Anor had moved higher on the sky, dawn fading into the bright light of the late morning when he heard the hushed whispers and shuffling of feet outside the door to Elrond’s study. He smiled fondly, if a bit sadly, at the habit that the twins had formed so many centuries ago. The visiting of their father in his study was a daily routine whenever they were home and their moods were always easy to read. If they were loud and brash they were having a good day, intending only to pester and tease their father for a short while; hushed voices and shuffling feet meant that they did not look forward to the discussion that awaited them on the other side of the door. Erestor was also aware that this morning they would find Elrond’s study empty for the first time since the birth of Arwen, and that the twins would soon turn to him for answers.
Carefully, he sanded the parchment which he had been working on and put the quill away. He had just taken great care in putting a stopper in the inkwell when the knock came. The advisor cast a quick glance around the big study, making sure that the possibilities for accidents were limited.
“Come in, Elrohir,” Erestor called calmly. “And tell your brother that there is no need to hide outside while you talk to me; he is welcome to enter as well.”
The door opened and both the twins came in, scraping their feet, with identical sheepish expressions on the beautiful faces. They looked more like children than full grown Elves.
“How do you do
that, Erestor?” Elrohir asked. “I can never understand how you can see through doors!”
Erestor looked at them and the two Peredhil groaned simultaneously.
“Yes, Erestor, we know. Watch, Listen and Memorize; those are the keys to the understanding of Dwarves, Men and Elves and the patterns by which they behave. We have already heard this lecture!”
“Did I say a word, Master Elrohir?” the deep voice asked, amusement vaguely colouring the rich tones. “Although I will have to confess to a certain joy in hearing that you did, in fact, listen during your classes, if not always learn the lessons intended.”
The twins blushed furiously, remembering years of classes in which they had paid only a limited amount of attention despite the hard work of their instructor. Other things had been so much more interesting in those days.
“Erestor, have you seen father today? We looked in the library on the way here but he is neither there nor in his study.”
Erestor got up and walked over to the small seating area in the study. He poured some water for himself and looked over at the twins; he had to smile at the mirrored expressions of disgust that came over the beautiful features.
“Miruvor, if you have any, please,” Elladan said firmly. “Or wine. Water has its uses, but drinking is not
one of them.”
The councillor nodded and poured two glasses of miruvor and handed them to the twin sons of his Lord as he gestured towards the worn chairs. Elladan and Elrohir sat down, sipping appreciatively at their drinks.
“Lord Elrond has not come to his study, or the library, today, nor do I expect him to. Yesterday was a difficult day for him and today will be no better. The choices that you two have taken are hard for us all to accept and hardest on your father.”
The twins looked surprised and uncomfortable as they glanced up at Erestor.
“We haven’t even told him our choices yet! How come everyone else always seems to know us better than we do ourselves?”
“Because we have known you since the day you were born, we taught you all that we know, we trained you and we saw you grow into the wonderful Elves you are today,” the Noldo suggested dryly. “Not to mention that My Lord and I have seen you both in…compromising…situations. As has Glorfindel, even more so than your father or me.”
The twins flushed and drank more deeply. Elrohir drew a deep breath.
“Then you understand, Erestor?” The grey eyes of the younger Peredhel were large, vulnerable and pleading as they looked upon their former teacher. “We could make no other choice.”
“I understand better than you can ever guess,” his deep voice said quietly. “And if it means anything to you, I do believe that you have made the right choice.”
The twins beamed at him, big relieved smiles as they threw themselves into his arms, giving their tutor a firm hug. He hugged them back, for once allowing himself to enjoy the contact of others. He knew the exact moment when they were no longer alone; stubbornly, he refused to turn towards the door to greet the Elf that had just entered, although he knew full well who was there.
“Will you stay with us, Erestor? We need you once Ada is gone, please say that you will stay for a few years?”
He wasn’t sure who had said it, but he should have seen it coming. He gently loosened their arms and kissed them gently on their heads before he stepped back.
“No,” he said lightly; his heart sighed in his chest as he saw their eyes feel with hurt and disappointment. “I have made my own choice. You are both sons of my heart, but I will not stay.”
“Very nice, Lord Councillor. One might actually be fooled into believing that you do
have a heart after all, if one hadn’t known better, of course.” The golden tenor was cold.
“Lord Seneschal, how pleasant of you to grace us with your presence.” The deep voice was calm and polite, though a light acidity lent the comment a sharp flavour.
The twin sets of grey eyes widened with surprise as the two Peredhil looked at their former tutors. They had seen the pair disagree before, of course, but never had there been such tension and barely concealed animosity between them until now.
