Era: First Age, Gondolin
Characters: Ecthelion, Glorfindel, Idril, Tuor, Earendil, Rog, Penlod
Summary: Ecthelion and Glorfindel, the child minders.
Author Notes: Tech. this is part of the Winter Carol fics, title coming from What Child Is This?. I know, I know, Christmas is over, but if we are being techincal about things, the 12 Days of Christmas last until the Epiphany or something. I don't know, my CCD education is failing me.
With Anthems Sweet
Gondolin, FA 503
Snow covered the marbled streets of Gondolin, packing between the crevices and piling on the sides. The city was filled with childish laughter, both from the elflings and the adults, as snowballs went flying from the walkways and alleys between the houses. Ecthelion wondered how such a thing gained Turgon's approval. Penlod had probably argued it shaped the mind for battle strategies or some other nonsense. Penlod’s love of the snow was well-noted and the reason he’d been made the Lord of the House of the Pillar and Tower of Snow after all.
Ecthelion made sure to dodge all attempts to bring him into the game. He held an appointment he needed to keep and he could not stomach the sad looks on the elfling’s faces when he had to turn them down. He well remembered what it was like to worship your elders and to be rebuffed by all chances to make them seem more real than legend.
He pulled the hood of his grey cloak further down over his face, swiftly moving through the twists, turns, and hills of the city. He received a summons this morning from the House of the Swan and he knew better than to disregard its orders.
“So the great Ecthelion comes to the House of the Swan at last,” Rog called from one of the balconies of Idril and Tuor’s home.
“Aren’t you supposed to be chained to a forge somewhere?” he called up.
“The problem with chaining a master blacksmith to a forge is that he inevitably knows how to break the chain or fashion a key,” Penlod said, standing beside Rog. “I knew we never should have taught Rog how to read,” he muttered.
“A decision I am sure you regret with each new morn,” Ecthelion said.
“Are you going to come inside?” Penlod asked “Idril dislikes the snow blowing into the Greeting Hall.”
“Then she should have stayed in the palace,” Glorfindel called, plowing into Ecthelion as he approached the house. “Still, best not to make Idril angry. She's even more devious than her father.”
“Am I to imagine that all of our friends have been ordered to this meeting?” Ecthelion asked.
“All of us without our own children to entertain this day, with the apparent exception of Penlod and Rog,” Glorfindel said. His hair looked wheat white covered in snow.
“Did you fall into a snow bank?” he asked.
“Pushed,” Glorfindel said. “I believe some of the elflings in my house require more duties to occupy their time.”
“Are you not the one who sets their routines?”
“Not all of us can creep out of our homes like thieves in the night.”
“It allows me to practice my stealth maneuvering,” he said, passing his cloak to the servant waiting under the archway of the entrance.
Glorfindel mirrored his action and said, “I was under the impression that is why you instituted all those night training sessions.”
“One needs stealth both in sunshine and shade,” he said. They climbed up the stairs to Idril and Tuor’s rooms without speaking. “I do wonder what Idril has in store for us,” he said, knocking on the doorway.
“Her normal levels of punishment, I suppose,” Glorfindel murmured as they stepped inside.
“I do hope you are not speaking lies about the Royal Family again,” Idril said, holding a sleeping Earendil in her arms, “I believe the King has spoken to you both about such things.”
“Only under the influence of the most potent of ales would we do such,” Glorfindel promised.
“And some of us only do such things in the company of certain very bad influences, usually called ‘Rog’ and ‘Glorfindel’ if memory serves,” Ecthelion said.
“You are not nearly as clever as you like to believe,” Glorfindel said with a sniff. He walked over to Idril and carefully stole her son away. “Earendil loves when I come to visit.”
Idril’s smile was pure smugness. “I am so glad you think so, Glorfindel,” she said. She patted Earendil’s head and moved beside Ecthelion. “I can rest assured then, that you and Ecthelion will watch him with no trouble and protests while Tuor and I visit my father.”
