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Title: Underestimated (Updated version!)
Type: FPS
Author: Enismirdal enismirdal@caths.co.uk
Rating: PG13
Pairings: Rúmil/Faelon, Glorfindel/Erestor
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: They’re not my characters (except Tellumiel, who was never
meant to do anything much in the first place)! I would be very happy if
they were; instead, I’ll just be eternally grateful to Professor Tolkien
for giving them life. No disrespect intended; no profit made.
Beta: An absolutely giant thank you to amazing beta readers Aleks,
Laurel (first chapter) and my darling Katy - where would I be without
you gals?
Timeline: Third Age, pre-LOTR
Summary: Rúmil is in love with Faelon. Faelon thinks he’s too good for
Rúmil. Erestor decides to get involved.

A/N: Faelon *is* there in movie, at the Council of Elrond, sitting on
Elrond’s right. Some people call him Elrohir or Noname, but
Roheryn/Candice/Vardalon Elentari christened him Faelon because that’s
how ‘Justin’ (Mackenzie, who plays Faelon, coincidentally brother of
Brett, who plays Figwit/Melpomaen) translates into Sindarin. If you're
having Figwit, you’d better have Faelon too!
Aside from borrowing those two out of the movie, I’m sticking to book
canon for this one.

NOTE: This is the NEW version with all the Grelvish killed, removed,
burned! I've left Figwit as Melpomaen though, as I just think Melpomaen
is a nice name :) And Tellumiel is still Tellumiel, cos I'm sure someone
can make that sound plausible.


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Part 1


Rúmil sat on the cool marble bench with his head in his hands. His
fingers were wet and slick with tears; his eyes, he imagined, must be
red and bloodshot with incessant crying. It wasn’t normally in his
nature to fall victim to emotion like this, but then again, he didn’t
normally have to watch his life collapse into ruin around him.

He’d never left Lórien before, but Haldir had promised him that Imladris
was a delightful place; the elves were somewhat serious and lordly at
times, but always impeccably polite and courteous. The lifestyle, he
promised, was as luxurious and sophisticated as in Lórien. Rúmil had
been more than happy to accompany his elder brother on this trip.

The journey had been uneventful; on arrival, they had been greeted by
Lord Elrond and several of his most trusted associates, as well as his
twin sons and beautiful daughter. Rúmil had first laid eyes upon Arwen
centuries ago when she was visiting Lórien with her now long-departed
mother, Celebrían, and in that single moment he had understood perfectly
what all the fuss was about. She truly was exquisite, every feature
flawless. Her hair was a curtain of spun silk; her eyes lakes of liquid
passion; her mouth the bud of a rose blossom, just about to spring open
into full bloom.

But it had not been Arwen who had shaken his world and it left in ruins;
not this time.

He drew in another shuddering breath, coughing as he inadvertently
inhaled more tears. What was wrong with him?

Through his sobs, he suddenly heard a whisper of fabric just a couple of
feet to his left. Someone had sat down on the bench beside him! He was
irritated by this - he had spent ages prowling the gardens, seeking out
a suitably private and secluded part of the Last Homely House’s gardens
where he could be alone with his misery. And now someone else was
invading his space! “Go away!” he groaned bitterly through his fingers.

There was no response - his companion wouldn't leave.

Rúmil gazed up at the figure through wet fingers, his vision blurring
with tears. His heart skipped a beat as he saw the curtain of dark
hair…but no. He exhaled with mingled relief and disappointment, as he
recognised the earnest, exotic features of Elrond’s chief counsellor,
Erestor. He scrubbed at his eyes. “What do you want?”

“I saw you come out here,” the counsellor said, as if that explained
everything. So far, Rúmil had not had the opportunity to meet Erestor
properly and therefore had no idea of what to expect from him. Haldir,
too, barely knew him, simply saying that Erestor came across as very
quiet, dignified and conscientious - traits which probably hid a devious
mind.

“So?”

“I come here too, sometimes, when I feel weighed down by a lot of
emotion.” Erestor had a strange, lilting accent, uncharacteristic of an
Imladris elf. Rúmil couldn’t place it at all - it reminded him of the
Sindar from Mirkwood, only that seemed highly unlikely. He reminded
himself that the advisor was probably many millennia old, and could have
come from Aman for all he knew. “I thought maybe you’d like to unburden
yourself.”

“On you? I hardly know you.” He couldn’t understand why Erestor could
possibly care what his problems were.

“All the better. I don’t have a personal stake in this. Come, now, /pen-
neth/, tears like that are usually caused by messy affairs of the heart.
I don’t expect you to give me a name, but you’re welcome to tell me
about what troubles you. I’ve found over the years that I’ve come to
appreciate the value of talking.” He shifted backwards a few inches,
presumably a calculated move designed to put across the impression of
being uninvasive. His dark eyes were soft and invited confidence.

Rúmil sighed. “You wouldn’t want to hear about the mountain of misery
which is supposed to be my love life.”

“I’d like to hear about it a lot more than you think.” Erestor spoke
softly.

Rúmil chose not to attempt to interpret the cryptic comment, and instead
asked, “You won’t tell anyone?”

“I won’t. I'm not considered to be a gossip.”

“Thank you.” He took a deep breath to calm himself, but still found
himself stuttering as he started to speak. “It’s…it’s Faelon.”

“Oh.”

“Oh?”

“He’s…difficult. Go on.”

“This is my first visit to Imladris. In fact, this is the first time
I’ve ever left Lórien. Haldir thinks that I’m overwhelmed and it’s
making me emotional…”

“Hold on. You're starting the story in the middle. So you've found
yourself drawn to Faelon?”

Rúmil nodded and sighed. “Is it that obvious?”

“It's not uncommon to feel that way about someone; I've seen it enough
times. And I've known those feelings myself.” Erestor's eyes were dark
and unreadable, but his tone hinted at memories. “Tell me about you and
Faelon.”

“I first saw him standing there when we rode into Imladris, and it was
as if everything else disappeared from around us. He’s - ” he swallowed.
“He’s beautiful. Like Eärendil in the autumn sky at dusk, he shone, and
I couldn’t look away from his light. Since then, I haven’t been able to
get him out of my thoughts. Honestly - I was writing up my notes from
the meeting Haldir and I had with Lord Glorfindel, and I suddenly
realised I’d written, ‘…remain in Imladris until Faelon is mine
forever…’!” He blushed with embarrassment.

“Does he know about your feelings for him?”

Rúmil buried his head in his hands again, letting his hair fall forward
to shield him from…Elbereth only knew what. “Yes,” he whispered.

Erestor’s strong, slender fingers closed around his wrists and pulled
his hands back down. He met Rúmil's eyes reassuringly, “What happened?”

Rúmil chewed his lip uncertainly. “I…I approached him at the feast
earlier. I told him that I found him intriguing and…and that I’d like to
get to know him a little better. I asked him…I asked him if he’d like to
join my brother and me by the hearth for /miruvor/…”

“Ah, yes, I remember seeing you two sitting together there. Haldir was
speaking to Tellumiel, was he not?”

The younger elf nodded. “I didn’t know you were there. Haldir said you
didn’t seem to like crowds.”

A rather melancholy-looking smile touched Erestor’s lips. “Oh, I was
there. I left when the musicians came in, but I was present for the
first part of the feast. It was after I had retired to my rooms that I
saw you coming out here. But I’m side-tracking you - this is your story.
Please continue.”

Rúmil’s eyes welled up again as he recalled his conversation with the
dark-haired Imladris elf. “He looked at me as if…as if I was a rat
someone had found in the storeroom.” He sniffed, and hated himself for
sounding so self-pitying. “And he said…” He broke eye contact, unable to
focus his swimming eyes on Erestor’s calm face, and once again sought
refuge behind his hair. “He said that if I…”

Erestor reached out with two fingers, placing them gently under Rúmil’s
chin and tilting the younger elf’s head up again. “Look at me. There’s
nothing to hide from here. Trying to retreat from your problems, hiding
away like that - it won't make them disappear. They'll simply grow. The
more you hide, the more you have to hide from, as your dread of the real
issue increases out of all proportion. You should always meet your
problems head-on, with a bold face. Say it again, but say it whilst
looking at me.”

The younger elf did as he was instructed. “He said that if I ever
thought he would stoop so low as to lie with, or even be seen with, a
Silvan elf, I must be even more ignorant and crass than most of my
race.” He was abruptly seized by the desire to throw himself upon
Erestor - never mind that they’d never met before - and cry himself out
in the elder elf’s arms. But Erestor was chewing his lip somewhat
uncomfortably, and made no move to reach out; in fact, as Rúmil’s form
shuddered with renewed sobs, he actually shifted away an almost
imperceptible but significant inch. Clearly, he was not fond of even the
idea of such unrestrained physical contact.

The counsellor moved hesitantly, but eventually extended a pale hand
towards Rúmil and laid it gently on the distressed elf’s shaking
shoulder. Rúmil guessed from his tentative movements that this was an
unusually familiar gesture from Erestor’s point of view, and forced
himself to return a reluctant smile. He wiped his eyes on the back of
his sleeve, an action which Erestor’s expression hinted the elder elf
disapproved of, and got hold of himself. “I had the same problem as you
once,” Erestor admitted softly, “The object of my desire was a Noldo,
someone normally thought to be so far above me in station I effectively
had no chance ever to be with him.”

“You mean you’re not a Noldo?” Rúmil was intrigued. He’d assumed that
all the high-ranking elves of Elrond’s household were of predominantly
Noldorin blood.

“Not originally. But I have lived in Imladris for many years now.”

“So what happened with this other elf?” Rúmil persisted, growing
interested.

“We fell in love anyway, and our differences ceased to matter.” This
time, the smile on Erestor’s face was blissful rather than sad. His gaze
wandered dreamily to the sky, roaming the bluish vault which now
darkened to indigo with approaching dusk. Eärendil shone down on them
from just above the horizon, and his light was soon joined by other,
fainter stars.

“Tell me how,” the Lórien elf demanded, his eyes shining with mixed hope
and desperation. Erestor did not answer; his gaze had now dropped to the
ring he wore on the index finger of his left hand, an elegant piece
styled of /mithril/ flowers. “Erestor?” He tugged the counsellor’s
sleeve to gain his attention again.

“I apologise, Rúmil. I grew distracted. What were you saying?”

“I asked if you’d tell me how you managed to win his heart.”

Erestor looked thoughtful. “I admit I’m still not entirely sure myself.
I think it may be because…circumstances…forced him to acknowledge that
heritage is utterly insignificant besides love. Also, Lord Elrond had
the good sense to point out to him that we had far more in common that
he had previously assumed.”

“So do you think I should persuade Faelon to look beyond my background
and see who I am underneath?”

“If you can achieve that, I believe it may be a good idea.” His eyes
lifted once more to the twilight sky. “Now, Rúmil - it grows dark. I
suggest we retire inside before the light deserts us completely.” Rúmil
was very fond of the night sky; the diamond-studded constellations,
Ithil’s silver, dusty radiance. He could have watched it for hours yet.
But he was not inclined to argue with the counsellor, and besides,
Erestor was already heading towards the welcoming amber-coloured light
pouring from the windows of the Last Homely House. With a regretful
sigh, he turned to follow the elder elf .

***

Erestor’s quill moved rhythmically over the surface of the crisp vellum
as his eyes flicked between six-month-old inventory lists, more recent
ones, and requisition receipts. So far, everything appeared to be
accounted for. Then he noticed an inconsistency and frowned with
irritation. His left hand reached for a sheet of clean parchment which
lay in a stack on the corner of the desk, and he scribbled a note to
have the matter investigated further. First, he would refer the matter
to one of the elves working under him, and if they couldn’t discover
anything, he would see what he could find out on his own - he was
nothing if not resourceful. If even that failed, he would ask Elrond to
talk to the armoury master himself. The unexplained disappearance of
four dozen arrows from the stores was hardly a devastating discrepancy,
but Erestor liked everything to wrap up nicely, and in this case he was
frustrated that it didn’t.

Suddenly, and without warning, a pair of hands appeared, one on either
side of his neck and started probing at the cramped muscles in his
shoulders. Erestor instinctively tensed under the touch, pulling away,
before reason kicked in and he recognised Glorfindel’s sensitive,
skilful fingers.

He turned, tucking several locks of his midnight hair behind his ear as
he did so, and treated Glorfindel to a prickly glare. “You know I don’t
like it when you sneak up on me like that,” he stated.

He instantly regretted his snappish words as his lover became utterly
contrite and looked quite crestfallen. “I’m sorry, /meleth/, I forgot
you…”

Erestor swallowed and closed his eyes briefly, before turning back to
the inventory lists. A moment later, Glorfindel’s arms encircled him
affectionately, and he smiled and leaned into the embrace, feeling the
warmth of his lover’s body where it touched his back. Glorfindel leaned
closer and kissed him on his jawbone, bringing a rosy flush to Erestor’s
cheeks. His lover’s fingers now curled around his own, coaxing him up
from the chair and pulling them over to the generous fire where two
invitingly overstuffed armchairs had been positioned. “I’m sorry,”
Glorfindel said again.

Erestor shook his head. “No, it is I who should be apologising. I
shouldn't have snapped at you like that. Perhaps I should have my desk
turned around so it faces the door.” He felt one of his rare smiles of
amusement spread across his face. “Then you would no longer have the
advantage on me.”

Glorfindel answered the smile with one of his own. “Perhaps you should
instead spend less time at the desk. You work too hard, you know.”

“Lord Elrond needs me to impose order upon the chaos of his study.”

“You don’t constantly have to prove your worth to him, or to anyone,”
Glorfindel countered easily, shaking his head; the argument was not a
new one. “We all know how invaluable you are, and I, for one, would like
to see you awake in the evenings rather than falling asleep before you
even reach our rooms.” His expression was resigned rather than angry, so
Erestor did not bother with an especially sharp rejoinder.

“I’m awake enough for you now, aren’t I?” he asked pointedly. Glorfindel
knew full well that he was by no means falling asleep most evenings, and
inclined his head in mild defeat. His eyes, though, spoke that he still
suspected his lover was overworking himself. “Long day?” Looking to
change the subject, Erestor had immediately taken note of his lover’s
thoughtful frown as Glorfindel shifted into a more comfortable position
on the yielding velvet cushions.

The golden-haired warrior nodded. “I’ve been in conference with Rúmil
and Haldir all morning, going over the latest reports of orc bands
roaming the countryside. I think we’re going to have to organise a joint
patrol with Lórien and track down a particularly large group which has
been causing problems around the south of Eregion.” He shook his head in
irritation. “And that will be another few dozen gone. It will make not a
scrap of difference to their vast numbers overall.”

“Is there a pattern to this band’s activities?” Erestor asked, already
analysing the information he’d just been given.

“Well, according to Rúmil…”

“Rúmil,” the counsellor repeated meditatively, then diverged from the
thread of the previous conversation completely. “What impression have
you gained of him so far?”

Glorfindel raised a slender eyebrow at the unexpected question. “Why do
you ask?” He received no more answer than an elegant shrug and the
slightest hint of a smile. “Oh all right, have it your way, Lord Enigma.
He seems to me to be, for the most part, much like his brother, and
you’ve met Haldir. However, he comes across as being in some ways very
different from Haldir. He is prepared to take chances, as is Haldir, but
at the same time he does not share his elder brother’s formidable self-
confidence.”

“Arrogance, you mean?” Erestor corrected, inclining his head.

“Well - yes. He seems rather more naive than his brother, presumably
because he is younger and less experienced. But he has a quick and
intelligent mind, and a sound understanding of strategy. I think,
/meleth/, that you would find him very interesting.”

Erestor dropped his eyes noncommittally, and made an ambiguous gesture
with his hand.

“You’re not going to tell me what you’re up to, are you?” Glorfindel
asked when his lover raised his head again. He pouted and tossed his
head impatiently; Erestor admired the way the spun-gold tresses fell
about his lover’s perfect face. The counsellor answered with a slight
shake of his head. “Then at least let me kiss you?” he asked. Erestor
recognised with amusement his lover’s favourite teasing-pleading
expression.

