~ Legolas had never seen a city like this. Minas Tirith was a city of stone, a tower of guard, but Tirion had been built in a land already guarded.
From the Bay of Eldamar, a wide, steep sided valley split the Pelori: the Pass of Light, Calacirya. It was the only pass through those mountains, so tall and sheer that they dwarfed even the high peaks of the Hithaeglir, and their sides were utterly barren, sheer as a blade. Between them, the Calacirya was green and fertile, and once the light of Telperion and Laurelin had streamed down it and gleamed upon the Shadowy Seas.
Upon a hill at the eastern end of the pass rose Tirion, where the Vanyar and Noldor had once dwelt in harmony, and it shone silver-white as the rising moon. A great flight of shallow steps ascended to high gates, which had been flung open, and the steps glittered, for they were clear quartz.
Legolas had heard of this city, but the sense of legend he expected to feel on entering it was absent. It was beautiful: villas set among great gardens, kerbed streets and fountains, and over all, the needle-like white tower of Mindon Eldaliéva, in the great square before the palace where Fëanor had sworn the Oath. And then the prince realized that this was why he felt so little awe. Places did not create legends, they housed them. The people were the legends, and well- nigh all of those were gone.
The wide ways were almost empty. Many of the Noldor who still dwelt in Tirion had gone down to the shores, others had left the city for Mahanaxar, to ask the Valar what had come to pass. There were some Elves who stared at Glorfindel, a few who lifted their hands, and others who turned away. There were eyes on their back every step they took.
Neither spoke until Glorfindel halted before a great villa surrounded by fruit trees and green lawns. A white pathway, wide enough for two horsemen abreast, lead up to high closed doors, and Glorfindel strode up to them as one who has the right, and pushed them inward.
Dust-motes hung in the entrance hall like tiny sparks, swirling in the sudden air-current. Seeing the emblem of the golden celandine laid into the floor, Legolas looked quickly at Glorfindel.
“Yes, this was my home.”
It looked as if Glorfindel might have left only days ago. There was no settled dust, no sense that the house had been uninhabited for thousands of years.
“It was the home of a Vanyarin lord,” he said, mounting the stairs that fanned upward. “When he and his family removed to Valmar, it lay empty until I came here.”
The mansion made Glorfindel's chambers in Imladris seem like a hut. Legolas imagined the coming and going of warriors, servants, friends, and...Fëanor? He stopped, as Glorfindel opened another pair of doors. Light fell through a rank of windows, glossing the floor and marble pillars, the frame of the bed, devoid of mattress or coverlets, a long settle, chairs. A great vase of some green stone stood in an alcove, and through an archway stretched an antechamber. Legolas saw another settle, a table. All was beautiful, and devoid of any human warmth. There were no hangings, no rugs, no cushions, no scrolls or books, no wine-jugs. No life.
“It was not like this once.” Glorfindel's voice was distant, and Legolas' eyes were drawn to the bed, surely the place where Fëanor had seduced him, and where later, he had lain with Ecthelion.
“It is like all this city, wondrous and cold.” His own voice held a chill and Glorfindel looked around, his eyes narrowing at the tone. Legolas looked back, unwinking.
“Yes, it is cold now.”
“I can see that.” Legolas moved to the archway. Behind him, Glorfindel uttered a brief, pithy curse.
“I did not come here to show thee where I lay with my lovers,” he said almost harshly.
“I am not thinking it.”
“I can read thy thoughts.”
“That,” he said, “Is unfair. And discourteous.”
“I know,” A smile lifted Glorfindel's lips.
“Then do not do it.”
“I hardly needed to see thy thoughts, and certainly not with any Valarin power. Thou hast not long seen Fëanor and Ecthelion.”
“Jealousy of a dead lover is not the same as jealousy of a living one.” Legolas walked into the second chamber, gorgeous and lifeless as all the rooms he had seen. He his fingertips over the surface of the table, glassy smooth and hard.
