‘We Noldor have a reputation, but that does not mean we should flaunt it, rather understand the Silvan society – alliance is close at hand, let us not ruin things as we once did, with petty arguments and intolerance…’
Those had been Elrond’s words before they had left Imladris. Thinking back on them, he suddenly wondered at their wisdom, for they had just stepped into what seemed to him now, to be another world, another dimension hitherto unknown to the outside world, even to the learned Noldor, for all their books and lore.
Had he known, his discourse would have been radically different. He would have instilled upon his travelling companions the need for caution and measure. It was too late now, though, and all he could do was hope and trust their better instincts.
Taú had utterly surprised him, for when Elrond had first discovered his true identity, the prince had deported himself with the utmost correctness – for the most part, at least. Here though, having met him just after the heat of battle – he was a different elf, indeed Elrond had wondered for a moment, if the being was even an elf at all!
They fight half-naked, he scoffed to himself. They paint their faces and mutilate their foes. They shout and scream and act like wolves on the hunt. Elves? He had never seen the likes, or even heard of it, for all the majestic library of Imladris with its tomes of wisdom. Elrond had read almost all of them, and not once, had he read anything that could ever have prepared him for this…
Almost all of them, he repeated to himself, for there was one, dusty corner he had not entered at all…
It was worse than he could ever have thought, and the Lord of Imladris braced himself. If this was the son, what then, should he expect of the father?
No sooner had they arrived, and Tau and his company thundered ahead, lost in a cloud of thick mist, into the unknown which lay ahead.
All the Noldo could hear were distant drums, and unintelligible voices but their eyes could make out nothing, and Glorfindel wondered if the phenomena was natural.
He shared one last look of trepidation with Elrond before urging his steed on, into the wall of humidity and to whatever lay beyond, and as they emerged, their eyes began to discern their surroundings.
An impressive stone structure lay carved into the very side of the mountain, at the base of which stood two massive open doors, glowing with inviting orange light. But to get to the doors, however, they had first to cross the courtyard, and this, was where the Noldor now sat upon their horses, faces completely straight as was proper – even though their minds were reeling.
The grounds before the mountain dwelling, were teeming with the woodelves of Mirkwood. They too, stood stock still, frozen where they stood. Women still held their cooking utensils, dripping fat, musicians still held their drumsticks poised over worked leather, and civilians and those too young to yet be counted as warriors, stood gaping at the newly-arrived entourage of strange, dark elves that dressed as kings.
Time had stopped for them all.
Glorfindel could hear his own breath, too fast, he reprimanded himself. It was as if he were contemplating a work of art – a tapestry of forest life that had deigned to freeze before him so that he could observe, and analyse.
The silence stretched on, and Glorfindel almost flinched when the woodelves finally moved once more, opening a path in their midst, their heads swiveling to the entrance of their mountain fortress; somebody was coming…
In the days to come, Glorfindel could not rightly say what it was he had been expecting, but he did know that it had not been this, not after what he had seen of Mirkwood so far. These elves shouted and cursed easily, they had a wild, animal-like air about them, their expressions worn clearly upon their faces. They ate meat off the bone and told lewd jokes…he shook his head in his mind’s eye – was he talking of elves, or dwarves?
An elf glided towards them, followed by a group of six others. Glorfindel’s mind was slow to wrench itself back to reality, the elves seeming to move just as slowly, and yet before he could fully react, the small party stood before him, and time had finally aligned with his addled mind.
The leader was tall and strong, yet his clothes were not those of a warrior, but the richest of fabrics, the likes of which he had only ever seen in Gondolin, or Imladris on special occasions. Heavy velvet and sheer silk, sat beneath the most supple of leathers and a mane of intricately braided hair, the color of which he had only ever seen once in these lands…this – could only be Thranduil, Sindarin monarch of Greenwood the Great.
Elrond dismounted, temporarily distracting Glorfindel from his inner musing for but a moment, for his head swiveled back to the spectacle as if of its own accord.
Thranduil’s power rippled just below the surface, below the green and burgundy silks that clung to his perfectly proportioned body. It simmered beneath the velvet of his cloak and the worked leather of his boots. It swirled and pulsed and emanated from every inch of his glowing form. It was something one felt but could not see, not unless you looked into his pale blue eyes of frosted mountain water.
Glorfindel’s eyes looked into the extraordinary irises and saw the raw energy, the harnessed emotions, the keen intellect and sharp wit – aye he was dangerous! Glorfindel was old and wise enough to see it, and he knew Elrond was, too.
“Lord Elrond of Imladris,” said the king in a deep, monotonous voice.
“King Thranduil of Mirkwood,” replied Elrond, just as evenly.
‘Admirable,’ said Glorfindel to himself.
There was a collective gasp at Elrond’s words and Glorfindel could not help his suddenly dry mouth when the Sinda’s eyes narrowed fractionally, piercing those of his lord like frozen icicles as his head tilted to one side. A chill ran down Glorfindel’s spine, for he was suddenly reminded of Galadriel.
“…The Greenwood, is honoured with your presence, and that of your son,” said the king. “Ah, the Lord Glorfindel,” he added, a minute hint of emotion sneaking into his words. “You are most welcome in these, troubled lands, warrior.”
