Warnings: Please heed the warnings listed for this story. Some of the major warning include: non-con, scenes of violence, graphic character death, and soldiers/captives suffering from PTSD.
I hope you enjoy reading this story, as that is my motivation for posting. If there is anything you like I always love reviews :)
Mid-Second Age, coast of Forlindon
“I was collecting oysters when it crawled down my spine,” Mother shrived for affect, voice dropping low and spooky in Glorfindel’s ear. “I didn’t know it then, but I had been touched by a Sea-god, maybe Ulmo himself had breathed upon me! I dropped my basket and turned to run. And then I saw him, walking out of the mists.” She loosed a dreamy sigh, her arms soft and round about Glorfindel as her body swayed with him in her lap. “So tall and fair! Eyes like stars, hair black as the night. Your father must have been a prince before a terrible misfortunate sent him wandering the lonely shores. Perhaps he loved a beautiful maiden, but she was ripped from him by death and he was cursed to wander the world in search of her for eternity, never—”
“Enough of your drivel, girl!” Grandfather barked. “Stop filling that boy’s head with your nonsense. His father was a vagabond, and a Kinslayer most like, an outcast from all decent folk, who took advantage of an empty-headed, silly girl easily duped.”
Mother’s arms tightened about Glorfindel, and she bent close to whisper, “Your grandfather was not there, baby, he did not hear your father’s voice. It was like being washed in a bath of gold. He did not see your father’s eyes, they—”
“I said enough!” Grandfather threw down the fish he’d been gutting and stood menacing in his corner of the hut.
Mother ducked her head as she always did to her father’s wrath, and stood with Glorfindel in her arms to shuffle outside. “I will fetch the water for the cooking pot,” she mumbled to the hut’s dirt floor.
“No, you will send that useless boy of yours to get it. He is not an infant any longer to coddle.” Grandfather glowered at him, but Glorfindel did not let his chin tremble. He was not afraid of the big bully. “Go on boy; stop burdening your mother with your lazy bones!”
Glorfindel mumbled something that could have been ‘yes, Grandfather’ but could also have been something uncomplimentary. He slipped down his mother’s hip and scampered outside.
His father could not have been a Kinslayer. Kinslayers were evil. But then, Grandfather had never liked him, even when he was a baby Glorfindel shied away from that rough touch and those disapproving eyes. Grandfather must have always suspected he was a Kinslayers’ son. If his father was a Kinslayer, then no matter the horror tales Grandfather told of them, they could not be demons, for his father had been a prince. Mother said so.
Glorfindel stood on his tip-toes and unhooked the water bucket from where it hung against the hut’s wall. He wrapped his arms about its belly and ran to the spring of fresh water a little ways inland from the beach. Their home consisted of the hut, Mother’s garden, and Grandfather’s fishing boat tied up on their rickety strip of dock.
Glorfindel’s muscles strained as he lifted the filled bucket by its rope handle, his whole body tilting away so he didn’t topple over on the walk home. He had to take breaks when his arms could not bear the burn another moment.
When he ducked behind the hut’s reed covered doorway, he found Mother hunched before a fire, slicing up strips of fish to throw into the pot only waiting on the water. Grandfather glowered at them as he gutted the codfish Mother had caught with her pole in the little pool a mile down shore. Grandfather had no catch of his own, but so it usually was. Grandfather hunted the big, deep-sea fish, and they were a suspicious lot with the strength of bears.
Glorfindel tottered over to Mother, some of the water splashing over the bucket’s rim as he walked. “Careful boy!” Glorfindel bowed his head as his mother always did when Grandfather shouted, but behind the cover of his lips he ground his teeth.
The day did not slice like ocean waves in a tempest when Glorfindel kept his head down and obeyed his grandfather’s every command. Snapping back only distressed Mother and earned Glorfindel pinching fingers. It accomplished nothing good, for in the end Grandfather always got his way.
But there were benefits to submitting to Grandfather’s will. If Glorfindel made use of himself, Grandfather would pick him and not Mother to sail up to the village with him when he caught a blue marlin, swordfish, or one of the sharks he boasted of loudest. These trips to the village happened more and more often as Glorfindel grew. He could endure a hundred biting words telling him how useless he was if it meant he could spend the afternoon with the village children while Grandfather haggled his catch to the fish-merchants, seeking the fattest deal.
