One week, only one week and he would be riding back to the Greenwood a king, a sparkling crown upon his brow and a gaping hole in his heart.
As of today, his advisors worked relentlessly with Erestor and his team as they tied the loose ends of their negotiations, signed agreements and discussed military and cultural exchanges. With Aradan and Llyn in residence, it was not necessary for him to join the talks, and he knew he would be consulted should there be any disagreements. His presence would only be required a few days before departure, when travel arrangements, tactics and logistics would be agreed upon.
The experience had been life-changing in so many ways. The political objectives they had so diligently thought out during those interminable days and nights spent in the king’s offices, had been met and amply surpassed; they had reaped generous trade agreements that would lend a higher quality of life to his, until now, self-sufficient realm. They had secured the all-important military alliances with Imladris and Lorien – such a central part of this festival; they would no longer be alone against the constant barrage of foulness, no longer alone to face the unbearable weight of sadness and loss, no longer the only ones to hold funeral rites on an almost daily basis.
Ever the optimist, as was his obligation, he had signed treaties to share and promote their respective cultures through the organization of music and dance festivals and an interesting tutoring program between aspiring artists, politicians, healers and warriors. They had also agreed to carry out a military exchange program between officers of their respective armies, who would later create the backbone of a future, united Elven army, a project that Legolas had already been working on for some time.
During the previous week, it had been dictated that any elf would be eligible for the program, so long as they submitted a formal candidature, stating in what capacity they wished to tutor, and in which realm. Each would be discussed and decided later in the week, and Legolas was more than a little curious about who would be requesting what. One example was his friend Llyn, who seemed to be more than a little interested in Elrohir, or at least it seemed that way to him. Since she had befriended Arwen, she had come into closer contact with him, yet it remained to be seen if anything would come of it. How her father would take to his daughter staying on in Imladris he could not say, please him it would not, at least not emotionally, for she was the sparkle in Aradan’s eye, yet for the chance to tutor with Erestor, Chief Advisor of Imladris, Legolas was sure he would accede.
Personally, Legolas had found love – not comfort in the arms of a friend, he had never been wanting for that. What he had found in Glorfindel would accompany him always, whatever came to pass; the Gondolin warrior had become an inseparable part of his life, one he knew he could never bear to forsake. And then there was Elrond, the mighty son of Eärendil – a living myth with whom he had shared pleasure, and would continue to do so, for he loved Elrond, not as he did Glorfindel, for the feeling was different, yet it was still much more than the mere sharing of sex. And Erestor – sweet, loving Erestor, so cool and calm on the outside, when he was not flapping his robed arms in the air, yet such a cauldron of bubbling passion in private. Erestor had a keen mind, a friend Legolas knew he would always have.
He had made other friends during his time here, too. Melven had not taken to him at first, and it had taken a painful lesson to show him he was wrong. Legolas had then saved his young son from the orcs and in the process, had thoroughly frightened the boy with his strange fighting. Yet it had brought Legolas and Melven together, and even his young son had vowed friendship with the Forest Lord. And then there were his lover’s sons, Elladan and Elrohir. A fine pair they were, full of life and boisterous playfulness – he wondered at their battle skills though. He had seen their worth as healers, and indeed leaders in that capacity, but on the battlefield, he remained unconvinced for the moment, yet of the two, it was Elladan with whom he felt most affinity. He sensed a deep desire to learn, improve, to serve, and he admired that.
Haldir and his brother Rumil had proved to be enjoyable company, although he had, admittedly, spent less time with them; however he looked forward to exploring friendship with them when he next got the opportunity, perhaps even give Haldir the opportunity for revenge, after having bested the marchwarden upon the archery field.
Others had made friends too, love even. Amanthor had found Lindir, and both had found Mentathiel. Together they had composed the suite of music that had been played at his ‘demonstration’. All three were in great demand, for they had received offers to travel to Mithlond and Lorien to compose music at their lords’ courts. They had been overwhelmed by their success, hailed as the two greatest musicians and the foremost performer of the age. It would be interesting indeed to see if they would put in their candidatures for the exchanges.
