Consequences by Zhie
Summary: Haldir accidentally learns of a secret and the consequences of it must be dealt with. [495 Fourth Age; Autumn]
Categories: Stories of Arda > Bunniverse (PPB-AU) > Fourth Age Characters: Avisiel, Celeborn, Ecthelion, Elodien, Erestor, Galadriel, Galion, Glorfindel, Greyson, Haldir, Legolas, Orophin, Rumil, Thranduil
Awards: None
Challenge: None
Genre: Dramatic, Romantic
Special Collection: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 14 Completed: Yes Word count: 51936 Read: 121816 Published: September 08 2007 Updated: September 08 2007
Story Notes:
WARNING- Being written for November 2005 Novel Challenge thing. May contain tons of spoilers to previously written and unwritten parts of PPB Universe.

1. Breathe by Zhie

2. The Sacrifice by Zhie

3. The Truth by Zhie

4. The Chosen One by Zhie

5. Love and Hate by Zhie

6. Blessings by Zhie

7. On the Same Page by Zhie

8. Follow Me by Zhie

9. Winter Daze by Zhie

10. Secrets by Zhie

11. Impossible Again by Zhie

12. No Doubt by Zhie

13. Believe by Zhie

14. Someday by Zhie

Breathe by Zhie
“How long until we return home?” Haldir was sitting in the drawing room of the suite he and his spouses stayed in when they were in Oropher’s Palace in the heart of the ages old city. He had not even looked up from the book he had been reading to ask this question, a question both Legolas and Elodien had heard many a time in the past few weeks.

“Haldir, why do you not go home?” There was no menace in Legolas’ voice, only sincere concern. With a glass of wine in one hand, Legolas walked across the room, his deep green robes open loosely and dragging along the floor behind him. “I am sure Gimli would accompany you back home to the Kastle.” A strong hand came to rest upon Haldir’s shoulder, kneading away the tension there. “We will not be but a few more weeks.”

Relaxing as his muscles were massaged, Haldir rolled his head back and forth, hearing the crackling of his neck at the second pass. “If I leave, I will simply miss you both and end up traveling back.”

“Perhaps there is something else you can do to pass the time,” suggested Elodien. “Why not visit your grandparents?”

“I have, quite a few times.” The trio was in the city visiting their daughter, more accurately the daughter of Elodien and Legolas, and her husband, Gwindor. They had seen their son and daughter-in-law a few times, as well as their grandchildren. It was actually the main reason for their being here- Lasiavis sent word that she was expecting, and Elodien insisted upon being around for the last few months of her daughter’s pregnancy, and for a time after the baby was born. As the mark of one year drew nearer, Elodien spent more and more time with her daughter, while Legolas and Gwindor spent much time discussing things.

That left Haldir to his own devices, for Gimli was usually found in the company of Oropher or Thranduil or one of their wives or a combination of the four. It was argued that Haldir could speak to the only child of Aule in Valinor on his own time at home, but that when he was in Valimar, it was the king of the elves here that was given the chance first and foremost to talk with him. On a few of the days, Haldir had gone to the confectionary that was owned and operated by his grandparents, either to help his grandfather wrap the candies made by his grandmother or to sit in the workroom where all of the wonderful concoctions were made while his grandmother told him stories of Valimar as it had been long years before.

He had already explored the majority of the palace and gone to visit many friends he had here in the city. Early in their visit, he chanced to pass Orophin and Valarda while walking through the market, but they were busy as they always were and after only a brief conversation he found himself alone again. The only place he found that he truly enjoyed was the grand library that he had helped to build centuries ago, perhaps because on certain days of the week, Erestor would be there. Everyone said the farmer turned librarian turned farmer again was absolutely insane to ride all the way into the city early in the morning and all of the way back to his cottage again at night, but Haldir had a certain fondness for the old elf and though he agreed that the routine journeys seemed slightly absurd, he would never say so to his face.

Tomorrow would be one of those days, however, Haldir needed to busy himself that night. As was becoming usual, everyone was having supper with someone else, and no one was doing so with him. A meal was packed already and awaiting him in a sack on the table at the door; a horse was saddled and ready to go wherever Haldir pleased to take it. Allowing himself to lean into Legolas’ touch a little longer, Haldir finally stretched his arms, giving Legolas a chance to slip his hand away. “I will be going out; do not worry about waiting for me.” Each of them was hugged and kissed and said good-bye to before Haldir left the room.

Not wanting to wander aimlessly, Haldir tried to decide upon a destination as he walked down the numerous flights of steps to the ground level. There was his grandparent’s house of course, but he did not wish to overstay his welcome and had invited himself to a number of dinners already. Orophin had always said to stop anytime, but so often were he and Valarda out that Haldir did not consider this a serious option to begin with. There were a few inns that he could go to, but they tended to be too noisy for his liking.

A quiet place is what he wanted, a place to think. The best place he could think of for such a thing was one of the sanctuaries of the Valar. He had been to Orome’s wooded dwelling a few times and loved the peace and serenity he found there. As he mounted, he decided that he would go to the forest. Unexpectedly when he lead the horse to the exit, he coaxed her to go in another direction. Unsure of why or what was drawing him, Haldir meandered on his unseen path until he reached a different forest. Amazingly, he nearly thought himself to be in Lothlorien again until he realized he was in Lorien- in the Lord Irmo’s dream flower.

There were so many similarities to the home he once knew. The great trees, suitable for climbing and living in, were the most beautiful mellyrn he had ever seen. Covering the ground was a lush carpet of green with a multitude of colorful flowers springing up around the trunk of each tree. Birds sang to the visitor, and what surprised Haldir the most was the total lack of anyone else. Unless they were so far into the woods that he could not see them, Haldir was certain he was the only occupant of the woods.

Dismounting, Haldir continued to lead his mount through the trees. Some unseen force pulled him further into the forest, deeper into the heart of the dream realm until he came to a garden so much like the one his mother kept in Lothlorien. There was one extremely different feature. Instead of the mirror that stood as the focal point of the garden Galadriel had, there was a crystal clear pool fed by a waterfall. The origin of the waterfall was unknown; the water was rushing down from a mountain concealed in mist. The water of the pond itself did not gush over the area that contained it. Merely a ripple flowed across the surface from where the falls filled the pond which did not grow. The entire setup was inconceivable, and so naturally Haldir had to go forward to get a better look.

The pond, he found out when he reached the edge of it, was less natural than it first appeared. It was more of a pool, finely crafted with stones to keep the water from draining or seeping into the ground. He still could not understand the waterfall.

Beside the structure was a carved stone embedded into the ground with flowers of all colors growing around and over it. Crouching down, he read the finely printed text that was etched into the stone:

Break my calm
My reverie
Come inside
Dance with me

“That makes no sense.” Haldir took a look around, making sure no one else was there. He ventured his hand closer to the water. Experimentally, he touched the surface, and the water sang. His hand shot back to his side and he remained motionless as the water ceased and regained the smooth, glassy surface.

Again he checked for anyone to be around, but there was no one that he could see or hear. For the second time he touched the surface of the water, and now dipped his finger in. The singing he could hear once more as a sheen of color rippled over the surface from where he broke the water. Not one color, not many colors, just... color. Unexplainable otherwise, except that it was there, changing the water from crystal to something more beautiful than that.

He removed his hand again, scrutinizing the pool. “Break my calm,” he repeated to himself. He tapped at the surface of the water again, and he could tell the singing was meant to lure him- or whomever came here- into the water. “Come inside, dance with me.”

Dance with me

Haldir jumped back as the water echoed his voice. At least, he had to assume it was the water. There was no one else around that he could perceive. The surface sparkled at him like a wink of the water, and he stuck his hand in again, but this time all the way to his elbow. Something tugged on his hand, but nothing was there. When he removed his hand, he realized for the first time that he was not getting wet. His entire arm was dry.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked, feeling a little silly for asking a pond a question.

Come inside dance with me

Deciding that since he was not getting wet at all, there was no reason to remove his clothing. He did take off his boots, for they had become caked with mud on his journey. Holding onto the edge of the pond the best he could, Haldir cautiously stepped into the water, finding that the slope inside was slippery and he could not manage a foothold. He could feel the water, feel that it was wet, but when he tested and raised his knee out a little, the fabric of his pants was dry.

Come inside

“I am inside,” replied Haldir, slightly annoyed. The singing he not only heard, but felt now that he was in the water. Color swirled around him on the surface.

A tug on his foot made him look down, but again there was nothing there.

Trust me come inside

This was the first time the words that were sung were not the same as those posted by the pool. Haldir looked around the area again. He felt safe, if nothing else. He felt no menace from this place, and what’s more he was in Valinor. Nothing could happen here. Here, he was safe.

Letting go of the edge, he swam out a little ways until he was at the center of the pond, and then treaded water. For a time, there was nothing except the singing and the color and the peacefulness of the broken calm of the garden. Then, there was a sharp downward tug on Haldir, as if someone had gotten a hold of both ankles and pulled straight down. Unable to fight it, Haldir was yanked beneath the surface into the abyss, soon losing the light from above the water and plunging into darkness. He panicked and fought to be released. Wanting to cry out, he twisted and turned away, still being forced further down. His struggling waned as he continued to hold his breath, determined to free himself.

Breathe

No, no, no, no, no! screamed his mind. He continued to fight, but he was tiring and lightheaded.

Breathe

Of all the ways he had considered he might have died if it ever came to it, he never expected drowning to be one of them. He wasn’t the best swimmer, but he could keep his head above water even in a storm. Once he had even managed to rescue his sister from the Nimrodel’s swift current. But his muscles relaxed and against his will, he gulped in water that should have been air.

Breathe

There was confusion at first, but after the first few shakey breaths, Haldir regained a little of his composure. He was breathing, in a sort of liquidy way. It was thicker than air by far, but it sustained him. How he was able to he knew not, but he thanked the Valar and Eru and anyone else that was listening that he could.

You are welcome

“What are you?” he asked, his voice rippling through the water. He was no longer restrained, finding he did not sink nor float. He was simply there, in the water, in the darkness.

I do not know that

At first he thought perhaps his question was misunderstood, but then he felt the sincerity of this thing, this creature, this whatever-it-was, as his mind kept referring to it. “How can you not know what you are?”

What are you

“I am one of the Eldar.”

That is what others call you but what are you

“I am...” Haldir paused. “I am an elf. I am one of the firstborn.”

That is a name a title but what are you

“I...” Shaking his head, he grasped for what was being asked of him, and came up empty. “I do not know.”

Laughter surrounded him, but the friendly sort of laughter that usually means ‘I understand’. Haldir smiled. “Do you know anything of who you are?”

I know who I am thank you

Ah, that was it. This was not a thing, this was a being. A who, not a what. “I am Haldir.”

I know who you are

Feeling a little silly now, Haldir rephrased his original question. “Who are you and what do you do?”

I am that is what they tell me

“What?”

I am

That is what they tell me

“Who tells you this?” questioned Haldir.

The ones who built my home so that I would not be lost the one who talks to me the most calls me what in your speaking is Nenolor

“Dreamwater,” repeated Haldir. “Nenolor, what is it that you do here?”

I do not do I exist I am time I am thought I am memory and history I am

“Fuck.”

Excuse me I do not understand your word

“Ah...” Haldir thought quickly for something else to say. “If you are all of that why is this place deserted? Why are there not others, uh, breaking your calm?”

I am what they see what they see me as what am I to you

“Uhm. Well, water. I thought.”

How interesting as I said I exist but that is all you project what you see me as and you see what I am as water

“I... do?”

Again, the laughter. Not ‘I understand’, but an ‘I like you, we should be friends’ sort of thing.

Most see nothing some see fire some see water some see mist it all depends

For a little while Haldir let the music soothe him as he sorted through everything that he had been told. “I am trying to understand what you say when you say you are memory. Do you keep memories?”

Yes

“All memories?”

Yes

“Even the ones that we get rid of?”

Laughter.

You get rid of all of your memories but when you want them they are here you need to think about the right one so that I know which one you need

“Damn. I never remember this from any of Master Erestor’s history lessons,” muttered Haldir.

Erestor

“You know him? Wait, of course you do, you likely know everyone,” Haldir reasoned.

I know him he named me

Curiosity rose to the surface. “He is the one who speaks to you. The one who named you Nenolor, you said he talks to you. Why does he speak to you?”

Why do you speak to me

“You pulled me in. I can not leave.”

I did not you came in on your own

“Fine. Sorry. I am sorry, I did not mean it like that.” The music had slowed, Haldir could feel Nenolor’s sadness. “My apologies to you.”

I accept them

“Tell me about Erestor. What does he say when he is here?” Haldir asked.

He confides in me what he can not tell others and watches many things and weeps

Haldir let out a watery, warbled sigh. He had always felt very close to Erestor, and knew the old elf had a certain fondness for him as well. If something was plaguing his friend, he wished he could do something to help him. “For what does he grieve?”

That he can not call his child his son

“Erestor has a son... you mean Gwindor?” asked Haldir. Gwindor, an elf reborn, had been deposited on the doorstep of Erestor and Glorfindel’s cottage as an infant. The pair had lovingly raised the child as there own, nurturing him despite the disability that so many other elves saw as such a weakness. Gwindor could not properly walk. Tortured by the wrath of Morgoth in his first life, he still bore the scars and those of his brother as well in his second incarnation. He was living happily now, married to his beloved Finduilas- the very same elleth that was called Lasiavis in her second life, daughter of Legolas and Elodien.

No the son of his soul

“Erestor has a son... has he told no one but you of this?” Haldir questioned.

Anglorel knows

“Anglorel... Anglorel...” Elves had many names each; one from their mother and one from their father and usually a few others aside from that. Arwen, for example, had been so named by her father, but from her mother came the name Undomiel. He wondered... “Anglorel the slayer of the balrog?”

Balrog

“Ah, the valarauki.”

Yes

So Glorfindel knew. That made sense that Erestor would have told his lover that he had a son. It baffled Haldir, though. How and when and where and who? He began to feel uncomfortable- it seemed something Erestor did not wish known, but on the other hand if it so upset the Elda, Haldir knew he would do whatever he could to make him feel better. “If you are all memories and history, can you show me who his son is?”

No he has not told me that he does not say his name

It would be searching for a needle in a haystack, thought Haldir. That was, until he heard the singing again.

I can show you what he has said
The Sacrifice by Zhie
“If you keep biting your nails, you will cause your fingers to bleed.” Glorfindel set a bowl of soup down on the table. “Before you give me any fuss over food being here in the library,” interrupted the blond elf before Erestor could begin, “it would not need to be here if you would start coming to dinner. And lunch. And breakfast.” In a lower voice, he said, “You told me it was nothing when you did not show up the night of the banquet, nothing was worrying you, but now, you sit here and worry. The ring is out of Sauron’s hands, peace has come to us, and you sit. And worry. And you have not eaten a thing as far as I can tell. So now, I worry about you.”

“Do not. I am fine.” Erestor had hidden himself a back corner of the library, if one could call it that. In Lothlorien, there were six libraries, each for a different discipline. This happened to be the tree that housed the horticultural, botanical, and agricultural collection. On a table in the back, piles of books surrounded the scholar, blocking him from view of anyone not knowing he was there. The librarians, after the first day of trying to be friendly, had simply left him to himself.

Glorfindel shoved two piles aside so that Erestor was not blocked from the view of whomever might dare sit at the other end of the table and sat down. “Fine, my ass, you are. Elrond has been trying to find you, as has Galadriel.” When Glorfindel noticed Erestor sink down further in his chair, he said, “What is with you?” Leaning across the table, he asked, “Did something happen between you and Galadriel?”

Erestor rested his face in his hands, rubbing his eyes. One of the librarians passed by, tsking at the steaming bowl that was on the table, but she said nothing and continued on her way. Bowing his head down further, he leaned his forhead against his palms with his elbows on the table. Staring at the wooden surface, he let out a long sigh that spoke volumes.

“Oh.” Glorfindel bit his lip. “Well.” Taking one of the books from the stack, he opened it and idly paged through. “If you want, I can tell them I could not find you.”

“What does... she... want?”

“Something about staying here and teaching her children. Her daughter was never formally schooled and her son is just at the right age…to...Erestor?” Glorfindel’s voice changed to one of concern when he noticed the tears falling from Erestor’s eyes onto the table. Looking around hastily to find the exit, Glorfindel stood up and then pulled Erestor up from his chair, discretely handing him a handkerchief. As he escorted him from the library, one of the pages took note and wandered over with a worried look. “Onion soup, silly me, it makes him tear up,” Glorfindel said, waving away the page as they made their escape.

Once at the base of the tree, Glorfindel whistled, and Asfaloth trotted over near immediately. The horse nudged his muzzle against Erestor’s shoulder, and the dark elf mounted, blowing his nose once he was on the saddle as Glorfindel leaped up onto the horse behind him. From there they rode to the river, finding a spot that Glorfindel deemed free of the stealthy wardens that patrolled the forest. “My friend, what is wrong?” he asked once they had dismounted.

At the shore, Erestor was staring down into the clear water, into the eyes of his reflection. “Do you recall what I told you so many years ago in Gondolin? What I told you not to reveal to anyone?” Glorfindel nodded beside him. “Glorfindel, I do not know how it is possible, but that child...” Erestor shook his head. “It was not to happen this way. This is not what I meant to pray for.”

The many years they had spent together had somehow allowed them to understand what the other meant even if others would not have. Placing a hand upon Erestor’s shoulder, Glorfindel asked, “Are you saying, you think the boy is your son?”

Swallowing numerous times and dabbing at his eyes with the cloth, Erestor finally nodded. He wrapped his arms around himself, shivering a little. “It was not supposed to be this way.”

“But Erestor, he is only a few years old. I assume now that she is the one you had relations with in Valinor long ago. How could-“

“Do you recall when Elrond sent me back to deliver the message to here that their king had fallen?” Erestor looked over to see Glorfindel shaking his head. “When Amdir died, someone had to come to tell Celeborn the news, that Amroth was now king. I spent a few weeks here gathering supplies with the party that traveled with me before we came back. It was in the fall. I was told he was found, in the fall, the following year, beneath a tree. I know, it sounds ridiculous,” said Erestor, seemingly chastising himself. “I have no other solution to it.”

“Is that why you do not wish to speak to her?” asked Glorfindel. Erestor nodded. “But... you are going to tell her about this, are you not?” Erestor shook his head. “Erestor, why not? Erestor, if he is your son- Erestor, you have always said you wanted children!” Glorfindel was trying in vain to get Erestor to look at him, for the dark elf was now traveling down the waterline with his back to the blond. “Erestor, you have to tell her. He should know who is father is.”

“His father is a good elf, a lord, a noble, a husband, a- yes, Glorfindel, yes.” Erestor waited for Glorfindel to stop shaking his head with disproval. “Glorfindel.” Now it was Erestor who was turned from. A sigh, and he marched to the blond, circling around him. “Glorfindel,” he said, taking hold of his cheeks and making his face him, “I will not ruin what he has. It should be this way. This is what is best for him.”

“But is it the best for you?” Glorfindel removed Erestor’s hands from his face, but did not release them. “Erestor, I know you. I know you better than you know yourself sometimes.” This comment made Erestor smile, just a little, for it was probably true. “Erestor, you must tell them.”

“No.”

“Then I will.”

“No!” In a panic, Erestor gripped Glorfindel’s hands tighter. “Fin, please. Do not do this. Fin... Fin, I did not mean for this to happen. I meant for them to have a child, to be happy, to have a family. How will it be for him, hmm? To have a mother here and a father somewhere else, and to live with an ellon who thought himself his father- Fin, it would be such a mess. Did you see how happy they are? It has been so dark these recent years- let them have that happiness, Fin. Please. Please.”

“I will not tell them.” Glorfindel will nearly knocked backwards from Erestor’s embrace. “And Erestor, I am here for you, for whatever support you need. It seems to wrong, though, Erestor. To exchange their happiness for your own.”

Erestor stepped back, and he wiped the fresh tears from his face. “Sometimes... the best thing for a child is the worst thing for their parent.”

“You are a good father, to make this sacrifice for him.” Glorfindel motioned in the direction of Caras Galadhon. “If you stay here and tutor them, as Galadriel has requested, you could see him everyday.”

The look on Erestor’s face was hopeful, so hopeful. “No,” he said finally. “It would slip, I would say something. I cannot stay here.” Silence fell between them as Asfaloth trotted back. It was becoming dark and a chill wind blew through the trees. “Glorfindel?”

“Yes, Erestor?” The blond reached up to scratch behind his steed’s ears.

“Would you consider staying here, to teach?” Erestor was wringing his hands as he asked. “I would just hate if he were to have a poor education, and I know you would be a great teacher.”

Without hesitation, Glorfindel nodded. “For you, I would do anything within my power, my friend.”
The Truth by Zhie
When Erestor arrived at the Academic Library of Valimar, he already had a visitor awaiting him at his desk. “Haldir, what a truly wonderful surprise to find you here before me!” Setting a leather sack that likely contained the lunch that Glorfindel had packed for him and a book or two down on the back counter, Erestor made his way to the carved oak desk at which Haldir was sitting. “I was very much hoping I might see you today. Are you well? Glorfindel came with me this morn; perhaps the three of us might have lunch together.”

Haldir’s eyes followed Erestor around the room, but it was not until he declined to answer that Erestor really looked at him. “Haldir, what is the matter?” Erestor placed his hands flat on the desk, palms down. “You look pale, pen-neth. Is something wrong?”

“Break my calm.” Misty eyes darkened to steel, and the smile fell from Erestor’s face. “Why, Erestor? Why did you not tell me?”

Erestor held onto the desk for support. “What was I to say? What should I have told you?”

“The truth, Erestor.” Haldir’s eyes glossed over with unshed tears. “You could have told me the truth.”

“Haldir, pen-neth... ion, how could I? You must understand-“

“Good morning!” The cheerful voice of everyone’s favorite reborn elf rang through the library. Though anyone else would have been dutifully shushed, the slayer was instead greeted by many happy waves and even a few flirtatious smiles. In no time he had made it across the room to Erestor’s desk, where he slid his arm comfortably around his lover’s waist. “Good morning, cousin!” he said, addressing Haldir. “Has Erestor invited you yet to lunch? I am sure he has,” he added, giving the aforementioned elf an affectionate squeeze around his middle. It was then that he took note of Erestor’s shuddering and Haldir’s icy glare. “What is going on?” he demanded in a low voice. A few of the other scribes and librarians had begun to take note as well and were warily watching the situation.

“Haldir-“ began Erestor, but the younger elf slammed his fist down onto the desk before standing up. The chair skidded along the floor as he shoved it back, causing a few others to peep out from around the stacks of books and scrolls. Haldir stared one final time while Erestor gave him a pleading look, then left in a huff, pushing past a page as he exited.

Shifting his gaze from the door to the shaking elf beside him, Glorfindel maneuvered Erestor around to the other side of the desk and moved the chair closer so that the dark elf could sit on it. “Sweetheart, what happened?” Most of the other elves began to go back to their work, all looking rather bewildered but not about to get involved with whatever had just transpired. One of the newer librarians came around the circulation counter and approached with obvious concern.

“Master Erestor, whatever is the matter?” she asked. “One moment, you were so happy to see that ellon, and the next you looked out of your wits over it. Is there anything I can do?” she offered with deep sincerity.

Erestor, who had let his hands fall into his lap, stared down at them and shook his head. Glorfindel had crouched down so that he was eyelevel, and was stroking the mane of black hair soothingly. “Erestor, did he say something, love? What did he do?”

“Nothing,” mumbled Erestor, still looking down into his lap.

“Who was that?” questioned the young librarian, her eyes trained on the doorway lest the one who made their mentor so upset enter again. Erestor answered in a choked, inaudible voice. “Sorry, my lord, I did not hear you.”

“I said, that was my son.” As he repeated the words, he turned his head to look at the doorway, and sat and stared at it for some time.

- - -

For the next few hours, Haldir wandered about the streets of Old Valimar. He did not wish to see any of his close family or friends, or those he thought to be his family, so he chose the old pathways instead of the new ones that encircled and spread out from Oropher’s Palace, which was at the center of New Valimar. His grandparents, at least the pair he had thought of as his grandparents for so long, lived and worked in a building close to the heart of the newer parts of Valinor’s main city. They owned a confectionary, which his Grandmother operated, and his Grandfather was a carpenter for hire. Orophin was apprenticing with their Grandfather- and it struck Haldir suddenly, to think of how many things he had thought were true were actually lies that no one knew to be lies, except one very secretive pair of elves.

Celeborn, the ellon who had tucked him into bed, read him stories, taught him to fight and hunt, the ellon whom he had looked up to and run to when he felt the most lost, the one who praised him when he was good and scolded him when he was bad, was quite simply, not who Haldir had thought he was. And yet, the thought of anyone else being his father was completely alien to him. So much so, that upon trying to wrap his mind around the idea that Erestor- Erestor!- was related to him in any way, Haldir had the immense urge to kick something or hit something really very hard.

He wanted to confront his parents- again, it seemed odd to think ‘parents’ and try to replace the easy-going, relaxed, silver-haired ellon with the tall, shadowy one he had known as a teacher and friend. His intention had been to talk to Erestor, to find out first if what he was supposing from the memory he had seen was true, and second, to question him. Confusion had led to anger, and by the time Erestor had arrived, it was full blown fury. A day ago, he would have done anything to make Erestor feel better, to make him happier. Now, he wanted nothing more than to make the older elf feel just as terrible as he himself did.

A small pub at the end of the road caught his eye, and curiosity turned him toward it. The old stone structure looked to have been patched many times over and probably needed a new coat of paint. Over the door was a carving of a swooping eagle in lieu of a sign, and very faintly Haldir could hear the sounds of a harp from within. Pushing the door open, he found the inside to look more charming than the outside. It wasn’t much, but it was cozy and clean. There was a counter to sit at, and an array of mismatched tables if you preferred a place to sit with a group. In one corner, the customary minstrel sat and played, but did not sing. Discussions here were quiet, and many of the elves had their noses in a book or a sheaf of papers scattered upon the table which they sat.

Haldir took a place at the bar; no one had looked up to see him when he entered. Even the one tending the bar looked to be lost in thought, staring out a window in a dreamy fashion as he wiped the counter in a rhythmic movement. It took several minutes for him to notice Haldir, which he did with a look of surprise at first, and then gave him a warm and friendly smile as he hurried over. “Fine day to you. What is it you wish?”

With a shrug, Haldir said, “Something strong. Stronger than wine.”

“Drinking to forget?” asked the bartender as he pulled up a glass and set it upon the counter. “Or drinking to remember?”

“Why would one drink to remember?”

Lowering his voice, the bartender said, “Many of those around you drink to remember. You have stumbled upon, or perhaps you meant to be here but somehow I doubt that, the Brotherhood of Manwe.”

“The what?” questioned Haldir as a glass of strong smelling and probably potent liquor was poured for him.

“The Brotherhood of Manwe. Surely you’ve not heard of us or else your jaw would not hang so low.” The bartender plugged up the bottle he held with a cork and leaned upon the counter. “We are the dreamers of dreams, and the lovers of words. It is Manwe who delights most in poetry, and it is we who provide him with it.”

“I see.” Haldir looked around at those in the room, stooped over their work with dedication. There was a calm here, and calm was what Haldir needed. This calm to the scratching and scribbling of quill upon parchment, and the languid notes of the harper in the corner.

“Someone give me a word that rhymes with cloud!” shouted a particularly tattered old poet, looking as if he had perhaps foregone sleep for a few days and instead spent it here, sitting at his table. “And not shroud! I already used that one!”

It was astonishing to Haldir that the sudden outburst did not shock the rest of the room, and had not caused the harper to missed a note. One of the others began to recognize the shouter, scratching his chin as he tried to think of something to fit the description of what was needed. Haldir looked to the bartender, who was grinning at the way the shout had jarred Haldir. Clearing his throat, Haldir called to the poet, “What about, LOUD?”

“No, too complex. It will come to me!” The poet bowed his head and began to scribble once more.

Thinking perhaps everyone here was mad, Haldir considered leaving. The bartender extended his hand to him. “Mae govannen. I am Rumil, the Loremaster of Valinor.”

Haldir’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “You? You are- you are Rumil? The one who created language?”

“Well, just writing, but... yes, yes, that’s me,” Rumil replied. “A number of other things as well, like the ruler and addition, but everyone seems to like the whole writing concept the best.”

“This is just... this is just incredible!” Haldir was in awe, and had he not had such a trying night and upsetting morning, he may very well have counted this among one of his best days ever. “You know, I named my little brother after you.”

“Really? Incredible! How marvelous!” Rapping on the counter with his knuckles, Rumil announced, “Did everyone catch that? I have a little brother named for me. Well, not MY little brother, but HIS little brother. Fabulous, no?”

“So? I have a play named after me,” bragged the writer who had been scratching his chin.

Laughter came from the shouting elf. “Tis because you were the one who wrote it!”

“How incredible,” repeated Rumil, pouring a drink for himself. “A little brother, named for me. Me. The great Rumil. Stupendous.” Walking around the counter to the side that Haldir was on, he said, “Do you write, er, sorry, I did not catch your name.”

