Glorfindel looked up with a sigh and realised that Ithil had already risen and that the evening meal was long past. It had taken much too long to settle the lesser war that had broken out in the exercise grounds earlier that day. He hated fights between or for sweethearts; it made him feel old and lonely and only brought into focus that which he preferred to forget. All his lovers over the years had been looking for the same as him, looking for a gratification of the body only, a way to forget the loneliness of their souls.
Before he had decided on where he was going now that his work was over for the day, he found himself outside the door of Erestor’s study. He stood there long, not knocking at the door as he wondered if he really wanted to continue this, when he was both hungry and tired; in his heart, however, he knew that he had to. The sooner he convinced Erestor to go to the Havens the better. He pushed the door open and looked in surprise at the dark and empty room; Erestor was known for working later hours than anyone, including Elrond.
He looked in the dark room of Elrond’s study and found it to be empty before his feet traced the path to the library and once again he found the huge room dark and quiet. Frowning, he went out into the gardens, in which he knew that the advisor loved to walk. After another hour he was forced to realise that the Erestor was nowhere to be found. He had grown increasingly worried since he found the study empty and the worry had now settled into a deep unease. Looking around the gardens yet again, he caught a glimpse of Lindir surrounded by Elflings.
“Lindir!” he called softly.
The minstrel looked up from the telling of the tale of Beren and Lúthien as the seneschal approached.
“Have you seen Erestor?”
The white haired Elf shook his head in denial. ”Not since early afternoon,” he stated. “He went to his rooms after you left us earlier; I have not seen him since. He did claim to be tired.”
Glorfindel nodded and absentmindedly thanked the minstrel, who went back to his tale.
Glorfindel knocked on the door to the advisor’s chambers. He was glad that the hours away from the advisor had calmed him down. It was obvious that tempers and shouting got nowhere with the stubborn Elf, but maybe reason would. Erestor liked reason, he thought to himself
“Erestor?” he called gently when his knock went unanswered.
To his surprise, the silence remained and the door remained closed. It was not like the advisor to avoid an argument instead of meeting it with cool suggestions, slowly cutting the other’s objections down until he had got his way.
Hesitantly, Glorfindel put his hand on the doorknob and twisted. The small hallway was dark, faintly lit by the light of Ithil which found its way through a small window near the ceiling. He couldn’t shrug off the feeling that there was something here that did not belong, something he should recognise. He looked around carefully, wondering if he would ever understand the enigmatic Elf.
The hall was simple, cream walls and dark wood, no furniture. To his astonishment, he noticed a Noldorin lamp hanging by the door. He reached out and touched it with his fingertips; there were not many left of these ancient treasures. Too many had been lost in Beleriand when the great kingdoms fell, Nargothrond, and Gondolin. Slowly he removed the dark covering, letting the pale silver-blue light shine through the darkness. He picked up the lamp and moved further in to the chambers, into the sitting room with the large balcony doors where he had found Erestor the previous evening. The room felt strong, masculine; it spoke of a simple elegance untouched by female hands, all heavy curtains and dark wood. He saw no paintings, no statues, nor any ornaments in the room, which was dominated by a huge bookcase and worn, comfortable chairs.
He went to the room on his left, the study in which they had argued the night before, and found it empty. Once again he was struck by the lack of personal objects that should have been gathered lovingly over the years. The only thing not entirely practical, apart from more scrolls and books, was the black stone set of a miruvor carafe and goblets.
Nervously, he walked back into the sitting room and found himself in front of the last door.
“Erestor?” he called. “Are you awake?”
Yet again, there was no reply. Glorfindel turned and walked back through the empty rooms; he did not wish to enter Erestor’s bedchamber uninvited. This conversation could wait until the morning.
By the time he opened the door to the corridor his unease had increased to the point where he felt like his skin was crawling. Something was wrong in these rooms, yet he had seen nothing to indicate this feeling of dread. He sighed, closed the door again, leaning his head against the inside of the wooden door. He was Glorfindel of Gondolin: he had been to the Halls of Mandos and returned, he was the slayer of the Balrog and he feared to go into Erestor’s bedroom. If Erestor was fading, this discussion should not be delayed any further.
He picked up the lamp again and walked reluctantly back to the bedroom door. After hesitating for yet another few minutes he raised his hand and knocked. The door opened slightly under the weight of his hand. If the advisor was in there, he must be sleeping deeply.
The blond pushed the door fully open, the lamp in his hand spreading across the floor and the clothing. Glorfindel stared at what he had, at first, mistaken for discarded robes, horror rising, threatening to choke him, as his eyes fell on the sea of midnight hair and the pale ivory of a hand half hidden under black robes.