And of course, he had discovered his destiny, not as Lord of the Forests, for this he already knew – he had discovered his purpose, the reason why Yavanna had chosen him - there was no more mystery, no more waiting and wondering – it was done, and now was the time for action.
Arwen, however, had mystified him, for he had felt something tilt when he had met her, and he knew it had been the same for her. It was not sexual desire, he knew, yet it puzzled him still, for he had felt her as he would a soul mate, it felt as it had when he had first met Glorfindel, but without the sexual desire. He knew in his heart that she was a part of that final destiny, yet he could not guess exactly how that would come to pass.
So many experiences, so much to tell. Yet he was waxing nostalgic he knew, and he reminded himself again that he still had a whole week left, a week he meant to make unforgettable, for he would not see his lovers for some time, and so he would collect the memories he would now make, and take them back with him to the Greenwood until he could meet with them once more.
The only thing that broke the monotony of black was the silver twining of his boots and vambraces, and the subtle swish of the short green sash around his waist. From there upwards, the Forest Lord was naked, his hair a mantle of stunning gold, flowing in rivulets down his muscled back and shoulders, the sides pulled back tightly and secured by a simple, leather thong high upon his head.
A leather harness crossed his generous pectoral muscles, and from over his left shoulder, loomed the imposing, intimidating pommel of Aulë’s creation, Yaavan.
He had not seen the engraving when first he had picked up the weapon, for it was written on the side of the hilt. He had wondered then, why she would call a sword ‘Harvest’. The possibilities were multiple, for ‘harvest’ means to gather, collect, reap or pluck the ripe produce of the Earth. Indeed when killing orcs and other enemies, he was reaping, cutting, plucking heads and severing limbs and the likes, but it seemed a peculiar choice of words; ‘reaper’ or something more – dramatic, would have sounded more intimidating. Yet Yavanna was mistress of the growing things on Arda, and he wondered then if the naming was related to his future destiny, would he reap good things? Would he help to create a world in which harvests would be bountiful for all, after all, had not Lord Elrond seen a white flower blossom on his chest in the midst of a vision? His destiny was tied to the living Earth, it was really quite obvious if he looked at it that way.
As he trotted down the stairs, he nodded to those that passed him, observing as they bowed to him admiringly, and then stare at the mighty weapon on his back, for it was imposing indeed, the tip reaching down to the backs of his knees, the blade curving outwards.
Stepping out into the morning sun, he heard a voice call out to him.
“My Lord! You are training today?”
“Elladan, please, just Legolas if you will.”
“Forgive me. Now, will you join us? For we have all become far too complacent of late, getting too used to the good life with all this partying; our muscles are becoming flabby, which is good news for the orcs, yet it must be remedied. What say you?”
“I have arranged to train with Glorfindel and this – my new sword. I will not parry today, but simply run through the basic stances, for I must accustom myself to its weight and dimensions.”
“You have a new sword? How so? Did you commission it from the Imladrian smiths, then?” he asked, somewhat mystified that the lord would want a new sword – he was a prince, now king – surely he was not wonting for a blade?
“Nay, Elladan. This sword is part of Yavanna’s gift to me,” he began to explain, as he unsheathed the mighty weapon, holding it out for Elladan to inspect.
Yet the twin could not bring himself to touch it, for he was lost in stunned amazement at the blade laid out before him. It was overly long, and he knew that when he took it up in his hands, it would surely weigh at least twice his own formidable sword.
“Take it,” urged Legolas, watching the play of emotions on his friend’s mesmerized face.
Slowly, tentatively, he accepted the sword in both hands, immediately confirming his suspicions – no wonder Legolas needed to train – this was a daunting challenge the king set himself, for the sword seemed impossible to wield, even for one such as he.
Grasping it in his right hand, he held it up before his reverent eyes, reading the inscription along the entire length of the blade, a chill running through him as he did so. Letting his eyes travel down to the ornate hilt and pommel, he spotted the secondary inscription, from Yavanna to her protégé, and again, his body shook with awe, for he was touching an object that Aulë had forged, touched by a Vala.
