He thinks no one knows who he is, sitting there quietly in the courtyard. Everyone loves him – polite, intelligent, and honest in all respects but three.
“Why are you here?” Turgon asked him.
“Stories I have heard from those in Doriath of the hidden city,” he replied. “My eyes weep at the wonders that are found here.”
His words are so eloquent, as if coming from a young prince. There is no surprise that he is one. He is of Finwe’s house, for he speaks as they do – the noblest of Valinor, displaced here in Middle-earth. No amount of talk can hide the golden hair that tumbles down his back. Errant strands of silver hide among the gold, and this I have seen before, in Earwen’s line only.
“And your name?” pressed the King, a distant relation to the lad standing before him, but related, no less. Perhaps that was part of what drove his curiosity; how one of their kind would forsake his heritage.
“Glorfindel,” the youth answered.
I know him well, and yet I know him not. He has his father’s determination and loyalty, the fair look of his mother and her Vanyarin kin. Before I came to Gondolin, I roamed through many of the lands, and visited many places. It is clear he does not recall me, but I saw him twice when he was very young, and neither time was he called Glorfindel.
His age recorded hence was three hundred and forty-five: I know better. He was not upon the ships that sailed from Alqualonde, nor did he make the trek with us from Valinor across the Helcaraxe. The way he steps awkwardly and allows a twig to break beneath his feet in the forest and the face he pulls when he tastes wine are signs enough for me, but I see them all. The curiosity, the wonder, and the uncertainty of a child. They say now that fifty is the majority age; in Valinor, we counted two hundred more fit to marry. This boy has seen less years that either, and yet he speaks as if he has seen much in his life. Perhaps, in the short time he has lived, he has.
There is sadness, past everything else, though he locks it away well. I wonder what happened to him and why he left his home in Dorthonion.
I made up my mind early to befriend him, and keep watch over him. He was the nephew of Artanis, my dear friend from Valinor, and that alone was enough of a reason to be sure he stayed safe. I was glad that I did, for he needed a friend more than anything else.
He was still a child when he came to me about his troubles. It was after I had gained his trust, many years after he appeared. We were walking through my gardens late in the afternoon. It was early in the spring, when the buds and leaves were just blooming. “Now, where did that come from?” I asked, stopping and stooping to look at a small pine seedling that had cropped up at the base of a maple. I took hold of it meaning to weed it out of the garden, when he grasped hold of my shoulder.
“Wait!” His voice was panicked, like a child seeing his parent about to crush an invading spider in the house. “You cannot kill it!”
I let go. “If I leave it here, it will eventually kill everything around it. These do not stay small. There are hundreds in the hills. One more here will not matter.”
“I can move it.” He crouched down and began to dig it out from the ground, tenderly holding the skinny trunk as he worked. “I love pine trees,” he said once he had freed the roots. “They remind me of-“ His eyes widened fearfully, and he looked away.
“Of home?” I touched his shoulder. “Do not be afraid, Glorfindel. I have no reason to tell anyone secrets that you wish to tell me.”
Silently he stood up and carried the tree to an open area of my house’s courtyard. “What about here?”
“It will get trampled. It needs to be protected.”
He wandered back into the garden, frowning everywhere that he looked. When he spied a pile of clay pots and a wheelbarrow filled with soil, his expression brightened. “I can take it with me and help it to grow until it is big enough not to be stepped on.”
As he selected a pot carefully to find one without too big of a crack or chip in it, he surveyed the area to make sure we were truly alone. “When I was little I would play a game where I would run from beneath one pine tree to another. I could not go to the same one twice, and I could not go between two that were beside each other. The trees would laugh when I made a mistake and ended up at one of them twice. My father told me I was just hearing things, but Galdor told me it is true, that trees do talk, sometimes.”
“They do speak. It was the Eldar who taught them and the Ents.”
Glorfindel smiled. “We had an Ent in the forest, I think. I thought he was just a tree, but one day I walked by and he sneezed. Another time, he dropped a pine cone, and fumbled to try to grab it. As soon as he saw me standing, watching him, he let it fall and stood perfectly still pretending he was just another tree. I picked up the cone and set it upon his branch, and then I ran away giggling.” Glorfindel’s sadness returned. “That was the last time I saw him.”
The pine seedling was carefully nestled into the pot with some soil. “Looks good,” I said.
“Thank you.” Glorfindel looked down at the tiny tree. “I miss the trees, and waking to the scent of pine. It brings back some terrible memories, but it also makes me recall the good times as well.”
“Maybe some day you could go back.”
Shaking his head, Glorfindel said, “I am no longer welcome there, nor do I think I would wish to return. My father and I do not agree upon certain items.”
“Such as the fact he killed other elves.” Glorfindel looked up from his pine tree and upon me, his green eyes wary. “Were you one of the kinslayers at Alqualonde, Ecthelion?”
He needed a friend. He needed one so badly, that I lied to his face without blinking an eye. “No. I was not among them.”
His tale poured out. His father, his home, his beliefs, his sexuality. Luckily, I had moved him inside the house before that final item was brought up. He finished, exhausted, and fell asleep on the chair in front of the fire.
That night, nightmares plagued me, of what happened on the shores of Valinor. I saw their faces staring up at me from where they fell upon the decks of their ships, and heard the screams from those who tried to escape the blades of my kinfolk as the Teleri were slaughtered for a handful of ships that were destroyed after they reached Middle-earth.
Now I sit here, beneath the pine tree that sits in my courtyard, and I think about him, and that day he walked into Gondolin. Sometimes, it is hard to tell how much time has passed. Certainly now he is an adult; he has changed, and though he is no less fair, he has the full form now of one truly past his majority. There is some chance that someone might recognize him, but I hope for his sake they do not.
I wonder how we shall fair tomorrow when we leave, and march out of the city to aid our king’s brother in the north. Somehow I hope to fight against Morgoth might help to redeem me in some way, but I doubt it. No matter what, I know two things for certain. Never can I tell Glorfindel of my past, and never will I be able to wash the blood from my hands.