At First Sight
This is an amateur effort and not intended to infringe on the rights of J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien or any other copyright holder. No monetary profit is being made.
Time: S.A. 1697
Glorfindel sighed softly, reaching to pat the neck of his horse as the animal snorted with annoyance. The stallion was not pleased at all with the dampness in his fur and had been trying to convince his rider to go faster for a while, reasoning that at the end of their journey there would be a warm stable. Glorfindel was inclined to agree with the horse, but the path was too steep and slippery to go much faster. Besides, it was only a drizzle and no longer a downpour like in the morning. Things could have been worse.
He told the stallion so, but was not surprised to hear an indignant neigh in response. The horse was disagreeing with him so often that Glorfindel was suspecting it was on purpose. But he had needed a mount, and could hardly have declined when presented with the animal.
After a little while they reached a small river, the confirmation Glorfindel had desperately needed to be convinced that he had not gotten lost. The descriptions he had been given had seemed clear at first, but as the days had passed he had begun to wonder whether the maps he had been shown had been correct. Nobody had seemed completely certain about it, though they had been busy to assure him that he could hardly overlook such a large group of soldiers.
This particular group of soldiers was good at hiding, Glorfindel had decided. There had been no traces of them at all so far, even though they were supposed to be in the vicinity somewhere. The disturbing possibility had crossed his mind that perhaps there was nobody left for him to discover anymore, but he had pushed those thoughts away and concentrated on looking harder.
It was a small river, not nearly as broad or deep as some of the others he had crossed by now. The horse walked into the water surprisingly willing, stepping cautiously to avoid stumbling.
The command made Glorfindel flinch and reach for his sword almost instinctively. After a moment, though, his mind caught up with what was happening and he decided that it perhaps would be wiser to not do anything threatening. Sentries had to be expected if an army camped nearby.
Two elves emerged from the bushes at the riverbank, watching him warily.
"What are you doing here?" one of them asked, sounding none too friendly.
"I come from the High King," Glorfindel answered, omitting Gil-galad's name. He did not like to say it, not yet. In his mind another name was attached to that title still, and after slipping for the first time he had decided that it would be better to stick to the title alone until he could be certain he would not mix up Ereinion and Turgon.
The elves exchanged a quick glance, then motioned for him to continue crossing the river. The horse moved before Glorfindel could nudge him into motion, obviously eager to get his legs out of the cold water. Once safely on the riverbank he snorted in indignation, but seemed more inclined to obey his rider again.
"Do you know the way to Imladris?" the elf who had spoken before asked, a bit less hostile now.
Glorfindel shook his head. "I have not been here before."
The elf considered this. "Some of us are about to head back, so you could go with them," he suggested. "The path is not easy to follow if you don't know it."
"I would be grateful," Glorfindel said.
They waited together in silence after a few token attempts at conversation. The sentry was clearly unwilling to let himself drawn into discussions of any sort, and Glorfindel soon gave up and instead entertained himself by trying to spot the hidden elves who were guarding the ford. There were surprisingly many of them, almost as if they were expecting attacks at any moment.
Soon while a group of riders joined them, and the sentry quickly informed their leader that Glorfindel would accompany them. The elf did not seem concerned about the news at all, but when he glanced at Glorfindel, he completely froze for a moment. Grey eyes studied him intently before he motioned for the group to set out.
Not sure what to make of this, Glorfindel followed them. Some of the riders were giving him curious looks, but none seemed as startled at seeing him as their leader had been. Perhaps it had just been surprise at hearing that he had come from the High King; there had not been much communication between Imladris and Lindon lately due to the increased dangers on the roads. Only the necessary messengers were being sent to maintain contact.
After they had ridden in silence for a while, the leader of the group, a dark-haired elf, rode closer to him. "Lindir says that you come from the High King."
Glorfindel nodded. "I do," he confirmed, briefly turning his attention to the path when his horse hesitated before finding a way around some fallen branches.
"But..." The elf shook his head. "I know you."
Looking up in surprise, Glorfindel searched the elf's face. Had he met this one before? The elf did not look familiar at all to him. Maybe someone from Lindon... Frowning, Glorfindel tried to remember seeing this face before but came to no conclusion. Which left other possibilities, of course. But as far as he could remember he had not met this elf at any point in his life.
"You do?" he asked, patting his stallion's neck and receiving a quiet neigh in response. "Have we met before?"
The elf nodded, running a hand through his dark hair somewhat nervously.
Glorfindel gave him an apologetic smile. "I am afraid I cannot remember you," he admitted.
"You wouldn't... I was only an elfling then..."
"When?" Glorfindel asked, truly intrigued by now, and a little confused as to why the other should look so uncomfortable.
The elf sighed softly. "In the last days of Gondolin. I am sorry..."
Glorfindel was not really listening to the apology; he was too occupied with attempting to make sure that his face did not betray the sudden uneasiness he felt at being reminded of that particular time. The memories of his former life were distant, but that did not make them less real. And for some reason, the more unpleasant events had the tendency to sometimes seem far too close. It happened far less frequently now than during the time immediately following his rebirth, and it was easier to handle those moments. He had been told to be patient, that with the passing of time he would be able to look back at the events of his first life without being affected by them. But for now, some things were still a little too close for comfort.