Mother took the bucket from him and poured the water into the waiting cooking pot. Glorfindel helped her scoop in the diced codfish, herbs, and a measure of the onions and roots she grew in her garden. There would be no bread, only the soup for supper tonight. Grains were a delicacy, one they could only afford to purchase when Grandfather hooked a fish worthy of the village merchants.
When the codfish had cooked long enough, Mother scooped out portions with her big wooden dipper. Glorfindel took his time about eating; there would be no second helpings. Only Grandfather received seconds as the man of the family, though it was Mother who brought the fish to table.
What was left in the cooking pot would serve to break their fast in the morning, and tide them over until supper with only what they could forage off the land. It was not berry season, nor were the fruit trees ripening or the wild grain stalks turning golden. But Mother and he would sneak a fish or some shellfish they scavenged in the shallow waters of the shore. Grandfather need never know, and their bellies would not growl empty.
After supper had been cleared away, Glorfindel curled up beside Mother on their sleeping pallet. Mother hummed a little tune in his ear, and combed her hands through his hair, shifting it this way and that in the light of the banked fire so that it caught the light like a blaze of sunset.
“You are my gift from the Sea-gods, baby,” she kissed his temple, tickling the back of his neck with her fingers until he hid his mouth in his hands to stifle a laugh. “So beautiful,” she cooed, “My very own slice of sun.” She kept her voice low, for his ears alone.
He scooted closer until he pressed against her softness and smelt the sea on her skin. He slipped his arms about her waist and laid in head down on her shoulder, sighing into her. “Tell me the story of Father, please, Mother!” Though he’d heard the story a hundred times, he never grew tired of it.
Mother squeezed him tighter, “Oh my favorite story!” Without Grandfather’s ears to hear and criticize, Mother spun her tale with no one to steal it away. “Where was I? Oh yes, your father, the prince of a fallen kingdom, had been cursed by an evil sorcerer to spend the rest of his life forever seeking his lady-love. For you see,” Mother added more details as she did every telling, making it richer and all the more enthralling. “His lady-love had been ripped from him, driven down into death by this very same evil sorcerer!”
Glorfindel gasped, “Did my father have to fight him? Was Father a very great warrior?”
“Oh the very greatest!” Mother’s eyes lit up like lamps, her silver hair shining bright as metal in sunlight.
“What was he like?” Glorfindel hung upon her words.
“Like sea mist and moonlight.” Her gaze traced Glorfindel’s upturned face. “Mysterious, beautiful, and…” Glorfindel waited, Mother’s eyes shifted over his face, drinking his rapture up. “Fleeting. It seemed he was with me only a moment before he departed back into the mists.” Glorfindel’s face fell at the sorrowful note in his mother’s voice.
“I wish he’d stayed forever. Why did he leave?”
Mother played with a lock of his hair, “He was driven to find his lady-love. I could see it in his eyes, ever he was driven on, never to find rest. You must not blame him, baby, for even as he lay down with me and we created you, he was not with me. He was far away, his eyes seeing into the past. He was seeking his lady-love in me, you see,” Mother nodded along to her words, “That is why he could not see me, he could only see her.”
“Does that make you sad, Mother?”
“No, baby, for in me he saw his beautiful princess. The Sea-gods gave him to me for that moment so that they could give me you. I know it. You are special, baby. You are a lost prince, and one day your father will come for you and take you away to wear jewels and crowns and sit upon a golden throne.”
Glorfindel seized his mother’s hands, “But not away from you, Mother! You must come with me.”
She giggled, “And I will wear silk gowns and pearls, and have handsome princes kissing my hands and my….lips?” Her giggles shook her body and infected Glorfindel so that he laughed too.
“Yes, Mother! If I am a prince, then you must be a queen!”
“My sweet baby,” she kissed him.
They fell into fantasy together as they did every night, though Glorfindel would not see for years yet that his mother was a liar. She was as simple-minded as Grandfather had always said, innocent of malice, but a deceiver all the same.
Year 1395 of the Second Age
“Hook it, boy!” Grandfather danced in glee, high off the thrill of their monstrous catch. The boat shook as the blue marlin Grandfather had reeled in struggled against its fate.
