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A Fairy Tale, Middle-Earth style

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Summary: When Legolas fears the Sea-longing may take him sooner than he’d hope, Glorfindel offers a solution.





Glorfindel stepped outside the guesthouse in the pre-dawn darkness and made his way along the silent street to the ramp leading to the seventh level. He was not sure what had induced him to leave his bed and come out when the city still slept but he had long ago learned to trust his feelings. If there was a reason for him being there, he did not doubt it would manifest itself in due time. He had eschewed staying at the Citadel this time around, deciding he wanted a little peace and quiet. Between Estel and Arwen’s growing brood, now augmented by little Eldarion, and Elladan and Elrohir playing the doting uncles, he needed the peace and quiet.

“Getting old, are we?” Estel had quipped when Glorfindel had told him of his decision to stay at a guesthouse. He had refused to justify that outrageous question with an answer, but he had to chuckle at the thought. Perhaps he was getting old... and weary.

He smiled to himself as he reached the top of the ramp and made his way to the Fountain and the White Tree. It had grown into a fine tree in the intervening years since it’d been planted. As always, it was guarded. He gave the two guards facing him a gracious nod in greeting as he went between them to greet the Tree. Neither guard moved, not even their eyes; they may as well have been statues. He hid a smile at the absurdity of Mortals feeling a need to guard a tree, but his amusement fled at the thought of two Trees that should have been guarded and were not.

Shaking off that morbid thought, he bowed to this daughter of Nimloth, Gilthilion and Telperion and gave it a silent greeting. The Tree answered with a gentle swaying of its branches, though there was no early morning breeze as yet. It was while he was greeting the Tree that he felt another presence. Turning from the Tree he spied a dark figure standing at the prow of the great ship-keel of stone that gave Minas Tirith, now renamed Minas Anor as of old, its distinctive character. The figure was cloaked in Lothlórien grey and looking over the ramparts, or rather, Glorfindel amended as he recognized Prince Legolas, looking southward.

Moving with preternatural grace, Glorfindel approached the younger Elf who stood still as the stone surrounding them. “Thranduilion, what do you here? Wait you to greet Anor this fair day?”

For a long moment Legolas did not respond and when he did it was with a question of his own, spoken barely above a whisper. “Do you ever feel it?”

“Feel what, child?” Glorfindel retorted, though he suspected he knew to what Legolas was referring.

The elven prince finally turned to look at him. “The Sea-longing. Have you ever felt it?”

Glorfindel gave him a sympathetic shake of his head. “No, I never did, though I have met those who have.”

Legolas nodded as he looked back over the rampart towards the south and the Sea. “I promised myself I would stay for as long as Aragorn lived, but it’s hard, so very hard at times not to give into it and make my way to the Grey Havens.”

Glorfindel sighed and took a couple of steps toward the younger Elf. “It is a very dangerous thing to love the Secondborn. It only leads to grief.”

Legolas gave him a puzzled look. “Yet, you stay.”

“For Arwen’s sake, and yes, for Estel’s, too. But my first duty is to the Elrondionnath. I stay because they stay. When they are ready to leave, I will leave with them.”

“And if they decide never to leave?”

Glorfindel smiled. “Oh, they’ll leave all right. I’ll make sure of that.”

Legolas raised an eyebrow but did not comment. Instead, he let his gaze drift southward again. “It’s been fifteen years and yet....”

“You will be heading North with us when Estel and Arwen go to Annúminas later this month.” It was more a statement than a question, but Legolas nodded. “The time spent there may help ease the longing. Sometimes I think you made a mistake coming to live in Ithilien.”

Legolas gave him an elegant shrug. “I fear no matter were I am I would always hear the song of the Sea whispering in my mind, haunting my soul, calling to me. Perhaps in Eriador the call will be weaker, but it will still be there.”

“What you need, then, is another song to counter it, to ward your fae with it, a song that will keep Lord Ulmo’s call from invading even your dreams, which is why I suspect you are out here rather than in your bed sleeping.”

Legolas turned to him with a skeptical look. “And what song do you suggest I sing to counter the Sea-longing?”

“I said nothing about singing, child,” Glorfindel retorted with a smile. “I said ‘ward’. What you need is a Song of Power, or rather, a specific Song more ancient even than the Sea.”

“And you just happen to know this Song?”

“I know where to find it.”

“Where....?”

Glorfindel pointed to Legolas’ chest. “Here,” he said.

“You speak in riddles, my lord,” Legolas said coldly, giving the older Elf a scowl.

