A Tale in the Hall of Fire
This is a short story in the Returnverse. It is especially for this time of year - and is set a couple of winters after Brotherhood. This means that Tindómë (Dawn) and the Galadhrim brothers have decided that, when the other Galadhrim relocate to East Lorien, they will go, instead, to Legolas' settlement in Ithilien - but the moves are not yet made.A Tale in the Hall of Fire.
“Come,” they had said. “Come to Imladris before you move south to Ithilien. Come before you get caught up with a new home and new friends.”
“Go,” said Rumil and Orophin. “Go, whilst we help with His Lordship’s preparations to leave Lothlorien. Go and see more of Middle Earth, go and meet other elves.”
“Come,” said the twins, “and you can meet Glorfindel.”
Then, when she accepted their invitation, they pretended to be affronted that the lure of their friend and mentor might have been the deciding factor.
“Go,” said Rumil. “Go and see Imladris and if you see anything that appeals we can include it when we build our new home in Eryn Ithil.” He paused. “Although perhaps not Glorfindel. Even if he appeals to you greatly you would have to leave him there, I fear, meleth…”
“Go,” said Orophin, with a wink, “go and broaden your education.”
And so Tindómë had ridden out of Lothlorien with the twins’ party, over the high passes, in the autumn. The nights were not yet too long, nor too cold, to take away from the pleasure of the journey and the days were, for the main part, crisp and clear so that the glories of the scenery were not shrouded in mist or rain.
After three weeks or so they entered the Hidden Valley and, as they made their way down steep and twisting paths, Tindómë could understand how it had earned its name. She observed her companions as they rode and noticed subtle changes in the twins. They were more relaxed, since they had crossed the boundary into the valley, and yet there was something more, uh, ‘princely’, or ‘lordly’, about them. It was clear that this was their
Finally the party rounded a bend and there, catching the late sunlight, was the most glorious concoction of buildings Tindómë had ever seen. Stone and wood, carved into delicate arched shapes and soft curves, formed a central building that seemed to have grown, organically, from the rocks and plants behind and around it. There were smaller buildings joined to it by covered walkways and then, further out, other buildings of similar style.
The main house seemed to have large windows and many balconies to allow the occupants to enjoy what would be, Tindómë thought, a spectacular view of the valley, a waterfall or two, and cultivated gardens.
“Oh, elo!” she said.
This was obviously the right reaction; both twins smiled broadly and, in unison, said “Welcome to our home.”
A group stood, awaiting them, in the courtyard in front of the main house. A blond ellon took a step forward and addressed the twins as “My Lords”; when they returned the formal greetings to “Lord Glorfindel” Tindómë was rather taken aback.This
was the famed fighter, slayer of a balrog, friend and mentor of the Els? Somehow she had expected that Glorfindel would be the tallest, broadest elf in Middle Earth. He was probably a touch shorter than Rumil, and similar in build – not even as broad as pictures showed Haldir to have been! His hair, though, was a really deep golden blond – not the silver blond of Rumil and Orophin, or the pale creamy gold of Legolas; it was obvious where his name came from.
Then, as he was introduced, she looked into his eyes. All the elves she knew told her that an elf’s age and knowledge could be seen in the eyes – and here was proof positive. She could tell that this was a very wise and powerful elf indeed.
Just as it had been interesting to see Legolas as the leader of the new Elven settlement in Ithilien, so it was interesting to see the twins as lords of this long established one. On the first evening they said they were happy to be home but, if there was nothing urgent, they would hear all the reports in the morning. They spent the evening proudly showing Tindómë around the main house, they introduced her to few enough others that she would remember them, and were attentive hosts.
Next morning, by the time she had washed, dressed, and been escorted to breakfast by one of the household staff, the Lords of Imladris were already hard at work, in the large study inherited from their father, and Tindómë did not see them until the evening. Not that she felt abandoned; the librarian met her at breakfast, as arranged, and she spent the morning in his domain. Glorfindel arrived at lunchtime and showed her a little further afield, including the wing where he lived and the similar accommodation, in another wing, that housed Erestor – the twins’ senior counsellor in non-military matters.
Erestor had agreed to stay at Imladris, for at least the first five years of the twins’ lordship, but his wife had already sailed West. It was, Glorfindel explained, a carefully planned strategy. Erestor’s wife would ensure that somewhere was prepared for them to live in the West, whilst Erestor ensured continuity at Imladris; but it was likely that Lord Elrond would take up new responsibilities once he settled in the West, and would then need his senior counsellor at his side.
Tindómë liked Glorfindel. She liked Erestor, too, once she got to know him, but Glorfindel she was at ease with from the start. She had almost expected him to flirt with her, from occasional remarks of the twins, but there was no sense of flirtage at all. Probably a good thing, she thought, seeing as how he was, like, ancient
. His personality had the same mix of seriousness and humour as his protégés, and he gave Tindómë the same sense of security that Gandalf had done; as if nothing she could say would ever shock him or make him think less of her.
