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Summary: As Gondolin falls one Elf has a final comment. Written for the ALEC challenge ‘Last Words’, for which it received an honorable mention.
Gondolin was burning with Amon Gwareth crowned now with flames. Where once Turgon’s Tower had soared into the sky, the highest landmark in the city, there was nothing but black smoke and fire. Glorfindel spied Tuor as the Mortal gathered Idril in his arms and made his way toward them. They stood with the others who had fled the city, huddled at the tunnel’s opening which looked out onto a large basin where once water had lain, but now all was covered with thick bushes. Voronwë, Tuor’s most faithful friend, was nearby, stalwart and silent in his grief, surrounded by Tuor’s surviving warriors of the House of the White Wing. He saw Galdor, Lord of the House of the Trees, standing with one of his people, Legolas Greenleaf, whom Glorfindel knew to be night-sighted and one of their best scouts. The ellon knew the plain of Tumladen and all that lay therein as no other in Gondolin. The Lord of the House of the Golden Flower nodded in satisfaction. Legolas’ talents might well tip the scales in their favor, for his eyes would be needed as they attempted to flee into the mountains.
Tuor happened to glance Glorfindel’s way and gave him a relieved smile, which he returned, giving him and Idril a respectful bow as he approached. "That’s the last of them," he said. "My people brought up the rearguard and sealed the entrance into the secret way. No one will be able to come this way even if they wished." His expression was carefully neutral though inwardly he grieved, not only for Turgon, but for his closest friend, Ecthelion, Lord of the House of the Fountain. Glorfindel cast his gaze about. "Where is Eärendil?" he asked, feeling suddenly sick at the thought that Turgon’s heir was not among the living.
It was Idril who spoke, her tone one of deep distress. "He is not here. I sent him ahead with some of my guards, but there is no sign of them."
Glorfindel took her in his embrace and kissed her. "We’ll find him, child. Which way were they to go?"
"Toward Cirith Thoronath," Tuor answered.
"A folly to go that way, I deem," Galdor said as he and Legolas joined the group. "We and they will be out in the middle of the plain ere the sun rises. It is almost seven leagues to the mountains in that direction. Perhaps we should make our way to Bad Uthwen. That is only half the distance and those among us who are weary or wounded may hope to win thus far if no further."
"Nay," Idril said. "We should trust not to the spells of hiding that my adar set there, for what power of shielding can we trust if Gondolin is fallen?"
Glorfindel closed his eyes against the grief that suddenly took him. He knew that Idril in speaking of Gondolin meant Turgon, for in many ways they were one and the same and it was impossible to separate the city from its founder in the minds and hearts of the people, himself included.
"At any rate," Tuor added, "Eärendil and his guards are heading north as ordered, I deem. We will go that way even if none follow us."
But many debated the wisdom of this and in the end a large body separated from Tuor’s group, declaring they would make for Bad Uthwen, much to Glorfindel’s disgust. "You do not go with them," he heard Tuor say to Galdor, "even though you suggested going that way." Glorfindel could see the sorrow in Tuor’s eyes as the Mortal watched the band head south.
The Lord of the House of the Tree shook his head. "My oaths keep me here with you and the Lady Idril," he said. "I merely offered the suggestion, but I will be led by you, for you are now our lord, for I fear Turgon has fallen."
"As do I," Glorfindel said grimly. "We should away if we are to get as far from the city and Morgoth’s army as we can ere the sun finds us. I and my people will take the rearguard to assure there are no stragglers."
"And I will send Legolas with the vanguard," Galdor said, "for he is the most far-sighted of us all."
"Yes," Tuor said, "and for that reason alone I am glad you decided to come with us. I fear we will all need to keep our wits about us. Until we cross over Cirith Thoronath, we cannot look to hope that we will escape undetected."
And so they made their way out of the basin toward the mountains, hoping against hope that they would escape detection. They made good time in spite of their weariness, for Glorfindel and his people allowed none to straggle. So it was that in the pearly dawn they were far out in the valley and Tuor called a halt. Glorfindel cast his gaze about him in surprise, for he could now see that the plain was full of mists.
"What marvel is this?" he muttered to no one in particular, but none had an answer, for never had any mist or deep fog come upon the valley before and all wondered if this was an omen of the Valar or something else entirely.
After a brief pause, Tuor gave the signal for them to continue, and so they did, faring safely under cover of the fog even as Anor rose, though they could not see her. Thus, by this unlooked-for miracle they traveled until they were too far away for any to descry them from the ruined city. Then, the mists began to lift, though luckily they still hung heavily over Gondolin, shielding it from sight.
"Look!" Glorfindel heard Tuor cry and gazed in the direction in which the Mortal was pointing.
He could see a small knot of warriors, perhaps no more than eight or ten and sitting on the shoulders of one of them was Eärendel. He gave a sigh of relief, but it was short lived for suddenly Idril cried out in terror and Glorfindel rushed forward to better see what was happening. He felt his blood go cold as he saw what appeared to be huge wolves ridden by Orcs. They were harassing the ellyn attempting to protect Eärendil. Then, Tuor was by his side. "Come with me," he said, and he called on Galdor and Legolas and nearly fifty other warriors who appeared the least weary and they followed him across the plain, hoping to reach the others before they were brought down. It was a race against time and Glorfindel could see that some of the guards were attempting to flee, though where they thought to go, he could not guess.