“There is no reason for jealousy. Yet I must admit, ” Glorfindel's hands settled on Legolas' hips. “I enjoy it in thee.”
“And do you admit I have reason? That this is not a ridiculous sensibility? We are speaking of Fëanor, who had thee in this house.”
“Which is why I brought thee.” Glorfindel moved one hand to Legolas' groin and amusement lilted through his next words. “And thou knowest it.”
He sensed Legolas' smile, felt the quiver strike through him, felt it in his own body, the frisson of hunger. They undressed one another quickly. Legolas' eyes were huge and wild in the pallid light, as he slid provocatively down Glorfindel's body, his mouth closing over the swollen member. He made sounds deep in his throat as he licked, and sucked, moistening it in preparation. After a long moment, he drew away and turned, bracing himself against the table, pulling his hair aside, the line of his back and long legs, a wanton invitation.
Glorfindel could feel the Valar and the tones of their minds, some furious, some outraged and deliberately opened his own, so that they might know what he did, feel every nuance of pleasure and emotion.
Legolas turned his head as he was entered, his profile hazed with intense delight, and Glorfindel held himself still, for the image was so potently arousing it hardened him the more. He possessed and was possessed. The tight muscle locked around him and he heard the prince say, throatily, “Harder, deeper.”
Legolas abandoned moans blended with his own breathing, the slap of flesh against flesh. The room seemed to become warm, the wintry light glowed summer-gold with the heat, the pleasure, the raw, delicious act of sex; himself made slick and oiled by Legolas' mouth, penetrating his lover to the hilt, stretching the narrow passage, engulfed, claimed and claimant both. It was something he could savor for a long time, but his need now was driving him over the edge. He curled his hand around Legolas' length, felt the tip weeping seed, and worked him. Spasms racked the prince's body. He cried out and came to release in a throbbing rush and Glorfindel exploded within him a moment after.
“That was truly what I wanted to show thee,” he murmured against the nape of Legolas' neck. Pearly essence was spattered over the marble table, and Glorfindel smiled, slowly pulling himself from his lovers body.
“This table truly did no better day's work.” The dead air smelled of sex, and warm, naked skin.
Legolas' face was flushed, alight as he turned. Glorfindel knew he had been jealous, was still jealous, but their banter had always been a preface for this. He had wanted to take Legolas in this place for precisely that reason, to place Legolas' imprint in this empty house which had once echoed with clear voices – and the cries of forbidden lust.
“There is a pool in the garth.” Glorfindel picked up his clothes.
Legolas realized that the villa was built as a hollow rectangle, the center divided into a garden and what must have once been a training area. The pool was deep, sides and floor of white stone. The prince could see the bubble of a spring in the center which constantly filled it, and the drains about the edges which prevented it from spilling over. Noldorin invention, he thought as he laid his garments aside.
Glorfindel dived in, barely leaving a ripple, and Legolas followed. The water was cool but not icy, clear as the pools of Imladris.
“Is it not very well maintained?” he murmured, putting down his feet, glad to have this opportunity to cleanse himself, for the long hard ride which had ended here, had afforded few opportunities. Glorfindel massaged his wet hair, pushed it back to float molten on the surface.
“I know you have said there is no decay in Aman, but still...this house looks as if it has only been abandoned for a sennight.”
“I know it has,” he agreed. “And I know why. Or rather, I know who.”
Legolas' eyes questioned, but Glorfindel said nothing, treading up the shallow steps. The light was no longer milk-white around him; the droplets of water on his skin gleamed like gilt, and Legolas for a moment, forgot where he was, as he enjoyed the visual feast of perfect, powerful beauty. Glorfindel, his eyes glowing like gems, gestured for him to come out and his own scrutiny was lingering, wholly appreciative, as he moved from the tiled edge of the pool to the greensward and sank down. The sun was warmer than it had been in Lindon, yet not a summer heat.
