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Title: Underestimated (Updated version!)
Type: FPS
Author: Enismirdal enismirdal@caths.co.uk
Rating: PG13
Pairings: Rúmil/Faelon, Glorfindel/Erestor
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: They’re not my characters (except Tellumiel, who was never
meant to do anything much in the first place)! I would be very happy if
they were; instead, I’ll just be eternally grateful to Professor
Tolkien for giving them life. No disrespect intended; no profit made.
Beta: An absolutely giant thank you to amazing beta readers Aleks,
Laurel (first chapter) and my darling Katy - where would I be without
you gals?
Timeline: Third Age, pre-LOTR
Summary: Rúmil is in love with Faelon. Faelon thinks he’s too good for
Rúmil. Erestor decides to get involved.

A/N: Faelon *is* there in movie, at the Council of Elrond, sitting on
Elrond’s right. Some people call him Elrohir or Noname, but
Roheryn/Candice/Vardalon Elentari christened him Faelon because that’s
how ‘Justin’ (Mackenzie, who plays Faelon, coincidentally brother of
Brett, who plays Figwit/Melpomaen) translates into Sindarin. If you're
having Figwit, you’d better have Faelon too!
Aside from borrowing those two out of the movie, I’m sticking to book
canon for this one.

NOTE: This is the NEW version with all the Grelvish killed, removed,
burned! I've left Figwit as Melpomaen though, as I just think Melpomaen
is a nice name :) And Tellumiel is still Tellumiel, cos I'm sure someone
can make that sound plausible.


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Part 1


Rúmil sat on the cool marble bench with his head in his hands. His
fingers were wet and slick with tears; his eyes, he imagined, must be
red and bloodshot with incessant crying. It wasn’t normally in his
nature to fall victim to emotion like this, but then again, he didn’t
normally have to watch his life collapse into ruin around him.

He’d never left Lórien before, but Haldir had promised him that
Imladris was a delightful place; the elves were somewhat serious and
lordly at times, but always impeccably polite and courteous. The
lifestyle, he promised, was as luxurious and sophisticated as in
Lórien. Rúmil had been more than happy to accompany his elder brother
on this trip.

The journey had been uneventful; on arrival, they had been greeted by
Lord Elrond and several of his most trusted associates, as well as his
twin sons and beautiful daughter. Rúmil had first laid eyes upon Arwen
centuries ago when she was visiting Lórien with her now long-departed
mother, Celebrían, and in that single moment he had understood
perfectly what all the fuss was about. She truly was exquisite, every
feature flawless. Her hair was a curtain of spun silk; her eyes lakes
of liquid passion; her mouth the bud of a rose blossom, just about to
spring open into full bloom.

But it had not been Arwen who had shaken his world and it left in
ruins; not this time.

He drew in another shuddering breath, coughing as he inadvertently
inhaled more tears. What was wrong with him?

Through his sobs, he suddenly heard a whisper of fabric just a couple
of feet to his left. Someone had sat down on the bench beside him! He
was irritated by this - he had spent ages prowling the gardens, seeking
out a suitably private and secluded part of the Last Homely House’s
gardens where he could be alone with his misery. And now someone else
was invading his space! “Go away!” he groaned bitterly through his
fingers.

There was no response - his companion wouldn't leave.

Rúmil gazed up at the figure through wet fingers, his vision blurring
with tears. His heart skipped a beat as he saw the curtain of dark
hair…but no. He exhaled with mingled relief and disappointment, as he
recognised the earnest, exotic features of Elrond’s chief counsellor,
Erestor. He scrubbed at his eyes. “What do you want?”

“I saw you come out here,” the counsellor said, as if that explained
everything. So far, Rúmil had not had the opportunity to meet Erestor
properly and therefore had no idea of what to expect from him. Haldir,
too, barely knew him, simply saying that Erestor came across as very
quiet, dignified and conscientious - traits which probably hid a
devious mind.

“So?”