Looking at him, the elf met his eyes. "I should not have brought this up."
"Never mind." Firmly pushing the ache away, Glorfindel returned his attention to the other. "Would you tell me your name?"
Erestor... Memories of a small boy came to his mind. Ears too big for his narrow child face, tousled dark hair, snub nose. Wide gray eyes, filled with anxiety after getting caught in the stall of Ecthelion's favorite stallion.
The ears had improved, Glorfindel thought.
"You have grown," he said, smiling a little. "Are you still trying to ride dangerous horses when nobody is watching?"
Erestor looked relieved, and also somewhat embarrassed. "After that scolding from you and Ecthelion, I stayed away from them."
Glorfindel raised an eyebrow. "All these years?"
Shrugging, Erestor nodded. "I found that well-mannered horses are not unpleasant either," he said.
"No, they aren't," Glorfindel agreed. "So what brings you here?"
"Elrond needed commanders for his army, and I was willing to come with him."
"I see..." A simple reason indeed, but one that could hold a lot of implications. "What made you so willing to come? If you don't mind me asking."
Erestor considered this for a moment. "Probably the same that has made you come here," he answered eventually.
"How would you know why I am here?"
"I don't. But I can make guesses, and there are not many reasons for someone like you to be here at this moment. Gil-galad must have had something in mind when he sent you, and I do not doubt that his motivation was to send support."
"It was," Glorfindel confirmed. "But you seem to be doing well here, if the guards at the river are any indication. I thought that the situation was worse when he asked me to leave Lindon."
Erestor sighed. "Do not let appearances fool you. At the moment we are doing well, but we cannot last forever. We need all the help we can get, and Gil-galad cannot spare many warriors these days, and even if he could it would be difficult to bring them here. I'm amazed that you could get through to Imladris on your own."
Glorfindel thought of the Orcs he had seen on his journey. Mostly he had managed to avoid being seen by them; their guard was relatively low still, and a single rider could still slip through their net. The few times he had been spotted, the fights had been brief and not truly worth lingering on. After the Balrog, Glorfindel had found that a few Orcs no longer were as bad as they had been before.
"I was fortunate," he said.
Nodding in agreement, Erestor briefly ducked to avoid a low branch. "Be cautious, the path becomes more difficult here. We have not had time yet to improve it."
"You are planning a road then?" Glorfindel asked, taking up the reins a bit more. "I did not know that Imladris is going to be more than a temporary stronghold." He could see the reasoning behind making this place a permanent base; the valley provided a natural defense and the ford across the river was not too complicated to control either.
"So far it is not much more than a camp. But we will have to spend the winter here, and there are so many refugees arriving these days... most are not warriors, but we have enough hands for the construction work. And it helps them to not feel useless and out of place."
"A wise move."
"Elrond thought of it."
"Then he must be wise."
"He is," Erestor said simply.
Erestor's opinion of Elrond was accurate, Glorfindel soon discovered.
They had reached Imladris without any incident, and Glorfindel couldn't help being impressed by what he saw. He was not certain what he had been expecting - tents maybe, or swiftly erected huts. He certainly had not pictured Imladris to look so... firm. It was easy to see that the buildings were still new and in some cases not finished, but it was clear that much thought had gone into them, and that they were being constructed to last longer than the time the troops would be here. Gil-galad had not mentioned any of this, and Glorfindel was beginning to suspect that he did not know yet to what extents Elrond was taking his responsibility to defend their position.
Erestor had pointed him in the direction of what looked like it was going to be the main building and had then excused himself, pleading a need to coordinate the patrols. The dark-haired elf had been reluctant to leave, but had done so after Glorfindel promised that they would continue their talk once they had the opportunity to do so.
The elves in the building all looked to be busy; most of them were hurrying around with their arms full of maps and scrolls, but still had enough time to be helpful, and Glorfindel was soon standing in the doorway to Elrond's study.
There was no door in the frame yet, so he simply stepped inside and looked around. There was nobody at the large desk, but a soft rustling of paper directed his attention towards one of the corners of the room.
An elf was kneeling on the floor, bent over a large map that wouldn't have fitted onto the crowded desk. His dark hair, tidily braided, had slipped over his shoulders, but he did not seem to be disturbed by it as he intently studied something.
Glorfindel cleared his throat, trying to draw attention to himself.
"Just put it on the desk," the elf said without looking up, sounding quite distracted as he reached for a small scrap of paper and made some notes.
For a moment Glorfindel contemplated leaving again, but then decided against it.
"Lord Elrond?" he asked, wondering whether he was even addressing the right elf. But it would be unlikely that anyone but the one he had been looking for would be here.
The elf looked up, appeared to sigh softly, then got to his feet. "Yes?"
"I apologize for disturbing your work."