“What about Rog and Penlod?” Ecthelion asked, eyeing the far too innocent looking elves on the other side of the room.
“Oh, Penlod was just escorting Rog home,” Idril said. “For some odd reason, Rog’s wife believed he could not make it home in time for the mid-day meal without guidance. Something about marrying an elf with the will power of the weakest elfling. I do not recall the exact wording. I must confess, it was quite a terse missive.”
“One day we will discover just what you bribed her with to agree to your marriage contract,” Penlod said, pushing Rog forward.
“Never,” Rog promised. “Ecthelion, Glorfindel, I bid you good luck with the child-minding. Idril, always a pleasure, My Princess. Penlod, let us go before the hounds get sent out.”
Penlod shook his head, his silence more than a sufficient answer, and followed Rog out of the door.
“Where is your husband?” Ecthelion asked. He rested against one of the ornately carved desks.
Idril waved her hand, silver jewelry glittering in the light reflecting off the snow. “He is preparing himself for the visit. You know how Maeglin puts him on edge.”
Ecthelion smiled at her. “There is something vaguely off-putting about your cousin’s eyes when they rest on your husband. He must dislike the fact that the city accepted Tuor with greater ease than himself.”
“We cannot all have the Valar’s power behind us,” Glorfindel whispered, rocking Earendil in his sleep.
“You are so good with the small ones,” Idril said, her gaze resting on Glorfindel with a familial warmth and pride. “I do hope you shall have your own soon.”
“Marriage is not in my plans,” Glorfindel said.
“You cannot plan for love, Glorfindel,” she said. “Trust me on this.”
“That is certainly true,” Tuor said, entering the room. He looked uncomfortable in the stiff and formal garb required for appearances in Turgon’s Court.
“Have you mustered up your courage?” Idril asked.
Tuor pressed a kiss into her hair. “It was never my courage in question, my love, so much as my tolerance. I do not think your father would appreciate me launching a dinner knife at your cousin’s head.”
Idril nodded. “He does not like it when sharp objects of any kind are thrown near Maeglin.” Grief passed over her face. “It usually ends in death.”
Tuor hugged her to his side while Ecthelion grabbed one of her hands. Idril never recounted the story of her aunt’s death to Tuor, she found it difficult to speak of Aredhel’s last years in Gondolin, choosing instead to focus on the better times of the past. Tuor learned of it all through gossip and direct questioning of their inner-circle. It was event that still had many of the citizens in shock. No one expected Aredhel to die, and especially not at the hands of her supposed husband, but he was a Dark Elf and many claimed that such a violent act could only be expected.
Ecthelion found himself believing, as the years rolled by, that Penlod’s fear that their isolation would be their eventual downfall was only barreling closer to the truth.
“You two should get going,” he said. “It will take longer to get there in this weather and you will have many well meaning people to dodge and snowball tactical training episodes to avoid.”
“Ecthelion, as always, you show your courtesy and wisdom,” Idril said. She pressed a kiss to his cheek before standing.
“And what do I always show?” Glorfindel asked.
“My dear Glorfindel, you are always to stand back and look intimidating and beautiful,” she said.
“Being the intimidating beauty that you are,” Tuor agreed. “Please try your best not to burn the curtains this time.”
“If you didn’t keep so many of those demon felines around here, I would not trip over them while holding candles and setting your curtains on fire,” Glorfindel muttered, pushing the door open with his foot.
“It is your lot in life to suffer,” Tuor said.
“My mother always said it was best to be polite to those watching your children,” Glorfindel replied.
“Your mother was probably desperate to find an elf kind enough to watch the brat of an elfling you no doubt were,” Tuor said.
“Let us leave your male bonding and insults for another time. It will be good for us to leave before we wake Earendil,” Idril said. She waved goodbye to them all while tugging her husband out of the room.
Glorfindel laughed. “I never would have imagined marriage to a mortal man would suit Idril so well.”