“Only if afterwards, you resume that glorious massage,” he replied. He
allowed himself a brief and genuine smile as his lover rose gracefully
from the chair and slid into his lap. Sighing with delight, he dug his
fingers eagerly into Glorfindel’s beautiful hair as the warm
affectionate lips touched his.

Then the Elda perched on the arm of the chair and began once more to
massage his lover’s shoulders.

Erestor shut his eyes and tilted his head back until it touched
Glorfindel’s chest, feeling the tension oozing from his muscles under
the busy fingers. He relaxed more and more with each movement of the
golden-haired Elda’s fingertips, and he lost himself completely to the
sensation…

The fingers hesitated. Erestor opened his eyes and curiously looked over
his shoulder at Glorfindel. He was smiling, and there was laughter in
his fair face. “What is it?” Erestor enquired.

“You were purring,” his lover answered, and adoringly played with a lock
of dark hair. “I’ve never known you to purr before.”

Erestor traced the outline of Glorfindel’s lips with one slender finger,
then taking both his lover’s wrists in his grasp, gently guided the
Elda’s hands back to his shoulders. “Please? Keep giving me a reason to
purr.”

Glorfindel obediently continued until Erestor felt himself beginning to
fall asleep, then stroked the dark hair with long, smooth movements,
bringing the counsellor back to awareness. The golden-haired warrior
knelt in front of him, Erestor’s hands trapped between his in the
counsellor’s lap. “Come to bed, /meleth/,” Glorfindel said, “You can’t
stay here all night.”

“You’re right,” Erestor agreed, stifling a yawn.

Glorfindel half-lifted his lover from the chair, drawing him into an
eager embrace, cradling Erestor’s head protectively on his shoulder.
They remained that way for some moments, aware only of the closeness,
and the rise and fall of the other’s chest.

They were still holding hands when they entered the bedroom. Erestor
appreciated the reassurance which came with the physical contact.
Glorfindel reminded Erestor of how much he loved him several times a
day, but the dark-haired counsellor still felt comforted by tangible
gestures such as this one.

Erestor had - fairly recently - *finally* agreed to share Glorfindel’s
bed. His lover had been overjoyed when Erestor had said so, recognising
it as a significant sign of total trust and commitment. The counsellor
did not give trust easily, and Glorfindel delighted in the knowledge
that he had penetrated Erestor’s normally reserved front.

The golden-haired elf stripped off his outer robes, dropping them
unceremoniously on the floor whilst Erestor fastidiously shook the
creases from his own and hung them carefully in his wardrobe. But as
Glorfindel was unbuttoning his shirt, he patted the pocket of his
leggings. “I’m sorry, /meleth/, I forgot to tell you - Haldir handed me
a note at the end of our meeting today. It’s for you. I’ve been so
preoccupied with these cursed patrol arrangements it slipped my mind
completely.” He handed the counsellor a folded sheet of parchment.

Erestor turned it over in his hands with interest before unfolding it
and scanning the contents of the message written there. Then he smiled.
Glorfindel narrowed his eyes and raised an eyebrow in question.

“It’s not from Haldir,” the dark-haired elf stated, “It’s from Rúmil. He
wants my help.”

“Do I get to read it?”

Erestor frowned, then refolded the note with obsessive attention to
getting the two halves *exactly* aligned, and shut it away in a drawer.
“Maybe tomorrow.”

***

Rúmil sat in the library, hoping that the note he’d received with his
breakfast this morning wasn’t just some silly prank of Haldir's. But the
handwriting had not been his brother’s; it had been neat and precise, as
he would have expected from Erestor. The note had specified this time;
he hoped Erestor would not be late.

Haldir had agreed to give Rúmil’s message to Glorfindel yesterday only
after Rúmil had offered to take Haldir’s watches when they journeyed
back to Lórien. He still hadn’t been entirely sure his brother would
hand over the note, so he’d only pretended to leave after the meeting
and had hidden to check Haldir did as he’d promised.

Now he hoped that Glorfindel and Erestor were as close friends as Haldir
seemed to think, from what his elder brother had been saying yesterday
after observing the two at dinner.

His fears were unfounded. The counsellor appeared, exactly and precisely
on time, as if Arda turned according to his instructions. He sat
silently in the comfortable chair across from Rúmil, resting his chin
idly on one hand, waiting for the young elf to speak. “Thank you for
coming,” he began uncertainly. Erestor nodded slightly in
acknowledgement, but still said nothing.

“After last night, when you suggested I try to convince Faelon to give
me a second glance, I started thinking…" Another nod. "I talked to
Haldir yesterday, and he said that as far as he knew, Faelon was a
scribe who worked for you…”

“Well, he’s more like a personal aide, really. I’m training him to do
more or less everything I do as part of the day-to-day running of
Imladris. But your information wasn’t far off.”

“…yes, so I thought that since you’d know him, you’d be able to tell me
a bit about him - what he likes, and dislikes, and that kind of thing.”
He looked at the elder elf for some kind of reaction, and was rewarded
with an expression which betrayed no emotion.

“He is highly intelligent, and completes any tasks I set him to my
satisfaction.”

“He must be good, then,” Rúmil remarked with an impish grin, remembering
a comment Haldir had made last night about the counsellor’s
perfectionist attitude.

“And what might you mean by that?”

Rúmil wasn’t sure whether the question was a challenge or a joke; with
Erestor, it was hard to tell. He dropped his eyes and mumbled,
“Nothing.”

Erestor let it pass. “He wears a lot of dark blue and silver.”

*Unlike half the other elves in Imladris*, Rúmil was tempted to say with
a hint of sarcasm, but held his tongue.

“I've noticed that he sometimes wears a perfume scented with lilac and…”
he narrowed his eyes, trying to identify the aroma from memory,
“…rosemary.”

“What about his personality?” Rúmil prompted. Faelon struck him as being
an immensely complicated individual. He remembered how the dark-haired
elf had laughed at the same points as he had when Glorfindel was telling
jokes over dinner the previous night, and had reached for many of the
dishes which Rúmil had also sampled. Yet his vocation was entirely
different - Faelon was a scholar, Rúmil a marchwarden. Faelon seemed, to
the casual observer, to be confident and self-assured, but Rúmil had
seen the flash of self-doubt cross the other’s features when he
apparently took offence at an offhand remark made by one of the twins.

“As I said last night, he can be difficult. I know him on a professional
rather than a personal basis, but I’ve learned that he can be extremely
stubborn - as stubborn as I’m told I can be, in fact. He doesn’t like
being told he’s wrong; he doesn’t easily admit to mistakes. This could
be where you’ll encounter a problem. Having turned you away once, it’s
unlikely he’ll take kindly to having his opinions of you rewritten.” The
counsellor shrugged elegantly. “But he will go to great lengths for
people he cares about. I remember one occasion when I had reprimanded
his brother, Melpomaen, for carelessness in his work, and Faelon came
running in on me an hour later, and proceeded to give quite a tirade on
why it wasn’t Melpomaen’s fault, and how it was unfair of me to rebuke
him.” The way Erestor’s eyes narrowed as he spoke implied that he, on
the other hand, did not think it unfair in spite of Faelon’s protest.
“He also comes from a very good, traditional family; he has a high
opinion of his pedigree, as you’ve already found out, but equally he
cares deeply for the individual members of his family.”

“Anything else you think I should know?” the young elf asked.

“Like what?”

“Has he ever shown a preference for particular flowers or food? Does he
keep any treasured possessions? Does he have favourite songs which he
sings to himself sometimes? What does he do in his free time?”

Erestor held out his hands. “I honestly wouldn’t know. As I said, I only
know him well professionally. Sorry, Rúmil.” He suddenly smiled - the
first time Rúmil had seen him do so during the discussion. “I’ll see
what I can find out today, shall I? Will you be at dinner tonight?”
Rúmil nodded. “I’ll meet you then, and tell you if I’ve discovered
anything. In the meantime, find yourself some nice clothes for tonight
and make yourself look extra-special - not that you’re not already a
very attractive young elf, I might add.”

“You think so?” Rúmil had never been so sure of himself. It was always
Haldir and his other brother, Orophin, who received all the attention
from potential sweethearts.

Erestor nodded slowly.

“I haven’t really got any special clothes with me…I wasn’t expecting to
have to impress anyone.”

“No? How long is it until you’re due to meet with Glorfindel and Lord
Elrond today?”

“Another hour, I think.”

“Good. Then come with me. I don’t think any of my clothes will fit, but
I think Glorfindel must be about the same size as you, even if he’s a
little taller. And his dress sense is excellent. We’re bound to find
something for you.”

“Really?” Rúmil couldn’t suppress his hopeful smile. Glorfindel was the
kind of Elda who drew all eyes when he walked into a room, and he’d
already noticed the golden-haired warrior’s taste in clothes. “Won’t he
mind?”

“Not if I’m with you.”

“So he is that lover you were talking about the other night?”

Erestor started, his hand coming up to smooth his already immaculate
hair. “That’s between me and him - ” he chewed his bottom lip ruefully “
- and, I admit, half of Imladris. Yes, Rúmil, yes we are.”

Translations:
meleth - love


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 2


“Good morning, Faelon. I see that you are punctual as always. Elrond's
given me the plans for the additional wing he wants to build on the Last
Homely House, and I’d like you to look over them. We may have to
negotiate with Mirkwood and Lórien for some of the materials.” Faelon
nodded and accepted the sheaf of papers which Erestor laid in his hands
He took a seat at the nearest table in the large library and spread out
the documents in the most practical arrangement.

“Anything else?” he asked, looking up when he realised Erestor hadn’t
moved.

“Yes. I need a scribe for a meeting with Elrond this afternoon. Can you
do that?”

Faelon nodded. “What time?”

“Directly after midday meal.”

“I won’t be late.” Erestor half-smiled in satisfaction.

“One more thing.”

“Yes?”

“The inventory lists I set you to look over; I rechecked them yesterday
afternoon. You overlooked the unexplained loss of nearly fifty arrows
from the weapons stores.”

Faelon swallowed uncomfortably. Erestor did not tolerate mistakes. The
younger elf shook his head in denial. “But I looked over those lists
four times! I’m sure I didn’t miss anything.” Erestor did not seem
impressed by his protests. He realised he hadn’t a chance of winning if
it became an argument. “I’m sorry,” he apologised. “I’ve been
rather…distracted lately.”

“Distracted?” Erestor repeated, one eyebrow raised disapprovingly.
Faelon didn’t answer the enquiry; he found it uncomfortable enough at
times talking to Erestor about the impersonal business of the management
of Imladris, never mind his own personal problems. He certainly wasn’t
about to explain to the sober counsellor that, in spite of his rejection
of that irritating young Silvan elf, Rúmil’s face would not stop
invading his thoughts.

“Aye…I will try to concentrate better today.”

Erestor nodded and, seemingly mollified, left the younger elf to work.
He seated himself at a nearby table, opened the old book he was
carrying, and picking up quill, began to write on a piece of parchment
lying next to it.

Faelon got to work; the chief adviser had been quite correct. Some of
the timber Elrond wanted would have to be transported in from Lórien,
which would require elves to supervise - he could manage that himself -
and in these troubled times, an armed escort would be needed. Glorfindel
would not be pleased when Faelon put in that request. The golden-haired
Elda was always ruing the fact that he hadn’t more scouts to send out on
patrol as it was.

“Are you hungry?” Erestor asked suddenly, his soft but clear voice
interrupting Faelon’s concentration. “I was just about to fetch some
refreshments; I could get something for you as well if you’d like. ”

Faelon glanced out of the window, and realised with surprise that he’d
been working for well over an hour. He was a little taken aback by
Erestor’s offer; he thought the counsellor was annoyed with him because
of the inventory lists, so wasn’t expecting such thoughtfulness, but
nonetheless he composed himself quickly. “Yes, please, if you are
getting something. A cup of fruit tea would be welcome, and perhaps - ”
he decided to indulge the sudden craving “ - sweet bread with berry
jam.”

Erestor raised an eyebrow but said nothing, only nodding slightly in
acknowledgement, and with his usual understated grace, glided out of the
room.

***

Erestor set off towards the kitchens at a brisk walk. As he passed the
library, another raven-haired elf emerged through the double doors,
running a hand through tousled locks. Catching sight of Erestor, he fell
into step beside the chief advisor. “Good morning,” he said, glancing
outside and frowning at an angry-looking cloud which hung sullenly above
the horizon. “Although I daresay it will not remain that way for much
longer.”

“You may be right, Melpomaen,” Erestor answered. “But I imagine the
library will remain dry however much it may rain, and I doubt you would
find yourself lacking in things to do were you to remain there should
the weather continue to deteriorate.”

“The maps which you asked me to update?” the younger elf asked
rhetorically. Erestor nodded. “They are nearly ready, I promise. And I’m
glad they are. I’ve spent long enough on them.”

“I would not ask you to do all of them, but you have a much better eye
for detail than your younger brother.”

Melpomaen grinned. “I hope you’re finding just as much work to keep
Faelon occupied.”

Erestor responded with raised eyebrows. “I would not like to think that
he was becoming bored.” He abruptly stopped, and turned around,
explaining quickly, “I was heading towards the kitchens, but as we were
talking, I seem to have walked straight past them.”

“The kitchens? That was where I was heading as well. I need some
refreshment before I face those maps again. I bet they have ripe plums
just waiting for me.”

“Faelon asked me to fetch fruit tea, and…sweet bread with berry jam.”

Melpomaen laughed. “Did he? Berry jam, indeed - I thought he’d have
grown out of that by now. He always used to love blackberries when he
was an elfling. He’d come back in after playing outside in summer
sometimes, and he’d be stained head to foot in purple from eating every
one he saw.”

“I’m pleased he doesn’t turn up in my study in that state,” Erestor
remarked dryly.

“Oh, you should have seen him! He ruined several perfectly good tunics
that way. Eventually, he persuaded Nana to let him grow his own bramble
plant in one of the flowerbeds, and he looked after it as he would a
treasured pet. She used to wonder why he couldn’t just get a pony or a
hound like any other elfling. It was so invasive, within a year it had
choked most of the other plants in the bed, but he didn’t seem too
worried.”

“So he ended up with an entire bed full of brambles?”

“Well, no. He cleared a little space where he grew /elanor/. Lady
Celebrían gave him a plant once when he was very young, and he kept it
flowering constantly from then until he reached majority.” Melpomaen
realised he was starting to ramble now, and seemed surprised Erestor had
not yet told him to stop. When they reached the kitchens, Melpomaen’s
bet proved correct - the plums looked deliciously ripe and he happily
walked off with a large bowlful. Erestor had to wait whilst his request
was seen to.

The kitchen staff did not waste time, and the advisor soon had a
steaming cup of fruit tea and a platter laden with light sweet bread for
Faelon. He also had some more information about his protégé which he
could relay to Rúmil.

***

Faelon found his eyes straying yet again to the young Silvan elf sitting
across from him. This was ridiculous! He wasn’t attracted to Rúmil! The
idea was about as likely as his falling for one of the Dunedain
chieftains Lord Elrond fostered from time to time. He forced himself to
concentrate on transcribing the discussion taking place. Erestor
insisted on a full written record of all important meetings in Imladris.
Even at less crucial councils, he’d bring a scribe to take notes of the
main points. From time to time, he leaned across and murmured a few
words to Faelon: “Put that Haldir looked displeased when Glorfindel
suggested that,” or, “Add a note about that - I’ll have to check if that
can be done.” He complied, writing in quick shorthand which could be
copied up neatly later.

This was the last stage of discussions, a relatively simple matter of
cementing patrol plans already agreed between Lórien and Imladris, and
for Elrond and Erestor to calculate how soon Imladris could provision a
group of elves for a trip of this length. Erestor seemed confident that
everything could be dealt with, but Faelon could tell Glorfindel was
unhappy.

Eventually, the golden-haired warrior confided to those present what was
troubling him. “This orc band we’re dealing with seems to have assembled
from many small groups which have been hanging around Eregion for a year
or more. Word from the patrols is that now several similarly small
groups of orcs have been sighted at various places along the Bruinen. At
the moment, the power in Imladris is easily strong enough to deter them
from attacking, but were they to gather together as the Eregion band
have done, they may dare an assault. I’m not happy leaving Imladris more
or less unguarded.”