Elrond gestured dismissively. "It can wait for a moment," he said, straightening his tunic. He looked dusty, Glorfindel noticed. Almost as if he had been out with one of the patrols and the dirt from the road had dried. For a moment he felt surprised, then realized that it was only to be expected that in a place and a time like this, nobody would easily be able to completely stay away from the task of guarding. It was a good sign that Elrond did not avoid the less intellectual aspects of leadership; nobody followed a commander who thought himself too precious to get dirty.
"If you are sure... I will not take much of your time."
Nodding, Elrond studied him. "Take as much as necessary," he said. "Why are you here?"
Glorfindel hesitated. He did not want to say that the Valar had sent him in an attempt to improve the odds in favor of the elves; even though it was true, it sounded far too pompous to his ears. For a moment he wished Círdan were here to explain everything, like he had done when Gil-galad had asked the same question.
Elrond was still watching him, and Glorfindel found that he felt uneasy under the scrutiny of those gray eyes. Nevertheless he did not look away, not really seeing the point of doing so.
"I am here to help," he eventually said.
The gray eyes narrowed at this, and Glorfindel felt himself oddly reminded of Turgon attempting to solve a puzzle.
"Who are you?"
Glorfindel told him his name.
To his credit, Elrond did not appear surprised. He walked over to the window and looked out into the rain, his hands resting on the unfinished windowsill. There was a strange stillness about him, a concentration Glorfindel could not remember having seen before.
"I cannot help wondering how desperate the Valar must judge our situation if they feel the need to send one of our most valiant warriors of old back to us."
Glorfindel shook his head, even though Elrond still had his back turned to him. "Not valiant," he said calmly, not out of modesty but because he did not feel that the word was fitting. "There is nothing particularly valiant about fighting for survival."
Elrond still did not move. "I think there is when the survival you fight for is not your own," he said.
There was nothing he could reply to this, so Glorfindel remained silent.
Straightening, Elrond pushed himself away from the windowsill and stepped towards the middle of the room again. "I am not certain what to think of this," he mused, making the words sound more like a simple statement than an admission. "You are welcome here, of course, very welcome. And I will be grateful for any help you can lend us. But I must confess that this comes somewhat unexpectedly."
"It is not much less surprising to me than to you that I am here," Glorfindel assured him, thinking back to the moment when he had been told to return to Middle-earth. In a way he had known that the request would come, but it had startled him nevertheless because somehow he had not expected it to truly be made.
Elrond thought about this for a moment before appearing to reach a conclusion. "Sometimes it is better not to wonder why things happen," he said, raising a hand to brush a loose dark braid back into place. "Will you stay here?"
Glorfindel nodded. "Yes, unless you send me away."
"I do not think I will do that easily. We need whatever strength we can get against the Dark One." A small smile crossed Elrond's face, making the seriousness of his expression soften for a moment. "And I admit to being curious."
"Gil-galad said as much," Glorfindel replied, returning the smile.
"So you have come from Lindon?" The interest in Elrond's voice had clearly increased further. "Did the High King tell you to come here?"
"It has been his idea." An idea that had confused Glorfindel a little at first; he had not expected to be asked to leave Lindon so soon. But Gil-galad had explained that while he was glad about Glorfindel's presence, he believed that his experience would be more useful in Eriador. So Glorfindel had left. There was nothing particular holding him to Lindon, and the prospect of seeing the grandson of Tuor and Idril was tempting. He had sworn an oath to Turgon once, long years ago, that he would be loyal to him and his house. And since Elrond was the last descendant left who really counted, the decision to come to Imladris had not been a very difficult one in the end.
"Did he say anything else?" Elrond wanted to know.
"Not much, except for telling me that he is proud of your achievements and that he is certain I can learn from you."
This time Elrond truly smiled, the seriousness and the lingering tension on his face disappearing. It was clear that these words had been balm on Elrond's soul for some reason, and Glorfindel resolved to pay more attention to these things from now on. There had been rumors floating around about Elrond in Lindon, of course, but he had not really listened to them. He would just have to form his own opinion of this.
"He is kind," the dark-haired elf said. "But I think he is exaggerating if he thinks that I could teach you something."
Glorfindel laughed softly. "I would not be so sure about that. There are a lot of things I do not know. But this isn't the time... I believe I am keeping you from more important issues."
Elrond sighed quietly. "Not more important, but I should take care of this now." He hesitated briefly, then looked at Glorfindel thoughtfully. "Unless you have experience with positioning sentry posts?"
"Enough to know how frustrating it is most of the time."
"I see," Elrond said, and Glorfindel felt a pang of guilt at the hint of disappointment he heard in the younger elf's voice.
"And I also know that if you do not do this alone, it will be finished sooner and the headache will be milder." He was here to help, after all, and it would be good to start with something small and familiar. "You will have to explain the surroundings to me, though."
Elrond shot him a grateful look. "That will not be a problem. You must have seen the most important areas today anyway."
"Then I am sure we will be done with this soon."
They settled down together to examine the map. Elrond quickly pointed out the various vantage points and the current patrol routes and sentry posts, patiently answering Glorfindel's questions before they began to try and coordinate the available patrols in a way that ensured the safety of Imladris and its inhabitants. And as he discussed the advantages of one position over the other with Elrond, Glorfindel knew that he had found his place.