“The seasons are not as varied as in the north of Ennorath,” he commented and Legolas smiled.
“That was reading my thoughts.”
“I always could.” Glorfindel's eyes held a deep smile.
“Truly, and most irritating it is.” The prince swept back his wet hair. “Have your servants been here?” He asked curiously.
“No.” The smile vanished, as cloud covering the sun, and Legolas saw the power laying deep within his lover, as if the green earth had cracked to show the molten fire beneath. And yet, he thought, it seemed as if Glorfindel had achieved his potentiality, that Fos Almir had elevated him to what he had always been meant to be. He touched the hard belly, ran his fingers up the chest into the wet-shining waves of hair. He is Vala – what I believed, when my mother died, was a foreshadowing. He felt his eyes widen at the realization, then threw himself forward, straddling Glorfindel's lap, his fingers gripping the hard shoulders.
“When I believed you to be a Valar, I was not wrong, was I? I was seeing you as you are now.” His mother would come to the shores soon, Glorfindel had told him. Níniwen had settled on Tol Eressëa after her re-birth. There would be another glad reunion in a short time.
“It was premature.” Glorfindel felt himself stirring under the prince, whose eyes were clear as rain on his face, dark lashes spiked together with water, his body smooth and wet and beautiful. The kiss was joined with a wildness which drove to their groins, and Glorfindel molded his hands around the curve of Legolas' buttocks.
The response, as he slid a finger into the narrow passage, still slippery with his seed, was a groan and then Legolas stiffened, broke the meld of their lips and froze, staring. Glorfindel saw the blush sweep up to his cheeks and felt the familiar presence behind him like a kiss.
He said, smiling, “Findaráto.”
~ At times Legolas had imagined meeting Glorfindel's elder brother whom, like Glorfindel, had also been called 'The beloved'.
In none of those visualized encounters had he been naked on his lover's lap, their bodies heat fusing, blood flushing to water-cooled extremities, which showed clearly as they both rose. Legolas tasted embarrassment in the sudden dryness of his mouth. Embarrassment, but no shame.
Finrod's expression was strange, but there was no disapproval evident. He was gazing at his brother as if his soul were too full for words, and then he bridged the distance before them, his arms locked around Glorfindel, and Legolas could see, under the fine tunic, the strength of it; a hard, sinewy grip.
“Glorfindel.” The name was a choked exhale of air – and love. They held one another, a meshing of emotions deep as pain, wide as the ages that had severed them. When they drew apart, their wrists were still locked. Finrod was smiling now, curious and wondering.
“I felt it,” he said. “I feel thee now. Power; more than I ever felt from the Valar.” A frown flickered in his eyes, one hand lifted, the palm cupping Glorfindel's cheek in a tender gesture. “Oh, Eru,” he murmured. “I have missed thee.”
“Thou couldst not come to me, I know,” Glorfindel answered the unspoken words.
“I went to plead for thee. I was not permitted to see thee.” The sudden, brilliant flash of rage heightened the similarities between them.
Similarities, and differences, Legolas thought, watching, his embarrassment forgotten. Finrod's hair had the same deep wave as his brother's, but it was the color of fresh churned cream, a gold tint overlaying near-whiteness. His eyes were Glorfindel's eyes, pure blue ice under gull-wing dark brows. Legolas saw the unmistakable Finwion profiles mirrored for a moment as Glorfindel turned to him.
“Finrod, I would have thee meet Legolas Thranduilion, a prince of his people in Middle-earth.”
“Prince Finrod.” Legolas gathered his dignity to bow. “I am honored.”
He felt as if he was being read by those light-filled eyes, felt also, that his nakedness did not discomfit Finrod, that he looked far deeper than the flesh. Here was a legend, like Glorfindel, like Fëanor and his sons, like Fingolfin and Fingon and Gil-galad. Finrod had stood before Sauron in Tol-in-Gaurhoth and faced him, dueled with him not with weapon but the power of song – but the doom which lay upon the Noldor had come upon him in that ruined place, once as beautiful as he.