“I come here too, sometimes, when I feel weighed down by a lot of
emotion.” Erestor had a strange, lilting accent, uncharacteristic of an
Imladris elf. Rúmil couldn’t place it at all - it reminded him of the
Sindar from Mirkwood, only that seemed highly unlikely. He reminded
himself that the advisor was probably many millennia old, and could
have come from Aman for all he knew. “I thought maybe you’d like to
unburden yourself.”

“On you? I hardly know you.” He couldn’t understand why Erestor could
possibly care what his problems were.

“All the better. I don’t have a personal stake in this. Come, now,
/pen-neth/, tears like that are usually caused by messy affairs of the
heart. I don’t expect you to give me a name, but you’re welcome to tell
me about what troubles you. I’ve found over the years that I’ve come to
appreciate the value of talking.” He shifted backwards a few inches,
presumably a calculated move designed to put across the impression of
being uninvasive. His dark eyes were soft and invited confidence.

Rúmil sighed. “You wouldn’t want to hear about the mountain of misery
which is supposed to be my love life.”

“I’d like to hear about it a lot more than you think.” Erestor spoke
softly.

Rúmil chose not to attempt to interpret the cryptic comment, and
instead asked, “You won’t tell anyone?”

“I won’t. I'm not considered to be a gossip.”

“Thank you.” He took a deep breath to calm himself, but still found
himself stuttering as he started to speak. “It’s…it’s Faelon.”

“Oh.”

“Oh?”

“He’s…difficult. Go on.”

“This is my first visit to Imladris. In fact, this is the first time
I’ve ever left Lórien. Haldir thinks that I’m overwhelmed and it’s
making me emotional…”

“Hold on. You're starting the story in the middle. So you've found
yourself drawn to Faelon?”

Rúmil nodded and sighed. “Is it that obvious?”

“It's not uncommon to feel that way about someone; I've seen it enough
times. And I've known those feelings myself.” Erestor's eyes were dark
and unreadable, but his tone hinted at memories. “Tell me about you and
Faelon.”

“I first saw him standing there when we rode into Imladris, and it was
as if everything else disappeared from around us. He’s - ” he
swallowed. “He’s beautiful. Like Eärendil in the autumn sky at dusk, he
shone, and I couldn’t look away from his light. Since then, I haven’t
been able to get him out of my thoughts. Honestly - I was writing up my
notes from the meeting Haldir and I had with Lord Glorfindel, and I
suddenly realised I’d written, ‘…remain in Imladris until Faelon is
mine forever…’!” He blushed with embarrassment.

“Does he know about your feelings for him?”

Rúmil buried his head in his hands again, letting his hair fall forward
to shield him from…Elbereth only knew what. “Yes,” he whispered.

Erestor’s strong, slender fingers closed around his wrists and pulled
his hands back down. He met Rúmil's eyes reassuringly, “What happened?”

Rúmil chewed his lip uncertainly. “I…I approached him at the feast
earlier. I told him that I found him intriguing and…and that I’d like
to get to know him a little better. I asked him…I asked him if he’d
like to join my brother and me by the hearth for /miruvor/…”

“Ah, yes, I remember seeing you two sitting together there. Haldir was
speaking to Tellumiel, was he not?”

The younger elf nodded. “I didn’t know you were there. Haldir said you
didn’t seem to like crowds.”

A rather melancholy-looking smile touched Erestor’s lips. “Oh, I was
there. I left when the musicians came in, but I was present for the
first part of the feast. It was after I had retired to my rooms that I
saw you coming out here. But I’m side-tracking you - this is your
story. Please continue.”

Rúmil’s eyes welled up again as he recalled his conversation with the
dark-haired Imladris elf. “He looked at me as if…as if I was a rat
someone had found in the storeroom.” He sniffed, and hated himself for
sounding so self-pitying. “And he said…” He broke eye contact, unable
to focus his swimming eyes on Erestor’s calm face, and once again
sought refuge behind his hair. “He said that if I…”

Erestor reached out with two fingers, placing them gently under Rúmil’s
chin and tilting the younger elf’s head up again. “Look at me. There’s
nothing to hide from here. Trying to retreat from your problems, hiding
away like that - it won't make them disappear. They'll simply grow. The
more you hide, the more you have to hide from, as your dread of the
real issue increases out of all proportion. You should always meet your
problems head-on, with a bold face. Say it again, but say it whilst
looking at me.”