“Haldir,” he said. “Haldir Cel-“ Pausing, he pursed his lips together. He was at a loss now, whether he should add ‘Celebornion’ or ‘Erestorion’ after his name, so he changed the subject. “I do indeed write, but only a little now and then. I love poetry.”

~~~

“Oh, come now. Let me read it to you.”

“I hate poetry,” sighed Celeborn, and he turned his eyes towards Haldir, who was looming over him with a number of pages in his hand. “Why not put it to music? I do love a good song.”

“Because it isn’t a song,” countered Haldir, settling himself onto the sofa in the parlour of the First Homely House of Valinor. Built on the seashore, it was really to have been Elrond’s house, to be shared with his beloved Celebrian, and perhaps their sons, their sons spouses, and any grandchildren that may have come along. Instead, it had turned into a home for extended relations as well- the cottage that had been built for his mother-in-law was not one that Celeborn cared for, and so they moved into the First Homely House as well. Prior to that, Celebrian’s three brothers were all welcomed with open arms, as were the wives of Rumil and Orophin, as well as Rumil’s son, when they arrived. At any given time, there were usually about a dozen elves living in the house, give or take two to ten, and a pink flamingo who kept guard at the door and preferred to sit either upon Galadriel’s or Glorfindel’s lap.

Celeborn stabbed at the fire with a poker, and then repositioned the grating before he stood up again. “Ion-nin, I did not mean to upset you, but I really wish to relax. Why not read your poem to your mother?”

“She is sleeping. I dare not wake her.” Haldir had not heard the soft footfalls of the dark haired elf who walked into the room and approached him from behind the couch, but he did see Erestor’s reflection in one of the mirrors.

“I would listen to your poem, pen-neth, if you would not mind the critique of an old elf such as I.”

Haldir turned around and looked up into the gentle, hopeful eyes of his brother-in-law’s ex-advisor. “You would not mind?”

“I love poetry,” Erestor reminded him as they left the room to sit on the porch and recite lyrical lines of colorful, descriptive, emotional poems to one another.

~~~

Haldir was jolted from his temporary reverie by the hand that was waved in front of his eyes. “Sorry, I think we lost you for a moment.”

“My apologies.” Haldir blushed slightly. “I was... lost in a memory.”

“Oh, excellent. You will fit right in here,” said Rumil, leading him into the midst of the members of the brotherhood.

- - -

Haldir was attacked from both sides before the door even closed behind him.

“We have been worried sick over you!” Elodien was clinging to his left side, while Legolas had taken the right and had his arms around both Haldir and their wife. “When you did not return, I thought perhaps you had fallen asleep somewhere, perhaps in one of the studies or in the museum. At breakfast, the maids told us you were no where to be found! We went looking all over for you! Your mind was closed to us, so we could not-“

“You must be exhausted,” interrupted Legolas, patting Elodien on the back to calm her. Stepping back only just a little, he touched the darkness beneath one of Haldir’s eyes. “You did not sleep last night. Something troubles you.”

One of the last things Haldir wanted to do at the moment was talk about what had transpired since he had left, but more than that he did not wish to lie to either of them. When asked by Elodien, “Where have you been?” he answered truthfully:

“I saw my father today. Then I spent a little time... with some poets.”

Legolas raised his eyebrows, unseen by Haldir, in Elodien’s direction. There was a heavy scent of spirits on Haldir’s breath, and he had been gone for an entire day and the previous night. Something was quite obviously wrong, but there was no reason to bring it up if Haldir would not himself. In time he would. Still, times like these always concerned Legolas. Being the eldest of the three he was prone to what his father, Thranduil, liked to call ‘First Age Elf Syndrome’, the need to know everything all of the time and to keep everything in perfect working order. Flaws were inescapable, especially when one was married to second and fourth agers, so Legolas simply bolted the door and awaited for Haldir to make the next move.

“Are you hungry?” asked Elodien.

Slowly, Haldir turned to look at her and nodded, his arms weaving their way around her back.

“I shall have something sent up for you, then,” she said, but Haldir shook his head and did not loosen his hold on her. He leaned forward, kissing lightly upon her lips, then again, and deeper. He slid his tongue into her mouth, bringing forth a muffled moan.

Letting his hand drop from Haldir’s back, Legolas walked across the room to shut the curtains. He looked forward to the show his two lovers would put on for him, but he was a greedy sort of elf and did not take kindly to others watching as well. As he began to dim the lights by blowing out a few candles, he heard his name called out by a deep voice. Turning around, he caught the look in Haldir’s eyes and lowered his head just slightly as he walked back, giving them both the most seductive look he could muster. By the time he had reached them, Haldir was already concentrating on the elleth once again.

“Is this what you want, my lord?” Legolas smiled when he heard Haldir groan into Elodien’s mouth. He pressed against his silver-haired lover, a hand wandering between the pair to tease them both, but mostly, to caress Haldir. “What is it that you want? Do you wish for me to take you, right here, on the floor? Or shall we go to the bedroom? You can have our darling little princess, and I shall have you. Is that what you desire?” he whispered. “Spill within her, and I shall come inside of you?”

Come inside... dance with me...

Break my calm... my reverie...

With a start, Haldir yanked himself away from Elodien, forcing Legolas to stumble back. By the time the other two regained their bearings, Haldir was backed up against the door with his arms encircling himself, hugged around his chest. He looked angry, and disgusted, and sad, and so very, very alone.

“Love, what is wrong? What have I said?” Legolas tried to approach him, but Haldir pushed himself further back against the door. “Haldir, tell us what is going on. Tell us what we can do to help you. Please, Haldir.”

The inner turmoil was evident: Haldir was trying so hard to keep his stoic, solid appearance, but the mix of emotions marred his features. The battle within raged for a little while as Haldir left the safety of the door and he began to pace, from the middle of the room to the windows and back again, stopping sometimes to look at one or the other or both of his spouses before beginning again. The chimes of the grand clock that Oropher kept at the bottom of the great spiraling staircase leading to the family rooms of his palace startled Haldir as he stood at the window.

No one could hear the sounds of the battle, but within Haldir’s head the same words echoed over and over like a curse placed upon him. The chiming stopped now, and the anticipation lingered before the gong of the clock struck.

Break my calm...

-BONG-

My reverie...

-BONG-

Come inside...

-BONG-

Dance with me...

-BONG-

Break my calm...

-BONG-

My reverie...


On the eighth stroke of midnight, Haldir fell to his knees at the window, collapsing into sobs. Elodien slid to his side and gathered him up as any mother would; Legolas took his steps with caution, listening to everything and anything for a clue of what was going on. He joined them on the floor for a short while, soothing Haldir along with Elodien when it was evident that Haldir was too upset to give him more than the single name he had managed to utter in the midst of his whimpers and sobs.

It was nearly one in the morning by the time Legolas managed to carry Haldir into the bedroom. He and Elodien undressed him as he began to doze off into a restless sleep.

“Take care of him. I will return as soon as I am able.” Legolas pressed his lips to the soft tufts of hair to kiss Elodien’s forehead before giving her a hug and then leaving the room.

His steps took him immediately to the Elm Room. Unlike the First Homely House, where anyone and everyone entered whichever parlor they chose, those in the palace either came to the Elm Room for a drink, a smoke, and a game of cards away from their wife, or to the Mellyrn Room for a glass of wine, a bit of gossip, and a bit of rest away from their husband. At half past one in the morning, it was not unlikely to find someone both older and wiser relaxing in the Elm Room. His hunch was not wrong, however, Legolas would much have preferred to have found his father or grandsire here. Still, it was worth a moment to see if either of the elves still up at this late an hour had any idea of what was going on with his husband.

“Good morn, Thaladir. Galion.” Legolas nodded in the direction of the pair, who had been having a drink and, as was suspected, were playing a few hands of cards. At any other time, Legolas might have been tempted to ask Thaladir just how proper it was for an elf to play cards at half past one in the morning, however, he had much more important matters on his mind than the seemliness of his father’s ex-seneschal’s actions.

Galion pointed to an empty chair. “Care to join us?” he offered, shuffling the deck.

Legolas shook his head, yet sat down anyway. “My mind is too ill to concentrate on games.”

“Something is ailing you?” questioned Thaladir.

“My husband is unwell, and that troubles me.” Legolas continued as Galion poured him a bowl of wine. “He was gone all day, and the past night as well. When he returned, he was agitated, but tried to have myself and Elodien disregard it. Then, something set him off, and he became wild, and scared, and then- he broke down when the clock chimed. I can not explain it. All I have to go on are his behavior and what few words I heard him say.”

“Go on.” Thaladir had long since put down his bowl and was now concentrated fully on Legolas, as was Galion. “Tell us what he said.”

“I could not make out everything, but he was troubled. The name I did hear was Erestor, and something about a secret he kept.” Legolas caught Thaladir’s flinch, but said nothing. “I fear he has discovered something troubling him greatly, something he believes he must keep a secret, but I do not know what it might... be...” Legolas trailed off as the sound of Galion’s snoring grew. The old butler had fallen asleep on his chair, his head, tilted back and his mouth open.

“Oh, for Eru’s sake,” mumbled Thaladir, and he nudged the other elf’s foot with his own. “Galion!”

“Hmm? What? Coming sire!” Galion jumped up, upsetting the table a bit and spilling some wine. “Is it morning already?”

“Galion, take rest. Your wife is probably lonely in your bed.” Thaladir waited until Galion had sleepily said his goodnights and left the room before Thaladir began to clean up the sloshed wine.

As Thaladir set down his bowl on the now cleaned table, Legolas said, “You know something that you do not wish to tell me.”

“I know something that I promised not to tell anyone,” answered Thaladir.

“Normally, I would not pry, but he was in quite a state.” Legolas gave Thaladir a pleading look. “Whatever it is, if it may have affected Haldir, surely you must tell me, Thaladir.”

Recalling a time long in the past, Thaladir finally acquiesced. “I will tell you, but only because it is so serious a matter. You must swear to me you will not tell anyone, save your wife. I will need to tell Erestor that I have told you what I am about to say.”

The clock in the hall chimed two.
The Chosen One by Zhie
After the first minute, it was obvious that the incesent knocking upon the door was not about to cease. Thaladir gave the door a withering look before regarding the other elf who was occupying the room. Prince Thranduil, who had been removing his boots after the long journey from Greenwood to Gondor, squeezed his eyes shut and nodded as the pounding increased in volume. Thaladir crept to the door, and then the seneschal of Greenwood yanked the door open, somewhat hoping that whomever had disturbed them in such an improper manner would promptly fall into the room, simply for the fact that they would hopefully never think to do such a thing again.

This, however, was not the case, for the occupant of the connecting suite had pulled a chair up to the door, and now lowered his hand as a grin formed across his face. “Good day to you! It appears we are to be neighbors for the duration of the conference!”

Thaladir narrowed his eyes at the cheeky blond ellon sitting in the doorway. ‘Not if I can help it’, was the thought that came to mind, however, what he said was, “How charming. Pleased to meet you...”

“Glorfindel, are you antagonizing the people next door?” Into the view that the pair from Greenwood had came a second elf on the other side, wearing a thick bathing robe and drying off his long, inky hair with a towel. “Thaladir! So very good to see you, my friend,” said Erestor as he took a look over Glorfindel into the adjoining rooms. “Thranduil? Is that you as well?”

“Aye,” came the tired voice from around the corner. Thranduil wearily stood up from the comfort of the bed he had claimed in the room, simply from the fact he was the first one into the room and this was the bed closer to the entryway. He had had a very simple plan for the evening: arrive, nap, shower, eat, sleep. Proper etiquette was now dictating otherwise. “Erestor, you look well. Who is your boisterous companion?”

“This is our new captain of the guard,” said Erestor, draping the towel around his shoulders and placing his hands upon the back of the chair that the blonde elf sat upon. “We served together in Gondolin. Perhaps you have heard me speak the name Glorfindel before.”

Thranduil took his first look at the elf so praised in story he was nearly a legend. “Ah, so this is your friend Glorfindel. Pardon my rudeness; I thought you to be deceased.”

“Only recently so,” admitted Glorfindel. “NOT planning on doing THAT again.”

“Very good. As I always say, a live elf is better than a dead one,” Thranduil said, holding out his hand and introducing himself. “Thranduil Oropherion, Prince of Greenwood the Great and Chief Advisor to his majesty, King Oropher, long live the king.”

“Yes, I agree,” confirmed Glorfindel as he clasped Thranduil’s arm in greeting. “Too many kings die much too young.”

As on so many occasions, Thaladir wanted to do nothing more than to correct the number of indecencies transpiring at this moment, the least of which was the fact that Thranduil did not ‘always say’ that live elves were better than dead ones, for who truly would say such a thing? Instead, he bowed slightly to this strange, cheerful elf and made his own introduction. “I am Thaladir, the General of His Royal Highness’ Grand Army.”

“Pleased to meet you,” said Glorfindel, and he stood and bowed back. “You must forgive me; I am still trying to remember customs and everything else. Things were done so differently in death.”

“Quite a lot of constant knocking on doors in the Halls of Mandos?” Thaladir raised on brow, but did not smile nor smirk.

“All the time,” answered Glorfindel without missing a beat. “Not a day went by that I did not begin my morning by pounding upon Namo’s door to see what he was having for breakfast.” So involved was Glorfindel in his mock conversation, he missed Erestor’s glare, and consequently, the movement to his side until Erestor had reached over, taken hold of his ear, and tweaked it. Instead of yelping or moving away, Glorfindel simply continued and attempted to retaliate. “Sometimes, I would get an entire group together, and we would all bang on his door until he let us in.” Settling for rubbing his pinched ear, Glorfindel asked, “I wonder if the two of you would care to join us for dinner downstairs.”

‘We have other plans,’ was what Thaladir really, truly wished to say, but instead he answered, “We would kindly accept your invitation, but are rather fatigued from the ride.”

“Allow me to have something brought up for us. We can dine here, discuss things other than political matters for a while. I shall return in a moment,” Glorfindel replaced the chair at the desk he had taken it from and then made his way to the hall- however, he entered into the rooms that had been assigned to the Greenwood party, missed the baffled and disturbed looks he was receiving from Thranduil and Thaladir, and then continued into the hallway. He also left the door wide open behind him.

“Erestor, I do believe your friend may have been born in a barn,” remarked Thranduil as he walked to the door, rubbing his temples with the tips of his fingers. “Well, he is certainly... different,” decided Thranduil.

“Your pardon, Erestor, but he seems a bit queer to me,” Thaladir said after the door had been closed.

Erestor, who was now leaning his back against the doorway between the rooms and combing his hair, smiled slightly. “You have no idea. Oh, and before I forget- he knows about me.”

“Does he really? I seemed to get that idea from the fact you are sharing the room.” Thranduil smirked at his own jest. “What is it he knows; the same secret we have kept these many years?”

Giving them a nod, Erestor tossed the comb in the direction of the bed on his side of the doorway and then started to braid his long, ebon hair. “I told him, back in Gondolin. Back in those days, he was not so...”

“Queer?” offered Thaladir.

“No, no, I think he was always like that,” said Erestor, and the response from Thaladir was a slightly more baffled look. “He is...” Erestor fought for the most delicate way of putting it.

Instead, Thranduil answered bluntly for him. “He likes males.”

Erestor blinked in confusion. “Hmm. I never recall mentioning that about him to you, Thranduil.”

“You did not need to,” said Thranduil. “Any ellon whose eyes linger in certain areas of others the way his did is not fighting on our side. So to speak.”

“Where were his eyes lingering?” Thaladir shifted uncomfortably.

“Not on you. No offense, but those robes are very unflattering to your form,” pointed out the prince.

“Good. I shall wear them the entire conference.”

“Oh, just change into something comfortable, Thaladir.” Though it was not really an order of any sort, Thranduil said it as if it could have been. “He glanced at us; his eyes lingered elsewhere.”

Leaning in the doorway with one long braid draped over his shoulder, Erestor said, “His eyes have ‘lingered elsewhere’ the entire journey; I do hope Gildor is here for these meetings. It would be nice for Glorfindel to have someone around who can linger back.”

Down the hallway, the sounds of knocking could be heard. A rather loud familiar knocking, which came just before a cheerful, “Good eve’n’, and my apologies for disturbing you. I seem to have lost my rooms!” or something of the sort.

None of the three made any attempt to open the doors until the loud knocking was heard on the other side. ‘Perhaps he will move on’, thought Thaladir to himself, but this hope was shattered when laughter rang out and the knocking continued.

“I know the three of you are in there! Now, it has been fun, but our dinner is getting cold. Please open the door for me?”

When the door was opened, Glorfindel bowed to Thaladir for obliging him and said, “I left it open to know which ones were ours, but the wind must have caught it and shut it. Yes, that wind, always doing such tricky things.” The golden elf placed the platter he was carrying on the middle of Thaladir’s bed, though he could not have known that was whose bed it was at the time. “Let me get the chairs from our room- or, we can have a picnic between our rooms on the floor,” mused the reborn elf as his eyes wandered about the room looking for another option.

“Allow me to help you,” offered Thranduil, walking past Erestor to aid Glorfindel in retrieving the chairs.

- - -

“I almost forgot,” said Glorfindel as the four elves finished their meal. “I asked the cook about dessert, but it was not finished. Then I convinced her to take a request,” he said with the ever-confident smile he wore so often. “She has peach cobbler waiting for us, with baked apples. I will not be gone but a few minutes,” he said as he excused himself, and as he left, he said, “Please, leave the door open this bit for me.” The door was left ajar, and he was gone.

When he was sure that Glorfindel was far enough down the hallway, Thranduil turned to Erestor and said, “I take back what I said earlier.”

“Oh?” Erestor sipped his wine.

“He does not linger his eyes upon you; he was leering all through supper.” Thranduil’s comment was met with a shrug. “There is also the matter of the half dozen compliments he paid upon your behalf.” When this received no verbal response, Thranduil finally stated, “Erestor, I do believe he is in love with you.”

“Nonsense. He is just very, very friendly,” countered Erestor.

Thranduil sighed. “Think what you like, say what you like, but I do not believe he has as great an interest in Gildor as you say he does.”

The room was silent until Glorfindel returned, carrying a tray of desserts and a bowl of freshly whipped cream. “Delightful little place, this Gondor,” he said as he set the tray down. “Shall we retire to the other rooms for drinks and dessert?”

“Splendid idea,” said Thaladir, thankful to get them away from eating on his bed. He made haste in helping to gather the plates and utensils so that they could be stacked on the large platter. Once it was placed in the hallway, they moved into the rooms assigned to Rivendell, which were nearly a mirror image of the ones the Greenwood delegation was using, except for the personal belongings that were scattered around.

Now the chairs needed to be brought on this side of the doorway, and they were not so comfortable after having spent the last hour in them. So Glorfindel sat on the floor leaning against Erestor’s bed, while the dark elf sat upon it with his back against the headboard. Thranduil and Thaladir took up residence on opposite ends of the couch that was provided in the room.

“So,” asked Thranduil, swirling around the wine in his glass as he leaned back to relax, “Erestor, do tell us- what is it like to be one of the Valar?”

- - -

“Stop.” Legolas was leaning his elbows on the table, rubbing his temples with the tips of his fingers much in the same fashion his father did. “Thaladir, surely you are not seriously telling me-“

“When I was first told of it, Legolas, I was in a state of shock. I could not believe what I was hearing,” said Thaladir.

“Neither can I,” admitted Legolas, looking exhausted and drained.

The clock in the hall chimed three.

And there was a knock on the main entrance door.
Love and Hate by Zhie
“It was a good idea for you to speak to Gwindor.” Glorfindel knocked on the door again, despite the early hour of their arrival. There was always someone awake at the palace to let friends, family, and visitors inside the great stone structure. “He seemed to take things rather well, finally finding out about your past.”

“I will have to tell Nenniach as well,” said Erestor, referring to the daughter he had adopted long ago in Imladris. She had long since grown up, was married to Rumil, and had a child of her own, however, Erestor still on occasion referred to her as his little girl.

Erestor was leaning against Glorfindel, unconsciously clinging to his arm for support. He straightened up as the lock of the door clicked and slowly opened away from them.

“Legolas, how good to see you. Our apologies for arriving at such a late hour-“ began Glorfindel, but to his surprise the door was slammed shut in their faces. “Oh, dear,” he mumbled, voicing the sentiment of both elves on the outside of the palace.

On the other side of the door, Legolas looked over his shoulder to the elf standing at the top of the stairway leaning his hands upon the railing. “Whatever did you do that for?”

“I... I do not know, Thaladir. I did not... mean to, it just... happened.” His eyes wandered to the ceiling, near the spot where the rooms he shared with his husband and wife would be. “I think he made me do it. I think he knows they are here.” With a look of worry, he added, “I need to go back up there.”

“I shall get the door.” Thaladir calmly made his way down the steps, passing Legolas on the way. The younger elf bolted up the stairway and disappeared around the corner of the upper level. When Thaladir pulled the door open, he found the pair on the other side sitting on a bench some feet away and in hushed discussion with one another. “My apologies. A place so old and drafty as this is prone to gusts of wind,” he explained as Glorfindel approached the palace door with Erestor walking solemnly behind him.

“Ah, yes, the wind,” replied Glorfindel. “I understand completely.” As they entered, the blond looked around and asked, “Where is Legolas?”

“He had to attend to Haldir; it seems he did not take the news all too well.” Thaladir motioned for them to follow him up the stairs, which they did. He led them into the Elm Room and poured bowls of wine for all three of them, leaving the table he had been occupying earlier to be taken care of by the butler. “I assume that is why you are here.”

Giving a nod as he shakily picked up the bowl, Erestor answered, “I was hoping I might speak with Haldir if he will see me.”

“Quite impossible at the moment.” The trio looked to the doorway, where Thranduil was now standing. “I was awoken by a knock upon the door, and when I emerged into the hallway barely caught the sight of my son entering his rooms. When I knocked upon the door to demand an explanation of just what was going on at this hour, I was told in no uncertain terms to go away.”

“He literally told you to go away?” asked Glorfindel as Thranduil joined the group at the table and took for himself the winebowl that Erestor had been shakily holding onto but not drinking from.

Thranduil took a long drink from the bowl and then said to Glorfindel, “I knocked upon the door, something was thrown at it. Something very heavy, and likely very expensive, which then crashed down to the floor and broke with an awful shatter. I can only hope that if it truly was something expensive,” he continued, “that it was also something very ugly that I will not mind seeing destroyed.”

“I doubt it was Legolas who threw it at the door, whatever it was.” Thaladir decided not to detail Legolas’ hasty retreat, but instead went right to the root of the matter at hand. “If anything, it was Haldir. Legolas was quite calm when I told him your secret, but he said that Haldir was terribly upset. I would not have said a thing, except that Legolas was most concerned about Haldir’s wellbeing and I assumed that if Haldir knew, Legolas was not far from finding out. He was shocked, but he took the news rather well. Better than I myself took it, I must say,” admitted Thaladir.

Erestor sat in stunned silence for a little while, mulling things over in his mind, turning over events again and again. He met Glorfindel’s worried gaze. Before today, no one, with the exception of Glorfindel, knew that Haldir was his son. “Thaladir, what did you tell him?”

“Only that your father is Orome, and that-“

“W-w-what?” Erestor’s face grew pale. “I never said- that is, I thought Haldir only knew about- and now Legolas- oh, no...” He placed a hand over his mouth and nose, and then the other as well, breathing rapidly and trying to calm himself. Glorfindel’s features were grim, and he rubbed his hand upon Erestor’s back. “I must speak to him. I must speak to Haldir.”

“I doubt he wants to speak to anyone, and I can understand that. To find out someone you are so close to is one of Eru’s chosen is a most unusual thing,” reasoned Thranduil. The entire time, Erestor was shaking his head.

“You do not understand,” said the dark elf, standing up abruptly. “I must speak with him!”

“Peace, Erestor, wait until the break of dawn at least.” Thranduil looked to Glorfindel with concern. “We shall break our fast together and the matter can be discussed then.”

“No, you do not understand,” repeated Erestor through clenched teeth. Thranduil narrowed his eyes and gave Erestor a stern look, but did not try to sway him again.

“Erestor, listen to Thranduil. Wait a while.” This advise came from Glorfindel, who stood and guided Erestor away from the door and back to the table. “Darling,” he said, his voice low and commanding as he whispered into Erestor’s ear, “whatever you wish to say to him can wait a few hours more. You are leaving a trail of confusion in your wake, and if you do not explain things to them,” he said, his head nodding in the direction of Thranduil and Thaladir, who both looked perplexed and more than a little ruffled, “then someone else will. You told me once yourself that you wished to be the one to tell Haldir if it ever came to him finding out. Well, you have missed your chance of that, but you can still tell them before someone else does. Would it not make you happier knowing that you told them yourself?”

All the while, Glorfindel’s words seemed to have a soothing effect on Erestor, who bowed his head and nodded in agreement before taking a seat at the table once again. “It is a long story,” he said apologetically, unable to look at those in the room. His eyes studied his hands as he began to speak the words he had often thought he would say to Haldir first.

- - -

In another part of the palace, Legolas was staring in disbelief at the broken shards of pottery that littered the area near the door leading out of the room. “Pity. I liked that vase,” he said, which was actually quite the contrary. In fact, Legolas was glad that Haldir had chosen the ugly, squat decorative piece instead of one of the etchings on the wall or one of the plates that were lined up over the doorway. ‘Probably a good thing he can not reach the plates,’ mused Legolas to himself as he cautiously strolled over to where Haldir was standing in the doorway to the bedroom. “I did not know it was him, or else I would not have opened the door,” said Legolas, touching Haldir’s shoulder.

Elodien sleepily came to where her mates were standing, and wrapped her arms around Haldir’s chest as she stood behind him. The bedsheet that had trailed after her slipped to the ground as she placed her cheek upon his back. “Come back to bed, love. Close the door and ignore them for now.”

Reaching down, Haldir unlaced Elodien’s fingers from one another and then turned to face her. Grabbing a fist full of dark locks, he forcefully kissed her while his other hand wandered down to her rear, squeezing and kneading the bare flesh. Lifting her up into his arms, he carried her back into the bedroom, and from the state of things as Legolas looked in, he had a feeling this was not the first time this evening Haldir had thrown Elodien onto the bed and straddled her.

The door was closed, and Legolas looked first to the plush chair in the corner. He often sat and watched, a trait inherited from his father, one his brother had as well. There was something about looking at beautiful things- such as, crystal clear, sparkling diamonds- that fascinated those of the Green Leaf clan. The sight of two lovers with limbs entangled, panting and gasping for breath, clinging to one another as they engaged in the most sensual of acts also fit into the category of beautiful things. The chair was left empty, for Legolas passed it by and went to the dresser, from which he pulled out a jar and placed the lid aside, still watching the pair, still staring as he came to the edge of the bed and stopped.

Was it wrong, what Legolas was about to do? Not really- the fact he knew that what he was going to do was going to cause Haldir to sleep deeply for the next few hours at least meant that he had obviously done this before, but not for this purpose. Legolas would perhaps have felt a little guilty about it, but he knew it was for Haldir’s own good that he rest soundly, and the only way to do that was to get his mind completely off of whatever was plaguing him.

Knealing down on the mattress, Legolas leaned one hand into the downy pillows as he bent his head and nuzzled Haldir’s neck, licking his jaw. Any objection would have been voiced now, but instead, Haldir lifted his head and nipped at Legolas’ lips, kissing him intensely before returning his attention to the elleth beneath him. Legolas repositioned himself and dipped the fingers of his left hand into the jar and swirled them around. He was sitting on the bed just to the side of the pair upon it.

The salve was thick and did not drip or run off of his fingers, but once he slid a single digit inside of Haldir, the paste liquefied. Legolas spent little time preparing him; the whole point was to wear Haldir out, and the only real way to do that was to take him with as little preparation as possible. Just enough not to hurt him, but not enough to make it so easy.

- - -

Immediately after explaining things- all things, EVERYthing, Thranduil directed Erestor to one of the guest rooms to rest. Breakfast would be served late, everyone in the palace who needed to be there would attend, and already Thranduil had it in his mind to speak with his own father about setting up some sort of meeting with everyone who needed to be informed. The most logical place would be the King’s Kastle, the combination pub, inn and dancehall which Thranduil owned and operated with the aid of Elrohir and his wife, Glorcheniel.

In the meantime, it was decided that all major parties involved truly needed some time away from one another, and so the rooms farthest from those that Legolas, Haldir and Elodien shared were selected for Glorfindel and Erestor. Once the door was shut, Glorfindel had escorted Erestor into the bedroom, where he took to undressing his lover and turning down the bed.

“Come. You need rest.” Glorfindel stood by the bed, watching Erestor, who stood by the window peering out at the vast grounds below. “Come here, Erestor, I do not think the gardeners need a full view of your naked body,” he half-scolded as he pulled the curtains closed and nudged Erestor to the bed.

“He hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you. He just needs a little time to absorb it all.” Glorfindel sighed as he pressed down on Erestor’s shoulders, forcing him to sit upon the bed, before lifting his dark lover’s legs onto the mattress, pushing his shoulder back to get him to lie down, and tucking the blanket around him. “When Orome came to you and told you he was your father, what was your reaction? How long did you take to accept it?”

Erestor did not answer as Glorfindel slid into bed on the other side. A single candle remained burning on the table beside the bed- a final secret shared between them and them alone. Instead of waiting for an answer, Glorfindel pulled his lover into his arms. There was only one surefire way to make sure Erestor would get some rest, and though perhaps it was not the most conventional way of going about things, it was the most effective. And, the most pleasurable. “Do you think these rooms are stocked with all of the... necessities of a bedroom?” asked Glorfindel as he whispered into Erestor’s ear, kissing the tip before rolling back to his side where the table was, and pulled the drawer open.