“Prince Legolas.” Finrod's clasp was firm and very strong. Legolas' thought that he had not been observed physically so much as spiritually was proved wrong at the next words. “I marvel, for thy face is one familiar to me; thou hast the look of Beleg Cúthalion. I saw him in Doriath when I visited our sister,” he elaborated with a glance at his brother.
“I saw him but twice,” Glorfindel responded. “When we searched for Aredhel, and a glimpse at the Dagor Nirnaeth Arnoediad. He was Legolas' great grandsire.”
And Legolas thought of how many threads were interwoven long ago and remained so. Finrod had died in Tol-in-Gaurhoth where Vanimórë had been born, Beleg was his own first ancestor, who had loved the Man whose pride had lead to the destruction of Nargothrond, and the founder of Nargothrond was the brother of Glorfindel. The weight of a long and sorrowful history settled upon him and for a moment, they were silent, then Finrod said, “Come, I would greet thee at my own house. Perhaps,” he added. “thou shouldst dress.”
They walked down the street, Glorfindel and Finrod speaking quietly, while Legolas listened and watched. The way was not far. Glorfindel told him that he had chosen to live close to his brother.
Finrod lead them through a great hall into a chamber where a colonnade marched the length of the frontage, and flowers spilled from graceful bowls, twined about pillars. There was the sound of fountains and birdsong from the garden. He poured wine and bade them sit.
“Thou surely knowest everything,” he remarked. “But I do not.”
“I could know many things if I chose to look,” Glorfindel agreed. “But I would rather speak to thee. ”
“Then there will be much to speak of, ” Finrod smiled with a touch of bemusement.
“One thing I would ask of thee, without seeking in thy mind,” Glorfindel said. “Where is Amarië?”
“My wife dwells in Valmar with her kin.” There was a pause before Finrod continue. “I married her not long after I was reborn and returned here.”
Legolas glanced at Glorfindel. An oddly cynical smile played on his mouth. He reminded the prince, strikingly, shockingly of Vanimórë.
“I lived an exemplary life. We wed and we loved, and then all too soon, our joy in one another...” He stopped and then said precisely, “Our desire for one another faded. We no longer looked at one another and thought of bedding. It happened slowly, but surely as summer fading into autumn, then winter. There is no enmity between us, she chose to live in the House of Women, with Indis, Anairë and Nerdanel. And we had no children. She wanted them, but there have been no children born here since the Noldor went into exile.”
He rose, winecup in hand, and drank, set it down with a hard click. “The Elves do not live here. Fëanor was right, as thou wert. We wait here, we wait for our bodies to fade, to become fëar, alive in memory. What difference is there in that and those in the Halls of Waiting? The Valar told us we would fade, that it was our destiny, and even in Valinor, we are fading. We are becoming what they want us to become, fleshless, passionless. There is no growth here, no life, the days run into one another like ink into water, until all are the same. And then this...” He turned. “Change, power, a storm that rocked the Halls of Ilmarin itself!”
“Yes.” Glorfindel came to his feet. “Change. Even here there will be change, for the old order has been broken. There will be life and passion, joy for those who want it. Not all will.”
“Thou knowest our father will not greet thee?”
“No-one likes to know that they have been wrong all their life, and that those they revered have also been wrong.” Glorfindel lifted his shoulders. “I accepted father's beliefs long ago, I never expected him to greet me.”
“Know that I love thee.” Finrod stepped forward and kissed Glorfindel's brow and smiled. “Now, tell me.”
The telling was done. Thousands of years and to the last hours when all had changed for the Elves. Finrod had sat down, his eyes inward-looking. Glorfindel and Legolas were absorbed in their own thoughts, but Legolas felt the tautness of his lovers thighs-muscles against his own, the play of fingers over his knuckles.
