Upon the House of the Mole no banner or emblem hung, and the silence had enveloped it that day long before sundown. Erestor had decided to go to his chambers early to avoid both Angol, master of the smiths, and Lord Maeglin, the two of whom had been deep in conversation at supper. He had no desire to discover the subject of their council for he feared it would involve him being called upon to report to the forges early in the morning for some new project. As a master smith who specialized in crafting distinctive blades of enduring beauty, Erestor’s skill was highly sought by the Lords and Chiefs of the Great Houses for their personal weaponry. Though he normally would have welcomed the opportunity for a new project or challenge, he did not want to miss the feast of Tarnin Austa upon the morrow.
From his vantage point above the courtyards of the houses Erestor watched the people gather in small groups, all with their faces turned to the east or gazing up at the stars. Some held hands while others stood shoulder to shoulder, not touching but just being together. A few had their arms around each other’s waists or shoulders. Erestor watched them with a pang of jealous longing for he had no one with which to share the festival night. His eyes sought the courtyard of the Golden Flower and he wondered briefly why he tortured himself in this way each year. Watching the two of them together was like taking one of his finely crafted knives and plunging it into his own heart. Yet he could not help himself. His obsession provided him with comfort and strength as well as pain, allowing him a veneer of aloof disinterest while fueling his ambition.
His gaze fell true, for Glorfindel’s golden hair could be seen for some distance and there was no mistaking the color for any other. Raven black was the hair of Glorfindel’s companion but the circlet of silver he wore and his pale skin made him stand out from the crowd as surely as Glorfindel’s golden tresses. “Ecthelion!” he hissed under his breath. The hated name tasted like bile in Erestor’s throat and he sipped strong wine, sinking deeper into his sullen self-loathing. A Lord such as Glorfindel, powerful, charming, beautiful, could hardly be expected to notice a mere smith, whatever his skill. He knew Glorfindel had heard of him, for he had many commissions from the House of the Golden Flower, and he had seen Glorfindel’s eyes upon him once or twice at the few feasts and ceremonies he had attended with the nobles present regarding him with what he imagined was a sort of curious disdain.
He gave a derisive snort and took another long drink of wine, finishing the glass. Not that it mattered if Glorfindel knew his name. There was only one direction that golden sun shone. Erestor watched Glorfindel put a hand on Ecthelion’s shoulder. They turned their heads to look at each other and smiled. Erestor saw red. . .
“What is your name?” a voice said impatiently.
Erestor looked up at last with vacant eyes, dimly aware the man had been asking the question for some time. “Er-Erestor,” he croaked.
The Elf nodded and patted him on the shoulder. “Tuor wants us to keep track of the refugees. I am Voronwë and you need to report to me each day, do you understand?”
“Yes, yes, of course,” Erestor said. Tears spilled unbidden from his eyes and Voronwë squeezed his shoulder and moved on.
‘Gone, all gone.’
Erestor’s mind reeled as he replayed that last night over in his mind. The flames, he could still see the flames, hear the terrified shrieks of women and children cut down by. . . He shook his head and wiped his eyes, hastily looking around to see if anyone saw. His gaze took in the empty, devastated faces of the people around him and he realized that even if anyone was looking, they would not judge him for a few tears. Yet if he gave in to them he knew he would not be able to stop.
That golden hair. How brightly it shone in the darkness of battle, given the radiance of a nimbus by the Balrog’s flaming whip. How small, yet how determined, had the tall Glorfindel looked as he raised his sword against Morgoth’s terrible minion. How he had fought. Fought when others cowered, fought when there was no hope, dragged into the abyss when his moment of victory was at hand. A part of Erestor lay, now and forever, in that mound of earth where Glorfindel now slept.
Erestor could bear the memories no longer. He rose and cast about the camp for something to do, some comfort he could give. A few from the House of the Mole were huddled together across the camp and as he approached them, he passed by Tuor who was stroking the hair of the sleeping Eärendil. The boy wore a little mail coat with a visible dent in the rings where a blade had been turned aside. Erestor paused to stare and Tuor glanced up and saw him standing there.