Indeed, someone, whether it be the maid, the butler, or Oropher himself, had seen to it that an array of small vials of oil as well as a stack of soft cloths to clean things up later were stocked in the room. Pulling out the nearest of the vials, Glorfindel pulled off the top and sniffed it experimentally. He smiled as the musky scent sent a zap of raw energy down to his groin and caused him to twitch. Glorfindel looked beside him, where Erestor was now on his stomach. His hair inky flowed across the pillow and his head rested in his smooth, milky arms, one dark eye watching Glorfindel intently. “I suppose you expect me to let you have your way with me,” he said, rolling the vial between his fingers to warm the oil within. Erestor gave a shrug of one shoulder, his hair shifting slightly and catching the glimmer of the candlelight.

Half of the oil was spilled into Glorfindel’s palm, and he carefully set the rest aside before rubbing his hands together. He ran his hands up Erestor’s back, gripping his shoulders and kneading them while he moved to straddle his body. Erestor moaned into the pillow as the tension was relieved from his muscles. Eyelids drooping, he further relaxed, making it quite easy for Glorfindel to prepare him with the remainder of the oil, and to penetrate him as well. “Oh, valar, you feel so good,” murmured Glorfindel, before chuckling at his own words. “I can call you that now,” he whispered into Erestor’s hair, pressing forward until he was sheathed fully within his lover’s body. “My beautiful Vala. Oh, you feel so, so good...”

As for Erestor, he was groaning, purring, and clawing at the pillow, just as he so often did. The sounds he made further fueled Glorfindel’s passion, and the blond slid slowly out of the tight grip of his dark lover’s body, only to enter him again and repeat his actions over and over as Erestor’s cries became louder.

- - -

Of the three, Haldir had always been the noisiest. Not that Legolas and Elodien did not make their share of needful groans and growls, but Haldir’s were consistent, and louder by far, with an almost animalistic quality. As soon as Legolas had readied Haldir for him, Haldir removed himself from Elodien and looked over his shoulder for Legolas’ instructions. The regal elf of Mirkwood was knelt with his legs open, his arms behind him at either side with the fingers of his hands splayed out to keep his balance. Proud and erect, his member glistened with the lotion that ran down his length to the base. Haldir raised himself up on his knees, then slowly and carefully backed up with Elodien’s guidance until he was positioned above Legolas before lowering himself down, letting out a long, shuddering moan the until he was seated snuggly on Legolas’ lap.

Brushing the stray tangles of hair from her face, Elodien knelt facing the joined pair. Inching up to them, she stroked Haldir a few times before easing herself onto him. She was the only one who moved of the three, holding onto Haldir’s shoulders as she raised herself on and off of his erection, while Legolas simply enjoyed the sensations that he felt as Haldir clenched his muscles and groaned.

- - -

First, he looked down the passage that led to the east wing. Then, he looked down the passage that led to the west wing. His head turned back to the east, then over again to the west. East, and now west. Back again to the east, and now, to the west. Thranduil raised his fingers to his temples and rubbed them as another burst of sound came from the west wing, followed by some sort of grunting from the east side of the hall. Thranduil rubbed his head a little harder, and closed his eyes, willing the sounds to go away.

“Darling, there you are. I was worried when you did not return. I-“ Avisiel halted as a long, loud, cry of passion came from down the first corridor. “Oh, my word!”

A second outcry followed, but the sound came from the other end of the hallway, and afterwards, silence.

Avisiel stood three steps behind her husband, who was now rubbing his eyes. Her mouth was hanging open as she ever so slowly followed with her eyes the path from which an enormously sated and thankful sigh came from. “We... seem to have guests...” she remarked in a fairly dumbstruck voice.

“We need to do something about the acoustics in this part of the palace,” said Thranduil. He turned around and regarded his wife, who had come from their rooms on the ground floor wearing naught but her thin white night robe.

Avisiel’s eyes trailed up her husband’s body, and she licked her lips when they reached his toned, muscled chest, left bare for his thigh length robe that he wore with his sleeping pants had been left untied. Her gaze met his, and the pair stood on the steps regarding one another in the dim hallway. The great clock below chimed the hour of five.

“Dawn will break in two hours. Breakfast is in four. We should be in bed,” said Thranduil.

“Aye, we should,” agreed Avisiel. A nymphish smile appeared upon her lips, but her husband did not return it with a signal of his own. Instead he said, “It is late.”

With a sigh, the elleth turned her back to him and leaned her head to one side in a somewhat demure and passive fashion. Desire was in her eyes as she flashed them back at him and rolled her shoulders back. Unseen to him, she had loosened the belt of her robe, and her neck and shoulders were now bare to him, teasing him as she sashayed down the steps slowly, pausing midway down the stairway.

Thranduil opened his mouth to speak, but found his mouth dry. Damn her and bless her, she always got her way, crazy wonderful elleth that she was. Still, he shook his head in defiance. No, absolutely not, he had put his foot down on the matter. However, one key part of his anatomy was springing up with a resounding yes, and she smiled charmingly at him as she padded down a few more stairs, allowing her robe to dip down her back until the fabric swooped over her buttocks but revealed the back of her upper body.

Breathing in deeply, Thranduil leaned against the post of the banister, trying very hard to look uninterested. His roving eyes told her otherwise as she moved to the bottom of the stairway. With movements so graceful and smooth as silk, the robe fell to a pool around her feet. Swift steps took Thranduil to the bottom landing in just a few heartbeats.

In a truly chivalrous way, Thranduil stopped behind Avisiel, bent down while averting his eyes to the side, and lifted her robe up from the floor by the collar. He stood again, holding it stead for her as she threaded her arms back through with a polite smile. His movements became much more familiar as he settled his hands on her back where the belt looped around, and slid them around until his hands were comfortably upon her hips. “Only you, my dearest,” he said to her, and took her back to their rooms for a thorough ravishing.

- - -

On the eastern side of the palace, Legolas was quietly telling Elodien what he had been told as Haldir slept, completely exhausted from their lovemaking. “I would not think it would have affected him so badly, though I admit it is a shock,” said Elodien. “Perhaps he will be better come morning.”

“I am hopeful of it,” said Legolas. He was on the soft, comfortable chair now, with Elodien in his lap. Together they watched the slumbering form of their husband, looking rather peaceful. “So strange, is it not?” questioned Legolas.

“Hmm?” Elodien shifted to lean her head upon Legolas’ shoulder and yawned. “What is so strange? About Erestor?”

“No, though that is something else entirely. I meant Haldir, the way he takes his rest. So strange that he closes his eyes,” observed Legolas. “I know he says he does it because he likes to dream, but I think he just likes to close his eyes and take sleep instead of reverie.”

“He is the only elf I know who does such a thing,” said Elodien.

- - -

Across the way, on the western side, Glorfindel spoke to his lover as he rested. “Do not worry. Everything will turn out fine. I know you fear that he has rejected you, but he just needs time. Just a little time.”

Erestor shifted in Glorfindel’s arms, and the blond snuggled nearer to him. “Sleep now, love. Morning comes too soon.” He kissed Erestor on the nose, and upon the lips, and then each of the closed eyelids before nestling into the pillow himself to rest. As he drifted into reverie, he did so with a smile, thinking of how adorable it was that Erestor always slept with his eyes closed.
Blessings by Zhie
“How long have you been trying?” asked Erestor. “If you do not mind my asking, that is.”

The smile he was given was warm and inviting. “I do not mind at all.” Galadriel gave his arm a reassuring squeeze. It had been a long time since the two of them had been able to walk together like this, arm in arm, lazily navigating the secret gardens of Lothlorien. They had last seen one another in Doriath, for when Galadriel arrived- called Artanis then- the pain Erestor felt at their previous parting was too great for him to be near her, and so he fled to Gondolin. An age had passed in that time, and with the uncertainties of the war, they found themselves willing to rekindle the familiarity that they had once shared in a much lesser way. A fragile friendship, with many cracks which would break them apart on a number of occasions in the future.

Showing him to a bench that was growing over with flowers, the pair sat down together. “Since Celebrian was a little girl, I thought it would be a delight to have one of each- a daughter and a son.”

“What does Celeborn say to that?” There it was, one of those cracks. An open wound, flushed with salt. Erestor’s voice was neutral, but they both knew what he was really thinking.

Why him, when it ought to have been me?

“You know how he is. He pampers me; tolerates my every whim.” Another crack, another chip away at what little there was left of their relationship. Erestor glanced down at the ring upon her finger- not the golden band, but the one of brilliant silver with a crystal jewel to outshine the stars.

“Evidently so,” he said, but again his words were easily interpreted.

You were a fool to take it; he was a fool to let you. If it had been my choice, I would have stopped you from making such a mistake.

Despite the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’, past the dislike and occasional loathing, one thing did remain, perhaps stronger than ever. And that was Erestor’s love for her, no matter how badly she had hurt him and how badly she might in years to come. Regardless of her own selfishness and her attitude of superiority towards him at times, he loved her.

“It must be hard for you with the war going on,” said Erestor. Galadriel said nothing, but her eyes became sad and she nodded. Lothlorien was not very big, and the news of the loss of their King at such a desperate time was a tragedy the Galadhrim could not easily bear. Their army was so few when standing beside even the troops from Greenwood, but so many when compared to their own numbers. Galadriel had not been pleased with the idea of the war and had been even less enthusiastic to learn that a great number of the soldiers would be leaving to fight the war. Where other places, such as Imladris, had sent as many as they could manage without risking the defense of their realm, others, Lorien included, had sent more than they could afford to. With such weakened defenses, they would need to rely on the generosity of Greenwood in the case of an attack.

Galadriel had initially considered going to war herself. She was experienced with the sword and bow, and her strength was not to be overlooked. On the other hand, the morale on the home front needed to be kept stable if not boosted, and despite everything going on she had managed to do just that. This was most evident by the sight of children in Lothlorien. In no other realm, save for Lindon where she had visited many times recently, was the laughter of an elfling heard these days. Any young elf in Greenwood was nearing their majority by now, and an elf under fifty in Imladris was practically unheard of, save for those who had become orphans already and were now in the care of relatives in the fair valley. The ultimate sign of hope was a newborn, wrapped in a soft blanket while their mother held them close. It was little wonder that Galadriel would want one of her own.

“We are managing,” she finally said. Her look of sadness had not diminished, and Erestor took hold of her hands in his own. He held them together for a moment, raised them to his lips and chastely kissed them. “I pray. Daily,” she admitted. “I pray for an end to the war, I pray for the safety of our soldiers and our people here, and I pray for a son.”

“Do you ever thank Him for what He has already given you? For your home, for your family, for the generosity He has shown?” asked Erestor. Galadriel sighed half-heartedly and gave him a wry smile. “Come now, you know as well as I do that He exists. There can be no doubt from you in that.”

“Then why do we never see Him?”

This was, perhaps, the biggest crack in their relationship. The one that had always existed, even when they were so close, so close their souls were nearly bound- except that oil and water do not mix and will always fight to assert themselves and eventually stray apart, whether by their own will or not. He could believe without seeing; she needed to see to believe. It had caused them both so much frustration on so many levels, but none greater than their religious views.

“Then to whom do you pray?” he wondered, not about to fight with her on the main issue.

“To whoever will listen to me. The Valar, maybe, I hope,” she said. “I know at least that they exist, but I doubt many times that they listen to me anymore.”

“Alright, the Valar then, and yes, they do listen.” Erestor continued before she could dispute whether or not they did listen. “Will you allow me to pray with you? To speak to Him, through the Valar,” he said hurriedly as she opened her mouth to object. “Two voices are always louder than one,” he added, still holding her hands in his.

Galadriel gave him a shrug. “If you think it could work, it is worth a try.”

Erestor nodded and closed his eyes. He paused to think of what to say as he swallowed and bowed his head. “Dear Lord Eru, we thank You for Your kindness, for Your grace, and for everything You have given us. We are thankful for our families, for our homes, for our comforts, and for the world around us that You created. Lord, we humbly ask for Your guidance, and for Your blessings. We ask You to keep safe our friends and families, to watch over them and protect them, and to bring those who are fighting home to us swiftly and safely. Dear Lord, we ask also that in this time of great uncertainty, that You bring hope for us into this world. We ask that You grant Galadriel a child, a son, strong and wise, to be a blessing upon her and upon this land. In Your name, we ask Thee.”

Galadriel opened her eyes to find Erestor looking at her, his gaze half-hopeful and half-sad. She smiled and said, “You should have become a minister instead of a librarian.”

“Who says I am not both?” Erestor released her hands and looked around the garden. “I shall continue to pray for you,” he said.

“Why do I get the feeling this is not the first time you have done so?” Her comment was void of sarcasm, for she was pleased to know he still cared for her. “If there is an Almighty, I hope He sees fit to bless you, Erestor.”

“He already has, many times over,” replied the dark elf. “And as there IS an Almighty, I hope He sees fit to show you in whatever way is needed that truly He does exist.”

- - -

Barely any time had passed before Glorfindel felt Erestor thrash and moan in his sleep. He nervously kept watch at first, hoping the nightmare would pass, but when his response grew more fitful, Glorfindel nudged him gently awake. As Erestor’s eyes cleared and came into focus, he sought out Glorfindel, scrambling to be enfolded within his arms. “If only I had thought a little longer,” he babbled, “I should have asked He give THEM a child; I did not even think about what I was saying at the time, and now Haldir hates me for it.”

‘Oh, not this again,’ thought Glorfindel, but he attempted to calm with his words and by simply holding Erestor and dispersing light kisses upon his head and the back of his neck. “Erestor, sweetheart, he has not even had a day, and neither have you. Things will be so much better once you have had some sleep.”

“Why did I not say something?” Erestor’s normally low, smooth voice was broken with sobs as he buried his face against Glorfindel and let his emotions spill forth. “I should have told him. I should have said something when I realized what happened, Fin, I should have, I should have listened to you! You were right, you were so very right, even when I say you are wrong so often you are not, but damn my pride and my foolishness, I still should have said something.”

“Shh, it will be alright,” comforted Glorfindel. He had pulled Erestor up into his arms and was resting with his back against the headboard now. The blond began to move the hair that was sticking to Erestor’s face back so that he could wipe away his tears.

Erestor clung to him and cried, cursing his mistakes and damning himself over and over. As the tears began to subside, he sniffled and said, “I never got to hold him.”

“What?”

“When he was a baby, I never had the chance to hold my son.” Tears welled up again. “I never saw him start to walk, I never taught him how to speak, he never really knew me when he was a child.” Teardrops ran down his cheeks, dripping silently from his chin. “I should have been there for him, but I never was. Fin, I was never there for him, how can he forgive me for that?”

“You need to forgive yourself first,” said Glorfindel in a stern, but loving tone. “You did what many would not have done. You put him first in your mind. There are consequences to every action; if you had said something, then other things would have happened. You can not know what the outcome might have been the other way. There is no way to relive the past; we must go forward to fix our mistakes.”

The sniffling subsided, but Erestor’s grip on Glorfindel was still strong. “You know, that sounds like something I would say.”

“It does, yes, yes, it does. No wonder, with you being all intellectual around me, some of it was bound to make its way between my ears eventually. In fact, I should really be upset with you,” continued Glorfindel when he felt his lover smile slightly at his jesting, “because the other day, someone wanted to show me a book, and I asked what sort of book it was, and they said poetry, and I thought to myself, how nice, and it would be shelved right after fiction but before history and I just wanted to throw myself against a WALL, because it was ALL YOUR FAULT that I was THINKING such a thing!” Glorfindel grinned and hugged Erestor, who was now fighting off a fit of laughter.

“It only means I have nearly trained you in all important aspects of life,” said Erestor as he calmed down. “Furthermore, this now means you shall have no excuse not to put books back in the correct spots at home.”

“Oh, I knew I was going to pay for that. But, the price is so little when I consider that it buys your happiness.” Glorfindel kissed Erestor on the top of his head and then maneuvered them back beneath the coverlet again. “We should rest, though it is nearly morning. I think even a little sleep will do you some good.”

They were settled back in bed for only a minute or two before Erestor reached up to tap Glorfindel on the shoulder. “Fin? Are you asleep yet?”

“Hmmhh? Mmm, what, Erestor?” He blinked his eyes to clear them. “Hmm?”

“Sorry, I thought you might still be awake. Never can tell with your eyes open,” Erestor mumbled. “Never mind me, just go back to your reverie.”

“No, tell me. You will only poke me again in an hour when you find yourself unable to sleep and wanting to ask me what you woke me for in the first place.”

Erestor blushed, knowing it to be true. “I just... I just wanted to know if you will stay by me tomorrow when I tell everyone. It would be- It would make me feel better with you at my side. I know that is a lot to ask, but-“

“I am always here for you. My place is by your side, my darling.” Glorfindel emphasized this by holding Erestor a little tighter. “Right here. By your side. Right where Eru intended for me to be.”

Erestor simply smiled. “You are more wonderful to me than you will ever realize.”

“Give me a little more credit than that, love,” replied Glorfindel with a wink.

The flame of the candle beside the bed flickered and fizzled into the puddle of wax that remained, and the lovers fell back asleep, each of them helping to chase the other’s demons away. The clock in the hall chimed six.
On the Same Page by Zhie
Never before had the mood in the dance hall of the King’s Kastle been more somber than it was now. Even with the blazing fires that were not often lit, the room was still dreary and cold. Before leaving for the night as Thranduil had instructed, those who worked in the bar had rearranged the room and brought a few of the sofas down from the inn that was above the dance hall.

Oropher had taken care of assembling everyone on the list that Erestor had made that morning. Although Glorfindel had his doubts that everyone would be assembled as Oropher had promised, there they were. All of them, just as he had said they would be.

Elrond, of course, with Celebrian, and the twins with their wives. Although it was a small feat to have Elrohir and Glorcheniel at the meeting, for they lived at the Kastle, Elladan and his wife spent their time wandering, either in Orome’s forest or on the isle named Tol Eressea. Fidgeting on Elladan’s lap was his young son, sucking on his thumb when those he was not familiar with greeted him and told him what a cute little ellon he was.

Their younger sister, Vilya, was there, a daughter that Elrond and Celebrian had during the onset of the Fourth Age. Her husband, Melpomaen, was a bit fidgety himself- when Erestor spied him, his secretary from his days in Rivendell looked well away, a sign that Vilya, one of the few who knew the secret of his heritage, had told her husband as well. It was little doubt, then, that Lindir knew also. His wife was the youngest child of Celeborn and Galadriel, a tall, lithe elleth named Tallasinde. Tallasinde gave Erestor a reassuring smile and stood up, crossing the room to where he sat on a stool at the bar. She gave him a comforting hug and kissed his cheek before returning to her spot beside her minstrel husband.

The rest of Tallasinde’s and Celebrian’s siblings were there, as was expected. Orophin, since he lived in Valimar, received the news first. He, too, knew one of the secrets which Erestor harbored. In the row in front of him sat Valarda, leaning over her chair to speak with him, and with Rumil and his wife, Nenniach. Next to Valarda sat Elodien, with Haldir between herself and Legolas. Somewhat unexpectedly, Erestor spied Ilmendin, Legolas’ elder brother. Though he had listed him, he did not think Thranduil’s older son would show up. Ilmendin’s wife was not present, nor did she have reason to be, but Thaladir was, as were Galion and his wife.

Galion’s wife had three sisters, all of whom were present, as were their parents. Their father, Cirdan, had been known to Erestor for as long as he had been acquainted with Oropher. Erestor’s cottage in Valinor prior to the First Age had been next to the shipbuilder’s house and boatyard. The spot where their homes had once been was now the place where the residence of Beineilien, Ulmo’s waterkeeper and dolphin watcher, stood. She was married to Celebdreth, the only son of Rumil and Nenniach, and both were present as well.

Only two were missing from those expected to arrive. Erestor watched the door nervously while Thranduil, who had played the part of host and therefore was tending the bar, poured him half a goblet of brandy and instructed him to have some. Glorfindel was slowly nursing a bowl of spiced wine, keeping his attention on Erestor.

- - -

One name had been omitted from the list- Ecthelion. Erestor believed he had owed the ellon enough to personally speak to him instead of having him find out in an open forum type of situation. During the afternoon, while Oropher sent his messengers about to collect everyone, Erestor and Glorfindel had paid a visit to their dear friend in Valimar.

Ecthelion liked to think of himself as successfully unemployed. His argument was that he had worked, and very hard, for an entire age, and that his killing of not one or two but four balrogs, including their leader, was payment enough for him to slack when it came to responsibilities. His wife, a very sought after seamstress, viewed him as a ‘House Ada’, for he had stayed home with their daughter, Mae-Tithen, when she was born, and had not only raised her but also kept the house as well. It was not unusual, on warm summer days when laundry was best done along the shore of one of the rivers that wound through the central city, to find Ecthelion chatting away with a group of the local ladies while he scrubbed his trousers along with his wife’s blouses and mended a stocking or two.

Mae-Tithen had long since grown, and was an artist. She often accompanied her mother to the shop where the most vibrant gowns and intricately stitched tunics could be found. Young Mae spent her time sketching new designs for her mother to implement when embroidering the garments or drawing portraits for customers who came to the store. It was no surprise, then, to find Ecthelion at home, sweeping out the dust from the hallway onto the front porch.

Glorfindel had referred to this as the ‘practice’ session. It would be easier for Erestor to explain things first to someone he was extremely comfortable with, and who would not interrupt or storm out of the room unexpectedly.

After Ecthelion finished sweeping the front stoop and the porch and was satisfied that he had rid the house of all possible dust bunnies, thereby making his home a safer place, the three of them settled in Ecthelion’s den for biscuits and tea.

There was an odd clash in the den; at one time, it had been decorated in a very well thought out manner. On one wall hung a tapestry that Gaileth had woven for her husband for their wedding day. It was a beautiful scene, depicting Gondolin in all her glory, for Gaileth had been one of the fortunate few to escape the land and knew of its beauty in the elder days.

On the opposite wall was the doorway, and many smaller stitched pieces hung here and there, but among them in places where the wall had not formerly been covered were the drawings of a child. A picture of ‘nana’, ‘ada’, and ‘me’, it read, with a pony named ‘Dalelio’ behind them, all with stick-like appendages and large, round heads. Another, now with arms and legs ballooned up, of ‘adar on a horse’, bearing a slight resemblance to Ecthelion riding a donkey, for the figure’s feet were touching the ground. These were sandwiched between a framed piece of cloth on which Lord Eru’s prayer was embroidered and a sketch in charcoal of Ecthelion and Gaileth in a garden somewhere and signed with Mae’s initials.

The other walls were similar: Childhood drawings were mixed together with refined examples of elvish art. Then, there was the fountain, a replica of the grand one which had been at the center of Gondolin’s courtyard. This had been a more recent addition, one which neither Glorfindel nor Erestor had yet seen. Unlike the heavy, unpolished stones which made up the structure of the fountain in Gondolin, this one was comprised of gleaming, white marble and was inlayed with various precious stones. The spout at the top from which the water spilled forth was plated in mithril, if not made up of it entirely.

“Wonderful little thing,” remarked Ecthelion of the four foot high object situated in the corner of the room. “I did not even suspect, not even when Gaileth began to measure and move things around the room as I sat right in this spot.”

“It does add something to the room,” agreed Glorfindel. “A bit of you, I might say.” All around, every item on the walls was something made either by Gaileth or Mae. “I like it.”

“As do I. Which is a good thing; I was told there is little chance of moving it now that it is set up and working,” Ecthelion replied with a smile. “So, Erestor, what news do you bring?” asked Ecthelion as he poured the tea.

“I have a son,” blurted out Erestor, and Glorfindel rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“You what?” Ecthelion continued to pour, overflowing the second cup he had been filling.

Reaching forward, Glorfindel tipped Ecthelion’s hands to tilt the spout up. “I really do not think that to be the best way to start, Erestor,” advised Glorfindel.

“What should I say first, then? You think I should start with ‘I am one of the Valar’ instead?” Erestor and Glorfindel both jumped abruptly in their seats as they heard a crash. The teapot had fallen from Ecthelion’s hand, clattering on the platter and drenching the biscuits. Ecthelion leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his dark, curly hair. “Too much too fast?” questioned Erestor, biting his lip. Ecthelion, wearing a stunned expression, nodded his head.

“Shall we try again, and perhaps a bit more subtle this time?” suggested Glorfindel.

Erestor took a deep breath. “Ecthelion, there is something I think you should know.”

“Yes, I assumed as much,” answered the elf, trying to keep himself from fainting due to shock.

- - -

Erestor decided it best for him to be at the center of their attention, to keep everyone focused on what he was telling them. All of the chairs or other furniture that was available faced the stage, where the minstrels would often perform or speeches and recitations would be done. Instead of standing on it, Erestor was sitting on the edge with his legs draped over the front. Glorfindel was beside him, his legs crossed, and each of them sat on a large pillow, taken from one of the rooms as the sofas had been.

They had continued to wait, but it was Thranduil who had convinced him to go ahead even though the last two elves had yet to show up. Erestor cleared his throat, causing all conversation to cease. “My intention is to tell all of you everything in as little time as possible and with few interruptions. I know that some of you already know some of what I am going to say, and others of you know none of it. A few of you already know it all.”

It would normally have been the perfect time for Glorfindel to crack a joke, but instead, he shifted his weight so that he was leaning in Erestor’s direction slightly, a small show of support to him.

“If you will allow me, I would like to start at the beginning. Long ago, here in Valinor-“ Erestor paused as the front doors opened and he sucked in his breath uneasily. Glorfindel sidled up to him and placed his hand on the small of Erestor’s back. This gesture was enough to spur Erestor on. “When I was living in Valinor prior to the First Age, I met a young elleth whom I sincerely thought I would one day marry. We courted, flirted with the idea of married life, but it was not to be. When Artanis-“ He came to a full stop again as Celeborn and Galadriel entered the hall and found their way to a pair of seats near the back of the ‘audience’. “Between the time that Galadriel and I parted,” began Erestor again, “and the time when I sailed over the sea to the East, I was informed of something quite shocking. It was revealed to me that my father was Orome. I am half elder, and half ainur.”

There was a bit of a buzz in the room. Some even looked suspiciously at others, who seemed overly calmed about the news, their glances accusing them of knowing and saying nothing. “As the son of a Vala, I have some most unusual qualities. I am even named as one of them within their count, or more accurately one of the ‘lesser’ Vala, a child of the Valar. I have a sister; she is full ainur, her name is Nieliqui and perhaps some day I might introduce her to all of you, but I did not think that appropriate tonight, for there is another secret which I have been keeping.”

Noticing the looks being exchanged, Glorfindel raised his free arm in the air. “I knew he was Periainu since the First Age. I promised him I would not speak of it, except to others who knew. Some of you knew of this, some of you did not. I was the only one he told willingly; the rest of you found out because you stumbled somehow upon his secret and if you did not know would not know not to say anything to anyone else. Do not be upset at those who have known if you did not; his belief was that he saved you the burden of knowing.”

“That makes perfect sense to me,” spoke Rumil. “So, who knew? Surely, I did not, but I take no offense in not knowing.” He turned to his wife, who sat with a look of utter disbelief on her face. “Apparently, you were not in the trusted circle either,” he joked.

Orophin’s long arm rose into the air, and he pointed a finger down at himself. “Fourth Age, right here. I kept spreading all of those ridiculous rumors about him- then I came up with one that was so ridiculous, it was true.”

“My word, you can keep a secret,” said his wife, in awe more of the fact that Orophin had not told her, and less of the fact that Erestor was one of the blessed Ainur.

“We knew, Villy and I,” said Tallasinde of herself and Vilya. “Oh, and do not be sore with us, Uncle Ressi, we simply had to let Lindi and Mel know, too. Only because we were being called here for a most urgent matter, and honestly, this is Valinor. Is there anything urgent which ever happens here? Not really,” she continued, looking around to the others in the room as if to gain verification from them on the matter. “That is why we knew, we just knew, if it was urgent, it had to do with you.”

“I knew, as did my wife, and Thaladir as well. My mother and father were also informed.” Thranduil went on to explain. “In Doriath, we confronted him. We were mistaken on our convictions; we thought he was Morgoth,” he said with a slightly embarrassed smile.

There was laughter in the room, especially from his sons, but an end was put to it when Galadriel spoke and said, “You know, I never before noticed, but he DOES look a sight like Melkor.”

Erestor uneasily looked to the floor. “I knew,” said a timid voice near the back. It was Aerlinniel, whose hand retreated into her lap again. “It was an accident,” she told everyone as her three older sisters stared at her with gaping mouths. “But once I knew, I vowed not to tell a soul, not a single soul. I did not mind. I thought it was, well, something a bit romantic, keeping a secret like that.”

“I wonder why I did not know,” mused Cirdan, rather curious and not at all offended. Erestor smiled at him from his perch.

“I have far too much respect for you to have fraught such a weight upon you,” answered Erestor, and this seemed well enough for Cirdan. “The second part of my tale is not so easy to explain, but you will understand it better knowing what I have told you.”

He could not help but look at Haldir. There was never so much defiance in his eyes, so angry a look directed toward Erestor before. Regardless, Erestor folded his hands in his lap and began to speak. “I always wanted children. I adore them, in fact. I took it very personally when I knew of a couple trying to have a child without success, Elven or otherwise. Near the end of the Second Age, during the great battle in Mordor, we lost many of our noble kin. I was often messenger, the one to travel from the battle to the homelands of our fallen heroes to inform them personally of the deaths.”