Glorfindel held the striking eyes of the king for a moment, before he bowed from the waist and swept his arm to the side in honored greeting. From anyone else, being called ‘warrior’ may have been misconstrued, an insult almost. Yet it seemed to Glorfindel that from the lips of this king, it was, rather, a complement.
“Come then, Noldorin Lords of Imladris and fair Gondolin, into the mountain keep of the Northern elves,” he said in a voice much more powerful now. His mood had changed from predatory and analytical, to theatrical and charismatic, and Glorfindel chastised himself for wanting to shake his head in confusion yet again.
With an elegant gesture of his jeweled hand, the King signaled to his Sindarin companion, who moved forward and bid the Noldorin entourage accompany him. With a final bow of deference from the Noldor, and but a curt, replying nod from Thranduil, they were led away under the fascinated stares of the Woodelves of the Northern Kingdom of Thranduil, son of Oropher.
The grounds were filled to the brim with elves who stood or sat around roaring hearths, dotted around the entire courtyard. Their shouts of glee and victory filled Elrond’s senses almost to the point of pain, as they ate roasted hunks of meat and drank from earthenware cups without the slightest sense of decorum, and Elrond’s lip curled in distaste.
“They are like children…” he mused.
“Naughty children,” added Elrohir – but he did not sneer; he grinned in genuine humour, apparently unaware of his father’s mounting irritation.
Glorfindel aligned himself with his lord, catching his attention with a single glance, for these two knew each other well.
“I advise the utmost caution, Elrond. We have walked unwittingly into a land unknown. We are at a severe disadvantage,” said Glorfindel seriously.
Elrond’s face soured for but a moment, reminded once more of that dusty corner of his library in Imladris, the one he never entered.
“Aye, I have been remiss in my research, it seems. I cannot fathom this. The people are Silvan, it seems, the king is not – which we already knew – he has not adopted their culture, it seems…”
“And yet his son,” interjected Glorfindel.
“Yes, his son is both. This is what we saw in Imladris. He deported himself in a princely fashion when he was discovered, yet as a Silvan when under the guise of Taú.”
“Then there is a third persona, one we are still ignorant of…” said Glorfindel introspectively.
“Not ignorant, no. Glorfindel, this is not a society of Silvan and Sindarin, for there is one ingredient you miss…”
Glorfindel’s face blanched and could not help swallowing.
“The Avari, the Avari are here.”
Later that evening, Glorfindel found himself in the company of Elrond and Elrohir, sipping on wine as they dried their hair upon the vast balcony that graced the general’s generous suite of rooms, far better-appointed than Elrond’s, he had noted.
Conversation had not yet began; perhaps because there was just too much to comment on, and prioritizing was proving a complication.
Elrond drank from his goblet of wine, and then held it out in front of his eyes.
“It is surprisingly good, I will admit,” he said somewhat grudgingly, his lip twitching on one side.
“Elrond, you must curb your sourness, it is becoming far too visible, and Thranduil has an air of volatility about him,” warned Glorfindel.
“I am too well-trained to let it show, Glorfindel,” said Elrond confidently as he sipped his wine.
“And what of Thranduil’s training? You must not underestimate him…”
“I will not,” assured Elrond with a slight frown, obviously irritated that Glorfindel would even think such a thing of him.
“I - have never met a more stunning being – I have not the words to… my mind has no … label, for him,” stuttered Elrohir clumsily.
“That’s one way of putting it,” said Glorfindel wryly. “He has much – presence – an underlying strength one intuitively knows is there,” he said as he thought.
“Well, he must need it to rule over those – barbarians out there,” said Elrond, jerking his head to the open window in clear allusion to the din that still echoed around the stone caverns. “And where, pray tell, are the Sindarin elves?” he added, almost as a complaint.
“Perhaps they all live together, have adopted the apparel of the Silvan elves. They would only be distinguishable by their coloring…” mused Elrohir out loud.
“No, impossible. I do not think that likely at all. The Sindar have nothing to do with what we have just seen out there – they would not fit in, I am sure,” said Elrond with his usual, confident air.
Glorfindel, however, did not seem convinced, yet he held his silence. Elrond was already negatively predisposed to the Silvan, and irritatingly confident in his knowledge of the Sindar. He understood, he supposed – Elrond could cope with the Sindar because they shared a common past, albeit a rocky one. But both people had a love of knowledge and culture, both had yielded extraordinary leaders, warriors and philosophers, and that is what Elrond respected above almost everything else.
“Well, wherever they are, when we find them, I think we would do well to employ the term Greenwood, rather than Mirkwood. Thranduil was clearly put out with the name,” said Glorfindel a little ironically, to which Elrohir stifled a snort. Elrond, however, simply returned his General’s gaze with a sour sneer.
Their conversation was cut short by a high-pitched scream, followed by roars of laughter that echoed down the hallway outside the room.
“Oh Valar – Galanor and his men will be the death of Lindir…” said Elrohir.
Yet little did they know that it was not Galanor and his men at all, for the Silvans had found a new toy, and they would not lightly put it down.
The Wise Ones by Alpha Ori