“There is no need to leave Imladris completely unguarded.” Glorfindel
whirled in surprise when Erestor spoke up.

“Excuse me?”

“You appear to have vastly overestimated the number of Imladris elves
required on this patrol. Certainly, meeting the orcs sooner, as you
suggest, in the south, would normally be more prudent. I agree that with
Lórien archers, we have the advantage if we strike at them in forest.
But were we to allow them longer to track eastwards towards the
mountains, the terrain would allow us to eliminate the orc band without
a direct confrontation.”

“How?” Glorfindel demanded. His face had set into a hard mask. Clearly,
he was unhappy with having his decision challenged.

“Split our forces, and harry their flanks. We can drive them into the
Vale of Uialos. We already know full well that the pass into the valley
has been in danger for some time of being blocked by a rockslide. Were
we to seal the way after their host had entered, they would have to
track thirty miles to get out at the other end, and all uphill.”

“Then what?” Glorfindel asked in a disinterested voice. “We may be able
to pick half of them off with arrows, but after that?”

“After that, of course, we divert one of the tributaries of the Glanduin
to re-flood the valley’s dry river bed.” Erestor made it sound as if it
was the most obvious course of action.

“That can’t be done!” Haldir protested. Faelon had seen him following
the debate between the two Imladris elves with great interest. But even
the marchwarden had not been as mesmerised as Rúmil. Faelon was merely
glad the pen-neth had stopped gawking at *him*.

“Well…actually, it can,” Glorfindel admitted.

“The Bruinen can be flooded, if necessary, to repel intruders from the
west,” Elrond explained mildly. “There is no reason why it couldn’t be
done again elsewhere.” He did not elaborate further.

“It would be incredibly difficult!” Glorfindel protested. “A
straightforward confrontation in the forests would be far simpler, and
the chances of success are high if we use the tree cover.”

“But the number of elves required is too large,” Erestor replied
patiently. “And your plan *is* more risky.”

“*Your* plan involves procrastinating for several days while the orcs go
east. In that time, they will be joined by other groups, and cause more
trouble.”

“Better to take many all at once; it saves you from having to send out
smaller patrols later to clean up the scattered groups.” Neither elf was
shouting; both were speaking in deceptively light and civil tones, which
Faelon thought simply added to the latent discord between them.

“Why don’t we gain additional backup from King Thranduil in Mirkwood?”
Glorfindel suggested suddenly. “That way, a unit of my best fighters
could be left behind to defend Imladris, and the Mirkwood elves could
add to our numbers on the sortie. In fact, then it would be feasible to
take out this second band amassing nearby after neutralising the first.
Everyone would be happy.”

“Perhaps in your idyllic imagination,” Erestor responded caustically.
“But in the real world, the odds of King Thranduil even replying to our
requests for aid are about the same as the odds of a regiment of dwarves
offering their assistance!”

“Gentlemen, please,” Elrond said placatingly. “Perhaps it’s time to call
a recess. Let us consider the suggestions overnight, and see if a
compromise can be reached by tomorrow. Then perhaps we can listen to
what the envoy from Lórien thinks may be best, as well.” He glanced
meaningfully at Haldir and Rúmil. “*We* seem to have all but neglected
them whilst we compared the perceived merits and problems of our
schemes, when, after all, Lórien is as much a part of this matter as
Imladris.” The stress on ‘we’ clearly implied that the only parties
involved were the chief advisor and the golden-haired seneschal, and
both had the courtesy to look contrite. Well, a bit, anyway. The way
Erestor raised his eyebrow at Glorfindel before apologising mildly to
the Silvan elves suggested he, at least, was still not happy.

***

“Erestor? Erestor?” Glorfindel peered into the bathroom to find Erestor
running a brush through his long hair - which appeared to have gone an
even darker shade of black now it was wet - in front of the mirror. The
counsellor had thrown on a thin silk robe after bathing, and it clung to
his damp skin, highlighting every line of his slender, well-defined
body. Glorfindel allowed himself a moment to admire his lover’s beauty
before a wicked grin spread across his face.

He tiptoed towards the bathing pool, which was still full of tepid,
lavender-scented water and, leaning down towards it, scooped some up in
his hand and splashed it at Erestor.

The counsellor turned and regarded the golden-haired elf balefully. But
to Glorfindel’s amazement, rather than coming out with some scathing
comment criticising his lover for being so juvenile, Erestor narrowed
his eyes deviously. Glorfindel wasn’t sure whether he was still angry
about the argument they’d had in the council meeting earlier. *He* had
already forgiven Erestor; how could he not, when Erestor was so
adorable? But his lover was difficult to read, and had a long memory and
a prickly temper.

Erestor suddenly leaned towards the pool and, without warning, splashed
twice as much water back at Glorfindel. The golden-haired Elda did not
react; he was utterly taken aback by the contrast between the playful
action and the terribly solemn expression on Erestor’s face. “I am
unhappy with your behaviour today,” the counsellor declared very calmly.
“And I think you need to experience some discipline.”

Glorfindel’s eyes widened. He was unsure what Erestor’s idea of
discipline might prove to consist of; though he had always loved
Elrond’s three children dearly, he had been a strict tutor with them and
never tolerated misbehaviour in his lessons.

With a movement far faster than any elf who was merely a *scholar* had
any right to make, Erestor tripped Glorfindel, pushed him to the floor
and began to tickle the golden-haired warrior along his stomach and
flanks. Glorfindel bit his lip at first, not wanting to show his
weakness - he’d faced a *Balrog* for Elbereth’s sake, he shouldn’t be
incapacitated by a bit of tickling! - but when he started to choke on
his suppressed giggles, he had no choice but to release them out loud.
“Erestor, /daro/!” he protested.

“I don’t know about that. What’s in it for me? You’re in trouble,
remember.” As he spoke, Erestor finally showed some mercy and eased up
on the tickling. His face remained perfectly serious and composed.

“I’ll dedicate this entire evening to your pleasure,” Glorfindel tried,
leaning upwards to capture Erestor’s mouth with his, teasingly sucking
the counsellor’s lower lip. Whatever response Erestor might have made
never formed.

Glorfindel ran his tongue possessively round the inside of Erestor’s
teeth, enjoying the sensation of his lover’s wet hair where it fell
across his cheek and shoulders.

Eventually, Erestor placed firm hands on Glorfindel’s shoulders and
pushed him back down to the floor. “I accept your terms. So, did you
come in the bathroom only to watch me - for several minutes - or was
there another reason?”

“I didn’t realise you’d noticed I was there…” Erestor shook his head in
disbelief.

“This time, I wasn’t absorbed in work, was I? So?”

“Actually,” Glorfindel grinned. “I was going to ask whether you knew
anything about my wardrobe.”

“What about it?” The question was so convincingly innocent, Glorfindel
was almost taken in and was about to apologise for ever suspecting the
counsellor. Then he saw a ghost of a smile whisper briefly across the
rose-coloured lips, and knew he was being played with - again.

“Well, you see, you may or may not realise that my aquamarine robes, and
that lovely silver tunic with the plum coloured trim - you know, the one
you like - have mysteriously gone missing. Can you throw any light on
the situation?”

“I’m sure they're in safe hands,” Erestor answered noncommittally.

“Oh, /meleth/, you really are impossible. I think I indulge you too
often.” He frowned. “How do you think Lord Elrond would react if several
sets of his best clothes mysteriously disappeared from his wardrobe, and
his lover seemed to know rather more about it than he’d say?” Glorfindel
realised that his attempt at scolding was somewhat reduced in its
overall impact by the fact that he was currently lying on his back on
the cool tiles of the bathroom floor, and was being pinned there very
firmly by the very person who was supposed to be at the receiving end of
the telling-off. On top of which, Erestor’s robe had only been belted at
the waist and was coming open above the satin sash to reveal a glorious
expanse of milky, smooth skin. Glorfindel would have liked nothing
better at that moment on to cover the perfect body with tender, adoring
kisses and licks. He forced his desire under control. “Does this have
something to do with that business with Rúmil?”

Erestor blinked innocently. Glorfindel could no longer resist those
wide, beautiful eyes, and with a deft movement, wriggled out of the dark
haired elf’s restraint so he could place butterfly kisses on both of
them. His fingers slid deep into the masses of wet hair, and he drew
back, holding Erestor’s head pinned between his hands. “Well?” the
warrior demanded, trying to feign sternness.

“Well…” Erestor repeated. “…I might have borrowed one or two of your
outfits…”

“Why?” Glorfindel was now far more curious than annoyed. Erestor’s taste
in clothes differed wildly from his; where Glorfindel selected shades of
azure, saffron and crimson, Erestor would go for black, charcoal, deep
maroon - or at best, muted pastels. And besides, few of the Glorfindel’s
clothes would even fit Erestor; the advisor was too slender across the
waist and shoulders.

“Will you be available to join the rest of the Last Homely House at
dinner tonight?” Erestor said sweetly. Glorfindel nodded, thinking that
his lover had hardly given an answer, but resigned himself to Erestor’s
characteristic evasiveness. “Ah, good.”

Translations:
daro - stop
meleth - love


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 3


Glorfindel turned up to dinner discreetly holding hands with Erestor,
their entwined fingers concealed by robes, wondering what in the name of
the Valar his lover had been alluding to before. He had reached the
conclusion that Erestor had, for some reason unknown to him, taken the
clothing to lend to another elf; and he would have gambled anything on
Arda that the elf in question was Rúmil. But the reason *why* remained
just as obscure.

He was correct. The young Silvan elf looked truly dazzling; the
aquamarine formal robes brought out the blue and green in Rúmil’s eyes
and made them sparkle like well-cut turquoises. His hair had been
braided and twisted with great attention to detail, and served to
accentuate his delicate features. If it weren’t for Erestor, perhaps
even Glorfindel might have been momentarily tempted by the Lórien scout.

He and Erestor took their customary places near Lord Elrond, and
Glorfindel threw a casual glance at the gold cutlery in the hope that
the implements would tell him something of what to expect food-wise
tonight. They didn’t; there was no soup spoon, hence tonight, no soup,
but apart from that snippet of information, he could glean nothing. The
knives and forks were all of generic design and could be used for a
variety of dishes. He enjoyed this somewhat juvenile guessing game,
anticipating the dishes of the evening, whether they were cheese, fish,
roasts or casserole; he’d have another stab once the first course was
served. For the moment, though, he’d just have to wait and see.

Erestor, typically, ate in silence; Glorfindel, typically, took to
amusing himself by turning to Elrond and debating politics with the
Half-Elven Lord. However, the golden-haired Elda was also keeping a
discreet watch on Rúmil. The young Silvan elf seemed nervous and unsure
of himself, and kept throwing glances at, of all people, Faelon. If the
Imladris scholar noticed, he gave no obvious sign; but often when his
gaze wandered in Rúmil’s direction, he made an overt point of staring
through the Lórien visitor.

Glorfindel caught Erestor gazing at a dish of steamed vegetables, and
immediately passed it across; in return, his lover reached for the wine
and refilled the golden-haired warrior’s goblet. It was a fine but heady
wine, and although Glorfindel was far from drunk, he thought he might
appreciate some singing sometime soon.

***

Whatever explanation Erestor had given to Glorfindel to account for the
disappearance of some of the seneschal’s best robes, and their
subsequent reappearance on Rúmil, it seemed to have mollified him.
Glorfindel’s face showed only curiosity and - for a fraction of a
second, Rúmil was amazed to see - attraction, even if *that* had
disappeared a moment later. He relaxed and began to enjoy the meal.

He soon discovered Faelon was watching him. Not overtly; whenever
Rúmil’s eyes crossed to the dark-haired elf, he was either staring at
his plate or conversing soberly with one of the other counsellors
sitting nearby. Rúmil didn’t know whether to be pleased or
uncomfortable, and ended up compromising and feeling a combination of
both.

It was then that he saw that Faelon was sipping very sparingly at the
wine. Not carefully, as an elf would do when making absolutely sure he
did not accidentally become inebriated, but disapprovingly, as if he did
not agree with the choice of vintage. Faelon seemed to have a good
point; this wine could have benefited from being laid down another year
or two. However, Glorfindel had just been complementing Lord Elrond with
great enthusiasm on the selection; Faelon must have been reluctant to
contradict the seneschal and risk offending his Lord. Rúmil chuckled to
himself. He could see that, actually, the two elder elves were drinking
a different wine altogether, a white, when he and Faelon were sipping a
red. But as the goblets were inlaid mithril, Faelon, from where he was
sitting, would not be able to see the contents. He was unaware that
Glorfindel was loudly proclaiming the virtues of an entirely different
wine to the one he was drinking.

“Tell me,” Rúmil said to a servant as he laid another dish on the table.
“Is this red wine Lord Elrond’s selection, or that of his vintner?”

The servant was momentarily taken aback. “Lord Elrond personally
recommended the white, sir, but I believe the vintners chose the red, on
the advice of a note he received today.”

“Curious. This wine is too young, you see, and does not complement some
of these dishes.”

The servant became flustered and apologetic, before Rúmil made a
placating hand gesture. “It doesn’t matter, no harm has been done. Could
you just instead open several bottles of the batch we brought from
Lórien? And send some to the elves over there - the ones wearing
indigo.” He pointed to the group around Faelon. “Say it comes highly
recommended from Lothlórien, and you hope they find it more to their
liking.”

The servant ran off to do as instructed; Rúmil looked once more,
longingly, at Faelon before returning to his food. As he did so, he made
brief eye contact with Erestor. The counsellor had not spoken to anyone
the entire meal, and did not now; nor did he smile. But Rúmil saw the
sparkle in the dark eyes, and wondered how much of his conversation with
the servant Erestor had ever heard, and how much the advisor knew about
it all.

***

Faelon looked up in surprise when a servant appeared, hovering at his
shoulder with an unopened bottle of wine. “I have been asked to open
this for you,” the elf explained. “It comes highly recommended from
Lórien, and I hope you should find it preferable to that which you were
drinking before.”

Faelon was intrigued. Surely, the servants hadn’t been watching him so
closely as to realise he wasn’t enjoying the first vintage? He had
deliberately not made a display of his disapproval, as it would hardly
do to slight Lord Elrond’s competence as a host in front of guests -
even if those guests probably wouldn’t know a good wine if it was poured
over their heads. But someone had ordered a better bottle for him, and
he remembered from his last visit to Lórien that Lady Galadriel was
personally fond of this one.

He thanked the servant and allowed a fresh crystal goblet to be half-
filled with the drink. Holding it up to the light, he took in the rich
colour, an intense burgundy like molten silk. The aroma was exquisite
and complex, oak and river air, dark plums and warm earth. And the
flavour was as exceptional as the scent had promised. Whoever ordered
this for him knew their wine; it was a perfect accompaniment to the game
dishes being served all around. He nodded his satisfaction to the
servant. “Please pass my gratitude to whoever sent this,” he instructed
with a subtle smile which he’d picked up from Erestor.

The servant dashed off, heading for some elves further down the table.
He leaned down to say something to one of the Silvan elves from Lórien -
Rúmil, in fact - before disappearing from the room. The servant was busy
tonight. Faelon wondered what Rúmil had wanted; he’d noticed the
sardonic raising of the young elf’s eyebrow as the servant spoke, and
wanted to know more of the exchange which had taken place.

Lost in thought, it took nearly a minute before Faelon realised he was
staring at Rúmil again, admiring the way his long locks shivered when he
laughed and the way his eyes glittered. Faelon was quite sure he’d seen
those robes before…the way the sheer surface reflected the play of a
nearby candle flame as Bruinen reflected Arien’s bright rays was
distinctly familiar. He remembered in an instant. But what in the name
of the Valar was Rúmil doing in Glorfindel’s robes?

“What in the name of the Valar is Rúmil doing in Glorfindel’s robes?”
muttered Melpomaen into his brother’s ear. Faelon jumped, shocked by
their identical thought patterns, until he remembered that he’d been
watching the Silvan elf so intently it was no surprise Melpomaen’s
attention had been drawn to him as well.