“I’m trying.” Glorfindel made another attempt at sinking his hook into the marlin’s mouth, but the fish, sensing its end’s approach, put up one last fight. With its head twisting about like that it was impossible for Glorfindel to reach it even with the extra length the hook’s pole afforded his arms.
“He’s a fighter, this beauty!” Grandfather’s pleasure with the catch had him overlooking the snap in Glorfindel’s voice as he wouldn’t have on any other occasion.
The fish stirred up the ocean into a frothing white water with its desperation to be free, and the boat rocked dangerously to starboard. “Move,” Grandfather elbowed Glorfindel aside, seizing the pole-hook from his hands. Grandfather sunk the hook with practiced ease into the mouth and right up into the brain of the marlin, a smile of triumph on his mouth as red stained the jewel-blue of the ocean. The beast of a fish had one last slap of its tail in it, before it surrendered to its hunter’s mastery and went still.
“Take this,” Grandfather shoved the hook back into Glorfindel’s hands to retreat to stern. Glorfindel’s muscles strained with the effort of holding the marlin flush against the boat’s side as Grandfather looped a knot about its tail with their strongest Elven rope.
“On my mark, and put some back into it!” Grandfather wrapped his hands about the rope, bracing his feet against the deck. Glorfindel’s hands tightened on the hook’s pole. “Now, heave!” Glorfindel’s back threatened to hunch with the effort, his gloves slipping on the pole, but he held. “Lift, boy, lift!”
Glorfindel’s arms shook and they hadn’t even cleared the water’s surface. He ground out, “It’s too heavy!”
Grandfather laughed; his smile sharp as a shark’s. Grandfather loved this, the hunt, the satisfaction of mastering a king of the sea. The bare muscles in Grandfather’s chest and shoulders strained as he heaved, but he loved every minute of it. “You need to put some meat on your bones, boy!” Grandfather had the tail of the marlin over the rail.
Glorfindel gritted his teeth at the jab. He was 45, only 5 years short of his majority, but his face only now began to throw off its baby fat. The only thing making his shortness and slender limbs bearable was the superior strength and speed they had somehow attained. He could outrun youth two times his height, and while he could not match his grandfather’s strength yet, no other youth of his height could have lifted the marlin’s head even an inch from the water.
If he did not have his year-mates’ height, then whose fault was it but the very Elf who now mocked him? Who’s responsibly had it been to feed him, but had chosen the thrill of deep-sea hunting over the steadier and more profitable method of nets?
When Glorfindel had reached an age his grandfather deemed old enough to lend a hand with the ‘real labor of the house,’ Grandfather had dragged him away from following after his mother to join him on the sea’s rolling belly. For a brief span of time, when Grandfather began to notice his usefulness, a relationship grew between them. But for every day Grandfather’s eyes opened to his usefulness, Glorfindel’s own opened to his grandfather’s uselessness.
Vanity and selfishness fuelled the deep-sea fishing, and he had said as much to his grandfather. Glorfindel could not and would not bite his tongue when he saw the mounds of smaller fish the netters brought to market, not once a week as Grandfather did if the Sea was generous, but everyday. All Grandfather needed was a net and rocks sewn into its ends to scoop up dozens of smaller fish, and he could be walking away from the village market with his pockets stuffed with enough coin to fill his family’s bellies.
Glorfindel had made his opinion known, boldly declaring to grandfather how poorly he provided for them. Grandfather had not taken the criticism with dignity.
When Glorfindel grew old and strong enough, he would build his own boat and bring fish home by the hundreds. He would take Mother away to live in a proper house in the village with a wooden –no a tiled floor! –and woven mats for his mother’s knees to rest upon. He would buy her that silk gown she dreamt of and a string of pearls. She would never know what it was to be in want again.
His mother was more a child than he, but she was his mother. She loved him, even if she was delusional, and that was precious to him. Some of the other boys in the village made faces over their mother’s love, but Glorfindel had never refused a kiss on his cheek or a single embrace.
When his mother still pulled him into her lap and he leaned against her, breathing in her warmth and smell, a deep place inside him sighed in contentment, marveling at his mother’s love, as if expecting her to reject him this time. An irrational fear, for his mother had never rejected him and he could not image her turning from him. Yet still that hollow craved to be filled by her love, never wanting an embrace to end, forever fearful it would be the last.
