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Author's Note: WARNINGS for some graphic language.

A Matter of Cultural Differences

Their shadows fell before them as they entered the city. Erestor studied his surroundings with great interest. The hustle and bustle of people in this the lowest circle of Minas Tirith was quite unlike anything he’d encountered before. And the smells ... well, the least said, the better. He concluded that the race of Men must be equipped with an excessive number of sweat glands, a fact he had already suspected from his recent exposure to mortals.

They turned left and rode slowly along a street that housed many artisans; Erestor noticed a lamp-wright’s workshop and several weavers. Soon, they reached a tunnel-like gate through which they passed to the next circle, turning right and continuing slowly while people cheered their returning king and greeted his company.

‘Hey, you!’

He looked around to find the source of that irreverent call. In the street ahead, a young lady in a very revealing dress hung halfway out of a window and waved at him in a most unladylike manner.

‘Yes, you – handsome one! Come visit me tonight; I’ll give you one for free!’

Never in his life had Erestor been addressed like that and he failed to understand why an unknown woman should wish to give him presents. Bewildered, he turned to the rider next to him, only to find him grinning.

‘Elrond, do you know what she is talking about? Surely they do not presume we require presents for our aid?’

Elrond now laughed aloud and Erestor had to wait for him to calm down. The procession came to a halt while Elendil at the head of the long row of riders received a report from the officer at the next gate. As fortune had it, Erestor and Elrond halted their horses close to the irreverent young lady’s window. She called down to him again.

‘So, what do you say, handsome? I’ll show you a good time!’

This was yet another instance of cultural differences; he’d already been exposed to several on their journey, but it seemed there was still much to learn. Now, if he considered all he knew of mortals, then surely the answer to this riddle would present itself (which would be just as well since Elrond, by now wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, proved to be no help at all).

He looked up at the lady again. She winked at him and cupped her breasts with both hands.

Nay! Shocked, he looked down. Surely she cannot be suggesting...

Without any conscious decision on his part, Erestor’s eyes crept upwards again.

Oh dear! What a positively indecent behaviour! Erestor felt his cheeks heating.

The noises from Elrond were now almost as unsettling as the show in the window above and Erestor stared straight ahead. The rider in front of him patted his horse and shifted his weight in the saddle. Erestor watched these movements and concentrated on his own breathing. Finally, the undignified sounds from his employer ceased and an explanation was offered.

‘Erestor, I assume you do know that mortals do not become bound by the act of bodily union.’

Of course he knew! He’d just not considered all the implications of that fact. But as a counsellor, he probably should have. What more might he have overlooked?

‘Elrond, I am aware of these differences. But... does it mean that they just... that anybody can...’

‘Indeed they can, although it is not considered proper to engage in sexual intercourse out of wedlock. However, many ladies, like your admirer in the window, in fact make a living from selling their graces on a nightly – or even hourly – basis and they are quite sought after. Now, this young lady seems to have taken a fancy to your stern Noldorin visage, and, consequently, offers her favours for free. You should feel flattered.’

He would have felt more flattered if Elrond hadn’t started snickering again. Such an undignified behaviour really did not behove the King’s herald, Erestor thought sourly.

Really! What does Elrond take me for?

Straightening his back, Erestor resumed his study of the rider in front of him. Said gentleman was now discreetly scratching his crotch. By some kind of association, Erestor’s eyes crawled upwards again. She smiled at him.

‘Just ask for Gwirith!’

Finally, the procession moved forward and Erestor thanked the Valar for small blessings.
Further on they rode, and as they turned to pass through the next gate, Erestor happened to look back.

She threw him a kiss.

‘See you tonight,’ she shouted, her voice comparable to that of the average field commander.

Erestor winced.

A few days later, he sat in his room in a chair next to the window. He paid no attention to the spectacular view from this height although it usually took spectators' breath away: The seven circles of the White City lay draped down the mountainside beneath him against a beautiful backdrop of green plains, the whole picture framed by the silver band of the Anduin in the distance. But when Erestor was thinking—an activity at which he prided himself in being among the best—he was not easily distracted. At the moment, he truly was deep in thought about an interesting subject, making a mental list of each point as he considered them.

The act of bodily union: What do we know about it?

Beginning with the obvious, the consequences of the union depended on whether one was Elf or mortal: For Elves, intimate congress would occur only within an unbreakable bond, or with the purpose of creating a such; for mortals... well, in light of his recent discoveries, that seemed to depend upon the situation.

