Disclaimer: As ever, the characters, places and weaponry belong to JRR Tolkien.
Author’s Note: The sources for this short piece are the `The Hobbit’, `Lord of the Rings’, `The Silmarillion’, `Unfinished Tales’ and both volumes of `Lost Tales’. Also, the Encyclopaedia of Arda provided some valuable information.
This idea hit me one day and morphed into seven pages of angst! For those of you who are keeping up with my fic, Bliss in Valinor, this slots in between Chapters 1 & 2, although there is not an OC in sight!
The title comes from the name of a song by The Frames, a rather brilliant Irish band:
“We wield the mighty sword that cuts through bone and lays the liars down,
We wield an angry sword that softens stone and turns the tides around.”
“This, Gandalf, was Glamdring, Foe-hammer that the king of Gondolin once wore.”
Elrond’s words in `The Hobbit’
Turgon the Wise, erstwhile King of Gondolin and High King of the Noldor in Beleriand, walked slowly through the corridors of his palace in Tirion. He paused in the cavernous entrance hall; it seemed to breathe memories of Middle Earth of old. It was adorned with colourful paintings, and sculptures carved in memory of Gondolin lined its walls. A striking portrait of Glorfindel, Lord of the Golden Flower, standing atop a mountain with streaming blonde hair and brilliant golden armour, faced a matching portrait of Ecthelion, Lord of the Fountain, standing on top of a tower, bearing his silver shield overlaid with crystal, shimmering like the ever-flowing fountains of the Hidden Rock. Both stood with swords aloft; the blade of Glorfindel glowed golden in the sunlight, while the sword of Ecthelion shone coldly in the silver light of Ithil.
Shadow, flame and freezing water; a shiver passed down Turgon’s spine as he looked upon those noble faces, and the memories of many Lords of Gondolin passed through his mind. Glorfindel had returned to Middle Earth, a land soiled by his own lifeblood; further proof of his valour and courage. Ecthelion dwelled in the highest honour in the palace of Turgon in Valinor, with Tuor, beloved of the king’s daughter, and Voronwë, the faithful. Both Egalmoth, who had survived Gondolin’s fall, only to be cruelly slain in the sack of Sirion, and Elemmakil, captain of the Guard, lived as lords of high esteem among the returned Gondolindrim. Legolas Greenleaf, whose far-seeing eyes had saved many of the people of Gondolin, and Galdor abided yet on Tol Eressëa. Thus were the Lords of Gondolin accounted for, at the dawning of the Fourth Age.
At the furthest end of the entrance hall, wrought on the wall in precious metal, was an image of two proud trees. Symbols of two trees were not uncommon in Tirion, but this particular motif echoed with the song of Middle Earth. It represented Belthil and Glingal, two trees wrought by the hand of the king himself in memory of Telperion and Laurelin, in Gondolin long ago. Turgon stood transfixed in front of the engraving which stretched from floor to ceiling. He seemed unaware of a white-clad figure emerging from the shadows.
“It seems that your mind oft dwells on times past,” Elenwë murmured, as she came to stand alongside him.
“Ai, my love, I do not understand it, but lately I am beset with memories of ancient days, fleeing from sorrow unto sorrow,” he replied. She placed her hand on his arm, and he turned to face her, a smile finally lighting his face. “Yet how can I mourn those who have died, when they live again? And how can I grieve for loss when my beloved is restored to me?”
He kissed her forehead, and with a last glance at Belthil and Glingal, Turgon guided his wife from the hall and they made their way slowly through the palace. The red glow of a low-hanging sun shone in through the tall windows, bathing the white marble walls with vibrant colour. Ahead of them, they saw the Lord Ecthelion, standing quietly in the doorway of the library looking faintly amused. When the king approached, the Elf-lord bowed low, before pressing a finger to his lips. Turgon looked into the library with interest and had to suppress a smile. By the window sat Tuor and Voronwë, on either side of a small table on which was placed a chessboard. Tuor was sitting back rather comfortably, his hands behind his head, assuming an air of casual nonchalance that no Elf could possibly match. Voronwë, on the other hand, was looking at the chessboard with an expression close to despair. The fair Elf was shaking his head in disbelief before he placed his head in his hands.
“Do you forfeit, my steadfast friend?” asked Tuor at last. Voronwë raised his head, a glint of determination in his eyes; surrender had not even entered his mind
“I fear that this battle of wills may last quite some time,” whispered Ecthelion, clearly enjoying the scene before him. Tuor and Voronwë were close friends, and had been since the First Age, but frequent fiercely competitive contests strained even the most loyal of friendships. There had been a contentious stalemate fifty years previously, which would surely have come to blows, were it not for the timely intervention of Idril Celebrindal. Her soothing voice and wise words restored the usual goodwill that existed between the son of the Edain and the Elf who had guided him to Gondolin many millennia previously.