Glorfindel did not answer immediately. By now the sky had brightened to blue and Anor would be rising above the mountains soon. Somewhere a cock crowed and there was the sound of a shutter being opened. He could see the elven prince’s face more clearly now. Legolas’ expression was a conflicting mixture of doubt, hope and longing that smote the older Elf’s heart. He gave the prince a sympathetic smile.

“The city awakes,” he said unnecessarily, even as four men in the livery of the Guard approached those standing sentinel around the Tree, relieving them of their duty and taking their places. “Come. Let us seek out Estel. There is something I wish to ask him.”

“But....”

“Let us first speak with Estel,” Glorfindel said firmly, taking Legolas’ arm and leading him toward the King’s House behind the Citadel. Legolas knew better than to offer any more protest and allowed himself to be led away.

****

Aragorn stared at the Elf-lord who was both friend and mentor. “You wish to do what and go where?” he asked in disbelief.

“And the sooner, the better for all concerned.”

“For how long?”

“Well, it’ll take us a few days to do the construction and then how much time after that...” Glorfindel shrugged. “However, do not change your plans for us. If we’re not back before you are ready to leave for Arnor, go on without us. We’ll catch up with you once we are done.”

Aragorn stole a glance at Legolas. “And is Gimli going with you?”

“Valar, no!” Legolas exclaimed.

“This is something no Mortal can know about,” Glorfindel said smoothly.

Aragorn raised an eyebrow and gave them a sly smile. “So I assume I’m not invited.” Neither Glorfindel nor Legolas deigned to answer that statement. “What if I do not give you my permission? What then?”

“Would you truly deny me or Legolas anything?” Glorfindel asked.

Aragorn’s eyes narrowed. “I’m just wondering why you of all people are even bothering to ask a lowly Mortal such as myself permission to do anything.”

“Never lowly, Estel,” Glorfindel said in all seriousness. “And I ask because we are your guests. I am only being polite.”

“I see,” Aragorn replied with a skeptical look. “Well, you indeed have my permission, my lords. I wish you well in your endeavors. I’ll have Faramir see that you are supplied with all that you need.” With that, he gave them a brief bow and left the two Elves staring after him.

“He’s angry,” Legolas said with a sigh.

“He’ll get over it,” Glorfindel said dismissively. “Come. We have much to do.” He began walking away, never looking back, confident that the elven prince would follow him.

****

Faramir led the two Elves down a short alley between the King’s House and the wall surrounding the seventh level until they fronted a small carpenter’s workshop and gestured them inside. “Here is all that you will need, my lords.”

“Thank you, Faramir,” Glorfindel said graciously. “Now are you sure you can keep certain people occupied while we work?” He gave the Mortal a sly grin.

Faramir laughed lightly. “Do not worry, my lord. I will inundate his Majesty with so much paperwork he’ll think it’s snowing.” — both Elves laughed — “And I have Gimli happily consulting with our engineers on a bridge project. I doubt he’ll come up for air anytime soon to wonder where Legolas has gotten himself to.” He gave them an impish smile.

“That is well,” Glorfindel said.

“Then I will leave you to your own tasks.” Faramir gave them a respectful bow and left.

Glorfindel looked around at the neatly laid out workshop and nodded in satisfaction. “Let’s get started.”

“What exactly are we making, again?” Legolas enquired as he followed Glorfindel to the worktable where a number of planks of white spruce were laid out. Legolas eyed them approvingly, for he could see they were well-seasoned and would make excellent sound boards.

“Well, in Aman we called them súrinandi. They were created by the Teleri. I suppose you would call them gennil-e-hûl.”

“And what purpose do they serve?” Legolas asked.

“Does something need to serve a purpose to justify its existence?” Glorfindel asked mildly. “For the Teleri they serve no purpose but to allow the wind to make music. For us, though, there is a specific reason for their use, but that will become clearer later. For now, let us just concentrate on making them. We need three of different sizes, one about three feet long, another twice as long and the third in between.”

With that, he began selecting various pieces of the wood, sorting them out by length. “I’ll cut them and you glue them together. Here is a sketch of what they should look like. They’ll all follow the same pattern.”

Legolas glanced at the scrap of parchment Glorfindel handed to him, and nodded. Moments later, the two Elves were busily creating the first wind harp ever seen in Middle-earth.

****

It took them nearly three days of working more or less straight through to finish all three harps that looked like no harps Legolas had ever seen. Essentially each was a long wooden box, including a sound board, with strings stretched lengthwise across two bridges. Each harp had strings that were identical in thickness but tuned to different pitches, with the strings of the largest harp thicker than the strings of the smallest. In spite of their plainness of design, or perhaps because of it, they were really quite beautiful.

