He stretched with a yawn, the faint winter dawn creeping into his room, casting blue shadows over his simple room. Sighing, he sat, feeling the cold air wash over him as the warmed blankets fell and bundled around his hips. He hated dawn.
Groaning, he rose from the bed and smashed the thin layer of ice that had gathered on top the water in the carafe. The faint clinking of shattered ice echoed into the room as he filled the small washing bowl with water and washed his face in an attempt to wake.
Giggles from the room on the other side of the wall made him grind his teeth. Loud, shrieking giggling. An image of the dark, slender advisor next door filled his mind. The raven hair falling over an ivory neck as he writhed beneath his lover, beautiful, and desirable. Once again he cursed the Chief Advisor of Imladris for placing their rooms next to each other, something that he suspected had only been done to irritate him.
He grabbed a towel and dried his face and hands as he walked over to the wardrobe and chose his clothes. He dressed quickly in leggings and a tunic and thrust his feet into his thigh high boots. The guards of the valley would soon gather in the training fields and he wished to be there before them. Never once in all his time as Commander of the Troops had he allowed himself to be late and he did not intend to start now.
Low moans crept through the wall and he rose, slamming the door behind him as he left.
Glorfindel smiled as he laid the pink rose on the table and let his fingers graze over the soft petals, remembering the rosy hue and velvet feel of his lover’s lips. It had not been easy to find a rose at this time of year, but the Lady had taken pity on him when he admitted that he wanted it for his raven, his lover, and let him pluck one of her precious hothouse flowers.
The sound of steps and voices drew closer to the great hall and Glorfindel sat down in his seat at the table. He enjoyed his newfound life, his love and the peace of his new being. It had surprised many, he knew, when the former Captain of Gondolin had declined a place in the guard, spending his time among the advisors and scribes, the librarians and copyists. Not many understood his need for quiet and solitude, his hatred for the way of the sword and bow and knives.
Soon the room was filled with Elves, talking and laughing as they took their places for lunch. Glorfindel smiled at his friend, the tall, strawberry blonde Commander of Imladris, as he entered, already looking tired and worn. A faint spray of freckles ran over the bridge of his nose giving him a warm, almost childish appearance that was far from the truth. The Commander was one of the most hardened, experienced Elves that he had ever known.
"Hard day on the training fields, meldir?" he said, his voice warm, as he made room for the muscular Sinda and got a nod in reply as the Commander sat down beside him.
"There was a fight," he said shortly. "Young fools enamoured by the sight of the Chief Councillor walking past. It seems the battle was begun over who was fairest," he continued dryly, "the dark one or the Lady. The fact that the object of the disagreement stopped and spoke to them, blushing softly at the compliments, did not help."
Glorfindel made a humming noise in the back of his throat to indicate that he was listening as he watched his raven enter the room. Whatever was said around him fell away as the slight Elf seemed to glide over the floor, smiling shyly as he took to his seat. The dark eyes widened at the sight of the rose and the slender fingers caressed the velvet petals.
"I think he likes it," Glorfindel said excitedly as he watched his lover. The Elf next to him gave him an odd look.
The Councillor raised his eyes, glistening with tears as a light flush settled over the fair face, giving Glorfindel a radiant smile. Glorfindel smiled back, his eyes and mind filled with the radiance of his lover. The sound of a chair scraping over the floor made him jump and look around, searching for the source of the noise.
The Commander stood beside him, his chair pushed back and his eyes fastened on the raven haired Elf and Glorfindel grinned. “He is beautiful, is he not?” he said warmly to his friend and frowned in confusion as the other gave him a disgusted glance and stalked off, his lunch forgotten.
The slight Elf on Elrond's right hand side let his lips quirk slightly, almost invisibly, as the warrior left, a brief flash of triumph in his eyes.
Furiously he danced on the training field, his knives flashing lethally in the dull red light of the sunset. All others had tired and left when the night patrol went out, when the dinner bell rang, and still he was here. With a sigh, he dropped his knives and tilted his head back, trying to catch his breath; a bitter smile graced his strong face. That one tiny, feminine Elf had such power over the household that all but he were blind to his manipulations and intrigue.