“I understand now,” he murmured, as his eyes continued to roam over the exquisite craftsmanship. “And who better than Glorfindel of Gondolin to help you with this weapon of the Valar? For I would wager there is no better sword master than he, except perhaps yourself.”
He reverently handed the sword back to its new owner, watching the king’s muscles flex as he re-sheathed the weapon on his back. “Glorfindel has not seen it either yet, although I have described it as best I could. You are one of the first to touch.”
“And I am truly honored…Well then, shall we?” invited Elladan. “For our part, we will not interrupt you unless Glorfindel drives you too hard,” he smirked. “If he takes it upon himself to train an elf, he can be relentless, believe me! Should you require our services in rescuing you from the torture, just give me the nod, my friend.”
Laughing, Legolas patted his shoulder as they began walking together, thinking that no one could be tougher than Daugion, the Greenwood’s weapons master. He knew his lover would be demanding, for his reputation preceded him, although perhaps he had not anticipated just how hard he would drive him – not only because that was his way, but because the fear of loss would drive him all the harder – fear of losing the one he loved most.
Approaching one of the many training arenas, Elladan moved to join Elrohir, Haldir and Arwen sitting on a low wall, a large basket before Arwen’s feet.
“My Lady, Elrohir, Haldir, a good morning to you all.”
Bowing to the king, they smiled as they took in his ever surprising, exotic appearance. Arwen specifically, was following the planes and defined lines of his torso, not quite having noticed before how powerful this elf was, while Haldir and Elrohir were staring at the protruding pommel of Legolas’ sword, wondering just how they had managed not to notice the imposing weapon before now.
“Well, if you will excuse me?” said Legolas, as he walked over to the other side of the arena, wishing to isolate himself a little from his private audience, for he needed to prepare himself before commencing his adjustment training. Elladan would answer the questions he knew they would have about Yaavan.
A few moments later, Glorfindel arrived, dressed as a weapons instructor, his face determined, eyes alight, for this was General Glorfindel. He was looking forward to this session with his lover. Yes, they had fought in an exhibition together, but only once, and never in battle. His methods were renowned throughout Elvendom – he was hard, strict, disciplined to a fault, he would drive his pupils to extenuation if he saw potential, and Legolas was already a Grand Master.
The others looked on, smiling mischievously, for they thought perhaps that poor Legolas had no idea of what he had taken on when he had asked Glorfindel to aid him. They would stay and watch every grueling moment, their own training be damned, as long as the general allowed, for here, on the training grounds, Glorfindel was king.
“I, we, would stay and watch a while, if that is acceptable, Glorfindel?” asked Elladan, in an overly-light tone, knowing he spoke for them all.
Glorfindel considered a moment before answering.
“Very well. But in exchange, you must first understand what it is the king and I will strive to achieve. If you stay, it will be to learn. What say you?”
“Of course,” nodded Elrohir, his companions nodding affirmatively.
“First, consider the nature of what we do. This is adjustment training, given from one master to another. It is about wielding a new weapon, heavier, larger than what its master has been accustomed to. In order to use the weapon in battle, the wielder must be secure, confident, and proficient. Bear this in mind as you watch. The second thing to remember is who the adjustment is directed at. Adjusting a newly trained warrior to a heavier sword is not the same as adjusting a grand master to a sword made by the Valar themselves, Aulë, no less. Indeed this is no ‘heavier sword’; this is an entirely different class of weapon from what Lord Legolas has explained to me. Thirdly, consider power and precision, as opposed to speed and strength. Power is strength added to control, and precision should never be compromised in favor of speed, which should only ever be a complement, never an end in itself, not with the blade.
Very few elves are capable of what you are about to witness, and Legolas is one of them. ‘Tis true that the Greenwood warriors are a tough band, but that will not make this exercise any easier. Observe, and should you wish to comment when today’s session is over, I would be honored to elucidate further.”
“We will,” answered Haldir, as the others nodded their understanding. What Glorfindel said made a lot of sense to them, yet the inherent difficulty of what Legolas proposed was not immediately obvious. And so, with their somewhat morbid curiosity acutely peaked, they settled themselves and began to observe as the king continued his preparations.
Being relatively early, there were no other arenas in use. This, however, would change in an hour or so, when the more diligent warriors would come to train.