“Tell me about thyselves,” Finrod spoke at last. “One of the last things thou didst say to me was that thou didst never think to love.”
Glorfindel had deliberately said nothing of that, but now he looked at Legolas with a smile. “Some things are chosen for us from before our birth.”
There was no question of returning to Eryn Lasgalen immediately. It was likely that the wraith would not linger under the High Pass, for he had been outfaced once and would be again. He could not launch an attack on Imladris, for he did not know where it lay. Elrond sent out scouts to watch, but said that both he and Glorfindel would know when he was gone from the north. Until then, he counseled that the Silvan Elves remain in Imladris, and Cedor agreed heavily that they would stay. He said straightly that he would prefer exile than to face Thranduil with the news of his wife and son's death.
As for the thing that had struck Glorfindel and Legolas, which had waited patiently through long ages until they should meet, it flowered fully after the prince had lain in dreamless sleep in the Elf-lord's arms. Glorfindel, much older, could conceal it. He went out on patrols, and had a valid excuse, for he could sense the Úlairi. He did nothing, said nothing, but Legolas' face was transparent and revealed everything. He would wait for Glorfindel's return, look at him when at feast, or the Hall of Fire. But was Glorfindel's kindness born of sympathy? Was he, Legolas, seeking for one to fill the void left by his mother's death? When he was alone, he did consider those questions, but he was still too young to analyze himself, and the force of his emotions pulled his mind otherwhere like a river in spate. All he knew was where love and need drew him. Glorfindel was his lodestone.
Spring melted into summer like a maiden into her lover's embrace. Imladris was a bowl that filled with the sun and held it, and on still days the Elves slept in the hot hours after noon when the scent of herb and flower filled the gardens with drowsy perfume. In the morning the warriors trained and Legolas joined them, for he believed that he too, had failed his mother. She had been holding him! Even when Elrond told him kindly that the Úlairi were the most terrifying servants of the Enemy, and that few could meet them without fear, he remained guilt-stricken. Training with his people was a necessary outlet for that guilt. He tried not to let his mind fix upon that image of his mother's throat snapped like a flower-stem by a gauntleted hand, for he thought his soul would break with the pain. So easily that undead thing had taken her life...! He could only bear the grief when he let it vent through weapons practice, or when he was alone in his bed. Alone, since after that night, Glorfindel had not held him or touched him. He was kind, gentle when he spoke to Legolas, but that was not often, and now he had been gone for eight days, with Tindómion, Elladan, Elrohir and other warriors. Cedor and his Lieutenant had also joined the group and although Elrond appeared at ease, Legolas saw him walking with Erestor, his warrior-counselor, deep in conversation and was worried. He suspected that Glorfindel had gone out with the intention of confronting the wraith and the orcs, and the prince could not shake the fear that he would not return. The thought was unbearable.
The morning turned to a windless noon and he remained at the training ground, dancing about the many-branched 'tree', concentrating wholly on the movement of his body, the strike of his blades against the wood. When he stopped at last, his shirt clung damply to his chest and back.
It was very quiet. From the deep shade of the trees came the muted pipe of birds, but there was no sound of voices. Walking to the water channel that ran into a stone trough Legolas cupped his hands and drank, splashed his face and began to unlace his shirt, before thinking of another place where he could bathe the sweat of practice from him. Not the baths. He had used them before, but on such a day the warriors who had been here earlier, might linger and he wanted to be alone on the little shelf of land where Gil-galad's grave lay. He had been made to understand that he might go there, and while its atmosphere of old sorrow might be expected to exacerbate his grief, he felt rather that he could share it.
He saw no-one as he made his way there. The silver birch which stood sentinel was motionless, and Legolas paused beside the grave in a moment of respect, before he moved to the pool. He folded his clothes and stepped down into water so pure and icy that a gasp of delight was forced from him, and for a time, he simply felt the silken glide against his skin, through his hair, physical sensation rinsing his thoughts away even as the water rinsed away his sweat. When he stepped from the pool he wrung out his hair and then lay upon the grass, watching, far above, the fathomless depths of the sky.
