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The clothing store run by the Elves, which they had decided would be called ‘The Elf Emporium’, was not due to open until after Glorfindel and Finrod returned from Fairbanks. Erestor and Lindorillë had decided to postpone the opening until then because of shipment delays.
“Typical Mortal inefficiency,” Erestor groused to no one in particular when he made the announcement to postpone the opening. “I had the same problem with the damn Dúnedain. I swear, these Mortals do this on purpose just to annoy me.”
The response to this was laughter on the part of Glorfindel and several others, including Elrond and Celebrían, who were there at the time. Elrond’s eyes twinkled. “You and Lindir both,” he said. “The two of you would grumble and grouse throughout my halls and insist that the household would fall apart because shipments were a day late.”
“Yeah, you were always rather blasé about that, as I recall, Elrond,” Glorfindel said with a grin. “Except the time the Dorwinion didn’t arrive when due. Remember, Erestor? We had the devil’s own time, to borrow a Mortal phrase, trying to keep Elrond from haring off to find the caravan.”
“All I could think of was all that good Dorwinion going to waste on orcs or Dunlending bandits,” Elrond sniffed. “You would’ve been upset too, don’t deny it.”
“Oh, I don’t deny that I would’ve been very sorrowful had the wine gotten into the hands of ungrateful bandits,” Glorfindel admitted laconically, “but I would’ve been even more sorrowful had you gotten yourself killed over it because you ran off without suitable protection.”
“Suitable protection, meaning you,” Elrond said.
“And Elladan and Elrohir and Thandir and every other guard I could lay my hands on,” Glorfindel retorted. “Anyway, Erestor, welcome to Alaska. Wait until winter when half the time the main highway is shut down for most of its length.”
“How do supplies come in then?” Lindorillë asked.
“Usually by plane,” Glorfindel answered. “There’s an airstrip over by Nolan.”
“It will cost more,” Erestor said darkly.
Glorfindel shrugged and gave them a thin smile. “As I said, welcome to Alaska.”
So, the week passed. On Friday before dawn, they were packing Glorfindel’s van for the trip and by seven he, Finrod, Legolas, Findalaurë, Calandil, Elennen and Nielluin were on their way to Fairbanks. The youngsters and Legolas watched with interest as the miles went by, their faces practically glued to the windows, staring at the spectacular scenery while Glorfindel and Finrod took turns driving. They stopped at the Arctic Circle to eat lunch and stretch their legs and then they were on their way again. By the time they reached Livengood, even Legolas had tired of looking at the passing scenery and had slipped onto the Path of Dreams, while the youngsters occupied themselves with reading and listening to music on their MP3 players.
“Almost there,” Glorfindel called out as he drove through Livengood after stopping for gas.
Legolas woke up and the youngsters put away their books and music to stare out the window once again. They sped down Route 2 into the heart of the city with Glorfindel making his way to the Downtown Log Cabin Hideaway Bed and Breakfast where they would be staying.
“Holy—” Findalaurë muttered, his eyes wide with shock at the amount of traffic surrounding them as well as the tall buildings and the people. His gwedyr and Nielluin looked equally stunned as they stared out the windows.
Legolas knew just how they felt. He recalled Minas Tirith as he first saw it and realized that Fairbanks was probably larger than that city of Men, the jewel of the Númenóreans-in-Exile. It was a sobering thought, knowing that Fairbanks was considered a small city in comparison to most others. And he was supposed to help Glorfindel and Finrod keep the children in line? He stole a glance toward the front of the van where Glorfindel was competently steering his way through the traffic while Finrod sat in the passenger seat still reading the guidebook he had purchased at the bookstore, not even bothering to look up.
But of course he wasn’t there to keep the youngsters in line; he was there to keep Glorfindel in line. Legolas snorted to himself at that thought, recognizing how utterly futile such a task was. He keep Glorfindel in line? Who was he kidding? Glorfindel could run rings around him without raising a sweat and still have energy left over to quote the entire Athrabeth, which, as Legolas recalled, the Balrog-slayer had actually done once when Aragorn half-jokingly challenged him to. Legolas remembered the utter awe he had felt as he listened to the Captain of the Imladrin Guard quote the entire treatise without pause or hesitation.