Erestor considered consulting Elrond on the matter, but remembering his employer’s earlier display when confronted with the subject of bodily union, he decided against it. He ascribed Elrond’s reaction to his natural modesty, in itself a commendable trait, but in the situation the other day it had been rather inappropriate and definitely unhelpful.

Nay, I will draw my own conclusions, based on all known facts; I am, after all, eminently suited for this task.

Surfacing for a moment from his thoughts, Erestor shifted in his chair; absentmindedly, he straightened the cuffs of his velvet robe until they sat around his wrists just right. The soft fabric felt comforting and familiar against his skin; after days on the road in dusty travel gear, Erestor found himself greatly enjoying being properly dressed and groomed. The large bathtub in the adjacent bathroom had met with his deepest approval; he hated being dirty.

Leaning back in the chair, he focused his mind on the next issue:

Why do mortals put such high value on - what did Elrond call the activity? Ah yes – ‘intercourse’? Elrond claims that several women in the city make a living of participating in the act against monetary compensation. ‘On a nightly, or even hourly basis’, he said. Fascinating!

Of course Erestor knew that originally, the sacred act was intended only for the begetting of children. However, he was also well aware that young married couples found the bodily union most pleasant (the example that immediately sprang to mind were his neighbours back home. The walls in Gil-galad’s palace might be thick, but Elven hearing was keen and his neighbours newlywed), though their interest seemed to dwindle as the years passed (he never heard any of the characteristic sounds from the head archivist’s rooms and that Elf had been married longer than Erestor cared to think about).

But from the information gathered, the situation seemed to differ somewhat for mortals: not only did they continue to desire ‘intercourse’ throughout their lives, they even enjoyed it outside of wedlock. Yet Erestor doubted whether the participants in such actions would achieve the joyful unity of souls which he knew to take place between two Elves in a similar situation. This thought led to a hypothetical question:

If an Elf were to engage in random intercourse with a mortal, what might then the consequences be?

A matrimonial union seemed unlikely to take place considering that mortals lacked the inborn Elven ability to enter their side of such a bond. Besides, a marriage required the expression of free consent on both sides which would obviously prevent any accidental bonding between the two.

Might then a one-sided bond accidentally be formed? A truly frightening concept!

However, a matrimonial bond required not only bodily union, but also the exchange of blessings and the naming of the Name. In the absence of any of these, no marriage would be valid in the eyes of the Powers.

Nay, to the best of my reasoning, marriage could not take place by accident.

On the other hand, he could not quite rule out that in the heat of passion, and overcome by their race’s natural urge to mate, an Elf might perform the ritual with an unsuitable--or even unaware—partner. Having only heard of the passion experienced by the two parties under these particular circumstances and not experienced it himself, Erestor lacked the information required to form a conclusion.

The facts of the matter cannot be ascertained unless...

Erestor shifted in his chair and decided to set the issue aside for later deliberation. A tray on a small table next to him held tea and refreshments and he picked up the pot to pour tea in a delicately painted teacup. He inhaled the fragrant steam; a different blend than his usual choice, but a most pleasant aroma. He sipped the steaming brew, taking his time to appreciate the flavour and admire the swirling blue patterns painted on the cup.

Mmm, a sweet aftertaste, too. Perhaps I should inquire of the blend and purchase some to take home with me?

A small bowl of confectionery stood on the tray next to the teapot and after sampling various types he once more leant back in his chair to consider another aspect of the puzzling subject.

What status would such ladies hold in their society?

As the ladies took care of certain functions of the body, might one assume they ranked with physicians? Nay, they dealt with healthy individuals, and should they fail in their duty, the consequences would hardly be lethal. They provided a pleasant experience... a ranking alongside singers and other performers was, perhaps, more likely? Did they belong to the guild of artists and entertainers?

Too many questions and not enough answers!

Annoyed that his lack of knowledge prevented him from drawing reliable conclusions, Erestor tapped his fingers on the armrest.

How do I go about obtaining the information I require?

He thought again about the young lady and how she had called from the window. Not a trace of shyness in her; surely she would not object to answering a few questions about her occupation?

A knock on the door called Erestor’s attention to the time and he went to join Elrond and attend the state dinner given in their honour. When the long-winded affair finally concluded, the hour was late and Erestor chose to postpone his decision on the previous matter until the next day. Tomorrow, after a good night’s rest, he’d be able to settle on the appropriate course of action.