“And the Wraith is gone? You are certain?” Elrond pressed.
“He is gone,” Glorfindel averred. “Though I know not where.”
They had executed the plan perfectly. Cedor had offered to bait the trap with himself and his people. All were eager, and they had gone ahead of the Imladrian warriors. An orc scout had seen a depleted party of Elves enter the pass and pause when night fell to camp where their comrades had died. The orcs had expected the Elves to return, and there was no sweeter lure for them. They had hidden deep in their caves for days after the skirmish, and they had food, for they raided down into the vales of the Anduin. But Elves promised more sport than sheep.
The wraith-lord had acceded to their lusts, which matched his own, and lead them out, but the Elves, alert for them had fled back out of the pass - just far enough ahead to taunt the orcs into following. Sensing Glorfindel's presence, their commander had not tarried to meet him again. He had turned his horse and galloped east, and the orcs were cut to pieces. Not one was left alive.
“I suspect there were more under the Pass,” Glorfindel said. “But they will be wary of attacking any travelers for a long time. Nevertheless, when the prince returns home, Istelion and I will escort him to Anduin.”
He stripped off his gauntlets, glittering and brilliant in the room.
“Where is he?”
Elrond hesitated for a moment, for this was a new Glorfindel to him, one both tormented by his desires for the young prince of Eryn Lasgalen and blazing with them.
“Each morning he trains, sometimes in the evenings. We watch him. He went up to the pool.”
Glorfindel nodded and turned away. Elrond spoke his name and he paused, looked back.
“My friend, he should leave. And soon.”
“I know it.”
“What?” In a swirl of gleaming hair, the Elf-lord whipped around. His eyes were opaque ice, but behind them was a blaze that sent Elrond back a step.
“I do not need advice in this matter from thee, son of Eärendil !”
“I cannot be silent when thou wouldst doom an innocent, one who has hardly attained manhood !”
“Doom an innocent? Is that what thou doth think?”
Elrond knew he had trespassed. Glorfindel's ice-blue eyes seemed to slam against his own.
“I was there when Gil-galad's soul was condemned,” he hissed.
“As was I ! And so we bow under tyranny! But I never intend to return to Aman's cold prison unless by the door of death – and if my soul is sent then into Eternal Night, I will feel no shame, for I will be in mighty company !”
“And that is your choice, but you have no right to drag the son of Thranduil with you !”
“Thranduil does not enforce those laws on his people!”
“Yet they are still the Laws.”
“I held Legolas while he slept, I gave what comfort I could, but I did nothing !” Glorfindel's voice dropped to a deadly quiet. “What dost thou accuse me of?”
“Of wanting him!”
“And that I will admit.” Glorfindel spun lightly away, stopped at the balcony, one hand on the pillar. “Never forget, Peredhel, that I offered my allegiance to Imladris out of loyalty and duty to thy father's House, the House of Finwë; my House, but I owe thee nothing! Do not dare try to rule me!”
Elrond stood rigid as he left. The rage and pride in the last words seemed to linger, resonating in the air, an after-shock of thunder.
Glorfindel strode up the garden to his rooms, then turned about and made for the path to the pool.
The sun's angle had shifted so that Legolas lay in shadow. He was on his side, his flesh moon-pale against the grass, his hair a sweep of gleaming flax. Glorfindel's eyes followed the line of his shoulder down to his flank and long legs, slender and strong, the tight cleft of his buttocks was exposed where one thigh was drawn up in an abandoned, trusting posture. He looked young and vulnerable, tempting as the deep bowls of white mead Glorfindel had drunk upon Taniquetil.
