Some said this was the longest night of the year, a night of wild magic when animals could speak and sprits, good and bad, roamed freely through the dark. The valley lay still and quiet, lights sparking in the glass windows as Elves moved lightly within the safety of their homes, leaving the dark and night alone.
Carefully he sneaked out of the house, pulling a red cloak tightly around himself - red for strength and power, bright red to keep spirits away - as he tiptoed to the stable. He breathed nervously, shallowly, out of fear but no ghosts, malicious or benign, interrupted his path. The stable door creaked when he opened it and slunk in. The sounds were comforting and familiar; horses shifted in their stalls, a muted shuffling of hard hooves on straw and the breathing of large animals with powerful lungs. He loved the stables but tonight the familiarity of them disappointed him. No animals talked; not even a whisper floated through the air. Disheartened, he sank down on a bale of hay. Maybe if he stayed perfectly silent they would forget he was there and talk, if he tried really hard not to be noticed. He slowed his breath as he sat, unmoving, ears listening for even the slightest whisper.
He sat quietly, watching, listening for what felt like an eternity. The midnight bell chimed softly and still the horses remained silent. The stable door opened, banging against the wall; it made the horses jump and move restlessly, faint whinnies of fear breaking the silence. Cold air and snow swirled in through the opened door, revealing a tall dark shape next to a huge black horse.
Scrambling off the bale of hay, he stared, wide eyed, at the being in the doorway, feeling a scream build up inside him. The dark sprits roamed this night, they said. Stay inside, they said, or evil will find you.
The dark figure moved its head slowly, eyes burning in a mixture of green and gold, looking at him as both the dark shape and horse moved deeper into the stables. Screaming, he ran, bolting through the door that was still open and running as fast as he could back to the house, his scarlet robe forgotten behind him. Only when he reached his own chambers did he stop, as he frantically lit all the candles he could find, mumbling prayers he had not uttered in long years as he knelt by the bed, waiting for evil to claim him – but none came.
The patterns of cloves on the valuable oranges hanging from the ceiling in red ribbons met him as he entered the house through the kitchen, along with rich, warm smells of the Midwinter celebrations to come. The kitchen was still bustling despite the late hour; for a few hours yet the house would move to the sound of song and laughter as the Elves of Imladris shut their doors to the dark.
Tiredly, he grabbed a pitcher of milk and a loaf of fresh bread before he made his way to his chambers. It had been years since he had last been home, long, tiring years. His chambers were cold and dark; no fire had been lit to chase away the chill and damp, but he had not expected it any other way. No one had known when he would arrive.
He sank down in a chair, rubbing his leg absentmindedly as he wondered if he could be bothered to kneel down to get some heat into the room. Yet another sharp twinge in his leg persuaded him not to. He had ridden hard and fast, wishing to reach home before the worst snow fell.
Wearily he pushed himself out of his seat and went to the bed, kicking his boots off before falling to the soft blankets, wrapping them closely around his clothed body as he fell asleep.
Wide eyed, he stared at the ice crystals on the window, delicate shimmering patterns over the clear glass and was in awe of the simple beauty. His fingers traced the patterns from the inside and he was saddened as the patterns slowly melted beneath his touch.
Sighing, he stepped away, hunger gnawing in the pit of his stomach as he left his rooms. The scents of breads and sweetmeats baking in the kitchen filled the entire house as he carefully made his way into the heat and warmth of the huge room. Everywhere, Elves were scurrying, baking spiced, crumbly breads, sweetly spiced ones with expensive ingredients and heavy, hearty breads for dinners and lunches.
He smiled brilliantly at the bakers, hovering behind their backs as he craned his neck, trying to better see what they were doing and how the beautiful breads seemed to flow from their hands. They laughed at him as he nipped pieces of dough and spices, tasting them, savouring them as his smile grew wider and happier.
He remembered little from his old life - his family and friends, those he remembered clearly, but all other things seemed lost. Constantly he was amazed by things he had not remembered, the taste of the first snow on his tongue, the cold air of winter, nipping at his cheeks and this overwhelming curiosity for all things.
Glancing out of the window, he saw the huge stack of straw and the one with seeds of oats and barley still on the dried stems and gasped happily. The straw buck and the big, beautiful pillar of harvest fruits asking Yavanna once more for a plentiful spring were about to be built. Eagerly he ran up to his room, looking for his beautiful new cloak without finding it. He frowned as he turned around and around before he remembered that he had left it behind in the stable the previous night.