“Don’t ask me,” he answered curtly.

“It looks almost as if he’s trying to impress someone,” Melpomaen mused.
“I wonder who the lucky one is… If he’s got Glorfindel to co-operate
with him on it, he must be keen. And I must say, I think I envy the
object of his affection, just a little. He cleans up rather nicely,
don’t you think, brother?”

“It’s the fact that he needs cleaning up at all which puts me off.”

“Perhaps.” Melpomaen tilted his head thoughtfully. “Still…you *were*
looking.”

“Oh, come off it.” Faelon cursed himself for sounding so defensive. “I
was admiring the statue over there.”

“The one that’s been there for the last four hundred years?”

“Melpomaen.” The name was spoken with a mild but unmistakable warning.

“Suit yourself.” The elder brother returned to his food, leaving Faelon
to his thoughts. He sipped the wine again, appreciatively. Next time the
servant who had delivered it walked past, he beckoned the elf over.

“Did you pass on my thanks?” he asked without preamble.

“Of course, sir. I relayed your message as soon as you gave it to me.”

“But you went to speak to Rúmil.”

“Yes, sir.” The servant was well-trained enough not to look smug, but
his polite smile was perhaps just a little too polite.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 4


At first Faelon didn’t recognise the chief advisor hurrying down the
hallway, as only Erestor’s eyes were visible above the enormous pile of
books he was carrying. “Do you want a hand there?” he asked courteously,
pointing to the stack.

Erestor considered for a moment then accepted the offer. “I’m taking
them to Rúmil’s chambers - I found him in the library earlier, and he
asked me if I knew whether Lord Elrond had a complete set of Daeron’s
early compositions.”

Faelon knew that Elrond, but they were kept in the Master of Imladris’s
personal study. A complete set of the works was now a rare and valuable
asset. “I had some time,” Erestor continued, “so I thought I'd deliver
the books personally, as a favour to a guest.” It was surprising in
itself that Rúmil would be asking about such highbrow literary works.
*Or perhaps, considering the business with the wine last night, not so
surprising*. Faelon was beginning to feel that the Lórien envoy might be
worthy of further attention.

He took the top six volumes from Erestor’s arms, momentarily taken aback
with their not insignificant weight, and followed the counsellor towards
the guest quarters. It was a glorious day, with a refreshing and good-
natured breeze to offset the warm sunlight, yet Faelon was not in the
best of moods. Melpomaen had been teasing him about Rúmil, *again*,
until Faelon had practically had to escort his older brother from the
room. The worst thing was, he was starting to doubt himself whether or
not the other Elda had a point.

Erestor somehow managed to balance his books on one arm in order to free
up one hand to knock on Rúmil’s door, then entered. The Silvan elf was
not alone; he was in the middle of a chess game with his brother, and
when Faelon glanced at the board, it was obvious from the numbers of
pieces remaining that Haldir was losing.

“I’ve brought the books you asked for,” Erestor said brightly. “Where
would you like me to put them?” Rúmil did not look up from the board,
but indicated a nearby table, and the counsellor complied. Faelon saw
that if he were to add his own to those Erestor had placed on the small
table, it would result in a dangerously unstable column, so hesitated.

“Is there somewhere less precarious where I can leave these?” he asked
the room in general.

Rúmil’s head shot up with a small gasp. “F…Faelon? I wasn’t expecting
you.”

“I was merely assisting Erestor with these books,” he returned stiffly.

“Oh, yes, of course.” A flush rose in the young elf’s cheeks; his
distraction caused him to make a bad move in the game.

“Check,” Haldir declared lightly, placing one of his ebony pieces with a
carefree air.

Rúmil regained his concentration and captured his brother’s offending
piece, at the same time putting Haldir in check in turn. The elder
brother groaned. Erestor casually moved to Haldir’s side and whispered
something to the Silvan elf. The marchwarden’s defeated expression
became a calculating smirk. “Perhaps…” he breathed, and made his move.

Rúmil’s eyes grew wide as he watched Haldir remove his queen from the
board. “But…” His response was desperate and sacrificial, but protected
his king.

Erestor made another suggestion to Haldir which, judging by the smile on
the marchwarden’s face, he liked. The strategy was highly unorthodox and
both Rúmil and Faelon frowned. “That was rather risky,” the younger elf
commented, and took another of his brother’s pieces.

“Not so,” said Haldir coolly. He made his answer. “Check again.”

Rúmil’s eyebrows drew together to form a single line above his nose, and
Erestor’s eyes gleamed with triumph. Sighing obviously, Faelon pulled up
a padded stool beside the younger brother. “Two on one is hardly a fair
match, is it?” he said. “I suppose I’ll lend my aid.” He intentionally
put a facetious note in his voice, but Rúmil evidently interpreted it as
mocking.

He gave a look of disgust which was of a standard with one of Faelon’s
own. “I don’t need your help.” But he was clearly discouraged by
Erestor’s cunning strategy.

“He’s a wicked one for quiet moves,” Faelon advised, ignoring the
younger elf’s refusal. He knew from experience, having played the chief
advisor often enough, generally when Glorfindel got sick of being
beaten.

“Then he’ll set me up to lose that rook, won’t he?” Rúmil murmured back,
so softly it only carried to Faelon’s ears, and took his brother’s last-
but-one pawn

The counsellor gave a brief but scornful smile and turned once more to
Haldir. The Silvan elf looked at him aghast. “Surely it would be better
to…” Erestor shook his head.

“That’s what they *expect* you to do,” he argued reasonably.

“If it suits you. But it’s your fault if this doesn’t work.” The move
Haldir made had nothing to do with trying to capture Rúmil’s pivotal
rook.

Rúmil dealt Faelon a suspicious glance. “You said…”

Faelon gestured for the young elf to come to the window at the other
side of the room, affording them a small amount of privacy to talk. “I
said he liked quiet moves,” he whispered. “*You* said he’d go for the
rook.” Rúmil glanced across at the chief advisor. Erestor was completely
ignoring the two younger elves, seemingly absorbed in straightening
ornaments on a nearby shelf. “Listen to me,” Faelon continued in an
undertone. “He’s as cunning as any double-dealing Dwarf or Man and a
good deal more subtle. You won’t beat him by trying to anticipate him. I
know. I’ve tried.”

“Then what should I do?” Rúmil demanded, trying to sound challenging but
actually looking rather helpless.

“Play like you’ve never played before,” he replied. “Use your instincts.
Treat it like a real pitched battle. And remember, Elrond wouldn’t have
chosen him as chief counsellor if he wasn’t a brilliant strategist.” He
glanced back over at the game board, where the other two elves were once
more conferring. “Come, I’ll show you. I’ll play the next couple of
moves, and then you can take over.”

With immense joint effort, the two managed to stave off Erestor and
Haldir’s inevitable victory for a good two hours, at which point Haldir
came out with some unusual strokes of inspiration of his own, and
managed a checkmate with only four of his own pieces remaining. Faelon
suddenly realised the time and, thinking of the amount of work he still
had to do, excused himself. Haldir pleaded hunger and went to get a bath
and something to eat.

Erestor and Rúmil were left alone in the room. “Thank you for the
books,” the Silvan elf tried weakly.

“It was no problem. In fact, it resulted in an intriguing diversion,
don’t you think?” The younger elf nodded agreement. “And you managed to
get Faelon not only to pay attention to you, but to co-operate with you
for some time.”

“No,” Rúmil corrected. “You did that. You set the whole thing up from
the moment you started giving Haldir tips.”

“I may have started it, but you persuaded Faelon to ally with you. He
isn’t *naturally* as soft-hearted as, say, Glorfindel, you know. He
didn’t help you out of pure pity. He saw you had some real talent at the
game and recognised that, with some guidance, you had the potential
either to beat Haldir and me, or make us fight for the victory. I could
see he was impressed by your ability - that’s why his advice was so
vague and general rather than specific.”

“I impressed him? That’s impossible. He thinks of me in much the same
way as he thinks of Men - not very intelligent and something of an
embarrassment to be around.” Erestor was shaking his head.

“I suspect that wine episode of yours got him thinking, and along with
your reading preferences, it seems have convinced him to re-evaluate
you.”

“Yes - about the wine episode. You looked very knowing at dinner. Did
you have something to do with that?”

“I might have.”

“You did!” Rúmil laughed incredulously. “You set it up so we got an
inferior wine!”

“I might have,” the counsellor repeated.

Rúmil rolled his eyes. “I’ll find out,” he threatened.

Erestor didn’t seem especially intimidated. “I hope you enjoy the
books.”

“I am certain that I shall. But you know you didn’t have to bring all of
them. I only really wanted the first three.”

“If I brought only the first three, would Faelon have offered to help
carry them?”

“Oh. I see.”


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 5


“Lord Glorfindel?” The golden-haired seneschal turned from rechecking
his weapons for the fifth time at the sound of his name.

“Yes, Rúmil?”

“Do you know where Lord Erestor can be found?”

“Right now?” The younger elf nodded. “Probably in Lord Elrond’s study,
dealing with work which could quite happily wait until next month, next
year, or sometime after Arda is broken and remade. If the door’s ajar,
you can go straight in; if it’s shut he’ll be talking to Elrond and they
won’t appreciate the disturbance, so you’d have to wait. Is it something
I can help with?”

“I doubt it,” Rúmil replied. *Not unless you’re in on this whole plot*.
“But thank you for offering.”

“I offer out of concern, I assure you,” the Elda answered with a sly
grin. “Erestor doesn’t always take kindly to having his work
interrupted, even if he’s not doing something you or I would count as
important. Although you may be lucky - he does seem to have a soft spot
for you.”

“Aiya - Erestor hasn’t yet had to live and work with Rúmil for a couple
of millennia,” Haldir, who was walking past, added facetiously. “If he
had, maybe he’d think differently.”

“I’m not that bad!”

Haldir assumed a whining voice. “Oh, Haldir, we haven’t seen any orcs
for *three days*! I’m bored! Oh, Haldir, Orophin’s eaten twice his
ration of /lembas/! Oh, Haldir, I don’t like this /talan/; it’s lumpy
and so uncomfortable! Aye, brother, of course you’re not that bad.”

Rúmil swatted his elder brother. Glorfindel interceded before the
argument stopped being playful. “I think you’d better stop now. I have
enough problems with those Peredhel twins, without having to cope with
you two as well! And this sortie’s going to take some time.” The two
Silvan elves fell into line without further protest at the rebuke from
their elder, Rúmil glancing around anxiously to ensure Faelon was
nowhere nearby to witness him being treated like an elfling. But of
course, he wouldn’t be. What would a scholar want near the weapons
stores?

So when he passed Faelon in the hallway literally ten seconds later, he
was distinctly perplexed. The Noldorin elf was clutching a sheaf of
papers and striding purposefully towards the weapons stores which Rúmil
had just left. He did not react to the Silvan elf in any way. Rúmil’s
heart sank, but he willed himself to believe that Faelon was simply
preoccupied with some important matter of administration relating to the
outgoing patrol. He remained unconvinced.

***

Faelon didn’t have to visit the stores in person; he could just have
easily sent a message down there to the elf in charge, asking for a list
of everything in there at the moment. He still hadn’t found out where
those arrows had gone.

But some curious urge caused him to head down there himself, and he
reacted with bemused displeasure when passing Rúmil in the hallway gave
him a mildly uplifting sensation. This was ridiculous. Just because the
Silvan elf could play chess and read Daeron’s ballads didn’t suddenly
make him interesting. And worse was the fact that Faelon had actually
stopped, turned, and found himself admiring the sway of the
marchwarden’s slender hips as he disappeared off on whatever business he
was attending to.

***

Rúmil found the door to Elrond’s study slightly open so, following
Glorfindel’s advice, entered. Erestor was not seated at the desk, but
stood by the bookcase leafing through a well-kept volume on Second Age
history. He gazed at the intruder over the edge of the pages through
inscrutable eyes. “Is there something you want?”

Rúmil suddenly felt very silly. He shifted his weight from foot to foot,
and finally blurted out, “I’m leaving in just a few hours, and Faelon’s
still not showing any interest in me!” His shoulders slumped miserably.
“What can I do?”

Erestor sighed heavily. “You leave tomorrow morning, correct?”

“At dawn.”

“I told you Faelon was difficult. There’s still a chance, but you can’t
expect an instant response. It’s more of a medium-term tactic; you’ll
have to wait to see results.”

“All right.” He would have agreed to anything if it allowed him to cling
to the strand of hope which insisted Faelon might still accept him.

“You need to find out when Faelon’s begetting day is. You could try
talking to Melpomaen. No-one else I’ve asked seems to know. It’s not as
if, on one specific day every year without fail, he undergoes any
noticeable personality change, so I’m certain it’s not that he’s trying
to forget his begetting day for whatever reason; presumably he just
hasn’t thought to tell anyone else the date. Then drop a message off at
the kitchens, and tell them that on that date, they are to prepare a
special surprise for him from you. What that surprise is, I’ll leave to
your imagination - after all, it is you who is courting him, not me.
Remember what I told you before?”

“He loves blackberries, and his favourite flower is /elanor/. I can
manage all that…”

Erestor held up a hand. “I’m not finished yet. Faelon, at the moment,
has a small but annoying problem which he’s supposed to solve, but his
success so far has been…well, non-existent.” He described how the
inventory and requisition lists over the last six months failed to match
up, how nearly fifty arrows had gone missing from the stores. “If you
could track them down, he - and I - would be very grateful.”

“Have you asked the twins? Perhaps they decided to hold an archery
contest, or maybe they’ve been sneaking out on midnight orc-slaying
patrols.” He’d got to know the Peredhil slightly over the course of his
stay, and was now well aware of their impulsive natures. But Erestor
shook his head.

“That was the first thing I thought of. They knew nothing about it.”

“And you think I’ll be able to solve this?”

“I trust your resourcefulness.”

***

Rúmil had left his message in the kitchens, feeling very pleased with
himself and quite sure that Faelon wouldn’t be able to deny his
thoughtfulness. But moving on to the second problem, he remained
stumped, and it was getting on towards early evening. He had a matter of
hours to solve a problem which had been vexing Faelon for days.

He wearily made his way back to his rooms, envisioning the welcome sight
of a steaming bath and the soft sheets of his bed. He needed them to
help him forget about his troubles. Erestor thought he was so great, but
what did he know…?

As he passed the library, he overheard voices, one of them raised and
getting more and more heated by the moment. The other, he identified as
Glorfindel’s; the seneschal sounded patient yet bored, as if they had
been arguing in circles for some time. “Tellumiel, no, and again, no.
You are *not* accompanying the party south. I’m not risking it.”

“You think I’m incapable!” she shot back. Rúmil, aware he was committing
something of an indiscretion, pressed his ear to the door so as to be
able to hear the exchange properly. He knew full well why Tellumiel
wanted to come; ever since he and Haldir had come to Imladris, the
elfmaid had been besotted with his brother. Haldir revelled in the
attention, saying she’d been like this with him for years. Rúmil thought
she was being very childish, especially the way she glared at anyone
else who even so much as asked Haldir for a dance at feasts, and
*especially* at those who were accepted.

“No, I think you’re inexperienced. You’re untested in battle, and I
don’t know how you’ll react. I have no idea of your capabilities, so I’d
be likely to put you in danger by assigning you inappropriate tasks. If
you’re really serious about becoming a patrol rider, I can arrange for
you to go out with one of the regular border patrols sometime. Then, if
you find yourself out of your depth or you’re confronted with a new
situation, backup is close at hand and not so much will ride on the
outcome of your decisions.” He paused. “You know, I had an almost
identical conversation with the twins when they were about your age.”

“You never object to their patrols!”

A groan. “I did at the time. Elrond and I agreed to make them wait. I’m
doing the same now with you. But Tellumiel, you are not going on *this*
patrol. It’s too late to start making plans for additional riders now,
anyway.”

“So you’re saying no?” The young elfmaid sounded desperately
disappointed.