Why? he wondered. Legolas was the antithesis of his previous lovers, both in appearance and in temperament. There was a purity to him, like a pearl gleaming in clear water; that might be his youth, but Glorfindel thought that in a thousand years there would still be that deep shining in him, unsullied by war or life. He wanted to possess it and nurture it, and taste what he had not known since he had been a child running, laughing after his older brother in Tirion.
And it was impossible. This was a prince of a Silvan realm, son of a king who stood proudly aloof from Imladris, Lothlórien and the Mithlond. Elrond had been right. He could not risk Legolas' very soul, and he thought of Tindómion and knew how he had felt all those years, drawn irresistibly to Gil-galad, unable, through conscience and the political climate of Lindon to love him as he hungered to.
He should walk away while the prince slept, bearing the image with him, for with the High Pass safe, Legolas and his people must leave soon. Thranduil needed his son, the comfort of him, a physical reminder of the love he had shared with Níniwen, whose grave lay in a quiet corner of the gardens.
Hot, dusty from travel, Glorfindel took a last lingering look at the sleeping prince and turned away, gazing down over the house. He saw Tindómion standing on his balcony, stripped of armor, wearing only the undergarments of lawn trews and tunic. Erestor was talking to him, and the Fëanorion was gesturing, the eloquence in his hands reminding Glorfindel suddenly and vividly of Maglor. After a moment, Erestor clapped Tindómion on the back and walked away toward Elrond's room. Tindómion turned back inside, doubtless to go to the baths and that brought another memory of his steadfast refusal to bathe with Gil-galad lest his body's reaction betray him. Glorfindel had not bathed when Legolas had been in the baths.
A voice behind him said, “Did you wish to bathe? I can help you with your armor.”
He snapped around. Legolas had risen, his smile singularly sweet, as if he had dreamed pleasantly, and still moved in that world, but his next words showed he was very much in the waking one.
“I was afraid for you.” He moved closer, wary and graceful as a wild creature. Glorfindel could see the rise and fall of his chest, and below, in the pelt of golden hair, the stir of his sex.
“The orcs are destroyed and the wraith has fled.” He knew he sounded stony – stone because he had to be. “I came to tell thee that thou canst return to thy home.”
Legolas blinked and then nodded jerkily.
“And you are not injured? And the others? Cedor?”
“No, I am not. And they are not hurt, either, some bruises and cuts which are healing well.” He essayed a reassuring smile, but the prince only stared at him with eyes clear as dew. He turned, and felt hands on his back, unbuckling the armor, felt the intensity through them, nervousness in the fumble of slim fingers.
He wishes to see that I am not injured. And he wanted to turn and draw Legolas into his arms and make him forget for a time. Instead, he pulled away and said coolly, “Cedor wishes to see thee, to report our mission.”
“Of course.” Legolas sounded flustered. Glorfindel heard the rustle of cloth as he dressed. He was carrying the shirt, as he walked past with his head down-bent, cheeks flushed. The sun struck his head silver as he vanished down the path. And Glorfindel sighed and removed greaves and cuirass and laid them down.
The water worked its coldness on his aching groin and he unraveled the long braids, pulling his hands through them, tugging, needing the distraction of pain.
Legolas had paused once on the path and turned back. Moving silently and smoothly as ground-mist, he flowed rather than walked, to the birch tree. He did not care if Glorfindel saw him or not, but he had all the affinity of his kin for the trees and the light through the leaves painted him with the spatter of sun and shadow, with light and shade; the essence of a wood-Elf blending with the trees he loved. Glorfindel, anyway, did not see him. He was washing the stains of hard travel from him, probably he had not been out of his armor since he left the valley ten days ago, and was absorbed, as Legolas had been, in the sense of clean water against naked skin.
So Legolas watched, hardly breathing, and he too absorbed as Glorfindel climbed from the water. Though the Elf-lord was in shade, he was a creature of Light, superb and shining, silver rivulets illuminating the curve of bone and sinew. He wrung out his hair, then shook it, scattering wet gold.