“Stop daydreaming boy! As bad as your mother,” Sweat and sea spray clung to Grandfather’s face and wet the strands of silver hair that had slipped from the high knot he wore it up in. “Come here and grab hold of this rope.”
Glorfindel glared, but released his grip on the pole to take up position at the fish’s tale. He wrapped his hands about the water-slicked rope, bracing his feet on the deck, and pulled. A powerful knot worked between his brows with the effort, but the marlin’s body inched out of the sea. Finally the head flopped down on the deck with a smack, bringing a spray of salt water with it.
Glorfindel sank his palms into his knees, bending double to suck in gulps of air. “What a beauty,” his grandfather crowed over the marlin.
Glorfindel straightened up, and watched Grandfather run his hands down the fishes’ sides. He set his mouth. His grandfather had a blissful smile on his lips. For this their family suffered in squalor.
“We would be walking in fish up to our ankles if that had been a net we pulled in.” His grandfather’s exuberance made his sick.
Grandfather’s eyes snapped to fix on Glorfindel’s face. Glorfindel tilted his chin back. He wasn’t a child to duck his head any longer. Grandfather’s lip curled, “I can smell the stench of your sulk from here, boy. Now put those scrawny bones of yours to use.”
Glorfindel’s teeth clenched. He looked away, out to the haze of the shore on the horizon. The sail snapped, and the mast creaked as the wind’s direction shifted.
“I said get to work!”
Glorfindel crossed his arms. “Why should I?”
“Because I told you to, boy!” Grandfather shoved himself to his feet and came marching over, his face bent in a frown deep enough to rival an approaching thundercloud.
Glorfindel’s fingers curled about his elbows, bracing himself. Grandfather’s hand shot out, but Glorfindel jerk away from the grab. “I am not obeying your orders! You only think of yourself, and—”
“Shut your mouth, boy, or you’ll get no supper tonight!”
Glorfindel’s hands came down to fist at his sides, “I can catch my own supper. You can’t stop me!”
Grandfather’s rocked back on his heels, eyes narrowed as they ran over Glorfindel’s defiant body. “I’ll dump your ungrateful sack of bones at the hut and take your mother to market with me. What say you to that, boy?”
Why must his grandfather always have all the power? Glorfindel wanted to scream. He wanted to shove his grandfather overboard. But he wanted the freedom and normalcy only a trip to the village afforded him more.
He shrugged passed his grandfather’s smug form, and bent to pick up the discarded tools and bait bucket.
He could hear the victory in his grandfather’s voice, “Take a care to keep it fresh.” Grandfather tossed an empty bucket at him. “You won’t like the result if you neglect your duties, boy.”
Glorfindel mumbled nasty things to his work as Grandfather readjusted the sail and took his place at the rudder. Grandfather set their course south, towards the village. They wouldn’t reach it for another few hours, and in that time Glorfindel doused the marlin’s body with bucketfuls of sea water. It was silent on the sailboat but for the splash of the brow cutting through waves and the creak of the mast, punctuated by Glorfindel smacking his bucket into the sea and dumping another load on the marlin.
He resented the fish, but he resented his grandfather more. His grandfather had taught him many things in life (though not half as many as Grandfather liked to think), but above all Grandfather had shown him how to resent the world and his place in it with a blackness deep enough to drown in.
It would be the easy path to follow his grandfather into bitterness. Grandfather resented everything from his daughter and grandson to the Noldo King Gil-galad, the village merchants who ‘robbed him,’ and the sky when it stormed. Glorfindel smothered his resentment against the fish, and sent a silent prayer of gratitude to the Sea for its gift. He must not let his bitterness overspill the kernel he kept nursing in the back of his mouth like a rotting tooth for his grandfather, and his grandfather alone. He would never hate the world as Grandfather did.
Fishermen crowded the village docks with their boat slipped smooth as ice alongside it. Glorfindel hailed one of the men he knew by name, and tossed the rope for Nemrod to moor them. Nemrod shouted a greeting as he wrapped the rope about the iron cleats, shaped like an anvil, in the dock’s deck.
“The Sea smiled upon you!” Nemrod held out an arm for Glorfindel to clasp.