“He was very brave, my Eärendil,” Tuor said. “You should have seen how he bit Maeglin’s hand when the traitor tried to stab him.” His eyes shone with pride.
Erestor’s heart withered at Tuor’s words. Maeglin had tried to stab the child? He thought of the knife Maeglin always wore on his belt, the one he had crafted for him as a gift so many years ago. The thought that his lord might have used it in an attempt to kill Tuor’s son was too much. He nodded mutely and fled to the group from his former house.
Nindúath was there, Celuhigil and Ruimir also, along with a few others he did not recognize. When they saw him they greeted him and bade him sit with them.
“Erestor! Thank the Powers you made it,” Ruimir said.
“We have little to thank the Powers for today it seems,” Erestor replied.
“Indeed, we escaped with so few,” Celuhigil agreed. If Ovorhadron had not come to fetch me I would never have made it.”
“Nor I,” said Erestor. “Where is Ovorhadron? I have not seen him since he sent me to the House of the Wing and bade me take the tunnel.”
“Alas, he stayed behind to look for Lord Maeglin and has not been seen since. We thought you might have fallen at the Eagle’s Cleft when the orcs attacked because we lost sight of you as well.”
“An orc separated me from the line. I felled it right before Glorfindel. . .” Erestor choked and fell silent.
“Ai, poor Glorfindel,” Nindúath said. “I have never witnessed such selfless courage.”
The others nodded and silence enveloped the group as each fell to their own thoughts for a moment.
“What shall we do now?” Celuhigil said at last. “Where shall we go?”
“Wherever Tuor leads us,” Nindúath said. “What choice do we have?”
Lindir was singing about Glorfindel. . . again. Erestor sighed and closed his eyes. The scene of that golden hair clutched in the dying demon’s hand, dragging Glorfindel into the abyss, played in his mind’s eye, as vivid as the moment it happened. Now the song soared in a crescendo of triumph, a paean to the courage and sacrifice of the warrior who saved Tuor and Eärendil and Erestor’s heart soared with it. Though the bitterness of those days remained, Erestor’s feelings for Glorfindel had never waned and only Lindir seemed capable of capturing the beauty and purity of Erestor’s memories. Lindir sang his last notes and the hall fell silent as the sound slowly died away, the listeners still caught up in the spell woven by his passionate performance.
The hall then came alive as people called out their appreciation of Lindir’s skill. With a smile and bow he exited the dais for a break. Erestor watched him as he went to pour himself a glass of wine, basking in the well wishes of the Elves in the hall. The latest refugee from Ost-in-Edhil, Lindir had arrived in Imladris alone after much wandering, having barely escaped Sauron’s attack on the city. He presented himself before Elrond with the tattered clothes on his back and an unstrung harp his only possessions, a broken shell of a man. Upon his arrival, he jumped at every loud sound, trembled when sitting still, paced when not sitting, and stayed well away from any form of song or merriment. Erestor had been instrumental in bringing him back from the brink of despair and now the two were fast friends.
He reminded Erestor of himself in many ways, he was as devoted to his music as any craftsman to his art. He was sensitive and unlucky in love, having been rejected by Celebrimbor in his youth. Yet where Erestor was introspective, Lindir was outgoing, where Erestor considered many angles before making a decision, Lindir jumped right in with little thought for the consequences. As friends they balanced each other, and Erestor never missed his performances in the Hall of Fire. In fact, Erestor was the one who had given him his collected songs and stories of Glorfindel.
After Gondolin, Erestor had been as lost and alone as Lindir. He had followed Tuor to the Mouths of the Sirion with the other smiths, glad that their skills were accepted and needed despite their origin, for he feared his association with the House of the Mole might have doomed him to be outcast. Erestor, as senior among the surviving smiths, became their master. Yet his heart was no longer in the craft and he eventually fell into a consulting role, working with the apprentices to pass on the techniques he had perfected over his years in Gondolin. When Elves began to turn to shipbuilding, Erestor welcomed the opportunity to learn this new craft, but it was when he sailed to the Isle of Balar for the first time and met Círdan that his life took its final and most surprising turn.