Glorfindel ran a finger down the length of one of the harps, smiling in contentment. “Now let us wrap them carefully in these blankets Faramir so kindly gave us and after we’ve rested for a time, we will leave. We can set out at dawn tomorrow.”

Legolas nodded and bent down to grab one of the blankets and began wrapping the smallest of the harps in it.

****

Dawn saw them on their way. Legolas was leading a donkey carefully loaded with the three harps and their provisions while Glorfindel strode ahead. They walked in silence, enjoying the newness of the day. Legolas had been glad to find out that Gimli was still too busy with the bridge project to be importuning him with awkward questions. In fact, the Dwarf was not even in the city but in the South overlooking the construction. That had left only Aragorn to deal with, but he had been busy with a delegation from Rhûn and had barely spoken to them, except to assure them that the porter guarding the Fen Hollin had been informed of their intent and would not impede them. So now, having made their way along the Rath Dínen past the silent tombs of Kings and Stewards, they were making their way to the High Hallow that overlooked the city, the last resting place of Elendil the Tall. It did not take them long to reach it and Legolas looked about him with interest. The Hallow was essentially a wide oval place of level turf, unfenced with the path at the southwest end. Before them was a low mound and lying on the grass before it and yet unmarred by weed or weather, was a black stone.

“This place has the virtue of never being visited,” Glorfindel said quietly, “and this high up it’s bound to be windier than in the city, especially at dawn or dusk. We’ll set up camp here by the path. Let the donkey graze at will. We’ll put the harps by the tomb.”

Legolas said nothing, but followed Glorfindel’s directions. Soon the camp was in place though they made no fire, for this was hallowed ground, at least to the Gondorians, and the Elves respected that. Glorfindel then unwrapped the three harps, picking up the largest one and instructing Legolas to bring the other two. Together they headed for the mound and Legolas looked with curiosity at the slab of black stone that reflected nothing. On its surface were engraved three letters: lamba, ando, lamba.

“Elendil,” Glorfindel said quietly, his expression momentarily sad and distant. Then he shook himself and placed the harp upon the midpoint of the stone, directing Legolas to place the other two at either end but on the grass before the stone. “You will sit here between these three harps with your back to the largest one,” he told the younger Elf.

“And this will do what exactly?” Legolas asked.

“That remains to be seen,” Glorfindel replied unhelpfully. “At the moment, there is little breeze but eventually I suspect the wind will pick up again as it always does around mountains. I would have you be already in position. Try to clear your mind of extraneous thought, much as you might do before weaving yourself a waking dream, but do not go that deep. Stay on the surface and try to relax. You may be here for a while.”

This last was said with a wry grin and Legolas snorted in amusement as he settled himself on the grass with the small of his back touching the stone. Glorfindel had stepped away, lowering himself gracefully upon the ground, facing Legolas who still had questions.

“What is so special about these particular harps, other than the fact that no one plays them but the wind?”

“On the surface of things, there is nothing intrinsically special about these harps. However, you may recall that while you helped put the boxes together, only I strung them, though I know you are quite capable of stringing harps.”

“I had noticed that and wondered why you sent me off to find blankets to wrap them in,” admitted Legolas.

“Yes, well, it was best that you weren’t present for that. While I strung the harps I imbued the strings with some of my Power as I was taught to do by the Maiar.”

“Oh,” was the only thing Legolas could think to say, and if he thought to say more, he forgot for almost at that instant, the wind suddenly picked up and first one and then the other of the harps began to vibrate, producing harmonics that seemed to resonate through Legolas’ body. He stared at Glorfindel in surprise, his eyes wide, while Glorfindel merely gave him an enigmatic smile. Then the wind shifted and the harmonics changed slightly, becoming deeper, blending into a single glorious chord that wrapped itself around Legolas’ very soul and then....

Reality shifted in a way that Legolas could never afterwards describe even to himself. The air shimmered with incandescent light, a very rainbow of colors, some of which he could not have put a name to. Glorfindel and the High Hallow disappeared into the shimmering light but before he could respond to that, the light shifted even more and he found himself... elsewhere.

Stars were all around him, and he had the sensation of floating in nothingness, yet there was a sense of others nearby, though he could not see them. And everywhere was that one deep eternal chord and Legolas had the oddest feeling that even the very stars around him resonated with it. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the chord changed, growing louder and deeper until it was almost painful, an interminable pressure that crescendoed until suddenly there was a flare of light and he cried out in shock and wonder as the light coalesced into a dark globe floating serenely in the everlasting night.