Over the next few weeks she explored the ‘Last Homely House’ properly. She decided that it was more comfortable than the talans of Lothlorien – or, perhaps, it simply felt a little less ‘unreal’ to someone whose memories were still, mostly, of twenty-first century California. The arched windows with shutters, the balconies large enough to sit on with comfort - these
, she decided, she would like in her new home in Ithilien.
She also explored the close environs of the main house. There were smaller houses lived in by one or two elves; stables that surpassed even those of the Rohirrim in beauty; and workshops for all manner of crafts - as well as wood carving and metal-work, all their pottery and glassware were made in the valley.
Tindómë spent quite a bit of time with the smiths; Glorfindel took her to their forge and they carefully considered her short-sword. The Lothlorien sword-smiths had done a good job of embellishing a perfectly adequate weapon… but these
smiths, like most of the inhabitants of Imladris, were of Noldor descent and the Noldor were famed for their working of metal. Lothlorien made the greatest bows – but the twins’ swords, and Aragorn’s Anduril, were the best swords in Middle Earth. Well, apart from Glorfindel’s maybe.
Elladan, Elrohir, Glorfindel, and two of the smiths, fought practice bouts with Tindómë almost daily for a couple of weeks until the smiths smiled, nodded, and then said they were ready to start work. They would start to forge Tindómë a new sword, they said, at the next new moon, and it would be ready for the following one – at mid-winter.
Mid-winter. Tindómë suddenly realised that the days were, indeed, shortening and growing colder – she had been letting time flow past her in a positively Elven fashion. ‘Go me!’ she thought.
Talking of mid-winter – remembering the little she had been told about seasonal celebrations amongst Legolas’ people, and the lack of any such celebrations in Lothlorien…
“Do you celebrate mid-winter here?” she asked Elrohir.
“We do,” he replied, “although more quietly than the men of the Dúnedain or the Rohirrim.”
‘Hmmm,’ Tindómë thought, ‘probably more quietly than the Elves of Eryn Lasgalen, too, then. Pity…’
Galanthir had led her to believe that the celebrations in his home forest, and now also of the Elves of Ithilien, involved singing, dancing, alcohol, a good deal of flirtage, and more.
The elves here didn’t seem big on the flirtage, she thought; either that, or none of them rated her. She stopped herself before she let the old insecurities flood in; I’m not a real girl, I’m not important, nobody wanted me here… even if those things had, once, been true back in California they weren’t true here.
Anyway, it was probably a Noldor thing – Lord Celeborn had told her that they were more serious than the Sindar and Silvan elves she was used to. Even his Lordship’s grandsons, she knew, had a deep, underlying, solemnity. One of the smiths, Tisirion, had started to smile at her quite often; maybe she would
‘broaden her education’ a little before spring…
A few more questions over the next month and she knew what to expect as the shortest day approached. Christmas it definitely wasn’t. That her sword would be ready just before mid-winter was purely coincidence – the elves of Imladris were certainly not ‘Santa’s little helpers’ – present giving was not part of their tradition. That saved Tindómë a good deal of worry, anyway.
As dusk fell on mid-winter evening she joined the inhabitants of the valley, outdoors, looking skywards. They were waiting to see the first star; Legolas had told her that his people did this too – and it had been one of the last ‘normal’ things that he had done before the Fellowship left Imladris.
The Els said that they now thought of their parents – Elrond had promised them, before he took ship, that he would do this every midwinter and think of them, here. So it was a slightly bittersweet moment when the star was spotted.
Then came the feasting, and wine. She almost expected one of the Els to insist she added water to hers, but no – however she ‘heard’ Elrohir as he filled her glass.
‘You are adult enough to decide for yourself how much to drink, Tinu, but you would not want to fall asleep, when Tisirion is making eyes at you, and there will be music and story telling in the Hall of Fire…’
So he’d noticed Tisirion, too!
She took his warning seriously, and sipped gently at her wine, replacing it with water for herself when the glass was empty.
She had been at a few evenings of music and story-telling, in the great Hall of Fire, but this was the fullest she had ever seen it. She found herself sitting between Elladan and Erestor – perhaps there might be some
dancing and she could know for sure if Tisirion was flirting with her.
There was some dancing – even more formal than in Lothlorien or Minas Tirith and with very little close body contact – but Tisirion did, indeed, dance with her…
The evening was getting late; an elleth finished a song, everyone applauded, and then Glorfindel spoke.
“We have heard each other tell the same tales many times and, although it is a pleasure to hear them, it would greatly delight me and others, I am sure, to hear something new. Tindómë, could we ask you to tell us a story from your childhood, if doing so will not upset you?”
For a moment Tindómë was taken aback – everyone was so kind that she didn’t want to disappoint them – but what story could she tell? She looked at Glorfindel and, fleetingly, considered Goldilocks – but it was, really, too childish for this gathering.
She looked around. There were candles twinkling all around and boughs of greenery, twisted with ivy, decorated ledges and tables. The Elves may not have Santa or presents – but she suddenly knew exactly what to say.
As every face turned to her she smiled, drew a breath, and began.
“A very long time ago, in a country a long way away from here, there lived a young woman, a virgin, whose name was Mary. She was betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph…”The End
Elo! - Wow!
Tinu - little star