PROLOGUE - Sometime in the late 1400's, Middle-ages, Europe
Glorfindel hammered another board onto the ribs of the small boat, turning at a sound behind him and hitting his finger with the tool. Dropping it to the ground, he quickly laved the injured digit as he glared at the woman standing on the beachhead behind him.
“He's doin' worse and a'callin' for ye,” she said in her thick brogue.
“I'll be there to give him another dose in a few minutes. It's too soon for more pain medications; I have time to finish mounting this board.”
She shrugged and turned away, her duty done.
The tall elf turned back to his task after a quick look around the sheltered quay. It had changed greatly since the days when elves had walked the land in great numbers. He remembered the busy haven under Círdan's rule as if it was only yesterday. You wouldn't recognize it now, old friend, he thought as he picked his hammer up again and resumed peppering the board with nails. He remembered the last time he had visited the old shipwright.
CHAPTER 1 – The Grey Havens, Year 490, Fourth Age, Gondorian Reckoning
Círdan looked around the room before addressing the crowd. His gaze stopped at several elves, finally meeting Glorfindel's eyes. The warrior was startled by the intensity of the ancient elf's gaze as it pushed through him like a hot blade. As the eldest turned to focus on another elf, Glorfindel drew a shaky breath.
“Is anything amiss?” Elladan whispered.
“No, nothing,” he responded, not quite truthfully. How could he explain that in that one, piercing glance, Círdan had impressed upon him the urgency for his attendance at the shipbuilding class; that he would need that skill in the far distant future to save their lives? He looked at his mate and shrugged. “Nothing at all.”
The raven-haired son of Elrond looked sharply at him, and shook his head. “Have it your way then,” he muttered. “You always do in any case.” His slight smile minimized the bite of his words, but Glorfindel knew the truth behind them.
That evening the elves feasted at a sumptuous seafood buffet provided by their host and discussed Círdan's announcement among themselves. He had told the group that he was finally leaving Middle-earth after having built innumerable ships for those wishing to sail to Valinor. He had promised to teach his methods of construction to those who wished to remain in Endórë, as well as pass on whatever he knew of the route and dangers they would face if they attempted the arduous journey alone in the future. The main topic of dinner discussions were whether they would stay to learn what they could of Círdan’s construction skills or leave the next day.
As dawn broke, Glorfindel walked toward the stable to check on the horses. As he walked past the stalls, he noticed that most of them were occupied, but that several had their doors open and stood empty. Seemingly, some of those who said they would leave today have already left or are getting ready to do so, he thought as he saw several elves mounting their horses in the courtyard beyond the stable door. Among them, to his surprise, were Celeborn and Thranduil.
He walked closer as the two woodland elves were securely fastening their packs to their animals.
“You’re leaving?” he asked.
Celeborn merely tossed him a disdainful glance, having never been fond of the warrior, however, Thranduil turned to face him.
“I have no desire to leave Endórë for the unknown West,” he said. “My son had no choice but to leave these shores; the seasickness was hard upon him. But my lands and my people are here, therefore, so is my responsibility. As long as even a single one of my people still draws breath under the leaves of the Greenwood, I shall be here to guide and guard him.”
Glorfindel nodded. He understood the responsibilities of a ruler well, having served under two of the elves most renowned kings and leaders: Turgon of Gondolin and Elrond of Imladris. Turgon proudly wore his royal title when it had come to him, but Elrond, although acknowledged as Gil-galad's heir, refused all titles except Master.
“And Celeborn?” Glorfindel asked. “You also stay for your people who remain?”
“Nay. I stay because I have naught in the West waiting for me save my lady wife.” He shook his head and waved his hand, indicating his woodland companion. “And I stay for him. While Thranduil stays, I stay, and if we ever pass over sea, we go together.”
The golden warrior stroked the braided mane of the grey horse Thranduil was mounting. “If you should change your minds, either one of you, come to me and I will help you as I can. I will remain in these lands until Elladan wishes to leave or until we must sail because all other options have disappeared. I will learn Círdan’s craft as well as I can, although my hands are more suited to sword than hammer. If you change your mind while I still walk these shores, I will help you to build your own vessel.”
Thranduil reached over his horse’s withers and clasped the warrior’s hand in his. “You have been a good friend, Glorfindel. The long years have brought you great sorrow and an ocean of blood. I hope that you find happiness in the next Age as you and Elladan continue your lives together.” Celeborn nodded a grudging good-bye as he directed his horse to fall in next to his companion. The two leaders turned their mounts in tandem and left the stable area, steering their animals toward the eastern gate.
* * *
Glorfindel returned to the main house, seating himself on a stool that he positioned allowing him to overlook the bay. He was watching the single white ship anchored within its deep grey waters when his lover awakened and joined him on the balcony.
“What are you looking at so intently?” asked Elladan from behind him. Muscled arms wrapped around his chest, pulling him back against the firm body of his lover.