“Erestor?” he whispered hoarsely, disbelievingly.
The Elf on the floor did not move.
“Erestor!” He heard the panic in his own scream as he flung himself on his knees beside his unconscious friend. His hand was still steady as he reached out to touch the black hair, to gently remove the raven locks from the pale face. A cold, sticky substance met his fingers, hidden in the black mass of hair, and suddenly Glorfindel placed what had felt wrong since he entered the chambers, placed what did not belong; the weak, metallic scent that clung to the air, the scent of blood.
His panic increased as he slowly turned the other over on to his back, running light fingers down the lean body, through the hair, looking for injuries. His fingers encountered old scars under the skin, telling him that at some point the advisor must have taken an almost lethal blow to the head; he did not, however, find any recent injuries, no source of the blood. He stroked the last locks out of the white face and finally noticed the blood still clinging to lips that had lost all colour. His heart froze as his gaze fell on the closed eyes.
Glorfindel ran his fingers over the cool face.
“Oh, Erestor,” he whispered.
His fingers were shaking badly as he ran them down the smooth column of the neck, settling at last on a weak, irregular pulse. The blond let out a deep breath as he found the faint proof of life. He looked around the room, trying to decide his next course of action. He knew that he should run for help, make sure that Elrond got there as quickly as possible and yet…he could not leave Erestor like this, on the floor in his own blood.
Carefully he lifted the tall Elf and carried him over to the bed. Once he was sure that Erestor’s body was as comfortable as possible he went into the adjoining bathing chamber to pick up a towel. He found a large bowl, which he filled with water, and walked back into the bedroom. Setting the bowl on the bedside table, he tenderly washed the blood off the pale hands and face. He wished he could have washed the hair as well.
Convulsions ran through the unconscious body and Glorfindel moved quickly, lifting the pale body and sliding behind it. He moved the black hair out of the way and snatched the bowl from the table, holding Erestor close, his own body supporting the dark Elf as the advisor vomited again. The blood running from the pale lips was fresh and bright red.
The blond closed his eyes, knowing how unlikely it was for Erestor to recover if blood of that shade ran so freely.
“What have you done to yourself?” the seneschal whispered, fighting his own terror.
Glorfindel froze as he heard the voice of Elladan; instinctively, he knew that Erestor would not want his pupil to see this. Soft footfalls came closer to the bedroom door.
“Daro!” Glorfindel was relieved to hear that the footsteps stopped at his command.
“Glorfindel?” Elladan’s voice was scandalized. “What are you doing in Erestor’s bedr…oh.”
Despite the situation, Glorfindel almost smiled at the conclusions that Elladan’s mind had settled on.
“Get your father, pen-neth,” the golden tenor said, fighting to keep the panic and worry out of his voice.
“Why? Is something wrong?”
Resigned, Glorfindel saw the bedroom door open wider. The grey eyes of the older Peredhel twin widened as he looked at the scene in front of him, the blood on the floor, Glorfindel supporting the unconscious body of the advisor, the closed eyes. The blond saw the grey eyes glaze over from the shock and sighed. He could not deal with the both of them, and at the moment Erestor needed him the most.
“Elladan!” he said sharply, commandingly. “Look at me!”
He waited till the unfocused grey eyes met his before falling and focusing on Erestor again.
“Elladan!” Glorfindel repeated, putting all the authority of his many years as a leader of Elves behind his voice. “Erestor needs help. You must get your father now.”
Relieved, he saw the younger Elf turn and run.
The blond once again returned his eyes to the limp Elf in his arms.
“This is not the waning from grief, and fading of spirit,” he whispered, running a hand over the pale cheek. “Why did you not tell us that something was wrong?”
Elrond sat in his chambers, contemplating whether the need for light was worth the effort to move. He was tired, yet he knew that his worries for his sons and Erestor would not let him find rest for a long time yet. It was surprising that Glorfindel had not sought him out this evening; he had expected the blond to turn up to discuss what to do with their friend but, of course, Glorfindel’s day had been busy.
“Ada!” The panicked scream rang through the hallways.
Elrond’s eyes widened as he recognized the voice of his elder son. He threw the doors to his chambers open at the same moment as Elladan reached them. The older twin was pale.
“Ada, you must come quickly!”
With a sinking feeling in his stomach, Elrond realised that his elder was on his own, the younger twin nowhere in sight. He grabbed his son by the shoulders, his hard grip forcing the other to meet his eyes.
“Is Elrohir well?” he asked insistently
Elladan nodded and Elrond felt his heart start beating again.
