meet you," Ecthelion stated in heavily accented Sindarin, and Glorfindel could feel his old friend's gaze studying his face. "Any dear friend of Glorfindel's will ever be friend to me and my House." He turned and ticked his head in the direction of the inn portal. "And now, go in to the rest of them. You have need of music and laughter, my friend, and the kind of welcome you richly deserve. With luck, your Peredhil will not be traveling so soon, and we might again try to spend our comfortable evening before a fire. If not, either I will come to you or you will come to me."
Each man put a warm hand on the other's shoulder. "I am glad you found me, 'Thel," Glorfindel declared. "And I am proud to claim you as friend and ally once more. May the stars watch over you and yours."
"And may they ever watch over you and yours as well, 'Fin," Ecthelion squeezed Glorfindel's shoulder one last time. "Take good care of him," he then aimed in Erestor's direction with a sharp glaze.
"I shall," was the reply, coupled with another bow. Apparently satisfied, Ecthelion turned and soon had vanished into the shadows that lined the street.
"Give me those," Erestor demanded, immediately relieving Glorfindel of his bundles and handed them off to Sedilwen. "Can you see to it that these…"
"I shall make certain that a room remains that he can claim as his," Sedilwen said and hefted the bundles closer. "Come to me when this lot has worn you out entirely, my lord, and I shall guide you." She bustled off toward the innkeeper's counter.
"Now…" Erestor put a warm hand at Glorfindel's back. "I believe that there are a few people who were more than a little disappointed when you vanished so quickly."
Glorfindel shuddered beneath what was meant as a comforting gesture. "I should apologize…"
"You should not worry, old friend," Erestor leaned into his ear. "I told you I would explain your departure. For now, you need say nothing more than that you have decided that this was the better place to be." When Glorfindel pulled back and stared, Erestor merely nodded. "Consider it a welcoming gift."
"I think I am very lucky in my friends," Glorfindel managed finally around the surge of emotion that threatened to choke him. "You have no idea…"
Erestor shook his head. "No more of that; this is not the time for long faces and regrets. Come on, now. The festivities await…" That warm hand between Glorfindel's shoulder blades became an insistent push toward the open door of the inn and the dark-haired man standing just within, who turned at the sensation of motion behind him.
"Elrond…" Glorfindel could manage very little else before Elrond pulled him forward into a tight and welcoming embrace and pounded his back in a distinctly Peredhil manner.
"It is about time you arrived!" His lord loosened his hold and stepped back to take in his face, his own face falling into concern at what he evidently saw. "Glorfindel? Is all well with you?"
Glorfindel looked around the room. Lindir was indeed holding forth on his harp, leading a group of musicians in the kind of music that couldn't help but make the toe wish to tap. Glorfindel smiled in memory, for it was a tune that a mortal child of Minas Tirith had taught them all years ago. In a corner, Elladan and Celebriel stood arm in arm, watching the dancers and speaking softly, while Elrohir had taken his place with the musicians and a borrowed harp. Not far away, Celeborn and Galadriel stood wrapped in each other's arms, slowly swaying to the music and paying attention to nobody other than themselves.
Now close enough to see his lord clearly, he could tell that Elrond himself seemed to have dropped the weight of centuries and bore a countenance of peace and contentment so contrary to what he had sported in Ennor that the change strained at Glorfindel's credulity. Last but certainly not least, coming toward him with her face alight in a way he had not seen aimed in his direction in well over four ennin, was Celebrían. For the first time in their long acquaintance, however, he refused to allow himself to see the resemblance to Lírinyellë in her, determined that from now on, he would only see Celebrían for herself.
At last he looked into Elrond's eyes. "I am well," he said, and felt his faer swell with contentment. For a brief moment he wondered guiltily whether he should have felt this way in the company of his sons and daughter instead, but dismissed the thought immediately after it arose. He was well – or at least better – now. "I am home now, among family. How could I not be well?"
After another questioning glance, Elrond nodded as if the answer were satisfactory, at least for the time being. "Good. Have you eaten?"
"Only a little…" And that little bit sat like a hard, cold lump at the bottom of his stomach.
"I shall leave you in the hands of my lady-wife, then. Erestor, would you find our prodigal Battle Master a nice, tall goblet of wine while I see to it that he gets some of Aurin's…" Elrond dragged Erestor off into the crowd.
"It is about time you got here," Celebrían told him with eyes that shimmered with health and life. Without further ado, she threw her arms around Glorfindel's neck and hugged him tightly. "I wanted to thank you for taking such good care of all of them for me. And then you were gone…"
Glorfindel sighed. "My apologies, Lady. I did not mean to upset you…"
"Hush! Elrond is gathering a plate for you, and you will sit at our table. No arguments, now…" Celebrían's embrace transformed itself into a hand snaking around his upper arm to hold him close and guide him through the throng in the inn's common room. "Now that you are finally here, our family is as complete as it can be."
"I am glad to be home," he said fervently, knowing that, at last, he had come home. Perhaps not exactly the home he'd hoped for, but it was home. Here, with these people, he had a family, a place and a purpose sufficient to sustain him into a future that was his to shape. He shook off his melancholy, took a deep breath, and then allowed his relief and joy at being with those he truly cared about blossom into a huge grin. "And I am starving…"
amil/amillë - Q. mother
atar - Q. father
Belain - S. Valar, the Gods/Powers (sing. Balan)
ennin - S. several periods of 144 years
epessë - Q. nickname
faer - S. soul, spirit (sing & pl.)
Haru - Q. Grandfather
Laurefindil - (Quenya) Glorfindel
meleth - S. beloved (an endearment)
Moringotto - Q. Morgoth
valarauco - Q. balrog
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.