“Here we go,” Glorfindel said as he pulled into the parking lot for the B & B, drawing Legolas out of his reverie. The Wood Elf suddenly realized he could not remember their course through the city during his ruminations and felt momentarily chagrined that he’d allowed himself to be that inattentive, but then mentally shrugged. It wasn’t as if they were traveling through Mirkwood, after all.
“Thank Eru!” Finrod exclaimed with some relief, closing the guidebook and undoing his seatbelt. “That has to be the most wretched road I’ve ever had to travel in all my days.”
Glorfindel gave him a sly smile. “Getting soft in our old age, are we?”
“I will pretend I did not hear that,” Finrod said stiffly. The youngsters all snickered and even Legolas smiled at the byplay between them.
They climbed out of the van and even Legolas sighed with relief as he stretched cramped muscles while helping to retrieve their baggage and following Glorfindel and Finrod into the building where they were warmly greeted by the owners. Soon they were being shown to their rooms with the youngsters sharing one with four bunks and the three older ellyn sharing another, a larger room with three separate beds.
“We’ll unpack and then take a walk,” Glorfindel suggested. “There are some nice restaurants in the area. We’ll let the youngsters choose tonight.” And that is what they did. Glorfindel and Finrod, Legolas noticed, both seemed at ease around the larger crowds of people, ignoring the inevitable stares by the Mortals as they walked slowly along, conversing in Quenya about some aspect of elvish philosophy that was of no interest to Legolas, who brought up the rear, making sure the youngsters didn’t go wandering off in their excitement. The youngsters, in fact, spent the time gazing into shop windows and commenting in Sindarin about the vast variety of goods that were available, even more so than what could be found in Wiseman.
“So, what is there to do here, Loren?” Elennen finally asked as they waited to cross a street.
“Well, I thought we would start with the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center,” Glorfindel replied. “It’s a good way to get an overview of the history of Interior Alaska. Then we can visit the Museum of the North and then there are the Botanical Gardens and right around the corner is an Ice Museum that I think you will enjoy.”
“What about visiting the university?” Nielluin asked. “Perhaps we’ll run into Alex there.”
Glorfindel smiled. “Only if we’re extremely lucky.”
“Have you called Gwyn yet?” Findalaurë asked as the light turned and they crossed the street. “Are we meeting him and Gareth while we’re here?”
“Of course we are,” Glorfindel said. “I gave Gwyn a call while we were unpacking. We’ll see him and Gareth tomorrow night at their place for dinner, so Nell, you’ll just have to wait until then to see your beau.”
“Beau, fiancé, sweetheart, take your pick,” Glorfindel replied with a grin.
“I’m surprised you’re not insisting we go see Gareth immediately,” Finrod said, giving Nielluin a significant look.
The elleth sniffed. “We’ve been texting.” She held up her smartphone and there were knowing chuckles all around.
“Well, why don’t we look about for someplace to eat and then we’ll discuss what there is to see here in Fairbanks and plan our itinerary a bit more,” Glorfindel suggested. The others agreed and soon they were sitting down in a small restaurant chosen by the youngsters after much debate and spent the meal with Glorfindel outlining the various sights. Legolas pretty much ignored the discussion, not really caring what they saw, being more interested in the sushi they were eating.
The next morning, after breakfast, they piled into the van and Glorfindel drove them first to the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, a large, modern glass building where they marveled at the antler arch made up of over a hundred moose and caribou antlers situated just outside the building’s entrance and the flying bishop’s plane that graced the lobby. Inside, they spent some time examining the diorama exhibits celebrating Interior Alaska’s people, land and culture. Glorfindel had arranged for the youngsters to have their portrait taken wearing traditional Athabascan clothing made of moosehide with wolf, muskrat, wolverine and beaver fur and decorated with stunning beadwork. Each of them were given their own copy.
“You should have your portrait taken, too,” Nielluin told Glorfindel, Finrod and Legolas and the Three Amigos agreed. The older Elves demurred and the photographer grinned.
“Cowards,” she said laughingly, so in the end, they agreed and when they finally left the Center, everyone had a copy of a photograph of them in traditional native garb.
By now, it was getting close to lunchtime, so Glorfindel drove them to College Avenue and the Molly Malone where they spent a pleasant hour eating and discussing what they had seen at the Center. “After lunch, why don’t we drive over to the university and wander around,” Glorfindel suggested. “You three ellyn might one day attend classes here if you’re interested in pursuing a particular degree.”
