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Vardamir, Elrond and Laurendil returned to the house in time to hear laughter coming from the dining room. Stepping inside they saw even Glorfindel laughing uproariously at whatever Vorondur was telling them about his sons and the three healers exchanged pleased smiles.
When he calmed down a bit, Glorfindel said, “Oh no, Ron. Your sons are definitely insane. No self-respecting Reborn would do anything like that.”
All the Reborn started laughing. “Except that we have,” Brethorn admitted, “to one degree or another.”
“And what exactly did your sons do, Vorondur?” Vardamir asked, looking amused.
Vorondur chuckled and everyone else tittered. “Proved to me what Finrod and Loren and the others are always saying, that a bored Reborn is a dangerous Reborn.”
All the Reborn in the room nodded smugly.
“And?” Vardamir insisted.
Vorondur shook his head. “My sons decided that our garden wasn’t up to their exacting standards, never mind that we just moved into the house and we’re still working on beautifying the yard. It’ll take a couple more years before we get it to where we want it to be, especially with such a short growing season, but Dar and Cani decided they didn’t want to wait that long, so last night they raided Bronwen’s Nursery and… um… liberated quite a few plants.”
“They stole plants from the nursery?” Laurendil exclaimed in shock.
“And worked all night to plant them in our yard.”
“And none of you were awake to see them do this?” Elrond asked, giving Vorondur a skeptical look.
“They were very quiet,” Vorondur said almost apologetically and a couple of the listeners snickered.
“I assume you had them dig it all up again and sent the plants back,” Vardamir said.
Vorondur shook his head. “When I left for the hospital, Amroth was collecting all the price tags, not all of them removed yet, and was totaling up the damage while Della was calling Bronwen’s to see if they had even noticed the theft yet. The poor plants were traumatized by their abduction and Holly was going around speaking to them soothingly, assuring them that they were loved and all was well. We’ll keep the plants but my sons will be paying off the theft for a very long time.”
“But surely they must’ve known that what they were doing was wrong,” Alphwen exclaimed.
“Oh, I think they did, but at the same time, they saw all the beautiful gardens of our neighbors and were jealous or embarrassed and they just decided that as Elves, their garden should be more spectacular.” Vorondur paused to take a sip of wine before continuing. “I fear that our families in Aman inculcated into my sons their own prejudices against the Secondborn while they were still emotionally vulnerable, so they dismissed the notion that what they were doing was theft, insisting the plants were their due as Firstborn.”
“Ooh boy. That’s not good,” Gilvegil said with a shake of his head.
“No, it’s not, but don’t worry about it,” Vorondur said. “Holly and I will deal with it and with them. In fact, that’s where I was this afternoon before you called me. I took them down to Bronwen’s and had them apologize for what they did and we’ve arranged for restitution. They will both be working at the nursery without pay during the three seasons it’s open. Based on the actual cost of all the plants they took, they’ll be working off their misdeeds for the next five years.”
Several of the Elves shook their heads, including Glorfindel, who said, “Even I’ve never been that stupid.”
“No, you just stole a horse and ended up being a thrall,” Finrod said with a smile.
“No thanks to you,” Glorfindel snarled suddenly, his humor vanished in an instant. He began shouting, his anger rising, pointing a finger down the table at Finrod. “You’re the one who gave Ingwë the idea in the first place, you… you orc-lover. Do you know how humiliating it was to stand there before his entire court and have him do that to me?”
“Whoa! Glorfindel! Take it easy,” Vardamir said, placing a hand on the ellon’s shoulder while everyone else just stared at him in shock. Glorfindel shrugged him off and grabbed his knife. What he thought he would do with it was anyone’s guess. Those sitting closest to him scrambled out of his way. Elrond took the initiative and reached over, clamping a hand on Glorfindel’s wrist, forcing his arm down.
“Adlego i-higil,” he said softly but with such power behind it that Glorfindel immediately complied. His breathing was ragged as he glared down the table at Finrod who had gone completely still. Elrond did not release his hold on Glorfindel, but looked over his shoulder at Vardamir. “I think we should take this upstairs to the sunroom.” He continued speaking in Sindarin.
Vardamir nodded and motioned for Laurendil to follow him out. Elrond glanced at Vorondur and nodded. “I will handle him,” he said. “You go on ahead.”
Vorondur stood and walked out. Finrod started to rise, but Elrond shook his head and his tone was absolutely frigid. “No, my lord, I think you’ve done enough damage for one night. Please remain here.”
Finrod paled at the reprimand but sat back down. Amarië sitting next to him placed a comforting hand on his arm. Elrond ignored them and everyone else, concentrating on Glorfindel who was still glaring down the table. Elrond reached over with his other hand and forced Glorfindel to look at him. “We are going up to the sunroom and you are going to behave,” he said softly, though there was a hint of steel in his voice and those who had never known the erstwhile Master of Imladris saw why Gil-galad had made him his Herald. For a moment, Glorfindel did not respond, but then he nodded, taking a deep breath and all the tension in his body seemed to disappear.