“When I came to Lothlorien to tell those who lived there that Amdir King was dead and his son had taken his place, I found someone mourning not the loss of a friend or family member, but the lack of a son. I prayed with her, with all my heart. I wanted nothing more in those moments than to have her wish fulfilled.” There was shakiness to his voice, but he forged ahead. “I did not realize it at the time, but part of being who I am, of being one of the Ainur, is the awesome ability to create with our words and our songs. Her wish was granted. One year later, she found a child, a son, beneath the tree we sat beside the night I was there. My intention was that Eru would grant her and her husband a child, but it did not work exactly as I had planned.”

A wave of emotion hit him, and caused Erestor to cover his face with his hand as Glorfindel held him supportively. The first one to react was Orophin, who did so by clamping both of his hands over his mouth with eyes open wide. He looked at Haldir, who was flushed in anger and clenching his teeth, then to Erestor who wept silently into his hand. He said something, quite loud, but also muffled, into his hands, and then uncovered his mouth and said, “Oh. My. Lord.” Haldir flashed him a dark look. “Oh, then it must be true... wait. What about Rumil and I?”

Haldir turned around, and with a snarl, said, “You and Rumil are fine. Neither of you is a bastard, like me.” Bolting out of his chair, Haldir shoved his way past Legolas to get to the aisle, and then practically stomped his way out of the room, slamming shut the wooden door of the entrance. Elodien excused herself to follow after him, motioning that Legolas should stay and listen to whatever else was said.

At the back of the room, a tall silver-haired figure stood. “Erestor.” The dark elf looked up, his eyes meeting concerned blue ones. “I want no confusion regarding this matter. Are you saying that Haldir is your son?”

“Celeborn, I swear to you, this was never my intention.” Erestor coughed to clear his throat and said, “I thought he would be your child; it was all I ever aimed to do. I did not expect this.”

“You tricked me,” accused Galadriel, standing up and pointing at Erestor. “You probably knew all along what would happen!”

“No, no, I would never-“ The noise in the room rose so that Erestor could not be heard over it, though it mattered little. Galadriel was following the path Haldir had taken, escaping from the hall. Erestor slumped his shoulders and began to wish that he were anywhere but here.

Sound of something hard being pounded on the counter of the bar settled everyone down again. “Attention! Thank you,” said Thranduil as soon as the room quieted. He set aside the candleholder he had knocked against the wood to quiet everyone down. “This has been a very emotional evening for many of us, and will continue to be. I believe we could all use some time to ourselves, perhaps something to eat and a place to rest, and in the morning those of us who wish to discuss things further can do so. Erestor, is there anything you wished to add?”

“Just that... I am sorry,” he said, looking up again to where Celeborn had been, but the silver elf was gone. Looking drained and miserable, Erestor shook his head and rested his head on Glorfindel’s shoulder.

“Now that everyone is on the same page,” said Thranduil, “I offer the Kastle to all of you for the duration of the week. Longer if need be, but at week’s end, guests will begin to arrive for the winter.

“Some of us are already here,” announced Beineilien, for it was customary for her and her husband to spend the colder days here instead of in the valley where they could easily be snowed in and unable to leave for months. “It seemed a little silly to come if we did not intend now to stay.”

“Val, what do you think about winter here at the Kastle?” asked Orophin. He already obviously wanted to follow after his brother, but stayed until his wife acquiesced to his request. “Excellent. Pick out a good room for us. I shall return.” Orophin, too, left the hall. Many soon followed, either to find their rooms or to speak privately with one or more of the others.

Eventually, the only ones left were Erestor, Glorfindel, and Thranduil. “I think it went fairly well, all things considered,” said Thranduil. “And Erestor?” The dark elf looked over. “I think you honestly did the right thing, telling everyone.” Erestor nodded, but still looked unsure.

“Excuse me, boss?” Glorcheniel strolled back into the room. “I just wanted to ask, what did you plan to do about the whole end of autumn celebration this year? Did you still want that to go on or should we cancel it?”

“Damn, it’s in four days, isn’t it...” Thranduil sipped from his winebowl. “I suppose we shall carry on as always. It is tradition.”

“I do not want to be the cause to break with the custom of having the festivities here,” spoke Erestor from the stage.

Thranduil regarded Erestor for a long time, as if he were about to change his mind, but then shook his head. “We shall have the celebration here. Preparations have already been made. In four days time, the festivities shall commence.”
Follow Me by Zhie
“Is this your first time?”

“My... my what?” Artanis spun around to see who was speaking to her, the gauzy fabric of the dress she had borrowed from Aredhel moving with her, nearly sweeping against the floor as it settled back again. It was the tall, handsome elf whom she had spoken with the day before; the one who had the farm in the valley. He smiled warmly, his elbow leaning against a pillar, hand resting upon his cheek. The other hand held a glass of brightly colored liquid that fizzed and snapped.

“Your first Laire Namarie- officially, that is,” he said. “Surely you have celebrated with your family before.”

“Oh!” Blushing and turning away in hopes he would not see, Artanis looked back when her flushed face cooled. She was giddy with delight to see the elda still standing as he had been, gazing upon her, waiting for her answer with an amused smile. “Yes, this is my first away from home. And on my own!” She scolded herself mentally for sounding so childish. “That is, I have not yet had the time to see one for myself,” she said hurriedly, wishing she could find something wittier or more intellectual to say. “This one seems good,” she finished, turning to look at the couples dancing again. She knew her face was bright red again, and felt like crying for making such a fool of herself in front of him.

When she finally gathered the courage to look behind her, the elf was gone. With a sigh, she began to indolently fiddle with the trim around the waist of her dress. Yet another couple brushed past her on their way to the dance floor, and feeling so very young and unwanted, Artanis shifted closer to the wall. Aredhel had convinced her to come down tonight for the celebration, but the longer she stood against the wall without a partner, the more she wished she had not come. Her cousin was, as many of the ladies were, the most perfect elleth. Everything about her was dainty and lithe, and her face was fair and pale. While it was true that Artanis was fair, she stuck out- or rather, up. She was already a little more than an inch over six feet, and was disappointed to learn that she would likely still continue to grow.

“Funny how the snow came this year before Winter truly did.”

With a start, Artanis looked around, finding the dark elf only a few feet away. “It happens that way sometimes,” she answered, both delighted and terrified that he was near her again.

Erestor held out a glass of pale pink liquid to her. “I thought you might be thirsty,” he said.

Politely, Artanis took the drink from him and thanked him for it. She looked into the glass apprehensively, for her brothers had warned her that sometimes sly ellyn would pray upon young, unknowing ellith by heavily intoxicating them. It was rare, very rare, but not entirely unheard of. However, she also knew she could not be so rude as to stand with the glass untouched, and so she brought it to her lips and sipped a tiny bit. A smile spread across her lips when the sweet, lemony taste hit her tongue.

“Thank you,” she said again, much more sincerely this time. She took note of the fact he had exchanged his drink for a glass of lemonade as well.

“Excuse me?” The voice of a third party kept either from saying anything else to each other. A young ellon, strong and able by his size, stepped between the pair and looked straight into Artanis’ eyes. “May I?”

“Ah... ahm... may you what?” she questioned in confusion.

With a charming smile, he said, “May I have this dance?” Extending his arm to her, it appeared he was not about to take no for an answer.

“Well, I would love to, but...” Looking down at her drink, she was surprised when it disappeared from her hand. Beside her once again, Erestor was holding both glasses.

“I will just put this over on the counter, right over there for you,” said the dark elf, nodding in the direction of the bar. Before she could protest, thank him, or otherwise say anything else, she found herself being swept out onto the floor. She kept her eyes on the ellon she was dancing with, making polite conversation, but the entire song she spent trying to look past him to see where Erestor had gone to.

She had been exchanged at least a dozen times, from others who had cut in to pairs that had swapped with whomever she was dancing with at the time, and her mind was just beginning to stop wandering when she heard the now familiar low voice speak. “Pardon, young sir, I was hoping I might have a chance to dance with the lady.”

The ellon she was currently dancing with slowed them to a stop and bowed to her while she curtseyed to him. As he walked away, Artanis turned to face Erestor and prepared to curtsey to him, but found herself being pulled close and waltzed into the midst of the other dancers.

Unlike the other partners she had had that evening, Erestor was not so timid or so awkward. Thousands of years of practice and practical use made him light on his feet and graceful in his step. Artanis herself knew how to dance, as any proper lady should, but never had she appeared so skilled before. “Just follow my lead,” he whispered to her, the first words they had exchanged since he had cut in, after she accidentally stepped on his toes.

“Sorry,” she squeaked when she misstepped a second time. Frustrated on the third time, she stood still completely, and let out a breath of relief as the song thankfully ended. Before the next one began, she found herself being taken over to a secluded area of the hall. A slower song was played, but they did not join in immediately.

“Relax,” he instructed. He rearranged her hands so that instead of using the modern placement, she was holding the side of her dress out with one hand and had her other on his shoulder. “You have got to stop leading.”

“I am not,” she protested.

“Yes, you are,” he laughed. “Concentrate less on where our feet are going on and more on looking like a graceful princess. Let me keep track of our feet.”

Looking quite insulted, Artanis dropped the dress from her hand and turned to leave. She was yanked back by one gloved arm and pulled back into Erestor’s arms. “Look around. What do you see?”

“Couples dancing,” she answered without actually looking.

Erestor turned her around in his arms, his hands resting on her hips. “What do you see?” he asked again.

Artanis’ heart fluttered and leaped about as she felt the contact he was making. “Just... dancing.”

“What are the ladies doing? Tell me, are any of them staring at their feet? Are they the ones choosing the path?”

“No,” she finally said.

“No. They are not.” Erestor spun her back around again. “Hand on my shoulder,” he instructed as he positioned her other one off to her side and lifted a bit of her dress up to her. “All night, you have been leading. Perhaps your other partners had no problem with this, but I do. Let me do my job; you do yours.”

Again they started to dance, and again- she stepped on his foot as she tried to get them to move into the crowd. Bringing them to a full stop, Erestor said, “Close your eyes.”

“How will I know where we are going?” she questioned in alarm.

“You are not supposed to. I will take you there. Close your eyes.”

As soon as she did so, she felt Erestor move again. With no way of seeing where the other dancers were and how close she and Erestor were to the walls, she was forced to feel the music and the steps and the way he guided her to know where to go. “I think you can open your eyes now, but do not look down.”

He had danced her into the center of the hall, where others were admiring the elegance the pair exhibited. Artanis kept her eyes focused on Erestor, lest she accidentally let her gaze drop to the floor. “You dance very well,” she commended as they paused to applaud the minstrels at the end of the song.

“As do you. Shall we continue?” he asked, but without giving her the chance to refute him, he had already taken hold of her waist with one hand, and her hand with his other, switching from the classic style of dance to one slightly closer and a little more intimate. “Did you plan to retire early?”

“Actually, yes, that was my intention,” she replied.

“Allow me to escort you to your room, then,” he offered. He removed his hand from her hip and began to lead her away from the center of the room. With a little gasp of disapproval, Artanis stepped back into his path, placing her hand on his shoulder. “After this dance then?” he asked, flowing right back into the dance again.

“When I say it is time, I will let you see me to my room,” she corrected him. He nodded and continued to weave them around the other couples.

It was during the next song that she came to the realization that they were not moving from one side of the room to the other as most of the others were, but instead remained fairly close to the middle of the hall. “May I ask why?” questioned the young elleth after revealing her discovery to him.

“See all of those wild young ellyn stalking about on the edges of the room?” Erestor turned them so that she could observe a particularly obvious bunch who were sharing a bottle of wine and laughing to one another as they leered at the young ladies who danced with others close to where they were standing. “They have been drinking, they are excited to be here. For many of them, like you, this is their first time at a party such as this without supervision. If you really want to have one of them cut in and dance with you-“

“No,” she answered quickly, spying Ecthelion among those who were trying to spy whom they would next dance with. Nearby, she saw Thranduil as well, but he was not of age yet and had it not been for the fact that his father was the proprietor of the Kings’ Kastle, there would have been little chance he would have been here. As it was, the very young elf, still an elfling by some standards, was sitting on a stool and leaning on the table he sat at, half into his bowl of wine. She did not know many of the others, but simply by looking at them, she knew her answer. “I suppose, if they are all young and wild-“

“The alternative of dancing with a calm, old Elda is a slightly more desirable way to spend the evening,” finished Erestor for her. Artanis blushed, but he chuckled. “Go on, I know what you are thinking, ‘Tis like dancing with your father to dance with me.”

“Actually, not at all,” she said in defense, but not sure what else to say without again sounding her age, she said nothing at all.

Taking another turn around the room, Erestor leaned in a little closer and said, “Right. More like... dancing with one of your brothers, then? Or am I so old, it is more like being with your grandsire?”

“No! Not at all!” Her quiet scolding made Erestor smirk and straighten his neck back up again. Finding she was no longer needing to think of what they were doing with their feet, she boldly removed her hand from his shoulder and moved it to his back as she saw many of the couples who looked more relaxed with one another doing. Her head came to rest on his shoulder.

With a look of surprise, Erestor glanced around to see if anyone was paying attention to them, but found the room too dark and the hour too late for most to notice what was happening with anyone else. “Artanis,” he whispered into her ear.

She felt light and giddy, hearing him say her name in his thick, deep voice. “Erestor,” she answered, half in a daze.

Clearing his throat, he tried again. “Ar-tanis,” he said, biting his lip for a moment and trying to keep some distance between them, “only couples who are bound dance in this way.”

Opening her eyes wide, not only because of his words, but because of something that her thigh brushed against, a lump of some sort that was not there earlier. Practically leaping back, Artanis broke her promise not to look down as she searched for what exactly she had bumped into.

Erestor tilted her chin back up, took hold of her hand with one of his and her waist in his other. “Perhaps you wish to retire soon?” His steps were somewhat stilted for a bit as he took them back into the midst of the other dancers.

Artanis said nothing, for they somehow ended up in very close quarters with a number of the other couples and did not want anyone else to hear their conversation, for they could hear what others around them were saying.

“I simply love the parties Oropher throws,” said an elleth to her husband- at least, from the way they were dancing, Artanis assumed they were bound. “What do you think of the musicians?”

The ellon nodded and mumbled something inaudible as Erestor and Artanis danced away from them and closer to another pair.

“... but no matter what she says, I still think dancing is a lot like making love. At least, you can find out a lot about the other party by dancing with them. Does the lady try to lead? Probably aggressive in nature. Does he not give in to it? Likely a strong soul. Simple deduction and...”

“Did you look at how much wine that child is drinking?” said another elleth to her husband. Artanis frowned now that she was hearing about the alleged ‘drinking problem’ that this lady thought the son of the owner had, wishing she could hear more of what the last couple was discussing. As Artanis strained to hear the previous conversation, her eye caught that of the young ellon she had first danced with that evening, for to dance out of the crowd Eretor had to bring them dangerously close to the edge of the room.

When Artanis let out a little squeak as the elf began to approach, his eyes on her, Erestor pretended not to have noticed, but danced them out of the way, hurrying their escape as the ellon came nearer. “Do you want to dance with him?” questioned Erestor, though to him the answer was obvious even before Artanis shook her head. “Alright. Duck down.”

She could not question him as he suddenly crouched down behind the couple they danced past, pulling her with him. They kept themselves hunched over as Erestor led Artanis swiftly though the other dancers, into the back corner beneath a balcony, and around a break in the curtain of fabric that hung down from the upper level.

The decorative curtain masked the sounds of the minstrels and created a wide corridor, above which was the balcony which encircled the hall, creating a low ceiling in the darkened area they were now in. “Shall we?” asked Erestor after Artanis’ initial awe of the beautiful, hidden place he had stolen her away to wore off. She nodded, and they once again found themselves in each other’s arms.
Winter Daze by Zhie
Laire Namarie, the Farewell to Summer, was one of the most frivolous festivals celebrated by the elves. There was no specific day on which to hold the event; most of the elves of Valinor attended more than one Laire Namarie party. The only requirement was that it be held on one of the days of Winter. As was tradition of the House of the Green Leaf, the celebration was held on the first true winter day, whether or not there was snow. This year, there was none, which made it rather easy for many who would not have normally attended to reach the King’s Kastle.

Through the ages, the celebration had changed little by little. In the Years of the Trees, it had simply been an elegant ball, but now in addition to the dancing, there was a feast at the onset and games for both young and old. It was required not only to be dressed well, but to be gaily dressed in bright and mischievous colors. Many of those in attendance wore detailed masks, some carved of wood and painted with extreme care while others were soft, sewn with feathers and ribbons. Many of them were laden with jewels and precious stones, some of them were beautiful as the day or terrible as the night, but all of them were a small masterpiece, and a reflection of the wearer’s soul.

There were some in the Kastle that night who did not wish to wear the masks they had. In the case of Haldir, he had twice hidden the mask he had- once under the bed, and once in the closet. Each time, Elodien, darting from room to room of the house as she prepared herself for the ball, would just go straight to the place he had hidden it, pull it out, and drop it into her sulking husband’s lap.

“Honestly, I am not going,” he called after her, moments later dumping the mask in the basket of dirty laundry and tossing a pair of errant leggings that had escaped atop it. Without word or warning, Elodien zipped back into the room, pulled the mask out of the laundry and set it into Haldir’s lap just as he was sitting down on the bed again. “Legolas, tell her I am not going,” he demanded as his husband entered the room, dressed in his finest and brightest green jerkin, with a shirt whose sleeves puffed at the shoulders and billowed appropriately down his arms.

“Of course you are going,” stated Legolas matter-of-factly. “This is my father’s party, I am requested if not required to be there, you, as my husband, must make an appearance just as I must. Go change.”

“This is a conspiracy!” yelled Haldir as he pulled his shirt over his head and reached for the clean red one that Elodien had laid out for him. “He is going to be there, and I do not wish to talk to him right now.”

“So, do not speak to him. Did I say you had to talk to him?” asked Legolas. Haldir grumbled and pulled off his pants to replace them with the leggings that were smooth and free of wrinkles. “Did she say you have to talk to him?” he queried further, pointing to Elodien as she entered the room.

“Talk to who? No, he just has to wear the mask. I spent hours yesterday repainting it. It was as if someone had purposely sanded the color off of the ears and nose,” she said as she yanked open a drawer of the dresser, pulled out a bottle of perfume and a brush, and then left the room again.

Legolas shook his head and clicked his tongue at Haldir, whose sheepish look explained just why the mask of the fox which he always wore to these parties had been so inexplicably marred. “We need not stay very long, Haldir. Once the feast is over and the dance begins, I surely plan not to stay.” Few knew of Legolas’ flaw- when there was music, his right foot converted to another left one, and Eru pity the lady who had thought to dance with him.

“Fine. But no matter what, I want one of you with me at all times. I do not want to be left open for an attack,” insisted Haldir.

“For the love of- Haldir, this is not a battle. We are not going to war.” Plopping down on the mattress beside him, Legolas nudged Haldir with his shoulder. “I understand, this is not something easy to accept, this is so completely out of the ordinary.”

“You understand? How can you understand?” Haldir was not shouting, nor was he angry, for he knew Legolas meant well and was only trying to help. “Think of it like this, Legolas. What if Thaladir were to come to you and say he was your father. What would that be like? How would you sort that out?”

“I have thought about it in that way,” Legolas interrupted. “That is why I said, I understand. That is why I have not said, ‘Haldir, go talk to Erestor’. That is why I know you need time.”

Leaning against Legolas, Haldir said, “I just do not know how I am supposed to feel. Thinking back, Erestor was there for me at times no one else was. It makes so much sense now, and I feel stupid for not noticing it. On the other hand, my father... Celeborn... he still feels like my father. He still is my father. I am angry at Erestor, but in part I am angrier at myself.”

Legolas put his arms around Haldir and kissed the top of his head. “None of this is your fault. There is no reason for you to berate yourself. Try to have a good time tonight, love. I promise, we will not be there for long.”

- - -

“Honestly, I am not going.” As soon as Glorfindel left the room, Erestor lifted up his pillow and slid his mask beneath it, then fluffed the pillow up and leaned back on the bed nonchalantly. In a matter of seconds, Glorfindel was back in the room. With his hands on his hips, he stared down at his mate, who feigned boredom.

Lifting up Erestor’s head with one hand, Glorfindel picked up the pillow and tossed it aside with the other. He took hold of the mask, blew off the purple and aquamarine feathers, and tossed it into Erestor’s lap. A stray feather which had become detached floated down as Erestor’s head hit the mattress. “Get dressed,” called Glorfindel as he picked up his comb from the countertop of the dresser and strayed into the next room.

“Are you listening to me? Did you stuff your head with cotton?” Erestor took the mask and flung it in the direction of the doorway. It sailed through the air, arching downwards, but just as it was about to take a dive to the floor, Glorfindel came around the corner again. Catching the mask in one hand, he tossed the comb in Erestor’s direction. “And comb your hair, too,” added Glorfindel.

“Agggh!” Erestor pitched the comb across the room, but lower and away from Glorfindel so that he could not possibly reach it. Instead, it bounced off of the back of a plush chair, nearly pelting Erestor in the head on its return trip. At the doorway, Glorfindel snorted and brought the mask back to Erestor.

“Even if you do not get dressed, I will carry you down to the party. Kicking and screaming if it comes to that. And if that happens, you can be assured that everyone will be watching the scene you will be making, therefore completely forgetting all about your recent revelations.”

Unfolding the black pants that were embroidered with blue, gold, and violet swirls up the sides, Erestor began to pout. “I had been under the impression that you loved me.”

“I do. Now get dressed,” Glorfindel said firmly as he held the mask out to Erestor. “And comb your hair.” Pointing to the comb on the bed in case there was any confusion, Glorfindel then exited the room again.

“Get dressed... comb your hair...” Erestor contented himself with muttering under his breath while Glorfindel finished braiding his own hair. When Glorfindel returned, he directed Erestor to the sitting room of the accommodations they had been given while at the Kastle. The dark haired elf seated himself on one of the chairs and sat as still as he could while Glorfindel wove clusters of blue, violet, and peacock feathers throughout his long, loose hair. The final touch was the mask- which Glorfindel had to again retrieve, this time hidden under the bed itself. Clicking his tongue at Erestor while the ebon haired elf smiled at him sheepishly, Glorfindel handed the mask to him.

“Try to have a little fun tonight, sweetheart. I know how trying this week has been, but all the same, you need to relax a little. We need not stay long, but since Thranduil has invited us to sit at his table with him, it is only proper that we show up. Especially considering how accommodating he and his father have been,” added Glorfindel. “I promise, Ress, we really do not have to stay very long.”

- - -

Two of the members of the Kastle staff had been assigned to opening the doors for guests and greeting them. This consisted of showering them with shimmering confetti and shaking bells at the arrival of each party. When Legolas entered, accompanied by Haldir and Elodien on either side of him, not only were they assaulted by a large amount of confetti, but crowns of holly were presented to each of them as well.

Through the lounge area they traveled, where a number of small groups or pairs who wished to eat in a less formal atmosphere had decided to dine. They continued into the dancehall where the bar was located, and then through a back door to the lawn. In the distance, they could see the see the remaining smoke from the fire that had been put out in the hearth of their cheerful little house just before they came here. The residence was hidden just inside of the forest that began some two hundred yards beyond the area behind the inn.

Sometimes used for games or outside dances, the lawn was set up now for a feast, with many long tables creating nearly an entire circle. Three breaks were left- one on either side of the main table where Thranduil and his party sat, and another at the opposite end. Everyone sat facing the middle of the area, where there were now jugglers performing, and after many such acts, would later be the location of a bonfire.

“Bloody fuck,” cursed Haldir as they came closer to the head table.

“Hush! There are children present,” scolded Elodien, but she, too, saw what gave Haldir cause for concern.

Pausing abruptly, Legolas made eye contact with his father, then cursed as well but not so audibly. “Haldir, I swear I did not know he was going to do this.”

“I know. And he means well, I know that, too.” Haldir shook his head. “Legolas, I am sorry, but I have lost my appetite.”

Legolas released the arms of his spouses, and then turned to face them both. “You have no reason to apologize. There is food and drink inside- at least stop for Elodien’s sake,” Legolas said to Haldir’s head shaking.

“I thought she would go with you,” assumed Haldir.

“What if I eat with Haldir, take him back home, and then return again?” Elodien suggested.

“I have to be there, but unless you really want to sit around for the next three hours, I see no reason why the two of you cannot return home if you like.” Legolas smiled as the looks behind their masks revealed that both Haldir and Elodien were actually quite amicable to this course of action. “Then give me a hug, and be gone,” he teased, and was embraced by them both before they went back inside.

- - -

At the head table, Ilmendin picked up his wine bowl and discretely leaned towards his father. “It was a good idea, but perhaps a bit too early for it,” he remarked. Thranduil nodded. “I doubt Haldir is upset at you, but Legolas certainly appears to be.”

On the other side of Thranduil, three empty places awaited, and beside those, a disheartened Erestor, and Glorfindel, who coughed into his hand and snuck his arm around his husband. Turning his head so that he was whispering into his lover’s ear, he said, “I did not like the plan from the onset. It appears Legolas was not very happy, either.” He sat straight again as the prince approached. “Good eve, Legolas, I hope you are well.”

“Thank you, Glorfindel, I am. Good evening to you both,” he said, inclining his head slightly in their direction. As he walked behind them to get to his own seat beside Thranduil, he simply said, “Father,” then turned a cold shoulder to him and poured a bowl of wine.

The two empty spaces between Legolas and Erestor did not remain so for long. “This is the most marvelous celebration yet!” A fair elleth came around to the front of the table and curtseyed before Thranduil, who gave her the oddest sort of look. “And space for us at the table, dear cousin, how thoughtful!”

As the elleth proceeded to move back around the table to the empty chairs, Thranduil’s gaze traveled to her husband, who was looking as if he would really rather not be sitting at the front table. “Surely, they are reserved for someone else. My wife jests,” said the silver haired lord, giving her a warning look.

“Nonsense! Who else would he expect to have places saved for? I thought at first that these were for Haldir and Elodien, but I saw them go inside again, so obviously they are meant for us. Good evening, Legolas,” added Galadriel as she sat down beside Erestor.

Legolas tried to think of some excuse as to whose spots they really were, but any logical idea failed him. Thranduil was at a loss as well, and so Ilmendin, deciding the only polite thing to do was to invite them now that they were here, motioned down the table at the final empty seat between Legolas and Galadriel. “Cousin Celeborn, it is a pleasure to dine with you this evening.”

“Likewise, and thank you.” Celeborn awkwardly walked around the other side of the table and all the way back down again simply to avoid passing Glorfindel and Erestor. His wife was already carrying on quite a conversation.

“I do not believe I have ever seen that mask, Erestor. Was that sewn by Gaileth? It looks to be her work,” said Galadriel.

“It is,” replied Glorfindel after the question went unanswered. “Her quality of sewing is rather fine, but the design was her daughter’s.”

Galadriel looked rather put off by the fact that it was not Erestor who responded, and so tried another tactic. “Erestor, would you mind terribly passing that bottle of wine to me?” she asked of the wine bottle that was placed between Glorfindel and Erestor on the table.

“There is one by your elbow,” Glorfindel answered, nodding in the direction of it.

“Ah, so there is,” she said, and remained silent for the next few hours while the feast was brought forth and the musicians and acrobats performed. Great torches encircling the area kept it lit well enough for everyone to see until it was time to light the fire at the center and begin the dancing both inside and out.

While Thranduil entered the circle and made a speech about the past year, Erestor tugged on Glorfindel’s sleeve and motioned for him to follow him to the door leading inside. With most of the elves on the lawn paying attention to Thranduil and the fire being lit by his sons, few noticed the pair sneaking away.

Once inside, Erestor marched himself straight to the bar and ordered a rather strong drink. “Why did she do that?” he stuttered as soon as the bartender set down the drink and left for another part of the counter. “And what was with her trying to be nice?”

“Maybe she wishes to speak with you, to sort things out,” suggested Glorfindel.

“Maybe I do not wish to speak to her,” spat Erestor.

Glorfindel waved the bartender over, feeling the need for a strong drink himself. “I sensed a bit of that going on.”

“How can she go from nasty and evil one day and sweet and nice the next?” demanded Erestor after the bartended left the second time.

Shrugging, Glorfindel reminded him, “You were the one who lived with her. If anyone knows, it would be you.”

“Excuse me,” said a voice behind them. Erestor tensed up, and Glorfindel bit his lip. “I was wondering if you might dance with me.”

Glorfindel gave Erestor a long look, and then turned around and stepped down from his stool. “I would be delighted,” he said, and was met by Galadriel’s frustration.

“Fin,” she said rather sternly, and as she never called him Fin, he sat back up on his stool.

“Auntie, he does not wish to dance with you right now,” Glorfindel said in a soft voice, trying not to attract too much attention.

But Erestor turned around and gulped down the rest of his drink. “Glorfindel, will you wait for me in the hall? I will only be a few minutes.”

“Of course,” he said immediately, and Glorfindel took his drink with him, watching the pair warily over his shoulder as they moved to the dance floor.

Their entire waltz was silent, with Galadriel trying to decide what to say but not speaking, and Erestor wondering what Galadriel wanted to talk about, but deciding not to ask. Before the dance ended, Erestor pulled abruptly away from Galadriel, bowing formally. “Thank you for the dance,” he said quickly as he made an attempt to leave.

The other couples around them blocked his retreat. “Erestor. Please do not run from me.” Slowly, the ellon turned back around. “Come with me, Erestor. Let us take a walk.”