The younger elf did as he was instructed. “He said that if I ever
thought he would stoop so low as to lie with, or even be seen with, a
Silvan elf, I must be even more ignorant and crass than most of my
race.” He was abruptly seized by the desire to throw himself upon
Erestor - never mind that they’d never met before - and cry himself out
in the elder elf’s arms. But Erestor was chewing his lip somewhat
uncomfortably, and made no move to reach out; in fact, as Rúmil’s form
shuddered with renewed sobs, he actually shifted away an almost
imperceptible but significant inch. Clearly, he was not fond of even
the idea of such unrestrained physical contact.

The counsellor moved hesitantly, but eventually extended a pale hand
towards Rúmil and laid it gently on the distressed elf’s shaking
shoulder. Rúmil guessed from his tentative movements that this was an
unusually familiar gesture from Erestor’s point of view, and forced
himself to return a reluctant smile. He wiped his eyes on the back of
his sleeve, an action which Erestor’s expression hinted the elder elf
disapproved of, and got hold of himself. “I had the same problem as you
once,” Erestor admitted softly, “The object of my desire was a Noldo,
someone normally thought to be so far above me in station I effectively
had no chance ever to be with him.”

“You mean you’re not a Noldo?” Rúmil was intrigued. He’d assumed that
all the high-ranking elves of Elrond’s household were of predominantly
Noldorin blood.

“Not originally. But I have lived in Imladris for many years now.”

“So what happened with this other elf?” Rúmil persisted, growing
interested.

“We fell in love anyway, and our differences ceased to matter.” This
time, the smile on Erestor’s face was blissful rather than sad. His
gaze wandered dreamily to the sky, roaming the bluish vault which now
darkened to indigo with approaching dusk. Eärendil shone down on them
from just above the horizon, and his light was soon joined by other,
fainter stars.

“Tell me how,” the Lórien elf demanded, his eyes shining with mixed
hope and desperation. Erestor did not answer; his gaze had now dropped
to the ring he wore on the index finger of his left hand, an elegant
piece styled of /mithril/ flowers. “Erestor?” He tugged the
counsellor’s sleeve to gain his attention again.

“I apologise, Rúmil. I grew distracted. What were you saying?”

“I asked if you’d tell me how you managed to win his heart.”

Erestor looked thoughtful. “I admit I’m still not entirely sure myself.
I think it may be because…circumstances…forced him to acknowledge that
heritage is utterly insignificant besides love. Also, Lord Elrond had
the good sense to point out to him that we had far more in common that
he had previously assumed.”

“So do you think I should persuade Faelon to look beyond my background
and see who I am underneath?”

“If you can achieve that, I believe it may be a good idea.” His eyes
lifted once more to the twilight sky. “Now, Rúmil - it grows dark. I
suggest we retire inside before the light deserts us completely.” Rúmil
was very fond of the night sky; the diamond-studded constellations,
Ithil’s silver, dusty radiance. He could have watched it for hours yet.
But he was not inclined to argue with the counsellor, and besides,
Erestor was already heading towards the welcoming amber-coloured light
pouring from the windows of the Last Homely House. With a regretful
sigh, he turned to follow the elder elf .

***

Erestor’s quill moved rhythmically over the surface of the crisp vellum
as his eyes flicked between six-month-old inventory lists, more recent
ones, and requisition receipts. So far, everything appeared to be
accounted for. Then he noticed an inconsistency and frowned with
irritation. His left hand reached for a sheet of clean parchment which
lay in a stack on the corner of the desk, and he scribbled a note to
have the matter investigated further. First, he would refer the matter
to one of the elves working under him, and if they couldn’t discover
anything, he would see what he could find out on his own - he was
nothing if not resourceful. If even that failed, he would ask Elrond to
talk to the armoury master himself. The unexplained disappearance of
four dozen arrows from the stores was hardly a devastating discrepancy,
but Erestor liked everything to wrap up nicely, and in this case he was
frustrated that it didn’t.