Biting his nails, he left his room again, wondering if he would be able to find the coat again or would have to ask for a new one. Frowning, he thought about how he could ever explain how he had lost his cloak, and imagined the look Elrond would give him when he admitted that it was because one of the unnamed ones had come to the stables in the middle of the night.
Wincing at the thought, he hurried to the stables, hoping the bright scarlet velvet would still lie crumpled in the corner where he had left it - but it did not. He breathed rapidly as stories ran through his head, of houseless spirits and the unnamed ones getting hold over the minds of Elves and Men that carefully let their possessions fall into the hands of the otherworld.
Sighing, he made his way back to the house, glancing wistfully at the Elves throwing snowballs and joking as they slowly built the straw buck. For a moment he stopped, looking at them as he shivered in the sharp cold.
“Grab your cloak and come and help us, Glorfindel!” Elladan’s cheery voice rang out over the grounds, making him smile as he waved to his friends before running inside to try to find something warmer to wear.
Eagerly he ran up the stairs, too lost in his excitement to look where he was going. A hard body connected with his and sent him falling backwards, tumbling down the steps. He blinked confusedly at the ceiling above his head as he heard the deep, hoarse voice curse loudly beside him. Worriedly, he sat up, looking at the stranger who was struggling back to his feet, his left leg held stiffly as if it did not bend well.
“I am so sorry,” he said, horrified at himself for hurting another in his eagerness. Quickly he bounced up on his feet, reaching down to help the dark one who waved him away impatiently as he straightened.
“Run along,” the raspy voice said. “Only Morgoth knows what you will get into your head next.” The Elf straightened, his coarse midnight hair falling wildly over broad shoulders as he turned.
Glorfindel backed away in fear when the other turned, trying to breathe.
There was something hard about the face of the other, his features almost a parody of Elven features as if cut out by someone who had only heard of Elves and never seen them. It was a strong face, rough lines defining high cheekbones beneath slanted eyes and a slightly pointy chin. A scar on the side of his face twisted the face into a slight sneer and another wound thickly around the neck. This was also the one that had entered the stables the previous night.
“Eru, Manwë and Varda,” Glorfindel whispered, backing away from the unnamed one. The tales said that the unnamed ones could not enter if not invited and panickedly he wondered if leaving his cloak in the stable could somehow have been construed as an invite. Maybe it was his fault that this evil was here.
A flicker of surprise ran through the stranger’s face before he laughed harshly, coldly, at the look of fear on Glorfindel’s face.
“Erestor?” Elrond’s voice was surprised, worried as he quickly descended the stairs. “Are you well, meldir? How is your leg?”
Glorfindel winced, wishing he could just sink through the floor as the tall stranger turned.
“It will hold,” Erestor said wryly. “Who is the child?”
Indignantly, Glorfindel gasped, forgetting that he did not wish to draw attention to himself. “I am not a child.”
“No?” Erestor’s voice was dry.
Elrond frowned at Glorfindel and the blond sighed and hung his head, embarrassed and ashamed.
“He is not a child,” Elrond said tiredly. “The Valar seem to have taken everything apart from memories of his family from him, leaving him with an enthusiasm and curiosity most of us outgrew at thirty. They sent him back to help. Erestor, this is the one I asked you to train, Glorfindel of Gondolin.”
Glorfindel’s sapphire eyes opened wider in shock and horror as he looked from his lord to his new trainer.
“No.” Erestor’s voice was firm as he left, limping heavily.
“How did you manage to make an enemy out of him so soon, Glorfindel?” Elrond asked tiredly as he turned towards the study. “Come, Glorfindel, join me for a while.”
Quietly Glorfindel followed and sank down on one of the chairs before Elrond’s desk. “I am sorry,” he mumbled. “I didn’t realise… I mean... I thought…” He fell quiet, unsure of how to explain to his lord that he had mistaken someone Elrond obviously counted as a good friend for a creature from the underworld. “I… I went to the stables last night,” he said, keeping his eyes on the floor. “I wanted to see if the animals could really talk and then…” He swallowed. “He came and I thought… I thought he was a demon, my lord,” he whispered, ashamed of himself, his cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
He heard Elrond’s sigh and glanced up to see his lord run a hand over his face, shaking his head. “Oh, Glorfindel. What am I to do with you?” He sighed again. “Sometimes I wonder what the Valar were thinking when they returned you to us this way.”
Glorfindel swallowed, feeling tears burn behind his eyes at the disappointment in his lord’s voice. “I am sorry,” he whispered again. “I will try harder, I promise.”