“It is not Elrohir,” the younger Elf said. “It’s Erestor, he is…he…”
“Yes,” Elrond whispered, feeling his sadness return. “I know...he is fading.”
He watched in amazement as the slightly shorter copy of himself stumbled backwards, the horror in the blue-grey eyes increasing.
“Fading?” The whisper was stunned.
“That is not why you are here?” the Lord of the Valley asked, confused, cursing himself for the careless words. “Then…What is wrong with Erestor?”
“I don’t know, Ada! Glorfindel is with him! There is blood…and…his eyes are closed!” The younger of the two Peredhil was close to tears.
Elrond stared at him, lost, mystified, trying to make sense out of what he just heard.
“Elladan,” he said, forcing his son to look at him. “I need you to go to the healing houses and bring the supply of medicines to stop blood, kill pain and give deep sleep. Can you do that for me?”
His son nodded and turned, running towards the healing houses. The old Peredhel stared after his son before he gathered his robes and hurried to Erestor’s room, determined to find out what was going on.
He paused in the doorway, taking a moment to look at the two Elves on the bed, the two he loved most apart from his children, his best friends, sworn brothers in battle. The back of the blond was leaning against the headboard; the tall slim body of his advisor lay limply against the broad chest, black hair covering the two of them as the raven head was titled backwards, supported by a shoulder. He let his gaze wander upwards until he met the Glorfindel’s eyes. The blue eyes were dark with pain and barely controlled grief.
“What happened, Glorfindel?” Elrond asked as he walked over to his friends.
The blond shook his head.
“I do not know,” he answered. “I found him unconscious on the floor, lying in his own blood. His eyes had closed.”
Elrond looked at the seneschal as he laid his fingers against the pulse in the neck, frowning at the weak, irregular beat. His healing instincts took over and be began to run his hands over the unconscious one, looking for injuries. The strong, calloused hand of Glorfindel stopped him.
“I already checked,” the tenor said quietly. “There are no injuries to find.” Glorfindel closed his eyes, hiding his feeling of guilt. “He almost fainted this morning and I could tell he was in pain, yet I did nothing!” The voice was tormented, angry.
“You did not know, meldir,” Elrond said calmingly. “He did not let us know.”
“He is vomiting blood, Elrond. It is bad.”
The Lord of Imladris paled.
“How? Why…?” He fell quiet, trying to compose himself. “With the natural healing of our people this should not happen, why has that not healed him?!”
“Our healing powers grow weak when we are dying.” The golden voice was tired.
“Weak, yes but they do not stop! It should still be impossible for him to fall ill, and he has received no injuries!”
The blue eyes looked at him.
“Can you help him?” Glorfindel’s voice was unsteady.
Elrond sighed and looked at his friend.
“I do not know.” The answer was quiet, serious, honest. “I need to examine him and we need to change him into something less restricting.
Glorfindel nodded and untangled himself, gently lowering the pale face to the soft pillows. He walked over to the big wooden wardrobe and shook his head as he flung open the doors.
“Oh, Erestor,” he sighed, amusement and sadness tinting the despair.
Elrond turned his head, curious as what had caused the reaction. Robes hung in perfect order, too few to fill the large wardrobe; tunics, leggings and sleepwear were meticulously folded on separate shelves. Everything was black. Glorfindel reached out and grabbed a pair of loose fitting silk sleep trousers and a soft tunic to go with it. Shaking his head, he turned to close the doors when his eyes widened in surprise. He pushed the doors open further, letting the light from the lamp reflect on the doors and stared at what it revealed. He heard Elrond gasp and he knew the Peredhel was as surprised as he was.
Elrond got up from the bed and walked over to stand beside the blond. The inside doors of the wardrobe were covered in drawings, paintings, small but exquisite. He saw himself there, smiling at Celebrían on their bonding day, smiling at a young Elros, as a baby. He saw his children in many paintings during different times of their lives and other drawings pictured faces of people he had half forgotten or had never known.
“Where did he get all these?” Glorfindel whispered, running his fingers over a painting showing three young Elves by a silver fountain, one dark and two golden heads together. “I have never seen such a perfect image of Gondolin.”
It was as if all the personal belongings and memories that the other rooms lacked had been put on the inside doors of the wardrobe, hidden to all eyes apart from Erestor’s.
“It makes me sad,” the golden voice whispered again. “Hardly any personal belongings after so many millennia and the few he has are kept hidden.”
The sound of footsteps broke the silence. Glorfindel quickly closed the doors as Elrond returned to examining his patient.
