With Friends Like These

Chapter Eighteen: Glorfindel, of the House of the Golden Flower

by Jay of Lasgalen

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It was extremely rare for Arwen to cry.  The fact that she did so at all proved how distressed she was, and Elladan and Elrohir could not bear it.  Elrohir turned to his twin, despair in his face.  “Goodbye, El.  It was nice knowing you.”  He swallowed.  “Do you think Mandos will be merciful?”

Elladan flinched at another roar from Thranduil.  “More merciful than Father will be, I expect.  Come on.”

As one, they knocked on the door of their father’s study, then opened it before he could call an acknowledgement.  They both rushed in, ready to defend their sister against Thranduil’s wrath, and the unfairness of his accusation, speaking simultaneously as they often did in times of stress.


“King Thranduil!”

“Whatever happened, it wasn’t Arwen’s fault -”

“- it was ours.”

Elladan, fractionally in the lead, stopped so suddenly that Elrohir bumped into him.  Arwen was sitting safely in Elrond’s lap, and far from crying, she was laughing. She was also gazing up at Thranduil in admiration.  The twins looked at each other, at Thranduil, then back at Arwen.

“What - what’s going on?”  asked Elladan, very puzzled.

Elrohir glanced at his sister.  “Ar, are you all right?”  he said anxiously.

She nodded cheerfully.  “I’m fine,” she added brightly.

“Ah, the miscreants appear,”  said Thranduil sternly.

The twins looked at one another again, with identical expressions of despair.  They were right, this did mean trouble.  But neither could help feeling relieved that Arwen, at least, seemed unscathed.  The relief, however, was slightly soured by her obvious enjoyment of their predicament.

Thranduil, with a final glare in their direction, turned back to Elrond.  “If you will excuse me, I still have some unpacking to do.  Lady Arwen, would you be so kind as to escort me again?  I fear I may lose my way.”

Arwen slid off her father’s lap, happy to oblige, although she was a little disappointed to miss the scolding her brothers were about to receive.  “Have you really forgotten?  I’ll show you again.  It’s this way.”  She took Thranduil’s hand, and led him from the study.

Thranduil looked down at her, feeling a familiar pang of sadness.  How he envied Elrond this pretty child.  Their friendship had been sealed as she completed her duties earlier that afternoon.  After he congratulated her on being an excellent guide, she had looked up with a shy smile.  “You’re much nicer than my brothers said you were,” she had confided.

As the door closed behind Thranduil and Arwen, Elrond glared at his reprobate sons.  “Well?  What do you have to say for yourselves?” he asked coldly.

Elladan attempted to explain.  “Father, I’m sorry.  We both are.  We didn’t mean for Arwen to get into trouble.  We were just teasing her, but it all seems to have gone wrong.  I didn’t really think she’d believe us, she doesn’t usually.”

“And what was it you told her?  I want to know everything.”  He sounded stern, not their father any more, but the Lord Elrond of Imladris they had glimpsed just once before, when an errant guard had been disciplined.

Now it was Elrohir’s turn.  He met his father’s eyes with an effort, and explained,  “We just said that as Thranduil was a king, he should be addressed as ‘Your Majesty’ all the time.  And that Legolas was ‘Prince Legolas’ , or ‘Your Highness’.

“I imagine Legolas was a little surprised at that.  Was that all?”

Elrohir sighed.  “We told her that Thranduil could be very bad tempered, and would shout at her if she upset him.  That was why she was so nervous.”

Elrond regarded them both expressionlessly.  “So you upset your sister, and spread untrue rumours and silly gossip about one of our guests.”  He let the idea sink in for a moment, then added:  “I feel disappointed with this sort of behaviour.”

Elrohir went white, and dropped his gaze.  “I’m sorry, Father,” he whispered.

Elladan too had gone pale.  He nodded in agreement.  “So am I, Father.”

“Remember that, before you are tempted to do anything so foolish again.  Why did you both come bursting in here so unceremoniously, anyway?”  Elrond sounded curious.