Legolas sat cross-legged, an unsheathed Yaavan in front of him, glinting mischievously in the morning sun, as if daring her new master to tame her.
He closed his eyes and centred himself, blocking out all sounds, all sensations, all thoughts, until there was peace. And then, he slowly began to filter his thoughts, one by one, thinking first on his objective, knowing that he would achieve it. He brought his body into focus, willing his strength, power and stamina to the fore, knowing he would not falter. He ordered his mind to channel all conscious thought into his body, his movements, that no other stimulus would affect him – no emotion, no sensation, no pain.
Standing slowly now, Legolas proceeded to bend himself backwards until his hands reached the floor over his head. He then moved his body up into a perfect handstand, yet the movement had been so slow and fluid, that he seemed to defy the laws of natural science. He held the position for long moments, nary a sway or tremble to his arms, until he bent at the waist, allowing his legs to touch the ground, bringing his torso up once more, into a standing position.
Opening his legs to the front and back, he moved his left arm back, bending at the elbow as his right hand moved out to the front, as if gesturing for his foe to move towards him. He repeated the move to the other side and then centred himself once more.
His left leg moved into the air, forcing his torso to the side and stopping at the height of his shoulder, where it stayed for long moments, eliciting a gasp of disbelief from the band of spectators. Lowering the leg back to the floor, he repeated the movement with his left; again, no imbalance, no involuntary movement at all.
Legolas opened his eyes, breathed deeply and took Yaavan in his hand before jogging over to Glorfindel, who was waiting patiently for him, knowing the importance that correct preparation had for the warrior. Indeed he noted the blank expression on his face, the almost hypnotic screen over his steely green eyes – this was the look of a warrior before battle.
Legolas turned to his ‘master’ and bowed low, as was custom in the Greenwood and Gondolin. He slowly held out the sword, placing it over both palms and offering it to his instructor.
“Master, I request your aid in wielding this sword, named Yaavan, that I may be worthy of it.”
Glorfindel looked down at it, unable to stop himself from gasping as he reached out, not quite touching the exquisite, polished metal. Legolas had explained the sword to him, at least as best he could, yet nothing could have prepared him for what lay in the lord’s hands.
“My Lord, this is – it is, magnificent! May I?” he asked.
Reaching for the pommel, he held the sword up in front of his face with both hands, eliciting stunned exclamations from their onlookers, for there, along the entire blade, were etched the words:
‘The Valar command you.’
“Oh, sweet Elbereth,” whispered Haldir.
Glorfindel continued to examine the sword with his eyes, and with a sharp intake of breath, he read the second inscription around the hilt, one only he could see.
‘Yavanna protects you’.
“I am honored to aid you in your task, my Lord. Do you submit to my command, in the ways of Gondolin?”
They walked into the centre of the arena, and Glorfindel began to make a few practice strokes with the blade.
“It is very heavy, perfectly balanced. He who wields this sword will be indestructible, almost.”
“Take it from me and place it in your harness.”
As he did so, Glorfindel reached for his own sword, ready to demonstrate what he wanted.
“Now, follow my rhythm; feet at ready stance.”
Legolas adjusted his feet, readying himself.
“Reach – draw – ready!” he cried as he demonstrated the three movements, waiting for the king to mimic him.
Legolas followed the instructions, observing the rhythm of Glorfindel’s orders. Again and again, they repeated these simple movements, as the general barked the words, circling his pupil, observing posture, stance, power and balance, touching here or there when something was not quite right.
Elrohir was mesmerized by the repetitive movements, watching over and over as they became more and more precise; the lord followed his orders with absolute discipline, not a hint of friendship between them, their faces a blank, unfeeling parchment.
After one full hour of this simple exercise, Glorfindel called a halt, watching his pupil closely, for although the movements themselves were simple, to demand perfect precision and power required surprising physical effort, one which, as yet, was not reflected in Legolas’ posture.
The king sheathed the weapon, bowed, then moved over to the sidelines, where his friends sat.