“I am looking at a crossroad, Elrondion.” He stood and turned to face the younger elf. Elladan moved his arms up to embrace his mate's shoulders while the warrior's hands tightened around the younger elf's waist.
“A crossroad?” Elladan whispered into his left ear just before he took a nibble of the earlobe followed by a quick lick.
Glorfindel gasped at the sensation of his lover's tongue against the shell of his ear and ground his stiffening erection against the groin of his partner. “Yes, evil child” he whispered, nipping down Elladan’s neck, leaving small bruises and marks with his teeth. “A crossroad. We can discuss that later. I have something else that is aching for attention just now.”
The two began a deep kiss as they backed into the bedchamber, falling across the mattress when they encountered it. Elladan was wearing only a lightweight unbelted robe, so he dropped it from his shoulders and began pulling Glorfindel's clothing off. As he tossed away his lover's boots and leggings and unlaced the short tunic, he continued to lick and nip along the hard body of his mate. Glorfindel writhed below him, reacting to his ministrations, then gripped his shoulders and pulled the younger elf on top of him. “Enough teasing, young one. Show me what you can do.” A low laugh met his command before the younger elf obeyed.
Later, as they shared a late breakfast on the balcony, looking out at the waters of the sheltered harbor of the Havens, they continued their discussion.
“A crossroad, yes,” Glorfindel began. “Either we can depart with Círdan into the West, joining many of his people who will sail on that white ship with him, or we can remain here in Endórë, roaming lands that we love in hopes that our luck will hold and that we will sail safely to Tol Eressëa when we need to. It is not a decision to be made lightly or without careful thought.”
“Do you wish to sail with Círdan, Glorfindel? The West is your home, after all. Surely you have friends and relatives there who would welcome your return.”
“I have relatives in the West, certainly. However, I’ve already made the trip East - twice - once across the Helcaraxë, and once in a ship across the great sea, although I was asleep for much of that journey and remember little of it.
"Did I ever tell you? I had a short time between my release from Mandos and boarding the ship to return to Endórë and I was going to take that time to visit with my family. Yet I could not bring myself to speak with them. Rumor had it that because I had gone east with Turgon I was considered a traitor to the family name.”
Feh!” Glorfindel turned and spit onto the ground. “I am best off without them,” he continued as he stood and walked to the railing. “I created a valued role for myself here in Middle-earth and then I met you and lost my heart. No, Elladan, there is nothing for me in the West.”
The younger elf stood and moved closer, placing his arm comfortably around the taller elf’s waist. Glorfindel draped his arm around the younger elf’s shoulders, pulling him tightly to his side and gave him a quick kiss on his head.
“Your grandfather and Thranduil left earlier this morning to return to the Greenwood,” he said.
“Yes, Elrohir sent me a message and we met last night. He told me he would not leave his wife, and she refuses to leave the trees of her homeland. They will stay and fade, if necessary, but they will not sail.”
“The call of the land sings strongly for those from the woods. I would have been surprised if your brother had decided to sail and suspected he would not have the desire to learn shipbuilding from Círdan.”
“He would be welcome to sail with us, if we ever decide to leave these shores, would he not, Glorfindel?”
“Of course, love. Your brother is dear to me, almost as dear as you. He would be twice welcomed, as would his wife.”
Glorfindel glanced to the side as he noticed movement below. He saw Círdan striding toward one of the dry docks where materials had been stacked. “Well, time for me to go. I want to learn this craft. In fact, I am relishing the opportunity to learn something new. This might be quite fun.”
The warrior quickly slipped his tunic back on and fastened his belt. Forcing his feet firmly into his boots, he left, quickly running down the stairs and onto the quay as he headed toward Círdan and the small group of elves who had joined him at the dry dock.
Elladan, left to his own devices for a few hours, decided to search through the library. Maybe he could find some books on shipbuilding that would be helpful for his lover.
* * *
Later that evening the students gathered in the common room for the evening meal. Dinner in Círdan's hall was a loose affair, featuring a sideboard with an assortment of foods to select from and long trestle tables where everyone sat and mingled. There was no head table or formal routine. Elladan found himself unconsciously looking among the elves for his brother, until he reminded himself that Elrohir had left with Thranduil and Celeborn that morning.
“I wish Elrohir had remained here to learn Círdan's skills,” he said.
“I too wish he had remained, but things have been strained between the two of you since your father sailed,” Glorfindel responded. “I know he was upset when your father’s papers placed the care of Imladris into your hands alone, not mentioning him, but I thought he had reconsidered, banished his jealousy, and that the two of you had mended your breach.”