Glorfindel grinned and slapped his fingers down on the muscled forearm. Nemrod hauled him onto the deck, and it seemed a burden lifted off his shoulders. He breathed freer out from under the oppression of his grandfather’s glowers, away from his mother’s fantasies that possessed her like an obsession, and the miserable reality of their poverty.
“It was a beast to haul up,” Glorfindel laughed.
Nemrod slapped him on the back, his hand lingering comfortably on the slender bones of Glorfindel’s shoulder. Glorfindel swallowed. Nemrod had shucked his tunic and the sun played on the muscles of his arms and chest. Nemrod had very fine eyes. He was also married with a daughter Glorfindel’s age.
“A beast is right! OssŰ’s wrath, but that is one big fish! Your grandfather will get a prime yield for this one.” Other fishermen crowded around to peek over their boat’s rail and ogle the blue marlin’s size. Nemrod leaned close to sneak Glorfindel a smirk, “You off to join the boys?”
“I’d like, but Grandfather will have my hide if I don’t help him haul the marlin up to market.”
Nemrod waved a hand through the air, “He won’t notice you gone with all the hands volunteering to get their hands on this one. You’re young yet, but I tell you, I can’t remember a bigger fish brought it. Your grandfather’s a tight-pocketed bastard, but damned good at what he does.”
Glorfindel’s mouth pinched, but he didn’t argue. He would not speak freely of his family’s poverty, even if the whole village already knew of it and probably gossiped about them along with everyone else within fifty miles.
“Go on,” Nemrod gave him a little push, “The boys went down to Oyster Rock. They were organizing a game of ball. You won’t want to miss that.”
Glorfindel didn’t. He cast one more glance at his grandfather, but Nemrod spoke rightly, his grandfather wouldn’t even note his absence. Glorfindel dashed down the docks, heading south along the beach towards Oyster Rock.
A gaggle of youth greeted him as Glorfindel ran up, pausing their game to clasp his shoulder and shout their pleasure at his company. There could be no question that all the youths were male. Girls had stopped playing with their age-mates to sit with their mothers in the house and learn whatever it was that girls learned. The boys had reached an age to speculate on these things and take note of the glimpses of girls they received in the streets, but Glorfindel spared that species little thought.
An argument started up over which team got to claim Glorfindel. His bones were swift, his feet deft upon the ball, and he never lacked friends, so they were naturally eager to have him. He grinned as the argument turned physical and TÝrion latched hold of his upper arm, trying to drag Glorfindel bodily into their ranks.
“No, you have Althon!” Ramhad latched onto Glorfindel’s other arm to tug him to the other side’s team. “It’s not far if you get Glorfindel too! Besides, Glorfindel likes us better—”
“Don’t be stupid,” TÝrion’s arm slipped around Glorfindel’s shoulder, “Glorfindel likes everyone. You’re just being a poor sport because Laerthir—”
“Oh shut up. Let Glorfindel decide, then.”
Glorfindel’s cheeks were hot as all eyes turned on him. TÝrion’s body pressed so close to his. TÝrion eyes had a pleasant shape that gave them a perpetual sly, hooded look, and his hair was so pale a silver it gleamed white in the sunlight.
“What do you say Glorfindel?” TÝrion’s face leaned close, brow crooked.
“Your team is good.” Glorfindel’s proclamation met with groans from the other team and whoops from his chosen one.
“Good choice,” Trion grinned. “Get your shoes off and come join us!” TÝrion spun away, and started ordering his team back into position as Glorfindel kicked off his shoes. He ran, the sand flying up behind him, to join them.
“From the mark!” Ramhad juggled the ball in his palms, showing off, as he sauntered to middle field. Glorfindel didn’t shy from placing himself in the center of the action. Ramhad slapped the ball down on the sand, “Countdown from three!”
TÝrion gave the count, “Three, two, one…”
Ramhad’s foot connected with the ball, sending it sailing. Glorfindel raced after it, brushing up against the other youths as they scrambled for the prize. His toe snagged it first and lifted the ball into the air with a deft little flip. From there his knee took it high and TÝrion’s head sent it soaring to the next teammate.