Elladan hung his head. “We could hear Thranduil.  He sounded so angry!  We thought he was shouting at Arwen -”

“- so we were going to stop him.”  Elrohir finished.

“I see.  So you stormed in, prepared to confront him, and protect your sister?”

Elrohir flushed.  Put like that, it sounded ridiculous.  But he stood his ground, and looked at his father, nodding.  “Yes.”

Elrond finally smiled.  “Well done.”

“I know, Father, and we’re sorry.  We just -”  Elladan broke off abruptly as Elrohir elbowed him.  Elrond’s words finally penetrated his despondency.  “I beg your pardon?”

“I said ‘Well done’.  I am proud of you both. That cannot have been easy.”

“No, but we thought -”  Elladan stopped, reviewing the whole bizarre scene.

“Father, what was happening?”  Elrohir queried.

The smile widened. “Arwen confided to Thranduil what you had said to her, and how worried she was.  He suggested that they join forces to get their revenge on the pair of you, and asked my advice on the best way to accomplish that.  He put on a most convincing display of anger, having reassured Arwen that none of it was directed at her.  Unfortunately she was overcome by laughter, which you mistook for her crying.”

“So Arwen was all right the whole time?”  The twins exchanged a look.  They were unsure whether they were relieved that Arwen had not been frightened out of her wits, or annoyed that she had helped to incriminate them.

Elrond sighed in exasperation. “Elladan, Elrohir, surely you realise that I would never permit anyone to treat Arwen like that - or indeed either of you two?  I know that Thranduil can have a - hasty - temper at times, but he is not unreasonable, and  would never shout at an innocent child!”

“He shouted at us once,” Elladan muttered.

“Yes, and at Legolas as well, and it was well deserved by all three of you as I recall!  You were hardly innocent!  Now go.  And I want you to apologise to Arwen, and to Thranduil as well.”

Outside Elrond’s study, Elladan and Elrohir stopped, and drew deep breaths.  “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” said  Elladan carefully.

“No,”  Elrohir agreed.  “But we still have to apologise to Arwen.  And Thranduil!”

“Come on, then.  We’d best get it over with.”  They headed first for Thranduil’s room, reasoning that that would be the worst part of the task.  To their relief, they found Arwen still there, showing Thranduil the view.  Maybe they could get this over in one go.

They knocked on the open door.  “Your Majesty -”  Elladan began.

“ - Arwen -”  Elrohir added.

“We’re very sorry we said that.  It wasn’t true.  So we’re sorry if we were rude -”

“ - and we’re sorry we scared you, Arwen.”

Thranduil and Arwen looked at one another.  “Do we accept their apology, Lady Arwen?”  Thranduil asked in a loud whisper.

“I suppose so.”  Arwen sounded reluctant.  “Do you both promise not to do it again?”  she demanded imperiously.

They looked at each other.  “Well -”  Elladan began.

“You have to promise!  Both of you!”

“But Arwen -”

Thranduil interrupted then.  “I once told Legolas, never make promises that you cannot keep.  Do you promise at least to try?”

Both Elladan and Elrohir looked relieved.  Neither were happy at the possibility of breaking a promise, even to Arwen.  “Yes, we do,” vowed Elladan.

“And we really are sorry,” Elrohir joined in.  “It was - foolish.  It was discourteous to you,” - he nodded to Thranduil -  “and it wasn’t fair on you either, was it Ar?”  He gave his sister an affectionate hug.

The three left Thranduil’s room together.  As they departed, Elladan turned to his sister. “Did you really spill water on his robes, Ar?”  

“No, silly!  We’d  made friends by then.  He’s very nice, really, you know!”

When they reached the family wing, they split up to change before supper.  Elrohir paused by his brother’s door. 

“El?  Have you decided yet what you’re going to wear tonight?”

Elladan looked vague.  “No, not yet.  I haven’t really thought about it.  Why?”

“Well, for the Valar’s sake, ask me first!  We don’t want to end up wearing the same - do you have any idea how ridiculous that looks at our age?”

