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The Sword of Gondolin - by Anonymous

"Time. It is time."

She looked up from the wheel, the treadle pausing in its circular path. The moment of time-outside-of-time was over before it had even begun, and in its place was a memory of gold, of redolent pastures of flowers--such flowers!--and the echo of the Voice. "It is time."

She looked up through the curtain of gold that had fallen across her eyes during her waking dream. At last! Her time of waiting was come to an end, and she would be free once again to walk the broad plains and the paths through high mountains. And to see her friends--oh, and her husband, whom she hadn't seen or spoken to in far, far too long.

For months, she had sensed the change on the wind. Butterflies and dancing motes in the golden light, flowers floating in wide bowls of clay, and even the whispering pines at her windowsill seemed … hesitant, allusive, full of bright secrets. And now the Voice has spoken, is speaking, with a weight of glory at her heart, that the time of her homecoming is at hand.

She pressed one last time on the pedal of her spinning wheel, enjoying the tug of the wool beneath her long, slender fingers. So many hours had she spent in the bright morning light, spinning out the finest threads for cloaks of blue and gold, and of the brightest spring green. Laughing, she stood up. "Yes, it is time, indeed. How long have I waited? I've lost--"

With delight, she spun around, her hair a shining river of gold, giddily dancing through her cottage at the meeting of the forest and the waters. She dashed to the door, weaving a path through the wide bowls of floating flowers, even before the visitor could raise his staff to knock. "Welcome, oh, welcome! You are welcome to my home, for I have long--"

She paused, smiling, as the tall visitor bowed low before her. He swept his deep brown robes before him, saying with a deep and joyful laugh, "My lady, I see you've heard the Summons as well as I. Indeed, the time has come for the two of us to take our place in this world's affairs again, before we leave for the Far Shores."

"Come in to my house, and enjoy the morning with me. Though it is summer, the fire is high, and the table is set for two. As it has been," she added with a sigh, "every morning during the ages of waiting. Yet, I am joyful to wait, as I am joyful to fulfill the purpose of my waiting. Please, come in, and set aside your staff and burden, and receive the refreshment of my house."

He sat heavily in the comfortable chair beside the fire, putting aside his tall holly staff. Even as he did so, it seemed the long years of weariness lifted off his countenance. He smoothed his long, brown-and-gray beard against his chest and breathed in the fresh green scent of the air, and listened to the contented buzzing of bees, and the trees, whispering, "It is time."

"Yes," she said, answering his unspoken question. "I hear the willow and ash, stream and stones echoing the Voice. My bones ache with anticipation. What is our task, now that the world is changed again?"

The old man puffed on a long pipe, which he had lit from a coal in the fireplace. He smiled through the wreath of blue smoke, and then grew serious. "The sword."

"Ah, yes. I had nearly forgotten." She went to the corner and opened a great wardrobe. From the back, behind the cloaks, she pulled a sword in its scabbard. It lay, cold and heavy, in her hand, as she handed it to her visitor. With a silver ringing, he pulled it from its sheath--mithril shining cold in the warm summer light. The imperial eagle of Manw was carved into a great sapphire flashing in the pommel. He read the inscription across its hilt, and running up the blade: "Glamdring." With a quick motion, he swept the blade through the air. "Foe-hammer, your time has again come. Through ages you have waited, and you shall again smite against the helms of the enemy."

Blue light flickered along its edge as Glamdring cut through the shining air. And for a moment, as with a break in the clouds, fierce was the light that shone on the countenance of the Visitor, the Istar, the last Wizard to grace the paths of the tired world.

And just as quickly, from within the aureole of glory, came his laughter. "I thought the time would never come! The world has changed much since last we met, Lady Goldberry, the River's Daughter. Age upon age has passed, the mountains and seas have changed their places, and yet you remain as fresh and lovely as the Spring, and as the lake outside your window. I wish the same could be said of my tired self. Ah, me."

And as the light of Aman receded to its hiding place behind his craggy, brown face, Goldberry handed him a bowl of water, fragrant with the dew of a thousand delicate flowers. He took a deep draught, set the bowl down with a loud thump! and spoke in low, measured tones. "The Voice of Eru, the One, is speaking on the wings of Manw's wind, and in the eagles' cries. The time has come when time itself shall turn a corner. Behold, old things have passed away, and newness of times has arrived. A new kingdom is birthing, of light and of justice, and we are to be its midwives. It shall be as though the Undying Lands had not been sundered from this bent world. A man is born, in whom blood runs as truly as it did in the fathers of the Kings of Westernesse. For this, I came into the world. For this, you have borne the pain of lonely waiting, as the ages fled past your window."