Somehow he found himself standing upon that globe on which nothing lived and watched with awe as mountains rose up before him, spewing out fire and ash that touched him not. There were quakes and deep rumblings that forced him to his knees and rains came with a display of thunder and lightning the likes of which he had never before experienced. Rivers flowed and the land which had been bare rock now was covered with grasses. Trees, towering higher than the mellyrn of Lothlórien, grew before his wondering eyes.

And all the time he could ‘hear’ the music that each thing made as it came into existence: mountain and fire, water and wood, each but a single note of that First Chord, yet blending harmoniously with it. But one song drew him more than the others and without having consciously moved Legolas suddenly found himself standing on the shore of a Sea, its dark waters shimmering with the light of the stars, the surf pounding the black sand. He shuddered as the Sea’s music took hold of him, bringing forth a deep ache within him and he knew that he had not the strength to resist it, not anymore.

And yet...

He felt rather than heard another Song, slower and deeper than that of the Sea. He struggled to hear it more clearly, somehow knowing this was needful. At first, all he could hear was the incessant chatter of the waves endlessly calling out to him, but underlying that was the other Song. But no. He suddenly realized that he was hearing the Song, that which had brought forth all, even the Sea. He struggled to hear it more clearly, listening with all his being, hoping to capture it in the air around him, but it seemed to elude him and he cried out in frustration. Then, he seemed to see himself with Glorfindel standing together in the Court of the Fountain and Glorfindel was pointing at him, at his heart, and he suddenly understood what he needed to do. He looked deep within himself, listening, not with his ears, but with his mind and heart and very soul and...

There!

The chord that he had heard in the beginning still resonated through everything: earth and fire, wood and water... and himself. He could ‘hear’ that eternal chord singing within him and as he listened, it seemed as if the sound of it grew louder, crescendoing into an overwhelming wave of sound that would surely drown him....

Legolas found himself staring up into a cerulean blue sky, an eagle lazily floating on the air high above him. He realized he was lying on the grassy turf of the High Hallow and the wind had died down.

“Welcome back.”

He turned his head to see Glorfindel still sitting on the grass, a serene smile on his fair face.

“Wh-what happened?” Legolas asked, struggling to sit up, feeling slightly disoriented, wondering at the blanket that covered him and the other that had been placed beneath his head as a pillow.

“You tell me, youngling,” Glorfindel said, rising gracefully and giving Legolas a hand up.

Legolas stood, looking about uncertainly, clutching the blanket. The wind had died down and the harps were silent, or so he thought. He listened carefully and yes, there was the song of the Sea, it had not gone away as he had hoped, and he felt a sense of despair and defeat at first, but then, he listened more closely, realizing that the Sea’s music was but a calm hum, for overshadowing it was another Song, or rather Songs, for he recognized the music of fire and air and wood and, yes, even earth, and their blended chords eased the incessant ache within him.

He gazed on Glorfindel in wonder and the older Elf smiled in satisfaction, nodding. “Let us go, then.” He bent down to pick up the blanket that had been used as a pillow and began wrapping the smallest of the harps with it.

Legolas looked up at the sky and realized the sun’s position was all wrong. “How long....?”

“Two days and the night in between,” came the surprising answer.

Legolas could only stand there in disbelief even as Glorfindel was wrapping another harp. The older Elf gave him a sly look. “So are you going to stand there all day or can we leave? I’m sure Estel is wondering what happened to us.”

Legolas shook himself and silently handed the blanket he’d been clutching to Glorfindel who then wrapped the last harp. Together they carried them to the donkey and in a few minutes they were packed and heading back down the path. This time Glorfindel took the donkey’s lead, leaving Legolas to follow. The Sindarin prince stopped and gazed around the Hallow one last time, closing his eyes and listening. Yes, the Sea song was still there but so were the songs of air and fire, wood and earth, especially earth, and he knew only wonder at that. He also knew that as long as he held those other songs within him, as long as he kept in mind the First Chord, Lord Ulmo’s call would remain muted until it was time for him to heed it for real.

“Legolas!” he heard Glorfindel calling from further down the path.

“Coming!” he cried out and with a lighter heart he turned and made his way down the path towards the city and his friends.

****

Words are Sindarin unless otherwise noted:

Elrondionnath: The sons of Elrond, i.e. Elladan and Elrohir.

Fae: Soul, spirit.

Súrinandi: (Quenya) Plural of súrinandë: wind harp.

Gennil-e-hûl: Plural of gannel-e-hûl: wind harp.

Notes:

1. The wind harp, also known as an Aeolian harp (after the Greek god of winds) has been known since ancient times. It is also called a spirit harp.

2. Lamba, ando, lamba: L*ND*L, Elendil’s name without vowel marks which he used as a badge and a device upon his shield, according to Tolkien [UT: Note 40 to ‘Cirion and Eorl’].

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