Suddenly, and without warning, a pair of hands appeared, one on either
side of his neck and started probing at the cramped muscles in his
shoulders. Erestor instinctively tensed under the touch, pulling away,
before reason kicked in and he recognised Glorfindel’s sensitive,
skilful fingers.

He turned, tucking several locks of his midnight hair behind his ear as
he did so, and treated Glorfindel to a prickly glare. “You know I don’t
like it when you sneak up on me like that,” he stated.

He instantly regretted his snappish words as his lover became utterly
contrite and looked quite crestfallen. “I’m sorry, /meleth/, I forgot
you…”

Erestor swallowed and closed his eyes briefly, before turning back to
the inventory lists. A moment later, Glorfindel’s arms encircled him
affectionately, and he smiled and leaned into the embrace, feeling the
warmth of his lover’s body where it touched his back. Glorfindel leaned
closer and kissed him on his jawbone, bringing a rosy flush to
Erestor’s cheeks. His lover’s fingers now curled around his own,
coaxing him up from the chair and pulling them over to the generous
fire where two invitingly overstuffed armchairs had been positioned.
“I’m sorry,” Glorfindel said again.

Erestor shook his head. “No, it is I who should be apologising. I
shouldn't have snapped at you like that. Perhaps I should have my desk
turned around so it faces the door.” He felt one of his rare smiles of
amusement spread across his face. “Then you would no longer have the
advantage on me.”

Glorfindel answered the smile with one of his own. “Perhaps you should
instead spend less time at the desk. You work too hard, you know.”

“Lord Elrond needs me to impose order upon the chaos of his study.”

“You don’t constantly have to prove your worth to him, or to anyone,”
Glorfindel countered easily, shaking his head; the argument was not a
new one. “We all know how invaluable you are, and I, for one, would
like to see you awake in the evenings rather than falling asleep before
you even reach our rooms.” His expression was resigned rather than
angry, so Erestor did not bother with an especially sharp rejoinder.

“I’m awake enough for you now, aren’t I?” he asked pointedly.
Glorfindel knew full well that he was by no means falling asleep most
evenings, and inclined his head in mild defeat. His eyes, though, spoke
that he still suspected his lover was overworking himself. “Long day?”
Looking to change the subject, Erestor had immediately taken note of
his lover’s thoughtful frown as Glorfindel shifted into a more
comfortable position on the yielding velvet cushions.

The golden-haired warrior nodded. “I’ve been in conference with Rúmil
and Haldir all morning, going over the latest reports of orc bands
roaming the countryside. I think we’re going to have to organise a
joint patrol with Lórien and track down a particularly large group
which has been causing problems around the south of Eregion.” He shook
his head in irritation. “And that will be another few dozen gone. It
will make not a scrap of difference to their vast numbers overall.”

“Is there a pattern to this band’s activities?” Erestor asked, already
analysing the information he’d just been given.

“Well, according to Rúmil…”

“Rúmil,” the counsellor repeated meditatively, then diverged from the
thread of the previous conversation completely. “What impression have
you gained of him so far?”

Glorfindel raised a slender eyebrow at the unexpected question. “Why do
you ask?” He received no more answer than an elegant shrug and the
slightest hint of a smile. “Oh all right, have it your way, Lord
Enigma. He seems to me to be, for the most part, much like his brother,
and you’ve met Haldir. However, he comes across as being in some ways
very different from Haldir. He is prepared to take chances, as is
Haldir, but at the same time he does not share his elder brother’s
formidable self-confidence.”

“Arrogance, you mean?” Erestor corrected, inclining his head.

“Well - yes. He seems rather more naive than his brother, presumably
because he is younger and less experienced. But he has a quick and
intelligent mind, and a sound understanding of strategy. I think,
/meleth/, that you would find him very interesting.”

Erestor dropped his eyes noncommittally, and made an ambiguous gesture
with his hand.