“I brought all I could find, Ada!” Elladan said as he out down a big box filled with herbs and potions. “I stopped by the kitchen and asked them to send us hot water for tea.”
Elrond smiled appreciatively.
“Thank you, Elladan. I am going to need your help. Would you mind waiting outside for a moment while Glorfindel and I change Erestor into something more comfortable than these robes?”
“Of course not, Ada,” the elder twin answered as he stepped outside and closed the door behind him.
They could hear him walk around next door, stop, and then came the sound of falling books and soft curses. The Lord of Imladris shook his head as he bent over the medicines, looking through them to find what was needed. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Glorfindel return to the bed and start undoing the heavy robes, his fingers gentle.
“Elrond.” He heard the strange note in his friend’s voice as he grasped for the herbs he had been looking for. As he turned around he gasped as he saw Erestor laying naked to his waist, the pale body almost silver with the number of old scars.
“They should have faded,” Glorfindel said disbelievingly. “Unless they were newer than some weeks, maybe a few months, but they should have faded!” He touched his fingers to a scar on Erestor’s shoulder. “Yet I can tell you that this he got at Dagorlad, taking a spear that was meant for me, over an age ago.”
The two Elves stared at each other.
“What is happening, Elrond?” Glorfindel’s voice was rough with emotion.
The Peredhel shook his head.
“I do not know,” he whispered, looking into the blue eyes. “But I do not like it.”
Quietly, they removed the last clothes of the pale body, revealing more scars as more flesh was uncovered, scars overlapping each other, speaking of old injuries. They dressed him carefully in the soft sleepwear and covered him with a heavy blanket.
Once they were done, Elrond looked at the blond Elf who was sitting at the edge of the bed, hand softly caressing the long hair, and he suddenly saw what should have been seen a long time ago.
“How long have you loved him?” he asked kindly.
Glorfindel froze; haunted blue eyes met the grey of his Lord in a moment of tense silence. Then the broad shoulders of the warrior sagged as he gave in to the truth.
“Since I came back,” he said simply. “He was the first one I can remember seeing once I returned to Arda. He stood on the shore, in front of everyone else, raven hair blowing in the wind; the guards, you, even the king stood behind him, waiting for his instructions on how to react.” He smiled and ran a quick caress over the pale cheek. “He was so beautiful, so aloof, so distant. It never really changed. I tried to get closer to him, to befriend him so many times throughout the years. He never let me.”
Elrond nodded, smiling slightly at the image his friend painted.
“I can think of no Elf that has not thought themselves in love with him at one point or another,” he admitted. “Elros and I certainly did. Yet he never let anyone closer that he has let us; you, me, Celebrían and the children – he may not show it, but I know he loves us all highly.”
“I will do what I can for him, Glorfindel,” he continued after a brief silence, his hand hugging the strong shoulder. “But I can not give you any promises.”
“Elladan,” he called, raising his voice slightly as he saw his blond friend nod. “I will need your help, pen-neth.”
The night had been long, Glorfindel thought, as he watched Anor rise over the mountains. Behind him, Elrond and Elladan were talking in hushed voices, debating who would be the best to stay by Erestor’s side.
“You both need your rest,” he said without turning. “Tell me what needs to be done; I will stay with him.”
The two Peredhil turned and looked at the blond by the window.
“We could do less for him than we hoped,” Elrond admitted softly. “His body is fighting the healing. Maybe if Galadriel arrives soon…” He fell quiet, knowing well that Galadriel was not expected for several weeks.
“You need your rest as well, Glorfindel,” he continued after a slight hesitation. “You have been here longer than any of us and you did not get much sleep the night before.”
“Neither did you,” the blond reminded him, shaking his head. “I cannot sleep now; I cannot leave him,” he added hollowly.
Elrond nodded to his son and walked over to his friend by the window.
“There is some cold healing tea in the decanter on the table,” he said. “Try and make him drink some every three hours; it will stop both pain and bleeding and keep him sleeping. Hopefully, the sleep will do what we could not. Apart from that…we wait. If anything changes, send for me, but do not leave him. I will make sure that someone is in the other room at all times.”
Glorfindel nodded dully.
“Are you sure you can do this?”
“Yes,” the blond whispered.
Glorfindel felt his Lord give him a quick hug, which he didn’t have the energy to return. Soft footsteps left his side and the door closed.
He was alone with Erestor.
Slowly he crossed the room and looked down at the pale Elf. The black hair lacked its usual lustre, the face was the colour of ice, transparent - as much blue as white, and the beautiful black eyes were still closed.
He sank down on the floor beside the bed and prayed.