Elladan looked down at the tabletop, his hand moving across the wood, following the grain of the planks. “I too had thought we would return to our old closeness, but apparently I was mistaken. Father groomed me to take over the rule of Imladris upon his death or during his absences, but I always reached out and shared those duties with Elrohir. When Erestor read father's formal papers assigning the governance of Imladris to me alone, it hurt my brother. He told me that he felt ignored and belittled by our father's slight. Although I assured him that I wished to rule in tandem as we had always done in the past, he refused, saying that it hadn't been father's wish.
“He said, 'No, brother. It is evident that father did not want me to reside in the Valley after he left; therefore, I will leave. Grandfather has started a new settlement on the eastern shore of the Anduin near the southern end of the Greenwood. I will be welcome to serve Celeborn as a warden, protecting the elves as they reclaim the land. Evil still passes through Dol Guldur and the old fortress is all too near the new territory. I will leave tomorrow and find a new home with mother’s family.'
“No matter how much I assured him that he was welcome to stay and be by my side, his mind was set and he left the valley the next morning, only returning for short visits afterward."
Elladan raised his head and looked at his lover. “As you know, I found my father's shoes to be ill-fitting and I was unhappy in my assigned duties. If it had not been for you, my golden warrior, I might have left the valley behind me and joined Elrohir in his new life. However, by then you had become a necessary part of my life, as essential to me as the air I breathe. I could no more think of leaving you as cutting off my hand at the wrist. So I remained in Imladris and became more and more unhappy.”
Glorfindel stretched out his hand, stroking across Elladan's forehead and down his head toward his chin. “I didn't realize how desperately unhappy you were, but once you were finally able to shift the responsibility of governance over to Lindir, I noticed a lightness to your bearing that you had not had for many years.”
When Elladan and Glorfindel had finished eating, they each poured a fresh goblet of wine and left the common room, retiring to their assigned chamber.
“What did you learn from Círdan today,” Elladan asked. They walked through the bedchamber to the balcony and settled down onto the surprisingly comfortable weatherproofed seating in the corner.
Glorfindel laughed and held up his left hand, which sported a bandage on his primary finger. “I learned that hammers are meant for nails, not fingers.”
“Poor baby.” Elladan took the injured hand into his and kissed the bandaged digit. “Does it still hurt?”
The warrior looked calculatingly at his new nursemaid with half-closed eyes. “It throbs a bit. But it felt better when you kissed it.”
“Oh?” Elladan returned his lips to the bandaged finger. Gently he kissed his way up and down the bruised digit. “Is it better now? … How about now? … Now?”
“My finger is fine, beloved, but there’s something else desiring attention that is becoming stiff with jealousy.”
“Well, we can’t have that,” Elladan laughed, and getting to his feet, he held his hand out to him, pulling him up from the chair. He wrapped Glorfindel into an embrace, pulling the taller elf's lips down to meet his and capturing them in a ravenous kiss. As their lips met, each one tightened their clutch, pulling their bodies together. Both elves were aroused and their erections rubbed against each other as they deepened their kiss.
Breaking away for a moment, one of them whispered, “Bed.” They moved into the bedchamber, drawing the privacy curtain closed behind them.
* * *
After many more days of building, several more hammer blows on his fingers, and nights with warm kisses making all of his aches less painful, it was finally time to disperse. Glorfindel felt he had gained a good understanding of boat construction as well as a map of the route and warnings about the trials they would face if he and Elladan ever sailed to Valinor. He thought it would be unlikely that they would need his shipbuilding skills, but it never seemed wise to close the door without leaving a window open for future use.
However, he had no desire to return to the West. Although he had been away for many years, he felt he would chafe under the benign rule of the Valar while living in a land without enemies to fight. He was a highly trained warrior, and that was a job that was not in high demand in lands that were at peace.
Círdan's vessel had been sailed to the pier and over the past few days, it had been loaded with a variety of gear and foodstuffs for his long-delayed journey. The shipwright had an opportunity to speak with Glorfindel late on his final night on the shores of Middle-earth. They walked down the shore together, and now it was Círdan asking the questions.
“Have you ever met my brothers?” he asked as a moonlit wavelet moved in to kiss at their feet.
“I met both of your brothers at times, although neither as a close friend. They rule from palaces in elaborate overbuilt towns. They have constructed complex political systems, which have become cumbersome and stratified, but they seem to be just and fair and loved by their subjects. I admit I may not be the best informant; I wanted to leave the West. It was, and probably still is, too – regimented; too controlled and too safe.”
The two continued walking along the water, listening to the never-ending voice of the sea.
Círdan nodded. “You would rather die here in Middle-earth than live under the protection of the Valar?”
“I died here once, I can do so again.” Glorfindel stopped walking and looked piercingly at his companion. “May I tell you something I’ve never told another living elf?”
“If you feel compelled to do so, then yes. I won’t pass the words on, if that is your concern.”