The next day, meetings started early and continued till late in the afternoon. No official dinner was scheduled for the evening and although Elrond suggested the two of them share a meal, Erestor begged off, having already other plans for the evening. He’d decided to satisfy his curiosity.

So came it that not long after the stars appeared, he stood in front of Gwirith’s door in the second circle. An early-blooming climber next to the scarlet door emitted a delicious fragrance from its violet flowers; from a house on the other side of the street came the sound of woman laughing; children protested in the next lane as a stern motherly voice ordered them to ‘get in your beds – right now!’

Then the scarlet door opened. An elderly, well-dressed woman enquired after Erestor’s errand and only moments later, she showed him into a room on the first floor. The window in the opposite side of the room stood open as it had done the day before, but Gwirith did not occupy it; instead, she stood in front of a mirror, pushing a recalcitrant brown curl back into place.

At the sight of him, she beamed.

‘You came! A real Elf and you came to visit me!’

Smiling at Gwirith’s excitement, Erestor bowed politely and – once the young lady had calmed down – received proper greetings in return and was led to sit in the only chair in the room. Meanwhile, Gwirith flittered about, setting out two glasses and a bottle of wine on the wobbly table, and lighting two unnecessary, but very decorative candles. After a little small talk about Gwirith’s state of health (excellent), Erestor’s (ditto), the weather (lovely) and Gwirith’s general appearance (also lovely), Erestor tentatively broached the reasons for his visit.

‘Gwirith, I wish to speak with you to learn one or two things.’

‘Ah! Like talking, do you? ‘

Erestor nodded, pleased; Elrond's concerns regarding his problems in communicating with mortals had, so far, proved completely unfounded. Of course Erestor never worried for one moment. He saw no reason why he, a highly skilled negotiator, should not be able to express his wishes to other races; after all, he’d spent years studying foreign languages.

True, Gwirith’s speech differed slightly from what he’d been taught and some of the words and expressions she used definitely seemed more colloquial than what one was wont to hear in councils with the King. This was to be expected. Gwirith was no councillor, and evidently, the language had also evolved over time. However, he would soon familiarize himself with the new words and expressions and all in all, he foresaw no problems communicating with the young lady.

The lady in question, who had obviously been waiting for him to elaborate on his silent answer, continued after a few moments, impatient as all mortals,

‘Or do you want me to talk dirty to you, handsome?’

‘Talk dirty?’

‘Yes, you know, say something like...’ Gwirith hesitated and studied his face. Surprise showed in her grey eyes as she slowly continued, ‘You really have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?’

The patronizing tone did not sit well with Erestor.

‘I am not sure I quite follow you,’ he admitted, slightly annoyed. Yet another unfamiliar phenomenon!

Gwirith kindly demonstrated a choice selection of her ‘dirty talk’. Then she waited, watching him and studying his reaction, while she twisted one of the laces of her bodice around a slender finger.

Erestor strove to gather his scattered thoughts and caught hold of one as it flew by.

‘Do you... do you perform this oral... act on your clients?’

‘What’s that, handsome? Give them head? Oh sure! All men love it. Come now, admit it: You do, too.’

‘Indeed I do not! As a matter of fact, I find the mere thought repulsive.’

‘Repu... what? You mean you don’t like having your cock sucked? Well, somebody must have done a lousy job of it, then. I bet you’ll like it when I do it - everybody says I’m the best.’ Gwirith seemed quite proud of her outrageous talent and confidently approached him, obviously determined to prove her claim.

Erestor quickly got up and moved behind the chair to keep some distance between them. Their conversation had taken a completely unexpected turn; obviously he and Gwirith held differing opinions on what constituted a proper conversation.

The act she’d described shocked him on more than one level. From what he’d been taught, the male body part involved was supposed to be inserted elsewhere in the female body than indicated by Gwirith. And why would she wish to put her mouth on... he banished the thought from his mind, determined not to think about how it would feel to have those red lips... no!

This will not do! I must... I must...

The whole situation was spinning out of control and Erestor felt increasingly uncomfortable. The room had gotten quite warm and the air was tight. A tactical retreat seemed to be in order.

‘My dear young lady, thank you for taking the time to enlighten me on these topics. Unfortunately, I feel a little tired and wish to take my leave now.’

He took a few steps towards the door, unsure if he’d be allowed to escape, but Gwirith stopped her playful attempts at reaching him. She didn’t reply to his—admittedly rather lame—words of departure, only looked at him oddly while her charming smile faltered and the confidence seeped out of her posture.

Something is wrong. Have I hurt her feelings?