Elladan did know.  It was something they no longer did deliberately, having been profoundly embarrassed on the last occasion.  However, there were still times - far too many times - when they would dress identically, purely by chance.  They tended to check with each other now before breakfast to avoid the possibility.

Elrohir bathed and changed.  He was half dressed when he remembered his words to Elladan. He had better find out what his brother was wearing before they joined their guests.  At that moment, Elladan opened the door. 

“El?  Are you ready?  -  Oh, no!”  They eyed each other in exasperation.  Yet again, they were dressed alike.

“I’ll go and change,” they both murmured.

“No!  You stay here.  I’ll change,”  Elladan ordered. He turned, and disappeared into his own room.

Although Elrohir bristled at the fact that Elladan was ordering him – again – he made no protest.  It suited his plans perfectly.  He hurried down the stairs, and into the feast hall.  All was quiet, it was the lull before the storm.  Before long, the hall would be full, with guests, servants and minstrels, with food and drink, with talk, music and song.  But for now it was peaceful.  The tables had been set, the flowers positioned, and tiny name cards set before each seat.

Elrohir wanted to know where Taniquel was to sit.  He found her name at last, between Legolas and Elladan.  He supposed it was only fair that she sat next to Legolas, so she would be near someone she knew, but there was no way he wanted  Elladan by her.  Locating his own place, he quickly changed the cards over.  Taniquel would never know, and neither would Elladan.  He wondered if even his parents would notice.  They very rarely made the mistake of confusing their sons, but would be somewhat distracted tonight.  He waited, eagerly, for the evening’s festivities to begin.

When he had unpacked, Legolas sat for a while on the low window sill, looking out over the valley, and down at the river far below him.  Although Imladris was very different to Lasgalen, he could sense the same aura of peace and tranquillity here as there was at home.  He wondered idly if it would feel the same in Lothlorien.   

Eventually, rather than sitting here simply looking, he decided to go out and explore.  There was still nearly an hour to go before the evening meal, so there should be plenty of time.

At the foot of the stairs he saw the tapestry he and the twins had found when they explored the storerooms at Lasgalen two years previously.  His father had had it cleaned, and had presented it to Elrond before he left to return to Imladris, and it now hung in pride of place in the hallway. 

But now ...  Legolas stopped on the bottom step and stared, wondering if he was seeing things.  The golden haired warrior depicted in the tapestry stood beneath it, talking to Erestor.  Legolas blinked.  Perhaps the atmosphere of this place was affecting him?  But no, the vision was still there.  Apart from the different clothes he wore, he looked exactly the same.  Legolas crossed to the tapestry, and stood looking, his eyes moving from the picture to the living legend who stood before him.  The warrior broke off his conversation with Erestor, and regarded Legolas with amusement.

At last Legolas spoke.  “Are you Glorfindel?” he asked.  “You must be!”

“Yes, I must be,”  Glorfindel agreed.  “And I know who you are, too.  You must be Legolas.  And I should thank you and your father for giving this tapestry to Elrond.  It was most kind of you.”

“That’s all right.  It was -”  Legolas stopped, realising it would not sound very diplomatic to say that it was lying forgotten in an old storeroom when he had found it.  Instead he went on, “- it was a pleasure.  Especially when Elladan and Elrohir said that you were their tutor sometimes.”  His gaze went over Glorfindel’s shoulder again, back to the tapestry.  “Did that really happen?”

Glorfindel turned to look as well.  “Yes, it really happened.  But it was all a very long time ago.  And I am not going to tell you the story now, elfling, you will have to wait until tonight.  There will be stories told, and songs sung, in the hall of fire, after supper.  Maybe that story will be told.”

Legolas retraced his steps, deciding to leave his exploration of the grounds until tomorrow.  He wanted to ask his father about this.  Imladris was a fascinating place, with some very interesting people.

Behind him, Erestor turned to Glorfindel.  “You really should stop lurking beneath this tapestry.  You startled the child!  I swear you do it deliberately!” 