At that moment, a servant approached Turgon.
“Sire, there is a visitor here to see you,” he murmured discreetly. “He is waiting in the walled garden.” Turgon was surprised, for no visitors were expected that day. Later in the evening, there was to be a great feast in the Halls of Finarfin, High King of the Noldor in Valinor, to welcome the newest arrivals to Valinor. Turgon could not imagine who wished to see him before then. Nodding his acknowledgment, he made his way with some curiosity towards the walled garden, which was all but concealed from view from the palace.
A tall upright figure stood in the middle of the garden, with his back to the approaching Elven king. He was robed entirely in white, and long silver hair flowed down his back, luminescent in the dying light of day. He was taller even than Turgon, who was the tallest of all the Children of Ilúvatar. Although Turgon’s footsteps were silent, the figure seemed to sense his arrival and turned around. His face was fair and unlined, even as one of the Eldar, and there was both great joy and untold sorrow in his eyes, belying his youthful features. There could be no doubt that he was one of the Maiar, for he seemed to be filled with ageless grace and power.
“Hail, King Turgon,” he said, in rich musical tones layered with patience and pity, acquired through unknown labours and innumerable years of wearisome toil. “I am Olórin, although Mithrandir was I named in the East by your kindred.”
“The Grey Pilgrim,” marvelled Turgon. “Tales of your deeds have reached Tirion, bringing joy to the hearts of those of us who yet mourn for Middle Earth.”
Olórin bowed his head. “My deeds? I simply encouraged others to mighty deeds, for Middle Earth was theirs to save, not mine.”
Turgon could not help but laugh. “My Lord Olórin; I cannot accept that your own feats were as undemanding as you would have me believe, for I have heard of your defeat of the Balrog; and that, it seems, was one of your lesser achievements!” Here, a shadow crossed Turgon’s face and, for a moment, he could not continue.
Balrogs, with whips of flame.
Balrogs; creatures of darkness and fire
Fingon. Beloved brother; killed by two Balrogs amidst the fear and grief of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Thus fell the High King. Thus the crown passed to Turgon.
Ecthelion; hazy memories of his fearless end; though weary, the noble Lord had grappled Gothmog into a fountain and slew him with his last breath. By the valour of the Lord of the Fountains, the death of Fingon was avenged and Tuor survived the fall of the city.
Glorfindel. The Beloved of Gondolin. Turgon did not live to see his death. Yet the tales, ai! the songs! No one could doubt his sacrifice; wrestling the Balrog from the mountainside, even at the cost of his own life. By the valour of the Lord of the Golden Flower, the hope of Elves and Men survived the fall of the City.
Turgon shook himself slightly, becoming aware of Olórin’s gentle, concerned eyes on him. The King of Gondolin attempted to smile. “It seems that my kind is doomed to dwell on sorrowful memories; memories of our own past, and memories of the sacrifices of others.”
“Such recollections are a lasting tribute to bygone troubles. Ay, even more than sculptures and paintings; no stone image, though wrought with all the skill and love of the Eldar, can compare to the power of a living memory.”
“I suspect that you are right,” Turgon sighed. “I have filled my house with monuments, in an effort to appease my mind, yet perhaps I am merely encouraging my own melancholic musings.”
Both Maia and Elven king stood in silence for a while as the sun dipped further behind the horizon, sending crimson beams of light across the sky. In that bloodstained radiance, Olórin’s white robes turned red and seemed tainted with the legacy of battle. He stood tall and erect; a victor amidst invisible spoils. It was at that moment that Turgon noticed that the Maia was armed. The bearing of arms was practically obsolete in this Tirion of the Fourth Age, save in sport or ceremony. Olórin noticed Turgon’s gaze.
“Now, I think, we come to the reason for my coming to this House of the Gondolindrim.” His face was grave as, with fluid motion, he unsheathed the sword and held it out, its blade red with sunset and imaginary remnants of blood.
Red torchlight reflected on exposed sword-blades in the king’s court upon the summit of Túna.
Not this blade; the predecessor of this blade.
Fiery words inflaming the hearts of all those present. Turgon had spoken no oath, yet his heart was lost to the cause, to the Flight of the Noldor, to the revenge of his grandfather’s death, to the journey to Middle earth to reclaim what was rightfully theirs.
