Sweet Silver Bells (by PSW)

Summary:  Glorfindel takes a short rest as he rides against the Nine in search of the Halflings.
Category: Lord of the Rings
Genre: Fantasy
Rated:  G
Word Count:  1743


 

Darkness was falling and it was time for him to be off, but still Glorfindel lingered.  Quiet moments had been few over the past days, and he was … weary.

Yes.  Weary and heartsick.  Rest had been in short supply since he had left Imladris.  Rarely had Asfaloth’s hooves slowed or had his own feet even touched the ground, but the cause was unimaginably vital and both of them could go for many days still before the need for a more substantial respite overtook them.  No, their hard pace was not the cause of his fatigue—at least, in greater part. The very success of his hunt was to blame.

Success, at least, if one considered it a triumph to locate five of the Nine so near to Imladris.  Success, if merely driving them away to hunt another day—another hour—could be construed as victory.  He had not located the halflings, nor yet seen any sign of them, but neither had he seen any sign that the Riders had come upon them, and that he considered a success as well.

He would take what he was able.

Glorfindel shook his hair from his face, rebound the trailing strands, and leaned back against the solid oak trunk.  Above him, Asfaloth pressed closer, as if to bar his rider from sight by the sheer bulk of his own body—though if a white horse could avoid escaping casual notice in this dark glade, even so far off the road as they were, Glorfindel would eat his own pack.  Still, he appreciated the thought, and rubbed one hand along his mount’s leg. Asfaloth nipped at the Elf’s hair, and went back to grazing the tight circle around them. Glorfindel took a long breath and told himself again that it was time to go.

His arms and legs were leaden, though, and his heart was heavy.  Yes, he had met with success, but one did not win easy victory over the Ring-wraiths of Sauron.  He did not fear them. He had seen Valinor, he had returned from the Halls of Mandos, and the light and power of the Valar were with him.  Sauron’s foul creatures could not face him and triumph. The nine rings were powerful, though, and the will of the Riders black and strong.  It was still heavy upon him, hours after their meeting—hours after he had driven yet two more from the road into the lands to the south. He worried that he had driven them straight toward their goal—none knew from what direction the travelers might come—but he could not allow such fears to burden him, to cause him doubt.  The Nine could not remain unharried upon the open road.

Elbereth, guide the halflings.

He must arise.  Blindly he groped for his pack.  It was near to hand and he pulled it to him, but rather than stand he only opened it and dug for his water skin.

He had known that it would come to this, if he chanced upon the Riders.  Of course he had. The memories of great battle and searing pain, of desolation as Gondolin burned and her inhabitants fled, of uncertainty in the face of his new life, of rage during the mad hunt for Celebrian beside the sons of Elrond, of deep sorrow as her husband fought an ultimately futile battle for her healing.  The Dark Lord and his minions worked always through fear and despair. It was their chief weapon, wielded with masterful skill. He had known what he would face, and he was prepared. Still, however, it ached within him, slowed his thoughts and his steps. Glorfindel wished briefly that he might be anywhere else, then shook the thought away as unworthy.  The road was the most dangerous. He was the strongest. There was no other choice for him, and he made it willingly.

For a moment, he was back in Elrond’s study.  The Lord of Imladris stood before them, caught against the glow of the afternoon sun, clutching a battered missive in his hand.

“We must send riders.  The Nine must be driven back.  The halflings must be found and brought within our borders.”  Around him, heads nodded grave assent, though none spoke. “Arothil and Cagonith will go north.”  The two bowed briefly. “Dieril and Teronae will look to the south.” Two more bows. “Mirdenan and Parthain shall take the western path.”  Ah. He knew before Elrond looked to him what his errand must be. “Glorfindel.” His lord hesitated. “Glorfindel, the road must be kept clear.”

He did not hesitate, but bowed low.  “It shall be, my Lord.”

Elrond’s eyes were troubled.  “We have none other to send with you.”

No, indeed they did not.  Cagonith and Teronae already had been summoned against Elrond’s gravest misgivings—they were fierce warriors, and bold, but they were untried against such as the Nine.  The Lord of Imladris could not, however, countenance sending any of the others without companion, and Glorfindel found himself in utter agreement. He also knew that, despite his solitary path, he was best equipped to ride the open road and meet any challenges found there.