"Hold!" Tuor shouted as he ran, "and flee not, for you only give these wolfriders better targets."
Now, only a half dozen guards remained and Glorfindel was pleased to see them obeying Tuor’s words. Then, he had no more time for thought, for they had reached Eärendil. Glorfindel saw the lad sitting on Hendor’s shoulders and smiled at the sight, for Hendor was a devoted servant of Idril and Eärendil could not have been in better hands.
"Form a crescent," he heard Tuor order and Glorfindel joined the others in a single rank bent on destroying the Orcs and their wolves. It was a good plan, to envelope the riders so none might escape and it mostly worked though two Orcs, sorely wounded and on foot, managed to elude the Elves.
Then Glorfindel watched as Tuor and Eärendil greeted one another, smiling at the lad whom he could see was desperately trying to be brave. Hendor gave his lord a brief bow even as he handed Eärendil over to Tuor. Glorfindel heard the lad speaking to his adar.
"It gladdens me, Ada," the lad said, "that Maeglin died as he did, for he would set arms about Nana and I liked him not, but I would travel in no tunnels for all of Morgoth’s wolfriders."
Tuor smiled and set his son upon his shoulders while the others chuckled. As the main company, led by Idril, reached them, however, he set his son down so he might greet his naneth and their reunion was joyful and tearful at the same time. Idril tried to carry him but he refused, looking rather affronted. Glorfindel hid a smile and rejoined his warriors in the rear even as Tuor gave the order to continue.
Sunset saw them in the foothills below the Cirith Thoronath, two leagues further up along a narrow and treacherous path. Tuor had set a grueling pace and even Glorfindel was feeling it, wiping the sweat from his brow as he took a swig of water from a waterskin that one of his warriors handed him. He glanced back the way they had come and he could see Aman Gwareth still engulfed in flames and billowing smoke. Of the walls of Gondolin there was no sign. He closed his eyes against the sight and turned resolutely forward even as he heard Tuor give the signal for them to continue.
The climb through the shoulder of the hills was long and wearying. Grass faded to be replaced by stony outcroppings and even the pines and firs grew sparse. Glorfindel continued to urge the stragglers on, gently admonishing the ellith and elflings and those suffering various wounds. Yet, ever in his heart he felt that something was wrong, that some evil stalked them. He glanced up through the cleft where the path wound ruggedly up to the pass. There was little to see now that the sun was set, but he could not shake the feeling that they were somehow walking into a trap. Yet, what other choice did they have? He shook his head to clear it of dark thoughts and concentrated on the climb. The way rose above the treeline and now they encountered snow and the wind howled around them, sending drifts swirling about them so that they were nearly blinded.
"Haldir," Glorfindel called to the nearest of his warriors. "Go you to where Lord Tuor is midmost of the line and tell him we are too spread out. We must come closer together or we here in the rear will be unable to defend those in front."
He saw Haldir nod and bend down to give Gwilwileth, his wife of only a few years, a quick kiss before moving ahead. Yet, even as the ellon made his way forward, there was a surge of people moving back and cries of terror sounded and resounded among the crags.
"Damn!" Glorfindel muttered and watched in horror as rocks from above careened down the side of the cleft. One of the larger ones hit Haldir squarely and the ellon was close enough to the edge that before anyone could react he fell without a sound into the chasm that yawned on their left.
"Haldir!" Gwilwileth screamed and Glorfindel grabbed her before she could go to her husband.
"It’s too late!" Glorfindel cried even as he felt tears running down his face. Too many deaths and he feared Haldir’s would not be the last. He handed the weeping Gwilwileth off to one of the other nearby ellith and started to issue orders for those of his House to protect the others from the rockfall with their shields. Yet, even as he spoke there came a roar from behind him and turning he saw a number of Orcs rushing toward them and there in their midst was a Balrog, who suddenly leapt on high rocks that stood near the path on the left side upon the lip of the chasm into which poor Haldir had fallen. Then, with yet another leap, he was past Glorfindel and his warriors. Screams of terror and pain echoed off the walls of the cleft as the Balrog came into the midst of the ellith and the wounded, lashing its whip of flame.
Chaos ensued and for a brief moment Glorfindel merely stood there, an island of calm in the midst of the carnage, watching as Ithil lifted his face over the eastern flanks of the mountains, shining down upon the scene of horror and death. Further up the pass he could see Tuor trying to make his way back down with some of his own warriors, their winged helms glittering strangely in the moonlight. Glorfindel knew that they would be too late.
"Pui-en-orch," he muttered, half in disgust and half in resignation as he pulled his sword from its sheath.
And then, he leaped.
Words are Sindarin unless otherwise noted.
Morituri: (Latin) ‘We who are about to die’.
Ellon: Male Elf. The plural is ellyn.
Bad Uthwen: Way of Escape.
Adar: Father. The hypocoristic form is Ada.
Nana: Hypocoristic form of naneth: Mother.
Ellith: Plural of elleth: Female Elf.
Author’s Note: Much of the detail of the flight from Gondolin is based on the fuller description given in ‘The Fall of Gondolin’, Book of Lost Tales 2, HoME II, rather than from the Silmarillion.
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