“We’re still unsure what we want to do,” Findalaurë stated. “And wouldn’t it be safer if we took classes on the internet the way Alex does?”
“Safer, perhaps,” Finrod allowed, “but I think you could benefit from mingling more closely with the younger Mortals. Wiseman can offer you only so much and while we need to prepare for the war, that does not mean we put our lives on hold. You may well wish to travel and explore the world, take up professions that may have nothing to do with preparing for what is to come.”
“You only took a couple of classes this past semester to get a feel for college life,” Glorfindel added. “You may wish to actually matriculate and earn a degree. You can continue at Northern Lights and get your core courses out of the way and then transfer to Fairbanks for your bachelors and for graduate school if you’re so inclined.”
“What about me?” Nielluin asked. “Can I not pursue a higher degree as well?”
“Nothing says you can’t, Nell,” Glorfindel assured her. “You are more than welcome to pursue a higher degree if you so desire. You might eventually move into early childhood education, for instance, if you wish to continue working with young children. The point is, you all have an advantage the Mortals do not, and that is time.”
The youngsters all had thoughtful looks on their faces as they finished their lunch and then they were on their way to the university where they spent an hour wandering about the campus, admiring its layout. The campus was surprisingly uncrowded, but Glorfindel pointed out that since it was the weekend, no classes were being held. Even so, Legolas kept a wary eye out, as well as keeping an eye on Glorfindel who seemed quite relaxed and obviously enjoying himself.
They decided to save the Museum of the North for another day and headed back to the B & B where they rested for a time before making their way to the ap Hywel’s for dinner. There they were surprised to see Alex. After greeting everyone, Glorfindel asked Alex how he was settling in.
“Well, so far, so good,” the Mortal allowed. “I’m taking a class on historical linguistics this session. We meet every day for two hours a day and then there’s tons of reading afterwards. It’s a pretty grueling schedule, but hey, that’s how it is.” He gave them a shrug. “So, enjoying Fairbanks so far?”
And the conversation turned to what the youngsters had seen and experienced and what they still planned to see. “We’ll be here until Tuesday and then we’ll drive down to Denali and camp for a few days before heading back to Wiseman,” Glorfindel told them as they congregated out back where Gwyn was barbecuing steak for them. Gareth and Nielluin brought out salads and such, the two of them whispering to one another and holding hands. Legolas took it upon himself to follow the two back and forth between the back yard and the kitchen, ostensibly to help, but really to keep an eye on them, much to everyone else’s amusement, though Gareth and Nielluin both scowled at him. He just smiled and said not a word.
In the end, Gwyn and Gareth agreed to join them the next day on their exploration of the city. “You’ll love the Botanical Gardens,” Gwyn told them. Alex declined their invitation to join them. “I have to finish my assignment for my class,” he told them, “but why don’t I meet you for dinner or something later?”
To that they all agreed and they departed in good spirits with Glorfindel promising to contact Alex later in the day to determine where they would meet for dinner. While everyone else was ready to leave, Nielluin lingered with Gareth, the two saying a long goodbye while the others stood by and watched with Findalaurë rolling his eyes. Glorfindel and Finrod even made a bet between them as to how long the couple would continue kissing before they finally came up for air. Glorfindel won.
Back at the B & B, they congregated down in the common room where they were served glasses of sherry with Glorfindel assuring Al that the youngsters were all legal. “Trust me,” he said to the Man, “they may not look it, but they’ve been legal for years.”
At the moment, they were the only guests, so they had the room to themselves, sipping sherry and speaking softly in Sindarin.
“So, Legolas,” Glorfindel said at one point, “what do you think of Fairbanks?”
“It is larger than I was expecting,” Legolas admitted. “I think population-wise, it must be larger than Minas Tirith.”
“Oh, certainly,” Glorfindel averred with a nod. “And Fairbanks is small in comparison to other cities. Still, Wiseman has its charms and I much prefer it to even here.” He finished his sherry and put the glass down. “Well, I think I will retire. Stay up as long as you please. Al and Verna won’t mind.”
“I am surprised you wish to sleep, Brother,” Finrod said with a frown. “You slept well enough last night, did you not?”
“Yeah, but for some reason I’m feeling done in,” Glorfindel said as he stood. “I think it better if I go lie down than force myself to stay awake.”
