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4
Epilogue

Author’s notes:
The end of this story surprised even me – it was not intended to happen. But it always works best when I let my own characters take over control, so I didn’t fight it – even if this means that I’d have to make certain corrections in my Glorfindel-story later.

Many thanks to Altariel Artanis who allowed me to use the beautiful blessing at the end. I chose to make it a tradition of Valinor, so you might find it in later stories as well.


~~~

EPILOGUE

A full circle of the Sun had passed since the end of the war, yet Arda still was bleeding of thousand wounds. Seeing it was becoming unbearable, but at least the trial was slowly coming to its end. Eönwë had spent the recent year of so-called peace travelling in Glorfindel’s company around the rest of what once had been the western lands and speaking to Elves and Men, carrying to them the offer of the Valar. Some of them had followed his summoning, but many of them had not.

The Silvan Elves flatly refused to leave their beloved trees, even if they shed many bitter tears over the perishing the oldest and most beautiful forests of Middle-earth. Their Kings, Amdír of Laurelindórinan and Oropher of Emyn Galen (one of the few nobles who escaped from Doriath) surrounded themselves with icy silence, and very few of their people were willing to leave.

“They are bound to this Earth,” Glorfindel explained quietly, “more than anyone else of our kin. And though they feared and hated Morgoth, they cannot forgive us that our war caused the great forests to perish. They wish not to go away, for the Sea calls them not, and they feel betrayed by us as well as by the Lords of the West.”

Galadriel, too, refused to return, but that surprised Eönwë not. She had always been the most proud and headstrong of Finarfin’s children, and her pride could not bear to admit how wrong she had been. And she was bound to Celeborn with the deepest bond of mutual love. Celeborn was not willing, nor able to leave Middle-earth yet (if ever), so Galadriel chose to stay with him, even though she had little chance to found her own, strong kingdom east of the Sea as she had dreamed of once.

And Celebrimbor, last and lonely descendant of Fëanor, wanted not to return to Aman, either.

“I cannot find there again what once had been and then was lost,” he answered to Eönwë’s offer. “For the Two Trees are no more and the Light of Valinor shall never be the same it was in my childhood. Here, at least, I can see its far-away shimmer high above on the sky. And the debts of my family to Middle-earth are yet to be paid. I cannot do much; but I am willing to help re-build some of what my family helped to destroy.”

“You had no guilt in that,” Glorfindel intervened gently. “You were but a child during the first Kinslaying in Alqualondë, and you turned your back on your father and uncles before the other ones.”

“True,” Celebrimbor stared at his own bare arms (for they had found him in his workshop, and the sleeves of his rough working garb were rolled up), as if he still could see the blood stains of their murdered cousins where his father’s hand had once grabbed him; “yet the blood of the slain still burns my flesh like fire. I know not what I can do to redeem for my forefathers – surely not nearly enough – but I offered my hands to the High King, and as long as he has use of them, I shall remain.”

“That might take a long time yet,” Eönwë warned him, “and you are much older than Gil-galad. The fading will hit you earlier.”

“It matters not,” replied Celebrimbor flatly; “for are we not cursed by all means, I and my whole kin? What punishment fate ever holds for me, I am willing to accept. Mayhap this way I can have the blood of the innocent wiped from my hands one day.”

It distressed Eönwë greatly that he could not persuade the only truly innocent member of Fëanor’s family to go with him, but Glorfindel cautioned him not to press matters. So they finished their long journey, coming back to the newly-slashed Golf of Lhún, where Círdan and his remaining people had already established their new, twin havens they named Mithlond, and were now busily building new ships in order to bring the surviving rest of the Atani to their new home, the green island of Elenna.

Inglor moved to Forlindon, to the feet of the northern chains of Ered Luin – there, upon the southern slopes, facing the Golf and the Grey Havens, the High King intended to build his new city: a white tower of many levels, carved into the living rock of the mountains. Inglor, who had inherited his father’s skills in stone-carving and learnt by the best masters in Aman, offered his help, and together with Celebrimbor and some of his fellow master-smiths they were carefully planning out the magnificent work they were about to do. They wanted the new city to be worthy of Nargothrond and Gondolin, even if they had lesser means to build it.