“Let’s go,” he said in English, standing. Elrond stepped back to give him room. Without looking at anyone, Glorfindel exited with Elrond right behind him.
When they reached the sunroom, they found the healers huddled together, speaking softly. They looked up at Elrond’s and Glorfindel’s entrance. “Is Finrod joining us?” Vorondur asked.
Elrond shook his head. “I do not think it wise at the moment. I asked him to remain in the dining room.”
Glorfindel snorted. “More like ordered him. That orc-lover had no right to—”
“Havo ar le no dhínen!” Elrond commanded forcefully and such was his presence that Glorfindel immediately complied with the order. Elrond glared down at him. “You will not use such language in my presence, Lord Glorfindel. I will not tolerate that level of disrespect even from you.”
Glorfindel actually wilted, looking abject and apologetic. Vorondur decided to intervene, crouching to be at eye level with the balrog slayer. “Why do you insist on making outrageous statements that you know are untrue, Loren? It’s almost as if you want to provoke someone to contradict you just so you have an excuse to lash out at people.”
“That’s not like him, though,” Laurendil said, “at least not the Glorfindel I remember from Aman.”
“And it’s not like him here, either,” Vorondur allowed, never taking his eyes off Glorfindel. “What did your exam reveal?”
“Elrond,” Vardamir said, giving the Master of Imladris implicit permission to speak for them all.
“Olórin gave me the name ‘Elrod Ronaldson’,” he said with a slight smile. “Perhaps you should start calling me that if I am to live here.”
“Very well, Elrod,” Vardamir said with a smile. “Perhaps you can tell Ron what we’ve learned.”
“So, there’s Ron, Roy and now Rod?” Glorfindel asked with an amused quirk of his lips.
Elrond put a finger to Glorfindel’s lips, not saying anything. Glorfindel subsided. For a moment, Elrond just stared down at him and the others saw that Glorfindel could not meet the Master’s gaze, which they all found significant. Finally, Elrond turned to Vorondur. “Physically, Glorfindel is in good health, though there is still a weakness around the area of the surgery, but that is just a matter of reconditioning his body. I suspect that the tests from the hospital will reveal the same result in that regard. What is troubling is that his aura is erratic.”
“How so?” Vorondur asked. “I will admit that while I’m familiar with the theory behind aurae, I have never pursued it as a field of study. Among Mortals it is still a contested issue and not everyone believes in their existence or their worth in determining a person’s health.”
Elrond nodded. “Understandable. In Glorfindel’s case we’re seeing a constant shift between the various auric bodies.”
“Sorry, you’ve lost me,” Vorondur admitted.
Vardamir took up the explanation. “There are seven auric bodies or layers, each with its own frequency and purpose and they are interrelated, affecting one another and therefore impacting a person’s emotional, mental, physical and even spiritual health. An imbalance in one auric body will cause imbalances in the others.”
“And you are seeing this imbalance in Loren.” Vorondur made it more a statement than a question.
“More to the point, we are seeing shifts and they’re not exactly what we would consider imbalances,” Elrond said. “When, say, there is an imbalance in the etheric auric body which relates to self-acceptance and self-love, there is a corresponding imbalance in the astral, which impacts our relationships with others, especially family and friends.”
“But you’re not seeing an imbalance,” Vorondur said, trying to understand what the healer was saying.
“No. What we are seeing are shifts all along the spectrum,” Elrond answered. “There are imbalances, yes. For instance, in the physical auric layer, as I said, there are weak spots where Glorfindel was either injured in the attack or subsequently during surgery to save his life. Naturally, these weak spots are manifested outwardly as fatigue, irritation and the like. Under normal circumstances, these things heal themselves. What we are seeing, though, is different. What we are seeing is an entire shifting of frequencies until the various auric bodies are becoming uniformly muddied to the point where they are slowly becoming invisible.”
“What does that mean?” Glorfindel couldn’t help asking, looking distraught.
“We don’t know,” Vardamir answered, “but we have the feeling that, if we don’t find a way to reverse the process, it will continue until…”
“Until what?” Glorfindel demanded hotly. Vorondur placed a warning hand on the ellon’s shoulder. Glorfindel looked at him.
“It means, Loren, that you are beginning to fade,” Vorondur said quietly.
Glorfindel shook his head. “No. That’s impossible. I would know… wouldn’t I?” he asked plaintively.
“Have you seen people fading?” Vardamir asked.
“Sure. You remember, Elrond, the number of times we had Elves coming into Lindon to take ship who were barely hanging on and then we saw it happening when we were living in Imladris.”
Elrond nodded. “Though I suspect that most of them were suffering from sea-longing. There appears to be similarities of symptoms between the two phenomena.”
“And when I was in Aman, there was Lirulin,” Glorfindel said, apparently not listening. “I was the only one who recognized what was happening to her. Not even Ingwë saw it until I pointed it out to him. But Lirulin was practically comatose. I’m not.”