Galadriel looped her arm through Erestor’s, and when he did not take the initiative to move them from the dance floor, she herself walked them across the hall and into the corridor leading to the lounge. A small maze of sofas, some with tables and others without, all with high walls around them, awaited them in this room. It was to one of the secluded alcoves that Galadriel led him. “I wish to apologize for my reaction the other night. It was uncalled for, but you must admit, it was some rather odd news!” She laughed to herself uneasily while Erestor sat stoically beside her.

“Honestly, though, I wanted to let you know I will support you in whatever way I can. If you would like me to, I can speak with Haldir- I know he would listen to me,” she assured him.

“Thank you, but that is not necessary. He and I both need time, to accept things and to work through this. Haldir will need your support, but as for talking to him on my behalf, I think it better I find the words to say to him,” Erestor said.

Relaxing now that he was speaking to her, Galadriel let out a relieved sigh. “If you change your mind, do not hesitate to ask.”

He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. “Was there anything else?” questioned Erestor suddenly.

“No, not right now,” replied Galadriel, her smile replaced with a frown.

“If that is all, then good night,” he said in a brusque manner, making no attempt to leave.

Absorbing the uncomfortable silence, Galadriel stood and asked, “Is there anything else we should talk about?”

Erestor contemplated for a few seconds. “What else is there to discuss?”

“It seems always that there is a question you have. Something more you wish to ask or to say.” Galadriel sat down beside Erestor so that they were shoulder to shoulder and knee to knee. Erestor’s hands began immediately to knead one another as she touched his cheek. “Talk to me, Erestor.”

“There was always so much more I wanted to say.” With that admission, the dam broke. “I could never bring myself to believe that you left me- you actually left me! You left me, and you killed to get off of this island. When I heard the news, it was as if you had driven your dagger through my own heart. Always I had thought to that point there was still a chance. That you missed me. That you still cared for me. That you loved me.” Erestor bowed his head and Galadriel let her hand slide down into her lap. “I had hope until that day.”

Focusing her eyes on a point on the wall, Galadriel asked, “Do you love me still?”

“How can I not?”

Still looking away from him, she said, “Erestor, you must know something. When we were together, I was young. You courted me the winter of my majority; you kissed me before I had reached that point. I was enamored with the idea that attention was being paid to me, the little girl who ran around with the boys and had dirt on her face and her hair tied up on her head. I was so in love with being loved, I never stopped to think whether or not I really was in love.”

Never thinking that the pain he had felt the night she left him could be greater than the pain he felt now, Erestor gripped the cushion of the seat. “You never loved me.” Saying the words made his entire being feel numb and cold.

“I am sorry,” apologized Galadriel. “I wanted to. I tried so hard.” Standing up, she moved before him and knelt down, taking hold of his hand and forcing him to look at her. “It was wrong of me to leave you as I did. I am far wiser now than I was then. Perhaps I should not have been so harsh, but then, it was for the best in the end. I know that I am meant to be with Celeborn, and you have Glorfindel.”

Continuing to grip the cushion, the dark elf felt as if he was standing beside himself, watching the scene play out, with no control over his body. He felt nothing and knew not what to say.

“Erestor? Erestor, please, talk to me,” begged Galadriel. Her hands were on his knees and she shook him slightly to gain his attention. “Say something, please.”

“You should go,” he managed force out in a small voice. He was on the verge of tears, and found her to be unbearably close to him. “Just go,” he said, repeating his plea.

Nothing more was said as she stood up and walked away, giving him one last look over her shoulder. There was pity in her eyes, but he did not see it. An elf who had been hiding in the shadows watching the entire exchange, did.

Emerging from his hidden corner in the shadows, Glorfindel set down his drink on a empty table that he passed by and came to stand before Erestor. The dark haired elf was busily removing his mask, and threw it down on the floor. “Are you alright?”

As Erestor shook his head back and forth, tears poured forth in a flood of emotion. He felt used, betrayed, hurt, and saddest of all, unloved. This Glorfindel saw as well, and he sank down beside his mate, enclosing him within his strong arms. There they sat, Glorfindel comforting Erestor for uncounted minutes. While merry music played only a few paces away in the hall and laughter echoed through the room, Erestor’s heartbreaking sobs were drowned out and heard only by the one who cared for him the most. Or perhaps, Erestor began to think, the only one who truly cared about him at all.

“I have to get away from here,” insisted Erestor as he began to regain his composure. Instantly, Glorfindel helped him up and together they left the inn, walking down the path that led to the stables and posts where the horses and carriages were kept out of the way. “Why does it seem as if everything always goes wrong at once?” he questioned as they walked. “I was having such a good week until all of this happened.”

They came to a halt at the larger of the two stables and Glorfindel followed Erestor inside. It was warmer within than it was outside, and many of the horses were asleep despite the frivolity and merriment going on so nearby. “I feel like such a failure.”

“Stop saying such cruel things about yourself. Remember, you still have me,” said Glorfindel. Erestor nodded silently as the blond closed in, removing his own mask and tossing it aside on a hay bale. “A small consolation, I know, but, ‘tis something.”

“’Tis everything,” Erestor corrected as Glorfindel’s arms encircled his chest and hugged him tight. A few stray tears escaped as Erestor turned in Glorfindel’s embrace and leaned his head on his lover’s shoulder. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, darling.” Glorfindel wiped away the trail from each of Erestor’s cheeks. “Tell me what I can do to make you feel better.”

“I- I want to go home,” sniffled Erestor.

Glorfindel nodded. “Let me pack our things and I shall take you straight away back to the cottage.”

“No, home. I want to go home.” He clung tighter to Glorfindel. “I want to go back to Rivendell, just you and I and the horses. I wish we could go back.”

“I shall build you a boat and we shall go wherever you want, and wherever you go I shall follow.”

“You have always been there for me,” whispered Erestor. “Whenever I need you, you are always here.”

“And always will be,” promised Glorfindel. He held Erestor close with one arm and pulled his cloak snuggly around both of them. “Shall I begin work on that ship?”

Erestor rested against Glorfindel, letting the blond support his weight. “No,” he said finally. “This is where we belong. Time will sort things out. I just- there are some secrets which must be told, and others which are best left unspoken.” Erestor looked back to the Kastle. “I wish she would have left what she told me tonight unsaid.”

“Just remember, you always have me.” Glorfindel kissed Erestor lovingly on the cheek, but Erestor turned his head to meet Glorfindel’s lips with his own. “Would you like me to take you home?”

“In the morning. Right now, I think you should take me to bed.” Erestor’s eyes, half hidden by drooping lids and dark lashes, were full of desire. No further instruction was necessary, and Glorfindel promptly brought Erestor back inside the King’s Kastle, taking him up to the rooms that they were using.

- - -

“It will be so nice tomorrow, to be back in our own bed,” called Glorfindel from the bathing chamber. He received an affirmative response as he finished brushing his hair and tied it back so that it would not get in his way. As he stepped out of the chamber into the bedroom, he slowly walked to the bed. “Now, how in creation did you manage to do that?”

The dark elf looked over his shoulder. He was knelt at the foot of the bed and had somehow used the curtains of the canopy to restrain his wrists. Each was tied to one of the posts at the bottom of the bed. His hair had been braided, a long black rope that ran to the floor and snaked across the carpet towards one foot. Erestor’s legs were spread, and his back faced Glorfindel, his body glistening with the sheen of lightly scented oil. He gave the slightest shrug, and Glorfindel growled ferally.

“You undo me, you beautiful bewitching creature.” Glorfindel climbed upon the bed and crawled to the foot of it. Taking hold of Erestor’s chin with one hand, he tilted his face up and teased Erestor’s lips with his tongue until he had the dark one panting and offering his open mouth, stretching his neck in vain attempts to capture Glorfindel’s retreating lips. Finally, Erestor managed to steal a kiss, and Glorfindel flicked his tongue against Erestor’s. He held his lover’s chin firmly again as he thrust his tongue in and out of the moist cavern, causing Erestor to moan, knowing what was to come.

A shiver ran through Erestor’s body as Glorfindel released his hold upon him and slid off the side of the bed. Moments later, warm hands traveled over his bare flesh, heightening his excitement. His groin ached, left untouched by either himself before he had bound his wrists to the posts, or Glorfindel, who had not even taken a moment to regard his erection. The muscles of his thighs tensed as he tried to thrust forward and gain some sort of relief, but there was nothing close enough to rub himself against. “Do not fret, darling, I will take care of you. But first, you present to me such a bounty, ripe and ready, how can I not take what I have been offered?”

Glorfindel pressed the tip of his length to Erestor’s prepared entrance as he took hold of the elder’s hips with a firm grip. In one stroke, he sheathed himself, grunting in pleasure as he pulled out a little and thrust back in with greater force. Erestor answered with a moan, his fingers curling around the posts. “The sounds you make are unbelievably sexy,” purred Glorfindel into Erestor’s ear as he found his rhythm, keeping his hands on the dark elf’s hips and away from the rigid erection that begged for attention. “You know which sound I like the best? When you practically scream and call out my name. I hope you do that tonight. I hope everyone hears and knows who it is... who makes you feel so good.”

“Make me scream, Fin. I want everyone to know-oh!” A loud cry escaped from Erestor as Glorfindel slammed into him, burying himself deep. Glorfindel gladly fulfilled his desire, and those in the hallway and rooms nearby could hear without a doubt just who Erestor gave himself to.

At the bottom of the stairs, Thranduil had his forehead leaned against the banister, and was franticly rubbing his temples. Cool, slim fingers slid over his hands and began to massage his head for him. “My lord... we should retire...”

“What IS it about hearing them that causes you to become so... needy?” asked Thranduil as Avisiel moved away and began to climb the stairs.

She smiled mysteriously. “I know not,” she admitted. “However, we simply must have them visit more often.”
Secrets by Zhie
Most of Imladris was open to everyone, but some of the house was concealed from the view of nearly all. This was the case when it came to the hidden hallway that was actually an extension of an existing hall. If someone had drawn the house, they would discover that there was a gaping hole from the top floor to the ground, and yet, the only two ways to get there was from the third story or the ground floor.

It was a wonderfully disguised place- even the roof in places was false, appearing to exist when really from above one would note that there was a garden secreted away in the center of the house. Surrounding it, a number of halls and a few tiny little rooms concealed it and were themselves concealed.

At the end of a corridor which abruptly led one to a wall without windows featuring a rather gruesome painting of a pack of wargs that normally kept elflings away from this part of the house, one needed only know the proper brick to touch to unlock the mechanism hidden behind the frame, then gently push the painting as if it were a door, for it was. Once inside, the mechanics reset and the door was closed, safely barring the way from anyone who may have followed.

Erestor hastily tapped a brick on the left side, heard the click, and entered swiftly. Once the door was shut, he navigated by recall how to find the stairs. Twelve paces forward, one to the right, turn, ten more, and then look left. A small window on the left let it a little light, allowing him to see the handle of the narrow door and open it. A staircase greeted him, and he followed it down, passing a door along the way which would lead to the garden only Elrond was permitted to go.

There was enough light coming in from the windows now for Erestor to see where he was going, and with ease he pushed open the door that was already ajar. Entering another short hallway, he walked soundlessly to his destination. He could hear residents of the house on the other side of the wall, walking down the visible corridor. One of the rumors was that Imladris was haunted, and this was fueled by times when someone had made too much noise in the hidden passages and had been heard by those on the other side.

It was all easier said than done, for dragging behind Erestor was a good yard of fabric, weighing down the already heavy robes he was wearing. He paused at the next door he came to and tapped lightly upon it though he could hear faint voices within. The door was opened for him and he maneuvered into the room with an exhausted sigh. “I love these robes,” he mumbled as the door caught them and yanked him back a half step, “but I hate wearing them.”

“At least you wear them well,” remarked Glorfindel, who was fussing about at the mirror. Erestor snorted and shrugged off the outer robe that caused him so much hassle. Lindir was in the room as well, a private room furnished with a plush bench, a mirror, wash cabinet and basin, and a stall with a door for privacy. Only the highest ranking members of the household knew how to reach these hidden areas, which were used more often than one might expect. It was practically a daily occurrence for each of them to be in these secret passages. Today, as they would be meeting with delegations from both Lothlorien and Mithlond, they had passed one another through the secret places more than one. Now they readied for the pomp and circumstance of the formal greetings.

Tossing the formal overrobe onto the bench, Erestor moved to the stall and shut the door behind him. “Has anyone seen Elrond?”

“Not I,” replied Glorfindel. “Lindir?”

“I wonder if he is in the garden,” thought the minstrel aloud. “Shall I go look for him?” he offered.

“Look, but if you do not find him, return in ten minutes time. And if you do find him, bring him with you,” shouted Erestor as he heard the door opening. Lindir, holding his own ceremonial robes up and off to one side so that he would not step on them or scuff them with his toe, left on his mission.

At the mirror, Glorfindel was rebraiding his hair for the third time. “Such a pity, one so handsome as I, but I can not weave this morning to save my soul.”

From the stall came a stifled laugh. “Leave it loose, then,” suggested Erestor.

“Not a chance. If I do that, we will get a breeze through the hall, and in an instant it will be roving one way and the other and I will frizz,” explained the golden warrior. Erestor emerged from the stall and went to the basin to wash his hands. “Aye, I wish I could look half as good in robes as you do.”

“You look fine,” Erestor assured his friend.

“But I do not look spectacular.” Glorfindel picked up the outerrobe and held it up for Erestor to slide his arms through. “You look very natural in them. These especially.”

Erestor turned to the side and admired himself for a brief moment. “If, Eru forbid, I should ever die, I wish to be buried in these robes.”

“Do not say that, Erestor,” begged Glorfindel with a frown.

“I am sorry. That was thoughtless of me.” Erestor sighed. “I just really love these robes,” he said, looking at the garments, which were varying shades of blue, from another angle.

“Then, why not connect them with something happier. Say you wish to be married in them,” he suggested, smoothing out a creased along Erestor’s left sleeve. Again, the dark elf snorted. “What? How is that silly?”

Giving Glorfindel a pat on the cheek, Erestor walked to the basin and took a towel, wetting a corner. “I am no longer the marrying type, Fin. Too old, too stubborn, too borning.”

“Please. Some would say you are practically perfect,” hinted Glorfindel, but Erestor was already on another topic in his mind.

“I saw the delegates arrive from Mithlond, but I do not know who was sent from Lorien.” Erestor dabbed at a tiny dot of ink he had seen on sleeve of one of the inner robes.

“Do you want to know?” Glorfindel asked cautiously. He could not see Erestor’s face directly, but the reflection he saw was betrayed the calm in his friend’s voice. Still working on the stain, which was simply bleeding into a larger area of grey, Erestor’s voice failed, and so he simply nodded. “He is here. He accompanied Orophin, who will be presenting his father’s plan at the meeting. However, he is only here as an escort, so I regret to say I doubt you will see him much during the talks.”

“Still, it is wonderful news.” Erestor gave up on the growing smudge and tossed the darkened cloth into a small wicker bin for washing. “I wonder if I should try to find him now.”

Glorfindel cocked his head to the side. “Before the meeting? Erestor, that is cutting things awful close.”

“Right. We run until late afternoon- do you think he will have dinner plans made already?”

“Well, I would assume that he will be eating in the Great Hall with the rest of us, since there is a feast tonight,” Glorfindel reminded him.

“Damn, I forgot about that,” mumbled Erestor. “I wonder if I could convince him not to go...”

Crossing his arms over his chest, Glorfindel leaned up against the door lest Lindir or Elrond should suddenly walk in. “You probably could, but considering you were the one to plan the event, our lord might not be very amused if you simply decided not to show.”

“You think Elrond would mind? Oh, of course he would,” Erestor answered for himself. “Then we have the first set of talks starting tomorrow, we never seem to finish on time despite what the agenda says. Even if we did, it would be such a late supper to invite him to.”

“What about lunch? You both need to eat in the middle of the day, you know,” said Glorfindel.

“Lunch is barely time at all to catch up; if I ask him to have lunch, then it would just be odd to ask him to dinner later in the week. Oh! What if he has plans already?” Erestor finally turned away from the mirror to regard Glorfindel. “What do I do if he has made plans!? He may already have asked Arwen to spend time with him- ai, Fin, this is madness that I worry so!” Erestor lifted his arms towards the sky in frustration.

Glorfindel drummed the fingers of his right hand on the pale green velvet of his outer robe. “I have the perfect solution for you.” Erestor looked to Glorfindel with an innocent hopefulness that Glorfindel had figured out the answer to his problem. He frowned when Glorfindel presented his plan of action.

“Tell him.”

“I can not,” insisted Erestor. “How do I tell him? If I do, he will surely despise me. I doubt also that our relationship would be the same. I have something many parents do not- a child who feels they can tell me anything.”

“He needs you more as a father than as a best friend, Erestor,” Glorfindel tried to reason, but Erestor turned his head away in defiance.

“He has a father. He needs a friend more. I will not entertain this idea again, Glorfindel. Not now, at least,” said Erestor.

Glorfindel shook his head and moved away from the door, giving Erestor a squeeze on his shoulder. “Have it your way, then, but honestly- there may come a day when it is too late for you to change things. Too late for you to say the words you mean to say.” Sitting upon the bench, Glorfindel got a faraway look in his eyes. “I always wished I had had another day with my father; another chance to speak to him before he was killed. Despite his animosity towards me, I would still have liked to have had one last chance to talk to him.”
Impossible Again by Zhie
Immediately following the Laire Namarie celebration, Glorfindel and Erestor had returned to their cottage, and that night received a visitor. It was Lady Celebrian, who first asked them to stay at the First Homely House as guests for the winter, and then extended invitation for them to visit as often as possible when they refused her initial offer. It was not only her desire, but Elrond’s as well.

The compromise was for them to stay for a week, with frequent trips back to the cottage to prepare for winter and tend to their animals. This appeased the lord and lady of the house, who were most insistent that they stay in one of the larger guest rooms despite the assurances from Glorfindel and Erestor that a smaller one was just fine.

There was something about being in the house that made them both uncomfortable about having intimate relations while visiting. Erestor linked it to the fact that Elrond had walked in on them the morning after their initial arrival in Valinor- quite a surprise, as Elrond had been in silent denial that the pair was romantically involved let alone married until being presented with the visual proof. The reason Glorfindel cited was that it felt very odd to be making love to his husband under the same roof where his father’s sister lived, and doubly so as she had once spent her nights in bed with his lover. For that reason, there was much snuggling and cuddling and a few quick kisses, but nothing that made them sleep late and miss breakfast.

“Celebrian told me she is making eggs and potato hash, and glazed rolls with honey,” announced Glorfindel, having just returned to their room from the sea, where he had bathed. He found Erestor seated on the chair at the vanity table. “Something wrong?” asked Glorfindel as he toweled off his hair and went to the closet to retrieve a clean shirt.

Erestor looked solemnly at himself in the mirror. “I do look like Morgoth,” he mumbled to himself. “I would not have this problem if I were a real Vala,” he told his reflection as he propped his elbows on the countertop of the vanity and rested his face in his hands.

“And why is that?” asked Glorfindel, appearing behind Erestor as he pulled the shirt over his own head. He placed his hands on Erestor’s shoulders and began to knead away the tension in his muscles.

Regarding his mirrored image a little longer, Erestor said, “I would have a fana, not a hroa. My physical form would not limit me. I could change my appearance at will.”

“You could,” agreed Glorfindel, “but I think you are beautiful as you are.”

“Looking like Morgoth,” added Erestor.

“No, looking like Erestor. Like my Ress, my beautiful Vala,” continued Glorfindel, stroking his lover’s cheek with the back of his hand as he, too, looked into the mirror. “So you both have black hair and none of the rest of the Valar do. Who cares? I have seen other ainu, a few of the Maiar whose hair is black. You also lack his terrible red eyes, darling. Even so, you would never pass as twins or brothers or anything of the sort- cousins, perhaps, but that is somewhat to be expected. Besides,” whispered Glorfindel out of the side of his mouth, “the one who looks the most like Morgoth is Manwe; it does not seem to be upsetting him.”

“Manwe is quite fair, despite the features that make him look like his brother. But Glorfindel, what you do not know is that Manwe has indeed altered himself slightly over the years. So much so in fact that when we came to Valinor, I did not readily recognize him.”

“Oh.” Glorfindel shrugged. “If it bothers you so much, you can do other things to alter the way you look.”

“What would you do, Fin?” asked the dark elf, looking up to meet the eyes of his lover’s reflection. “If you could change yourself to look different so that others would not mistake you for someone, would you do it?”

Glorfindel was beginning to play with Erestor’s hair, drawing it back or to one side, lifting it to see how it would look at different lengths. “If it were me, I would do nothing. But then, I love what I look like. Very few, elves or otherwise, have green eyes. And with a name like mine, if you do not have the long golden hair to back it up, seems very contradictory. The only time anyone ever mistook me for anyone else, it was for Thranduil, and as I recall, that was a very, very good night...”

Erestor turned his head slightly to look over his shoulder and decided it best not to ask any questions regarding the matter.

“However, that is what I would do. The question remains, what do you want to do?” Glorfindel was absently weaving thin braids of varying styles and thicknesses into the long, dark hair. “I know of an elleth in New Valimar who specializes in hair recoloring. Very natural looking; you could have her change it to brown or red or even blond.”

“Blond? Out of the question,” Erestor said, vetoing that idea quickly. “No offense,” he added just as fast.

“None taken,” replied Glorfindel, but he did tug on one of the recently plaited braids. “Or, if you want no doubts in anyone’s mind as to who you are, she could change it to blue or purple or green.”

“That would be hideous,” laughed Erestor. “Green hair?”

Glorfindel shrugged. “Just giving you options, love.”

It was at that point that Erestor looked at what Glorfindel was doing. “Are you- give me that,” he said, wrenching the half-finished braid out of Glorfindel’s hand. Turning his head swiftly to the side so that his hair swung over his shoulder, Erestor made a sound of disbelief and began to untie all of the multicolored ribbons and thin lengths of leather that Glorfindel had been using to keep his assortment of braids in place. “Honestly! I know one elf who is NOT going to be allowed to touch my hair!”

“Give it a chance. It’s very ‘fifth age’, you will be ahead of the times,” assured Glorfindel with mock sincerity.

“I prefer to be ‘old-fashioned’, thank you,” declared Erestor. “There,” he said finally, once the offending braids were removed and he was brushing his hair, leaving it to flow down his back. “Just as I like it.”

Glorfindel intercepted the hairbrush and picked up where Erestor had left off, working on the few tangles that had managed to sneak their way into his long mane. “And I like it, too. But that you like the way you look matters more. Do not let anyone tell you different. And the next one who points and cries ‘Morgoth’ is going to eat my boot.”

“Ew. I thought you were reserving that punishment for the one who next asks you ‘Did it hurt when you died’?” reminded Erestor.

“I was, but the wonderful thing about marriage is that we get to share. Unless there is a more suitable punishment you can think of,” Glorfindel said.

“Oh, please, I can think of nothing better,” answered Erestor. “And on that note, shall we join our gracious hosts for the morning meal?”

“As long no one requests my boots be added to the menu, I do think that is a grand idea.” Glorfindel offered Erestor his arm, and the pair left for the kitchen.

- - -

“I need to speak with my mother.” Haldir hoisted himself onto the windowsill. “I have considered going on my own, but I would prefer to travel with you. I know this is not going to work well with the plans we had in Valimar.”

“Haldir, plans can be changed. As it is, Lasiavis is doing very, very well. The baby is fine, and she thinks I am crowding her, in all honesty. Perhaps I am, just a little,” admitted Elodien with a coy smile. “But that elfling is just sooo cute.”

Legolas joined Haldir by the window, leaning against the frame. “We dragged you to Valimar, it seems only fair that we follow you to Aqualonde. I miss the seaside, and I would enjoy seeing it this winter. There leaves only one question in my mind.”

“Ahm goin’ to assume, the question is, what to do with the old dwarf.” Gimli, who had been sitting at the kitchen table finishing his breakfast, stroked his long grey beard. “Ah think you should let him go back to the city. Though I would be very happy to see the Lady Galadriel, they have snow there. Ah hate snow. Gits in mah beard.”

“No snow for Gimli, then,” laughed the peredhel. “I am sure Oropher will have you stay at the palace, but you must come along with Thranduil when he comes to the Yule celebration later this winter.”

“Yule? No, no, I just thought we would stop by-“ began Haldir, but Elodien was already midway into her planning.

“Gimli can take the carriage, and we can manage what we will need to bring with us between the other two horses.” Elodien smiled brightly. “It will be lovely to see everyone, to spend time in the house for a while.”

Knowing that disagreeing would only lead to an argument, Haldir kept quiet. It was Legolas who asked the question that was on his mind.

“What are we going to do with Greyson?” asked Legolas. The wolf looked up at the sound of his name from his warm corner near the hearth. All four looked at the large, furry creature, who could go from puppyish lovey-eyed sweetheart to fierce hunter and protector in seconds. With his mouth open in a wolfish grin, he stood up and walked to his master, leaning his head against Haldir’s leg before bouncing up on his hind legs and resting his front paws on the elf’s knee.

“Greyson. Good boy,” said Haldir as the wolf received a scratching behind the ears and a rub on the muzzle. Greyson stood down and padded back to his corner. “He will just have to come with us,” said Haldir.

“Let’s hope he doesn’t have a taste for flamingos,” whispered Gimli to Elodien.

- - -

“Halli!”

“Rumil.”

“Halli!”

“...Oro?”

*POUNCE!*

Orophin grinned down at his stunned older brother. “Valarda and I are staying here the winter, marvelous, no? I envy all of you, having one so magnificent as I in your presence,” he continued, seemingly ignoring the fact he was sitting on Haldir’s chest with one foot dangerously close to Rumil’s ear. “I radiate such magnificence, that with the exception of my wife, all others should be so lucky to bask in such radiance.”

“Good to see your ego is still intact. And yet, I still miss you,” admitted Haldir, giving Orophin a bit of a hug. “Now... would you care to remove yourself from me?”

“No, actually, you are quite comfortable. Squishy, even.” Orophin poked a finger into Haldir’s stomach. “Did you eat pie? To fluff yourself up for me? How nice, you are comfy, I think I shall nap now.”

“Oro...” warned Haldir. “Legolas? A bit of help?”

“I think I should be jealous. My brother never greets me in such a fashion,” said Legolas with a smirk as he navigated around the pile of limbs and elf that was in the doorway after Haldir had been tackled. Elodien covered her mouth so that her laughter would not be heard as Orophin detangled himself from the pile, crept up behind Legolas, and knocked him to the floor as well.

As an attempt was made to close the door, a large grey wolf sauntered in. Rumil began to fawn over the ‘adorable puppy’ while Orophin gave it a cautious look. “Is that what I think it is?”

“What do you think it is?” questioned Haldir back slyly.

“Nana is going to make you take it outside,” warned Orophin as Haldir whistled to the wolf and headed for the stairs.

Reaching over the banister, Haldir gave Orophin a pat on the head. “And that is why I must smuggle him to my room before she finds out.”

After settling into the room that he had lived in during the early part of the age, Haldir decided to go to the kitchen to see what he could find for a snack. Legolas had been stolen away almost immediately upon their arrival by Elrond, who wished to converse with him over a game of chess. Soon after, Nenniach came to the room and asked Elodien to tea, to catch up with one another before dinner. Haldir had stayed in their rooms, trying to fight the growling in his stomach until the evening meal, but it was a battle he finally lost.

Straying into the kitchen, he had expected to find a group, perhaps, but not simply a single elf and certainly not this one. He wanted to leave, but his feet did not allow him to. Nothing came to mind as to what he should say, so there was some relief when the other spoke first.

“Haldir, this is not what it looks like,” said the ellon.

Walking to the table where a bowl of dried fruits sat, Haldir said, “It looks like you are scraping a bowl of whatever that is into the pail for the goats.”

“No, I am saving us all from certain indigestion,” replied Celeborn as he continued to empty the contents into the pail, which already contained peelings from potatos and crusted rolls.

“And giving it to the goats?” Haldir asked with amusement.

“The goats love brussel sprouts. I, however, despise them. And I will not have your mother telling me that I need to set an example and clean my plate, when she is the one that forces them onto my plate in the first place.”

At the mention of ‘mother’, Haldir sat down heavily at the table. “Ada, can we talk?”

“Of course.” Celeborn set the empty bowl aside and took a seat beside Haldir. “Tell me what is on your mind.”

“Will you still let me call you Ada? I mean...” Haldir fought to find the words. “Should I feel different now? Because, honestly, I still feel like your son. I still want to be your son, but then I have no idea what to do about Erestor.”

“First, I am glad you still want me to be your father. I feel no different, either,” confessed Celeborn. “You do need to decide what you wish to do in regards to Erestor’s claim.”

“Claim? He seemed fairly certain,” Haldir pointed out.

Celeborn gave him a wry smile. “I suppose a small part of me hopes it is simply not true. But, even if it is as he says, you are still my son.”

Smiling a little, Haldir nodded. “Thank you. Although, I still do not know what to say to Erestor, I feel much better.”

“Good. Oh, and by the way,” said Celeborn as he returned to the discarding of undesirable foods, “your mother and I talked, and we wanted to tell you that we do not mind the wolf in the house, but that you must keep it from eating anything or anyone.”

“Who told you?” Haldir asked immediately.

Shaking his head and rolling his eyes, Celeborn answered, “No one had to, Haldir. We are your parents. We simply KNOW these things.”

- - -

“Haldir arrived.” Glorfindel sat down beside Erestor, whom he had found sitting on the roof stargazing.

His lover nodded his head. “I saw the carriage pull up and I came up here. I hope we have not fallen into a trap, like the plan that Thranduil concocted.”

