Elladan entered his bedroom as silently as possible, looking at the dark-haired Elf in the bed. The light of dawn shone in through the uncovered windows falling on the face of his beloved. With a slight shake of his head, he crossed the floor and pulled the heavy curtains closed, leaving the room in darkness. Quietly he undressed himself and slunk into the bed, quickly, trying not to let the chill of the room creep under the blankets. A heavy arm landed over his waist and pulled him close to that warm body. A soft kiss on the neck; he closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensations running through his exhausted body.
“Where were you?” the low, sleepy voice whispered. “What is wrong?” the sleepy Elf asked as Elladan remained quiet.
Elladan turned around and faced his lover.
“Do you think we made the right choice?” he asked quietly.
“What?” The younger twin’s voice was disbelieving as he let his arms drop away from his older brother, moving away from him, the large silver blue eyes confused, filled with pain. “What makes you doubt it?”
“I could not live to see you die,” Elladan whispered, dispirited, images of his tutors filling his memories. “I think I would rather live an eternity without you than see you die.”
“Is this what this is about? You are afraid that I will die?” The younger brother’s voice was gentle.
Elladan nodded. He could feel Elrohir’s eyes upon him.
“We have faced death before, brother; all our lives we have been at war. Yet now, when we finally know peace, you are afraid to lose me?”
“Yes…I…” The voice of the elder was full of pain. “To stand beside you and watch you suffer…”
Elrohir gathered his brother close again, holding him firmly in his arms.
“I will not leave you. We are Peredhil; we will have the same choice as the Kings of Numenor,” he said gently. “To choose our time to die. We will die together, leaving neither behind.”
He could feel some of the tension leave his brother’s body and he bent his head, placing a loving kiss on the soft lips.
“What made you worry about this?” he continued, his fingers playing with the dark hair, raining butterfly kisses on the beloved face.
For a moment he thought the elder twin had fallen asleep.
“It is Erestor,” Elladan admitted suddenly. “That is where I was tonight, with Ada and Glorfindel. We spent the whole night trying to save his life. I am not sure if we did.”
“What are you talking about?” Elrohir’s voice was confused. “What is wrong with Erestor?”
Elladan ignored his brother.
“I went to see him early in the evening, to ask him to reconsider, to stay with us. When I got there I found him in the bedroom with Glorfindel, unconscious. There was blood and…”
Elrohir stared at the pale shape of his brother.
“Glorfindel hurt Erestor?” he said incredulously.
“No,” Elladan said impatiently. “I do not know what is wrong with Erestor. Glorfindel found him. He has been vomiting blood.”
The younger twin felt cold, scared; he tried to imagine Imladris without the strict councillor. He could not imagine anything being able to function without Erestor there to encourage, discipline, guide them, not even Arda itself. An Imladris without the unspoken love that the advisor had always shown them in so many little ways.
“Will he live?”
“I do not know. Ada thinks he may if grandmother can reach us in time.”
The twins sat quietly, holding each other close.
“He looked so…small…” Elladan whispered, “so defenceless and alone. His rooms are beautiful, but impersonal, no keepsakes, no memories and no colours. Even his nightclothes are black! He was so pale… Glorfindel was afraid.” He closed his eyes and yet again the he saw them, the blood, the Elf with his eyes closed and the fear in sapphire eyes that always laughed.
“Make me feel alive,” he whispered, dragging his brother’s face down for a deep kiss.
Elrond turned again, settling on his back once more and stared at the ceiling for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning. Sighing, he sat up, soft sheets pooling around his waist. He was exhausted; grief had kept him awake the night after he gave his twins their choice and the night just past had been spent at Erestor’s side. Healing always took a lot out of him even when he was fully rested.
He had tried to fall asleep for hours but the rest he so craved continued to elude him. As soon as he closed his eyes and started drifting he could see them, all the soldiers of war, Men and Elves alike, Maedhros and Maglor once the war of the jewels was finally over, his brother the last time he had seen him. There were so many of them; Celebrían broken, and full of bitterness, Erestor dying.
Restlessly he got up and walked over to the window, looking out over the peaceful valley. He had lost so many…
Far away, his daughter was waning slowly, her life’s grace fading only to be extinguished once her king, his foster son, was dead, and in the chambers next to his rooms his sons were sleeping; they would also fade and die after he had left.