Erestor began to suspect that his abrupt departure—or, more accurately, his attempt at one—might constitute a serious breach of etiquette. This would not do!

He prided himself in being familiar with the customs of all civilized peoples on Arda; on their way to Minas Tirith, he’d been invited to join the King’s Men around the fire at night and had shared the horrid spirits they carried (‘to fight the cold’ they said, though it was spring and the weather quite pleasant). He had drunk the brew without choking and even managed to smile afterwards and thank them.

On another memorable occasion, he had feasted and toasted in ale with Dwarves and done his utmost to burp in appreciation (although with limited success. Still, they had appreciated the sentiment.) But all of that was beside the point.

Setting his unease aside, Erestor turned his full attention towards Gwirith, taking in her defeated posture and the scarcely veiled hurt in her eyes.
Hastily, he recalled the events of the evening: She’d welcomed him – nothing wrong there; they had talked – a few misunderstandings, but nothing serious; he had explained his errand - then she’d offered...

Oh! Dumbfounded, Erestor realized where he had gone wrong.

I refused her gift! How incredibly insensitive of me - no wonder she is upset.

Erestor mentally kicked himself for his rude behaviour and quickly resolved to make up for this uncharacteristic blunder (although he must, in all fairness, ascribe some of it to the shocking revelations regarding the customs of mortal men).

‘My dear young lady, ehm, Gwirith...’

My, but this is awkward. How do I redeem myself in her eyes?

The more Erestor thought about his predicament, the more he realized the limited number of options open to him. In fact, he could think of only one appropriate way to appease the young lady.

‘Gwirith, please sit down and listen to me!’

She didn’t move.

‘Please, Gwirith. I would like to explain to you.’ He did not much care for the plaintive tone of his voice, but at least his words reached her this time. Slowly, she moved over to the bed and sat down, looking away from him. Erestor realized that there was only one chair in the room, the one he leant on; she obviously refused to sit in it with him hovering behind her back.

Instead, Erestor moved over to the bed and sat a little distance from her. After a moment, he noticed her sneaking a look at him. Then her hand shot out and reached between his legs, touching his private parts. He jerked back in shock over her unseemly behaviour and pushed her away.

Gwirith withdrew, holding both hands up in a sign of peace, and said,

‘You just don’t fancy me, is that it? We ‘Mortals’ are not attractive to an Elf, huh?’

‘No! No, that’s not it at all! I think you are very nice,’ Erestor tried to soothe her.

‘Then why won’t you let me touch you?’ she asked, still not meeting his eyes. ‘Isn’t that what you came here for, to have a good time? And before, you said you wanted some talk, but when I talked to you, you didn’t like it at all. Well, what DO you want, then?’ Her tone suggested that whatever it was, she could hardly care less by now.

Erestor sighed. It was his nature to consider all aspects of a problem in detail before acting. But in his experience, limited though it was on this particular subject, mortals seemed to spend regrettably little time on reflection. They preferred action to deliberation, the mere brevity of their lives, perhaps, prompting their rash actions. This lady certainly proved him right with her hands-on approach.

‘Gwirith, if you will just bear with me for another moment, I’ll try to explain properly.’

‘Well, get on with it, then!‘ she sniffed.

Erestor, skilled negotiator that he was, knew an ultimatum when it kicked him in the shin and promptly got on with it.

‘My kind – Elves – love only once –‘

‘Everybody knows that!’ Gwirith interjected, while studying the toes of her shoes.

‘Well, yes, but did you know that not only do we love only once, we also do not feel the... desire, that mortals feel, until we meet our one true love.’

‘Naah! You’re kidding, right?’ She stared at him, searching his face to see if he was lying.

‘No, I am not jesting. This is how the Creator made us, and we cannot change it, nor would we wish to do so. When we finally meet the one that was meant for us, we feel desire for the first time. Then, and only then, do we join our bodies, marry and share our hearts and souls in eternal bliss.’

Erestor conveyed the teachings he’d learned on his mother’s knee; he spoke from the bottom of his heart and his fervour seemed to convince Gwirith. She gave the foreign concept some thought and soon arrived at a conclusion that cheered her up and restored her confidence.

‘So... it’s not ‘cause you think I’m ugly that you can’t get it up?’ she smiled.

For a little while, Erestor considered this bewildering statement, attacking it from various angles until he finally made the connection between this utterance and Gwirith’s previous reconnaissance in his nether areas. His cheeks heated.