“You’re not going to tell me what you’re up to, are you?” Glorfindel
asked when his lover raised his head again. He pouted and tossed his
head impatiently; Erestor admired the way the spun-gold tresses fell
about his lover’s perfect face. The counsellor answered with a slight
shake of his head. “Then at least let me kiss you?” he asked. Erestor
recognised with amusement his lover’s favourite teasing-pleading
expression.

“Only if afterwards, you resume that glorious massage,” he replied. He
allowed himself a brief and genuine smile as his lover rose gracefully
from the chair and slid into his lap. Sighing with delight, he dug his
fingers eagerly into Glorfindel’s beautiful hair as the warm
affectionate lips touched his.

Then the Elda perched on the arm of the chair and began once more to
massage his lover’s shoulders.

Erestor shut his eyes and tilted his head back until it touched
Glorfindel’s chest, feeling the tension oozing from his muscles under
the busy fingers. He relaxed more and more with each movement of the
golden-haired Elda’s fingertips, and he lost himself completely to the
sensation…

The fingers hesitated. Erestor opened his eyes and curiously looked
over his shoulder at Glorfindel. He was smiling, and there was laughter
in his fair face. “What is it?” Erestor enquired.

“You were purring,” his lover answered, and adoringly played with a
lock of dark hair. “I’ve never known you to purr before.”

Erestor traced the outline of Glorfindel’s lips with one slender
finger, then taking both his lover’s wrists in his grasp, gently guided
the Elda’s hands back to his shoulders. “Please? Keep giving me a
reason to purr.”

Glorfindel obediently continued until Erestor felt himself beginning to
fall asleep, then stroked the dark hair with long, smooth movements,
bringing the counsellor back to awareness. The golden-haired warrior
knelt in front of him, Erestor’s hands trapped between his in the
counsellor’s lap. “Come to bed, /meleth/,” Glorfindel said, “You can’t
stay here all night.”

“You’re right,” Erestor agreed, stifling a yawn.

Glorfindel half-lifted his lover from the chair, drawing him into an
eager embrace, cradling Erestor’s head protectively on his shoulder.
They remained that way for some moments, aware only of the closeness,
and the rise and fall of the other’s chest.

They were still holding hands when they entered the bedroom. Erestor
appreciated the reassurance which came with the physical contact.
Glorfindel reminded Erestor of how much he loved him several times a
day, but the dark-haired counsellor still felt comforted by tangible
gestures such as this one.

Erestor had - fairly recently - *finally* agreed to share Glorfindel’s
bed. His lover had been overjoyed when Erestor had said so, recognising
it as a significant sign of total trust and commitment. The counsellor
did not give trust easily, and Glorfindel delighted in the knowledge
that he had penetrated Erestor’s normally reserved front.

The golden-haired elf stripped off his outer robes, dropping them
unceremoniously on the floor whilst Erestor fastidiously shook the
creases from his own and hung them carefully in his wardrobe. But as
Glorfindel was unbuttoning his shirt, he patted the pocket of his
leggings. “I’m sorry, /meleth/, I forgot to tell you - Haldir handed me
a note at the end of our meeting today. It’s for you. I’ve been so
preoccupied with these cursed patrol arrangements it slipped my mind
completely.” He handed the counsellor a folded sheet of parchment.

Erestor turned it over in his hands with interest before unfolding it
and scanning the contents of the message written there. Then he smiled.
Glorfindel narrowed his eyes and raised an eyebrow in question.

“It’s not from Haldir,” the dark-haired elf stated, “It’s from Rúmil.
He wants my help.”

“Do I get to read it?”

Erestor frowned, then refolded the note with obsessive attention to
getting the two halves *exactly* aligned, and shut it away in a drawer.
“Maybe tomorrow.”

***

Rúmil sat in the library, hoping that the note he’d received with his
breakfast this morning wasn’t just some silly prank of Haldir's. But
the handwriting had not been his brother’s; it had been neat and
precise, as he would have expected from Erestor. The note had specified
this time; he hoped Erestor would not be late.