He sank down on the ground, leaning his back against one of the large trees that shadowed the grounds, and closed his eyes. He had no wish to return to his rooms, to once again hear the giggles and moans of lovemaking as his best friend buried himself, over and over, in the petite Elf, nor did he want to hear one of the arguments, the hysterical venom that spilled from the ruby lips when Glorfindel had been late, or had talked to someone other than the Chief Councillor, or when Elrond had shown a remarkable instance of free will. It never ceased to surprise him how abusive the dark Elf was to those around him.
He rubbed his hands over his face in a tired motion and wondered how he was supposed to defend a valley where the biggest object of strife and deceit was loved by all. The masterful act of shyness had the valley enthralled and created an army of defensive admirers around the Elf and still, how could they not see that something was wrong when the raven one outshone the Lady the same day she announced the happy begetting of Elrond's heir? The rejoicing had lasted a heartbeat until the Councillor had burst out sobbing, hurt to the core about something he refused to talk about and all left Celebrían's side to swarm around the other.
There had been so many instances like that: a hidden flirtatious glace from the dark eyes and an inexperienced young soldier had provoked a fight about the dark one's honour, followed by lavish gifts and treats to be sent, not to the injured party but to the Councillor. A letter misplaced that shattered a trade agreement Elrond had long sought after; reports about sightings of Orcs that had not been read, sending Elves that had argued Celebrían's beauty over the Councillor's into danger and death. Yet, few, if any, had realised that Elrond no longer held the power of Imladris; the fate of the valley rested instead in petite, vicious and manipulating hands. Sometimes he wondered why he stayed, but one look at Glorfindel or Elrond, one smile from Celebrían, and he was reminded where his duty and love lay.
He rose tiredly and started walking back to the house, noting with some unease the air of urgency and panic that filled the tranquil home. Hastening his steps, he drew nearer, seeing the mass of Elves that stood around the door to the Healing Houses, and his heart froze. Pale, tense faces turned towards him, looking for strength.
“What has happened?” he asked, his voice firm and authoritative as he glanced around the crowd.
They turned to him, their eyes shocked as they struggled for words.
The movement of glossy brown hair caught his eyes and he turned slightly, letting his eyes fall on Lindir as he waited for an answer.
“The Lord has been taken ill,” the singer replied in his rich, warm, baritone.
He felt himself waver as his eyes narrowed, scanning the crowd. Close to the doors he saw them, the petite dark Elf sobbing in Glorfindel's arms and he felt his heart freeze. “The Firstborn do not fall ill,” he said flatly.
“The Lord is Peredhel,” Lindir started before falling quiet under the furious green eyes of the Commander.
“Elrond is of the Firstborn; his choice is made. The Firstborn do not fall ill.” He did not say it; even when he saw the confusion on the faces around him he did not say it. Poison was such an ugly word and so very difficult to prove.
“Go back to your rooms,” he said calmly. “Get the rest you all need. The Lord and Lady will thank you for your concern in the morning but, for now, leave them in peace.”
Wide eyes stared at him but he stood firm and tall and, slowly, one by one, they started trickling away until only he, Glorfindel and the Chief Councillor remained.
“Go to your rooms, Chief Councillor,” he said, his voice frosty. “If the Lord needs rest the running of the Valley will fall on your shoulders tomorrow.”
The Councillor's black eyes flashed at him but he met them, refusing to back down before the dark one did. Eventually the petite Elf shuddered and choked back his sobbing as he started walking, supported by Glorfindel.
Only when the corridor was quiet and empty did he open the door, sliding into the Healing Halls.
Celebrían sat by her husband's side, her pale, beautiful face streaked with tears as she cradled a still hand between her own.
“What happened, My Lady?” he asked quietly, kneeling in front if her, by his Lord's bedside.
“He complained that his head hurt shortly after the midday meal,” she answered, her normally melodic voice rough from crying. “When the dinner bell rang he was shaking with fever and before the meal was finished he slipped into unconciousness.”
He kissed the hands of his Lord and Lady, feeling the tears burn behind his eyes. Would Elwing's line end here? A line begun by Elf and Maia falter and fail from betrayal? In his mind there was little doubt that the children his Lady carried would be in danger if the Lord would die. He found himself wishing that Doriath had never fallen, that Melian would still walk among them, wise and gracious and filled with healing lore.