‘No, I assure you that my lack of... ehm... physical response to your touch had nothing to do with your charming person.’

‘You think I’m pretty?’

‘Why, certainly! You look most lovely.’

Gwirith beamed and lightly touched her shiny curls to push a freedom-seeking strand back in place. Erestor immediately took his cue.

‘And my compliments on your coiffure; the style becomes you.’

A momentary confusion showed on Gwirith’s face beneath the heavy make-up and Erestor worried what he might have said wrong this time, but the frown disappeared and the young lady acknowledged his compliment with another smile.

Relieved, Erestor smiled back. Now that he had successfully restored diplomatic relations to their original, pleasant level, perhaps he would—finally!—succeed in obtaining some answers to his questions.

It was late in the evening before Gwirith finished answering all Erestor wished to know. Some of his questions led to delighted giggles on her part, some to confusion (‘Why men like to fuck? Because it feels good, of course!), and some to statements so frank they embarrassed him (‘I just thought you were handsome and gave it a shot. It worked, didn’t it? Here you are, on my bed. Rather have you in it, though!’)

After that, they chatted, comfortable with each other now. Erestor told her how he’d wondered about her charges, and was surprised to learn that a silver penny would buy a man Gwirith’s services for an entire night.

'But surely the pleasure of your company would be worth more than, than... the value of a foal!

Gwirith laughed at him and insisted he stay until the morning broke. Her offer was generous, yet Erestor suspected that an entire night’s earnings might be sorely missed later and hesitated to take her up on it.

Then she asked, all of a sudden shy as a maiden, ‘May I touch you?’

He felt wary after her previous handling of his person and hesitated. Gwirith stumbled on, ‘It’s just that... you are so very beautiful. I’ll not touch you – you know - down there. I promise I’ll be good!’

How could he deny her after that?

Gwirith did not betray his trust. She touched his face, gently and wonderingly. ‘Your skin is as soft as a baby’s’, she breathed. ‘And you’re the most handsome man I’ve ever seen.’ Her fingers wandered over his cheekbones and down to his jaw; inwards to touch his chin; up to his lips which she skipped over in favour of his nose. Mesmerized, Erestor let her continue her exploration.

Her hand now stroked lovingly over his hair. ‘So lovely,’ she whispered. ‘So long and shiny. Do you always keep it braided?’

He cleared his throat.

‘Yes, I do. It’s difficult to manage otherwise.’

‘Can I undo your braids? I’ll do them for you again afterwards.’

Unbind his hair—did she realize what she was asking? No, of course she had no idea.

Erestor balanced on the edge, fighting a sudden impulse to let her do what she wished, to hold her and touch her in turn. But what might happen if he let this weakness take hold?

‘Nay, my dear. I would not offend you, but my hair is... best kept in its braids.’ How much effort these few words required, she must never learn.
Erestor caught Gwirith’s wandering hands, kissing them as she began to pout, distracting her with chivalrous words about her charm and beauty, and the moment passed.

Long before morning, Gwirith fell asleep in the middle of a long, complicated story about an ongoing feud between two neighbours. He lay down on the bed next to her, unwilling to leave without a proper farewell. Now that he was free to study her, he realized she was not as young as he’d first assumed. The lines around her eyes and a few grey hairs scattered among the brown brutally reminded him of her mortality, of the fact that in few years as he reckoned time, this body would be dust and her fa gone from here. Yet he, Erestor, would remain, ever the same, until the end of Arda.

After that... who knew?

He woke her gently as the sun rose, taking his leave with words of gratitude. Gwirith drowsily whispered one last request and after a brief moment of hesitation, he promised to do as she wished.

Then he left, walking briskly back through the waking city to prepare for a new day.

Back in his room, Erestor washed, dressed, and finally brushed his hair. The latter reminded him of Gwirith’s awed face when she wished to unbind his braids. He studied himself in the mirror, then quickly swept the dark mane forwards over his shoulder and draped it over his upper body. The Elf in the mirror let his fingers trace a path from cheekbone to jaw, and then skip down to stroke the shining hair, feeling its texture and the heat of the skin beneath it. That Elf in the mirror had little resemblance of Elrond’s reserved councillor.

A bell rang. Startled, Erestor turned away from his mirror image and quickly braided his hair. He picked up the scrolls cases concerning the day’s matters, together with the satchel containing his notes, and hurried down the stairs. Nearing the meeting room, he slowed down to a walk—it would not do to rush into the room like a green boy—and happened to overhear a remark from within.