Elrond stood and walked over, running a hand softly over the golden hair. “I worry for you, Glorfindel,” he said. “But I am not disappointed in you, only worried that you will not be ready whenever danger comes. Imladris would be a much duller place without your enthusiasm.”
Glorfindel smiled hesitantly at him. “I will apologise to Lord Erestor,” he said. “And maybe some day I will remember to think before I act.”
Elrond smiled fondly. “Imladris would never survive the shock of that, I am sure. Thank you, Glorfindel.”
The door closed quietly behind the golden Elf and Elrond started laughing softly, shaking his head amusedly as his laughter grew and he walked through the small door that connected his study to Celebrían’s. She smiled as he entered, putting her quill aside.
“What did he do now?” The corners of her eyes crinkled lightly at her husband’s amusement.
Elrond leant against the edge of her desk and bent down, pressing a loving kiss on her lips.
“He decided to find out if animals could truly talk last night. Unfortunately for him, Erestor returned home while he was still in the stables so he managed to convince himself that Erestor was a demon of the underworld. That was before he ran over Erestor on the stairs half an hour ago, sending them both tumbling down the steps.”
Celebrían’s smile widened before she exploded in laughter, the light joyful sound filling the small study, framed by Elrond’s darker laughter. “How did we ever live without him?” she said fondly once they calmed. “He is such a joy.”
Elrond nodded. “That he is… and I cannot really fault him for mistaking Erestor for a demon either.”
With another chuckle he shook his head before calming, his mood becoming almost sober. “Erestor is refusing to train him.”
Celebrían nodded thoughtfully. “He would, seeing that he has met Glorfindel. It would do them both good, however, to spend time with each other. They could both gain much from a friendship.”
Darkness fell early in the day and the Elves building with the straw wrapped up for the day as they headed into the kitchens in search of mulled wine and spiced milk to warm them up. Glorfindel laughingly waved at them as he headed towards the steams, his cheeks bright and red from the cold.
The steams were quiet this time of day, he noticed as he entered the first chamber, and undressed quickly, braiding his hair into a thick plait. The steamroom itself was almost empty; the mist of water in the air hung heavily, bearing witness that he was not the only one there as did the faint hiss of water against the hot rocks. He climbed up on one of the wooden benches and looked around, smiling. He froze as he saw Erestor on one of the higher benches, his black hair clinging closely to the naked body.
His mouth felt strangely dry as his gaze travelled over hard muscles and almost impossibly broad shoulders. Silver scars ran over the otherwise smooth skin and the left leg had apparently been badly crushed at some point.
“Keep your eyes in your head, child.” Erestor’s voice was flat and Glorfindel jumped guiltily.
Tearing his eyes away of the warrior’s body, he shifted uncomfortably, a bright blush over his cheeks as he bent his legs, hiding his own reaction. He swallowed confusedly as he stared down at himself before closing his eyes tightly, thinking of snow.
Erestor rose from his bench and limped towards the baths.
Glorfindel gasped slightly and found himself staring at Erestor again. Nervously, his eyes flickered around the room and he swallowed shakily. “When do I start my training?” he asked as he tried to behave as someone his age should.
“You will not.” The answer was firm. “I do not train children”
“I am not a child,” Glorfindel objected again. “I am a warrior.”
“You were a warrior, then you died.” The door to the baths slammed shut.
Glorfindel sighed as he found himself alone again and shifted again, staring down at his own body which had been behaving oddly since he entered the steams. Confusedly, he nudged the hard flesh between his legs, wondering what was wrong with it. The light touch sent shivers down his spine and his breath hitched. Experimentally, he touched it again, more slowly, and moaned.
He leant his head against the wall as his hand closed instinctively around his erection. Images of the broad, well muscled body of Erestor returned to his mind as he started moving his hand. Whimpering, his eyes slid shut as he thrust up into his hand, his flesh slick with sweat and arousal as he moved faster, lost in the unknown pleasures coursing through him. His moans grew louder as his body tightened, quivering on the edge of something before everything seemed to explode, white fluid spilling thickly over his hand and stomach.
A slow smile spread over his face as he sank back against the wall, utterly relaxed. He had never heard of anything like that before and curiously he wondered how he would learn more about it. For a moment, he thought about asking Elladan and Elrohir but just thinking about it made him feel embarrassed.
The door to the first chamber opened and the voices and laughter of others floated into the steamroom. Panickedly, he flew up from his seat and rushed into the bathing chamber, relieved to see it lying dark and empty.
