First Age c. 457
Law of Gondolin
‘No Stranger, be he Elf or
Man, who found the way to the secret kingdom and looked upon the city should
ever depart again, until the King should open the leaguer, and the hidden
people should come forth.
The Silmarillion, 158.
Ecthelion traced a finger
along the frosted pane of the window he sat curled under. Inside was warm
and toasty, but outside, winter had come to the Hidden City; covering the
top of the King’s Tower in snow and turning the city’s many fountains to
ice. His finger followed the path of frost that had gathered on the outside
of the glass. The delicate spirals of ice spread out; each intricate line
and swirl reminded him of snowflakes, no two lines being the same.
If one looked at the three
Elves seated in the room, their differences would immediately be apparent.
Two were dark of hair, with one having eyes akin to the sky when it is
cloudy with impending rain, while the other had eyes dark like the night
skies. Their third companion was golden, with eyes like the bright blue sky
of a summer day after the rain has cleared away. Two were broad of shoulder,
tall, with forms suited to their warrior duties. The third Elf, smaller than
the others, was delicate in form, with hands more suited to parchment and
books than bearing a sword.
But there were some things
that could not be seen by the naked eye. Despite their differences, there
was a shared history that held the three together in the room. The outward
markings told nothing of their past, their journey from hearth and home; a
journey that led them across a sea of treacherous ice where loss affected
them all. A new land and life awaited each, and in their eager youth, they
grabbed at it wholeheartedly.
But now, youth had led into
adulthood, and with adulthood came wisdom. They had learned the hard way to
put aside their differences, understanding that their shared childhood and
trials of hardship could be enough glue to hold them together - if not in
friendship, then in a fellowship.
Ecthelion looked back at his
companions. Erestor was reading, seated close to the room’s cheery fire,
while Glorfindel bent over a parchment, busily copying lines and directions
from a large atlas spread out before him. ‘Twas true, they did not converse
much, but somehow the three seemed to gravitate together, so much more than
to any others they encountered. Ecthelion wiped his damp fingers on his
leggings, turning fully in his window seat to face the other two. He asked
his question to the open room, just a general enquiry not directed to any
one in particular, but the hidden need for answers underlying his voice was
not lost on the two who looked up from their pursuits.
“Do you every wish you were
‘And not hidden here’ he did
not say, but that was the question that had been on the minds of all the
citizens of Gondolin. The outside world had intruded upon the Hidden City,
despite her King’s wishes and designs.
The Lord of the Eagles,
Thorondor brought word to the Hidden City. But it was not Turgon who passed
on what tragedy the Eagle told of; for he was too devastated by the news and
could do nothing but retreat in private to mourn his loss. It was Idril,
with tears fresh upon her face, who came out of the King’s Tower to tell the
peoples of Gondolin what had befallen their kin.
It was winter night nigh on
two years ago on a night when the moon was unseen that Morgoth struck
finally ending the siege of Angband. Across the grassy plains of Ard-galen,
Morgoth sent rivers of fire, and the air he poisoned with deadly fumes. Many
Noldor perished running from the flames and the wide plain of Ard-galen was
destroyed. But that was just the beginning of Dagor Bragollach, for Morgoth
released Glaurung, the golden father of dragons and behind him came balrogs
and many armies of orcs. Before this evil force, the Grey Elves fled and
Angrod and Aegnor were slain. King Finrod Felagund had been surrounded, but
was finally rescued and returned to his fortress, Nargothrond, and so great
was Morgoth’s assault that Fingolfin and Fingon could not come to his aid.
While Hithlum had remained
unconquered, the High King Fingolfin had been encircled, cut off from kin
and from escape to the sea. The High King had received news that Dorthonion
had been lost and that the sons of Fëanor were driven away from their lands.
Fingolfin had shouted to his people that the end of the Noldor was upon
them; enraged, he rode out, fighting off his guards and anyone who tried to
Idril’s voice broke as she
described her grandfather challenging Morgoth.
“To single combat,” did
Fingolfin shout out to Morgoth, his voice sending all within the evil one’s
fortress fleeing, and to save his pride, Morgoth had no choice but accept
the King’s challenge. Fingolfin shone like a star; his mail was covered with
silver and his blue shield glimmered with crystals. Fingolfin drew his
mighty sword, Ringil, which glistened like ice, and Morgoth knew real fear.
Despite the grief, heavy in
all their hearts, the peoples of Gondolin felt pride as they heard of their
King’s brave deeds.
Fingolfin wounded Morgoth
seven times with Ringil, but he grew tired and his steps became heavy.
Morgoth had torn asunder the earth with the Hammer of the Underworld, and it
was upon one of those cracks that Fingolfin stumbled and fell to the ground.