They resumed their aimless walking. “When I was reborn, I was released from Mandos and since my relations had not come to the gates to greet me and hug me to their bosoms, Lord Námo arranged transport for me to Tirion on Túna. I stepped from the coach and walked through the city, looking at the homes, and watching the elves in the marketplace and those wandering through the parks. I listened to various conversations revolving around topics that held no interest for me and I searched in vain to hear some topic of meat or merit. I walked to my parents’ estate and stood outside the manor walls for more than a day, unable to convince myself to pass the gates and go in. Do you know why I turned and left Tirion, having never passed the gates to revisit my family?”
Círdan shook his head. “No. Why did you not embrace the opportunity you had just been given by Lord Námo and the Valar?”
“I was horrified. The conversations, the concerns and discussions, the daily interactions in the marketplace, even the land itself was as if I had never left. More than an Age had passed here in Middle-earth. War had been waged against Morgoth and he had been vanquished. Beleriand had been inundated and the very shoreline had been forever changed. Númenor had been raised from the sea, settled by men led by Elrond's brother, Elros. So much had changed over the eastern land and sea. However, in the lands of the Valar, nothing had changed at all. Nothing! Had! Changed!”
Glorfindel shook his head and allowed himself to fall onto the sand, moving to sit against the rocks that the sea had thrown up making a natural sea wall. He continued speaking as Círdan settled down next to him.
“You see, Fëanáro left Valinor in a hopeless yet noble quest to recover the Silmarils stolen by Morgoth. He valued them as the last remnants of the light of the Trees and as weregild for the death of his father. His sons followed his lead and his Oath because of their love and their loyalty for him. The rest of us, we who walked across the hell of the shifting ice, left because our futures were bleak with sameness. The thought of returning voluntarily to that existence of living death frightens me almost more than facing one hundred orcs with only a single blade in my hand. I would rather pass through Mandos again than live a life of boring non-events.”
“Thus you are not traveling West with me tomorrow, or perhaps I should say today since it is after midnight,” Círdan noted.
“Yes. I will return to Imladris and from there, who knows? I know that one day I will return to the land of the Valar, either over sea or through Mandos’ gates, but I hope that day is far distant and that by the time I finally arrive, things will have changed. There are now many who have sailed to the West from Middle-earth, and I suspect most of them will have little patience for a life without any risk.”
The two elves sat companionably next to each other without further speech as the moon dropped toward the western horizon. Finally, they stood, and quietly walked back to the house built high on the sea cliffs that Círdan had made his home.
As the dawn broke, the final passengers walked from the quay onto the last swan ship ever seen in Middle-earth and soon after, Círdan commanded the ropes loosened. The ship's oars sculled and she moved away from the pier into the bay. As the breezes picked up, her sails furled and she began to speed on her journey. Glorfindel and Elladan watched the ship leave the harbor, but then they turned back to their own packing. They too would leave soon.
CHAPTER 2 – The Warriors Return
The journey back to Imladris happened without any unusual disturbance, although they had one day when they tracked two half-orcs into the fens. They found and slew them easily before returning to more settled lands. The hills and vales of Middle-earth hadn’t changed much since the defeat of Sauron many years before, but there had been an occasional landslide and various lightning strikes had caused fires that charred broad patches of mountain forest. The already hidden entry to the elven valley was almost now almost completely obscured and only visible to those who knew exactly where to look.
One late afternoon two riders and a packhorse walked slowly down the steep, winding path toward the valley floor. The large house that made up the focus of the dwellings next to the rushing river was almost completely shadowed. Some of the far towers were lying in ruins and some roofs featured large holes. A brace of doves flew through the courtyard arches, disturbed by the entry of the travelers.
A door at the top of the stairs opened and a tall elf with light brown hair and hazel eyes peered out.
“Welcome home, my lords. If you leave your horses, I will send someone to take them to the stables and care for them. I have hot food waiting for you in the kitchen.”
“Thank you, Lindir,” Elladan said as he dismounted. “I trust that all has been quiet here?”
“Hmmm,” Lindir said in agreement, as he ushered them through the doorway, closing the door tightly behind them. “The valley is still well hidden from the eyes of evil.”
They passed through the hallways into the kitchen and joined a small group, telling them about the journey and Círdan's lessons as they ate. Shortly afterward they excusing themselves for bed, yawning as they left the room.
Life slipped back into a routine. They left the valley often, tracking orcs and other remnants of darkness that still walked the lands of Middle-earth. Sauron had been defeated, but not all of his creatures had passed with his destruction. Pockets of orcs, wargs and evil men still existed. It was a full-time job just keeping the main roads safe for travelers. With Lindir now ruling over Imladris, they were free to roam and return at will.
Often the two warriors found themselves close to the Greenwood. When they were on that side of the Misty Mountains, they always sent word to Elrohir and sometimes he would journey to meet them for a few weeks of raids under the spreading branches of the vast forest. On occasion Thranduil and Celeborn would join them, and several times Elrohir’s wife would cross their path as she harvested various plants to use in her medications. She was a skilled healer and highly valued in Thranduil and Celeborn's kingdom.