“For now, yes, I am saying no. In future, maybe I’ll change my mind.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I still have preparations to attend to.” Rúmil
moved away from the door so as not to look suspicious, and affected
ignorance of the exchange as the seneschal left the library. “Oh, hello,
Rúmil. Have you any idea what’s got into Tellumiel today? She’s suddenly
started acting as if her inclusion is essential to the successful
completion of our patrol. She even claims to have been practising her
archery in secret over the last year!”

“Maids, honestly - there’s no logic to them,” Rúmil agreed, then paused.
“Practising her archery?” The pieces clicked into place. He was halfway
down the hallway before he’d taken another breath, leaving a bemused
Glorfindel staring after him.

“It’s not just maids who have no logic,” the golden-haired warrior
sighed to himself, shaking his head. “It’s youngsters. All of them.”

***

Rúmil stopped outside the study, realising he couldn’t just charge in
there, proclaiming that he had the answers to all Faelon’s problems. How
was he to approach the subject? An idea tentatively formed in his mind,
and he ran back to the weapons stores, to return a few minutes later
clutching a slender arrow fletched with pure white feathers. This would
require a little prevarication, but he thought he’d get away with it,
assuming Faelon was really just a scholar and not a scout.

He took a deep breath and knocked. Faelon’s voice from inside called for
him to enter. The Noldorin elf looked up curiously as Rúmil stepped over
the threshold, and his expression hardened. “What could you *possibly*
want?” he asked tetchily.

“I discovered my arrows were running short - Haldir and I had a run-in
with a small group of angry Dunlendings on the way here and it used up a
lot of arrows.” That part, at least, was true. “So I went to collect
more from the stores and found they were almost out of these, the kind I
use.” He held up the arrow he’d brought. Faelon had better not notice
that it was far too short and light to be any use with Rúmil’s tall
Lórien bow… It was, however, a perfect size and weight for a less
experienced elf still accustoming himself - or equally herself - to the
weight of a proper longbow. “The weapons master said you had all the
inventory lists at the moment, so I should come to you to find out if
there are any more around anywhere.”

Faelon frowned, and swallowed. “Unfortunately, there aren’t…”

Rúmil timed his interruption so perfectly as to look natural. “But I’ve
been asking around, and I found out Tellumiel keeps two whole quivers
full!”

“Does she?” The spark of triumph in Faelon’s eyes was unmistakable.
“What does *she* want with arrows?”

“I wondered that, too. Until I heard she’s been practising her archery
skills in secret so she’d be able to prove to Lord Glorfindel that she’s
good enough to join his patrols.”

Faelon’s expression alternated relief and satisfaction. Yet his
ingrained Imladris manners prevailed. “Rúmil - you’ve just solved a
problem which has been bothering me for some time. I have to admit I owe
you.” He dropped his voice and actually smiled in a conspiratorial
fashion. “If you hadn’t come to me today, I imagine Erestor would be
throwing me in the Bruinen a few days from now for failing to explain
why the stores don’t have as many arrows as they’re supposed to.”

Rúmil returned the smile. “Just promise me you won’t be too harsh on
Tellumiel. She might have caused you all this trouble, but she was just
being a silly young elfmaid who wanted to impress someone.” The parallel
struck him at that moment; he and Tellumiel were both striving towards
that same goal. He just hoped he would have more success than she’d had.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 6


Rúmil was amused to discover that Glorfindel had evidently seen the
merit in Erestor’s strategy for dealing with the orcs and, instead of
heading southwest, the group rode almost due south. Lord Elrond had been
in contact with Lady Galadriel and she had promised to send more elves
from Lórien, who would travel with due haste through Nanduhirion and
past Caradhras - at this time of year, an elven company could travel
that route if they were well-equipped and provisioned.

They would meet in the foothills of the Misty Mountains and, from there,
track down the orcs and deal with them. Rúmil rode tirelessly. After the
sojourn in Imladris, however brief it had been, he was glad to be free
to move through the bright, expansive woodlands and gallop across
endless open plains. On the journey to Imladris, he’d been nervous when
he and Haldir had first emerged from the tree cover and had set off
across the exposed moorland. It had taken most of the first day before
he’d got over the initial sense of agoraphobia and learned to appreciate
the wild beauty of open spaces. And within two days, they’d found a
special place in his heart. He knew he’d now always love listening to
the wind whistling through the heather, watching lapwings performing
elaborate aerial acrobatics high above his head, gazing out across
leagues and leagues of undulating purple-green land. Yes, as a Silvan
elf of Lórien his soul would always reside among the towering mellyrn in
the Golden Wood, but now he also understood that trees were not the only
beauty to be found in Middle-Earth.

Glorfindel’s laughter carried on the breeze as Asfaloth fearlessly
leaped over a wide brook. For a while they could forget the gravity of
the quest and enjoy the journey. If only Faelon was here, with them,
instead of sitting hunched over some book in Elrond’s library. But that
wasn’t fair - Faelon had chosen his path and, if he genuinely enjoyed
his books, which he seemed to, Rúmil had no right to impose his own
preferences on the Noldorin scholar.

***

Some months later

Faelon awoke to the sound of the dawn chorus, with warm, pale light
falling across his face. Today would be a good day. He’d been left in
charge of translating some historical records from Gondor and
translation was one of his favourite tasks. As a result, he was feeling
very pleasantly disposed towards the world.

He was halfway to being dressed before he realised that today was also
his begetting day. And it was then that he spied the cake. It was
enormous, three-tiered, decorated with pinkish-purple icing and fresh
blackberries. Blackberries - his favourite. But who on Arda had sent
this? He crossed the room to examine the cake more closely.

The lower tier also had tiny white bramble flowers arranged around the
edge; the overall effect was very pretty, and clearly much time and
effort had gone into it. A small card rested against the engraved silver
tray on which the cake was presented. Faelon picked it up, turning it
over in his hands and noting the gold-embossed lettering and decorative
borders. He read the message aloud:

“Best wishes on your begetting day. I hope you enjoy yourself. Rúmil.”

Rúmil!? How had *he* found out? Nonetheless, the gesture was touching -
and when he cut a generous slice of the cake for breakfast a few minutes
later, he discovered it to be very good indeed. It had a sweet and
fruity jam filling which oozed out everywhere and made his fingers
sticky. This was no token gesture.

But this was just the first surprise. When he entered the study where
his translations awaited, he found it festooned with garlands of
flowers. More bramble briars, of a strange thornless variety, wreathed
the door, and little posies of…of /elanor/ stood at each corner of the
desk. The scent was it exquisite. And a second card, on top of the other
papers, said, “Thinking of you.”

He sent down, shaking his head. Rúmil had left Imladris months ago. The
Silvan elf must have arranged all of this before his departure - what
had caused him to be so thoughtful? Such an elaborate set-up suggested
this was more than just a passing crush. Sighing, Faelon pushed the
matter from his mind and got to work.

The day got better; Erestor was unusually mellow all morning and
professed satisfaction with the fruit of the younger elf’s labours. What
a glorious day this was turning out to be! The chief adviser even added
that, if Faelon wanted to finish early, the remaining work could wait.
“Go for walk, enjoy the day. The woods are beautiful at this time of
year.”

Melpomaen, on the hand, was his usual self - and had completely
forgotten his brother’s begetting day. Faelon didn’t bother reminding
him - the last thing he wanted was a frantic fuss being made over him
and for Melpomaen to attempt to obtain a decent gift on short notice. So
he settled for enjoying the good food at dinner and joining Melpomaen in
trying to coax Lord Elrond to sing for them. The Peredhel eventually
relented, and performed some popular ballads in his deep, rich voice.
Some other elves also offered to provide music and the Hall of Fire was
a lively place that evening.

As they headed back to their rooms, Melpomaen cleared his throat
nervously. “Faelon?”

“Yes?”

“It was your begetting day today, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“I forgot. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry, brother. You know I haven’t been bothered about it since I
was an elfling.”

“Yes, but it’s nice when someone remembers.”

“Yes, Melpomaen, it is.” He smiled distractedly.

“It’s odd that I should forget - do you remember that Silvan elf who was
here a few months ago?”

“Haldir?” Faelon asked, deliberately avoiding mentioning Rúmil if he
could.

“No, the younger one - Rúmil. He got talking to me the night before he
left on the patrol. It was very odd. He acted as though he just wanted
to make casual small-talk, but I noticed after a few minutes he kept
steering the conversation towards me and my family. And especially you.
And at one point he had me telling him the dates of all our begetting
days - mine, yours, our parents’ - even some of our cousins! You’d think
after that, I’d be able to remember, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes,” Faelon agreed, without really listening. “Yes, you would.”

***

Faelon had a short-term relationship with one of Glorfindel’s scouts
during the subsequent months, a good-natured elf who served along the
northern borders. But he broke it off after only a brief time, when it
occurred to him that unconsciously or otherwise, he’d chosen an elf who
reminded him strikingly of Rúmil, both physically and in character.

Increasingly during the day, he found himself staring at the large map
of Lórien pinned to the wall of the study and wondering what was going
on in the Golden Wood. Was Rúmil still thinking about him? And why did
he, a Noldorin elf living hundreds of miles away in Imladris, care?

“Faelon, you are persistently distracted and this transcript of
yesterday’s meeting is full of mistakes. One of the junior scribes could
have done a better job. You’re supposed to save me time, not make me
waste more double-checking every document you submit to me.” Erestor
glared at him across the desk.

“I’m sorry. I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

“Faelon, there are more orcs around every day. The shadow deepens all
the time. Everyone in Middle-Earth has a lot on their mind with that
kind of threat hanging over us.”

Faelon, abashed, realised the counsellor had a good point. Here he was,
angsting over his love life - and when had Rúmil begun to count as his
‘love life’ anyway? - when there were so many evil creatures making
trouble all around. “You’re right. My work has been substandard lately.
I’ll make up for it - that, and more - I promise.”

“Not good enough,” Erestor snapped impatiently. Then he paused, and
narrowed his eyes enigmatically. “I think you need a change of scenery.
As you are aware, Lord Elrond is sending me on a diplomatic mission to
Lórien in six days.” Faelon actually looked down at his stomach when he
felt it flutter as Erestor said the word ‘Lórien’.

“Of course.” He’d come alarmingly close to approaching the chief advisor
and asking if he might be permitted to accompany him on the trip, before
reason had won out and it had occurred to him just how desperate that
made him look.

“I want you to come with me. I could use an assistant, and it will
provide you with an opportunity to prove that in spite of your recent
performance, you are still an excellent scribe, an accurate translator
and a gifted administrator.”

“I’m…really?” Erestor’s curt nod made the compliments seem more like
accusations. “I’d be honoured to accompany you. Who else is coming?”

“Glorfindel had volunteered to escort us himself. I think he will also
assign some of his scouts to us - perhaps Tellumiel, that youngster he’s
been training recently.” Faelon frowned as he thought back to the
elfmaid’s exploits. It had emerged that she’d been sneaking out to
practise archery for several weeks before the Lórien envoy had arrived,
succeeding in avoiding being seen by any Imladris’s residents the entire
time. Thinking of Tellumiel reminded him of Rúmil all over again. “There
will be plenty of work for you in Lórien, so you will be busy. I won’t
tolerate inefficiency.”

“I will be a model of efficiency,” Faelon assured him. He meant it - the
more quickly he got through whatever tasks Erestor had in mind for him,
the more time he would have to explore Lórien, and perhaps run across a
certain Silvan elf in the process…

***

“This is not the best route,” Erestor declared, drawing back the hood of
his cloak as their horses retreated under the trees away from the
torrents of rain. It was as if Ulmo had decided to relocate all Arda’s
oceans to the sky, without considering a way of keeping them there.

“It’s the shortest,” Glorfindel replied. He slung his cloak over the
saddle-pommel and nonchalantly shook the water from the tips of his
hair.

“Not if we have to stand around in this copse for the next hour waiting
for the rains to stop.”

“We don’t. The track ahead is gritty and free-draining - if we go
carefully, we can make good time even in this weather. And after a mile,
it meets a ridge which offers some shelter.”

“Going via the forest would have been a far better idea,” Erestor said,
refusing to give in so easily.

Glorfindel sidled up to the chief advisor until the two horses’
shoulders were touching, and brushed his lover’s cheek with two fingers.
“You’ll dry off, /meleth/. And you’ll thank me for this when we reach
Lórien nearly a day sooner.” Erestor didn’t look convinced. “You’ve
hardly left Imladris in the last half a century, /penvain/. Leave the
route-planning decisions to me.” He’d almost been tempted to give in to
Erestor earlier and take the longer, drier route through the trees,
purely for the sake of spending more time with his beloved, but instead
concluded that it would be far more rewarding to press on, and instead
be together in a comfortable /talan/ in Lórien.

He addressed the whole party, which besides him and Erestor consisted of
Faelon and two armed scouts. “Let’s have a brief stop here, and carry on
in a short while.” He would have said, “and carry on when the rain eases
off,” but suspected the odds of that happening any time soon were
extremely low.

As soon as Erestor dismounted he seized his lover’s hand and steered him
towards a large oak tree growing nearby. There, he sat down on the
moist, springy moss, pulling Erestor down with him, encouraging the
counsellor to lean against him. Trapped between the rough tree trunk and
a wet Erestor, he was perfectly content. His hands felt their way to the
fastening on his lover’s cloak and he removed it, squeezing as much
water out of it as he could, watching the drops bounce as they hit the
earth beside them. The hood had kept most of Erestor’s hair dry, but the
ends, where they’d escaped from under the rim, were damp and tangled. He
used a dry corner of his own cloak to towel-dry them, smoothed them into
place with the rest of the raven mane. His own hair went wavy when it
got wet, but Erestor’s hung perfectly straight, no matter what. Yet
another contrast between them, he supposed.

Faelon was looking, if it was possible, even more miserable than
Erestor. Elven cloaks might be waterproof, but he still gave the
appearance of being utterly bedraggled. It was daft, really - when the
soft, warm rain fell in Imladris, no-one objected, and, in fact, almost
everyone enjoyed it. Elflings would run barefoot on the grass, and even
older, supposedly more dignified elves would stand out in the downpour,
water trickling down their faces, singing joyful songs to the restless
skies. Yet if the weather ever had the audacity to interrupt a journey,
or arrive without due warning…

Glorfindel smiled and beckoned Faelon over; the younger elf clearly
wanted some company, but was reluctant to intrude upon the lovers’
private moment. He seated himself a short distance away and pulled out a
flask of /miruvor/. “Do you want some?” he offered, holding it out.

The elder elves refused politely, and Faelon took a few sips before
putting it away again. They rested for a few minutes before Erestor
stood up and approached his horse again. Opening one of the saddlebags,
he produced a clean, dry cloak.

Glorfindel shook his head. Erestor hadn’t mentioned he had a second
riding cloak when the golden-haired Elda had been wringing out the first
one earlier. Trust him to be awkward. Trust him to be well-prepared.
Glorfindel supposed it wasn’t really a surprise, considering he knew how
much his lover hated travelling in wet clothes.

Faelon glanced somewhat longingly at the thick, dry fabric; and when
Erestor shook out a third cloak, even Glorfindel was amazed. “So you
have changes of clothes for Lórien, food for the journey, paper, ink,
quill pens, sand and everything else you’ll need once you’re there,
*plus* a seemingly inexhaustible supply of riding cloaks, all packed
into those tiny bags?” he asked.

Erestor nodded. “It’s just a matter of packing carefully.”

“Even careful packing can’t make bags bigger on the inside than the
outside,” Glorfindel muttered.

He was glad he didn’t mind the rain nearly as much as the two scholars.
“You know, we could break here and stop overnight,” he suggested, as he
watched Erestor steel himself to brave the weather outside. “There’s
only a couple of hours of daylight left.”

“Even the trees here don’t keep all the water away,” was the scornful
reply. “We are going to get wet, whatever we do, and I daresay we shall
remain that way until we reach Lórien. The sooner we leave, the sooner
we’ll arrive somewhere civilised.” Erestor shrugged the cloak closer
around his slender shoulders and mounted up again.

Glorfindel realised that the chief advisor’s action had prompted the two
guards to prepare for departure as well, which was vaguely irritating as
*he* was meant to be in charge of the party for the duration of the
journey. “Check the horses’ legs for any cuts or grazes,” he called
across to them. “They’ve all stumbled in the mud at some point over the
last few hours.”

