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Title: Elf One
Author: Enismirdal enismirdal@caths.co.uk
Pairing: Erestor/Elf 1 (OMC)
Rating: PG13 for now
Warnings: None.

Disclaimer: Erestor belongs to Tolkien, as does Middle Earth. Elf 1's lines came from Tolkien, but he was adapted to Audio by Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell. No disrespect is intended here, and no profit it being made.

A/N: Elf 1 is a minor character from the BBC Audio Adaptation of the Lord of the Rings. He gets the charming lines, "No more, no more!", "So it is. But we call it lembas, or waybread, and it is more strengthening than any food made by Men." and "It is time for us all to go to the Great River! The hour is come when you must take your leave of us."

Uli and I saw bags of potential in this character, and he volunteered himself for this little slash.

Thanks to lovely betas Jai and Uli. Uli, you are not a rubbish beta, you are lovely, really! *snogs both*

***

Chapter 1

Men, he decided, were simply disgusting.

He tugged his dark hood further down over his face and wrinkled his nose as he passed the midden on the edge of the town. Unlike the controlled, dignified atmosphere of an Elven settlement, this townful of Men seemed to exist in perpetual chaos. Mothers screamed at delinquent children; hawkers attempted to sell wares that no-one either wanted or needed; ill-tempered donkeys had face-offs in the middle of a slimy cobbled street…he shuddered in distaste.

Still, he had a task to fulfil. He had never failed his master before, nor was he about to do so now. Turning discreetly down a side-street, he found himself in quieter (and less offensive-smelling) surrounds. The hooded cloak he wore might conceal his Elven identity, but he still preferred not to attract attention to himself. He was now in the south quarter, leading down to the harbour; he wanted to be closer to the eastern edge of the town, where the rich merchants lived. He took a quick left, then a right turn down a narrow, mackerel-scented row of delapidated smoking huts, and followed a gently arcing wynd containing nothing in particular until it joined up with the artisans' district.

A few minutes more of walking and he was standing by the back gate into the walled garden of his destination. And a pleasant place it was, too. The frontage of the house, which he had glimpsed on the way here, was beautifully tiled in blue and white; the stonework of the walls was pale grey, and elegant statuettes stood proud and stately upon the gateposts.

An ancient fig tree draped its gnarled branches over the wall, and Erestor allowed himself a small smile. They made it so easy for him… But then, retired merchants seldom had need to fear intruders.

Except, that is, merchants who had paid off roaming bandits to ambush a convoy that was carrying goods destined for the High King, and to steal important and valuable heirlooms.

While daylight remained, he made a full circuit of the property, taking mental notes and committing to memory several alternative escape routes. The fig tree, however, still appeared to be the simplest and most promising option.

Satisfied, he left the merchant's house, finding a safe and suitably private corner in which to sequester himself until nightfall.

***

Ithil was waning to the slimmest crescent and thick clouds drifted in front of the stars. It was a night so dark that it seemed like scholar's ink had been poured over everything, coating houses and streets with an oily blackness. Indeed, the figure who glided through the night could have been just another outgrowth of that inky blanket.

Erestor sidled elegantly along one of the winding branches, dropping without sound to the leaf-carpeted soil below. His eyes scanned the carefully planned gardens, choosing the least conspicuous route from wall to house, a complex zigzag between flower beds and ornamental fruit trees. He walked lightly across the close-cut lawn, so quiet that the crickets did not halt their shrill songs as he passed by them.

The house was still lit on the upper floor, and occasional shadows flickered in tall windows as the servants passed about their business. Erestor flattened himself against the wall, creeping round to his chosen entrance.

***

Ten minutes later, a concealed door into the merchant's treasury swung open. A pale hand on the brass knob carefully prevented it from either slamming or creaking, and dark eyes scanned the surroundings, calculating distances and assessing the large chamber's layout.

He stepped over the threshold and began to walk in a slow, silent lap of the room. There, at the far side, was the chest for which he was searching. Reaching into a pouch at his belt, he withdrew several lengths of sturdy steel wire.