“No, you’re not,” Vorondur assured him, “but if what the healers say is true, then we have our work cut out for us. We need to discover what’s causing the shifts and then how to reverse the process, if it can be reversed.”
Glorfindel’s face became suffused with anger. “I will not fade! I didn’t survive death to just go gentle into that good night, as the poet says. I’ll be damned if I do!”
Glorfindel blinked at Vorondur, his anger forgotten. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, that if you fade in truth, it is unlikely that you will bother to heed Lord Námo’s call because you will be too sunk in despair to hear it. You will remain one of the Houseless for all the remaining ages of Arda and only Eru will be able to save you. That is where you are heading, Loren, and we need to stop you from throwing yourself over the cliff, so to speak.”
“And the first step is to go downstairs and apologize to the others, especially Finrod, for your actions,” Elrond said firmly.
“He shouldn’t have said what he did,” Glorfindel growled. “He had no right to throw that in my face.”
“No, he didn’t, but at the same time, I wonder if you would have reacted as you did if you weren’t, shall we say, not yourself.” Elrond gave him a considering look and Glorfindel reluctantly nodded as he stood, and they could almost see him mentally girding his loins. Without another word or a backward glance, he left them.
For a long moment, none of the healers said anything, all of them watching Glorfindel’s retreating figure. Then Vardamir turned to Vorondur. “You don’t seem surprised at our findings,” he stated.
Vorondur shook his head. “I was… warned earlier.”
“Oh? By whom?”
Vorondur gave them a wry look. “Who do you think? I was at the café the other night and had a very interesting chat with a certain Vala.”
The other three ellyn gave him disbelieving looks that set Vorondur chuckling. “Trust me, I was not happy to see him either. So, short of sending Glorfindel back to Aman, which I assume is not an option, what do we do?”
“What we can,” Elrond said grimly. Vardamir and Laurendil nodded, both looking grave.
Vorondur sighed, running a hand through his hair. “That’s what I was afraid you’d say.”
Glorfindel got as far as the landing between the first and ground floors and stopped, now suddenly feeling… not afraid exactly. Embarrassed, perhaps? Certainly shocked at the news. Fading. He was fading. How was that even possible? He stumbled to the bottom of the stairs and sat heavily on the second step up, unable to go any further. Finrod and his apology would have to wait. For now…
He rubbed absently at his wrists, now innocent of any scars where the attackers had slashed him, staring at nothing in particular, trying to grasp the import of what he’d been told. He reviewed in his mind every instance he could recall of someone fading or beginning to fade and in every case, or so it seemed to him, the person had given up estel. Somewhere along the way they had stopped hoping. But he hadn’t done that, had he? He was still hopeful, still looking forward to the future.
Well, yes and no, he admitted to himself.
Yes, he was looking forward to such things as Amroth and Nimrodel’s children being born, and then Nielluin’s marriage to Gareth and possibly even Gwyn and Mithrellas getting together and maybe even Roy and Sarah announcing that they were expecting a child. And then there was Elf Academy. As much as it was a pain to deal with at times, especially the college administration, he looked forward to each new term and the students who would come.
But, to be honest, he knew that at the same time, he dreaded the future and what it held for them all. The Dagor Dagorath loomed before him and the possibility that the Mortals he knew today or will know tomorrow could very well die, that even he and all the other Elves could die, yes, that was frightening. But really, why should it be? For the Mortals, war or not, death was inevitable, sad for those left behind, but the nature of things. For the Elves, death was just a temporary interruption and he knew from experience that the elven dead had no memory of the living so they at least would feel no burden of sadness or guilt.
So, why was he feeling frightened?
He shook his head, as if to clear it of dark thoughts, then wrapped his arms around his knees and hid his face as he crouched on the step wishing everything would just go away.
Glorfindel looked up to see Finrod standing before him with a look of concern. “I’m fading,” he said. “I’m fading and I don’t know how to stop it and…” He choked back a sob. Finrod reached over and pulled him up into his embrace and held him tightly as he started to weep.
“We’ll find a way together, hanno,” Finrod whispered in Glorfindel’s ear. “I promise we will not let you fade.”
“How can you promise that?” Glorfindel demanded, pushing himself out of Finrod’s hold, wiping the tears from his face with his sleeves.
“Because I have no intention of letting you go, now or ever,” Finrod said firmly. “We’ll fight this together, you and I.”
“Yet, how?” Glorfindel asked, hoping that his gwador would actually have a solution to all this.
Finrod gave him a sigh. “Unfortunately, I have no idea.”
Glorfindel stared at him in disbelief and then the very absurdity of it all caught up with him and he started laughing. There was an edge of hysteria to it but he didn’t care; he just laughed and Finrod, after a moment, joined him. When the healers came downstairs they found the two of them clinging to one another as they continued laughing.
Words are Sindarin unless otherwise noted:
Adlego i-higil: ‘Let go the knife’.
Havo ar le no dhínen!: ‘Sit and be thou silent!’
Hanno: (Quenya) Colloquial form of háno: Brother.
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