Elrond had accompanied Eönwë and Glorfindel on their travels, and was now about to move to Gil-galad’s court as well. For the first time since the revolt of the Noldor in Aman, all three branches of the once so great and proud Finwëan tree were reunited, under the rule of Fingolfin’s House.

“If naught else, this horrible war at least achieved to end the kintwist,” commented Glorfindel with a sad smile. “I hoped no more that it could be done at all.”

“For how long?” Eönwë asked tiredly. “And remember, Galadriel joined young Gil-galad’s court not. She went out to find her own kingdom… once again. How come that she cannot learn from her own mistakes?”

“Pride and arrogance,” Glorfindel said thoughtfully, “have always been the pitfalls of the Finwëans. But at least she has Celeborn now to take care of her – and Celeborn is wiser than most would believe. I am certain that he is more than able to keep her on the right path. For there is great love between the two of them – a love that matters more to her than her own pride; and one day it will matter to him more than Middle-earth itself. Even if it will take him a very long time.”

“Foresight, my friend?” Eönwë smiled. Glorfindel shook his golden head.

“Nay, my Lord. Experience. I know what such love feels like. It consumes body and heart and soul – even now, that I have been clad in new flesh, it bonds me to my oath I had sworn in another life.”

Eönwë gave him a curious look.

“Is then your hröa not the same one it used to be? I was told that Elves return from Mandos’ Halls as the same person.”

“The same we might be, yet not unchanged,” Glorfindel said. “Not everything that flesh remembers will be kept when we are restored. We still know what happened to our old shell, but some of the memories are but fading images. I know not of the others, but I know that I am… estranged from that old Glorfindel from the House of the Golden Flower who fell together with the Balrog from the cliff of Crissaegrim.”

“I understand not,” Eönwë frowned. “Then you are not the same person, after all?”

“You cannot ever understand this, my Lord,” Glorfindel replied a little sadly, “for you only wear your shell like a robe. But we are one with our hröa, and though the new flesh in which we are clad is very much like the old used to be, at least to the naked eye, 'tis our spirit that remembers; the memories of flesh are lost. The Glorfindel who fought the Balrog had died, was buried and grieved over. I do remember the flame of Udún that scorched my body of old, but not the way someone who still is in his first shell would.”

“What of love?” Eönwë asked. “What of your bond to Idril Celebrindal? Does it still exist?”

“I still have the feelings,” Glorfindel replied, “but not the desire I once felt. This new hröa is removed from the passion of the old one. ‘Tis… strange. There are times when I feel not like myself at all. But mayhap ‘tis different with the others. I have been changed, ere I was sent back to Middle-earth with you; the others are not.”

“You are almost one of my own kin now,” Eönwë agreed, “save that you still have the passion of the incarnates in you. Mayhap this new shell of yours needs its own memories to feel like your own again.”

Glorfindel looked at him with an all-knowing smile. During all those years spent on Eönwë’s side, he had learnt to interpret the Maia’s sometimes veiled words.

“That might be,” he said, “though I am still learning to live with it. Is there aught you would want of me, my Lord?”

“I know not,” Eönwë admitted in dismay. “I have been fighting this fana(1) I am wearing for over forty years like a wild beast that would not be tamed. It has a fire on its own that fights my spirit in every moment.”

“You have begun to bond with your own incarnation,” Glorfindel stated with a smile. “For an Elf, you still would be but a child, depending on his elders’ guidance – no wonder you feel disturbed, an ancient spirit trapped in such a young body. 'Tis indeed high time you get back home – for, unless you would intend to remain in your shell permanently, the burden would become too much for you.”

“It already has,” Eönwë murmured. “How I long for the peace of Mandos’ Halls! How can you bear this burden, all of you?”

“We are born that way,” Glorfindel laughed. “We know naught else – unless we die as I did. And, as I already said, our hröa is more than a mere shell for us. Unlike you, we are our hröa – that is what makes rebirth so difficult.”

“So when I have shed this form, there will be naught left from the years I had spent in it?” Eönwë asked. Glorfindel gave him a helpless shrug.

“I truly cannot say, my Lord. We still are very different beings. But I do believe that you shall still have your memories – faded away, like detached images of the mind, I deem.” He gave the Maia an inquisitive glance. "Is that not what you hope for?"

“I do hope to become… detached from the horrors of war, ’tis true,” Eönwë nodded; “yet I wish not to forget you. The sound of your voice that guided me through the twisted path of such an unusually long incarnation… how your touch on my face felt when I wept in grief over the bleeding wounds of Arda… these memories are dear and cherished for me, and I would regret to lose them. For despite all its terrors, this was the first time since the forming of Arda that I have not been alone.”