“Nor that we would be the ones minding their offspring,” Ecthelion said. “All the tales about peredhel claim they are either destined for great things or for despair.”
“Or both,” Glorfindel said. “We will not let that happen to our little prince.” He sat down, cradling Earendil close to his chest. “We will always be there to watch over him, Valar willing.”
“You’ve decided to swear the oath then?” Ecthelion asked. He knew, due to Glorfindel’s desire to hold important conversations at the most obscene hours of the night, that Idril had asked him to swear loyalty and allegiance to Earendil and any children descended from him. Just Glorfindel, as he held the designation of foster-parent should anything happen to Idril. It would be a lie to say Ecthelion wasn’t jealous over not being approached himself, but he knew Idril too saw things in her dreams and that she had her reasons. Glorfindel also held an actual blood tie to the family and that, perhaps more than anything, allowed him such a lofty role.
“I do not think there was ever much of a choice,” Glorfindel said. He looked up at Ecthelion then, eyes shining where the sunlight hit them, a grin wide on his face. “Not that I have any plans on dying for a long time,” he said. “Someone needs to stick around to drag you away from your fountains and your melancholy music.”
“I do have a sister and other friends,” he reminded him.
“But none so charming as me,” Glorfindel said.
Ecthelion could not very well argue that, so he shrugged and let Glorfindel have his moment.
“We will have an easy afternoon,” he said, “if Earendil sleeps the whole day through.”
At his words Glorfindel face looked stricken. “You just had to say that, didn’t you?” he asked, Earendil starting to squirm in his arms.
“What?” Ecthelion asked.
Glorfindel’s answer was drowned out by the very impressive display of Earendil’s vocal chords and lung capacity.
“You started this, the least you can do is come up with a solution,” Glorfindel hissed through gritted teeth. He was bouncing Earendil up and down on his knee, and his once immaculately plaited hair was strewn about his face. He kept blowing it out of the way in exasperation.
Nurse maid after nurse maid had come with bottles, servants had poured in with toys, one passer-by had even brought in a bit of snow and ice in case Earendil was teething but nothing stopped the infant’s cries.
“How was I to know a simple sentence would be a portent of doom,” Ecthelion huffed.
“You have a younger sister, you helped raise her, I know because I was there,” Glorfindel said. “How could you not know?”
“I never recall Minuialeth making such noise,” he said in defense of his sister.
“That is because we were not surrounded by mountains which cause sounds to echo,” Glorfindel said. “Now, please, for the sake of my ever lacking sanity, do something.”
“If you insist,” Ecthelion sighed. He pulled out his careworn flute. “Here, bring him closer to the hearth, perhaps the heat shall entice him to sleep.”
“Or make him cry harder,” Glorfindel said, firmly staying in his spot.
“By all rights I could order you to do so, I am still commander of the guard,” Ecthelion said, smirking at Glorfindel’s narrowed eyes.
“Only for another ten years,” he said, moving over to the hearth. “And I have such a long memory.”
“Sit,” Ecthelion said, pointing with his flute.
Glorfindel sat down, cradling Earendil in his arms. Ecthelion waited until they were settled before he brought the flute to his lips.
Music, music was something familiar to him. It brought all sorts of memories to him, his parents, his home, his first night in the wilderness. He played the tunes as easily as he breathed. If things were different, if the paths of fates changed, he had little doubt he would be a minstrel. He played all sorts of songs, soft and slow, fast and fanciful, all lulling Earendil to calm and sleep. The child’s eyes were drooping when he came to the last song, a lullaby his mother often sang. Glorfindel began to sing softly, accompanying the notes of the flute. They both came to a pause when Earendil find succumbed to the land of dreams.
“Do not say anything,” Glorfindel whispered. “Do not move, barely breathe, we are staying here until Idril and Tuor return and we will make very little noise, outside of your flute.”
“Agreed,” Ecthelion said. He sat back and began to play the first songs he ever learned, sitting on his father lap, and watched as the snow outside began to fall again.