Glorfindel kept his gaze lowered as he moved away from the door, allowing his Lord to enter. In silence he walked over to the window, keeping his back against the room.
Elrond wished he could find words of comfort to offer to his friend, but there were none. How could he offer comfort when there was nothing but grief left in him to give? Quietly, he poured a goblet of miruvor and stirred in the powder he had brought with him. The only comfort he could find was that it would be quick, painless, simply letting Erestor fall deeply into his last sleep. He could feel the tears stinging his eyes as he sat down beside his oldest friend, the one who had always been there for him, praying to the Valar for the strength he needed to go through with this, praying for forgiveness.
Erestor lay still and beautiful, unaware of the grief that permeated the room. Glorfindel remained by the window, silent as he waited for the last breath to pass the pale lips.
Elrond sat on the bed with the goblet in his hands, staring into the lethal drink that would give Erestor peace. He knew that he had made the right choice and still he hesitated and the silence grew and stretched as the minutes and hours passed.
“Elrond!” The urgency in Glorfindel’s voice startled him and he quickly steadied the goblet that had almost rocked out of his hands.
The blond crossed the floor quickly, grabbing his wrist hard.
“Did you already give it to him?” The golden voice was hard, urgent.
Elrond stared numbly at him, wishing that the blond had remained silent, had remained by the window.
“For the sake of the Valar, Elrond, did he already drink it?”
Slowly, Elrond shook his head, wondering over the change that suddenly had come over the blond; the quiet despair had already faded.
“Thank Ilúvatar and all the Valar,” Glorfindel whispered, sinking to his knees in front of Elrond.
A soft hand took the goblet out of his and placed it on the bedside table and Elrond found himself looking down in the sapphire eyes that suddenly shone with hope.
“She has come.”
Suddenly the Lord of Imladris understood the change in his seneschal, words falling into place as he knew what the blond was telling him. He grabbed Glorfindel by the shoulders, looking deeply into the blue eyes.
“Galadriel is here?”
His voice sounded strange, distant, as he noted the hesitant smile on Glorfindel’s face. The seneschal nodded and wrapped his arms around the Peredhel in a quick, hard hug.
Elrond tried to gather his thoughts but felt nothing but numbness; a sudden chill ran through his body as he realised how close it had been.
A few minutes later and there would have been no forgiveness.
Shuddering, he took control of himself and looked at the blond in front of him, the need for honesty battling with hope, with guilt. Reluctantly, he forced the blue eyes to meet his, not wishing to crush the life and hope that he saw in them.
“He may yet die, Glorfindel,” he heard himself say. “Even now we may not be able to save him. I need you to be aware of that.”
He got up and walked towards the door, keeping his gaze away from his seneschal as he mentally prepared himself to greet his guests. A firm hand caught his wrist and forced him to turn. He saw Glorfindel’s quick glance towards the goblet.
“Is there any hope?” Glorfindel’s voice was quiet, demanding honesty.
Elrond found himself smiling for the first time in days, a small smile and sad.
“Not a big one,” he admitted, “but even a small hope is more than what we had.”
Glorfindel let his hand fall as he smiled.
Galadriel swung herself off the horse and stretched, happy to be out of the saddle. Carefully, she looked around and saw that Imladris, just like her beloved Lothlórien, already wore faint signs of fading. Uneasily she noted that the courtyard was empty.
She was aware of Haldir and his brothers leading the horses away and she was grateful that they knew their way around the secret valley. She could trust them to care for the horses and to ensure that room was made for the Elves left behind, the others of Lothlórien that has chosen to go into the west.
She met the grey eyes of her husband and saw her concern mirrored in him; Elrond’s distress had grown in their minds the past few days and now, when they arrived, no one was here to greet them. What concerned her most was the absence of Erestor. Elrond, Glorfindel and the twins had all been absent from greeting guests before, tied up in other duties, but Erestor with his calm smile never was. Not even after Celebrían.
Suddenly, she saw the twins burst out of the doors and she found herself smiling as she opened her arms, relief to see them both safe welling up inside her.
“Grandmother!” Elladan reached her first, sweeping her off her feet as he hugged her, not an easy thing as her height equalled his. “We did not expect you for days!”
She saw Celeborn embrace the younger twin before they suddenly changed places and she was once again lifted from the ground in an enthusiastic hug. Her laughter rang through the courtyard.
“I am so happy to see you both!” she said as her feet were once again on the ground. “It has been much too long, as always. Now, where is your father?”
She saw grief and pain in the grey eyes but was not able to determine its source. Her concern deepened as she saw sudden horror awake in the troubled depths.
She looked up sharply as she heard Celeborn’s calm greeting and her eyes met the stormy gaze of the Lord of the Valley.
“How did you know?” he whispered. “How did you know I needed you?”