The scouts’ horses were not hurt, but Faelon found a small wound on the
heel of his mare’s forefoot. “It looks as if her hind hoof struck her
fore pastern when she slipped on that slope just before noon,”
Glorfindel concluded thoughtfully. He applied some salve from his
medical supplies, and examined the cut for any sign of infection. “I’d
prefer to bandage it, but with the mud and the rain, it’d be off in a
matter of minutes. Keep an eye on it, and tell me if she seems to be
suffering any discomfort.”

Asfaloth, who seemed to find the scholars’ misery as amusing as
Glorfindel did, trotted over to the Elda of his own accord, and nudged
him in the shoulder. “You want to get going?” he asked the stallion
lightly. “Very well then.” At the golden warrior’s command, the party
emerged once more into the rain and headed westwards along the stony
path.

***

The downpour continued, and they rode close to the cliff, clinging to
the small amount of shelter it provided. The horses skidded in the mud
with increasing frequency, so all five elves were relieved when the
earth at the cliff’s foot gave way once more to free-draining rocky
ground and gravel. The horses disliked the rough surface, but the
footing was better as the ground was level and firm.

Glorfindel had been correct when he’d promised the cliff would shelter
them somewhat; the wind was blowing from the mountains to the northwest,
and they were protected from the worst as they passed along the track
which ran at the base of the southeast-facing overhang. Still, everyone
had to squint against the rain and almost shout to be heard above the
noise of hooves, the bells on the headstalls, the rain on the rocks and
the gusts of air which swirled and whistled through cracks in the cliff
face. Glorfindel hummed to himself, still apparently unperturbed by the
weather, occasionally shaking water droplets from his hair as a hound
will shake itself off after swimming in a river. He chatted amicably
with the guards and his fair skin seemed to glow in the fading light as
water droplets ran over his forehead and cheeks. Erestor, by comparison,
became quieter and quieter, seldom initiating conversation and
retreating further into the confines of his hood.

Faelon concluded that he may as well make the best of the situation; he
was now so wet, he couldn’t see any way in which he could become any
wetter, and stopped worrying about it. Instead, he observed the
surroundings. He began to appreciate the obscure beauty of the dripping
landscape, marvelling at the way Arda seemed to revive under /menel/'s
moist touch. The vegetation smelled pleasantly wet and fresh and, after
the long period of dry weather, wilted plants breathed once more and
swelled with new life. As the evening drew in, and the persistent rain
lessened slightly, nimble bats could be discerned flitting against the
darkening sky, whilst rustling in nearby bushes hinted of other
nocturnal comings and goings.

His reverie was cruelly broken by a cluster of rocks tumbling down from
above and Asfaloth’s irritated snort as the stallion jumped sideways to
avoid getting hit. Glorfindel backed his mount up, both to escape the
heavy chunks of stone and to get a good look at what was going on. The
other five riders followed suit, putting a good thirty feet of open land
between them and whatever had taken a disliking to their presence.
“Yrch,” Erestor and Glorfindel spat at the same time.

Sure enough, savage orc faces leered at them from the top of the cliff.
There was a harsh grating noise of heavy objects being moved, and
several huge boulders suddenly appeared up there as well. “Get back! Get
back out of range!” Glorfindel yelled to the others as he pressed
Asfaloth into a controlled gallop, wary of the terrain when visibility
was generally so poor. He only pulled up when there was no chance that
the boulders which the orcs were rolling off the cliff-edge would be
able to reach them.

Faelon glanced back as he halted near the golden-haired warrior, only to
discover that the orcs, seemingly not content with anything less than a
kill, were now swarming down the cliff face, finding far more handholds
and footholds than there had any right to be. “They’re pursuing!” he
warned the seneschal.

Glorfindel didn’t answer, but Asfaloth sprang forwards under him once
more and, half-turning in the saddle, he waved for the others to follow.
The ground disappeared under the horses’ hooves as they tried to put
breathing distance between them and the orcs, but as she veered sharply
to avoid a rock partly hidden by ferns, Faelon’s horse stumbled and
broke into an unsteady trot, favouring the already injured foreleg.
Glorfindel, hearing the younger elf’s shrill curse, slowed as well. He
let Faelon catch him up and, without losing his seat or altering
Asfaloth’s stride, somehow lit a torch and held it up so the light would
illuminate the other horse’s lame leg. “Bleeding,” he said, glancing
over his shoulder. “Thank the Valar for the horses’ speed - we still
have time.” Erestor and the guards fell into stride alongside them a
moment later; the counsellor frowned as he saw the injury.

“There’s a river ahead,” he said. “It’s wide, and deep - except for a
narrow ford. Do you know it?” he asked Glorfindel. The seneschal nodded.
“If we can get across without them following us to the ford, it could
take them hours to find another way across - enough time for us to reach
Lórien’s borders. ”

“As I recall, you have to push through a lot of thick scrub to reach
that ford,” Glorfindel said, the spitting torch flame throwing odd
patterns of light and shadow across his patrician features. “You and
Faelon have all the important documents. You two ride on. We’ll buy you
time; we’ll catch you up later. ”

“/Meleth/…” Faelon raised an eyebrow at the offhanded way Erestor used
the endearment. He knew about Erestor’s relationship with the golden
Elda, but Elrond’s chief adviser seldom used such an intimate address to
his lover in public. “If you’re staying behind, I’m not leaving you.”

“We can handle it,” Glorfindel answered confidently. “The papers need to
reach Lórien.”

“I can transfer mine across to Faelon. Four of us stand a better chance
than three against all those orcs.” As he spoke, he drew a long, thin
knife from his robes and carved an experimental arc through the air.

“Someone has to go with Faelon to show him the way, “ Glorfindel
countered, seemingly unimpressed by the skill with which the scholar
handled the blade. “You have time if you go now. You *must* reach
Lórien. Go!” As if to emphasise his point, he directed an urgent, “/Noro
lim/!” at Erestor’s horse and, stringing his bow, promptly issued the
same command to Faelon’s mount. “Trust her; she’ll get you there!” he
shouted at the younger elf’s back. “She’ll gallop on a lame leg if it’ll
save her life!”

Faelon felt guilty for leaving Glorfindel and the guards to face the
orcs alone, even if it was only a smallish band. But, he realised as he
tried to sit lightly, attempting to ignore his horse’s bobbing head and
uneven steps, he was no warrior and would most likely just prove a
liability. And the documents he carried, triple-wrapped in waterproof
cloth, *had* to reach the Lord and Lady of the Wood. The diagrams,
reports and contracts contained within the sealed packages could not
simply be relayed by Elrond Far-Speaking with Galadriel or Celeborn.

He followed Erestor, who seemed to have a very exact idea of where he
was going, keeping the counsellor’s bay mare always in sight. Erestor
led him into a patch of dense thornbushes, bracken and thick shrubbery,
further hindering his lame mount’s progress. He whispered words of
encouragement to her, begging for more speed; he could almost smell the
orcs behind them. He earnestly prayed Glorfindel and his men were
distracting enough of them.

The twigs all seemed to be trying to grab him, tugging at his cloak and
leggings, overhanging branches snagging his hair and pulling his braids
apart. A thick bough appeared at the same level as his head, thudding
into his skull and causing him to inhale raggedly in pain. The night was
no longer starless, as several were bursting before his eyes. He rubbed
his head and felt torn skin and sticky blood.

Then the ground dropped sharply away and his horse skidded down a muddy
slope to land with a splash in water up to her fetlocks. “Keep in a
straight line,” Erestor’s voice drifted to him in the semi-darkness.
“Don’t falter, as the water runs deep both sides of the causeway. Ride
straight - and hurry!”

Faelon glanced at the water, which looked black in the twilight, and saw
that the surface was smooth and calm; it was indeed a deep river, and
probably had a strong current as well. But his logic informed him that
if Erestor called from ahead, the advisor had crossed the river safely,
and therefore the ford really did exist and was passable. He urged his
mount forwards. Should Lady Uinen decide she still held a grudge against
Noldorin elves now… But the causeway dropped no lower, and his mare
picked her way carefully to the far bank. He sighed with relief as the
water gave way to solid ground again, but before he could reflect
further, Erestor’s voice was coaxing them onwards again.

***

Glorfindel was not fond of night encounters, especially when orcs were
involved. They were truly creatures of darkness, with better night sight
even then elves’. At least he could locate them by sound - and, to some
extent, smell. They were not the most stealthy of creatures, especially
in lands like this, where all the plants and animals despised them, and
would make no attempt to ease their passage.

Fortunately, the odds were not bad; the elven company were only
outnumbered sixteen to three; or sixteen to six if he counted the
horses, who would loyally aid their riders wherever they could.

They peppered the oncoming orcs with arrows, but soon had to abandon
their bows when the orcs got too close for arrows to be properly
effective any longer. As a Noldorin elf and a former captain of
Gondolin, Glorfindel’s weapon of choice was the sword rather than the
bow anyway, so he was all too glad to sling the long, slender arc of
wood across his back and draw his blade instead. The battlecry that
leaped from his lips was a name familiar to every elf in Imladris, and
most in Middle Earth - an elf who had once been Glorfindel’s closest
friend. “Ecthelion!”(1)

Sharp teeth sank into his shin, and he cut downwards, cleaving an ugly
skull in two. On the upstroke, he twisted and opened up the ribcage of
another hideous creature who was trying to sneak up on him from behind.
A third fell to the ground, gurgling wetly and coughing up bloody froth,
when Asfaloth lashed out with a powerful hind hoof. Arrows sang in
delight; one of the scouts had repositioned himself so he could shoot at
the orcs again; the slim bolts sliced first through the damp air and
slanting raindrops, then through orc-flesh. The fight was over quickly.

“I suppose we ought to do something with the corpses,” Glorfindel
remarked, wiping his sword off on a clump of grass. He was largely
unhurt; his only concern was the bite on his leg, which could well be
poisoned from those disgusting yellow fangs. He’d better clean it up
before they moved on. His companions were both covered with a fair
amount of blood, but he could smell even at this distance that it was
not their own. One of the elves was favouring his right side a little,
but made no complaint; nothing urgent, then.

He was more than grateful for the rainstorm now, as it served to cleanse
him of much of the sense of contamination which clung to every square
inch of his skin. He avoided touching the bodies if possible, gingerly
kicking them into an irreverent pile to one side of the track. It would
take a wizard to get this soaking wet mound ablaze…

When they left the battleground, the corpses were certainly not ablaze -
they smouldered sullenly, sending great plumes of hissing black smoke
spiralling up in reeking columns into the night. Glorfindel buried his
nose in the collar of his cloak and curled his lip in revulsion.
Extending all his senses forwards instead, he felt for the aura of light
and power which signalled that they neared the welcome borders of the
Golden Wood. He smiled faintly; it wasn’t far now, thank the Valar.
Asfaloth knew they were nearly there, too, and quickened his pace.

***

“/Daro/!” Two Silvan marchwardens dropped from the trees, arrows pointed
squarely at Faelon’s chest. Looking ahead, he saw Erestor had been
similarly challenged.

“I’m a member of the envoy from Imladris,” he said hastily, stressing
‘Imladris’. “I believe we are expected?”

The arrows were lowered a few inches, but the bowstrings remained taut.
“You’re injured, and your horse is lame,” the leader commented coolly.

Faelon dabbed at his forehead self-consciously with an already stained
sleeve. “She stumbled; we’ve had to flee a band of orcs in a hurry.”

“Only one band? An uneventful journey here, then.” A trace of wry humour
crept into the elf’s voice. “At least we begin to see proof that the
joint venture of six months ago was successful. Come; you were right,
you are expected. You may refresh yourselves at our company’s /talan/
tonight, and we shall escort you to see the Lord and Lady tomorrow.”

“Is it far?” Faelon asked, worried about his mare’s heaving flanks. He
dismounted and ran a concerned hand down her arching neck.

“The company’s main /talan/ is another hour’s walk from here; but our
captain, Haldir, won’t be there. He’s challenged his brother to a poetry
contest to pass the hours until their watches begin and they’ve
commandeered a smaller /talan/ further to the east for tonight.” The
mild envy which tinged the elf’s voice hinted that he, too, would sooner
be among their company than out here this night.

Faelon felt a flame of hope igniting and growing within him. “Haldir is
your captain?”

“You know him? Aiya, but he was in Imladris a short time ago, was he
not?”

“Aye, with his brother, Rúmil.” Faelon heard how his voice cracked as he
pronounced the name.

“Faelon, what *are* you doing?” Erestor wound his way though the trees
towards the younger elf, leading his horse by the bridle and looking
thoroughly exasperated. “It’s long past sunset, we’re wet, tired and
hungry, your horse is lame, and you can think of no better pursuit than
making small talk with the local marchwardens? ”

“*Faelon*?!” exclaimed the Silvan elf, jerking his head up and grinning
like a cheeky elfling. “*You’re* the one he’s been pining for this
entire time!”

“The one *who’s* been pining for?!” Faelon demanded.

“Rúmil, of course.” Faelon was going to urge the marchwarden to
elaborate, but a delicate cough from Erestor’s direction effectively
communicated the advisor’s impatience with the conversation. The Lórien
elf took the hint and, gesturing for the visitors to follow him, set off
deliberately, picking the best paths between trees with such dispatch
Faelon had to increase his own speed to keep up. After a few paces, the
marchwarden remembered the visitors were unfamiliar with the woods and
turned back sheepishly to check he hadn’t lost his wards already. “Seems
as though his taste wasn’t as bad as I thought, after all,” he commented
appreciatively, eyeing the Noldorin scholar critically.

Faelon’s eyes widened in astonishment and renewed hope, just as he saw
Erestor shaking his head wearily. He looked questioningly at the elder
elf, but Erestor only rolled his eyes and sighed. But Faelon was falling
behind his escort again and, in his haste to catch-up, missed the
devious and self-satisfied grin which then spread slowly across
Erestor’s face as he watched his dark-haired protégé hurry through the
trees with a freshly optimistic spring in his step.

Translations:
daro - stop
meleth - love

Notes
(1) Book of Lost Tales 2, p181
"Tis said that Ecthelion's folk there slew more of the goblins than fell
ever in all the battles of the Eldalië with that race, and that his name
is a terror among them to this latest day, and a warcry to the Eldar."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 7


A curse hissed through Faelon’s teeth. He’d been walking along in a
distracted but rather pleasant state of introspection, the stinging of
the graze his head forgotten among the swirl of hopeful thoughts, and
had somehow succeeded in losing his escort altogether. He’d have to go
back until he picked up their tracks, then catch up with them again. Of
course, there were a few problems with that. He couldn’t be sure he’d
gone in a straight line since they’d parted ways, he couldn’t recognise
individual mellyrn well enough to be sure he was truly retracing his
steps, and trained marchwardens wouldn’t be easy to track, even for an
experienced scout like Glorfindel or one of the twins, never mind a
normally sedentary scholar like him.

He leaned wearily on his mare’s shoulder. This was typical of his luck.
If something had to happen, it would happen to him. The rain was
penetrating the canopy of leaves and soaking through the rips in his
cloak. A sigh escaped him. His horse whickered sympathetically, and
nuzzled his shoulder. He forced a smile, then dug around in the
saddlebags and found a handful of oats for her. She accepted the
offering graciously, but her cheerfulness seemed as superficial as his
smile. She was resting her foreleg to keep the weight off it and, when
he ran a hand over it, he could feel heat and swelling. There was a lot
of bruising and probably some infection.

He felt guilty; she was doing her best, in spite of her injury, while
he, uninjured aside from the superficial wound on his forehead, was
worrying about getting lost within the best-guarded borders in Middle
Earth. “We’d better find somewhere to sleep,” he said to her. She raised
her head, apparently listening and scenting the air, before she turned
to the east and set off at a stiff walk. “This way?” he asked
thoughtfully. Elven horses had an excellent sense of direction, so she
could well lead him straight to Cerin Amroth. He walked beside her, one
hand resting on her withers; he may have lost the others, but he
wouldn’t lose her. “To think I once called Rúmil ignorant and crass - he
wouldn’t have ended up in situation like this, would he?”