Two strips of wire were selected and inserted into the chest's silver lock, twisted a little. A second of fiddling and a liquid click marked to lock's opening. He lifted the lid.

A hiss escaped through his teeth as the extravagant and entirely empty interior was revealed.

"Looking for something?" enquired a smooth voice behind him.

Erestor spun, pulling a knife from his sleeve and flipping it in the direction from which the voice had originated. A metallic clash sounded as the knife was neatly deflected, followed by a soft chuckle. "So you would be…Erestor."

Erestor did not answer, instead scrutinising the stranger. He was unmistakably Elven, although his dark hair was worn in an unusual style, short for an Elf; Erestor's own, by contrast, was tightly braided round his head to keep it from hindering movement. Maybe the other Elf had had the same idea when he chose to wear his hair just past his shoulders. He wore a tunic and leggings, and soft shoes; quickly counting, Erestor thought that the stranger carried at least half a dozen hidden knives in addition to the one he held now, the one with which he had so casually deflected Erestor's blade. "What are you doing here?" he demanded of the other Elf in a low growl.

"Apparently, I am beating you to your job." He held up a leather bag in his left hand, shaking it gently so that Erestor could here the jingling contents.

"Who are you? Who sent you?" Erestor's lip curled.

The stranger smirked. "Who I work for is none of your business. I *was* once in the employ of the King of Númenor…he had a number of Elven spies, once, you know." The Elf snickered. "He never bothered to learn Sindarin properly, and could never pronounce our names right. He just called me 'Elf One'." The name was given in flat Adûnaic, sounding not in the last bit elegant.

Erestor felt his face take on an expression of disgust. "Elf One?" In a culture in which the meanings of names were so highly regarded, he could not picture any of his kin accepting such a moniker.

Elf One chuckled. "It works well enough."

Erestor closed the chest and advanced on the other Elf. "That's delightful, I'm sure, but in the meantime I have a job to do. I'm afraid I can't let you leave this room until you hand over that bag."

Elf One pursed his lips. "I'm sorry; I can't do that." Erestor frowned; he was fairly sure that this 'Elf One' was several hundred years younger than he was, and resented the audacity. He stepped towards the door, placing himself between Elf One and the single exit.

"Yes," he said quietly. "You can, and you will."

"Is that a threat?"

"It's a statement." Erestor's hand rested on the hilt of one of his fighting knives. The space was tight, but that was no issue; he excelled at such close fighting.

The other Elf brought his blade up into a defensive position, tip pointing at Erestor's throat. "You do realise that it's not the best of first impressions; I have known you all of five minutes and already you are challenging me to a fight."

Erestor groaned. "Give me the bag."

Elf One sighed. "That would be far too simple."

Erestor knocked the other's blade out of his way in a single movement and lunged forward, aiming the tip towards the point where his opponent's jaw met his neck. Unfortunately, Elf One was no longer there. Elbereth! Well, that simply meant that he was moderately skilful. He could deal with that; he could probably put this Elf One in his place without even injuring him. Although perhaps, he reflected wryly, the arrogant young upstart would benefit from sustaining a few bruises across his behind as a reminder of today.

They circled on another. Erestor feinted. Elf One attempted to parry, but unexpectedly meeting no resistance, overreached. Erestor attacked; his opponent managed to regain his balance and defended himself. Elf One's knife sliced through the air close to Erestor's ear and he dodged quickly. At the same time, he drew a second knife with his left hand and, as the other Elf side-stepped his right-handed cut, he struck him forcefully on the shoulder with the flat of his left hand blade.

Steel collided with bone beneath the fabric and skin; the shudder than ran down his arm caused Elf One to drop his knife. Erestor took advantage of the opportunity and pinned him to the wall. "Thank you, dear friend," he said dryly, snatching up the bag. He pricked the tip of one knife just under the other Elf's chin so that a tiny speck of blood appeared. "I bid you good evening."