As they moved the ball down the field, aiming for the fishing net strung up between two stakes planted in the sand, bloody noses were received, bodies went tangling down into the sand, hips smacked against hips, and the ball sailed from toes, a nook between elbows, heads, and any other body part but hands the player felt bold enough to employ.
They played for hours, not noticing the passing of time in their fun. Glorfindel plotted how he could delay the inevitable return to his family’s hut when the game lulled. He’d learned if he didn’t return to Grandfather’s boat by sun’s setting, Grandfather would leave him here for the night. Glorfindel had taken to ‘losing track of time’ every time they came to the village, there was always a friend ready with an offer of bedding for the night. The problem came with the sun, for Grandfather wanted his help on the sea and would come round the village to pick him up along with a tongue lashing for his uselessness.
If he could just find some way of avoiding Grandfather entirely he could join one of his friends and their father on the sea. He would make himself useful and worth the food he ate. But Grandfather had absolute authority over his life; no friend’s father would stand between Grandfather and Glorfindel. He’d also be unable to earn enough coin yet to provide for Mother, and he couldn’t leave her there alone with Grandfather.
“What’s that?” One of the boys halted the game with a pointed finger towards the sea.
They all turned to look. A deep hulled boat with strange sails had rounded a curve in the land and bobbed a few miles off the coast. But it was the rowboat approaching shore that snatched their eyes.
Men were piled inside it. They were close enough to see they were no Elves. Their faces carried no light. There was a dullness about their skin, and fine hairs grew on some of the Men’s olive-toned cheeks. They wore odd tunics from which their knees poked, bare of leggings! Short swords hung from their waists.
The youths looked at each other. “What should we do?” No one had an immediate solution.
“Are they…?” Laerthir’s trailed off. He’d been the last holding the ball, and now shifted it from hand to hand.
“Well they’re Second born, obviously,” Ramhad said with false confidence. None of them had ever met a Second born before.
“I should go get someone from the village,” TÝrion decided.
“I think that’s best,” Glorfindel agreed. As if waiting only for a second confirmation, TÝrion sprinted off down the beach for home.
“Our fathers will know what to do,” one of the youths promised.
“Should we…?” Laerthir gestured to a stand of rocks, “Conceal ourselves?”
Ramhad snorted. “There’s nothing to run away from. It’s just Second born.”
Glorfindel wasn’t so sure. These Men did not look especially friendly. “There’s no point in hiding, they will have seen us too.” The rowboat pulled close to shore now. They only had a few more minutes before it beached. “They have swords. Do you think…?”
“Maybe we should follow TÝrion,” Althon looked back to where TÝrion had disappeared. Even Ramhad did not pull on a face of bravado any longer. The closer these Men drew, the more unsavory they appeared.
“Let’s go,” Glorfindel decided for them, and took off at a brisk pace for the village. An itch had started up under his skin to be as far from these Men as possible. The other youths followed him.
They cleared their playing field and were weaving around the jutting black rock with the pools the oysters liked to hide in, when Men sprung out of the rocks. Glorfindel, in the lead, jumped back with a cry.
The Men’s swords remained in their scabbards, but there were nets in their hands and nothing friendly in their faces. “Get back!” Glorfindel latched onto the nearest youth’s tunic and pulled him back, spinning around.
The Men shouted, and nets flew through the air. Glorfindel swung back the way they’d come, but the Men coming up in the rowboat had beached and were hemming them in at the rear. He whirled left and right, but everywhere he met the faces of Men and more faces.
“Help me, help me!”
Glorfindel whipped towards the cry. Laerthir had fallen, a net entangling his feet and arms. His face pressed up against the rough meshing, eyes beseeching and wet with tears as he flailed.
Glorfindel and Althon ran to free him. The Men tossed more nets, but they were prepared now and dogged with lightness of foot. Glorfindel scooped up the ball Laerthir had dropped, spreading his fingers wide and sure about its width. He pulled back his arm and hurled it at the nearest Man’s face. The Man cried out, hands flying to his face as blood splurted from his nose.
“Lay still!” Althon struggled to free Laerthir from the net. “Glorfindel help me!”
Glorfindel’s hands shook as they scrambled at the net. He couldn’t see straight through the panic. Laerthir thrashed like an animal caught in a trap, terrified passed reason. The youths behind were running forward to help, throwing rocks and sticks, whatever limited weapons the beach afforded them.