“I would not worry. It is doubtful that Elrond or Celebrian would do something like that. Besides, I heard Haldir speaking to Celeborn in the kitchen. It sounds as if they do not know you are here, and it also sounds as if they came without invitation.”

Erestor sighed. “What do I do, Fin? He obviously did not come to talk to me. Should we go home?”

“It will only serve to upset our hosts. With everyone else who is here, there is enough going on for him to keep busy until he decides he wants to talk. Who knows,” added Glorfindel. “Maybe one of his other family members will have luck convincing him to sit down and speak with you.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” Erestor leaned back on the roof again, staring at the pinpoints of light that covered the darkened sky. “I wish I knew what to say to... comfort him, to make him understand.”

“He will come around, in time. You only make yourself sick worrying about it,” Glorfindel told him, lying down beside him. “Just relax, enjoy yourself, you have had enough stress as of late.”

“Not working,” announced Erestor not five minutes later.

Glorfindel looked over at Erestor, who was practically glaring at the heavens, with his arms crossed over his chest. “You are not even trying.”

“Yes, I am,” returned Erestor indignantly.

“Fussy, fussy baby,” accused Glorfindel as he sat up. “Roll over on your stomach.”

Erestor gave Glorfindel a sideways look. “On the roof?” he asked incredulously.

“No, not on the roof- I want to give you a massage. NOT that kind of massage, you perverse minded creature!” Glorfindel motioned for Erestor to roll over. “Let me rub your back. You can even leave your shirt on,” he added as the dark elf pulled the garment off.

“Well, what fun would that be?” he questioned as he spread out his shirt before resting upon it.

“Might as well take off the rest of it,” suggested Glorfindel, who was honestly surprised that Erestor followed his instruction. “Excellent. Damn, I wish I had some oil...”

“I thought you said-“

“For the backrub. Honestly,” breathed Glorfindel as his hands gripped Erestor’s shoulders. He squeezed and let go, and repeated, moving down one arm first and then back up. Shifting his weight and kneeling with one leg on either side of Erestor’s body, he worked along the other arm. Next he relieved the tension in his lover’s neck and head before concentrating on his back. The lower his hands moved, the more relaxed Erestor’s muscles became, save for one. “On your back,” whispered Glorfindel into Erestor’s ear.

“But, Fin, I-“

“I know,” he answered in a husky voice, bending down to lick and kiss the side of Erestor’s neck up to the tip of his ear.

“Fin, we have no oil,” added Erestor.

A finger was placed upon his lips. “Shh. I know.” Glorfindel aided Erestor in turning onto his back, and licked his lips at the sight of the swollen erection. “I told you, just relax.”

Glorfindel straddled Erestor again, keeping his weight on his own knees, but this time he was facing his lover’s feet. Erestor curiously began to sit up, but his head fell back and his hands grabbed the nearest thing, which happened to be Glorfindel’s ankles. He clenched his teeth, not wanting to disturb anyone in the house with the noise he tended to make as Glorfindel’s mouth took more and more of Erestor’s length within, sucking harder the deeper it went. “You like that, baby?” asked Glorfindel as he let Erestor slip from his mouth. “You want more of that.”

“Mmmnn... mmmhmm... ugh... Glorfindel!” Erestor bit down on his lip, lest another cry escape his lips. One of his hands reached up to pull at the lacings along the front of Glorfindel’s pants, trying in desperation to free his lover’s erection from its restraints.

Sitting up, Glorfindel untied the knot and shimmied out of his clothing, including his shirt, all of which were tossed aside. He resumed the position he had been in, taking Erestor’s full length into his throat, while Erestor lapped as Glorfindel’s erect member, sliding his tongue up the length as far as he was able to.

Increasing his pace after sucking briefly on one of his fingers, Glorfindel continued using his mouth while he rubbed the wet digit against Erestor’s puckered flesh, pressing in barely an inch just to tease him. This was enough to put Erestor over the top, and he thrust up into Glorfindel’s mouth. Another wave hit him, and he released his seed down his lover’s throat, some of it dribbling out of Glorfindel’s mouth.

Sitting up, Glorfindel used the spilled seed to coat his fingers and once again set to working his finger into Erestor’s passage. He could feel the dark elf pushing back, moaning into the hand that covered his mouth so that his screams would not be heard.

Again, Glorfindel repositioned himself, lifting Erestor’s legs over his shoulders before plunging into the channel he had prepared. Both of Erestor’s hands were on his mouth as he bucked his lower body up, meeting Glorfindel’s demands, begging him for more. The blond took hold of Erestor’s hands, one in each of his, and stretched them up to pin them over his head and out to either side. Sealing his mouth over Erestor’s, they tasted each other’s salty essence and silenced moans with warm, dexterous tongues. They breathed through their noses in short breaths, almost fighting for air as Glorfindel came and Erestor became undone yet again, collapsing at last with one final, collective sigh.

Glorfindel shifted to lie down next to Erestor, bowing his head to nibble on each of his nipples, causing the dark elf to let out a muffled squeek. “Shall we sleep under the stars tonight, my love?”

“I do not care where I sleep, as long as it is with you,” said Erestor as he curled himself around Glorfindel and promptly fell asleep.

- - -

Another pounding on the door, and Haldir reached for another pillow to launch at it. Sadly, he found he had exausted his ammunition. To his right, Legolas and Elodien seemed blissfully ignorant of anything going on around them as they continued to stay in reverie despite the noise. “Go away! We do not want whatever you are selling!” he shouted, drawing the blanket up over his head.

“Land shark,” replied the voice on the other side of the door.

Shoving the covers down, Haldir glanced at his mates- still sleeping- and then to the door. “Land...? Ai... Oro...” Stretching sleepily, Haldir worked out the kinks in his neck as the pounding began again. “Stop it, I will answer the door in a minute.”

“But, you will answer faster if I continue to annoy you.”

Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang!

“Haldir, open the damned door!” yelled Celebdreth from the next room. “Some of us are trying to sleep!”

“Some of us would still like to!” Haldir shouted back through the wall as he fumbled around in the drawer, digging out a shirt and a pair of pants. “Orophin, I will break your hand if you do not stop knocking!” The pounding turned to thumping at the bottom part of the door. “Your feet will be next!”

As Haldir reached the door and placed his hand on the knob, he was hit squarely in the back of the head with a pillow, which fell to the floor to join its comrades. Turning around, he glared at Legolas, who had a sleepy, smirking expression on his face. “When you come back, bring us some coffee,” he said.

“Do I look like your butler?” asked Haldir rhetorically, but Legolas squinted and eyed him up.

“Actually, now that you mention it,” said Legolas as Haldir bent down and picked up one of the stray pillows, “you and Galion do give me the same scowl when I do or say something that disturbs you.”

Haldir drew back the arm that held the pillow, but upon seeing Elodien slumbering in Legolas’ arms, he tossed it onto the end of the bed instead. “Come and get your own coffee.”

“With cream,” added Legolas.

“Get your own bloody coffee!” growled Haldir.

“And sugar,” continued Legolas.

“I am NOT getting coffee for you!”

From the next room, Beineilien yelled, “Just bring him his coffee, Haldir!”

“And answer the door!” shouted Celebdreth as Orophin began to kick at the wood again. Haldir yanked the door open, causing Orophin to stumble. Taking one look at his cheerful brother, Haldir grumbled and walked past him into the hall.

“If there are any of those fruit biscuits for dipping, bring some of those, too!” called the voice of Legolas as Haldir stomped down the stairs. Orophin followed after him, hopping down a few to catch up.

“Good morning, Hallidear!”

With a snarl, Haldir asked, “What, precisely, is good about it?”

“A million things, the most important being that our dear sister has cooked up a batch of strawberry pancakes. Considering how rare it is to have anything strawberry at all this time of year, I thought you might appreciate my waking you,” explained Orophin.

Haldir halted them at the bottom of the steps. “You could have just knocked once and told me she was making strawberry pancakes.”

“If I did that, then everyone would know,” Orophin said. “If everyone knew, then you might not get any, and you would be stuck with nothing but bread and water for your morning meal.”

“Orophin, stop being ridiculous. She would make more if we ran out,” said Haldir. The two continued to the kitchen. “I must say, I do miss her cooking. Thank you for waking-“ Haldir stopped, his ears straining to hear the conversation coming out of the nearby door. After a few seconds of eavesdropping, he took hold of Orophin’s sleeve and yanked him back to the bottom of the stairs. “Orophin, is that who I think it is?”

“Sorry, Halli, I forgot! I should have told you yesterday.” Lowering his voice, Orophin said, “Clebri and Elrond asked them to stay the winter.”

“What?!”

“Shh! Halli, they are here for a week- Halli, I forgot because I was so excited to see you here last night.” Orophin weaved around the desk so that he could get to Haldir, who was pacing now. “Give me a few minutes. I will go and get breakfast for us, and the coffee for Legolas, and we can eat upstairs.”

“No. I will go upstairs and pack; I can not be under the same roof as him. Not right now,” said Haldir.

Orophin pointed towards the kitchen. “You want me to tell him to leave? I will, if you want.” When Haldir did not answer, Orophin continued. “Just stay here, give me a minute.”

“Oro, they will not simply leave.”

“Sure they will. I just have to be forceful about it. Put my foot down. Halli, I would hate for you to leave now that you have only just arrived. How often do we get to spend time together anymore?” prodded Orophin, and the expression Haldir was wearing changed to contemplate this. “Two minutes. If you see him come out, just duck into the dining room,” said Orophin, referring to the formal room that remained empty so often and served more as a storage area for plates and glasses when not in use.

Orophin entered the kitchen, finding his sister serving breakfast to those sitting at the table; his brother Rumil, his sister-in-law Nenniach, his cousin Glorfindel, and... him. “You. You have to go. Now,” demanded Orophin as he looked at Erestor and pointed to the door. Shock settled upon those in the room, and even Mitzi, the pet pink flamingo, raised her head to try to discover what was going on.

“Oro! What-“ began Celebrian, but she was cut off by her brother.

“Haldir does not wish to see you right now,” added the tall ellon. “Kindly go home, and he will contact you when he is ready to talk.”

Awkwardly, Erestor started to stand, but Celebrian placed a hand on his shoulder to keep him seated. “Erestor and Glorfindel are my guests, Orophin, I will not have you kicking them out.”

“I never said Glorfindel had to leave. Besides,” said Orophin, “Haldir used to live here. Erestor is just visiting.”

“May I remind you,” came a voice that emerged from the underground pantry, “that this is not your house, or Haldir’s house, but MY house.” Elrond crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Orophin. “I and my wife are the ones to make the rules and set the standards. We have invited Erestor and Glorfindel here. If they stay, it is because of our will and theirs. Not because of what you want, not because of what Haldir wants. Are we clear?”

The sound of the front door banging shut jolted Orophin. “Sorry,” he said, but to Elrond and not Erestor.

“Tell your brother not to slam my front door,” said Elrond as Orophin backed out of the kitchen. Orophin nodded and walked down the hall to find Haldir.

His older brother was halfway to the beach by the time Orophin had retrieved Haldir’s flute and made it outside himself. The waters were calm and the morning sun was warming the sand. Orophin sat down on the log beside his brother and handed him his flute. “Thought you might want this,” he offered.

“I should have known it was Elrond. He always does these things to me,” said Haldir.

“Maybe he does not mean to,” suggested Orophin.

Haldir snorted. “Oh, it is all very intentional, believe me.”

Orophin leaned over and gave Haldir a hug. “Want to talk about it?” Haldir shook his head. “Somehow, I thought not. Remember, I am here when you need me.” Orophin hugged him again, and then left for the house as Greyson padded past and sat beside Haldir, placing his head into the blond elf’s lap.

- - -

“You hardly ate any breakfast,” observed Glorfindel as he and Erestor walked down the hallway from the kitchen.

“I lost my appetite,” said Erestor. He began to walk upstairs, but turned around and retraced he steps, stopping at the front door. “He has not come in yet,” he said.

Glorfindel stepped beside Erestor and placed an arm around his waist. “Not that I heard. The door opened once, but Orophin came back inside and I heard no one follow him. If I had to take a guess, I would say that Haldir is probably on the beach.” Glorfindel placed his hand on the handle. “Do you want to see if he is there?” Erestor nodded and Glorfindel pulled back enough so that the door way unlatched but not open. “Do you want me to come with you?”

“I think it best I go to him alone. I know he says he wants me to just go away, but I still have to try. I just feel like I have to make an attempt to reach out,” said Erestor as the door was opened. Glorfindel nodded as they walked out, letting his arm slip away from Erestor. He sat down on the porch swing while Erestor closed the door. Taking a deep breath, Erestor walked down the steps and across the grass. Just past the pink picket fence, the lawn mingled with the sand until it changed altogether. The sound of crashing waves accompanied the solid notes being played by the elf on the beach.

Haldir was playing his flute, sitting on an old log which had long inhabited the shore. Next to him sat the shaggy grey wolf, adding a howl where he felt appropriate.

“Haldir?”

The next note soured and the elf on the log set the flute down in his lap. Greyson flicked his ears and bared his teeth slightly.

“Haldir, may we talk?”

A low growl was emitted by the wolf, who was on his feet. Haldir fiddled with the instrument in his lap and did not respond.

“Please, Haldir, I wanted to say-“

Greyson leaped with the next step that Erestor took, snapping at the dark elf. Flinching, Erestor knew he would not be able to safely stay unless Haldir told the wolf to stand down. When he still gained no answer from his son, Erestor backed away, keeping his eyes on the wolf. He did not stop until he was back on the porch with Glorfindel.
“I will return,” Erestor said sadly. “Celebrian was making tea for us and I do not wish her to think that I forgot.”

Glorfindel watched Erestor disappear into the house, then set his sight on the duo near the shore. Although he had accepted that Erestor wished to do this on his own, to give Haldir the time and space needed, he was not at all happy that a wolf had growled and nearly bit his husband, but more importantly that Haldir had done nothing to stop the creature.

Putting his feet up on the railing of the porch, Glorfindel continued to swing for another minute before letting out a high-pitched whistle. Greyson’s head raised up, and Glorfindel whistled again. Haldir stopped his playing and turned around, watching as Greyson ran to the porch. “Heel!” Greyson stopped so fast he practically skidded across the porch. “Sit!” Again, Greyson followed the command.

Haldir gripped his flute and stood up, giving Glorfindel an infuriated look, but the blond was staring out over the sea. Trudging his way through the sand, he heard as Glorfindel instructed the wolf to join him on the swing and then to sit again. Marching up the steps, Haldir glared at Glorfindel, who still paid him no mind.

“Greyson,” snapped Haldir, and the wolf turned his head. “Come.”

The wolf blinked at Haldir as if he was speaking some foreign tongue. Glorfindel patted his lap, and Greyson lowered his head down upon it, shifting his gaze back to Haldir briefly, before closing his eyes as he was petted.

With a dissatisfied snort, Haldir yanked the door open and entered the house. As he set his foot upon the first step of the staircase, he caught a glimpse of Erestor and stopped dead in his tracks. Erestor did not notice him until he was in the hall.

There was a hopeful look on Erestor’s face. “Haldir... can we... talk?”

For a moment, he nearly agreed. “No,” he sneered, and lifted his foot to walk up the steps. He paused and looked back to the dark elf, who was positively crushed and turned away. As he stood, looking at how Erestor still was a little higher even while he himself was standing on the bottom step, Haldir said, “You are tall. I, am short.”

“What?” Erestor spun around and blinked. “Yes,” he said then, nodding. “Yes, I would definitely constitute as being tall, and you are... not,” he finished, thankful for any sort of communication between them at all, finding how much he truly missed their discussions and yearned for some contact of some sort.

“You can not be my father. You are tall, and my mother is tall.” Haldir pointed to himself. “I am short. Celeborn’s mother is short. I am NOT your son.” He turned and began to walk up the stairs, stomping on each one hard.

Erestor leaped up onto the bottom landing, and took the steps two at a time. He cut Haldir off at the top of the stairs and confronted him. “My mother, your grandmother, was short. Shorter than you. She was just a tiny little thing. She was one of the very, very first elves awakened, so she did not sleep so long and she was short. Just like you.”

As this information was absorbed, Haldir narrowed his eyes at Erestor. “That means nothing,” he finally said, shoving past and up the rest of the steps. Erestor lunged forward in an attempt to grab hold of Haldir’s sleeve, but was stopped as someone put a firm hand on his shoulder. Turning around, he found Elrond standing there.

“Erestor. Don’t.” The peredhel was shaking his head slowly, and Erestor bowed his and nodded. “Come with me, Erestor. I think Celebrian has finished making the tea.”

“If it is all the same to you,” said Erestor, “I would rather spend a little time alone.”

Elrond appeared about to object, but stood aside. “There will still be tea in the parlor later if you like.”

“Thank you.” Erestor walked down the rest of the stairs, his feet settling heavily on each one. Without looking up, he opened the front door and closed it behind him. Glorfindel was still on the porch, but no longer on the swing. Beside him on the stoop, Greyson was on his back allowing the Vanya to rub his belly. “I want to go for a walk. No, stay here,” he added as Glorfindel began to stand. “I need a little time by myself.”

“Alright. But if you are gone for more than an hour, I am going to come to find you,” warned Glorfindel. Erestor placed his hand on Glorfindel’s back and leaned down, sharing a kiss with his mate before shuffling down the steps and wandering towards the barn.

The smell of fresh hay greeted him at the door, as did the happy sounds of the animals who were penned in for the winter. There were chickens here and goats, and a mule who stood near the door announcing the entry of anyone and everyone. Most of the ducks were waddling about in one corner where a makeshift pond had been constructed, and two pairs of sheep were all snuggled together, their fur short from having been recently sheered.

Erestor took an empty bucket and flipped it upside down, placing it next to the gate where the goats were. Knowing he had treats for them in his pockets, several slit-eyed little faces butted the fence and poked their heads through. They were nipping at the cuff of his shirt as he pulled out the handfuls of sweet grasses he had nabbed on his way over. One rather bold goat walked his front hooves over the barrier and leaned down over the top, trying to steal away an entire handful.

He found he needed this peace. Each day was a challenge, for simply rising when he knew he would endure the rude looks and hurtful glares from Haldir was a difficult thing for him to do. Yet, Erestor still had hope, and was up every day with the dawn, turning in only well after dark and only after he was sure that Haldir had gone to bed without intention of returning to the ground floor. Traveling from the cottage to the homely house and back was nowhere near as taxing as it was for him to go from his home to Valimar, but it certainly seemed so some days.

Once he had spent most of his time in the barn, Erestor left to find Glorfindel lest he worry about him. Instead of heading back to the porch immediately, Erestor took the path to lead him through the gardens and then around to the few trees that were near to the house. In the low light, he spied someone near them and paused, trying to figure out who it was. The color of the elf’s hair was like straw from the back, and Erestor once again clung to the hope it was Haldir, deciding to finally speak to him.

His hope was lost, for it was Rumil, standing there looking very thoughtful. When he saw Erestor, he gave him a warm smile and waited for him to approach. With caution in his step, the dark elf found his way across the lawn and stopped short of Rumil by a few feet. “I just wanted to tell you, I understand. I know my brothers have not been the most receptive, but I do understand, as a father, what you were trying to do for Haldir.” Rumil bowed his head and then said, “What you were trying to do, for all of us.”

Closing the gap, he gave Erestor a hug that was returned by the stunned elda. “Give my brothers a little time,” advised the youngest of the three. “They will come to accept things as I have.” Without saying anything more, Rumil left, and Erestor found himself alone beneath the birch tree.

He stared up into the branches, looking at the small flet that was built around the trunk a little more than halfway up the tree. It was beginning to wear from the weather and years of disrepair. There were three similar trees, and a large stump where a fifth had been. Erestor still recalled the day that fifth tree had fallen down and smashed into the flet on the birch. It had been some three hundred years in the past, but still, he remembered as if it had happened the day before.

So intently was he observing the flet and the leafy boughs above, he did not notice the ellon who approached him until he was standing before him. “Erestor, might we speak?”

Erestor stumbled back, saved from falling only by the trunk of the tree behind him. “C-Celeborn. I-I, ah...” Looking down when he caught a slight motion, he noted Celeborn’s outstretched arm, offering his hand to him. Nervously, Erestor took hold of the other elf’s arm. Celeborn pulled him forward slightly. Erestor’s panic was replaced with shock and relief as Celeborn used his other arm to pat him on the back as he embraced him. Returning the gesture uneasily, Erestor relaxed when Celeborn said, “Thank you.”

Stepping back again, Celeborn still held Erestor’s arm. “I would not have been able to restrain myself as you did. My first thought when you told us was that you were a fool and that you were terrible for not telling Haldir or the rest of us. Then I thought about it for a while.”

“And now what do you think?” asked Erestor. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of a group coming around the side of the house. Made up of Glorfindel, Tallasinde, and Vilya, they were laughing happily. The ellith were swinging a pail between them while Glorfindel motioned about, telling them some sort of tale.

Celeborn shifted and followed the path of Erestor’s gaze to where the sounds came from. Looking back, Celeborn said, “I am grateful you had more sense than I would have. At the same time, I still think you were a fool. We would have worked something out. And now...” Celeborn let Erestor’s arm loose and placed his hand upon his shoulder. “I can accept that he was your son first,” said the wise elda, “but I have been his father longer. I would... like to continue to be included... in things.”

“I would never deny you that, Celeborn. You thank me for what I did, but I thank you for what you did. There are few with whom I would have trusted the raising of my child.” Erestor lowered his voice as the trio came closer. “Perhaps we might speak with Haldir, once he allows me to talk to him again, and discuss this.”

“I would like that.” Celeborn patted his shoulder, and then bowed his head to Erestor. “Again, thank you.”

Erestor bowed his own head, but merely nodded and said nothing. Celeborn turned to go back to the house, intercepting the group as they walked. The dark elf could hear bits and pieces of the conversation. Tallasinde was discussing the need to milk the goats, and that Glorfindel had planned to accompany the two young ellith to the barn, but Celeborn waved in the direction of the birch tree as he spoke to Glorfindel.

Straining to hear what was said, Erestor waved to Tallasinde and Vilya as they waved to him. Celeborn stole the pail from his daughter and granddaughter, and scooting around them, placed the pail on his head nonchalantly and began to walk to the barn. Soon, the pair of ladies was chasing him and giggling, with Tallasinde reaching up to pluck the pail from her father’s head when Vilya failed to jump high enough or fast enough to knock it off. Laughing and joking, the three disappeared into the barn as Glorfindel, a long piece of straw drooping down out of his mouth, kicked the stones in his path to Erestor out of the way until he was standing before his lover.

“Care to take a walk with me?” Glorfindel held his hand out to Erestor. “Nenniach said that dinner will not be ready for a few hours. Some sort of mishap in the kitchen, and I was told that I make her nervous so I was chased out. That gives us time to make it to the cliff and back if you like. Or, we can spend it in the garden,” suggested Glorfindel.

“Can we head over to the forest instead?” asked Erestor. He took hold of Glorfindel’s hand and was pulled up from the grass.

Brushing off his hands on his pants, Glorfindel said, “We could go for a ride. Shall I call for Asfaloth and Thay?” Erestor was already shaking his head.

“I could use a walk. A nice, slow walk. That way,” he added, pointing in the opposite direction of the First Homely House. Glorfindel draped his arm around Erestor after pulling the shaft of straw from his mouth, and the pair entered the woods behind the house.

- - -

“Touch it and face my wrath,” warned Nenniach as she stirred a large pot on the counter before carefully lifting it down and back into the oven. Haldir crossed his arms over his chest, scowling at the elleth who had scolded him. “Do you know how long it takes to make it look like that?” she asked him, referring to the pie that he had planned to taste test.

“Pies are meant to be eaten,” he countered, eyeing up the dessert even after it was moved well out of his reach. “That one is cold now, anyway. You should just let me have that one and make another for later.”

“Aye, you are Erestor’s son,” muttered the elleth under her breath.

Haldir narrowed his eyes at her. “What was that supposed to mean?” Walking over to her, he tapped her on the shoulder. After a number of pokes, she turned around. “What do you mean by that?”

“He is a known dessert stealer, just like you. Incurable sweet tooth.” Untying her apron and draping it over a chair, Nenniach said, “Obviously, you need something to do or you would not be haunting the kitchen like this. Go shoot something for me.”

With one brow elevated, Haldir leaned over the counter and regarded Nenniach oddly. “You have someone in mind specifically, or do I get to choose my victim?”

“Because of the fact the ducks were stolen by that wolf of yours, I had to butcher the buck your father shot. Celeborn, not Erestor.”

“Erestor is NOT my father, as far as I am concerned.”

“Well, Haldir,” said Nenniach with an exasperated sigh, “as far as I am concerned, you can claim them both as your father, Celeborn and Erestor. So stop pouting, go get your bow, and find another deer. That last one was meant to be salted for winter and it puts me behind schedule not having one. You have another hour of light yet. And take your brothers with you!” she shouted after him. “Including the one that married into the family!”

Poking his head around the doorway again, Haldir frowned at Nenniach. “Why do I need to take Elrond along?”

“Because he steals pies, too. Now go! Shoo! And make it a big one!” she called as he left to round up his brothers and his weapons.

- - -

“Why am I here?” wondered Elrond for the eighth time. Orophin chuckled, his eyes scanning the area for signs of a deer.

“I told you; Nenniach said you had to come with us.” Haldir scratched the back of his neck and then said, “She says you steal her pies.”

“What? I do no such thing,” denied Elrond. The party continued a little further into the forest before Elrond said, “Just the blueberry ones, and only now and then. Besides, it IS my house. If I should find the need to steal a pie, I do not think I should be questioned.”

“Spoken like a true elf lord,” Orophin commended, and then he stopped suddenly and motioned for the others to wait. Leaning forward a little and training his ears on the sounds of the woods, he smiled slightly and pointed straight ahead. “Haldir,” he whispered before anything had even emerged, “give me your bow.”

“No. She told me to shoot it,” Haldir reminded him, pulling an arrow from his quiver. He pulled back on the bowstring and watched the spot Orophin had pointed to intently.

The middle brother looked to the youngest with mild annoyance. “Haldir, you missed the last two. The sun is already setting,” hiss Orophin. “Give me the bow; I am a better shot than you and you know it.”

Relaxing his grip, Haldir took a long look across the clearing before looking again to Orophin. Again Orophin made his case, holding his hands out for the weapon. Haldir took a few steps forward away from the group, taking a stance with one knee on the ground at the edge of the trees. Again he drew the bowstring taut and listened to the sounds of the creature approaching. It actually sounded injured; two steps were heavier than the other two legs. The noise stopped abruptly and Haldir took aim. Feeling better that he was actually putting a wounded beast out of its misery, he used his instincts to know where it was standing behind the trees and fired.

- - -

“Have you had a chance to speak with Haldir at all?” asked Glorfindel. There was no reason to try to come up with other topics of conversation- it was evident that there was only one thing on Erestor’s mind, therefore there was no reason not to speak of it. The sigh Erestor let out was answer enough. “Would you like me to try to talk to him, love?”

“He just needs time.” This had become Erestor’s mantra. Glorfindel heard it said at least a dozen times a day for the last week. Turning his face to the heavens, Erestor said, “It is late. We should return to the house before they send a party to search for us.”

There was no objection from Glorfindel as they turned to go back to the eastern shore. Still, Erestor did not hurry to leave the serenity of the forest, and Glorfindel did not encourage him otherwise. Leisurely they retraced their path back to the house. Suddenly, Erestor slowed to a stop, and Glorfindel did the same. As Erestor tilted his head and listened for something, Glorfindel placed his hands upon the dark elf’s shoulders and looked around. Before he could ask what Erestor had heard, a gasp escaped from Erestor, one of great surprise. Glorfindel instinctively drew Erestor back towards him, but was stalled by something that poked him in the side.

Looking down, Glorfindel saw his worst fear. Sliding his arms under Erestor’s to keep the other elf from falling to the ground just in time, he yelled as loud as he could, “Stop! No shooting! Stop!” Lowering Erestor to the ground, he looked at the wound in a panic. “Son of a balrog. Son of a fuck. Erestor, talk to me, darling, talk to me, dammit!” demanded Glorfindel as he kept Erestor propped up with one leg while he tore his own shirt off. Once he had the cloth, he tried to figure out exactly what to do with it.

“How bad is it, Fin?” The calm in Erestor’s voice was much too eerie and caused Glorfindel to shudder. “I think I am bleeding.”

“It’s... it’s...” Glorfindel held the cloth near the exit of the arrow, where the blood seemed to be soaking into Erestor’s clothing faster. “Someone get help!” he shouted in the direction of the clearing.

- - -

“Haldir, wait!” Rumil leaped forward before his brother could nock another arrow. Holding Haldir’s hand still, all four elves listened as a call for help was issued forth.

“Aw, hell.” Orophin sped past his brothers with Elrond on his heels. “That sounds like Glorfindel. Fuck no,” he said as they raced through the clearing to the other side. “Shit! Rumil! Haldir!”

The other two had been waiting at their side, but hearing the distress from Orophin, they bolted over to join him. Elrond had disappeared through the trees already, and when they came to where Orophin stood, found the healer tending to Erestor, whose tunic was soaked with blood. “Glorfindel, we do not have enough light. I need to get him back to the house.”

“Elrond, I have seen wounds like this before. He will not make it!” argued Glorfindel. “You must do something now!”

“I would if I could, but I can barely see to know how bad it is.” Elrond examined the wound the best he could. The arrow had pierced above Erestor’s left hip and exited his back near the spine. “Glorfindel, we can make it. Carry him with me and we will get there quickly.”