And Legolas slipped away, the blood in him bursting, hot bubbles in a cauldron of hunger, even as he saw Cedor come from his rooms and look around for him. He ran lightly, greeting the captain with sincere gladness and listened to his report.
“And so we can go,” Cedor ended and Legolas said, “Your bravery has never been in question, Cedor. The king will know that. He has always known it.”
Yes, we will go soon. And unless there is pressing reason, my father would be loathe to ever let me come here again.
Elrond ruled that there would be a feast the next evening, but this night would be one for the warriors to spend time with their spouses or companions. Legolas took the evening meal with his people in the gardens, food and drink laid on the turf, but as the long northern twilight stole over them he excused himself. Cedor said nothing, it was his place to watch over the prince, but not to spy upon him or dog his movements, and he knew, all of them did, what ate at Legolas' heart, twinned with the ache of grief.
There were no lamps lit in Glorfindel's chambers. Legolas swallowed past a prickle of dryness and then turned as light welled behind him. He heard a door close and low voices: Glorfindel and Tindómion. Their tones were soft and intimate and with a sickening lurch to the gut he wondered if they were lovers. They were well matched and kin, and this was Glorfindel, he reminded himself, with all that name implied; grandson of Finwë, nephew to Fëanor and Fingolfin. It was said he had walked away from his father's house, that Finarfin did not recognize him, that his name was struck from the intricate genealogies of the Noldor. He was Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower, not Glorfindel Finarfinion. He had been born in the Blessed Realm, heard the Oath of Fëanor, crossed the Helcaraxë, died, been reborn and returned, alone of all the dead.
Legolas felt his youth as a burden. What could he give one so famed and tragic as Glorfindel, save love?
He moved closer to Tindómion's room, but halted quickly as the voices came closer to the doors, crouching down. If one of them were to look out, the gardens would appear darker after the lamplight, and Legolas knew well how to blend with the shadows.
“I am no counselor,” the Fëanorion said.
“I am mine own counselor in this matter.” Glorfindel's response was stern, as if he imposed that manner upon himself. “But only thou canst understand.”
“I am not the only one.”
“I watched thy desire for Gil-galad gnaw thee like a wolf.”
There was a long silence. From the woods near the Bruinen, a nightingale began to pour out it's resonant paean to the night.
“It was also love,” Tindómion murmured. “It is not only desire in thee, is it? In Lindon, even here, others have looked on thee with hunger. And thou hast looked on others and wanted them. This is deeper, is it not? I see it, in his eyes and thine.”
Motionless in the milk-mild gloom Legolas held his breath.
“Yes, it is deeper and I know not why. I know why I desire him, not why this...other has come upon me.”
“When I first saw Gil, I knew.” So few words, and an age of sorrows in them, thought Legolas. There was the brush of cloth and he knew without seeing that the two were embracing, and that it was a touch indeed of love.
“This is not my struggle now, but thine. There is that between Legolas and thee which all can see.”
“I believed he hated me.”
“Not truly. He thought thou couldst save his mother. He had never seen thee, and there are many rumors of thee. He saw the wraith flee before thee.”
“He is so young, even were there no law against it He is of another kingdom...” There came the sound of wine pouring, the chink of goblets. “And Elrond was right. I cannot doom him, though I choose to doom myself.”
“Does Legolas know of the law? Thranduil does not prohibit such love.”
“I do not know, and I cannot use that excuse.” Glorfindel's voice came closer and Legolas saw him backlit by lamplight; it made his hair a molten cloud, his face gleamed of its own light.
“I cannot take him, Istelion. I know the penalty. And he is young, and of a realm whose king bears the Noldor no love. How could I pull him from his people? I have a duty to Imladris, and he a duty to his kingdom. I understand what this did to thee in Lindon, I saw it and felt it. I did not think to feel it myself.” ~