They spent their nights together under a single cover, entwined in each other's arms. Glorfindel and Elladan had fallen in love during the last years of the Third Age, but their responsibilities in the fight against Sauron had pulled them in different directions. After Sauron had been defeated, Elladan journeyed back and forth between Gondor and Imladris while Arwen lived. After Arwen's passing, Elladan had returned to Imladris permanently and the love between he and Glorfindel had been rekindled. By the time Círdan had contacted them, the two elves had been partners on and off for more than five hundred years and yet, if they were asked, each would have claimed that the sight of their partner in the morning light always made them catch their breath with amazement at their good luck. Their hearts seemed to beat as one and they expressed their mutual love in words as well as with their bodies when they joined in their private times.
* * *
The years passed. In the middle of the Fifth age, sad tidings reached them. Elrohir and his wife had been among a group of elves slain by orcs and evil men. Glorfindel and Elladan had been scouting in upper Angband when Elladan had stumbled and fallen onto his knees, a keening sound of loss issuing from him without conscious thought. Glorfindel had immediately stopped his horse, jumping down and rushing to his lover, pulling him into his arms.
Less than two weeks later they stood atop Elrohir’s flet, looking at the small amount of possessions scattered across the floor and hanging on the movable wind screens. It took them less than a day to go through the chests and boxes. They sent most items to Thranduil for redistribution to other elves in the Greenwood. Elladan kept a single pendant that had often been around his brother’s neck as a reminder of him, and a metallized acorn on a chain that had belonged to his sister-by-marriage.
They spent the night on the flet, high in the trees, listening to the wind as it moved through the leaves and mourning the loss of an elf who was dear to them both. Elladan allowed Glorfindel to dry his tears, pull him into his arms, and show him through slow, deliberate actions, how very much his lover meant to him. Glorfindel was determined to keep Elladan from fading and following his twin into the Halls of Mandos.
CHAPTER 3 – Warriors for Hire
The pair managed to survive that crisis, although the wound in Elladan’s fea couldn't heal completely until he was reunited with his brother again when Elrohir was released from Lord Námo's care. They continued tracking down and eliminating evil wherever they came across it. Over time, they saw the open lands they knew disappear, becoming overwhelmed by the villages and societies of men.
They settled into a life of constant migration. They would find a place to settle for 10-30 years, and when the whispers about how well they were aging got too loud, they would arrange for their own 'deaths', disappear, and settle in another village or town. They had to disguise their immortality and any unusual physical evidence of how different they were from the men of their nations. A label of ‘different’ could endanger their lives if they were accused of witchcraft or consorting with demons. Men were always afraid of those different from themselves.
They fought in uncounted battles, small ones for territory and large ones for conquest, surviving to fight another day sometimes because of luck, sometimes because of their great skill with weapons and tactics. They continued surviving by the blade as the years passed.
Rarely they came across the trail of another elf and followed it. Usually it was a small group of woodland elves, but on several occasions, it was Celeborn and Thranduil. They would join the two rulers for several days or weeks, and separate again. Darkness continued to flourish in this new Middle-earth, and their goal of eradicating the stench of Morgoth from the land was renewed regularly.
Eventually their luck had to run out, and one grey morning it did. While employed as mercenaries for a minor king in what was then Northern Europe, they battle surged behind them, cutting them off from their forces. Glorfindel caught Elladan’s eyes and they nodded grimly. Turning back to back, they began the dance of death they had practiced so many times over the long years.
They had almost succeeded in working their way free of their foes when a fallen enemy leaned up with the last of his strength, bracing a long blade against his body as he thrust. The unusual angle allowed his blade to pass underneath Elladan’s chest armor, piercing his side even as the attacker fell back dead.
The blond elf, recognized the severity of the wound his lover had sustained and made quick work of the remaining enemies surrounding them. Lifting his lover, he threw him over his shoulder and began running toward safety behind the battle lines. Even as he ran, he knew he would have to evade those who wanted to bring Elladan to the physician’s area. If his lover was taken there, he would surely die from a combination of doubtful medical skills, poor hygiene and the fear of those who would see his elven physical characteristics and associate them with Satan. Their only hope was to find a place to hide and, after the battle ended, find a safe place where Elladan could begin healing.
This time, however, fate was against them. The battle raged for three more days with the front lines constantly shifting. Glorfindel had his hands full just creating the glamour allowing the two elves to remain undetected by the nearby men and beasts. Finally, one of the two disputing rulers was slain and a victor was declared. The battlefield was left to the ravens and the corpse thieves.
Another day passed before Glorfindel felt safe in taking Elladan away. The younger elf was running a high fever, muttering unintelligible words from his parched lips. Although he had attempted to heal the wound, it was still raw and red and seeping into the bandages he changed regularly.