“Glamdring,” whispered Turgon, his eyes wide with wonder. “How…” He trailed off as he reached out a trembling finger. In the split-second before his skin made contact with the cold metal, his mind was assaulted by a barrage of evocative images and unbearable emotions
“Maeglin.” Turgon was not aware that he spoke the name aloud.
Dark-haired son of the Dark Elf, yet also a Prince of the Noldor, whom Aredhel died to save.
He delved deep in the mine of Anghabar; great were the works of his hand. The Seventh gate, wrought after the Nirnaeth. The swords and spears of the Gondolindrim, strengthened by his skill in metal-craft.
Glamdring was forged by his hand, Foe-hammer, scourge of Orcs and the vile creatures of Middle earth.
Ai, Maeglin, sister-son. His counsels were wise, and his deeds valiant. Yet, he was flawed; aye, deeply so. Yearning for that which he could never have, save by deceit and black deeds. Flawed and weak, yet still kin.
Turgon’s fingertips touched the blade, brushed over the broad flat surface
The Nirnaeth Arnoediad. The opening of the gates of Gondolin, the marching of her soldiers unto death and tears unnumbered.
Fingon. His voice lifting high as he beheld the coming of Turgon. “Utúlie’n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatári, utúlie’n aurë!”*
The answering cries of Elves and Men, spreading from vale to vale. “Auta i lómë!”*
Ai! In that moment it had seemed that glory was inevitable. The night had passed; a new day of hope was beginning.
Oh, cruel deceit.
Turgon could recall being separated from Fingon, driven away after that joyful reunion with Hurin. As his fingers ran down the icy blade, he closed his eyes against an ancient grief, newly wakened.
Fingon; the High King, most valiant of the Noldor; engulfed by shadow, flame and malice.
Bloodied banners, burned flags, scattered remnants of the Noldor.
Yet, by the courage of Men did the Gondolindrim survive. Hurin and Huor stood firm while Ecthelion and Glorfindel held the flanks, protecting the retreat.
“From you and from me a new star shall arise.”*
Glamdring scything through Orcs. The fire in the eyes of the newly proclaimed High King stirred greater fear even than the foe-hammer. None would stand against him, even as he led his men away. Away from that dreadful place. Tears unnumbered; tears yet unshed.
Day shall come again.
Finally, Turgon traced the outline of the hilt. Familiar, yet never before touched by this hand.
The fall of Gondolin. He would never flee his city. A final desperate stand, wielding Glamdring with greater ruthlessness than before. He could not prevent the inexorable wave of devastation sweeping his city, but, by the Valar, he would inflict what damage he could, hoping to stem the tide of hate at least for a time.
Turgon threw his crown to the base of Glingal. Gondolin would fall and he would perish in her ruins; what need had he for a crown? Twice he ordered his people to leave. Twice they refused. Yet, in the end, the word of the King held sway except among those of his household. They clustered around the base of the king’s tower but not even their loyalty and courage could hold back the dragons of Morgoth.
Fire and a grievous fall amidst the ruins; the king met his end in the same manner as his city.
Glamdring slipped from his grasp; its shining blade black with blood.
Turgon looked at Olórin with awe, convinced that the Maia could see his thoughts, read his memories.
“How did this come to pass?” he asked. “How did you find it? How did you even recognise it?”
“It was found in a troll-cave, amidst other treasures. And it was not I who recognised it for what it was; it was your great-grandson.”
Turgon smiled. Many tales concerning the Lord Elrond Peredhil had been relayed to him; indeed the King of Gondolin had even met with his wife, the fair Lady Celebrían. “Perhaps that is not surprising.”
“Indeed not,” replied Olórin, “for the Lord Elrond is the wisest of lore-masters. He identified the blade; he knew its lineage. By rights, it should have come to him, yet he left it in my keeping.”
Turgon gripped the sword and wielded it experimentally. To his dismayed shock, a new flurry of images stormed through his mind. More memories; not of his own life but after it; before it.
A lonely mountain, rearing its head in the sky. Men, Dwarves, Elves, Eagles – no last alliance this – battled against Orcs. Five armies, conflicting loyalties. Glamdring cutting through foes, blade singing as it had six millennia before; not in the hand of an elvenking, but in the hand of a Maia clothed in the flesh of a Man.
“That was a grievous battle,” murmured Olórin, aware of the pictures that flashed in front of Turgon’s eyes. “Not one of us escaped injury. Even I, immortal and timeless, suffered the ignominy of a broken arm.”
Turgon did not seem to register the words as he winced in horror.