The shipwright was the oldest Elf Erestor had ever met, and the most wise. The death of Elwë Thingol had hit him hard, for they had been close long before Elwë had married Melian and become the leader of the Sindar in Doriath. It was Círdan who had awakened Erestor’s interest in history and lore, encouraged him to write and collect stories from the survivors of Gondolin. Erestor had embraced this notion as a revelation and began to gather together the stories and songs of Glorfindel which still circulated through the settlement. This led him to collect the stories and songs of all the Houses of Gondolin, as well as to keep journals of his own experiences.
In the process he discovered how quickly the stories of people who lived through an event could turn a person’s memory into legend. The subtle changes and exaggerations elevated some to heroes and cast others down as villains. Erestor became an expert at discerning the changes and exaggerations woven into the histories and was determined to retell them without the sentimental veneer that plagued other writers. He had succeeded, only to find that a certain sentimentalism could often lead to a deeper truth. Lindir had driven the point home with his songs, which inspired his listeners even as they immortalized his subjects.
Now he waved Lindir over and bade him sit in the chair next to him. Lindir complied with a grateful sigh, stretching out his legs and giving Erestor a wide grin. “How did you enjoy the performance, Master Erestor?”
“Do not tease me, Lindir. You know how I feel about the subject of your song tonight,” Erestor replied. “But, as always, you bring him alive for me. For us,” he amended, sipping his wine.
“He is alive, Erestor. Somewhere.”
“Somewhere,” Erestor said sulkily, “does me no good.”
Lindir gave a mirthless chuckle and took a sip from his glass. “Would you declare yourself to him if he were here? You never did in all your time in Gondolin.”
“He had someone else then, as you well know if you’ve read my books. I am sure the two of them are happy in Aman, so your question is irrelevant.”
“Then the answer is no,” Lindir teased.
Erestor scowled but could not maintain his displeasure in the face of Lindir’s good humor. A rueful smile quirked the corner of his mouth.
“Would that I could put aside my resentment as easily as you,” Erestor said. “I still lament the circumstances that kept us apart. I lament my anger at him and the feelings that haunt me still, though their object is long gone beyond my reach.”
Lindir put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I am not as sanguine as I appear, my friend. I loved Celebrimbor as I have never loved another, but I cannot hang on to what might have been when I have so much here. I was lucky to find myself on this side of Mandos when the orcs came. What is the Edain saying? ‘Where there is life, there is hope’.”
Erestor chuckled. “I suppose that is true for the Edain.”
“You are the one who helped me see it is true for Elves as well,” Lindir said.
“Forgive my gloomy mood, Lindir. I have been out of sorts of late but for what reason I cannot tell. Perhaps I am getting old.”
Lindir gave a musical little laugh. “When you grow your beard, my friend, then I will start to worry.”
Later that evening, after all the wine had been drunk, all the stories told, and all the songs sung, Erestor retired to his bedchamber. He looked out his window onto the garden below and thought how deceptively peaceful it looked, not unlike the city of Gondolin so long ago. Sauron might be a lesser being than Morgoth but his lust for power and his ability to deceive others to their doom was as great a threat. How long would Imladris hold before the inevitable? Most of the time Erestor was as steadfast as Elrond in the defense of the valley but he felt strangely vulnerable tonight. He shook off the feeling and readied himself for bed. Tomorrow the sun would shine on the valley, all would be well, for a time at least, and he would be ready to fight the long defeat once more.
He had barely had time to close his eyes when a knock sounded on the door. Wearily he rose and opened the door to see Elrond standing there. He was alarmed because Elrond would never bother him in the middle of the night unless something of importance was happening. Elrond seemed to sense this for he hastened to assure him.