He looked towards the gates of Imladris, hoping that his mother and father in law were drawing close to the hidden valley, that they would arrive in time.
Drawing a deep breath, he finally walked over to his bedside table, succumbing to need to find his rest. He drank deeply of the sleeping potion he had prepared earlier, suspecting he would need it. He was aware that he needed sleep; the valley, Glorfindel, his sons and Erestor needed him strong and rested.
Slowly he returned to his bed, climbing between the cooling sheets, and stared at the ceiling until sleep claimed him.
“My love.” His voice was melodic as always; he still carried that strange lilting accent that spoke of his upbringing in Doriath. “He worries; he needs us to hasten to Imladris.”
“Yes,” she whispered, unsurprised; she had known that he would feel it as well as her. “There is an urgency in his grief, speaking of times growing short. Something is wrong.”
“Your dreams have been troubled lately,” he said. “Are they connected to Elrond’s distress?”
“I think so.” Her voice was faint. “I can feel it; the memories are all coming back to me lately, the echo of the ban runs through my body, the doom of the Noldor resounds in my mind and the cries from the day at Alqualondë are ringing in my ears.”
A small, sad smile graced her lips as she turned to look at him. Even after centuries beside him, he was beautiful to her eyes; her warrior with hair brighter than mithril and eyes gleaming like the stars of Varda. It would break her heart to leave him.
He could easily read her emotions; he had always been able to. Sometimes it felt as if he truly was the other half of her soul. He reached out and stroked her cheek, tenderly, sadly, wiping away the lone tear she had been unable to keep from falling.
“Do not cry.” His voice was soft. “It will not be for long, I will join you in the west before long.”
He leaned his forehead against hers and they stood so for a long time, silver and golden, male and female, holding each other close in the soft light of dawn. A memory to carry with them in the years to come, for love was still strong between Galadriel of Finarfin’s House and Celeborn of Doriath. Finally, he moved away and looked at her.
“We are still two weeks away from Imladris,” he said seriously, meeting her eyes. “You are right, but I do not like it!”
She laughed at his answer to her unspoken suggestion, the happy sound breaking the stillness of the morning.
“Oh, Celeborn,” she said, her voice warm as she dragged his head down to her own and kissed him. “I do love you.”
He grinned at her mischievously and tugged a few strands of the golden hair.
“Get ready to move then,” he said. “Remember we will ride hard and fast.”
He strode off, calling for Haldir and, as she moved around the camp packing whatever belongings they needed for the next few days, she could see him talking to his captain. By the time she had finished they were already waiting for her. The five horses paced impatiently, her husband and the three guardians already already mounted. She turned towards the group of Elves that remained on the ground.
“Travel safely,” she wished them. “Meet us in Imladris as soon as you can and may Elbereth watch over you.”
She flung herself up on her horse and leaned forwards.
“Noro lim,” she whispered. “Noro lim.”
The five horses ran over the green fields, hastening towards the hidden valley. The remaining Elves looked after them, watching the flashes of silver and gold as Anor shone upon the hair of their Lord and Lady, a last note of their Lady’s laughter carried on the wind before they were out of sight.
Elrohir yawned and stretched like a cat as he slowly woke up. Elladan’s arm lay heavily over him and once he was awake enough to move he looked at himself, frowning disgustedly. Gently he untangled himself from his lover’s arms, dropping a gentle kiss on the ear of the sleeping Elf and went into the bathroom, filling the built in tub with water. He stood for a while, looking at the different oils on the side of the bath before he picked up the spicy blend he favoured and poured some into the water. He took a deep breath and frowned in disgust again, tipping the flask of oil over the water again. Once he was satisfied, he descended into the bath, sighing at the pleasure of hot water against his skin. He leaned his head backwards and closed his eyes, thinking of the discussion that he had had with his brother earlier that morning.
It was a long while before he came out of the bath and made himself ready for the day. He smiled tenderly at his sleeping lover as he slunk out of the room, determined to let the other rest as long as he needed.
The halls were strangely quiet. A hush seemed to have settled over Imladris; he could see no children running errands, hear no laughter or singing. In fact, he did not see anyone. If he hadn’t known better, he would have said that the valley seemed lost.
Hunger made him go towards the kitchen; hearing even his soft steps echo against the walls was a most unsettling experience. He was almost at the kitchen doors when he could finally hear voices - loud voices, he realised as he walked in - arguing.