Erestor turned gracefully and passed Glorfindel on his way back to his desk when the pain flared up again and he lost his balance. The pain behind his eyes was sharp and blinding. Distantly, he was aware of strong arms catching him before he fell and leading him to the closest chair. A goblet was held to his mouth as someone made him drink water, then the goblet was removed again.
“Erestor! What is wrong?”
Everything was still distant, strange; the sounds were hollow as if someone had packed wool around them. He cursed himself for his weakness, for having been caught unawares and for showing his pain. He struggled for control over himself, pushing the pain down, pushing it away until he could control it. He still could not see them, but he knew exactly where they were standing.
The advisor turned his head towards the panic and distress that radiated off the twins and forced himself to smile reassuringly.
“I am well,” he said, his deep voice once again controlled, returning to its normal distant tones. “My sleep has been disturbed of late and I must suffer more from the lack of sleep than I had thought. Do not worry yourselves.”
He reached out his hand and lightly touched the face of the warrior in front of him.
“Thank you, meldir,” he said quietly.
The sharp knock on the door broke the tense atmosphere before any of the other Elves had time to speak. Erestor could feel their eyes on him and he gave an invisible sigh of relief at the interruption. He knew Glorfindel well and wanted all interruptions and distractions possible to throw the blond of the scent.
“Come in, Lindir.” Erestor called mildly and smiled at the twin groans as the door opened to admit the white haired minstrel.
“How does he do
that?!” Elladan’s voice was exasperated.
Lindir looked at the scene in front of him with obvious surprise. The councillor was sitting at his desk with the seneschal kneeling in front of him with a worried frown, and the behaviour of the young Peredhil could only be described as hovering.
Erestor looked at him, raising his eyebrow slightly in a silent question.
“Your pardon, Councillor Erestor, but Elrond sends for his sons and Glorfindel; he would like them to join him in his chambers.”
Erestor nodded. He could feel the confusion coming from the twins as they quickly realised that, unusually, Erestor had not been sent for together with the rest of them.
“Thank you, Lindir.”
The advisor heard the minstrel leave, the quiet footsteps leaving in the direction of the library. He turned towards the twins.
“Do not keep your father waiting.”
“But…” The stern black gaze cut off the objection as soon as Elrohir tried to voice it.
“I am well, pen-neth,” the dark voice said firmly. “Now go, your father is waiting.”
The twins left automatically, too used to obeying that firm tone of command throughout the centuries. Erestor turned his head towards Glorfindel.
”That goes for you as well. Do not keep them waiting.”
Glorfindel sighed and got up from the floor in front of the advisor.
“Are you sure you are well, Erestor? I can stay if you wish?” The golden voice was mild and concerned.
“I am well, now go.”
Glorfindel hesitated for a moment longer.
“Very well, Erestor, but this discussion is not over. You will
explain to me what just happened.”
The steady steps of the warrior crossed the wooden floor and the door closed firmly but calmly behind them on their way out.
Erestor let his breath out and leaned back, trying to will the last of the pain to withdraw. It was getting worse lately, more desperate and more difficult to keep hidden. Once his vision finally cleared, he took up his quill again and went back to his work.
Elrond embraced his sons.
“Will you not reconsider?” He knew, of course, that they would not.
The twins shook their heads.
“No,” they answered in unison. “We cannot take that path. You know this.”
Elrond nodded sadly and hugged his sons closer. He felt the tears behind his eyes as he tried to come to terms with the fact that they were grown up. It had happened so quickly.
“Yes,” he whispered. “I know this”
They remained in each other’s arms without speaking for yet another while, reluctant to let any second go of the short time they had left. Finally, they stepped back and moved into the sitting room. Glorfindel followed quietly.
“We asked Erestor to stay with us,” Elladan said suddenly as the Elves were seated. “He declined.” His voice was small, reflecting hurt at Erestor’s choice not to stay. “Imladris will be so empty without the two of you.”
“Father,” Elrohir cut in, frowning, “I think something is wrong with Erestor. He did not seem well when we were in with him this morning.”
Elrond nodded distractedly.
“He is right to decline,” he told his sons. “He cannot stay; I will need him with me when I go into the west.” He smiled thinly.
Glorfindel’s eyes narrowed as he looked at his friend, his feeling of unease deepening. Something was wrong, very wrong and it seemed that Elrond knew its source. There was no other way to explain how his Lord had gone from furious at Erestor’s refusal to remain the previous evening, to calm, accepting and even encouraging of the same choice this morning. Judging from the thin smile, however, Elrond was still not happy with his councillor. He met the eyes of his friend, tilting his head slightly in a silent question and felt even more alarmed and uncomfortable when Elrond’s gaze fell, giving no answers.