Her heart ached at the sight of him; she had rarely seen him look this lost.
“We always know, pen-neth,” she said, giving him a warm hug. “Now tell me what is wrong.”
Elrond sighed deeply.
”Erestor,” he said, noting the slight narrowing of Celeborn’s eyes. “He is dying and I am unable to heal him. I will need your help.”
Galadriel paled as she wrapped her arm under Elrond’s.
“Then let us go to him.”
Galadriel stopped in the doorway, feeling Celeborn’s hand on her shoulder. She saw Glorfindel move out of her way as she slowly walked towards the bed. Tears stung her eyes as she looked at the beautiful pale Elf wasting away.
“Oh, pen-iaur,” she whispered, “you should not end like this.”
Her hand was gentle as she touched the black hair. She looked at the Elves surrounding her.
“The call of Mandos is strong,” she said. “I am surprised that he is still here. I will need all three of you to help me. Celeborn, will you take Glorfindel with you, please?”
“I am not leaving him!”
Celeborn put his arm companionably around the shoulders of the other warrior.
“Come, meldir,” he said, ignoring the protest. “Let the healers practise their arts while we share a glass of wine - I much desire to hear how Imladris has fared this past year.”
The seneschal did not move; his feet were stubbornly planted on the floor as his blue eyes pleaded with Elrond.
“Glorfindel, please. This is our last chance to save him.”
The protest went out of the tense body as he allowed Celeborn to lead him away.
Celeborn sat calmly, sipping at the rich wine, as he watched Glorfindel pace in the moonlight. The other seemed pale and tired.
“How long is it since you last slept?” he asked suddenly.
Glorfindel started and stopped pacing, looking at him.
“Eight, maybe nine days,” he said. “I do not really know.”
Celeborn nodded and offered him a goblet of wine. With a deep sigh he accepted it and sank down in a chair.
“I hate feeling helpless,” he admitted, running a hand over his face. “To be able to do nothing.”
The Lord of Lothlórien smiled at him, full of understanding.
“We all do. We would rather face Balrogs in defence of those we care about than see them suffer. But then my wife often claims that we think with our swords.”
The two warriors looked at each other in understanding, quietly sipping at their wine.
“How old is he?”
Celeborn looked up in surprise.
“I heard what Galadriel called him,” Glorfindel said. “And I believe that you share her knowledge.”
The silver haired Elf nodded calmly.
“He is old. Leave it at that, for I know little else.”
Once again the quiet grew. Celeborn filled goblets that had gone dry as they sat waiting, and after a while Glorfindel started pacing yet again.
“How long have you loved him?”
Glorfindel’s smile was bitter, filled with sorrow.
After that there was only silence.
Ithil faded from the sky and still the door to the bedroom remained closed. The soft glow of dawn graced the room when the door finally opened and Elrohir beckoned them to enter.
Galadriel and Elrond both looked exhausted as they sat, one in the chair and one on the edge of the bed. Glorfindel hardly noticed them as he sank down beside the bed. With a sinking heart, he realised that the black eyes were still closed.
“He will live, Glorfindel,” Elrond said quietly. “It was close, but he will live.”
The blond leaned his head against the edge of the bed and breathed deeply, fighting to keep his emotions under control.
“You all need rest,” Celeborn said. “You have done your healing and so I will take the first watch.” He smiled wryly. “I have much experience in watching. Although I could do with some food first.”
The twins glanced at each other.
“We will stay until you return,” they said hurriedly, the voices speaking in unison.
“What are you planning?” Elrond asked tiredly, too weary to frown at them.
“Nothing, Ada,” Elrohir said quickly. “We are not as tired as you and Grandmother. We will wait with Erestor until Grandfather has eaten.”
Too tired to disagree, he nodded and bid the others a good rest. Celeborn put his arms around Galadriel, offering her support, as they left the room. Once the door closed, the twins looked at each other and smiled. For a long while they remained where they stood, watching Glorfindel and Erestor, before Elrohir nodded to his brother to take the lead.
Elladan moved softly until he stood beside the kneeling Elf.
“Glorfindel,” he said, reaching out a hand to drag the older Elf to his feet. “Erestor will live.”
Smiling, the blond allowed himself to be helped.
“I know,” he said, the relief making his voice soft. “But I have still not grown quite used to the thought.”
Elladan tilted his head and looked at his tutor.
“You look terrible. We worry about you. Will you not sleep?”
Glorfindel shook his head.
“I do not wish to leave him yet,” he admitted. “Not until he wakes.”
Elrohir moved silently as he walked to stand behind the blond, trapping him between the brothers. Amused, the twins noticed the wariness growing in the blue eyes as they darted between the two Peredhil. Glorfindel moved slightly sideways, hoping in vain to escape the twins, who both, to his dismay, moved with him.
“You will not have to leave him,” Elrohir whispered, moving closer to the pale ear.
