Glorfindel let the sand trickle through his fingers, spattering gently over the wet ink with a quiet rattling noise, resembling the far louder rain that was beating against the shutters. It was on evenings like this one that he was grateful life had led him into scholarly pursuits rather than into the soldiering ranks and a place among the men that guarded the walls. Of course, on sunny days he found himself aching for the outside, the open sea and the stony beaches.
He ran a hand over his face, trying to ease the tension of spending too many hours poring over parchments with small writing, usually his own. Organisation had been sorely needed after they crossed the ice, their host splintering as families followed different lieges. The few supplies they still had were counted and shared, as fairly as possible. The world they now found themselves in was stranger and more unfamiliar than any had anticipated when they first departed from Tirion. He saw the Lords bend and almost break beneath the burden that was suddenly landed on shoulders, unfamiliar with the weight of leadership under such conditions. This was not Tirion where the rain was mild and the seasons never changed. This was Beleriand with her climate harsh and unforgiving, from the baking heats that burnt the land in the south to the endless winter in the far north. These lands killed, just as surely as the Orcs and wolves that poured from the north did.
He rubbed his neck as he rose, walking over to the window. Despite the rain and wind he opened the shutters, taking a deep breath of tangy air as it rushed into the room. The cool wind energised him. All the official rooms and the personal chambers of lords and ladies faced towards the sea here. Although many were uncomfortable with the constant view to the west, it soothed him. It reminded him of a different time. He loved the way the sea changed from calm to wild, from glassy clear to roaring against the stone harbour.
The stiffness in his neck and shoulders eased as he stood there, looking out over the sea that sundered him from mother and father, brothers… He had hesitated to leave them, but had in the end chosen to go so that his sister would have someone save the family she had married into. She was lost now but other things still kept him on the Hither Shores, even if he had the choice to return: his niece, who had blossomed into early adulthood; his brother through marriage, a close and trusted friend; and a lover he rarely saw.
He returned to his desk and picked up the quill again, reaching for another document, and slowly and neatly started to pen down a list of names of all who had been lost since the Trees died. He had first had the idea after the battles of Alqualondë: that night had seen him bent over a piece of precious parchment, writing down the names of both Noldori and Teleri, starting with the name that had brought Feanor’s madness. Finwe. He had felt a need to capture their names, as if remembering the dead would once more wake them from the pages. The hardest yet to write had been the name of his sister. As the years had passed, parchment after parchment had been added to the ever-growing book of the fallen.
Ecthelion rolled his shoulders as he left Turgon’s study. It had been pleasant to see an old friend again and the heat of the fire had warmed cold bones and flesh. Yet the meeting had been long and the midnight bell had long since chimed.
An abundance of news, both from Nevrast and Tumladen, had been shared over mulled wine and warm meat. Despite Ecthelion’s own weariness and the late hour the conversation had carried them away as, eagerly like boys planning for their first hunt, they had started drawing plans of all that needed to be done for what was to come. His love of the new land had spread to his king and Turgon wished to leave his capital by the sea within the month.
He smiled as he recalled the purple heather of autumn, the blue mountains and the crisp snow. So different from this dull and gray land of stone and water. The fascination that Teleri and Eglath both felt for the ocean had always been alien to him, nor had he ever been able to see the beauty of the churning waters the way that others of his own kind could.
His feet took him through darkened corridors, lit only by the rare Fëanorian lamp that he carried. The pale blue sheen created a ghostly array of shadows over the grey walls. The eeriness of the light had always held his fascination as firelight never had.
Candlelight crept out under the door beside which he finally came to a halt. He smiled fondly, finding comfort in the things that remained unchanged even now. Glorfindel could always be found here, long after the rest of the citadel had found rest; even Turgon had taken to his bed by now, yet Glorfindel was still bent over his beloved lore.
He lifted a hand to knock before changing his mind, pressing the handle down. The door opened with a creak.
Glorfindel sat behind his desk, the golden hair gleaming in the warm light of fire and candles.
Ecthelion smiled at the small frown that appeared on Glorfindel’s nose as he looked up - he had never been fond of disturbances to his routine.
For a long time they looked at each other in silence.
Glorfindel reached for the small box of sand, letting the precious grains fall to the parchment. He never used other sand when writing his record, only the precious ever-dwindling supply he had once brought from Alqualondë. It was a mark of respect to that day and of remembrance of where it had all started.
"You are back," Glorfindel said finally.
"I am," Ecthelion replied.
"How long this time?"
Ecthelion smiled. "A month, until we all depart. The city is finished and it is beautiful. You will love the moors and mountains."
Grief clouded Glorfindel’s eyes as he nodded. "I will miss the sea."
Ecthelion crossed the floor and sat down on the edge of the desk, leaning down until his forehead rested against Glorfindel’s, his hand resting on the nape of Glorfindel’s neck. "I know."
The shutters beat against the wall, breaking the moment of intimacy before Glorfindel stood, putting aside his inks and parchments with studied carefulness and resealing the small bejewelled sandbox.
Ecthelion watched him in silence, admiring the precise gracefulness of Glorfindel’s movements.
Glorfindel remained silent as he covered the burning coals in hot ashes, dimming the fire until the room was lit by no more than the two tall candles on his desk. Wrapping his arms around himself, he returned to the window where he had stood earlier, looking out over the furious sea.
Ecthelion leaned over, softly blowing out the candles before he joined Glorfindel.
The resurging familiarity of old lovers grew with every heartbeat as they stood together, looking out over the foam thrashing against the shores.
Ecthelion shuddered and reached around, closing the shutters. "I will be glad to leave," he admitted.
Glorfindel bent his head, closing his eyes to the closed shutters. "I know," he said quietly.
The waves thundered against the shore, spraying water and foam over the low buildings near the harbour. The autumn had arrived early this year, and soon the Capital would lie in darkness, no lights flickering through the shutters of houses or Citadel and only the wind would echo between the walls. Winter had come to Vinyamar.