“Forgive me for disturbing you, Erestor, but I have just received a message from the Havens. It is not bad news but I think it is something you would like to know.”
“Come in,” Erestor said, tightening the belt on his robe. “Is it something to do with Círdan? Is he well?”
“Círdan is well. The message concerns a guest he has hosted who is now making his way to Imladris. Someone just come from Valinor.”
“Who? Who has sailed from Valinor?” Erestor felt his stomach take a dive. This was a momentous event indeed.
“It is Glorfindel. He has been sent back to Middle-earth by the Valar.”
Erestor felt as if his legs were crumbling beneath him. He stumbled to a chair and sat down heavily. “How, how is this possible?”
“The Valar have sent him back to aid us in our fight against Sauron,” Elrond said. “I have seen this possibility for some time but I hesitated to tell you until I was certain, lest it not come to pass.”
“But now it has come to pass and you rushed here to tell me,” Erestor said irritably, still in shock. “Why could you not have hinted of the possibility at least? The journey cannot take more than a few weeks.”
“He will be here in three days. The message came from his herald.”
Erestor leapt to his feet and began pacing the floor. “Three days? Elrond, what have you done to me? I must go, I cannot stay, not if he is coming here.”
“Please, Erestor, calm yourself. I know your feelings for him but he has chosen to come here and help defend us, and fight with us if it comes to it. You cannot leave. He will see you as a familiar face. He will need that, do you not see?”
“I would wager I would be the last person he would want to see, considering the circumstances,” Erestor snapped.
“All that was so long ago,” Elrond said. “I am sure he would only think of you as someone who has been there. Someone who understands. He will be going through a big readjustment coming here. I would consider it a personal favor if you would ease his way into our community.”
“You play dirty, Elrond. What can I say to a declaration like that? Do you know what it will cost me to see him again? To know he is so near and yet still as distant as the farthest star?”
“I would not ask this of just anyone,” Elrond said. “You are more than you believe yourself to be, Erestor. You have been my counselor since coming to Imladris and have never steered me false. I rely on you in ways I doubt you even know. Please, do this for me. I need you.”
Erestor sighed and fell into his chair again. “I cannot refuse you, Elrond. You have made this place a haven for me and all who have suffered at the hands of Morgoth and Sauron. It is only fitting I should do what I can to help Glorfindel. I will do as you ask.”
“Thank you, Erestor. This means a lot to me.” Elrond graced him with a smile that would melt butter. “I knew I could count on you.”
Erestor paced his room, glancing out the window from time to time though there was nothing to see. He had been listening all morning for the fanfare that would announce Glorfindel’s arrival and each passing moment added to his nervous state. When the fanfare finally came, the sweet silver trumpets fell upon his ears like the sound of doom. Just as he had done before many a mêlée, Erestor forced himself into a calm, focused mental state and then, ready to do battle, he went to greet the Last Homely House’s latest guest.
Glorfindel and his retinue were arriving in the courtyard just as Erestor stepped from the house, the sight of him nearly sending Erestor to his knees. How could one die and still be so beautiful, he wondered. Glorfindel sat upon a snow white stallion with a silver mane. The horse had an ornate headstall with tassels and silver bells that played a merry tune, but Erestor only had eyes for the rider. Glorfindel looked every inch an Elf Lord, taller than Erestor remembered, his golden hair unbound and flowing over his broad shoulders. He smiled to see Elrond and then his gaze fell upon Erestor and he froze, only for a fraction of a second, but it was as though Erestor had been kicked in the teeth by his magnificent stallion. He gave a stiff little bow and forced himself to move forward.
Glorfindel dismounted, moving to meet him, and Erestor found himself staring into the eyes he had only ever seen from a distance, piercing aquamarine eyes. The sea was in those eyes, the sky, the point where a cloudless sky met a restless ocean at exactly the time of day when. . . Erestor mentally shook himself.
“Lord Glorfindel,” he said, extending his hand, “welcome to Imladris.”