“I am telling you that they cannot be found!” The white haired minstrel roared at the Elf in charge of housekeeping.
Elrohir stared at the scene in front of him and carefully cleared his throat.
The two Elves that had been shouting at each other spun around and blushed when they saw him.
“Master Elrohir,” Lindir said, taking a deep breath. “I am glad to see you this morning. We received a messenger from Círdan but are somewhat of loss of what to do with him. We showed him to a room in the guest wing until we could locate Lord Erestor or your father.”
“Thank you,” Elrohir said, wondering why this had caused an argument. “I will talk to him.”
He picked up an apple from the fruit bowl closest to him and turned to leave.
“The cook will also need someone to approve today’s menus and go through the kitchen inventory. The maids wish to know how many will be arriving in the party of Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, the seamstress needs to discuss which cloth and how much to order to make sure that all clothes are done before we leave for the Havens and I would need to go over this month’s schedule on the education of the Elflings. In addition to this, Aiglos has disappeared from the gallery and the morning patrol…”
The minstrel’s voice faded as Elrohir raised his hand, asking for silence. The young Peredhel closed his eyes; his head was spinning and he already regretted getting out of bed.
“Does my father deal with this every morning?” Elrohir decided that he must have gravely underestimated his father’s workload at the start of the day.
Everyone in the kitchen stared at him as if he had grown a second head, or turned into an Orc.
“No,” Lindir said, apparently in shock. “Erestor does. Your father is much too busy to deal with things such as these and no one wishes to tell him that Aiglos has gone missing.”
Elrohir stared at him, trying to imagine exactly what his father was doing.
“Erestor?” His voice was disbelieving.
He saw all the heads in the room nod at him.
“But Erestor never leaves his study! He writes parchments and letters, and…and there is never anyone in there apart from maybe Ada. Lindir,” Elrohir said desperately, trying to make sense of what was happening around him. “What if Erestor is not here?”
Everyone looked at him again. Elrohir started feeling as if he had been trapped in some strange nightmare as he looked at the confused Elves.
“Does anyone here know what to do with their day unless Erestor tells them?”
All he got was more blank stares as they all seemed to freeze. Finally, Lindir seemed to take mercy on the Peredhel.
“No,” he said hesitantly. “I do not think we do. He has always taken care of everything. I am not quite sure how he does it, as you are right, he rarely leaves his study, but somehow he does run the valley. And he always knows where to find Aiglos.”
Elrohir decided that the fixation on Aiglos was the most bizarre thing in this whole situation; for some reason, however, it seemed very important to the minstrel.
“How often does Aiglos disappear?” he heard himself ask.
“Only once or twice a week,” the pale Elf tried to reassure him. “It seems that a few of the Elflings have taken a liking to the spear.”
“Oh,” the younger Peredhel twin said faintly. “I see.”
He decided that he was losing his mind; there was no other explanation behind this insane discussion.
“Well,” Lindir said brightly, realising that things were not all bad. “The border controls are run by Glorfindel.”
He fell quiet for a moment.
“But we cannot find him either,” he added gloomily.
Elrohir sighed as he suddenly remembered the reason that this strange morning was taking place.
“I am sorry,” he said firmly. “But you will all have to do without Erestor and Glorfindel for a few days. Try to remember what you usually do and I am sure that you will all be fine.”
He snatched another apple as he turned, wishing that it would, in fact, only be a few days.
“Now it is well past time for me to meet with that messenger.”
He closed the door and hurried, almost ran, to the guest wing before anyone had time to stop him.
To his relief, the meeting with the messenger had been short and to the point. It had also been refreshingly normal. After all the official platitudes had been exchanged, the message had been received and assurance given that the Lord of Imladris would look at it and reply at his earliest convenience, Elrohir had been able to leave. He decided that Erestor would be proud of him.
He had gone to his father’s study after that, to find out if there were other tasks he could deal with. After randomly looking through the stacks of parchments both in Elrond’s and Erestor’s studies he had decided that it was safer to leave things be.
He paused outside the door for a moment before he opened it. He nodded to the young Elf in the sitting room - one of the scribes, he thought, engulfed in one of those old, dusty parchments that Erestor had always seemed to love. Carefully, he looked around the room, deciding that Elladan had been right; the rooms were beautiful and elegant, they just did not look lived in.
“Glorfindel?” he called softly as he opened the bedroom door.