'Rumour has it that your stern advisor was seen in the second circle last night, visiting a house of ill repute,' a voice trumpeted. Isildur; there was no mistaking him.

News certainly travel fast in this city. Erestor stopped to listen, for a wise councillor learned all that he could before entering a battlefield.

'Nay! Erestor would never... You know that according to Elven customs, the act of bodily union should be reserved for marriage, and Erestor is a most proper Elf. He would never spend the night with a whore!' That was Elrond’s baritone, slightly upset.

Erestor smiled to himself. Well Elrond, you might be in for a surprise... he thought and continued towards the door. Just before he reached it, Isildur spoke in a low voice. What little Erestor could hear made him stop and wonder.

'... bet he sleeps with his hands above the blankets', Isildur mumbled.

Of course I do, Erestor thought, how else would I sleep?

Then he remembered how on the journey the mortals would curl up under their blankets, taking care to tuck their hands in, too, and even huddle together to preserve their body heat, while he and Elrond slept in the natural manner of Elves, stretched out on their backs to let the stars lull them to sleep – and with their hands resting on top of their blankets. Apparently this difference had caught Isildur's attention. Why it should cause him to make a remark in that lewd tone was another matter. Erestor pushed the matter out of his mind. The ways of mortals presented puzzle after puzzle; if he were to solve them all, he would get nothing done.

Setting his face in its customary councillor’s mask—he had a reputation to keep up, after all—Erestor strode through the door and walked straight to his designated chair. He carefully arranged the scrolls on the table and hung his satchel over the back of the chair, before turning towards the other two. Isildur looked uncomfortable, but returned Erestor’s greeting. Elrond merely nodded and studied his councillor, who carefully maintained his inscrutable expression. Then Elendil entered and the meeting began.

Later the same day, at a grand ceremony, Elendil and Elrond signed the treaty that concluded the negotiations. Two days later, the time came to depart from the White City.

Elendil took his leave of them outside in the white paved court. The King of Men, polite and courteous towards Erestor, displayed a kind affection towards his own kin. Erestor looked away as Elendil embraced Elrond in the way of mortals.

Instead he watched a light wind carry the spray of a fountain sideways and moisten the soil beneath a sapling tree. Its dark leaves, newly unfolded, shone in the morning sun, every once in a while showing their silvery undersides when the wind turned them over; the rich smell of fertile soil made promises for a new season. Erestor breathed deeply and turned to see that Elrond, who had finished his leave-taking, now bowed to the little tree.

To Elrond, the sapling must seem a grave reminder of the sunken lands of his brother. Erestor watched the scene from a respectful distance; then he followed his employer through the great arch down to the seventh level where their horses stood. With them waited an honour guard and Elrond’s own retinue. Solemnly, the company wound its way down through the levels. But as they descended, Erestor felt his spirits lift, the successful negotiations and the bright sun contributing equally to his improved mood.

They rode through the gate to the second level and turned into the by now familiar street. He noticed Elrond’s curious glances, yet pretended ignorance. Ahead of them stood the house with the violet-blooming climber and in the window... yes, just as he’d expected: There was Gwirith, leaning out of the window and waving at him with a handkerchief.

When they reached her house, Erestor kept his promise and waved back to her, to the loud and wordy envy of the ladies in the other windows. Thrilled at his daring, he threw caution to the wind and blew Gwirith a kiss. She laughed and hailed him, her voice easily carrying over the din,

‘Safe journey, handsome. Come back and spend another night with me soon!’

Ai, the frivolity of it! Erestor cringed inside, but it was well worth it, just to see Elrond’s jaw drop.

By the time they exited the city, Elrond had recovered his usual composure while Erestor still allowed himself a smug little smile.


They never discussed the incident, but when in years to come Elrond would begin one of his rather tiresome monologues on the cultural differences between Elves and mortals, Erestor needed only nod sagely and say, ‘Indeed! I remember my in-depth studies of their customs, many years ago in Minas Tirith...,’ to make Elrond founder in mid-speech and become blessedly quiet.

Oh yes, it was definitely worth it!


Author’s Notes:

Minas Tirith was in fact called Minas Anor in those days and was not the chief city of Gondor, but it would have been a convenient place to meet.

‘Gwirith’ means April in Sindarin. The name is courtesy of Aearwen, to whom Erestor wishes to express his sincere thanks.

Darth Fingon suggested several useful terms; I am particularly fond of the expression ‘intimate congress’.

Many thanks to all my friends at GoI for helpful input and generous support.
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