Morgoth set his foot upon the neck of the High King, and despite his last
effort, a sharp wound to Morgoth’s foot, the High King of the Noldor,
Fingolfin, was lost.
Not since the loss of his
parents had Erestor ever felt this heavy with grief. It was as though the
last connection to his Nana and Adar was gone, like he had also lost them
again. For the first time since the exodus from Nevrast, many in Gondolin
questioned how safe they were in their Hidden City; and in the hearts of the
city’s mighty warriors, guilt grew. Their kin were all out there, fighting
for the freedom of the Noldor in Middle-earth, while inside the high white
walls, Gondolin’s warriors hid. But none spoke out; they could not add to
the burden their beloved King Turgon already suffered under. The sorrow of
the loss of his father could be seen clearly by all.
Thorondor brought the High
King’s body to Turgon, laying Fingolfin atop a mountain that looked North
upon the hidden valley of Gondolin. Here, Turgon built a high cairn over his
father, and he mourned. Turgon sent back word through Thorondor to his
brother Fingon, that he would support him as Fingon took up the mantle of
leadership and the Kingdom of the Noldor.
But the outside world was
not finished with Gondolin or her people.
Elves rushed to the King’s
courtyard, drawn by the yells and the sound of the Eagles’ mighty wings.
More horrid news was expected by all, and with great dread they watched as
two of the grand birds descended. The Eagles set their delicate cargo down
gently and silence fell heavily as the Elves tried to understand what they
Erestor’s eyes roamed
curiously over the two Edain. Turgon had shared the news with his trusted
warriors and councilors of the coming of llúvatar’s second children. They
had all listened in awe as he told them of the Edain settling upon the banks
of the Celon, and how the Kings of the three houses of the Noldor sent word,
welcoming the Atani and urging that any who wished may dwell among their
people. Of course, Turgon did not open his city to Man, so the very sight of
two standing in their King’s yard was enough to send panic and fear through
the very hearts of Gondolin’s people.
The King’s voice rang out loud
and clear, stilling the shouts and cries of fear. “Our Lord Ulmo has
prepared me for their coming; fear not, people of Gondolin, and welcome
these two Men! I shall listen to their council, for Lord Ulmo has told me it
is sound.” Then the King welcomed the two, who were called Húrin and Huor,
into his House.
Erestor could barely contain
his excitement as he escorted the pair to their quarters. He knew he was
making them uncomfortable with his curious glances. The pair was shorter,
hairier, and bulkier than any of his own kind. ‘And they smell!’ He
thought. Erestor felt ashamed of himself a sudden, and he sent another small
smile at the pair following him. He knew nothing of their trials or what
brought them to Gondolin, nor was it normally in Erestor’s nature to judge
so harshly or cruelly. Erestor also had a feeling that these Men would bring
change to them all.
Húrin and young Huor, who they
had learned was just thirteen years of age, indeed made their mark upon the
Hidden city and her people. They came to be held in great love, each taken
to the people’s hearts. To Erestor, Huor became the younger sibling he had
The King had charged Erestor
with the learning of young Huor, and the human youth had avidly taken to
anything Erestor had offered. They spent many a day and evening in the
King’s great libraries, poring over history, lore, and language. It was Huor
who drew Erestor out of the stuffy rooms after long lessons and on to the
main halls for dance, drink, and conversation. These second children of
llúvatar had such a zest for life that Erestor found himself feeling more
alive than he could ever recall. Ecthelion and Glorfindel and the other
warriors of Gondolin took Húrin into their midst, training with the Man
daily and enjoying the freshness and eagerness that someone new brought to
their close-knit group.
Turgon took many a meeting
with the pair, eagerly hearing all they could speak of the outside world. He
felt great love also for the Men, especially after hearing the reverence
that the Edain spoke of the King’s brother.
But there was one in Gondolin
who did not welcome the Atani, who would not listen to them and who did not
take their words to heart. Erestor did not know why Lord Maeglin avoided and
scowled at Húrin and Huor, but not until it was time for the pair to return
to their own peoples did Maeglin show his suspicions at them. He argued
furiously with the King, warning of great peril if the pair was allowed to
leave the Hidden City, but Turgon had come to trust and value their word,
which Húrin and Huor freely gave, and the brothers were allowed to leave.
None but Maeglin was happy to see them go.
Erestor closed his book, the
sudden noise startling Ecthelion back into the present. No one had answered
his question and he did not repeat it. Ecthelion turned back to the window,
his fingers once more following the frost’s path. He could look from the
inside at it, touch it, but not really feel it. Only if one was standing on
the outside could they really feel the frost’s bite. Ecthelion sighed. Yes,
the outside world had intruded upon the Hidden City and her people; it had
brought change and the wind carried the stirrings of things to come.
Ecthelion shivered, and he felt dread for that change fill his heart...
To be continued...