Sweat glistened on his skin, his hair beginning to dampen. His eyes searched for water, as Arwen handed him a skin which he promptly took to his lips, drinking deeply. Arwen watched as his Adam’s apple moved up and down, his neck muscles taught. Elladan glanced sideways at his brother; had Legolas not been Glorfindel’s lover, they would have smirked, yet they were unsure of the situation. Arwen was obviously attracted to him, but how would Glorfindel react to that, had he even noticed? they wondered. Elladan was tempted to make conversation, but then thought better of it, for the king still wore that steely mask, and he thought perhaps that he would be intruding, breaking his concentration.
Glorfindel joined them then, watching his lover as he handed the skin back to Arwen, blowing out as he tempered his breathing. The training area was coming alive, as other warriors from Imladris, Lorien and the Greenwood began to take up their weapons and pair off into the vacant arenas. However, they were distracted by the occupants of the first arena, for Lord Glorfindel was instructing Lord Legolas!
Not the least of them was Galdithion, who left his fellow warriors to sit with the group of friends, bowing to his lord before taking a seat next to Elladan, nodding to the group who took little notice of his arrival, so engrossed they were in what was happening between the sword master and the warrior.
He had been one of the very few who knew of the existence of Yaavan, though this was his first look at the unsheathed metal; he was not going to miss this – not for all the gold of his lord king’s vaults.
“You are an excellent pupil, my Lord, yet we have only just begun - are you ready for more?”
Bowing once more, he followed the general into the centre.
“Now, tell me. In the Greenwood, are the basic stances numbered?”
“Reach – draw – ready – one – ready – one…”
And so Legolas went from his ready stance to a simple front lunge and back. It was strange to Glorfindel however, for although the stance was correct, the movement of the sword hand before the lunge, and the free hand, was different; he would show forearm first, move his body more to the side – it was an interesting addition he would try himself.
Another fifteen minutes saw more stances incorporated, up to five now, and although they were simple moves, they were executed with such energy and accuracy that the whole training ground was watching – and learning.
Legolas, however, was getting the workout of his life, for to carry out the stances perfectly for such a long time, and with such a heavy sword was not easy at all, not even for him. His muscles screamed for mercy, aching to the point of cramping, but he was nothing if not disciplined, following through until Glorfindel called for a second halt, after another grueling hour.
Bowing again, he guzzled the water Glorfindel lobbed at him, not caring when it spilled down his chest, indeed when he had drank his full, he tipped it over his head, shaking off the excess and sending tiny crystals of water into the air.
Glorfindel was enjoying himself, he knew he was being hard on his lover, but he also knew he could take it; Legolas needed to be able to use his sword sooner than he would later – it was a matter of personal security, and he would not see that jeopardized.
“Ready!” he bellowed then, the friends startling at the sudden order. Legolas began again, this time, running through all ten stances. Glorfindel had him performing them at a slow rhythm which he knew would be more demanding on the body, a necessary tactic in order to get to grips with the weight; and so the session continued - lunge, withdraw, lunge, stab, half turn, backward thrust,……
Another hour had gone by, and now, the twins and Arwen had been joined by the others on the field, watching avidly, the only sound to be heard were Glorfindel’s barked orders as they echoed through the glade, and the constant whirl of metal sliding through air.
Another halt, yet Legolas did not move from the centre, for he did not want to engage in conversation, he was too centred, too focused, he could not lose that delicate balance, for if he did, he would sink to the floor and disgrace himself. It was Galdithion who understood perfectly why his lord did not approach them, and so he picked up the water skin and walked over to the heaving lord who was standing stock still beside Glorfindel, who was talking to him as he circled him, yet when he caught sight of Galdithion, he stood apart, allowing him to approach with the water.
Legolas took the skin and drank deeply, breathing heavily through his nose as he did so. Nodding to his guard he handed back the skin, controlling his breathing before Glorfindel would once more, push him into action.
Giving his pupil time to catch his breath and refresh himself, Glorfindel pondered on his next move; he knew he could not stretch this session much further, but he would make the last leg of it as intense as the king could take; he would work with space now, add it to the movements of the sword. He would combine stances with three-dimensional movement.