His voice rose, and he was nearly shouting now. "The Doom that Mandos spoke to me in the shadow of the Two Trees has now awakened. The call that has kept me here, long beyond the hour of my brethren, is upon me. This is the moment that a king shall be anointed with the glory of Aman, and the royal weapon of his victory shall be placed in his hands. A mighty weapon for a mighty task."

"And not a moment too soon, Radagast," said Goldberry, her face alight. "As you can see, Glamdring shines in a fury. Enemies with black blood walk in these woods--though there is a hedge, a girdle of protection that lives on in the land of Tom's own choosing. Nothing shall by any means harm me, so long as I walk these hills. For many an age, I have waited within these lands for the Voice to call me hence. Is it now time?"

"Yea, lady, it is time for you to walk again in the changed world. Beyond your borders, the lands do not seem as they did in the days of the world's youth. Though your skies are blue, beyond are pillars of smoke rising from many a burning village. For within the world of men has awakened from ages of sleep, a strain of Saruman's foul brood, who even now thirst for death and fire. My beasts are slain for sport, as are the villages of men and children and their mothers."

Goldberry stood suddenly, a look of alarm marring the serenity of her face. "Saruman--"

"Nay," said the Wizard. "His spirit is lost forever, never to be found until the world is remade, and then for judgment only. But this fell work of his boils in the blood of men, even to a thousand generations, bringing death and treachery in its wake. Yes, a strain of orcish blood lingers yet and asserts itself when men are weak or foolish. This taint even now gives strength and cunning to the wicked among men, while it weakens the hearts and wills of those who love the light. Or, at any rate, those who do not wholeheartedly love the darkness."

He fell into thought, and meditated for the thousandth time on the weakness and changefulness of men, when he hearkened to the song of the swallows in the trees outside. A hawk landed at the windowsill, listening as well. "Arise and shine, for you time is upon you! The glory of Aman awaits. Arise!" sang the birds in merry flight.

And so he did. Taking up Glamdring, he said, "Indeed, all hope is not lost. Though the age be dark, even brighter shall the light shine therein. As lightning in a dark sky, all shall wonder at this king among men. But, "he laughed," he is yet only a boy. My lady Goldberry," he said. He knelt before her, and she sat enthroned amidst her water lilies, ancient and young as the morning. "In a waking dream, I have seen the lad come before your house, lost in the wood. The hedge of Bombadil's protection shall not hinder him, for he is on Eru's errand, though he knows it not. Tall he is, with eyes gray as the sea. He has far sight, and by the blood of Westernesse, he shall know you to be of the ancient world. My lady, the sword is his, by the will of Iluvatar. It is in my heart that the words of blessing you speak shall ring in his soul, and shall echo in the hearts of all true men until the world's end. Give him the sword Glamdring, my lady, and the words of your blessing. I know not which shall prove to be the greater gift."

He arose, with the splendor of the ancient Maiar, who sang before the birth of creation, barely hidden within him. "There is much to be done, and I must be off. Rejoice, lady, for though the enemy seeks even now to work him woe, so shall the greatness of his calling protect him. I shall return when the work is done, and it is time for us to return at last to the West."

"Radagast," said Goldberry, "how shall I know it is he?"

"Look for the sun at its zenith, for then shall our young king arrive," said he. "I am known to him, and he shall ask a boon in my name--well, the name I am known by among men." Radagast knelt before the lady one last time and laid the sword across her knees, kissing her lovely hands.

Goldberry smiled as the Wizard, in a swirl of brown robes, departed suddenly. The hawk fell skyward, her cry echoing the swallows' song: "He comes! Arise!"

Of a sudden, the room vanished before Goldberry, and she rose into reverie. She witnessed a great battle, with tall horsemen in shining mail warring against a mighty host under wings of darkness. Among the bright ones was a king among men with shining brow, a cloud of glory concealing him from her view. But in his hand, rising high above his head, shone Glamdring, its cold edge burning with blue fire.

Hoofbeats brought her back, and she saw a great, white Stag bound across from the forest behind her home. He stopped at the shore of the lake and stood perfectly still, watching her with his black, liquid eyes. The morning mists, which had not completely burned off in the bright day, swirled around his long flanks. Goldberry rose quietly, sword and scabbard in hand, to meet the great beast. He bent his neck in obeisance to this queen of the fair folk, the River's Daughter, the young and ancient Goldberry. She reached up to his muzzle--though she was as tall as all her people, the beast was likewise a king among his. Mighty and fabled, the White Stag allowed himself to be touched for the first time.