The seneschal gave no sign of having heard him enter. Elrohir watched his two tutors.
The Noldo lay in silence, dull midnight hair surrounding a face whiter than snow. He couldn’t help but shudder at the sight of the closed eyes, and yet Erestor was still beautiful, Elrohir thought, a cold, unmoving beauty. He shifted his glance to Glorfindel and stared. The blond was kneeling by the bed; the sapphire eyes that usually sparkled with joy and mischief were dull as if all light had fled them and the golden tresses were bedraggled, limp threads of hairs tangled with braids that were coming undone.
“Glorfindel,” he said again, walking over to his tutor, gently grabbing his shoulders.
The dull blue eyes looked up at him.
“He remains the same,” the blond said tiredly. “No change, no steadying of pulse, he still vomits blood, although more rarely now, and his eyes remain closed.”
Elrohir’s fear increased; it made him scared to see the strong warrior this broken.
“Why do you not go and rest?” he asked gently. “I will stay with Erestor until you return.”
The blond shook his head.
“I will not leave him,” he said stubbornly.
Elrohir ran a calming hand over the golden hair.
“Of course not, meldir,” he agreed tenderly. “But why do you not go into your chambers and take a bath? The water will make you feel more awake, as will some food.”
Glorfindel looked at him for a long while before he answered.
“Will you stay with him?”
“Will you send for me if…?”
The younger of the Peredhil twins sighed with relief as the ancient Elf cast one more glance at Erestor’s face and left. He hoped that weariness would overcome the warrior once he reached his rooms and relaxed; hopefully sleep would not claim him until after he had a bath.
Elrohir walked over to the door again and asked the young scribe to find him a book of old tales or poems. He kept an eye on the unconscious Elf as he waited until a heavy book was laid in his hands. Thanking the scribe, he once again retreated into the bedroom and pulled a chair over to sit beside the bed. He realised that he was sitting in almost the same way as Erestor had sat so many times when he and his brother had been small, calming the twins and lulling them to sleep.
He opened the book and smiled, turning the pages forwards until he found what he was looking for. The Lay of Leithian - he and his brother had loved that poem and had forced the poor advisor to read it over and over again. He still knew it by heart.
“A king there was in days of old…”
He had not made it many verses into the poem when he heard the door open behind him. He raised his eyes and fell quiet as he looked at the golden Elf in front of him.
Glorfindel smiled softly. “Do not stop. Erestor would like this, I think.” He crossed the floor and sank down on the bed, caressing the black hair.
Elrohir frowned unhappily at him. “I had hoped that you would fall asleep!”
“I know,” the seneschal said, not taking his eyes off the pale face. “I bathed, I ate, but I will not sleep.”
Elrohir sighed and looked down at the book in his lap.
“Please, continue?” the golden tenor whispered, pleadingly.
The Peredhel nodded and went back to his reading.
The hours passed, Elrohir stopped reading and left, quietly, and Elladan came to take his place, sitting with their tutor. Glorfindel remained by Erestor’s side, awake, perched either on the side of the bed or kneeling on the floor, moving only when more healing tea needed to be fed to the unconscious Elf.
Elrond came as the last light of day was fading. He was still tired; healing demanded much energy and trying to run Imladris on his own for an afternoon had proved exhausting. He looked at the sight in front of him; Elladan sprawled in a chair, looking as tired as he felt, Erestor still unconscious and unchanged. He frowned when his eyes fell on Glorfindel.
“Have you slept?” he asked abruptly
The tormented blue eyes met his for a short moment before the seneschal shook his head, his eyes returning to Erestor.
“Glorfindel, you need to sleep!” Elrond said insistently.
“I cannot sleep.” The golden voice was low.
“Then I shall make you a sleeping draught. You need your rest.”
The blue eyes met his, sharply.
“No,” he said. “I will not leave him.”
“Ada.” Elladan’s gentle voice broke through the tension. “Leave him be.”
Glorfindel smiled gratefully at his student as Elrond stalked over to the supply of herbs and potions. The silence was stiff as the Lord of Imladris made up more of the healing tea and brought it over to the bedside table.
“I do not like this,” he stated finally, grey eyes glaring at the blond.
He felt his son’s arm around his shoulder, leading him towards the door.
“Come, Ada,” the soft voice said. “Glorfindel and Erestor will be fine until the morning.”