“No. Let me take him. Go on ahead and get things ready.” Glorfindel did not wait for confirmation as he lifted Erestor into his arms. “Hang on, Erestor. Stay with me.”

“Really dizzy, Fin.”

“I know. Just stay with me, love,” insisted Glorfindel.

“Fin-love, I...” Erestor tried to reach his hand to touch Glorfindel’s cheek, but too weak, his arm fell limp onto his chest.

Someone gave Glorfindel’s shoulder a sharp pat. “Come on.” Orophin pointed through the trees. “I know the quickest path. Follow me.” Glorfindel disappeared behind Orophin, holding Erestor tight.

This left Haldir in the forest, with Rumil beside him. “Are you going to be alright?” asked the younger as he looked at his brother. Haldir was staring at the ground where Erestor had been, and at the bloodied rag that had been Glorfindel’s shirt only minutes before, and the trail of blood that was now leading to the house. The elder placed his hand upon the nearest tree for support, and then emptied the contents of his stomach on the ground.

- - -

“What happened?” Galadriel followed the entourage into the spare room on the ground floor. Elrond had arrived minutes before and had directed everyone to clear a path as he gathered various items and implements that were evidence for all that someone had done something more than stub a toe or get a sliver in their finger. As soon as Orophin entered, with Glorfindel and Erestor behind him, the occupants of the house became curious and concerned. Only Galadriel dared follow them into the makeshift healing room.

“Not now!” snapped Elrond, gently but firmly moving her out of the way as he instructed Glorfindel as to how he should put Erestor onto the bed. “I have to remove the arrow first, but then I must work fast. Orophin,” he called out, and the ellon entered the room. “Wash your hands and get back in here to assist me.” Nodding, Orophin did as he was told, passing Haldir and Rumil as he came back to the room.

Galadriel was still there, lingering on the opposite side of the bed. “What can I do to help?” she asked. Elrond shook his head as he and Orophin began the task of removing the arrow and tending to the wound. “There must be something I can do!”

“Artanis...” Erestor lifted his eyelids slightly and tried to focus on her. “You can help me.”

Kneeling down beside the bed, she reached a hand out to touch his. “Tell me how,” she implored.

“Pray to Him for me.”

She flinched at this, but vowed to do as he requested.
No Doubt by Zhie
So violently did her hands shake that twice she needed to put the pitcher down on the ground before she could calm herself enough to continue. She had seen injured elves before, even her own sons and her husband, but something about seeing Erestor so limp and so frightfully weak was horrifying. Even before she knew him to be Valar, he always appeared so strong, like an old tree that weathers the wind and the rain and stays standing long after all else had been uprooted. Now he lay dying in the house, and she felt there was nothing she could do to help.

But she would try. She had promised. How many times had he made promises to her? How many prayers had he said on her behalf? The numbers were staggering, and likely there were uncountable times she did not even know of.

He had asked her to pray, she promised she would. Soon after she was ushered out of the room by Orophin as Elrond grimaced and cursed, and Glorfindel stood nearby looking utterly helpless. Celebrian pushed past, entering the room with a kettle of steaming water, and then the door was closed, the discussion within the room muffled by the clatter of instruments being prepared and used.

Galadriel wandered aimlessly around the house, always returning to the door, trying to listen to what was happening. It was all in vain, and eventually she went to her room, thinking that she could do nothing and would retire for the night.

“What are you doing?” she asked when she found her husband at the window. It was open and he had his face turned up toward the stars.

He closed his eyes, as if deep in thought, and then turned back around. “I was saying a prayer for Erestor. I think he needs as many as he can get.”

She was silent for a moment, and then gave him an uneasy smile and went to the closet to select a nightgown. “I heard nothing. How can anyone hear you if you do not speak?”

“I spoke with my mind and with my heart,” answered Celeborn, turning around now so that he had his palms on the windowsill and was leaning back on them. “Illuvatar does not need to ‘hear’ me as others do; he knows everything I do and think.”

“Everything? That seems a bit extreme.”

Celeborn sounded a bit taken aback. “He would not be the One if he did not know everything that was going on. Someone or something has to have an idea of everything that is occurring. If not, there would be only chaos. Well,” he said, not hearing a confirmation from Galadriel, “it is what I believe, at least.”

Galadriel looked at the thin cotton gown in her hands and hung it back on the hanger she had taken it from. Walking deeper into the closet, she saw a glint of metal, and bent down in hopes it was what she thought it was. Indeed, it was still there, her mirror, which she took outside without further word to her husband and looked into now, in hopes it might aid her in some way.

~ ~ ~

“Tis your begetting day next week,” said Erestor.

“So it is,” replied Artanis coyly. “Why do you bring it up?”

“No reason,” he answered playfully back. “For, you must be much too old for parties now.”

“Indeed, I would think so!” she laughed, but secretly, she hoped he might have made plans for one.

Erestor nodded as he took hold of her hand and proceded to walk with her through the garden of their home. “Perhaps we should have a cake, though. Nothing fancy,” he added.

“Oh, no,” she agreed, but there was a hint of longing that she hoped he picked up on when she said, “Nothing with ribbons or flowers decorating it. Plain and simple.”

“That would leave me to think of a suitable gift,” mused Erestor. “Then again, a lady your age has nearly all she needs, so what use would a gift be to you now?”

“Precisely,” she said quickly, a little too quickly. She hoped he did not notice, and then again, she hoped he did. “Who wants silly parties and cakes and gifts? Afterall, this is five hundred, not fifty! It would be nothing more than silliness,” she concluded.

“Without a doubt.” Erestor paused at the bottom of the steps and squeezed her hand. “I just recalled that I left the rake out, and it looks like rain. Go ahead, I shall be in soon,” he promised.

Artanis climbed the rest of the steps and reached for the doorknob as she took off her wide-brimmed sunhat. It was quite dark inside, and she did not recall drawing the curtains, but as she stepped into the room to remedy the situation, she was caught offguard by someone who jumped at her from behind the kitchen table.

“Surprise!”

Shrieiking first in surprise and then delight, Artanis embraced all of the well-wishers as they approached. The curtains were drawn back to let in the light, and as she turned to the door leading outside, she saw Erestor standing on the porch with a satisfied smile on his face. Running out to him, she practically leaped into his arms.

“You planned this!” she scolded him with a grin. “I suppose there is a cake, too.”

“Big one, with roses and ribbons and everything,” confirmed Erestor as he embraced her. “Now, to disappoint you further,” he said with a wink, “I present to you, your begetting day gift.”

“All this, and a present, too?” laughed Artanis as she was hastily led around the house to where the barn was.

Erestor left that to be a mystery as he walked her up the pathway and opened the barndoor. “See if you can find your gift,” he said, letting go of her hand.

Her smile grew as she carefully walked from pen to stall, searching for a bow or bright colored paper covering a gift box. Eventually, she did find her bow- around the neck of her gift. “Oh, Erestor! Oh, he is perfect!” she squeeked as she lifted the latch and entered the pen. “Oh, I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him!” Her arms were wrapped around the goat’s neck as the goat nibbled on her silver-golden hair.

“Perhaps I should mention that ‘him’ is a ‘her’,” he laughed. “But, I am glad to make you happy.”

The scene changed, from Valinor to Doriath. Years had past, times had changed. Instead of the cheerful elf dressed in bright clothing and always with a smile, she saw a frowning ellon wearing drab grey robes that seemed to mirror his mood. He had just said something, which she did not hear, but the rest of the conversation was clear.

“How can you allow this to happen?” demanded Oropher, pacing through the room. It appeared to be a library of some sort, perhaps the archives from the shelves that reached floor to ceiling. Erestor stood behind a desk, with no one else in the room to witness the argument that was to follow.

“It is what she wants. It what will make her happy,” stressed Erestor. “More than anything right now, I want her to be happy.”

“You are foolish, Erestor. Is her marriage to Celeborn going to make YOU happy? I can answer that for you. It will not,” said Oropher.

“Yes, it will,” insisted Erestor. “She is not happy with me, and I am unhappy to see her unhappy.”

“You make no sense, boy,” Oropher scolded. “Does she know your true feelings?”

“Yes.”

“Did you actually sit the girl down and tell her that you are in love with her?”

“Thousands upon thousands of times,” Erestor told him.

“And have you told her that you offered your soul for her life?” Oropher saw Erestor flinch, and pressed the issue. “You never did, did you?”

“She need not know,” Erestor said quietly.

Oropher rubbed the bridge of his nose with a sigh of exasperation. “Erestor, Erestor, you fool. Tell her-“

“No.”

“-what you have done for her-“

“No.”

“-that she was supposed to be killed-“

“NO.”

“-but you bargained with the other Valar to save her life! Erestor, you have to learn, if you want something, you need to take a stand!” Oropher’s voice rose up louder and louder, and then all was quiet. He sighed again, and looked Erestor square in the eye. “Tell her what you did. Tell her you still love her.”

“I can not. I do not wish for her to feel there is a debt hanging around her neck. She owes me nothing.”

“She owes you everything!” countered Oropher, slamming the palm of his hand against the wall. “You gave her everything you had and more.”

“Maybe that is why I can say nothing to her; I have no more to give,” Erestor sadly replied. His image disappated into the water, which began to churn and bubble up, frothy and red.

Galadriel stepped back, but her eyes stayed locked on the basin. “Show me... show me something else,” she demanded as the water rose, sloshing ove the side, spilling like blood onto the ground. “What are you doing? What are you showing me?”

“You do not know?” Galadriel turned around, and behind her stood a being so radient, despite her being shrouded in black. “He is dying,” she said, tears sliding down her cheeks where millions had already fallen.

“He can not die!” shouted Galadriel in anguish. “He says he is a Vala; like Melkor, they can not be killed!”

“Oh, yes, we can be,” she was corrected. “We more certainly can be, if our Father wills it. In the case of Ress, it would be his Grandfather, but all the same, He lets everyone call Him Father. He likes it.” Another tear dripped down her cheek, and Galadriel realized who was speaking to her. “Do you say it is impossible for him to die because of what he is, or because of what he is to you?”

Galadriel’s eyes were questioning. “I do not know what you mean.”

“You do love him, do you not?” questioned Nienna.

Stepping back, Galadriel frowned. “No, I do not love him. I have told him that. He thought I did, and maybe I even thought I did, a long time ago when we were... together. That is not the case now, even if it was then.”

“So you have stopped loving him? Why? What did he do?” Nienna was patient with her words, waiting for the elleth to answer.

“He did nothing, I just... we had nothing,” was the best Galadriel could come up with. “He was not meant to be with me, and I was not meant to be with him. We parted, perhaps not as well as we might have, and...” Galadriel lifted her hands before her with a sigh. “Even if I had loved him, I would not now. I have my husband, Celeborn. I love him.”

“Is he the only one you love, then? Do you not love your children?”

“Of course I love my children,” scoffed Galadriel. “How could one not love their children?”

“And their spouses? Do you love them as well?” continued Nienna.

Galadriel thought on this for a moment, having an idea where things were going. “Next you will ask me if I love my brothers’ children. Then you will have me say yes, that I do. And do I love their spouses, you will ask. Well... I would say yes regarding Gildor’s, and no with Glorfindel’s. Because I can not- Erestor is... I can not love him, we were once togheter and now we are not, it is that simple.”

“How can you claim not to love him when you do not even know what love is about?” asked Nienna. “Love is not based upon conditions, as you seem to think. You have both been through many changes, but when you think of Ress, of Erestor, do you hate him?”

“No, I never hated him. If anything, he had a right to hate me,” Galadriel reasoned, bowing her head.

Nienna tilted Galadriel’s chin back up. “Do you loathe him? Dislike him? Despise him? Wish him to disappear and never again contact you?”

“No, no, none of those things,” said Galadriel as she shook her head. “I would never wish him away.”

“Then I think some part of you, does love him. On some level, you care about him. You wish him well and want him happy, just as all he ever wanted for you was your happiness.”

Tears threatened to fall from her eyes. “A little, then. Perhaps I do love him a little.”

With a sad smile, Nienna leaned forward and kissed Galadriel upon the brow. “He needs your love, whatever love you can give him,” she said solemnly, but her words were hopeful. “Tell my Father why you want Ress to stay. There is always a chance He has not made up His mind yet.” Closing in further still, Nienna added, “Your mirror will not help you to save him; only your heart and soul can do that.”

Galadriel was embraced by the silently crying Vala, and she closed her eyes, trying to search herself for the answers, for the courage and will to do what she should have done earlier. What she hoped it was not too late for her to do.

Upon opening her eyes, she found Nienna was no longer there, and perhaps never had been. Walking slowly to the mirror, she looked down into it to find a placid bowl of water. The ground beneath the basin was not bloody, nor was it even wet. She reached both hands down into the water, cupping her hands.

Bowing her head, she brought the cool water up to her face and cleansed it, washing away her tears. Wiping away the excess with her hands, she knelt down and folded her hands. For a while, she had no idea where to begin, and so just started by speaking from her heart and letting her soul speak the words. “Dear Eru, it... it’s me, Galadriel... I... I wanted to talk to You...”

- - -

“He should be dead.” Elrond finally said. Orophin had already left the room, and Erestor was now resting. The sheets needed to be changed and the elf who was covered with them was himself in need of a bit of cleaning up. Glorfindel did not answer, and Celebrian only repositioned a small knife that had yet to be cleaned of blood back on the table further so that it would not fall onto the floor. “It is nothing short of a miracle that he is alive.”

“You are an excellent healer,” said Glorfindel, his eyes never leaving Erestor’s body. “The best, Elrond, and I owe you for what you have done.”

“Nonsense, on both counts,” declared Elrond from the rocking chair he was resting in. He rubbed his head and then stripped off the bloodied shirt he had on. “I am not as skilled as many are, and even they would have had difficulties if not utter failure in such a case. And second, Glorfindel, we are all family, there is no need for anyone to owe anyone else.”

Glorfindel took hold of Erestor’s hand, feeling the week pulsing at his wrist. “Then I thank you, and you have my eternal gratitude.”

“I still think there was a higher power involved in this than I,” said Elrond in a very tired voice.
Believe by Zhie
“Will he...?” Rumil waited for Orophin’s answer. The youngest brother and eldest brother had been waiting in the kitchen with Nenniach and Valarda. Orophin let the door swing back and forth behind him as he moved to lean against the wall and shake his head solemnly.

“I am truly sorry, Rumil, but alas, Erestor will never wrestle goats again.”

“Seriously, Oro!” Valarda shot her husband a warning look. “Is Erestor going to make it?”

“Sigh, and, yes, and I thought you had a sense of humor.” Yawning rather loudly, Orophin said, “He is weak; we need to watch him closely the next few days. He lost more blood than I thought he had, in all honesty. Elrond had to take out something or other but he said he would be fine without it. He mentioned having to take out something else perhaps, but he did not want to if he could help it. Also, his left kidney is damaged, but with any luck it will heal. Because if it does not, I just keep getting this image of him walking around with his side sunken in because there is nothing left to fill it out.”

“Oro...” came Valarda’s voice again.

Snorting at her, he continued with his assessment. “He is resting right now; Glorfindel said that Erestor made it through worse but I can not quite imagine what would be worse. Axe in the back, I suppose- sorry! Sorry, I just could not help it, it was right th- ow! Ow! Yow, elleth, stop!”

Valarda beat Orophin with a damp washrag before slopping it into his face. “Insensitive, thy name is Oro.”

“OroPHIN, if you are going to insult me,” corrected Orophin, dumping the rag in the sink. “Overall, I think he will survive. Haldir... Glorfindel wanted to talk to you, if you have a moment.”

- - -

The room was dark when Haldir walked in, with only the light from a single candle illuminating the objects within. Glorfindel was knelt at the bedside. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and his hair was drawn back in a messy ponytail. “Please shut the door,” he said quietly before he once more began to sing the calming lullaby that Haldir had heard when he first entered.

A soft click came from the handle as Haldir pushed the door closed. He stood a respectful distance away, watching as Glorfindel tended to Erestor with scrupulous care. Every particle of dust was cleaned from his skin with careful strokes. This task alternated with keeping the cloth that rested over Erestor’s forehead cool by dipping it into a basin and wringing it out every few minutes. “Usually, he is so cold,” remarked Glorfindel after finishing the song for the third time since Haldir had entered. “He likes to sit by the fire. But this fever...” Glorfindel wrung out the cloth, the sound of the water dribbling back into the basin like a thousand uncried tears from his dry eyes.

“Orophin said that you wished to see me.” Haldir did not know what else to say, and expected there was more to the reason Glorfindel wished him here other than to hear him sing and reminisce.

“I just want you to know that I place no blame on you. Neither does he.” Glorfindel continued to meticulously wash the traces of blood and dirt from Erestor’s arm with the corner edge of a soft cloth. “He always thought he was doing you a favor by not saying anything. That it was the best way to handle the situation.”

“He should have told me,” said Haldir.

Glorfindel dipped the cloth into the bowl of warm water and rubbed the dirt away with his thumb. “I told him the same. He gets stubborn, though, same as you. No matter how logical the solution, if his mind is dead set against it, then trying to make him change his opinion will be a battle fought uphill.”

“He loves you, you know.” Glorfindel caught Haldir’s gaze. “Very much. I remember the day he found out that you were injured at Helm’s Deep. He risked all he had at the time- his career, his well-being in traveling all alone, the trust Elrond had in him, everything- just to be there for you. To take care of you. He was very proud of everything you did.”

Each and every word was another blow to Haldir, until he was slumped in a chair looking miserable. “I have been terribly cruel to him these past days.”

“It was to be expected, to a point. You felt rejected by him, because he did not tell you.” Glorfindel did not expect an answer, but Haldir did nod. Picking up a smaller bowl of some sort of salve, Glorfindel rubbed it gently over Erestor’s lips and the knuckles of his hands so that they would not dry and crack. As he tucked the blankets around Erestor, Glorfindel said, “What is worse is a father who casts away his child for lack of love. I can say this because my own father- yes, your Uncle Angrod,” he added when Haldir furrowed his brow, “disowned me when I was forty-three.”

“It was the worst and best thing that happened to me- but I never wanted to feel good about it. I just hung on to the despair. It was so unthinkable, that someone would send their child away, especially when I never really did anything wrong!” Glorfindel quieted his voice. “I even asked him to fix me,” he said ruefully. “I begged him to teach me how to not like other boys. I just wanted things to stay the same, I never wanted to leave. There were times I missed my mother, my brother, my sister, and even my father, that I would cry myself to sleep at night. In no way could I know what a positive effect that change would have on me. I wandered for three years before wandering myself into Gondolin. Ecthelion took me in, ‘raised’ me as his son though I lied to everyone about my age, and it was there that I met your father. Does it disturb you that I refer to him as that?”

“I suppose not,” answered Haldir.

“There are so few as unselfish as he is. He gives and he gives without any expectation of anything in return. You never saw it, but he fought so hard so many times on your behalf. When you had the idea that you wanted to be the Captain of the Galadhrim, and even your own parents did not like it, do you know who finally convinced them?” Glorfindel looked away from Haldir and down to Erestor. “When you spoke to me about coming to Imladris for a time to teach, I brought the idea to Elrond and he rejected it. But someone was able to talk him into it. When Thranduil was leaving and Legolas did not wish the responsibilities of Greenwood, whose idea do you think it was to have you put in charge? And who stepped down from his post in Imladris, a place he dearly loved, in order to aide you in Greenwood, living in the caves that still frighten him?”

“How was I to know he was afraid of the caves?” questioned Haldir angrily, angry at himself for not realizing all of these things.

Glorfindel lifted the cloth from Erestor’s head and swished it around in the cool water. “You never were to know. He wanted to be strong for you; now, it is my advice that you be strong for him. I thought it best for you both to take the time you needed, but...” With a downhearted expression on his face, Glorfindel squeezed the water from the cloth and placed it back over Erestor’s brow. “I fear you may not have any time left.”

“What- what do you mean?” asked Haldir.

“He has not been getting better,” admitted Glorfindel. “In fact, he keeps getting worse. Elrond has no alternative but to hope he will hold on and that time will heal him.”

Haldir was at the bedside now as well, kneeling on the floor next to Glorfindel, his hands holding one of Erestor’s. “But Oro- Oro said-“

“Elrond does not want everyone else to worry, and neither would Erestor. He told me once that if anything should happen to him, he would rather not have a vast number of people crowded about. At the time, he mentioned only myself and Elrond by name- well, he mentioned your mother as well, but I saw no point in that now. I think he would have wanted you here, too.”

“But he could still get better.” Haldir held fast to Erestor’s hand. “He may still pull through.”

“There is always hope of that,” affirmed Glorfindel. “I do hope he does. I know if he does not, I would soon follow. At least, I would not be alone in the Halls,” he murmured, cooling down the cloth once again.

Bowing his head, Haldir felt tears prick at his eyes. “What have I done?” he whispered to himself.

“That is not the question to ask,” replied Glorfindel. “Rather, what are you going to do now?”

- - -

The hour was late, but still, Haldir knocked upon his mother’s door. He had come from the room that Erestor was in, the place he had spent most of his time for the last eight days. He and Glorfindel traded in watching over Erestor and keeping him comfortable. Haldir spent much of the time talking as well, telling Erestor little stories about things from his childhood growing up in Lothlorien and other humorous tales he knew.

Glorfindel was a wreck; he slept only when he slipped unknowingly into reverie, and even then only for a few minutes here and there before waking up with a start. As time wore on, Erestor’s condition did not worsen, but it did not improve either. An idea came to Haldir, and he wondered why he had not thought of it earlier. Though the accuracy of the mirror his mother used was questionable, Haldir had found that he had better precision with it than she did. When he explained his idea, she was doubtful, but retrieved it for him anyhow.

The garden seemed as good a place as any to try, and after setting the mirror atop a large, flat stone that was usually used as a place to sit, he filled a pitcher with water from the small pond that their ducks favored. A fine stream of water was poured into the basin from the silver pitcher as it was held aloft. Haldir watched the ripples on the surface dissipate until the surface was as smooth as glass. He placed his hands upon the edge of the mirror and looked down into it. There was nothing at first, but then the ripples flowed again, and at the center, images began to appear.

Haldir knew if he did not give the mirror direction, it would simply act on its own accord. Sitting upon the ground, he settled his hands on either side of the bowl. “Show me that which has not come to pass,” he said, and the water rippled across the surface, cleaning the slate. A button-nosed baby, with large, unmistakably pointed ears, chewed on his foot while watching something above his crib. The scene changed to show what he was looking at- Glorfindel, bouncing a little stuffed cat across the rail of the crib while Erestor, with his arms folded over the side, smiled and laughed at whatever noises Glorfindel was making. A wisp of dark hair came into view, and Elrond cut his way between them both.

As Elrond cooed something to the baby that made Erestor snort, he reached in and lifted the elfling out of the crib. Sticking his tongue out at Erestor, Elrond proceeded to talk to the baby in what appeared to be broken half-sentences.

As Elrond walked away, Erestor reached over and snatched the stuffed toy from Glorfindel, aimed, and threw it in Elrond’s direction. It hit the elf lord’s rear end and bounced off onto the floor. When Elrond turned around, he saw Erestor smirking and pointing at Glorfindel while the golden elf truthfully denied any involvement, his grin implicating him immediately.

“Alive, and happy,” Haldir said to himself in relief. “Thank the Valar.” He paused and added, “Thank Eru.” The mirror had gone blank, bouncing the miniature waves off the sides of itself. ‘Probably just happy to be of use again,’ Haldir mused. Leaving it to play for a while, he contemplated what he had seen. Had Elrond and his sister had another child? That would certainly not have been out of the question. Elrond adored children. Then again, the child, in Haldir’s opinion had looked quite a lot like Erestor, save for the wild mass of blond curls. He had another idea, snickered at it, and further contemplated. The most important thing was that Erestor would pull through, and for that he was extremely thankful. Looking down into the mirror, he saw that it had become placid and bored, reflecting only moon and starlight now.

“Show me what has not come to pass,” spoke Haldir, watching for the images intently. The crystal surface dulled and a misty scene was revealed. A pair of elves, Erestor and Glorfindel, much younger it seemed. It was after the war, and the strangest thing was that Erestor was lounging against Glorfindel in a friendly manner while the blond idly played with intricately woven braids that designated Erestor as one who was bound. The scene was peaceful, yet something suddenly caught Erestor’s attention and he sat up a little and held out his arms.

Soon after, a giggling elfling appeared and leaped up into Erestor’s arms. Haldir stiffened when he recognized himself, snuggling against Erestor and then showing him something in a book. The pages of the book were turned, and young Haldir settled himself into Erestor’s lap for a story while Glorfindel lazily smiled at them both, wrapping his arms around the pair and looking more than content as he kissed the top of Erestor’s head.

“They would have found happiness together sooner, had I been told,” murmured Haldir as the scene in the mirror changed. He sucked in his breath as he made out the face. “Arwen...” he whispered, as it was her, in all her splendid glory. Dearest Arwen, the one he had hopes of wooing, despite her being his niece.

Dressed in flowing silk, with snow white lace embellishing her gown, she flowed down a long aisle, escorted by her father. He was beaming with pride as he lifted her hand and placed it into Haldir’s. While the pair knelt together and began the matrimonial ceremony, Elrond stepped away and joined Celebrian, who was seated beside her mother and father, as well as Erestor and Glorfindel.

Flames spilled across the scene of happiness, and dark times overtook the image in the mirror. Imladris was burning; everyone was fighting to get out. Haldir watched Arwen escaping to the safety of Lothlorien as an image of himself fought alongside Erestor, Glorfindel, Elrond, and the twins.

The smoke cleared, and there was sadness in the eyes of Elrohir, who turned away as his brother stepped forward and lowered himself to the ground. Glorfindel was hunched over, sobbing, weeping as if in pain. Elrond tried to console him, but he and his sons were chased away. It was not until Haldir approached and placed a hand on Glorfindel’s shoulder that the blond warrior turned around and wrapped his arms around Haldir’s legs.