The reborn elf realized their crossroad had come; their time in Middle-earth was coming to a swift end. Unable to cure his lover, he had no choice but to hope they could survive the journey to Valinor. Once there, Lord Lórien could heal Elladan. He concealed Elladan in moldy hay near a partially burned and deserted farmhouse. A few chickens had returned and were pecking around the yard. Under a partially collapsed roof, he found a bony horse, nearing the end of its own life. As he calmed the horse and coaxed it into following him, he wondered how the beast had escaped death or discovery over the previous few days. He had no idea how it had happened, but he breathed a quick “Thank you,” to the air.
He soon reached the haystack where he had concealed Elladan and pushed him onto the animal’s broad back. Putting his hand on the horse's neck, he began guiding them on a journey that lasted several days. They passed from elf-friend to elf-friend, hiding in bushes and hayracks when necessary and traveling in the back of wagons under the cover of night. Finally they reached the half-moon bay that used to be called the Grey Havens.
CHAPTER 4 – Return to the Havens
As dusk deepened, Glorfindel entered the small village perched at shore’s edge and atop the sea cliffs. He sat on the box seat of a small wagon, sharing it with a roughened man from two towns to the east. Curious eyes followed them as they made their way through town to the stable. The man got down as the warrior walked to the back of the wagon, checking on the body lying fevered in the strewn hay.
“I must find a room for us to rent. See to the horses, I’ll return as quickly as I may,” Glorfindel said to the driver who nodded and began pulling the wagon traces from the horse harnesses.
The elf walked to the central plaza and directly to the fountain, which dated from Círdan's days. Carved around the base were signs that any elf could read, indicating there were elf-friends in the area. He looked around and found a sigil designating safe lodging and food. Walking up an incline, he saw a two-story building built atop the sea cliff. It wasn't in the best of repair, but was anchored in the foundations of Círdan's original footings, so it was sturdy despite the evidence it had experienced some of the fierce ocean storms that sometimes pushed into the sheltered harbor.
Walking to the tavern door, he double-checked to make sure he saw a corresponding sign before pushing the door open and walking into a smoky common room. There were approximately twenty men and women dining or drinking at the various tables; two barmaids and one barkeep stood at the back of the room. He began moving toward the barkeep but was intercepted and pulled aside by a dark-haired barmaid as he made his way across the floor.
“He'll not help ye. It’s Mistress Tobin ye want to be seein’ an’ she’s in the kitchen. Come this way, Master Elf,” she whispered. She cast a quick look around the room but the townspeople were busy eating and conversing among themselves. Except for a quick glance toward the door when he had walked into the room, they seemed uninterested in the tall blond stranger. The barmaid led him to the kitchen door near the back of the room.
“Here ye be, Master. Mistress Tobin be overseein’ the kitchen from her stool by the hearth.”
“My thanks,” Glorfindel said, passing a small coin to the maid before he walked through the kitchen door, narrowly avoiding a collision with a young man carrying a tray of food for the outer room. He didn’t see the quick curtsy the barmaid bobbed before she returned to her work, tucking the coin into her skirt pocket.
Entering the kitchen, he observed the chaotic, yet organized, scene for a quick moment. Hearing a strong voice ordering the cooks, he located the origin - an elderly woman perched on a stool near the hearth. He walked toward her and noted, to his surprise, that she had elven blood in her, although diluted by many generations. She looked pointedly at him, barked out a few more instructions to the kitchen, and beckoned him closer.
“It’s been long since one o’ yer kind ha' been here, Master, yet we d'nnah forget. How can my family be o’ aid to ye?” she asked, catching a passing maid by the skirt and instructing her to bring wine for their guest.
She gestured to a nearby stool. “Grab ye that and bring it o’er here. Set a spell an’ talk w' me.”
She poured a goblet of wine, handing it to him. He took a drink while evaluating how much trust he could place in the elderly matron and came to a decision.
“Mistress, I need your help. My companion is sorely injured and beyond my healing skills. I must build a boat and attempt the journey across the sundering seas to save his life. I will need a room where he can be cared for while I take the needed time with planks and fastenings.”
“Och, aye, I’ve a room upstairs ye can have an' I’ve a ribbed skeleton o' a sailing ship and dried board in dry dock, kept these long years as trust for those wishin' to leave these lands. It seems w' each o’ you leavin’, we’re the poorer for it. I’ll be sorry to see ye go.
“Ye said yer companion is injured? My boys will go wi' ye to bring him back. I hae back stairs so ye can stay in the shadows. Not all in Havens think on the fair folk w' kindness.”
She turned and grabbed the pot boy, sending him out the door with whispered instructions. Gesturing, she instructed a kitchen maid to bring food and another glass of wine for her guest. She pointed out a small table in the corner.
“Eat, Master. Me boys’ll be here in short time, but they’re still on the far side o' the harbor so it’s no' just down the lane.”