Glorfindel moved quickly, stepping forwards in an attempt to move away from Elrohir, only to find himself pressed against Elladan.
“You could sleep here,” the elder twin whispered as he moved closer.
The blue eyes closed briefly in resignation
“Will you two stop this?” The golden tenor was exasperated.
“You can stop it,” Elrohir said softly.
“If you sleep.” Elladan offered him a goblet.
“Unless you wish us to continue? I recall this to be very interesting.”
Resigned, Glorfindel looked at the goblet which was offered to him.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked.
“Because we care,” Elladan said softly. “And because making you uncomfortable and trapped is the quickest way to get you to listen.”
“And because it is fun,” the younger added.
Both sets of grey eyes looked calmly at him, neither twin stepping away. Sapphire eyes closing, Glorfindel gave in to their blackmail and swallowed the sleeping potion.
Elladan smiled at him and quickly caught the seneschal as the sleeping potion ran swiftly through the exhausted body. Dimly, Glorfindel was aware of someone leading him to the bed and of a heavy blanket covering him and then he slept.
“That was easier than expected. Although I cannot help but wish for him to be more inclined to repeat a certain night.”
The rich sound of Elladan’s laughter filled the room.
“As do I,” he admitted, “but at least he sleeps.”
“I am glad to see that you managed that,” their grandfather said dryly. “Although remind me that you both need lessons in fair play.”
The twins gasped and spun around, finding the ancient Elf leaning against the doorframe.
Celeborn chuckled as he saw their dismayed faces, and was even more amused by the twin blushes that suddenly graced their features. He moved into the room gracefully and sank down in the chair.
“Go to bed.”
Erestor blinked slowly, eyes adjusting to the light. He felt tired. The black eyes closed as he tried to recall his last memories, memories of pain and blood. He frowned; he had been so sure that would be his end, that Mandos would finally call him, and yet here he was. Carefully, he let his awareness run through his body; he felt better, his body more whole than it had been in centuries, maybe even millennia.
The black eyes flew open again.
He tried to turn his head, surprised at how difficult the simple motion was for his tired body, eyes widening as they fell on Glorfindel sleeping next to him. He made a small gesture with his hand, almost as if he had intended to reach out and touch the other, and let the hand fall again.
“So you are awake at last.”
The clear voice made him turn his head again until he could see Celeborn.
“Why?” His voice sounded hoarse, untried.
Celeborn glanced over at the sleeping blond and smiled softly.
“Because he refused to leave your side for nine days.”
Erestor tried to shake his head.
“No,” he whispered again. “How….what..?
“How come you are still with us and not in the Halls of Mandos?”
The black head nodded slightly.
Celeborn smiled again.
“Because the Valar were watching over you,” he said. “Galadriel got here in time. They worked hard to save you.”
To his surprise, the black eyes filled with despair and sorrow.
“Here,” he said, lifting Erestor’s head and helping him to drink.
The other Elf swallowed carefully and sank into sleep. As Celeborn lowered the black head to the pillows, he frowned, wondering at the despair in those dark eyes. Wondering, for the first time, if they had done right by saving him.
He sat there for some time, looking at the beautiful face which was rapidly regaining its ivory lustre and the ancient eyes lost in sleep. Finally, the Lord of Lothlórien stood and went to the door. He had preparations to make and answers to find.
Celeborn watched the sapphire eyes fill with awareness as Glorfindel woke. The weariness on his face yet remained.
“I have asked for a light meal to be served in the next room. Please join us, Lord Glorfindel.” The cold voice made the request clear.
Glorfindel blinked, still trying to wake up. He wondered about the change that had come over the Lord of Lothlórien. Remembering where he was, his eyes searched until they found Erestor. The ivory face was peaceful, as were the dark eyes lost in sleep. Shaking, he reached out a hand and touched the black hair before running soft fingers over the beautiful features as he found himself smiling.
“Yes.” Celeborn’s voice softened slightly at the joy on the seneschal’s face. “He awoke some hours ago. Join us, Glorfindel.”
Reluctantly, the seneschal got up and followed the other into the sitting room. He noticed that Elrond, the twins and Galadriel were all there and all looking as confused as he felt. A rich meal of fresh breads and fruits was set upon the table. He crossed the floor and sat down beside Elrond, noting Celeborn closing the door and leaning against it. The other eyes followed his and they waited in silence.
“First of all,” Celeborn said, “I am sure that you will all be glad to hear that Erestor awoke for a few minutes earlier in the day. He is now sleeping.”
Elrond gasped and sank back in his chair, relief painted on the noble face. The twins laughed and flew out of their chairs, hugging each other, Elrond, and Glorfindel enthusiastically. The hand of the blond was shaking slightly as he poured himself a goblet of water, a warm smile gracing the warrior’s face.