“Erestor, I need you to train him.”
Erestor looked up at his friend over the brim of the goblet, his gaze steady. “No.” A faint amusement played in his eyes as he watched the Peredhel pace in front of the fireplace, the agitation and frustration obvious on his face. Erestor sank further into his chair, his long legs stretched out comfortably and crossed at the ankles.
“What do you mean, ‘no’?” Elrond snapped as he spun, glaring at his friend. “You will train him.”
Erestor shook his head. “I will not,” he said calmly. “Ask your sons; they would be better suited, I am sure.”
Elrond paused before he shook his head. “No,” he said. “I want you to do it.”
Erestor sighed and drained the rich wine he had been sipping at. “I will not train him, Elrond. I do not teach children to kill or to die. Find someone else.”
“He is not a child,” Elrond said tiredly. “If he had been a child I would worry less, but he is well past his majority.”
The dinnerbell chimed softly through the house, the musical tones interrupting them as it called them, their attention suddenly torn from the disagreement.
Shaking his head again, Erestor rose carefully, his leg stiffened and bruised from his previous tumble down the stairs. “You will not win this, Elrond. He is a child, and a rude one at that.“
“Rude?” Elrond stared incredulously at his friend. “If the boy knew enough about self-preservation to be rude, I would worry less!” He caught his mistake as Erestor’s lips twisted into a smirk.
Elrond took a calming breath. “Are you aware that he believed you a demon last night?” he asked dryly, watching his friend.
Erestor snorted. “It was hard to miss. He stares.”
All others were already seated and the meal had begun by the time Glorfindel crept into the hall. He blushed brightly as all eyes seemed to turn towards him as he entered, many faces smiling amusedly at him. Anxiously, he wondered if everyone knew what had happened earlier in the afternoon; maybe they could see on his face what he had done. His blush deepened further as he could feel parts of himself stir at the memory and he shifted nervously.
“Nice of you to join us, Glorfindel,” Elrond said calmly.
He shuffled over to his seat and sank down on it, mumbling an excuse that not even he could hear.
The conversations and laughter started again as he sat down, keeping his gaze lowered. He picked unenthusiastically at his food before he realised that someone sat in the chair next to his. Curiosity stirred, as the seat on Elrond’s right had always been empty, and he raised his eyes. The shock of seeing Erestor beside him, fully dressed and eating calmly, made him swallow and reach blindly for his goblet. His fingers grazed against the cold glass and, in horror, he saw it tilt and fall, the red wine spreading quickly over the white tablecloth and dripping onto his new teacher.
Erestor closed his eyes.
“I am so sorry!” Without thinking, he reached for a napkin and started trying to dry the wine on Erestor’s leggings. A hard, calloused hand grabbed him around the wrist.
Glorfindel’s blush returned as he stared on his hand, resting high on what he knew to be a very muscular thigh and he swallowed again, tearing his hand away and straightening quickly, eager to prove himself an adult for his new teacher. The dull thump and searing pain in his head as his temple connected with the table made him close his eyes, mortified.
He heard the chuckles around the table and straightened in embarrassment, staring down on his own plate without touching the food for the remainder of the meal.
Breathlessly he opened the door to the library and slunk in, pulling the door closed behind him. Tall, long rows of books lined the walls and shelves in the huge room and he raised his candle, wondering where to start. Aimlessly, he wandered among the books, trying to read the titles.
It was the candlelight gleaming on the silver spine of a highly ornate book that caught his attention. Stretching on his tiptoes he reached for it and wrapped his fingertips around it, pulling it closer. The book fell with a heavy thump, dragging a few more down on to the floor with it. His fingers shook as he opened it and gasped at the illustration that looked back at him. Quickly, he gathered the volumes close to his chest and hurried out of the library and back to his room.
He sank down on the bed and put the books beside him before opening the silver one again. The illustration of a male Elf, one hand around a tall erection and the other one buried between his legs, caught his attention. He felt his breathing become strange as he looked at it, his own flesh growing thick and heavy.
Quickly he undressed and propped the book up with pillows as he lowered a hand to touch himself. He moaned slightly and let his eyes fall shut again. Gone was the image from the book, replaced by smooth skin broken by scars, hard muscles and wide shoulders. He shivered as his hand suddenly tingled with the remembered heat of Erestor’s thigh where he had touched it, so high, so close to… He trembled violently as the thought made him spend himself a second time that day.