“No, run, run!” Glorfindel shouted at them, but they didn’t heed him, perhaps couldn’t even hear him through their own panic. Finally Althon’s steadier fingers pulled the last of the net off of Laerthir, and Glorfindel yanked the shaking youth to his feet. “Run! We have to get out!” He pushed at the place Laerthir’s shoulder blades met.
“The rocks. Climb up, quick!” Glorfindel’s voice broke through all their fear, and he herded them towards their only escape. If they could just climb high enough…. Wasn’t it said the Edain did not have the strength and lightness of body an Elf processed?
The black Oyster rock rocketed a good fifty meters from the sand. All types of seabirds made it their nesting place, and Glorfindel wasn’t the only youth among them who had climbed it to collect the eggs that were a delicacy among their people. They could make it. They had to.
The youths scrambled up the sheer face of the rock, snatching handholds and nooks for their toes to grip where they could. The start was slow, and the Men could still reach them with tossed nets even fifteen feet up. They had to climb higher!
“Faster!” Glorfindel came at the back of the pack, unwilling to leave any behind.
Ramhad climbed before him, his long arms serving him well. Glorfindel, clinging to the rock face like a spider, could do nothing but shout a warning as a net came sailing over his head. It caught Ramhad within its jaws. Ramhad screamed as he fell, Glorfindel’s reaching hand catching only air.
“Go, go!” Glorfindel urged the youths on, but he looked down with the others, terrified Ramhad was…
Ramhad moved in the net below, stirring from the fall to struggle against his capture. He could not get free before the Men were upon him. They trussed him up like a pig, wrapping ropes about his knees and chest to pin his arms against his torso. But he could still call out for help. Glorfindel couldn’t look away; the sound of Ramhad’s cries, desperate as a lost child’s for its mother, pierced him like a dart.
He turned his face up to shout one last time, “Climb!” Then he launched himself into the air, twisting in mid-fall to land on this hands and toes like a cat.
He sprung up, using the Men’s surprise against them, and snatched one of their swords from their hands. He brought it down in a wild arc, swinging blindingly, trying to drive them back. He had no idea what he was doing, but he had to save Ramhad.
A body dropped down at his back, and he was no longer alone. “Hold them off, I’ll get Ramhad,” Althon called, making a dash for their fallen friend. Glorfindel surged forward with him.
The Men met his unskilled attack with easy parries, but did not strike back. They shouted things at each other in their language. Glorfindel couldn’t understand a word of it. He may have never held any weapon but a bow in his life, but he used his superior speed against the Men and wiped the smirks from their mouths. He forced them to retreat enough for Althon to reach Ramhad.
One of the Men called out to him in Sindarin, “Come, beauty, there is no need for all this. We will not hurt you or your friends. You must see this is useless. Put the sword down, and no harm will come to any of you.”
“Leave us alone! I’ll die before I surrender to you!” The brave words spilled from his lips, but inside he trembled.
“It would be a crime against Eru to kill one such as you.” The way the Man looked at him turned Glorfindel’s stomach. It was as if he were an impressive catch a fisherman ran his hands over. “Here’s a little deal, just between you and me: give yourself up and I’ll let your friends go. I’ll accept you in their stead.”
Glorfindel’s eyes flittered back to where Althon struggled with the rope’s knots. He’d had no luck loosening them. Althon’s gaze snapped up to his, “Don’t you dare listen to him, Glorfindel!”
“Come now,” the Man said. “This resistance is futile. We could have you unarmed in a second, beauty.”
Glorfindel narrowed his eyes, “Then why haven’t you if it’s so easy?”
“We wouldn’t want to damage that pretty face of yours,” the Man smiled. It did not set Glorfindel at ease. “But I’ll take a scar over nothing. You can be sure that hair of yours will make up for it.”
“Glorfindel don’t listen to him!”
Glorfindel tightened his grip on the sword and took one, two steps back, angling for Ramhad’s prone position in the sand. “What do you want with me?” He edged further back, his ankle hitting Ramhad’s leg.
The Man followed him. “Oh, we just want to take you on a little trip.”
“Where?” Glorfindel lowered his sword as if contemplating surrender. The tip fell on the ropes securing Ramhad’s knees.