Smoke was still rising up, and there was no way to tell quite what Glorfindel had been covering with his body. Haldir lowered himself to the ground, stroking the blond’s head and finally allowing him to cling to him as he continued to weep. A gust of wind swept through, revealing someone’s charred remains. Haldir reached his hand out towards the corpse, and slid from one finger a band of mithril and gold twined together, and forcing Glorfindel’s hand open, placed it into his palm. The warrior clutched the wedding band, a mate to his own, and fell upon the ground, sobbing.

~~~

Haldir slammed his hand into the mirror, knocking it from its pedestal onto the ground. The water spilled over the grass and steam rose up as he fell to the ground, shuddering and holding his arms around himself. He sat on the ground shaking for uncounted minutes before finally calming himself enough to reach for the basin.

“Are you all right?” It was Orophin, as it often was, worrying over him. “I heard you scream.”

“No, I didn’t.” Haldir stood up a bit shakily, clutching the mirror in his hands.

“Yeah, right, and I am the King of Seas. Haldir, we all heard you. Maybe you did not hear you, but we did.” Orophin nodded in the direction of the house, where a number of lights that were not gleaming in the windows now were, and a few faces peeked out from behind the curtains. “Except maybe Erestor; he appears to still be in dreamland.”

Fingering the edge of the metal bowl, Haldir said, “I had a bad vision; like a nightmare I suppose.”

Orophin motioned them to a bench in the garden, and Haldir joined him. “Tell me about it.”

Uneasily, Haldir looked back to the house. The curtains were all hanging down again, many of the candles extinguished now. “I told the mirror to show me what would have been, if only Erestor had revealed the truth.”

“And it was bad?” guessed Orophin.

“It was great. Wonderful. Imagine, us as elflings, and Erestor with Glorfindel, as happy as any couple we know.” Haldir’s smile faded. “Except, there was no you. No little Rumil, either. Perhaps there was, but I did not see either of you.”

“That’s bad,” decided Orophin.

“I married Arwen,” added Haldir.

“That’s good,” said Orophin, nodding.

Haldir sighed. “Then Erestor died.”

“Oh... now, that, that would go in the bad column. I think it also outweighs the happiness of Erestor and Glorfindel together longer. Sorry, brother,” apologized Orophin. “Knowing that, I would go with the version where you find out now. And, what luck! It just so happens-“ Orophin stopped when Haldir held up his hand that he was not looking to be entertained at the moment. “Are you going to tell him?”

Onto the ground, Haldir set the mirror. Bowing his head into his hands, he replied, “I will, but not right away. I still do not know what to say when he awakens.” Confidently, Haldir felt he could now rest easy knowing that Erestor would indeed be well again.

“I was contemplating that very thing,” Orophin said very quickly, “and I was thinking, something along the lines of ‘Sorry I shot you in the stomach, Adar, care to give being my father a go?’.”

“Is that what you would do, Oro?” Haldir looked up to the heavens and closed his eyes. “Tell me what you would do. Honestly.”

For a moment, Orophin stared down at the grass, brown and wrinkled from the recent frosts. “If it were me, I would first speak to OUR Ada, and tell him I do not want anything to change. Then, I would go to Erestor, give him a hug, have a good cry, and tell him I love him. Blah, I can NOT believe I just said that. Tell no one of that,” added Orophin.

Haldir furrowed his brows. “But, it was all hypothetical. You do not actually love Erestor. Right?”

“Not the way that Glorfindel loves him, but yes, I love the sneaky, secretive, mysterious little shadow. He has his quirks, but he is family.” Orophin shrugged. “Enough about me. What are you going to do?”

“I do not know. I think... I think I am going to go to the pub,” decided Haldir.

“Shall I come with you?” offered Orophin as he stood up, but Haldir shook his head. Instead, he held out the mirror.

“Do you mind taking this back to Nana?” Haldir sighed. “If she asks, please, let me tell her what I saw.” Orophin nodded, and Haldir kissed him on the forehead. “Thank you for coming here to stay while I figure all of this out.”

Orophin waved off his words. “Not a problem. You would do the same for me, Halli. Hurry back,” he added.

“I will. See you soon, Oro. Good night.” Haldir made his way to the stables, where he saddled Fool of a Took. Crowded into the next stall were Asfaloth and Thay. After leading Fool out of his stall, Haldir brought Thay into the other stall. Fool of a Took snorted, impatient to leave. Leaping onto his back, Haldir pulled the reigns in the direction of Valimar.

- - -

“Why so glum, chum? Ooo, someone write that down for me! I may use that in the future,” shouted Rumil. None of the poets at their tables made any rush to archive the loremaster’s words, and Rumil sighed theatrically. “I certainly thought it had potential!” he scolded the other writers. He was given a cough and a ball of wadded up parchment tossed at him in response. Setting a glass of heavy cider on the counter for Haldir, Rumil went back to his constant wiping of the top of the bar. “Are you always so solemn?” he directed to Haldir.

Haldir slumped across the countertop, draining his glass rather quickly. “I used to be fairly happy,” he said, pushing the empty glass forward as Rumil filled another for him. “I just have no idea what to do anymore.”

“What was the final straw? The one that broke your oxen’s back?” questioned the bard. It was late afternoon, for Haldir had made a stop at Oropher’s Palace to nap and rest Fool before traveling to Old Valimar in search of the Brotherhood of Manwe. He was remembered from his first and only other visit, and welcomed warmly by Rumil, who was now trying to find the reason for Haldir’s doleful disposition.

“Why does that matter?” grumbled Haldir.

“Sometimes, we hit a snag, something we just do not think we can overcome, and so- we stop. If we can overcome the obstacles, little by little, we can turn the tide. No way to do it in one wave alone,” said Rumil sagely. He gulped down the last of his glass of wine, and then refreshed both his own and Haldir’s. “What was it?”

“I shot my father. In the gut. With an arrow,” he added.

“Oh, dear. That- that does sound like something to put someone in a terrible mood,” Rumil agreed. “He is still... among the living, is he not?”

“Yes. He has been hanging on for near a week now. My brother-in-law is a healer; he has been tending to him. Best healer I know, so I am sure that my father will be fine.” Haldir found that each time he said it, it became a little easier to admit to himelf that he was Erestor’s son. The more he accepted it, the less upset he was about it.

“I see.” Rumil looked past Haldir, and seeing everyone in the room was contently at work, including the minstrel, he came around the counter and sat down beside Haldir. “I really do not know how I would react to such a thing,” he said, resting his elbows on the counter and clasping his hands together. He lowered his chin onto his folded hands and continued, “I have no father myself, except Him. I suppose it is an advantage to being one of the first; no ‘parents’ to worry after me or worry about. However, if I did have a father, I think I might be with him if he was recovering from an arrow that I shot him with.”

Another drink was expediently downed, and Haldir folded his arms on the counter and began to drum his fingers. Starting to explain things would mean he would need to finish explaining things, so instead of divulging his entire family history, Haldir said, “He and I were not on the best of terms.”

“Ah. I see.” Rumil stared down at the counter. “You seem somewhat concerned, though.”

The drumming on the counter stopped. “He should have woken up by now. I think it may be my fault, not just that I injured him physically, but that I hurt him emotionally with some things I have recently said that I... I was angry at him,” justified Haldir to himself. “If he had only... please, do not ask me for all of the details, but until a few weeks ago, I had no idea he was my father. The little brother that I named after you is only my half-brother. I feel terrible and confused on so many levels, and I hurt. I hurt miserably. I thought, this elf who is my father, I thought he was my friend.”

“Can he not still be your friend?”

“What? No,” answered Haldir. “Now things are different.”

“How?” asked Rumil. “How are they different?”

Haldir lifted his glass, only to find it empty. “I used to look up to him. He was my teacher, and sometimes my confidant. To find out that Erestor is my father-“ Clenching his teeth, he set his glass down with a thunk and closed his eyes.

“Your father is Erestor?” Rumil was rubbing his jaw when Haldir looked up. “Yes, yes, I can see it... yes, it makes sense.” Around the room, the poets were murmuring to one another, and the minstrel had stopped playing and was regarding Haldir was curiosity. “Oh, my! You shot Erestor?”

“It was an accident!” Haldir insisted.

Rumil waved his hands to calm Haldir down. “Do not worry, I believe you. I still do not see why things must change. Erestor is a decent fellow; you obviously get along if you confide in him.”

“I cannot help being angry about this,” said Haldir.

“Let it go,” suggested Rumil. “There is no need to be upset.”

“Yes there is,” argued Haldir. “You do not understand. No one understands.” Haldir took a shaky breath. “Everyone thinks I am angry that Erestor did not tell me, that he hid this from me, and I admit I was a little upset. But what I am really angry about is that, when I first found out, my first reaction was relief and joy, and that is so wrong of me.”

Circling the counter again, Rumil poured another drink for Haldir. “How is that wrong?”

“I feel I am betraying my father- my other father, the one who raised me. I love him dearly, he is such a good father to me, and to his other children. But I always felt, not quite right. Does that make sense?” asked Haldir.

Rumil nodded. “Go on.”

“Celeborn never was a fighter, he is the practical, logical sort. Not that Erestor is not, but he saw numerous battles and trained as a soldier. I can not see Celeborn as a warrior, but I can tell that Erestor is not just a simple farmer and bookworm.”

“Is that the only similarity you found?” prodded Rumil.

“No.” Haldir stretched his back and then leaned his elbow on the counter, propping his head up with his hand. “We have a lot of other things in common, too. Probably more than I know,” mused the blond.

Rumil contemplated this silently with Haldir for a while, and then hit his palm on the countertop. “I have something for you, Erestor-ion,” he said, and disappeared behind a curtain that was draped over a doorway. He was back shortly. “This is a book of poems, of your father’s poems. I always meant to get to back to him. Someone came from, oh, I think it was Gondolin or Greenwood or something like that... they had boxes and boxes of manuscripts. It was some time ago, and I was bored and bound it together. Perhaps he will finish filling in the pages and bring it back for the library’s collection.

Over the counter, Rumil slid a heavy volume covered in midnight blue. On the cover, someone had etched a heraldic symbol of three silvery grey beams hovering over blue water. “The symbol of your house,” explained Rumil when Haldir rubbed his finger over the indentations. “House of the Silver Stars. Second oldest house of the Eldar. It gives me a shiver simply to say it!”

Taking hold of the book, Haldir said his thanks to Rumil, promised to return, and left to journey back to the First Homely House. As he rode back to the house on the sea, he spent his time trying to decide what to say, and to whom, when he returned.

- - -

Upon his return, Haldir’s first stop was the room on the first floor where Erestor was. The door was only open a crack, and he pushed it in quietly. As expected, he saw Glorfindel by the bed, knelt with his head bowed in prayer. He was speaking very softly, with both hands holding one of Erestor’s. Realizing suddenly that Glorfindel was not praying, but speaking to Erestor in a very personal and emotional tone, Haldir backed out of the room and pulled the door mostly closed. His curiosity caused him to listen another minute more.

“I remember, when I came back... how beautiful it was to see you. How happy I was to find you again.” There was a pause, and Haldir tilted his head to see inside and catch Glorfindel kissing the hand he held. “The worst thing about my death was losing you. I never thought- never thought it might happen again,” choked Glorfindel. He turned his head to the side, pressing his cheek to Erestor’s hand. Haldir continued to back away until he was back to the main entrance again. Clutching the book to his chest, he reached for the railing and headed up the stairs.

“You have become increasingly more adept at disappearing without a trace,” remarked Legolas as Haldir tried to sneak into the dark room. A bright light appeared next to the bed as a lamp was lit. “This is the second time you have disappeared for more than a day without telling either of us where you were going. I had to interrogate practically everyone in the house before I finally found someone who knew where you were; though I should have started with Orophin to begin with.”

Elodien, who had been resting, nudged Legolas. At the door, Haldir was looking more and more like a scolded puppy. “Surely he has a good reason for it,” she said.

When Haldir did not answer, Legolas turned the sheets down on the empty side of the bed and patted the mattress. “We can talk in the morning.” Gratefully, Haldir set the book down on the desk before hastily removing his clothing. “I am not upset, I am simply worried.”

“Do not worry,” Haldir assure him, and kissed him gently as he crawled into bed. “I am better; much better now. Things are going to be better again. I can not say normal; I no longer know quite what normal is. But they will be better and much as they used to be.”

“We are glad to hear that.” Elodien leaned forward with her hand upon Legolas’ knee so that she could kiss Haldir as well. He returned the kiss, and as he did so, took hold of her arm and began to pull her towards him. She repositioned herself so that Haldir was now in the middle. Without breaking contact, Elodien and Haldir continued to explore each other’s body with their mouths and hands, and Legolas bowed his head to nip at Haldir’s ear while rubbing his groin against Haldir’s hip.
“Yessss,” hissed Haldir as his head lolled back, Legolas’ teeth biting his flesh more insistently. Elodien parted her legs a little, and it was all the invitation Haldir needed. Rolling her onto her back as he rose up over her, Haldir nudged the head of his arousal against her moist opening a few times before easing himself in the rest of the way. He let out a groan as he rocked back, and grunted as he came forward. Behind him, Legolas was pulling the stopper from a the container that held their favorite oil, a peppermint scented concoction they had found in a tiny shoppe in Valimar.

Legolas used an ample amount to prepare Haldir, who moaned at the dueling sensations of warm and cool that he felt. Leaning down, Legolas blew a stream of air over Haldir’s passageway while he coated himself with the oil As soon as he was ready, he placed one hand on Haldir’s hip to steady him and used the other to find his mark. His first thrust caused Haldir to jerk forward, filling Elodien completely and causing her to writhe and pant. Despite her having found her own climax, Elodien stayed beneath Haldir until his release was brought forth, following Legolas as he pounded into Haldir’s body. Gasping and shuddering as they detangled themselves from one another, Legolas hastily cleaned them up before all three entwined again and collectively drifted into reverie.

- - -

Knocking on the door alerted Haldir to someone’s presence. Elrond stood in the doorway holding a fresh, burning candle on a holder, creating an aura about him and casting his shadow down the dark hallway. “The fever has broken,” he whispered as Haldir sleepily pushed Legolas’ arm from his chest.

As soon as the full impact hit him, Haldir was scrambling out of the bed, nearly knocking Legolas from it and yanking the sheet from Elodien with his foot. He stumbled about as he retrieved a pair of leggings and pulled them on, then followed Elrond, who was not suppressing his yawns, down to the first floor.

In the room that had been set up for Erestor, Glorfindel was still keeping his constant vigil. Instead of hovering over the bed holding Erestor’s hand and whispering blessings upon him as he had been doing the past week, he was looking a little more relieved as he dipped a cloth into a bowl of cold water, wrung it out, and placed it upon Erestor’s brow. “He moved a little,” Glorfindel said to Elrond as he came to check on his patient. “Shifted his head and sort of twitched his nose.”

“Good. That is good news.” Elrond sat down on the edge of the bed and poured a little water into a dish from a pitcher. Picking up a packet of powder, herbs he had crushed earlier for just this moment, Eru willing that it occurred, Elrond mixed them into the water and created a paste. “Haldir, will you turn down the cover, please? I need to inspect the wound.”

Sucking in his breath, Haldir did as he was told. Elrond was notorious for things such as this; Haldir had caused the incident to occur, he should see what it was that he did. It was the way Elrond had always been, using this type approach with everyone.

The pained look on Glorfindel’s face showed that he was the one who wished to be assisting Elrond, but it was likely that the pair had already spoken. As Haldir pulled back the crisp sheet that lay upon Erestor as a final barrier, he could see the purpled bruise that was not entirely covered by the bandages.

Elrond set aside the bowl he was mixing and began to carefully remove the linen that was wrapped around Erestor’s waist. “Haldir, turn him upon his side- gently please, so that I can look at the exit wound.”

Haldir continued to follow the instructions he was given while Elrond completed his examination and coated the areas of the wounds with the paste he had mixed. They were still raw, open sores, but the infection had cleared. “I am certain he will pull through,” Elrond assured Glorfindel once Erestor was resting comfortably again. “When he wakes do not let him out of bed. He needs at least another week without much movement in order to properly heal and to save his strength for it. Be sure he has fluids immediately and most importantly do not aggravate him in any manner.” Elrond was looking now to Haldir. “He needs to heal, and he needs a peaceful mind to do so. Questions?” Neither said anything. “Good. I will check back on him tomorrow after breakfast.”

After the door had been closed, Haldir began to apologize for his absence. “I did not mean to be gone for so long. I know you have been here by yourself without much relief from anyone.”

“Actually, your sister was good enough to give me enough time to bathe, which was actually a demand more than a request, and then she forced me to eat something.” Indeed, Glorfindel’s shirt was a little looser than usual, but at least he no longer appeared as pained as he had during the time of uncertainty. “Orophin came to tell me that you had something to do, but that you would be back. Anyway, I would have stayed here regardless.”

“Still, I am sorry.” Not knowing if he should give Glorfindel false hope if the mirror’s images were untrue, Haldir went with his gut feeling. “I used the mirror before I left. It... showed me some things,” he began. When he saw worry resurface on Glorfindel’s face, he said quickly, “Erestor is going to live. I know he will. I know that the mirror is sometimes wrong, but... it has never lied to me.”

Waves of relief crashed into Glorfindel, and he bowed his head. His hands were tented over his mouth and nose, and his eyes were closed as he started to cry. Words of thanks to Eru came muffled from Glorfindel’s mouth as he tried to fight the strong emotions he was showing. Haldir eased his hand to one of the silently shaking shoulers and did nothing more than make contact, leaving his hand there until Glorfindel sat up again.

“You know, he is my life now,” said the slayer as he hastened to change the cloth that cooled Erestor’s brow.

“I know,” replied Haldir, for the devotion Glorfindel had for Erestor was obvious to everyone in the household.

“I really did not wish to meet death again, but I was certain I would if he... well, he will not,” Glorfindel said firmly. His exhaustion was catching up to him and he nearly knocked the bowl of water off of the table. Stiffling a yawn, he asked, “Have you decided yet what to do? Orophin said you were going to go and think things over.”

Remembering the book he had been given, Haldir said, “I did, I went to speak to a friend of mine, and apparently of Erestor’s as well. He gave me a book, a very old one it seems. I only flipped through it, but it is a collection of poetry that he wrote during the second age before he went to Rivendell.”

“Really? How interesting; I thought that all of his writings were cataloged,” mused Glorfindel.

“Would you like me to get it?” offered Haldir.

Glorfindel nodded. “Yes, please,” he said. Haldir left the room and quickly retrieved the book, bringing it straight back to Glorfindel. “The cover is lovely,” remarked Glorfindel.

“His house crest,” said Haldir, and then he felt stupid for saying so. Obviously, Glorfindel would know that. But a wry smile followed and the balrog slayer shook his head. “That was what I was told, and it looks like the emblem of the Silver Stars.”

“Oh, I have no doubt that it is,” Glorfindel agreed. “But, it is not his house.”

“No?” Haldir sat down beside Glorfindel, who had found himself a comfortable place on the floor beside the bed. They had their backs against the wall and could still keep watch over Erestor. “I was fairly certain that is his house.”

“The House of the Silver Stars was reserved for the first three elves who awakened – as Erestor is not truly the son of Tata, that is not really his house.” Glorfindel laughed as Haldir snickered at the name. “If you think that to be bad, ask Celeborn some time what his name used to be.”

“Then what is Erestor’s house?” questioned Haldir.

Glorfindel handed the book back to Haldir. “House of the Golden Flower. By marriage, of course, but the Valar do not have anything comparable. Now that it is no longer a secret that Orome is his father, I am not sure if he will continue to use the banner of the Silver Stars or not. You are, of course, quite welcome to affiliate yourself with either, neither, or both.”

“Thank you,” said Haldir, processing the information. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes in exasperation. “Still, I have no idea what I am going to say to Erestor when he wakes.”

“I wish I had an easy answer for you,” said Glorfindel. “Do not worry. If you can not find the words, the words will find you when you are ready. That you are willing to accept things, or at the very least speak with him, will greatly improve his happiness.”

Haldir was about to ask Glorfindel about a few potential things he had thought to say, but when he saw the darkness under the blond’s eyes and his drooping lids, he nudged his cousin’s shoulder. “Take some rest, Glorfindel. I will watch over him, and do not worry- I shall call for you when he wakes.”

For a little while longer, Glorfindel stared at Erestor’s sleeping form. “You are certain he will wake?”

“Positive, Glorfindel. More than ever, now that Elrond has said that he is healing,” added Haldir.

“Then I ask you to stay with him until I return,” said Glorfindel. “Dawn is breaking, and I would very much like to get a few things from our cottage for when Erestor is awake. Just a few things, as we will be staying here until he heals. I need to milk the cow, too,” he said as an afterthought. “She is not going to be happy with me when I go up there.”

“I will stay with him, I promise,” reaffirmed Haldir.

Glorfindel stood up. “I will not be gone for long.” He knelt again at the bed and gently took Erestor’s hand in his. “Erestor, I am going to the house to pick up a few things. I will return very soon. Haldir is here in the meantime. I will be back as soon as I can.” Leaning over his love, Glorfindel kissed Erestor tenderly on the lips, and once again on the cheek before standing up.

As he was leaving, Glorfindel turned to Haldir and said, “I have been talking to him, I think it helps. If you would not mind, I would appreciate it if you would continue.”

“What should I talk about?” asked Haldir.

“Anything you like,” said Glorfindel. With a smirk, he said, “Every time I run out of something to say, I tell him the Balrog story. He is going to beat me within an inch of my life as soon as he is well enough.” Glorfindel let out a heavy sigh as he took one final, lingering look at Erestor, and then left the room.

This left Haldir alone in the room with Erestor. There was a rocking chair in the far corner, and Haldir dragged this over to the bed where Glorfindel had been kneeling. “Good morning, Erestor,” he said, feeling silly as he knew he was not going to be answered back. “Bit chilly out today. Feels as if there may be snow by the evening.”

Haldir opened the windows to let the sunlight in and, not knowing what else to do, sat down in the rocker and watched Erestor sleep. He wanted to talk, but he was still having difficulty deciding what to say. This clouded his mind and kept him from even making smalltalk. His eyes wandered across the floor, falling upon the book he had brought. Reaching down, he picked it up, flipped a few pages into the book, and began to read.

Break my calm
My reverie
Come inside
Dance with me

Snapping the book shut, Haldir dropped it to the floor as if it were on fire. The clatter alerted those on the same floor to the fact that something was amiss. Rumil was the one who came to check on him. “Halli, everything alright?”

Staring down at the book, Haldir tried to decide what to say. Finally, he shook his head. “No, uh, I mean, yes. Everything is just fine. I just... there was a bug in my book,” he said, scrambling to concoct a plausible lie. “No problem. Sorry to alarm you.”

“If you are sure...” Rumil waited to see if Haldir would say something else, but his brother only nodded and picked up the book. Rumil closed the door again, leaving Haldir once more alone with Erestor.

Again, Haldir opened the book, checking to make sure he had seen what he thought he did. Once confirmed, he leaned towards Erestor and said, “I have many questions for you when you wake, but now it seems I may have a few more for you as well.”

- - -

Haldir was finding it difficult to find poems in the book that did not have some sort of sexual overtone or undertone, though in many cases they were blatantly obvious from the title or the first stanza. Each time he thought he was coming to one that would be more insightful in nature and less amatorial, he would stumble into an erotic phrase and have to turn to another page as he blushed and mumbled to himself about how lascivious his father was.


Bare as the carcass picked clean by the crow

Bare as the sides of the live volcano

Bare as waves wild, thrashing o’er the sea

Bare as your entire anatomy


With a growl under his breath, Haldir flipped to another page and skimmed the contents of the poem to see if there was anything unmentionable in it. However, Erestor saved him the trouble of continuing to read as he himself, in a weakened voice, recited the rest:


Lay bare upon the beach in the dark of summer night

Silver moon caressing flesh with its pale light

And be not shameful of yourself and of your naked sight

For beauty bared is no sin and gives me great delight


“Right, well, that was just weird.” Haldir closed the book and set it on the floor beside his chair before pulling the rocker forward so that he was closer to the bed. He had spent the entire day reading to Erestor, even taking small meals in the room as the dark elf slept. “Good evening. I am relieved to see you finally awaken. Would you like some water?”

Slowly, Erestor nodded, and a glass was poured from the pitcher on the nearby table. When Haldir returned with the glass, he found Erestor looking around the room, searching for something. “Where is Fin?” he asked as Haldir slid his hand behind Erestor’s head and helped him to take a drink.

“He will return; he has promised that he would be back soon,” said Haldir, pouring another glass of water when the first one was drained. “He told me that he wanted to get a few things for you from your house and that he also needed to milk your cow, but Elrond made him sleep first. Literally, Elrond had to slip something into his tea.”

“Good,” interrupted Erestor after finishing the second glass, and signaling he did not need a third. “I know he was worried, but he worries himself sick sometimes,” said Erestor with true concern. “How long ago did he leave?”

“He woke up in the late afternoon, was forced to eat by Celebrian and then left on horse to see to the tasks I mentioned. Once your fever broke, Elrond assured us that you would be fine, though, I know Glorfindel has still been fretting about you.”

“As well he should be,” Erestor said sleepily as his head was lowered back down onto the pillow. He remained silent while Haldir put the glass back and tidied up a little. “It is good to see you here,” said Erestor as loud as he was able, which was not very. Haldir smiled and gave him a nod before sitting back down again.

“I really did not mean to shoot you with that arrow,” apologized Haldir.

Erestor moved his head up and down slightly. “I know. I did not blame you then, and I do not now, either. Accidents happen.”

“Like me.” Haldir looked away when Erestor’s eyes flashed open. “I was an accident, basically.”

“No. You were not an accident. You were a blessing. You are a blessing.” Erestor was adamant, and even in his weakened state he moved his hand to take hold of his son’s. “I told your mother countless times when I thought she and I were going to marry and have a family that I wanted our children to be fair and good like her. I wished so many times that I would have a chance to have a child; to have someone call me father. Nenniach and Gwindor are both dear to me, and I would do most anything for either of them, but you are special in your own way, Haldir. They are my children as well, but you are my heir- which probably means very little coming from a farmer whose ‘fortune’ is his knowledge.” Hoisting himself up so that he could look into Haldir’s eyes, he continued. “You, pen-neth,” he said, letting go of Haldir’s hand and touching his chest, “are a part of me,” he finished as he brought his hand to his own.

“I should have told you long ago. I know this will take time for both of us; I know it has not been an easy thing to accept. Perhaps if I had said something sooner,” began Erestor, but Haldir started to shake his head as the memories of what he had seen in the mirror came back into his mind. Looking down into his lap, Erestor took a deep breath and then looked back to Haldir. “I can not change the past for you as much as I may want to right now, but from now on, it will be different. No secrets, ion-nin. No more. I love you, my son.”

His vision blurred, and Haldir blinked his eyes. A warm, salty trail ran down his face on either side. He had to swallow the lump in his throat before rising from the chair and kneeling at Erestor’s bedside to embrace him. “I love you, too, Ada.”
Someday by Zhie
Haldir awoke with a start. “Legolas... Legolas, wake up!”

“Nhhh.” Despite his desire to keep sleeping, Legolas blinked his bleary eyes and propped himself up with one arm. “Yes?”

“Erestor is half-Vala.”

“Half ainu, from what I understood the ‘vala’ thing is more of a title than anything else. You can not be half of a Vala,” explained Legolas. “All or nothing, and I believe he is all, yes, good night.”

Haldir shook his husband by the shoulder as the other elf tried to sleep again. “Legolas, Erestor is my father. That makes me part Vala.”

“It makes you part Ainu,” corrected Legolas, burrowing back down into his pillow. “Good night.”

Glaring at Legolas, Haldir turned to the other side and nudged Elodien. “Psst! Elodien!”

“Hmm? What?” Rubbing her eyes to clear them, she sat up in bed. “Something the matter, dear?”

“If Erestor is my father, then that makes me part Vala,” he said, expecting a better reaction to the news from her.

There was a long pause, which Haldir believed to be because she was too stunned for words. That was, until she spoke. “I thought it makes you part Ainu.”

“You are both determined to be against me on this,” he huffed, flipping down the covers. Elodien scrambled to reclaim them and Legolas smacked Haldir’s thigh for having been disturbed again. Haldir opted to pull on a robe instead of search for pants and followed the hallway to the stairs, which led down two flights to the room that Erestor and Glorfindel were in.

Glorfindel was resting in the rocker, his eyes glazed over in reverie. He had the chair pulled up so near to the bed that his lower arm was being held fairly possessively by Erestor. In fact, the dark elf had both arms wrapped around it, his hands gripping the blond’s bicep. Erestor was not sleeping in any manner, however, for he was intently studying the slumbering Elda with his eyes. As soon as Haldir appeared in the doorway, Erestor smiled and beckoned him forth. “Good evening, ion-nin. You have chosen a late hour to visit, but I welcome you all the same,” he said, lifting Glorfindel’s arm back up to rest on the arm of the rocker. In the bed, Erestor was on his right side, covered only by the sheet and the bandages that Haldir could make out the outlines of beneath the thin material.

“Forgive me; my mind is plagued with questions,” whispered Haldir.

Erestor nodded. “I will do my best to give you all of the answers you are searching for.”

“Why did you keep this a secret for so long?” questioned the blond, sitting at the foot of the bed.

“Which one?” Erestor shifted to make himself more comfortable, and hissed when the bedding brushed the bandaged wound.

Giving the ellon’s side a remorseful look, Haldir said, “Either, I guess. For me, they are somewhat connected.”

“I wanted you to have a normal life,” Erestor finally said. “A normal life, with normal parents. I thought I was doing the right thing for you, even if it hurt me and even caused me to become bitter at some times. If I had admitted to being your father, I had to reveal why. I just kept building one secret upon another. The problem with lying is that it is never just one little lie. The lie grows, and more lies are told to cover it up, and soon even you do not know the truth anymore sometimes. You end up hating yourself for it on so many different levels. But you feel as if you have to keep on lying, because you know how things are with everyone believing the lies and you fear what will happen when you tell the truth.”

Slowly, Haldir nodded. “I wish... there might have been a way for me to know sooner.”

“I wish I had known better at the time,” apologized Erestor. “I thought I chose the right path. Alas, even I make mistakes,” he tried to joke.

“I should not have said such harsh things to you,” said Haldir. “I was cruel at a time when you were hurting inside, and I should have reached out to you instead. Instead, I shoved you away.”

“Yes, well, what goes around comes around.” Erestor chuckled very weakly as Haldir gave him an odd, almost hurt look. “Not you, ion-nin. Me.” The attention of the injured elf was turned to Glorfindel, still resting peacefully. “Poor thing. He is going to be so upset when he wakes to learn he was duped into taking sleeping tonic not once, but twice.”

Smirking, Haldir asked, “What do you mean, what goes around comes around?”

“A long, long time ago,” began Erestor, moving Glorfindel’s arm again so that he could cling to it, “there was a very stubborn elf whose heart practically leapt in his chest upon laying his eyes on a most magnificent and gorgeous creature. His head, however, tamed his heart and restrained his soul, pushing aside all romantic thoughts as folly, for it was simply ridiculous for him to even consider the vision he saw.”

“Was... that when you met Glorfindel?” Haldir guessed.

“Aye.” Erestor tightened his hold on his husband’s arm. “My mind conjured a million reasons why not, and I came up with more and more to counter the desire I had. It frightened me, to have feelings like that for another ellon. I spent years telling Glorfindel it was perfectly normal for him to feel as he did while my hidden personal shame consumed me.”

“Out of curiosity... was there anyone other than Glorfindel?” questioned Haldir. “Anyone male, that is.”

“No. And that was how I finally realized that it had nothing to do with gender, but it was I who was making it that way. I was the one who was torturing myself over it. Because I could not make myself accept something so simple and painless,” explained Erestor.

“That you love him,” answered Haldir.

Erestor rested his cheek against Glorfindel’s arm. “And I hurt him, for so many years with my constant rejections and inability to accept him, and accept what we are and why we were brought together and to accept his love and admit my love for him in return.”

Haldir gently lifted the sheet back up to cover Erestor. “I am glad that you were finally able to tell him.”

Clinging to Glorfindel’s arm, Erestor said, “I have accepted him and told him I love him, aye, but he does not know for how long I have loved him. It is the last secret I have.” Deep, dark eyes fell upon Haldir as he said, “This time, I have told you the secret first.”

Not quite knowing why, Haldir smiled. “Thank you.” He leaned forward and carefully gave Erestor a hug. “Rest well.”

“You still have questions for me, though, do you not?” asked Erestor.

“I do, but they can wait until later,” Haldir assured him. “Save for one.”

“Which is?”

“Will you tell him?” Haldir looked to Glorfindel, a sleepy, dopey look on his face as he continued to relive memories in reverie.

“I think I will.” Erestor yawned and snuggled against his husband’s arm as Haldir left the room and closed the door. “Someday,” he added quietly, and apprehensively, as he stared up at the golden elf .
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