“Secondly,” Celeborn continued, “perhaps someone would care to explain to me why Erestor does not share your joy at his being alive?” His voice was hard. “Why does Erestor wish to have died?”
He saw confusion and shock spread over the faces of Galadriel and the twins.
“He did not wish to be saved?” the Lady of Lothlórien whispered, horrified.
Celeborn kept his eyes fixed on Elrond and Glorfindel. The Lord of Imladris had stiffened at his words as a flicker of pain and disappointment danced in the grey eyes and Glorfindel’s _expression was defeated, tired and filled with pain.
“He is fading.” Glorfindel’s voice was dull. “He also refuses to leave.”
Celeborn started at him in horror.
“What were you thinking?!” he exploded. “If that is the case, he will still die!”
Elrond flinched at the outburst.
“We hoped to change his mind,” he said quietly. “I cannot lose him, Celeborn, not like this.”
Galadriel rose gracefully, putting a slender hand on her husband’s arm, calming him.
“He is right,” she said. “We may yet save him from himself and you know why we should do this.”
The silence was heavy in the room as no one spoke.
“Are you certain you want to do this?” Celeborn finally asked, his voice heavy. “It will not be easy.”
Galadriel smiled faintly.
“Yet we must,” she said. “I have walked these hard roads before.”
It was late when he woke again; the last light of Anor was fading from the sky. He could hear voices from the sitting room, talking quietly. He listened closely and could soon make out the voices of Elrond, Celeborn and Galadriel.
Moving slowly, he sat up, unbraided midnight hair falling into his eyes. Impatiently, he pushed back the long tresses and stood. It took him a while to find his balance, to get used to moving again. Bitterness simmered close to the surface, as did all the memories of too many years. Carefully, he walked over to the wardrobe and opened the heavy doors; without looking, he grabbed the heaviest robe and pulled it around himself.
They fell quiet as he joined them, sudden smiles lighting their faces.
“Erestor!” Elrond said, coming towards him. “I am glad to see that you are awake, even though you should still be in bed.”
The advisor backed away, dark eyes fixed on his Lord. He saw the pain that flickered through Elrond’s eyes at his withdrawal.
“You had no right,” he said calmly. “It was my choice.”
“I do not particularly wish to hear the word ‘choice’, Erestor. It is quickly becoming one of my least favourite words.”
“Nonetheless, it was mine to make.” Cruelly he met the eyes of his Lord. “And I will still die, I will fade.”
“Erestor, stop this! Once you are stronger you will leave for the Havens and go west!” Anger was quickly seeping through Elrond’s calm.
“I will not, you already know this.” The deep voice was calm and tired.
“Why not, Erestor?” Galadriel’s voice was soft as she looked at the dark advisor. “Come with us.”
He shook his head vehemently as memories stirred in the dark eyes.
“You more than the others know why!” His voice was hoarse.
“The Valar have forgiven us; the Noldor have paid for their sins. Do you not long to see those shores again?”
“NO!” His control was suddenly lost; words he wished hidden were pouring out of him. “I cannot go back! The white shores of Alqualondë run red with the blood, so much blood that the shores will never again be washed clean from the betrayal of our kin! I cannot go there again!”
It was the sound of breaking glass that silenced him. He stiffened but did not turn, knowing who stood behind him.
The three Elves in front of him saw the guilt and anguish in the tormented eyes deepen.
A deceptive peace lay over the room as the minutes stretched in an uneasy lull of conversation. Words struggling to find their ways through jumbled minds and shock.
“Kinslayer!” Glorfindel hissed, breaking the silence as he stared at back of the tall Elf. “I remember you now, the blood on your hands as you tore me from my mother!”
“Yes.” The deep voice was calm, showing no emotion, as the pain in the black gaze deepened. He kept his back towards the seneschal. “You remember correctly.”
“And to think that all these years I counted you a friend; I thought I loved you! You disgust me!” the blond spat before turning, slamming the door behind him as he left.
Erestor’s knees folded beneath him as the door closed and he sank to the floor. The haunted look in the deep eyes bordered on physical pain as he looked up at his Lord.
“You do not know what you did, what you started,” he whispered hoarsely. “Was my sin so much deeper than theirs that this will be my fate, to have no rest, no peace from all that was?”
He turned his head towards Galadriel.
“You should not have helped Elrond; better had the last of this accursed blood left these shores and gone to Mandos.”
She shook her head sadly. “I could not do that, meldir. The time has come for truth and you, of all of us, bear the least from that day.”
He let his head fall forward, defeatedly.
“What blood?” Elrond whispered. “Who are you, Erestor?”
The advisor did not answer but Galadriel did, her answer making Elrond pale as he stepped backwards, away from Erestor.
“He is the last of the Fëanorians, the firstborn son whom Fëanor never claimed.”