The days passed, each the same as the one before and each day Elrond grew more worried. Erestor still fought all healing, unconsciously, and Glorfindel could only be convinced to leave the advisor’s side for short moments. The lack of sleep and food now showed clearly in Glorfindel’s face and in his heart Elrond began to fear that he would soon lose them both.
It was in the morning of the eighth day when he was finally forced to admit that which he had suspected. Glorfindel knelt by the bed as usual, pale, bedraggled and exhausted and Erestor was, as he had been the past three days, growing weaker. The shallow breaths grew slower and more laboured and the fluttering pulse was slowly beginning to fade.
He sighed deeply, knowing that he needed to tell Glorfindel the truth. Gently, he laid a hand under the seneschal’s chin, tilting the head upwards until he could meet the blue eyes.
“I am sorry, meldir,” he said quietly. “Erestor is weakening. We do not expect Galadriel until a week from now at the earliest and he will not last that long. Even if he did, there would be little we could do to help him at that stage. To keep him like this…” He took a deep breath. “It is cruel, Glorfindel.”
He saw the blue eyes widen, the pain and fear in them shattered the already broken pieces of his heart.
“You mean to let him go?!” The voice was angry, disbelieving. “Like you have no hope!”
“There is no hope left,” he whispered, fighting his own grief. “Let him go, Glorfindel; it would be kind.”
The blond stood up, stumbling backwards, away from his friend, his Lord, as the words sank in. He stared at the Peredhel, horrified at the words, shaking his head.
“You cannot ask this!”
Elrond hated himself for what he had to do, had to say, as he sternly held Glorfindel’s gaze.
“Only you can do this. For you as much as for him.” He walked towards the door.
“Please think about my words, ask yourself if you truly believe Erestor would not prefer some last dignity,” he said as calmly as he could manage. “I will return for your answer once Anor sets.”
He stepped out and closed the door behind him, leaning against it as he cried. It should not have come to this. He had failed yet another of those he loved
“Ada?” He heard Elrohir’s voice and looked up, reluctantly, into the silvery eyes. He shook his head.
“Leave them alone,” he whispered. “Give them this end.”
Glorfindel heard the door close behind his Lord as he stood frozen in place, unable to move. The words of Elrond echoed in his mind over and over, to let Erestor go. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe.
Somehow he found himself by the bed, staring down at the beautiful face, imagining Imladris without Erestor. He was not sure how long he stood there, trapped in the beauty in front of him; time had little meaning to him this day.
Anor was just rising, setting the sea on fire. He looked towards the shores, the Grey Havens, and wondered why he was here again. Why there had been no peace for him in the Halls of Mandos. His eyes fell on the tall Elf that stood ahead of all the others and he felt himself unable to breathe. Long, black hair whipped in the wind and eyes, darker than a starless night. He stepped off the ship, hardly noticing that his journey was over as he walked towards the enchanting Elf.
“Welcome, Glorfindel o Gondolin.” The voice was deep, rich, sending shivers down his spine as those eyes, darker than sin, met his.
He came back to the present feeling helpless, trapped, as he remembered how vibrant Erestor had looked that day - and now he was pale and still.
Pacing, he raged at whatever had brought things here, brought it to this; he cursed himself and Elrond, the twins for not noticing earlier, he cursed Erestor for his silence, the Valar he cursed and Ilúvatar himself for allowing this to happen.
It should not be like this. Not this quiet, not this lonely.
For the first time in his life he thought he could understand the fury of Fëanor, to have that which he loved most highly, that most beautiful of things, beings, stolen from him by fate. He screamed out his pain, wanting to break something, to hurt someone, as he swung for the wall until his hands came away bloodied. He sank down on the floor, relishing the pain as he cried as if his heart should break.
He could not do this. It could not end here.
He crept over to the bed again, praying, pleading, begging that someone, anyone would listen, would save Erestor, but there was no answer.
Finally, he asked himself what he would have wished had he been the one ill, and he found his answer.
Carefully he moved up into the bed, lifting Erestor until the advisor was lying in his arms and he sat there, holding his beloved in his arms as the hours passed. Outside, Anor began to set. Slowly, gently, Glorfindel bent his head and caught the lips which he had long wanted. The kiss was soft and loving, sweet and flavoured with the salt of tears.
He heard footsteps stop outside the door and gently untangled himself. As he stood in front of the closed door he closed his eyes and took a deep breath before slowly opening it.