“Erestor, isn’t it? I remember you. It is good to be here,” Glorfindel replied, grasping his forearm in a warrior’s handshake.
Erestor detected a touch of the old contempt and he met it with poised assurance. “Yes, it is I,” Erestor replied boldly. “It has been a long time.”
Glorfindel gave him a strange little smile. “A very long time indeed.”
“May I show you to your rooms? I am sure you would like to freshen up after your long journey.” Erestor’s voice was shaky but he was lucky any sound issued forth at all. He could barely speak, barely think, the world shrinking until there was only the space between the two of them.
“Yes, I would like that,” Glorfindel replied.
Erestor tried to remain calm as he led Glorfindel to the rooms Elrond had set aside for him. They were in one of the tall towers that commanded a view just above the treetops of the surrounding forest with the white capped peaks of the Hithaeglir in the far distance. The rooms were spacious and full of light with sturdy, natural wood walls hung with tapestries. When Glorfindel saw it he nodded in approval, seemingly pleased.
“The baths are on the other side of the breezeway here, and your bedchamber is in there,” Erestor said, gesturing. “If you have need of service you may use the bell pull. You are far from the rest of the house but Elrond thought that would be best so you would not be disturbed. I will be happy to give you a tour later if you wish.” Erestor fell silent. Glorfindel was looking at him curiously and he felt like he was rambling.
“You were from the House of the Mole, were you not? Erestor the Smith.”
“Yes, I was a smith back then,” Erestor said. “I did not know you knew who I was.”
“Everyone knew of you,” Glorfindel said. “Erestor of the Mole. You were the finest swordsmith in Gondolin.”
Erestor blushed. “I hardly imagine. . .”
“No, truly you were,” Glorfindel insisted. “You used to watch me a lot of the time too I think. I recall your eyes. . .”
“You flatter yourself, Lord Glorfindel,” Erestor said tersely. “Now, if you will excuse me. I have duties to perform.”
“Yes, of course,” Glorfindel said. He seemed a bit taken aback.
Erestor fled the room and Glorfindel called after him. “When you are finished, perhaps you would be kind enough to give me that tour.”
A few hours later Erestor was hiding in his study, cataloging an anthology of personal accounts of Gondolin when a knock sounded upon the door. He answered it to find Glorfindel standing there. He had changed from his traveling clothes into a simple forest green tunic and trousers, a much simpler look than the lordly garb of Erestor’s memories. Even so, he looked to Erestor’s eyes more refined in his modest attire than any king dripping with jewels and finery. His heart did a flip of joy and his brain smacked it like an unruly puppy.
“Is there something I can do for you?” he said coolly.
“I came to apologize,” Glorfindel said. “I seem to have upset you, though I’m not certain why.”
“No, not at all,” Erestor lied. “I am just very busy. If you’ll excuse me.” He started to shut the door but Glorfindel craned his neck, looking over Erestor’s shoulder.
“What are you working on?”
Erestor colored. “Nothing you would be interested in, I’m sure,” he said hastily. “Come, I will take you on the tour I promised.”
“But your work?”
“It will wait.”
Erestor tried to forget who he was with as he showed Glorfindel around the Last Homely House but everywhere they went, people stared and whispered as they passed. Though he felt as awestruck as any of Glorfindel's admirers, he tried to maintain a dispassionate air. He reminded himself with some antipathy that he was even less than they for he had felt the same for Glorfindel all those years ago and had nothing to show for it but wretched memories. Yet as they walked, Glorfindel greeted those he met with such a natural grace and warmth that Erestor admired him all the more.
When they came to the back garden, Erestor turned to Glorfindel with a wan smile. “And there you have it. There is always a gathering in the Hall of Fire after supper. I hope to see you there.”
“You do not mean that,” Glorfindel gave him a sad little smile in return.
“Why do you say that?” Erestor said. “I want for you to feel at home here. I know your return must be difficult.”
“Not as difficult as the hardships the Noldor have faced I should think.”