“Then go, and if Legolas or I decide to join you, we promise to be quiet and not be singing rowdy songs outside the door.”
“Speak for yourself, Finrod,” Legolas said with a sniff and Glorfindel laughed and wished them all a good-night.
He made his way to the room and spent a few minutes getting ready for bed, but once the light was out and he was lying there, he felt perversely awake. After staring at the ceiling for a good ten or fifteen minutes, he sighed and got up, switching on the light over his bed and rummaging in his pack, drawing out a paperback mystery and began reading. Yet, even that did not seem to calm him and he found his attention wandering off the page, staring out the window to the darkness beyond. Why was he feeling so restless when a half-hour ago he could barely keep his eyes open?
He shrugged, uttering a profanity, and forced his attention back to the book, but after a few more pages without remembering a single word of what he’d read, he shut the book in disgust and placed it under the bed before turning off the light and settling back down. Now, for some reason, he began to feel sleepy again and as his breathing slowed he felt himself slip onto the Path of Dreams…
Sometime in the night he woke with a yell. Almost immediately, the lights came on and Finrod was there, looking concerned. Of Legolas there was no sign. Finrod came over and sat on the edge of the bed. Glorfindel realized that he himself was drenched in sweat as if he’d been in the throes of a fever. “Bad dream?” Finrod asked solicitously.
“Same dream,” Glorfindel admitted, wiping the sweat off his face as he tried to get his breathing under control.
“Do you remember any details?” Finrod asked as he got up and went to the adjoining bathroom, coming back a moment later with a warm, wet cloth and a glass of water, handing them both to Glorfindel who accepted them gratefully. He drank the water and then used the cloth to wipe the sweat from his face, torso and arms, though there was nothing he could do about the damp sheets. He threw back the covers and stood up, grabbing his bathrobe and padding into the bathroom and closing the door. A few minutes later, he came back out and leaned against the lintel. Finrod had not moved.
“I still cannot remember details, just this overwhelming sense of horror and… and defeat, but one thing I do remember is that Gwyn and Gareth were in it somehow.”
Finrod frowned. “Are you sure they did not show up in the dream because we saw them tonight?”
“No, there was a sense of familiarity to them being there. Perhaps seeing them again just helped trigger the memory more. Where’s Liam?”
“Went for a walk,” Finrod answered in a distracted manner, his attention on something else.
Glorfindel glanced at the clock on the wall. “It’s after two. He shouldn’t be walking about the city in the middle of the night by himself. That’s a good way of getting mugged or having the police stop him on suspicion.”
“I am sure he can handle himself, gwador,” Finrod said with a quirk of his lips, “and he is not alone. The youngsters are with him.”
“What? And you let them? Are you insane? This isn’t Wiseman, Finrod. You do not go walking through the city in the middle of the night unless you’re looking for trouble.” He started to pull off his robe, meaning to throw some clothes on. “How long have they been gone? Maybe I can catch up with them and—”
Finrod stood and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Stop, Loren,” he commanded firmly and hearing his mortal name on his gwador’s lips for the first time brought Glorfindel to a standstill as he gaped at the ellon. “You are not going anywhere. Liam can take care of himself as can Finda and his gwedyr. Nell is perfectly safe with them. I told them not to wander far and to be back within the hour. Now, your bed is cold and clammy but there’s no way to change the sheets so you can take my bed.”
“No buts, gwador,” Finrod said as he pulled a non-resisting Glorfindel over to his bed and forced him down. “If you do not wish to sleep, we can just sit here together and talk,” he suggested and Glorfindel nodded, leaning against the wall and wrapping his arms around his knees. Finrod went to the cupboard where he had put his clothes and brought out his harp, unwrapping it from its cover. Settling himself on the bed next to Glorfindel he tuned it to an ancient mode which Glorfindel recognized as silmë nenna, starlight-on-water, and began playing softly. The music flowed over Glorfindel and he felt himself relaxing more and more.
When Legolas slipped into the room some twenty minutes later, he was surprised to find Finrod sitting on his bed, playing his harp while Glorfindel lay curled up beside him, his head on the pillow, fast asleep. Finrod shook his head at Legolas’ enquiring look and the Wood Elf just nodded and, using gestures, let Finrod know that he was going back downstairs. Finrod nodded without stopping his playing. Legolas closed the door quietly behind him, leaving Finrod and Glorfindel to themselves.
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