The morning passed comfortably as Elrond and Glorfindel told many tales of old and many stories from the first years of the twins. Memories were lingered over with smiles, laughter or sadness. Despite the choice of the twins, the atmosphere was relaxed and joyful and much laughter rang of the walls in the room. It was a day for treasuring the past and the present, to put all sad thoughts of the future aside.
Anor had long passed midday when a warm silence fell over the room. Talking advantage of the brief lull in conversation, Elrond looked at his sons. They were tall and well muscled from years spent with the Dúnedain and in the defence of Imladris. Their mother’s heritage showed only faintly in the beautiful faces, a glint of blue in otherwise grey eyes and a slightly silvery sheen to raven locks. He smiled; they had turned out well. His heart would break with their parting but, in truth, he had known about it for over two millennia and he had found, with time, that his heart had grown slightly resigned to his loss.
The twins looked at each other and bounced out of their chairs, stretching after hours of stillness.
“Food?” Elrohir asked, looking at his brother, the look on his face imitating the look of Elrond.
“But of course, brother,” the other answered, as he unsuccessfully tried to replicate the slightly aloof look that his father wore at official meetings.
The two older Elves smiled at each other as they looked at the young ones heading towards the door; they were still so full of life, so full of the energy of the young.
“Fruit? Bread? Dried meats?” Elladan asked as he turned towards his father and Glorfindel.
“As long as it is food, I do not care; nor will Glorfindel, I suspect.”
“Anything,” the blond confirmed.
At the door, Elrohir stopped and turned around again. He looked over at Glorfindel, uncertainty clear in the grey eyes.
“We totally forgot to ask you,” he started hesitantly.
Glorfindel noticed Elrond tensing where he sat in his chair, outwardly calm.
The seneschal smiled warmly at the young one facing him.
“I will stay, pen-neth,” the golden tenor said calmingly. “I will remain with you until the very end.”
Twin smiles of pure joy met him and out of the corner of his eye he noticed how the Lord of Imladris relaxed at his answer. Glorfindel barely had time to steady himself before three pairs of strong arms engulfed him. He tried to hug them all back at once.
“Thank you,” his Lord whispered, expressing three minds with one voice.
It never ceased to amaze him just how alike the three Peredhil really were. He blinked the tears out of his eyes as he ran his hands over three identical heads.
“What happened to lunch?” he murmured rustily, emotions welling high.
The twins flashed him another grin, filled with understanding, and left in their search for edibles. Elrond returned to his chair and sat down, broodingly staring into the dancing flames.
“Erestor is dying.”
The voice was flat and the words refused to register. Glorfindel felt the colour drain from his face as the reality of the words began to sink in. He closed his eyes, quick memories flashing in his mind. Elrond’s fury at Erestor, Erestor in heavy winter robes, the brief touch of cool fingers, the tiredness he had admitted to earlier in the morning. Pieces of a puzzle coming together.
“Why is he still here?” He was surprised at the calm in his voice.
“He refuses to leave. I do not believe he would have told me at all, had I not asked him to remain.” Elrond looked at the blond Elf next to him. “We can not let him fade, meldir, and yet… I do not know how to reach him.” His voice was low, scared and grieving.
The golden head nodded slowly.
“Will you excuse me, Elrond? I no longer feel like eating.”
“Of course. Will you go to him?”
Glorfindel took a deep breath.
“Try to make him listen to reason, try to convince him to let us help.”
“I will try.” The golden voice was clipped as the seneschal stalked out of the room.
Glorfindel got angrier the closer he came to Erestor’s study. So the advisor thought they would stand aside and watch him fade? In the back of his mind, a nagging voice told him that he was missing something, that fading would not affect an Elf the way something had affected Erestor that morning, and that whatever was hidden was the thing of importance.
He flung the heavy door open, catching it as it bounced back off the wall and returned towards him. The black haired advisor sat at his desk, once again utterly cool, calm and composed. A big difference from the pale creature he had been only a few hours past, and yet as beautiful.
“Are you utterly insane?” Glorfindel bellowed. “That famous mind of yours must have broken after all these years, for that is the only reason I can see for you still being here!”
“So he told you.” The deep voice was resigned.
“He did. And you are leaving Imladris no later that tomorrow morning ‘meldir’, even if I have to tie you to the horse myself.”
