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Old Soldiers

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Old Soldiers

 

‘Does it change things?’ a deep voice asked curiously. The speaker was behind Glorfindel, who sat on an overhang quietly contemplating the remnants of the battle they’d just fought. It was always a messy thing, the end of a battle, but watching the fires burning the corpses of orcs was uniquely satisfying.

‘I imagine “it” could change a multitude of things,’ Glorfindel informed Thorin’s Captain lightly. ‘Which “it” are we talking about?’

Dwalin, son of Fundin, made an exasperated noise and dropped to the ground beside Glorfindel. When he looked over there was a distinctly irritable light to his eyes.

‘Do all elves get training in being as annoying as possible?’ Dwalin growled. Glorfindel was unconcerned. The tattooed dwarf’s bark was significantly worse than his bite. Unless he had his axes in hand, which he currently did not.

‘You are full of questions this evening, it would seem,’ Glorfindel responded, deliberately leaning back to gaze at the sky. He had never been able to give up the habit of driving those around him to distraction, no matter how many threats Elrond made. It was just too entertaining.

He rolled sideways just in time to avoid the fist that flew towards his bicep. Really, this son of Fundin was a lot more easily annoyed than his brother.

‘Yes, we all begin training almost as soon as we are born. We are not considered old enough to leave our mothers’ skirts until we can earn a glare of extreme ferocity simply by uttering a few words. Does that answer your question, Nikerym?’

‘I don’t know why I bothered,’ Dwalin grumbled under his breath. ‘You’re worse than Thranduil.’

‘I have not finished Thranduil’s full training yet,’ Glorfindel commented. ‘Give him time.’

‘Something you have a great deal more of than I,’ was Dwalin’s answer.

‘Then perhaps you had best clarify your first question and we will see if I can answer it,’ Glorfindel stated. He waited for a few moments, wondering if the dwarf was gathering his thoughts or if he would storm off in a huff.

‘I simply wondered if knowing that you have faced a foe far worse than anything on this battlefield makes the battle easier,’ Dwalin finally said. It wasn’t exactly a question, but Glorfindel decided he had tormented the dwarf enough for one day.

‘I do not know if it is easier than it would be for you,’ Glorfindel said contemplatively. ‘I suppose it would depend on how such battles make you feel. I am no less worried for my friends and those under my command than I was before Gondolin fell. I do not think anything could make their fate less concerning.’

‘But you are less worried about being killed yourself?’ Dwalin asked, no longer angry but his voice tinged with great curiosity. Glorfindel smiled inwardly. The dwarf made a good play of hating elves, but he was no less curious than the rest of his Company.

‘I am,’ Glorfindel answered, ‘but not for the reason you might think. I do not think I am less likely to fall in battle because I fought the balrog and killed him. I died in the doing, and could do so again easily enough. There is too much luck involved for anyone to be safe. I am simply less frightened of dying. It was painful, I will admit, and more than slightly infuriating. I have never fought without my hair tucked inside my helm since! Yet many things are painful. Your people knew a great deal of pain when they left this place,’ he gestured towards their Mountain, ‘even those who survived.’

‘Aye, that’s true enough,’ Dwalin said quietly, looking where Glorfindel gestured. ‘They were never the same, any of them.’

‘So it is with dying,’ Glorfindel told him. ‘You are never quite the same when you come back. Whether that is for the better or for the worse is up to you. I am, according to my fellows, a great deal more flippant. I prefer to think that I do not take the small things in life quite so seriously anymore. If death is the worst that can happen then I have not so much to fear.’

‘It must be an odd thing,’ Dwalin murmured, ‘to die and then to live again.’

‘It can be,’ Glorfindel said carefully. He considered for a moment how much this dwarf might know, then smiled as he realised that the questions he was being asked made that quite clear. ‘I imagine your King found it so.’

Dwalin’s head snapped to the side as he stared at Glorfindel. It was obvious that he was assessing whether Glorfindel was likely to announce Thorin’s past life to the world and Glorfindel hastened to ease his mind.

‘Peace, Nikerym,’ he commanded easily. ‘I have no intention of mentioning this to anyone. It is plain that you know, or else I would not have said a word.’

Dwalin stared harder for a second, gauging Glorfindel’s honesty, then relaxed again.

‘We are not so dissimilar in the end,’ Glorfindel suggested, returning his gaze to the burning carcasses. ‘We were built to fight and fight we do. We have our lords, though mine are perhaps slightly less evident than your own, and we do their bidding in whatever way we can. Our aim is to protect them and what they value, and to kill as many of these evil creatures as possible before we reach our end. The rest is simply a question of the body we are housed in. Mine being the slightly taller of the two.’

Glorfindel could not help laughing at himself at the end and was pleased when Dwalin joined in.

‘You have never tired of the fighting?’ Dwalin queried when their laughter had subsided. Glorfindel paused, slightly surprised by the question. It was not one he had ever been asked before.

‘At times,’ Glorfindel answered as truthfully as he could. ‘When we have lost too many, or it seems that the fighting is endless and we make no progress no matter what we do. It is a momentary feeling, however. I am made for battle. I will fight until I die, then again if I am returned to life. I would be bored otherwise.’

‘Not so different after all,’ Dwalin said thoughtfully. ‘Thank you for answering.’

‘My thanks for asking the question,’ Glorfindel returned seriously, before lightening his tone deliberately. ‘It is not often that people ask deep questions of me. Mostly they assume that I let Elrond do the thinking and wait until he tells me I have something to hit.’

‘That I doubt,’ Dwalin stated, shaking his head at Glorfindel’s antics, ‘but I can see how your manner would distract them. That is why you have it.’

‘Well, that and because it is so much fun to leave them guessing,’ Glorfindel admitted. ‘You should understand. You enjoy being underestimated as well.’

‘I do,’ Dwalin agreed. ‘Then I get to see the moment of shock before they regret their lack of attention.’

‘To being underestimated, then,’ Glorfindel proclaimed, raising an imaginary goblet in the air. Dwalin proved that he was far less serious than he appeared by joining him.

‘To being underestimated.’