The maid put a bowl of thick stew, nut-filled bread with fresh churned butter and another glass of wine on the table and Glorfindel sat down and began eating. He knew it would not be long before Mistress Tobin's sons arrived and they would have to carry Elladan from the stable to the offered bedroom.
Within half a candlemark the outside door opened and two burly men walked through. Coming up to Mistress Tobin, each pulled her into a bear hug and smacked her wrinkled cheek with an affectionate kiss.
“Och! Sure an’ go on w’ ye now,” she sputtered, her cheeks blushing red with joyful embarrassment.
“What be ye needin’ Mam?” asked one of the men. They were almost as tall as Glorfindel, although each of them outweighed him. The large kitchen seemed much smaller when the brothers stood in it.
“We hae a visitor who needs help and ye will be a’helpin’ him.” The woman turned and pointed out Glorfindel who was somewhat hidden in the shadows of the corner.
The two men peered at him, and turned back to their mother. “An elf, Mam? What do we need doin' for one of the High folk?”
“He has a companion who's bad hurt. He’ll take ye to him and ye bring them straight back here - no dallyin’, mind ye.”
The two nodded toward the door and walked outside, followed by Glorfindel. As the three walked away from the tavern, he saw the brothers moving their hands in a folk charm against witchcraft and enchantment.
“Worry not;" he told them. "Within a few days I’ll have passed from these shores and you’ll not see me again in your lifetimes. Now I need your help. I left my companion at the stable being cared for by the horse boy. He is badly injured and Mistress Tobin has been kind enough to offer us shelter while I build a vessel to carry us west.”
They walked quickly to the stable and the brothers placed Elladan on a blanket, which they carried gently up the stairs to the room Mistress Tobin had assigned them. Within an hour, it almost seemed that the nightmare of the past days hadn’t existed. A cheerful fire burned in a small side fireplace, Elladan was in bed with fresh, clean bandages covering his wound and he had even managed to choke down some medicines to combat the constant pain of his wound. Glorfindel sat next to his lover, holding his hand between his own.
* * *
There was a soft rap on the chamber door early the next morning. Opening it, Glorfindel saw a young maid holding a steaming pot of aromatic herbs. "I be sent to sit w' your friend whilst you do your work, Lord," the girl said as she walked into the room and placed the hot water on the fireplace hook.
Glorfindel moved to his lover and explained what he was doing in a voice so soft only another elf could hear his words.
“I must be gone from you for a time, beloved. I beg you; fight off Lord Námo for a few days more. I will build a boat for our journey overseas as quickly as I can, but it will be a few days before it will be ready. Do not leave me now, my love. Sail with me. Be cured in Valinor. Continue to stand by my side for as long as Arda remains.”
* * *
Now it had come to this. Mistress Tobin had just come down to warn him that Elladan was in great pain, but the ship was almost complete. If he could put a few more board on, it would be ready for waterproofing and they would be able to sail in two days. He looked up at the tavern, sighed, and reached for another nail.
Within the hour he had finished framing the boat. He ran up the steps two at a time as he hurried to Elladan’s side.
Walking into the room, he sat on the bed and took Elladan's fevered hand into his. Glancing at Mistress Tobin, he said, “The frame is complete, Mistress. Is there pitch for sealing available?”
“I’ll see ta it. Ye stay w’ your friend for a bit while I go talk w’ the boys about it. If’n they ha’ the time, we’ll have ye pitched out afore the sun goes down tonight and ye can sail soon an it cures.” She pushed painfully up from her chair and made her way to the stairs. “I’ll send food up for ye.”
“Thank you,” he said, his eyes not leaving the pale, pain-wracked face of his mate who was lying stiffly immobile in the small bed.
“It’s almost ready, my love. Within a day, if Ulmo smiles upon us, we will be on the water, sailing toward Valinor. Have faith. I have never failed you before and I will not fail you now.”
* * *
The boys were as good as their mother had claimed. By the next dawn, the boat had been pitch sealed. That afternoon the two men and one elf had moved the finished vessel from the dry dock into the waters of the harbor.
Using all of their combined strength, the three of them positioned the single mast into its holder and the iron bands holding it erect were bolted and burned. Glorfindel shimmied up the tall pole and cascaded the carrying rope and rings for the sail down it. Mistress Tobin’s maids had carefully sewn a sail from oiled linen. It featured the golden flower against the green field of his own house and the light blue background with the raised sword that was Elladan's sigil. Glorfindel unfurled the sail, impatiently awaiting the next day's dawn.
The three looked carefully at the small boat as it bobbed in the water near the tavern’s dock.
“She’s a good’un, it seems tuh me,” said the older brother.
“Ayuh,” the younger responded. “She’s ridin' well in the water, she is. You did yourself a proud job with her. What will you name her?”
Glorfindel looked confusedly at the two men. “Name her? I hadn’t even thought … Helyanwë. Her name will be Helyanwë, after my wife and best friend from long Ages past.