***

“Rúmil, when was the last time you wrote a poem which wasn’t about
love?” Haldir asked, sounding bored, as the younger Galdhrim finished
speaking. “Honestly, brother, you should get over him. He clearly isn’t
interested in you, or you would have heard from him.”

The younger elf knew he looked dismayed by his brother’s words, but
answered boldly, “I’m not ready to lose hope yet! I knew Faelon was more
than just a crush from the outset, and I’m prepared to wait if it means
that at the end I get a chance at a real relationship, not just one of
those roll-from-one-side-of-the-bed-to-the-other-and-cry-out-somewhere-
in-the-middle kind of flings you seem so fond of!” He collapsed on to a
low stool nearby and sank his head into his hands. “I just wonder how
long I have to be alone before that,” he admitted after a long pause.
Haldir curled his lip, but reached over and patted his younger brother’s
shoulder.

After a while, Rúmil stood again and wandered out of the room. The
adjoining room was open to the night, and felt peaceful; he sat down and
dangled his feet over the edge of the /talan/, swinging them back and
forth as if he were an elfling once more.

He gazed sadly out upon the forest, thinking it looked so empty this
evening. The stars shone down serenely from above, but below, all was
still. Or so it seemed, until his keen eyes picked out signs of movement
on the ground underneath the /talan/. It was one of Haldir’s border
guards, running through the trees and looking extremely flustered.

“What’s going on?” he called down.

Haldir came out at the sound of his brother’s shouting. “Is everything
all right?” He spotted the guard. “You know it’s my night off,” he
remarked drily to the elf, who had stopped directly under the tree.

“I’m sorry, sir. We have something of a situation.”

“Really?” There was a note of sarcasm in his voice. Rúmil knew Haldir
had been looking forward to the first night off in ages. The borders had
been lively recently, and it was only in the last couple of months that
things had started to settle down enough for the guards to breathe a
little.

“A party’s arrived from Imladris. We were escorting them to Cerin
Amroth, but one of them has gone missing.”

“Elbereth Gilthoniel! All right, I’m coming down,” Haldir replied. Rúmil
followed, concerned. “Who’ve you lost?”

The marchwarden glanced nervously at Rúmil. “He said his name was
Faelon...”

He was given no opportunity to say anything more. “Where did you last
see him? How long ago?” Rúmil could almost see Eru’s hand moving fates
around, like pieces on a great chessboard. This news was too well-timed
to be just chance.

“About a four miles west of here, perhaps an hour ago.” The guard
offered a brief description of the route the escort had been taking.
“I’ve ordered the border guards to search for him, but we were in a
small group, and I couldn’t spare more than a handful.”

Rúmil was back into the /talan/ so quickly his feet hardly touched the
rope, snatching up his bow, the first quiver of arrows he could find and
a spare cloak. “I’m going to find him,” he declared as he reached ground
level once more. The determination in his voice came as a surprise even
to him.

Haldir didn’t argue; he knew his brother was as good a marchwarden as
any, and had enough sense not to start a vain debate over whether or not
it was wise. He simply said, “Be careful,” squeezing Rúmil’s arm before
the younger Galadhrim turned and set off into the wood.

***

His ears were tuned to pick up the slightest sounds of movement - a
cracking twig, a rustle of leaves which didn’t match the breeze. His
eyes searched the darkness for an shadows which didn’t quite fit. Every
sense was directed towards a single goal: Faelon.

However, so far he’d not had any luck. In over two hours of searching in
unrelenting rain, he had not yet picked up Faelon’s trail, and so had
given up with that strategy and was instead making his way towards where
the guard said the Imladris elf had last been seen. The rain dripped
from the leaves of the /mellyrn/. His footsteps added a steady, soft
counterpoint. Taking his tempo from these noises, he began to recite his
latest poem once more:

*At the end of every night
Will come the golden dawn
At the end of every winter
Comes springtime bright and warm*

But all he could think of was Faelon out there, alone, lost, possibly
hurt, probably tired, wet and worried. He quickened his pace, knowing
he’d hit the escort’s trail in no more than a few minutes. After some
minutes, he found what he’d been hoping to see - a small disturbance in
the leaf litter, revealing the soil underneath. Someone had passed this
way. With this positive omen spurring him on, he looked even more
carefully, squinting into the darkness for any clue that he was still
heading the right way. More signs appeared: a trampled sapling, a long
brown hair from a horse’s mane or tail, hoof-prints in the soft ground.
He found himself continuing to speak the words of the poem under his
breath, his naturally musical voice giving them a tuneful resonance.

*And so at the end of my loneliness
I trust I’ll find my heart
But right now he feels so far away
Why must we be apart?*

Just as he was about to commence with the next stanza, he was
interrupted by a snuffling noise, the sound of a wet, tired horse
exhaling wearily. It was followed by a small voice in the damp darkness.
“Hello?”

The speaker was unmistakably elven. Rúmil’s heart fluttered. He broke
into a run, heading towards the source of the sound. “Faelon?” He
stopped at the top of a gentle slope which led down to a wooded dell
where he sometimes used to play when he was younger.

An elf was leaning against a tree below, his other hand resting on the
withers of a chestnut mare. His shoulders were hunched and he looked
about as miserable as it was possible for an elf to be. “Faelon?” Rúmil
called out again. The elf seemed to rouse himself and stared up at the
marchwarden, taking a moment to locate him among all the shadows. “Thank
Elbereth *someone’s* here. I thought I’d be wandering around here all
night,” he said with a weak attempt at humour.

“As if I’d let that happen,” Rúmil stated emphatically, descending into
the dell.

The elf was so bedraggled, tired-looking and generally dishevelled, dark
braids coming undone, wispy bits of hair sticking out everywhere, twigs
and leaves in his clothes and several scratches on his face and hands,
Rúmil was barely able to recognise him as an elf at all, let alone give
him a name. His face was smeared with dirt, and some blood, although the
wound just below his hairline did not look serious. But then Faelon’s
eyes locked with his, and he knew he’d found what he’d been looking for.

He almost ran at the lost elf, encircling his poor, exhausted beloved
with supportive arms, cocooning him in the soft folds of the cloak he’d
been carrying. Faelon rested his head on the marchwarden’s chest,
accepting the warmth and comfort offered, allowing himself to be guided
to a moss-covered rock then pulled on to Rúmil’s lap as the Galadhrim
seated himself on the makeshift stool. When he spoke again, it was in a
husky whisper, brittle with emotion and weariness. “Rúmil?” he asked.

“It’s me,” Rúmil answered, realising Faelon had only just recognised
him. “What have you been up to?”

“There was an escort with us…but I got lost…I decided to follow my
horse, and find some shelter, and then I ended up here. I was losing
hope; I thought maybe she was mistaken in picking this direction, but
then I heard a voice. Someone was reciting poetry.” he shook his head in
confusion, then a soft smile touched his lips. “It was lovely.”

Rúmil answered with a smile of his own. “It’s not far to our /talan/ -
at least so long as you don’t get lost again. If you and your mare can
manage that much, there are clean, dry clothes and a very soft, inviting
bed waiting for you.”

“Sounds wonderful,” Faelon said.

“And I’ll see to that cut as well,” Rúmil informed the Noldo, indicating
Faelon’s forehead. “Do you feel ready to go now?” Faelon nodded and rose
slowly to his feet. Rúmil slid an arm around his waist in case his
charge faltered, and pointed out the way to shelter.

***

It seemed to be taking forever to reach the talan. Neither the elf nor
the horse made any complaint, but Rúmil could tell the mare was in pain,
and Faelon had quite clearly had enough of wandering around in this
stormy night.

“But tell me,” the Noldo said suddenly, breaking the silence between
them, “That poem you were reciting - I’d never heard it before. Who
wrote it? And who were they writing about?”

Rúmil looked as Faelon’s drawn face, shadowed eyes, straggling hair, and
thought his heart would break. He seemed so dejected tonight. And in
that moment, Rúmil abandoned all caution, reservation and probably all
good sense and, turning Faelon in his arms, pressed his lips
possessively over the other elf’s. He tasted of rain. It was not at all
unpleasant. “I wrote it, /penvain/, you silly, dishevelled thing - and I
was writing it for *you*!”

He was totally unprepared for the exultantly incredulous look in
Faelon’s big, limpid eyes. “Really?” he asked. “You really meant all
that?”

“Of course I did. Why else would I go traipsing through the wood on my
night off looking for a mud-caked Noldo with no sense of direction.”

Faelon shook his head, then laid it on Rúmil’s shoulder. For the first
time, the Galadhrim realised Faelon was slightly shorter then him. “But
you sounded so sincere,” the scholar murmured. “I’d always thought you
were just a silly infatuated elfling."

Rúmil smiled ruefully, and affectionately brushed Faelon’s cheek with
his fingers. "Maybe I was - at first. But the more I saw of you, the
more strongly I felt. If it had remained as just infatuation, then after
all these months I would surely have moved on. But luckily for you, I
suppose, I haven't."

He saw the light ahead - the amber-yellow lamplight coming from the
comfortable /talan/ he’d left so many hours ago, and pointed it out to
his companion. The sight gave Faelon new energy, and it wasn’t too long
before they were looking up at the wooden flet. “Haldir?”

“Any luck?” said the voice from above.

“Let the ladder down, and you can see for yourself!”

But Faelon lay a hand on Rúmil’s arm to stay him. “You really meant it,
didn’t you?” There was so much emotion in his face, Rúmil couldn’t begin
to identify it all.

“Yes,” he said, realising he was repeating himself, but not really
caring so long as Faelon understood the extent of his feelings. “I
really meant it.”

“Elbereth!” Haldir interrupted, dropping to the forest floor. “Is that
really an elf?” He held out a flask of /miruvor/, which Faelon accepted
and sipped at cautiously. It seemed to bring some colour back into his
cheeks, and for that Rúmil was grateful.

“I told you I’d find him,” he answered with a trace of smugness. He
turned back to Faelon and regarded the bedraggled elf tenderly. “I care
about you. When I heard you were lost, I couldn’t rest until I knew you
were safe.”

“It’s not as if you’ve been thinking about anyone else for the last six
months...”

"Haldir, can I finish please?" The elder Galadhrim pouted at the rebuke
from his younger brother, but Rúmil had decided it was time to take the
plunge. He held Faelon’s gaze for several long moments, trying to
discern what was going on in the stormy depths of those beautiful eyes,
then began, more tentatively than he’d intended. "Faelon, I know I've
propositioned you once before, and that time you refused me, but..."

"But possibly for the first time in my life, I'll willingly admit I made
a mistake,” the Noldo replied, sounding alive for the first time since
Rúmil had found him in the dell. “Rúmil, I underestimated you most
unfairly back in Imladris. I didn't give you a chance to show your good
qualities to me. You had every right to hate me for my rudeness...yet
you became more friendly and caring towards me with each passing day,
even when you only met coldness in return. And tonight - well, if it
weren’t for you, I’d still be lost, alone and ready to give up. This
time, I should be the initiator.” He took a deep breath, steadying
himself with a hand on the trunk of the tree. “I apologise for my
attitude before, and Rúmil, if you can find it in you to give me a
second chance, I'd love to have the opportunity to become better
acquainted with the only elf in all of Middle Earth who can remember my
begetting day."

Rúmil enveloped the Noldorin elf in an elated embrace, burying his face
in the ruffled locks, allowing them to absorb his hot tears of joy.
After waiting for so long, finally Faelon had come around to him!
“Faelon, /penvain/, *of course* I accept your offer - and there is
nothing to forgive.” He ran his finger along the Imladris elf’s jawline,
sliding up one ear and gently playing with the pointed tip. “I’ve been
falling in love with you, even while we’ve been apart, and I’m enjoying
every moment of you. Come though, /penvain/, promises and offers aside,
I’m neglecting your current condition entirely. Let’s bathe that injury,
and get you to bed.”

“Is there room for two?” Faelon suggested, a mischievous sparkle
appearing in his eye. Rúmil was pleased that he was reviving a little,
and helped his beloved ascend the rope ladder. Haldir made a noise which
could have been a cough or a laugh, then made some remark about needing
to attend to Faelon’s horse and deliver a message, and remained below.
But the muttered comment he made as the other two emerged into the
/talan/ reached both sets of ears:

“Isn’t it ironic that after all these months of silence, suddenly he
wants to push the relationship to new heights in a single evening...”

“All right then,” Faelon admitted reluctantly. “I suppose I don’t really
have the energy for that tonight. But I almost lost you once, and I
don’t ever want to push you away again. Would you mind so very much if I
asked if you would lie beside me as I sleep tonight? It has been...an
eventful trip, and I would like to wake up knowing I’m safe and not
alone.”

Rúmil held his new lover tightly and promised that he would sleep with
Faelon in his arms every night from now until the end of Arda, if that
was necessary.

Faelon fell asleep almost as soon as his head touched the pillow. Rúmil
watched him fondly for some minutes, loving the softness of the Noldo’s
features as they relaxed in peaceful slumber, the newly-found love
sparkling in the vacant brown eyes.

He wriggled out of his shirt and leggings, kicking them off the edge of
the small bed, and pulled the covers over both of them. With one hand,
he happily caressed Faelon’s hair, staring adoringly at the pretty
little nose, long eyelashes and skin the colour of whipped cream. Even
asleep, a smile curved upwards on the sculpted lips.

He pressed a kiss on to the dark-haired elf’s forehead, below the
dressing he’d secured over the graze - which, he’d been relieved to see,
was not serious. “Sleep well, /meleth/. I’ll be here when morning
comes.”

A happy grunt came from Faelon, and he wriggled close into the
Galadhrim’s arms. “Hmmm...” he purred. “Rúmil...”

When Haldir poked his head into the bedroom an hour later, he found the
two lovers lying so close their noses touched, identical expressions of
contentment gracing their fair features.

***

Erestor watched his Galadhrim escort pace and curse, as he had been
doing almost constantly for the last hour. “I can’t believe he lost us!”

“It was dark, he was tired, and he’s not used to these woods,” the
advisor replied, somewhat impatiently. “He’ll be safe within the
borders; his hurt looked superficial. You’ve sent out guards to search
for him and you’ve alerted Haldir. You said Rúmil was looking for him
and you know he’s an excellent tracker. What else can you do?”

“There must be something. I should have realised he wasn’t with us as
soon as we became separated.”

“But you didn’t. So this is the situation as it stands. You've done what
you can, now for Elbereth’s sake, *please* stop that pacing and get some
rest.” As if to prove the counsellor’s point, the Galadhrim yawned
suddenly. “Glorfindel and the others from Imladris will be here soon.
Why don’t you go and lie down and I’ll get some tea ready for them?”

The Silvan elf nodded reluctantly and pointed to a cupboard in one
corner. “You’ll find what you need in there.” Rubbing his eyes, he went
into the adjoining bedroom.

Erestor rifled through the contents - honestly, had anyone tidied in
here properly since the dawn of the Third Age? Eventually, he found a
pot and several sachets of herbs, which he identified by scent as fennel
and peppermint. He started to prepare a refreshing infusion.

Glorfindel did not come. The tea brewed, then sat, then cooled. He
filled the pot with fresh water, then set it to boil again, this time
more slowly. Glorfindel still did not come.

Erestor watched the pot moodily and the water began to bubble (watched
pots may not boil for anyone else but, under Erestor’s stony gaze, no
pot would ever be audacious enough to disobey). He threw some herbs in,
then suddenly looked up, sensing he was not alone. The Galadhrim had
come back, dressed only in an undershirt and leggings. “I couldn’t
sleep,” he apologised. “I feel so guilty - I was responsible for him.”

“Tea?” Erestor asked indifferently. He was familiar with the self-
punishment the marchwarden was experiencing now - it was a natural
reaction to such an unfortunate event, after all. It was also incredibly
dull to have to put up with such recriminations when he’d known so many
others to go through the same process before.

The Galadhrim held up a hand in refusal. “Does he have the skill to look
after himself in the open overnight?”

The advisor shrugged. “He has some basic survival training and he’s not
stupid - he’ll manage. Especially if he stays close to the mare. She may
not be rideable after that trip, but I know that horse. She won’t let
him down. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she led him directly to
help.”