“Can the Healers keep him here?”
She nodded faintly. “They have hope, if they can control the fever overnight, they have hope,” she said, her voice faint. ”Have we fallen so far that the Valar send us illness? Have the Firstborn truly lost so much grace?”
He shook his head firmly and stood. “No, My Lady,” he said, his voice smooth, lethal. “If they sent no illness to the House of Fëanor, then they will send none. We have not fallen further than the Kinslayers.”
Her blue eyes shone with hope as she looked at him, small, frail and beautiful in her fervent wish to keep her people and husband safe, to keep them alive.
He bowed, kissing the entwined hands of Lord and Lady again, and took his leave.
To his relief his rooms were silent; no argument, no sobbing, no moaning floated through the walls. A thin layer of ice was starting to form on the carafe again and he broke it before he undressed quietly. His movements were oddly slow as he folded the leggings and tunic neatly, the cold air causing goosebumps to break out over his skin. He dipped a washcloth in the cold water and began to cleanse himself methodically, ritually, as his mind remained strangely empty.
He did not notice the chill on his skin once he was done, once he crossed the floor and kneeled in front of the tall balcony doors. The eerie blue light of the moon shone through the windows, drawing patters on the floor, and he bent his head. He never prayed, he never had, but this night he did. He prayed to the Creator, to the Valar and to Eärendil, he prayed to all that would listen and he begged forgiveness.
Dawn came and the usual moans floated through the walls but this morning he did not resent them. He closed his eyes and listened until the moans silenced, until the day intruded on the lovers and the door closed behind Glorfindel. Glorfindel always left first.
He stood then, and got dressed in a simple tunic and leggings before he slipped out of his chambers and opened the door to the rooms the Councillor and his best friend shared. He could hear the raven haired Elf move in the luxurious bathing chamber that he had demanded be built, the running of water, the serene humming of an Elf who enjoyed a good morning.
He listened carefully as he moved through the room, searching for something, anything, that could confirm his suspicions. Hands running over shelves and boxes, lifting and replacing tunics and leggings in the wardrobe, carefully moving the bottles of scented oils in the bedside cabinet. His fingers froze as they encountered the hidden drawer and opened it. The small pouch looked innocent as he took it out, opening it. The grey powder in it confirmed what he suspected. A poison of some kind within the walls of Imladris. Carefully, he took his thin gloves out of his belt and pulled them over his hands before he walked into the bathing chamber. The petite, raven haired Elf lay in the bath, his eyes closed and a small smile gracing the beautiful face.
The Commander emptied the pouch into his right hand as he moved soundlessly, kneeling behind the Councillor before he moved, trapping him in a firm hold with his left arm even as his right hand pressed over the ivory face. There was a struggle, of course there was, a moment when the Elf in his arms tried not to breathe, but it passed. The black eyes stared at him in shock and fury as poison ran through the slender limbs.
It took almost an hour before the pupils narrowed in pain, as if the eyes tried to shut out the light and the pale skin flushed with fever. Quicker than Elrond's dose, probably stronger.
He stood back when the petite body shook with fever, delirious, and left the room.
He shook as he reached the training grounds, the reality of what he had done starting to sink through his mind. Kinslayer. He could hear Elu Thingol's voice echo in his head, the memory of his King's hatred for what the sons of Fëanor had done, his own incomprehension of the idea of Elf killing Elf. All innocence fled sooner or later, he thought, as he looked at the young warriors training, his eyes dull and weary. Even the innocence of defence would one day ask for impossible choices and his was made.
He closed his eyes as he heard the anguished scream of his best friend and went into his office, opening a bottle of miruvor as he drank deeply. This was it, his mind whispered. No more killing, no more wars, no more defending. He could still hear the echoes of Glorfindel's grief in his ears as he raised the bottle again, the fiery liquid burning his insides.
There would be need for another Councillor now. The last one had fallen victim to the same strange illness that had almost taken the Lord of the valley. To protect with words and quill and counsel; once he had wondered over Glorfindel's choice, but no longer. There were some sacrifices that should never be asked. To desert a king and friend, to fail to keep oaths sworn, to die.
“Yes,” Erestor whispered to himself. “I understand you now, Glorfindel; the quiet and the peace.”