Glorfindel merely smiled at him.

Thranduil was extremely non committal when Legolas questioned him about Glorfindel.  He seemed distracted, as if he was amused by some private joke. Legolas returned to his room in frustration to change, and eventually, ready and dressed in his best clothes, descended the stairs with his father.

When they finally entered the Great Hall, Legolas found that he had been seated next to Taniquel. That was good, as it meant that there was at least one familiar face he could talk to.  He glanced at the name card on his other side.  Glorfindel.  Well, this could be very interesting. 

After making some polite, desultory small talk, Legolas asked Glorfindel the question he had been aching to ask all evening.  “What was it like when you fought the Balrog?  How did you defeat it?”

Glorfindel smiled.  “It was a long, hard battle, but while I kept the Balrog busy, many escaped from Gondolin.  But I never did defeat the creature.”

“What do you mean?  The Balrog died, didn’t it, and everyone got away!”

“Yes, in a manner of speaking.  But the Balrog and I both fell into the chasm and perished.”

Legolas stared at Glorfindel.  “What - what do you mean?  You both perished?”

“I mean exactly that.  But Mandos was merciful, and took pity, and sent me back.”

Legolas swallowed, his eyes round.  “Oh,”  was all he said.  He kept casting sidelong glances at Glorfindel, absolutely fascinated by his interesting new companion.  He had never known anyone who had been dead before.

On Legolas’ other side, Taniquel was deep in conversation with Elrohir.  “You really should not feel so self conscious,” she explained.  “Our King often wears a crown of flowers or leaves at our weekly feasts.”

“Yes, but does he have a daisy chain?”

“Well, not very often,” she admitted.  “But I know that he wore one once, several years ago, at one of the Mid Summer feasts.  I never knew why.  And on special occasions he wears a circlet of mithril and gold.  But of course most of the time he wears nothing at all.”

Elrohir raised one eyebrow.  It was a knack his father had, and he had practiced in front of a mirror for hours until he had perfected it.  To his great delight, Elladan had still not mastered the trick.  “That must be - interesting,” he commented.

Taniquel gasped, then giggled at the intriguing mental image.  “Elrohir, stop it!” she protested, her face pink.  She glanced along the table to where Thranduil sat next to Celebrían, and blushed again.  “That is a wicked thing to say.  You know what I mean!”  She kicked Elrohir under the table, aware that Celebrían seemed to be looking straight at her.

Celebrían watched with great interest the conversation between her younger son and Taniquel.  She had deliberately placed Elladan next to her, wondering what Elrohir’s reaction would be.  It came as no great surprise to see that the twins had exchanged places, although she wondered if Elladan was aware of the fact.

It was noticeable that Elladan had dressed more quickly that his brother.  He was slightly dishevelled, and the neck of his tunic was twisted.  She wondered if he had had to change quickly, after selecting a similar outfit to Elrohir.  It seemed to happen quite often.  Until their return from Lasgalen, the twins had frequently deliberately presented an identical appearance to unsuspecting guests.  A very clever friend of Celebrían's had stopped that overnight.

When she arrived for a visit, the twins had as usual appeared to greet her like mirror images.  Alliara had taken one look at them, and clasped her hands in delight.  “Twins!  How delightful!”  she cooed.  “Celebrían, they look so adorable dressed the same like that!  So sweet!”  Scarlet with humiliation, Elladan and Elrohir had made their excuses and fled to the sanctuary of their rooms.  They had never repeated the trick.

At length the feast came to an end.  Elrond and his family, and all the assembled guests, left the Great Hall and made their way across the passage to another room.  In contrast to the blazing candles in the feast hall, this was dimly lit by flickering firelight alone.  As those present settled and began to listen, a minstrel began to play softly.

As the strings of his harp faded into the expectant silence, he spoke. “My Lords and Ladies, please listen, as I sing to you the lay of Glorfindel, of the House of the Golden Flower, and his great and valiant deeds!”

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