All was as it must be.  He did not fear the Nine.

“I understand, my Lord.”

Since that time, he had met and faced five of the Nine—driven them back, felt their wrath.  Elrond had sent his riders forth only four days ago, and yet the memory was dimmed as if by many years.  Asfaloth nudged him, impatient to be about their quest, and Glorfindel rubbed the white shoulder firmly. “Of course, my friend.”  He reached again for his pack without so much as a glance, and only when he rose did he realize that he held its bottom seam rather than the top flap.  It fell open, and emptied its contents onto the hard earth below.

A merry jangle distracted him from annoyance.  Behind him, Asfaloth’s ears pricked and the white head turned quickly.

What was … Ah!

He caught up the gaudy blue harness, sewn with silver bells, and laughed aloud as the memories assailed him.  The heavy fatigue dimmed beneath their light. The harness had been a gift from Estel years ago, when he was still fostering under the protection of Elrond.  Although most of the boy’s past had been kept a secret from him, his mother Gilraen had rightly insisted that her son be exposed to as many of the customs of the Dunedain as could be managed.  Estel was, after all, of their people and would one day lead them—it was right that he know something of their ways. Glorfindel remembered not what holiday the boy and his mother had been celebrating, but he did remember the shining grey eyes as the young child thrust the abomination into his hands.  “A gift for you!”

He had accepted it with humor and grace, and promptly stowed it away in his chambers, only to face a disappointed pout days later when Estel had witnessed him preparing to depart Imladris without it.  Rather than disillusion the child further, he had for years exchanged his usual harness for Estel’s gift at leave-taking and return, burying it deep in his pack throughout the rest of his journeys—where the bells would not prey upon his ears and the brightly stained leather would not blind unwary eyes.

It had been many years since Aragorn had lived among them—many years since Glorfindel had played that particular game with a boy who, as he grew, knew perfectly well that the showy harness spent most of its time stuffed in the bottom of a travelling pack—but the harness still rode with him on most journeys, transferred almost without thought from one pack to the next along with his spare knife and his extra hair ties and his firesteel.  It was habit and good memories now, much as was the monstrous bracelet that Erestor had received for (if Glorfindel remembered correctly) the same holiday.

Some of the Dunedain customs seemed strange indeed.

Good memories.  He shook the harness, chuckling softly, and was nearly buffeted into the tree by Asfaloth’s muzzle.  The stallion snuffed at the harness, then shook his head with vigor. Glorfindel laughed aloud.

“You like it, then?”

He jingled it again, and Asfaloth danced back, crowhopped away, then returned, jostling Glorfindel’s hand once more.  The silver bells jangled, and the Elf-lord saw again the shining grey eyes of a small child of Men, and realized suddenly that the heavy weariness had lifted.  It was not gone, no, but the sweet tinkling of the bells, the memories they brought of home and loved ones and happier times, did their part to hold it at bay.

“Well …”  Glorfindel peered around toward the darkening road, then laughed again.  “Why not? Or errand depends not on stealth. Indeed, ‘tis better that the Nine know well they are pursued and that they dare not linger.  Why should we not have a little music to lighten our way?”

Asfaloth held quite still as Glorfindel stripped the serviceable harness and replaced it with the showy leather and bells, but danced away immediately as the last strap was buckled, shaking his head and sending the raucous jingling into the night.  It seemed that even his horse’s spirits were lifted by the change. Asfaloth pranced close again as Glorfindel refilled his pack, and the Elf slapped the stallion playfully on the flank.

“Vain creature.”

Familiar words, those, though normally directed at him rather than his horse ….  Glorfindel snickered, tossing the pack over his shoulder. Asfaloth snorted and skipped, and the world suddenly seemed the slightest bit lighter.

“Very well, you’ve got your way.  Let’s be off.”

The stallion calmed immediately and sidled close for him to mount.  Glorfindel leaped onto the white back, secured his pack, and peered up and down the still road.

“We won’t find halfling tracks tonight, but the Riders may still be about.  Be alert.”

The white ears pricked and the muscles tensed beneath him.  They vaulted back onto the road to the music of small silver bells.

*****

Then faintly, as if it was blown away from them by the breeze, they seemed to catch a dim ringing, as of small bells tinkling.

~~ Flight to the Ford, The Fellowship of the Ring

 

***The End***

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