At that very moment, a tall, young man ran, panting, out of the forest. His bow was at his shoulder, and he suddenly stopped short. Before him was the great White Stag, which he had been hunting through the forest for hours. And at its side, tenderly stroking its flanks, as a child with a pet, was a golden queen in her glory, wreathed in rainbows as the sun touched the misty lake. He fell to his knees in wonder.

A hawk's cry pierced the day, the moment the sun hit its highest mark. Goldberry pulled Glamdring from its sheath and held it high, her arm clothed in the purest, shimmering samite, and cried, "Stranger, I greet you in the name of the Eru, the One, and Maleldil his Son." She laughed, tears of joy streaming down her face. "Indeed, I have been waiting long for your coming. Approach and find your destiny."

The youth rose, his own face bathed in the tears, as he recognized that for this moment, he was born. The beast stood perfectly still, its bright, liquid eye blinking in the noon light. Approaching slowly, he took Goldberry's long hand in his and kissed it. "My lady," he said.

"This sword was forged in the depths of time for you. Indeed, at its making, the smiths marveled at your appearing. Though many hands and mighty have held it, wielding it in fire and peril, against terrible principalities and powers, you were destined to be its Bearer. It is the mightiest of blades, save one, and the mightiest of kings shall wield it. No power from the ancient world shall be able to stand against you, and of you bards shall sing until all is remade. This is Glamdring, Foe-hammer, your birthright and the true token of your sovereignty."

The sword rang as he lifted it aloft. The sun seemed to fix him in a brighter beam, a mightier light. Yet her eyes saw his spirit shining from within, crowned with glory and honor, power and ancient mightiness. "Yes," she thought to herself, "This is surely a king among men, anointed for this hour in the dark world."

"My Lady of the Lake," said the youth as he weighed the shining blade, "I, Arthur, receive this great gift from thy hand. Glamdring, I name thee mine own, and Caletuwlch, bright steel. A sword for a king, an emperor."

As he spoke, a weight of glory fell upon him, and the spirit of prophecy rose upon his lips. "With thee, mighty blade, shall I build a hedge of shining steel about the people of this great island, and in the name of the Great Good God, I shall build a kingdom that shall be sung about for a thousand generations of men. As thou smote the flaming spirit in the depths of time, so shalt thou strike the heart of the evil that cries for the blood of my people. No weapon formed against me shall prosper, and no evil shall approach me. If a thousand fall at my side, and ten thousand at my right hand, I shall stand strong. This day is the Kingdom of the Morning born in my heart. This day is born the Kingdom of a Thousand Songs."

Laughing, he swung the great blade above his head. He was transfigured, along with Lady Goldberry and the White Stag. The rainbows of light surrounding him, and the blade of fire above him, made him appear as one of the crowned Valar from before the birth of the world. Arthur, son of Uther, received the anointing of glory into him, and was born that moment a king.

He lowered the famed blade, and was suddenly revealed to be a boy again, a gangly youth, hardly into his full growth. "Lady, can this be so?" he asked quietly.

"Yea, Arthur, it is, even as you have spoken."

Long he stood, and long he pondered. "The Hawk told me today that I must not to despise a day of small beginnings, for great things were afoot. I thought he meant I would catch the great Stag, which stands beside you now even as a tamed beast. I left this morning a boy, but it appears I shall return as a king." He paused.

"The Hawk?" she asked.

"So we call him, or Myrddin, for he sees far and commands the beasts and birds. Indeed, one of his servants flies far above us as we speak. He goes by many names, but he is my teacher and friend.

"Yes, I know him well," said Goldberry, "though I know him by another name. A great friend, indeed, Arthur, for he shall guide you well. Pay heed to him, for he is counted among the Wise, and knows much about the world and its deep purposes."

"Then lady, most beautiful, in his name, I would ask another boon: that I should see you again."

She laughed merrily, yet spoke with a somber voice. "Ah, Arthur, such a thing you should ask! My heart tells me it shall be so, although a veil of darkness conceals our meeting from me. But I tell you this: Thou shall be among the chosen Mortal men who, suffering grievously, shall receive your healing after sailing to the Far Shore. And it is fated that, when the times turn again, thou shall return to lead your people into triumph." She reached for his hand, and stood near to the bright blade. A single hair she cut from her head, and wound it about Glamdring's shining pommel. "I give thee this strand of hair in token of our meeting again. My blessing goes with you, Arthur, wherever you go, and may you walk in the protection of Varda of the stars, Manw of the winds, and Ulmo of the waves. A mighty cloud of witnesses surrounds you wherever you go, and you walk in their power. Go now and meet your destiny."

As Arthur departed, he turned back and raised Glamdring in salute. Goldberry, queen of the lake and River's Daughter, stood with her hand on the Stag's flank, waving. "Until we meet again, King of the Morning."

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