“You cannot pass!” Hoarse words cried out in weary defiance. Sword and staff brandished against the bane of Elves and Dwarves. Sensations of plummeting, yet still the blade hewed at this great foe. Vengeance for all the victims of this evil breed; for Dwarves and for Elves. Ai, the blade of Gondolin gladly drank the blood of the Balrog of Moria, in reparation for the lives of the much-loved lords of Gondolin.
The battle of the Pelennor Fields. Distant reaches of Middle Earth never seen by Turgon. The gates of a great stone city opening; a bright light of blinding whiteness. Fey words ringing in his ears; the madness of a feeble embittered Man. A life saved; that of a young man, valiant and noble, yet suffering from despair and the black breath that hung over all.
And now, the final battle; the opening of the Black Gates, the last onslaught. For death? For glory? What hope was left? Glamdring cut through Orcs and Men; cruel Men, frightened Men. And then, earth shaking. A sense of finality, but not the end. Glamdring raised high; the eagles swooping down on swift wings. A quest fulfilled at the last.
At last, breathless and confused, Turgon’s arm fell to his side. He still gripped Glamdring, but he had recovered his senses. Looking at Olórin with wide eyes, he asked, “Why…?”
Olórin spoke gravely. “I felt that it was your right to know. This sword has played a role in many of the great events of the history of Middle Earth although I doubt we shall ever know what became of it between the fall of your city and our discovery of it in the Third Age. Nevertheless, I felt that I had to return it to he who wielded it first.” Turgon stood stunned as Olórin continued. “This sword, this inanimate object, is a rare link between that part of Middle Earth which has been lost for ever, and that part which has been saved through the deeds of Men, Elves, Dwarves and Halflings. If ever, King Turgon, you have had any doubts about the achievements of your people, lay them to rest.”
“Yet, we, the Firstborn, have erred so much,” murmured Turgon. “It would take more than a sword to alleviate our guilt.”
“Your kind is not blameless, nor are you entirely responsible for your acts,” replied Olórin. “But, by a sword reforged was Middle Earth made free, and this blade is of even greater lineage than Andúril, the sword of the King of Gondor.”
Turgon held Glamdring up again and looked at it closely. “You tell me that this piece of metal endured beyond the will and flesh of he who forged it and yes, he who wielded it? You tell me that our legacy lies in the heirloom of a forgotten house of kings?”
“I tell you that the legacy of the Elves has endured in Middle Earth not simply in weaponry, but in song and in writing. I tell you that, while it is right that you mourn and remember, you should know that your deeds were not in vain; they have shaped Middle earth and this sword is a symbol of those deeds. Glamdring has endured so that you might be reassured; be at peace, King Turgon, for, though the path has been long and tortuous, Middle earth has been saved.”
A thought struck the Elvenking. “What of Orcrist? What of the mate of Glamdring?”
Olórin chuckled. “It lies on the breast of the King Under the Mountain. He wielded it to great effect, though one would be hard-pressed to part a Dwarf from his prized possessions, even in death. Fear not, King Turgon; there are few as valiant as Thorin Oakenshield; he was worthy of such a weapon. He deserved great honour, for all his stubbornness!”
Turgon laughed softly. “Perhaps it is apt, that while Glamdring comes to Valinor, a piece of Gondolin still remains in Middle Earth. We do not forget the role of the Dwarves in the fifth battle. But for them, even more tears would have been shed and perhaps the Noldor would not have survived. Ay, Orcrist has found its final home.”
By now, night had truly fallen, and Glamdring glowed cold and white in the faint starlight of early evening. Turgon glanced towards his house, and smiled wholeheartedly as he thought of his people. They lived again; their sacrifices had not been in vain. He thought of his descendents and their great triumphs.
Had not Eärendil escaped the fall of the city and bestirred the Valar into action?
Turgon glanced towards the western horizon, searching for a glimpse of Gil Estel; his heart lifting as the glimmering prow of Vingilot ascended the night sky.
Had not the Lord Elrond become a mighty leader, learned and wise, though he made no such claim himself?
Had not the children of Elrond made great sacrifices and carried out noble deeds for the good of Middle Earth of the Fourth Age?
He glanced at his sword again. Had not this very blade survived battles and plundering trolls throughout the ages to be returned to his hand, as sharp and deadly as on the day of its forging?
All things must exist in their own era, it seemed, yet not all perish…
Turgon smiled at Olórin who still perceived the direction of his mind: The fame and glory of Gondolin had never truly fallen.
* direct quotes from The Silmarillion