“I am not leaving. Not today, not tomorrow, not when Elrond does. I am not taking a ship to Aman.” The usually distant eyes flared with emotions, conflicting with the flatness of Erestor's tone.
“That is no longer for you to decide, Erestor!”
“This is my
choice, Glorfindel, NOT
yours!” The tall advisor unfolded his body and stood, looking down at the blond Elf with barely controlled rage.
Glorfindel found himself backing up a step at the sight in front of him before regaining control over himself. He planted his feet firmly on the floor, determined to hold his ground as he looked at the change that had come over Erestor. Gone was the cool, distant mask that had been perfected over centuries and in its place was raw emotion, black eyes flaring and a suggestion of violence.
'By the Valar,' Glorfindel thought, amazed at the beauty in front of his eyes. 'He is absolutely magnificent.' His eyes narrowed slightly as he assessed the situation. 'And far more dangerous than I ever suspected.'
He shifted uneasily under the black glare, his clothes feeling uncomfortable as he felt his body respond to the Elf on the other side of the desk.
Erestor’s head snapped around and focused on the door. Glorfindel heard the councillor bark a command and the door opened; he had not even heard the knock.
The blond could tell the exact moment that Lindir’s eyes fell on the dark Noldo. The pale blue eyes widened in admiration, his mouth fell slightly open and a light blush crept up the pale cheeks.
“What is it, Lindir?” The impatience in the deep voice brought them both back from their admiration. The minstrel’s blush deepened as he realised he had been caught staring. The silver haired Elf shifted anxiously and Glorfindel smiled sarcastically, recognising his own reaction in the behaviour of the younger Elf.
“It is…I was…I mean…” Lindir stammered.
As the black eyes remained focused on him, Lindir draw a deep breath and continued.
“I was sent for Lord Glorfindel and someone saw him come in here and he is needed immediately because there is a fight and no one knows what to do and it is all chaos and he is needed there right now.” He breathed out, relieved to have delivered his message despite that unnerving glare the councillor continued to give him.
“Needed where, Lindir?” Glorfindel asked, struggling to keep his voice calm.
“The exercise yard,” the minstrel croaked.
Glorfindel faced the Noldo again.
“I have to go, Erestor,” he said with forced calm. “But this discussion is not
“Oh yes, it is.” The deep voice was low, dangerous and threatening.
Glorfindel turned on his heel and swept by Lindir, who still seemed frozen in the doorway.
The silence grew as Erestor fought his temper, trying to force himself to calm down. He could not even recall the last time he had lost his temper to this degree. After a while he became aware of the Elf still standing at the door, staring at him.
Erestor cringed slightly.
“Was there anything else, Lindir?” he asked as he sat down and picked up the quill that he had let fall after Glorfindel’s entrance. The minstrel shook his head and mumbled something unintelligible. Suddenly Erestor threw the quill across the room and pushed the parchments on his desk to the side, violently. A book and a few letters fell to the floor but the advisor did not even seem to notice them.
“Why am I doing this?” he asked flatly, neither expecting, nor receiving, an answer from Lindir. “As there seems to be no urgent business awaiting me today and since our Lord seems to deem whatever work there is utterly unimportant, I will do the same.”
He pushed himself out of the chair.
“If anyone is looking for me I can be found in my chambers. Sleeping. And I do not wish to be disturbed. Please pass on my apologies at dinner.”
Lindir stared after the tall, dark Elf striding down the corridor. This was the oddest day he could ever recall in Imladris. Elrond was hiding in his rooms with his sons, Glorfindel and Lord Erestor were at each other’s throats and now Erestor had just taken the first afternoon off since Imladris was founded.
Erestor closed the door behind him and leaned tiredly against it. The pain was back again, worse than before. He pushed himself away from the heavy oak door and walked to his bedroom, cursing softly as he walked into a chair that had been left out of place. He sank down heavily on the big comfortable bed and leaned his head into his hands, fighting the urge to moan or whimper from the pain. The nausea that usually accompanied the pain increased as he got his vision back. Things looked strange, blurry and out of focus, but at least he could see.
Suddenly his stomach turned and he got up quickly, not wanting to get sick over the clean floor. He had not taken many steps when he clamped his hand over his mouth, vomiting.
His black eyes grew large as they focused on the blood running richly from his hand. He knew it was bad. Somewhere in the back of his mind a part of him panicked, screaming at the rest of him to call for help, to do something. At the same time that part of him that was always cold, always distant and always observing calmly pointed out that vomiting blood simply meant that this was all happening sooner than he had expected.
“So this is how it ends at last,” he thought as the floor came up to meet him.