The Man’s eyes followed the movement. His mouth curled in a smirk. “Clever too. But don’t be a fool, beauty. I’ve been in this business longer than you’ve been alive.”
Glorfindel cut through the ropes defiantly. “What business is that?”
The Man grinned like a cat spotting cream, and with a flick of his fingers sent his men surging forward, “Why, the slave trade, beauty.”
The Men lunged, and Glorfindel snapped his sword up to meet them. His pulse spiked, and everything moved too quickly, the breath coming so loud in his ears he could hear nothing but its pounding. He hacked inelegantly at the swords thrusting at him, always shying from his body, seeking to flip the sword from his hands or slip behind him for a blow to the head with a pommel.
When his sword drew its first blood, it was an accident more than anything. Glorfindel hadn’t been swinging to kill, not really, not when…not when their faces were so close and so…so like his own.
His sword sliced against a Man’s ribs, and the Man fell with a cry, face twisting in a terrible grimace. The shock of actually cutting that Man, spilling his blood upon the sand, froze Glorfindel. The Men sought to take advantage of his shock, but Glorfindel’s sword came up in defense in a gesture so smooth it could have been instinct, only the way the sword sliced across the next Man’s chest could not be anything but practiced. Only he had never held a sword in his life.
The Man he cut open from hip to shoulder crumpled on the sand. Joy surged through Glorfindel, pressing up from his belly, and bubbling off his lips in a laugh. That Man had tried to take them, but Glorfindel had saved them! That Man would have killed them, but it was Glorfindel who still lived!
His rapturous gaze dropped to the Man’s face. His face…his face…. Glorfindel stumbled back. He’d….and he’d enjoyed, what was wrong with—what kind of sick—
He vomited all down the front of his tunic. It splattered the ground already turning black with blood. He wiped the back of his hand over his mouth, forcing the sword (blood on its blade) up again. He had to keep his feet; he couldn’t afford to be sick. He couldn’t fall to his knees and weep beside the dying Man he’d killed. (Defended himself against. It wasn’t…he hadn’t meant…and the Man would have hurt…he’d had no choice).
He tasted blood on his lips. The Man’s blood had just…when his chest split open like that…like a gutted… Glorfindel’s hand shook on the sword’s grip, but he lifted it. (Don’t look down; don’t look into the dying Man’s face. His knees would fall out if he did).
The Men’s leader pulled his men back. They kept their distance now, eyeing Glorfindel. The leader snapped, “Nets,” Glorfindel’s heart lurched up into his throat. He didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know what to do, he—
Nets flew at them. Glorfindel hacked with his sword, dodging, but Althon got tangled up in one. More nets. Glorfindel danced away but they kept flying, and this couldn’t go on forever. A net brought him down, the weights sewn into it tangling with his legs and tripping him. He only missed skewering himself on his sword.
He fell only inches from the face of the Man he’d killed. The Man’s struggling breaths consumed Glorfindel’s ears. There was blood bubbling in the Man’s mouth, slipping down the corners of his mouth. The sound of the Man’s scream when he fell echoed in Glorfindel’s head. He would never be able to scrub it away. He could never unhear what he’d done.
The sand slipped wet between Glorfindel’s fingers where it had soaked up the Man’s blood. The Man’s body shuddered, shivering as if in a fever, and then lay still. His eyes started grey and empty.
Glorfindel started sobbing as he struggled against the net. He had to get it off, had to get free, had to get away from, from—
Hands were on him, ropes binding him. Fingers slipped through the holes in the net to caress his cheek, “Shh, beauty, it’s over now. Don’t fear. I’d be a fool to damage such a creature as you. You’ll be the making of me. Can you image the price you’ll bring at the block?”
Glorfindel turned his face away from the touch, curling into himself. He sunk his teeth into his palm to stop the tears. They would serve no purpose. He had to be strong, for Althon and Ramhad, he had to be strong.
Note on Glorfindel’s ageing: Glorfindel’s soul saw the Two Trees, so I’m putting his natural aging as 100 years to his majority despite his birth-mother in this life being Teleri. However, as you can see from the direction this chapter went, he will not have a smooth childhood, so his aging will speed up some, like Gil-galad, as his body responds to the demands placed on it.