He had been training for over three hours now, the effort was proving monumental, yet he still had some reserves, something Glorfindel had already realized as he barked once more for him to adopt the ready stance, his powerful voice echoing through the otherwise silent glade.
“Hûr! - Heria!”
And Legolas sprang into action, combining stances with the attack and defense moves that Glorfindel hollered at him in rhythmic succession, as if he danced to an unheard beat.
“Bennas! Adel! Echor! Delia!”
He was a swirling, stabbing, slicing, lunging in every possible direction; upwards, sideways, backwards – Glorfindel left no space unworked, no corners or angles unused, as the lord obeyed the orders, one after the other.
“Osgar! Echor! Edaid osgar!”
The orders never ceased, one after the other as the king cut down his invisible foes, not once faltering, not allowing himself to think of his body, blocking out the timid, distant voice in his brain that told him he was tired, that he should stop – he would not allow the distraction.
“Brenia!!!!” shouted Glorfindel, drawing out the final vowel, willing the king to continue just a little longer.
“Nîf, Echor, Nîf, Hûn, Pelthaes, Dôl, Achad…”
The king came to a sudden halt, holding his ready stance, his chest heaving as rivulets of sweat poured from his face, his mouth opened in a grimace of pure fatigue.
Glorfindel walked up to the perfectly controlled warrior before him, who did not return his gaze but looked straight ahead, holding on to his sword as if to dear life.
“Brave, dauntless warrior, my King. You will be unbeatable in but two or three days. Take your rest.”
Legolas bowed, which was returned by Glorfindel, signaling the end of the session – at which Legolas wavered as his knees promptly buckled, his fall broken by Glorfindel’s loving arms as they lowered him into a kneeling position. He could take no more, sweat poured from every inch of skin, his heart hammered in his chest, his hair was dripping, his chest heaved, his hands shook. He had not felt this bad since he was a cadet so many years ago.
Glorfindel reached for the skin of water that Elladan now held out to him, offering the beaten elf the cool leather bag, which he gripped with both hands. Yet so winded was the king, that he could but take small sips of the cool liquid – he needed to catch his breath and calm his racing heart before imbibing large quantities of liquid – it would not do for him to bring it back up onto Glorfindel’s magnificent boots.
The friends had risen, concern clouding their features, until it became clear to them that Legolas just needed a little time to collect himself. And so they waited until he had drunk his fill and his breathing began to normalize itself somewhat.
Legolas turned his exhausted face to his master, squinting at him.
“You – are – exigent, - Lord – Glorfindel.”
And now, Elladan laughed loud and hard, for he had told him so!
Glorfindel held a hand out to the beaten elf and hauled him to his unsteady feet.
“I think it is time for a rest, I am sure our Forest Lord agrees,” drawled Haldir, for he had enjoyed watching the session immensely, indeed had learned from it; and of course there was that morbid sense of satisfaction at seeing the greatest down on his knees, humbled by the training of the great Glorfindel – indeed this Forest Lord was not impervious at all, just tough - very, very tough.
“I see you are all delighted, I am glad you are enjoying yourselves,” said Legolas in mock sarcasm, as he sheathed Yaavan, already noting the pull of muscles, he would need to stretch lest he pull one.
Legolas nodded to his friends, as Glorfindel lead the way back to the house – slowly. Once inside the vestibule, the king requested hot water be taken to his rooms, and wearily climbed the stairs, his lover behind him.
As they reached his suite, Legolas felt Glorfindel behind him, and smiled to himself; he knew his lover felt guilty, yet there was no reason, he had done his job admirably, and this was just what Legolas needed. He had become far too complacent in the last few weeks, and it was a luxury he simply could not afford himself. From today, he would train like this every day, until it bothered him no more.
Hûr: ready (for battle)
Heria: begin (suddenly, and vigorously)
Bennas: angle, corner
Adel: behind, to the rear
Hûl: cry of encouragement in battle
Edaid osgar: double cut
Reference: English – Sindarin dictionary http://www.jrrvf.com/hisweloke/sindar/online/sindar/dict-en-sd.html
This story was originally posted as The Protege V, now a side story, taking place between The Protege and Arcane Land. It needed a good editing and debugging, and I hope you enjoy the results.