“Obviously there is curiosity, questions about what happens when we. . .”
“It is a situation best avoided,” Glorfindel said shortly.
“Of course. Forgive me,” Erestor said.
Glorfindel’s eyes took on a wistful look and he turned his gaze away. “Thank you for showing me around, Erestor. Seeing you has brought back some pleasant memories. I will bid you farewell so you may return to your work.”
Erestor stood in the hall speechless. What game was Glorfindel playing? First Glorfindel all but accused him of stalking him and now he was acting like he had hurt him in some way. Pleasant memories? Well, Erestor supposed, they would be pleasant for Glorfindel, a great and noble lord with a perfect life and beautiful lover. He felt the old jealousy rise up and went back to his study. He sat down and picked up the next page of the narrative he had been preparing to catalogue when he had been interrupted. It was a story from a servant at the House of the Heavenly Arch relating how Glorfindel had helped him when he had been falsely accused of stealing a rare jewel. Glorfindel had argued his case before Egalmoth and helped uncover the true culprit, saving the servant from punishment and his family from disgrace.
He turned the page to find another story of Glorfindel and how he had quarreled with Tuor over a horse, almost causing an irreparable rift between the two Great Houses. After long years of reading and archiving such stories Erestor had no illusions about his idol. Glorfindel could be prideful and headstrong to the point of hurting those around him but he was, in a very real sense, the hero of legend.
So why was he treating him so coldly? He thought about his promise to Elrond to make Glorfindel feel at home and how miserably he had failed today. He felt more like a failure now than he had all those years ago when he watched Glorfindel with a desire bordering on obsession. Perhaps he wanted to fail. The thought shocked him, but not as much as it should have, which gave him pause. Erestor went back to his pages, glancing over the reproduction of a page from Maeglin’s journal. One of the Elves from the House must have managed to rescue it before taking the tunnel to safety. It had been a long time since Erestor had read any of Maeglin’s writings but now a passage about Idril caught his eye.
“As fair as the snows of the mountain/as soft as a summer breeze/ Idril shines more brightly than the stars above the trees/ Yet cold as the snow is her bearing / a wind that destroys as it blows/ her luster as false as her caring/ a serpent in deadly repose.”
Erestor’s throat clenched at the longing turned to venom he saw in those lines, stunned to realize how closely they paralleled his feelings for Glorfindel. All the years he had dogged his steps, dreamed about a love he had never had the courage to voice. At least his former master had acted from feelings of rejection. Glorfindel had never rejected Erestor because Erestor had beaten him to it. He was a complete fool.
He thought of how it was not until after the city fell that the full story of Maeglin’s treachery had come to light. So driven was he by his desire he had brought about the destruction of a people and culture unequaled outside Aman.
Erestor pushed himself away from the desk and wept.
It wasn’t until after Glorfindel retired for the evening that Erestor left the study at last. He had avoided both supper and the Hall of Fire claiming he had some work he wanted to finish, and while Elrond was obviously disappointed he was also understanding. When Erestor received word from a page that Glorfindel had gone to his rooms, he slipped up the stairs feeling strangely guilty, like a child sneaking a forbidden sweetmeat, checking this way and that to make sure he was not seen.
He stood outside Glorfindel’s door, wiping his sweaty palms on his robes when he heard a voice behind him that made him jump.
“Are you looking for me, Master Erestor?”
It was Glorfindel, coming down the hall from the bath with only a towel wrapped around his waist. His golden hair was damp and brushed back from his face, making his eyes appear larger and bluer, if such a thing were possible. His strong arms and chest looked sculpted from alabaster but moved with a warm, supple grace. Erestor’s eyes followed a droplet of water down that muscular torso until it disappeared into the towel, sliding on down of their own accord to the slight bulge beneath. He jerked his head up quickly, red faced and flustered.
“I. . . I wanted to speak with you, Lord Glorfindel, but I should come back later.”
“No, please come in. I would be glad for the company.”