The brothers lowered the elf over the side, a container of paint and a brush in his hand. In careful Quenyan script from days long past, he painted her name on the two sides of the bow and as a small act of defiance, he added her sigil - the Fëanorean star encased in a five-pointed star of light.
“Well,” he ruminated as he stood on top of the small storage cabin that would keep Elladan dry in times of poor weather. “Anyone seeing that name and sigil will either shoot us with arrows of flame, or welcome us as long-lost heirs.”
He looked at the brothers. “So, when will the tide allow me to cast off?”
“Not so fast, elf. Ye’ll have to talk w’ the Harbor Master and pay the tithe for the boat. He’ll tell ye when the tide’ll be runnin’ out.”
“Lead on,” Glorfindel sighed, wondering how many other officious self-important government men he would have to bribe before he would be allowed to leave.
CHAPTER 5 – Journey to Valinor
The next day dawned bright with a crisp breeze blowing from the mountains past the shore. The brothers carried Elladan to the boat while Glorfindel carried their possessions, their weapons, and a small cache of food and wine. Mistress Tobin walked behind them, refusing anyone's aid. At the pier, he thanked the brothers for their help and passed his remaining coins to Mistress Tobin along with his thanks and a kiss, causing her to blush for the second time in a week.
Filled and capped casks of fresh water were fore and aft in the vessel's body and a third barrel, this one empty, was ready for rainwater. Glorfindel jumped onto the deck and put their possessions against sides of the boat where they would be accessible. The brothers lowered Elladan into his arms. He placed his lover carefully on the bedding in the small cabin and raised the side planks to allow free passage of the morning air. He checked carefully to make sure he had forgotten nothing. “Oars, water, food, sail, I think we have everything, Elladan. Hold on, love, I’ll get you to a healer as quickly as possible.”
He raised the sail and after a moment's hesitation, it caught the breeze. Moving the tiller and adjusting the angle of the cloth, the boat bounded from the dock into the waters of the bay, heading for the passage to the open sea and true west.
* * *
Several days later they had successfully bypassed numerous perils designed to keep those forbidden from walking the Straight Road away from the Blessed Lands, Glorfindel wearily raised his head and saw a shining island in a cerulean sea ahead of them. Two ships were heading his direction, one bearing the sigil of Lórien on the sail, the other featuring a golden flower on a green background similar to his own. Dolphins were leaping ahead of both ships as they closed in on the smaller boat.
Storms and rough seas had battered the sailboat, her mast had broken one third shorter in a lightning storm, and a small leak had sprung in her hull as they had passed too close to one of the many islands peppering the sea. This required bailing every few minutes. Yet the Helyanwë still sailed proudly as the shadow of the two larger ships engulfed her. Glorfindel, holding Elladan's head in his lap and stroking his hair, looked up at two familiar faces as they called down to him.
In no time, his lover had been moved onto Lord Lórien’s ship, which had immediately sailed for Alqualondë. From there Elladan would be taken to the Gardens of Lórien where he would receive the healing he so desperately needed.
Glorfindel climbed a rope ladder onto his father’s ship and walked to the prow where he stood, watching his lover being taken away from him. He had no idea if he would see Elladan again or if he would pass into Mandos alone. He had faced many enemies in his long years on Middle-earth, but could not remember having experienced fear this deeply before.
An arm settled across his shoulders and patted his shoulder comfortingly. “Welcome home, son,” his father said. The two elves walked along the deck while watching the other ship move away across the bay. Their own ship began turning to return to Tol Eressëa. Glorfindel found it impossible to tear his eyes away from the Vala’s ship as it moved quickly away from him.
The Lord of the Golden Flower grasped Glorfindel by his shoulders and turned him so that they faced each other. “If he can be saved, Lord Lórien will heal him. Come. After you have had a chance to relax and say hello to your mother, I will arrange for your own journey to Lórien where you may stay with your companion for as long as you and he need.”
"I have been instructed to tell you that you will not be allowed to leave these shores a third time. The barrier only allows movement in, not out."
His father chuckled as he looked at the battered sailboat hanging above the deck, suspended by a maze of ropes. “The Helyanwë, hmmm? I suspect she’ll have a laugh over that when you next see her.”
Glorfindel turned to look questioningly at his father. The Lord smiled broadly. “Things have changed quite a bit since you were last here, son. Helyanwë released you from your marriage vows when she was reborn and your love for the son of Elrond Eärendilion will not be condemned.”
Glorfindel turned to look at the fog bank behind them. There was no turning back. He and Elladan would have to make a new life for themselves here, in Valinor. Perhaps things had changed, but if not, he and his lover were well practiced at altering the opinions of others, one person at a time. Until the time Arda ends no longer sounded like a prison sentence; instead it sounded like a glowing future filled with the promise of love and companionship. He took a deep breath and embraced the older elf. “It’s good to be home, Father.”