Seemingly encouraged by the other elf’s words, the marchwarden nodded.
He’d dropped to sit cross-legged on the wooden floor, his head resting
lightly against the wall behind.

But Erestor’s concerns lay with a different elf. Despite his confident
words earlier, he worried about his lover. “I hope Glorfindel and the
others dealt with those orcs all right,” he mused. “He should have let
me stay and help.”

It was the Galadhrim’s turn to offer reassurance. “He’s the Balrog
Slayer. We’ve been told stories about him since we were elflings and,
even if they’re exaggerated, Glorfindel’s no ordinary Elda.” He grinned.
“A mere band of orcs won’t be anything he can’t handle. And you and
Faelon *had* to make sure these documents got to the Lord and Lady;
Faelon would never have got across the ford without you leading him.”

They said nothing for some time, draining cups of tea and leaving the
remainder to simmer lightly. The flavour would probably be somewhat
unorthodox by the end, but Erestor realised he would soon be able to
keep time just by counting how many rounds of tea he’d brewed and then
discarded.

After a period of time which may have been fifteen minutes or two hours,
the Galadhrim rose and went to peer our of the window. “There’s a small
party coming through the woods a little way away,” he declared with
raised eyebrows as he returned to his place on the floor. “They all look
unhurt. And I spotted Haldir approaching from the other direction.”

“Haldir? I thought you said he was off-duty this evening.”

“He is. That’s why I’m surprised.”

The marchwarden was the first to arrive, sticking his head up through
the /talan/ entrance, grinning at the counsellor and frowning at the
Galadhrim. Once all of him was inside, and he’d appropriated a stool, he
explained himself, sipping at the tea his subordinate had pressed into
his hands in a futile attempt at a peace-offering. “So, any luck with
your mislaid Noldo?” he asked the Silvan elf pointedly.

“Well, sir, I...”

“You’ll be pleased to know that he’s now accounted for, despite your
inattentiveness. Make sure this never happens again on your watch, or
the only thing I’ll let you escort is mice out of the granaries.
Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Haldir winked at Erestor. “Faelon and Rúmil are currently snuggled up
together like a lifebonded pair. Very cosy.”

“Just as it should be,” Erestor agreed, returning the smile.

At that moment a golden head and a beautiful face popped up into the
/talan/. Glorfindel flicked back the stray locks from his face in what
he presumably (and, Erestor secretly decided, quite justifiably) thought
was a dashing manner. “I think a certain other pair of elves might want
to be thinking about adopting the same position themselves, for remains
of the night,” he suggested, approaching Erestor. “What is your counsel
on this matter, o wise one?”

Erestor kissed two fingers and touched them to Glorfindel’s lips with a
playful (for him) smile. He felt heat rise in his cheeks; as usual, his
lover’s unabashed openness had caused him to blush. “My counsel is that
no self-respecting elf would agree to snuggle with you until you remove
those repulsive garments from your person.” He indicated the Elda’s
shirt, leggings and cloak, all splattered with orc-blood. “My counsel -
probably in vain - is also that you refrain from proclaiming such ideas
so overtly in front of such an extensive and interested audience.” He
pointed now to the two Galadhrim, who were hiding sniggers, and the
Imladris guards who had entered behind their captain, who now stood with
eyebrows raised with amusement. “However, I am forced to admit that your
suggestion is very, very appealing.” He leaned forwards so his lips
almost touched Glorfindel’s ear, and whispered, “Were you to draw
yourself a bath now, once you were satisfactorily clean, I think I would
be inclined to join you. Then perhaps we could find ourselves a nice,
soft mattress somewhere, which I’m sure you’d prefer to this rather
small wooden chair, which was clearly never designed for multiple
occupants.”

Glorfindel blinked innocently and tugged at Erestor’s ear in a gentle,
affectionate gesture. “We could snuggle on a midden and I’d relish every
moment simply because you were close.”

Erestor shook his head. “/Penvain/, you are truly beyond hope.”

Translations:
penvain - fair/beautiful one

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 8


Faelon was happy. Everything was wonderful. Rúmil was more amazing than
he’d thought it possible for one individual to be; he was generous,
caring, sensitive and intelligent, interesting and amusing… Faelon was
always thinking of more complimentary adjectives that could be applied
to his new lover.

And as an added bonus, his work was progressing well. The documents they
had brought to discuss with the Lord and Lady had been met with full
approval. Celeborn had shown some interest in becoming discreetly
involved in one of Imladris’s existing trade arrangements with a
settlement of Men in the north, whilst Erestor was surprisingly
enthusiastic about information Galadriel had obtained from…somewhere
that a complete set of early Third-Age annals had been discovered in
Gondor which, apparently, were stubbornly resisting the scholars’
attempts to translate them.

He was actually regretting the fact that he would be returning to
Imladris within the month - in between successful talks with Celeborn
and Galadriel, walking in the woods with a certain Galadhrim and having
that same Galadhrim curled up in his arms each evening, he was having
more fun than he recalled having in a millennium.

The feast scheduled for tonight promised to be a lively affair and Rúmil
had talked him into attending. He smiled to himself as he put the
finishing touches to his braids and checked his robes were all straight.
He was looking forward to the evening - what was there not to look
forward to?

Although he was far too proud to admit it, he was both incredibly
grateful to Erestor for deciding he wasn’t working well enough and
brining him on this trip, and secretly glad he’d got lost and been given
a chance to discover Rúmil’s sincerity. He had sorely underestimated the
Galadhrim once, but he promised himself that he would *never* do so
again.

***

“Come on, Erestor!” Rúmil approached the counsellor wearing a dazzling
smile and a leading Faelon by the hand. Erestor held up his own hand in
polite refusal.

Now Faelon joined in with his new lover’s plea. “Yes, come on, Erestor!
You *never* dance…”

“Exactly. I never dance, “ Erestor countered with a firm shake of his
head.

Rúmil grasped Erestor’s fingers with his free hand and tugged gently;
the older elf instinctively pulled away. The Galadhrim’s eyes were
pleading. “Come on. You’ll enjoy it once you’re out there. This is one
of my favourite pieces of music!”

Faelon laid a staying hand on the young elf’s arm. He addressed the
counsellor with a small smile playing on his lips. “What if I bring
Glorfindel over?” He stood on tiptoe and waved towards the table behind
Erestor, on which a buffet had been laid out. He beckoned Glorfindel
over; the Elda arrived with at least twenty cherries in one hand and a
slice of cake in the other. He offered both to his lover, but Erestor
declined them as well.

“You wanted me?” Glorfindel asked, popping another cherry into his
mouth. Erestor wondered what he intended to do with the stone once he’d
finished; the golden-haired Elda did not seem to have thought to collect
a bowl before answering Faelon’s summons.

Faelon nodded. “We’re trying to persuade Erestor to dance, and we were
hoping he’d relent if you would.” Glorfindel responded with a raised
eyebrow, laying his hand almost protectively on Erestor’s shoulder.

“Do you want to?” he asked his lover simply.

Light as elves may be on their nimble feet the wooden floor resonated
rhythmically as they executed the steps to the current dance. Laughing
faces were everywhere he looked; some eyes were swimming with love, such
as those of the sweet young couple in one corner who were so absorbed in
one another, they’d just carelessly crashed into a table. Others were
alive with amusement and joy. Haldir was dancing with an elfmaid in an
absurdly overplayed genteel fashion which was making the maiden blush as
some of her other admirers watched jealously. One of the guards who had
accompanied the party from Imladris appeared to be engaging a local
marchwarden in competition over who could dance more seductively, one
which the Lórien elf was winning by several miles. Erestor observed all
this - and yes, he was almost tempted to join in. But then his customary
self-consciousness resurfaced, and he shrank from the dance floor into
Glorfindel’s strong, reassuring arms. The golden-haired Elda rubbed his
back in gentle circles.

Erestor shook his head at the two younger elves. “Maybe later. Not now.”

Rúmil’s shoulders slumped in defeat. But his face brightens as he turned
his attentions to Glorfindel. “What about you?”

Glorfindel’s fine, pale eyebrows drew together. “I don’t know. Erestor’s
said he doesn’t want to, and I don’t think it would be quite the same
without him.”

“Do you want to?” Erestor asked, echoing the words which moments before
had been addressed to him. The look of longing that his beautiful
beloved threw at the cavorting couples said it all, and Erestor gave the
gilded elf a gentle push in that direction. “Enjoy yourself. I’m sure
those two will find you an agreeable partner.” Indeed, Rúmil was already
presenting Glorfindel with a pretty elf-maiden, who fluttered long,
curling eyelashes at him before curling a slender arm around his waist
and leading him into the throng.

Erestor watched in silence. He delighted in seeing Glorfindel’s strong,
supple body move in harmony with his partner’s; feet landing with
perfectly precision on every step, golden hair flying up like a gilt fan
when he whirled her around. Why had it taken Erestor so long to admit
his desire for that radiant warrior? Why had he ever held back? *Fear*,
his thoughts informed him. *Fear of getting hurt, getting used, being
rejected*. Had any of those things happened to him, he was certain his
spirit would have broken. He would have retreated from his emotions and
never let another see them ever again.

But when he looked into Glorfindel’s sparkling eyes he saw only love and
security, kindness and adoration. Those two precious jewels were worth
more to him than any treasure in Middle Earth, and he would happily gaze
upon them a thousand times a day. *Aiya, Glorfindel…my Glorfindel…is it
possible for one being to hold so much love for another? Even when that
other is you?* Sometimes, the love he felt was so intense he was certain
it must set his whole form shining with emotion for all to see. The
first time he’d felt that, he’d been confused and a little frightened,
unable to identify what was happening to him. But then he’d realised.

For the first time in his life, he was no longer lonely.

***

Ithil outlined everything in a pale silver-blue; the trees, the stylised
arbours and trellises on the /telain/, the elegant architecture of
Lórien’s central refuge. Overhead, the silken sky was embroidered with a
million brilliant-cut diamonds. All the feast’s guests had now returned
to their rooms, and servants flitted from lantern to lantern
extinguishing the amber flames. Erestor turned his back on the stunning
scene and smiled at Glorfindel, who was draining a cup of hot tea,
having drunk just slightly more than was strictly wise over the course
of the festivities.

It took a few moments before the golden Elda noticed the intense
scrutiny to which he was being subjected. When he raised his head and
met Erestor’s eyes, he treated his lover to a puzzled look, replacing
the cup on its carefully-painted porcelain saucer. “What is it,
/meleth/?” he enquired.

“I’m ready to dance now. Will you come?”

“Now? You realise it’s hours past midnight. All the other guests and
even the musicians will have gone to bed…” He broke off, evidently
recognising some emotion flickering in Erestor’s eyes, and caught the
dark-haired counsellor’s hands in his. “Of course, /meleth/. I’d love
to. As long as you promise it’ll be you, and only you, who I get to
dance with,” he added teasingly.

“I promise,” Erestor said solemnly, entwining his fingers with
Glorfindel’s and fitting himself comfortably against the Elda’s side.

The two forms, both tall and comely, but one dark and one pale, glided
between the /telain/ like ghosts, their outlines softened by the
moonlight. They ascended the stairway to the Great Talan as if it were
no more than a gently inclined, perfectly smooth ramp, and never once
did they break the contact between them. Erestor attuned his senses to
every nuance of Glorfindel’s form, every small movement of his eyes or
body; he even felt the Elda’s heartbeat when he pressed close into his
lover’s possessive embrace.

They both hesitated at the same moment as they entered the largest room
in the Great Talan. The banqueting hall, just a few hours before as
colourful as a meadow in spring, was now empty, deserted - and yet even
more beautiful than it had been before. Ithil’s light left ever detail
shimmering as if it were made of pure /mithril/, darkening to pewter
where pillars formed from tree branches cast long, dignified shadows
across the floor.

But when Erestor turned to his beloved, he saw that one thing was not
/mithril/. Glorfindel was a sculpture of brilliant gold, a vision of
radiance harking back to the days when the Two Trees still lent their
gentle illumination to Arda. He could have been Laurelin itself, waxing
under Telperion’s delicate light.

Erestor had always known on some level that there was something special
about Glorfindel, but tonight he recognised and understood it properly
for the first time. This being had dwelt in Valinor, had entered the
Halls of Mandos and returned. He had stood before one of Morgoth’s
Balrogs and shown no fear, and by slaying it at the expense of his own
life, allowed hundreds of others to live. That nobility and generosity
which personified Glorfindel kindled a glorious inner light within him,
and it shone outwards for any to see who were prepared to look.

Glorfindel stepped into the centre of the great chamber and the golden
aura seemed to linger in the air for a moment even after he had passed.
His arms were extended in invitation to join him.

Erestor threw himself into those arms, as he had done so many times
before, capturing Glorfindel’s lips in a passionate kiss, inhaling the
sweet scent of his dearest love, detecting the subtle flavour of honey
and wine. Glorfindel, too, pressed close, seemingly needing the
closeness just as much as Erestor did. For a few moments, they just
stood there, lips still touching, barely even breathing, just enjoying
everything about one another, but then Erestor decided it was time for
the dance to begin.

His feet drew patterns on the floor, patterns they had not practised for
many a long year, which he’d feared he may have forgotten, but which
returned of their own accord now, heedless of the lack of music.

Glorfindel joined his partner. His movements matched Erestor’s, taking
their tempo from the dark-haired elf’s own heartbeat. His hips swayed
gently as he danced, his hands resting lightly on his lover’s slim
waist, the ankle-length formal robes he wore swirling around his feet, a
river of magical fire.

The harmony was perfect, the bliss total. Each elf knew instinctively
how the other would next move and willingly blended with it. Midnight
hair and golden lifted on the currents of air created by the two
dancers, chasing each other playfully in never-ending circles.

Without pausing in his steps, Erestor leaned in and kissed the smooth
column of Glorfindel’s neck, lapping briefly at the pulse he felt under
his tongue. “I love you,” he declared, realising this genuinely was the
first time he’d ever put that feeling into words. He had always been
afraid before…but now there was nothing to fear. Together, they were two
parts of a single, greater whole, he and Glorfindel, drawing strength
and completeness from each other.

He reached out with his hand, trailing his fingers across Glorfindel’s
face, and as they moved into a column of moonlight he saw, to his
amazement and delight , the fiery path of a shooting star reflected in
Glorfindel’s eyes. Did even Elbereth confer her blessing on them? How he
gloried as those cherished words, words which grew more lovely each time
they were spoken, fell freely and wholeheartedly from Glorfindel’s lips.
“I love you too, Erestor, /meleth/, more than anything.”

“/Míl uireb/,” Erestor whispered.

“/Míl uireb/,” Glorfindel agreed.

Then Erestor closed his eyes and drew, if it were possible, even nearer
to Glorfindel, letting his heart soar upon the tide of the only music
there would ever be for him. It was the only music that mattered - the
music of their souls. The music of their love.


THE END

Translations:

meleth - love
míl uireb – eternal love (‘love’ as in the /concept/)
penvain - fair/beautiful one

F/B welcome, good or bad, as long as it's constructive. This was my
first slash, btw...I think sorting the Grelvish was a good move, but
otherwise the text is unchanged.

(Extra!) Notes on the story:

1. I've taken plenty of liberties with Faelon, but I make no apologies
since he's a highly underused character. See this as a PR exercise ;)

2. To visit Faelon, go to: http://www.geocities.com/faelon_x/index.html

3. I think I've left the timeframe pretty open, but if you want a year,
I'd suggest maybe TA 2700. Sometime after Celebrían's upped and outed,
but before the Hobbit and LOTR.

4. Justin's actually Brett's *older* brother, but I've put Figwit and
Faelon the other way round. So there :-)

5.The author would just like to point out that any opinions expressed by
soggy, tired elves in this fic about any of the poetry contained within
do not in any way reflect the author's own views of aforementioned
poetry. There is a reason I am not Poet Laureate. That is it.

6. OK, so unless Asfaloth was as immortal as an elf, he's not likely to
exist at this time, but it's not uncommon for people to have a whole
series of animals, all with the same name. Why not?

Hmmm...that's all.
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