Erestor followed him in and Glorfindel motioned him to a chair then disappeared into his bedchamber. He returned a moment later in a long white lounging robe embroidered in gold. It gaped open at the neck just enough to give Erestor a distracting glimpse of creamy flesh.
“Old habits die hard,” Erestor said.
Erestor indicated Glorfindel’s robe. “The threads on your robe are gold, just like your clothing back in Gondolin.”
Glorfindel smiled faintly. “This was a gift from Manwë. The Valar like to dress us cunningly, and I have always looked good in gold.”
“What is it like, Aman?” Erestor asked.
“Splendid. More splendid than Gondolin, despite Turgon’s efforts. There is nowhere like it in all of Eä.”
“And yet you do not sound sad to have left.”
“Each place has its attractions. Aman has the advantage of peace. Middle-earth has the advantage of freedom.” Glorfindel shrugged.
“Do you think there is a chance to defeat Sauron?” Erestor asked.
“I would not be here if I did not.”
Erestor nodded. He looked at his hands and paused. “May I ask a question? You do not have to answer.”
“When you said seeing me gave you some pleasant memories. . . I . . . Well, frankly, I didn’t know if you would even remember me, and if you did how you would feel about me, being from the House of the Mole. I guess what I’m asking is, what memories were you speaking of?”
Glorfindel smiled and the tips of his ears turned pink. Erestor marveled at his seeming embarrassment. He would never have believed Glorfindel could be shy or hesitant to speak his mind. “I remembered seeing you at the festivals and coming from the forges in late evening. My window overlooked the courtyard of the Mole. You were dark and mysterious, brooding. I knew you to be highly intelligent and an unparalleled craftsman. I remember your eyes, how there was an intensity in them.” Glorfindel lowered his lashes. “I had always hoped one day to see them look upon me with favor.”
Erestor felt suddenly weak. “If you knew how I watched you, why did you never speak to me?”
“I could not bring myself to ask your master for an introduction. I often detected, or imagined so, disapproval in your eyes. I feared you disliked me.”
Erestor looked at him, horrified. “Never!” he avowed. “I loved you, Glorfindel, it was myself I loathed. I knew I could never measure up to Ecthelion. . .”
“What does Ecthelion have to do with it?” Glorfindel asked, puzzled.
“Was he not your lover? The rumors were that you were together.”
Glorfindel burst out laughing so suddenly it made Erestor start. “Forgive me, Erestor, but I thought that rumor was dead long before I. Ecthelion was never more than a very good friend.”
“But you were always together. That last night, on Tarnin Austa, you and he were together in the courtyard with your arms around each other.”
“Ecthelion is the demonstrative type,” Glorfindel said. “He has always been thus.”
“So all those years I was watching you, thinking you had a lover, and you were watching me, thinking me brooding and unapproachable, and neither of us with the courage to simply speak to each other to find out the truth,” Erestor said with a bitter laugh.
“Perhaps Manwë is more canny than I have given him credit for,” Glorfindel said.
“He placed us again in each other’s path.”
Glorfindel’s words lifted the veil from Erestor’s eyes and for the first time he was able to see the path of his life as a road leading toward something rather than a wearisome, never-ending trek through shadow. The dark mantle of his self-imposed bitterness fell away and he stood and held out his hand to Glorfindel, who took it gladly. The two walked to the balcony and put their arms around each other, looking up at the stars as Erestor had watched Glorfindel and Ecthelion do with so much envy on that fateful summer long ago.
Erestor lay with his cheek on a warm expanse of pulsing flesh, soft breath stirring his unbound hair, his fingers interlocked with Glorfindel’s, arms and legs entwined. Birdsong filtered in through the open window, filling his lightly dozing mind with peaceful contentment. In the distance the sun flooded over the peaks of the Hithaeglir and spilled down into the yet slumbering valley, making its way slowly across the treetops into Glorfindel’s bedchamber. A new day was dawning but not just a new day, a new beginning, a new life. What was it the Edain would say? “Where there is life, there is hope.”