Their eyes met and the mind-link that had been slowly forming between the two of them opened for a moment – long enough for Glorfindel to read what had not been said.

“I cannot go back with you, my Lord, not yet,” he said quietly. “Not as long as Elrond wants to remain there; for Elros had made his choice and therefore is lost for our kin already. I must stay and protect the only child of Idril I still can.”

“I know that,” Eönwë said, “and I ask you not to break your word, even if it has been given in another life. But when you do return to Aman… can you offer me aught to wait for?”

“I wish I could,” Glorfindel replied honestly, “for indeed, I have been changed enough to make room in my heart for a different kind of devotion. But even though I would readily burn in your fire, my Lord, once you have shed this form, all that will remain would be fading images for you, I fear.”

“Then we shall wait 'til we can be reunited in Aman,” Eönwë half said, half asked. “When I have been healed and taken on a new form as well. After that, the memories will not fade, will they?”

“I know not!” Glorfindel sighed in despair. “For despite all the changes I went through, we still are very different – and you shall not be the same once you had taken on a new form from the untainted flesh of the Blessed Realm. Who can say if you still would want to remember at all?”

I can”, Eönwë reached out, hesitating, and laid his palm on the Elf’s cheek. “I, too, have changed during these years, and the changes marked not my fana only but my very spirit as well. The bond that has formed between the two of us during the war is one of the spirits, my friend; therefore it will remain even in Mandos’ Halls. I want you to return to me, after your labours in Middle-earth have ended.”

Glorfindel closed his eyes for a moment. The incredibility of that request made him shiver. This was even more unheard-of than the bond between Melian and Elwë – for he had become more than Elwë could have ever hoped for, and Eönwë offered him more than a shared life as incarnates in Middle-earth. The mightiest of the Maiar offered him to share the spiritual bond known only between Ainur to exist.

“Then I shall do as I am asked,” he promised softly, opening his eyes again, just to be blinded by the first true smile of a Maia he had seen since they had left Aman to go to war. It broke through Eönwë’s physical form with the sheer force of pure lightning. The Maia seemed to grow, though Glorfindel knew well it was but an illusion, as if his outer shell were about to break up and let his unrestrained spirit free.

“Nay, my Lord,” he warned, “you cannot let go, not yet! You have to keep your shape as long as you are here. This Earth cannot bear any more bashing from your unleashed powers.”

“I know,” Eönwë willed back the sheer fire of his spirit. “’Tis even harder to hold back longing than to hold back wrath, that is all. I shall not harm what of Middle-earth is still whole.”

“We should say our farewells now, while you still can restrain your powers,” Glorfindel offered uncertainly. Eönwë nodded.

“We should,” he agreed. “Give me then something to remember while I wait in Mandos for your return. For it seems to me that I shall have to wait for a very long time – even as we count it.”

“Take of me what reminder you ever want,” Glorfindel replied, and at that Eönwë leaned forward and gently placed his lips on the Elf’s, barely touching – yet it felt like liquid fire running through his whole body.

Glorfindel stood perfectly still, though the brief contact had shaken his soul to its very ground.

I would readily burn in your fire, my Lord, he had told Eönwë mere moments ago – now he understood fully the ramifications of this promise. Were they ever to be reunited, he would burn, indeed, even in his new, enhanced form. Yet he regretted not to have made that promise, nor did he intend to back off.

“I have to leave you know, my Lord,” he murmured, taking a careful step back when the burning had become too much; “for there is much for me still to do. But when my work here is done, I shall return to you.”

“And I shall be waiting,” Eönwë, too, stepped back and let him go, holding his physical form together by sheer willpower – it had become increasingly difficult already lately, and letting the fire of his spirit burn freely, even if only for a moment, made it not easier. “Go now, my friend, my golden flower, as long as I can still let you go. Nólë Ilúvataro tiruva tielya oialë(2), he added the traditional blessing.

Glorfindel bowed, and after a long moment – in which their eyes met and their spirits merged like gold in living fire – he left, not knowing that it would take them two full Ages to be finally reunited.

~~~

End notes:
(1) Corporeal form of a Vala or a Maia (or so I hope).
(2) Wisdom of God shall guard your path everlastingly – a blessing created by Altariel Artanis.


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