Haldir had agreed to give Rúmil’s message to Glorfindel yesterday only
after Rúmil had offered to take Haldir’s watches when they journeyed
back to Lórien. He still hadn’t been entirely sure his brother would
hand over the note, so he’d only pretended to leave after the meeting
and had hidden to check Haldir did as he’d promised.

Now he hoped that Glorfindel and Erestor were as close friends as
Haldir seemed to think, from what his elder brother had been saying
yesterday after observing the two at dinner.

His fears were unfounded. The counsellor appeared, exactly and
precisely on time, as if Arda turned according to his instructions. He
sat silently in the comfortable chair across from Rúmil, resting his
chin idly on one hand, waiting for the young elf to speak. “Thank you
for coming,” he began uncertainly. Erestor nodded slightly in
acknowledgement, but still said nothing.

“After last night, when you suggested I try to convince Faelon to give
me a second glance, I started thinking…" Another nod. "I talked to
Haldir yesterday, and he said that as far as he knew, Faelon was a
scribe who worked for you…”

“Well, he’s more like a personal aide, really. I’m training him to do
more or less everything I do as part of the day-to-day running of
Imladris. But your information wasn’t far off.”

“…yes, so I thought that since you’d know him, you’d be able to tell me
a bit about him - what he likes, and dislikes, and that kind of thing.”
He looked at the elder elf for some kind of reaction, and was rewarded
with an expression which betrayed no emotion.

“He is highly intelligent, and completes any tasks I set him to my
satisfaction.”

“He must be good, then,” Rúmil remarked with an impish grin,
remembering a comment Haldir had made last night about the counsellor’s
perfectionist attitude.

“And what might you mean by that?”

Rúmil wasn’t sure whether the question was a challenge or a joke; with
Erestor, it was hard to tell. He dropped his eyes and mumbled,
“Nothing.”

Erestor let it pass. “He wears a lot of dark blue and silver.”

*Unlike half the other elves in Imladris*, Rúmil was tempted to say
with a hint of sarcasm, but held his tongue.

“I've noticed that he sometimes wears a perfume scented with lilac
and…” he narrowed his eyes, trying to identify the aroma from memory,
“…rosemary.”

“What about his personality?” Rúmil prompted. Faelon struck him as
being an immensely complicated individual. He remembered how the dark-
haired elf had laughed at the same points as he had when Glorfindel was
telling jokes over dinner the previous night, and had reached for many
of the dishes which Rúmil had also sampled. Yet his vocation was
entirely different - Faelon was a scholar, Rúmil a marchwarden. Faelon
seemed, to the casual observer, to be confident and self-assured, but
Rúmil had seen the flash of self-doubt cross the other’s features when
he apparently took offence at an offhand remark made by one of the
twins.

“As I said last night, he can be difficult. I know him on a
professional rather than a personal basis, but I’ve learned that he can
be extremely stubborn - as stubborn as I’m told I can be, in fact. He
doesn’t like being told he’s wrong; he doesn’t easily admit to
mistakes. This could be where you’ll encounter a problem. Having turned
you away once, it’s unlikely he’ll take kindly to having his opinions
of you rewritten.” The counsellor shrugged elegantly. “But he will go
to great lengths for people he cares about. I remember one occasion
when I had reprimanded his brother, Melpomaen, for carelessness in his
work, and Faelon came running in on me an hour later, and proceeded to
give quite a tirade on why it wasn’t Melpomaen’s fault, and how it was
unfair of me to rebuke him.” The way Erestor’s eyes narrowed as he
spoke implied that he, on the other hand, did not think it unfair in
spite of Faelon’s protest. “He also comes from a very good, traditional
family; he has a high opinion of his pedigree, as you’ve already found
out, but equally he cares deeply for the individual members of his
family.”

“Anything else you think I should know?” the young elf asked.

“Like what?”

“Has he ever shown a preference for particular flowers or food? Does he
keep any treasured possessions? Does he have favourite songs which he
sings to himself sometimes? What does he do in his free time?”

Erestor held out his hands. “I honestly wouldn’t know. As I said, I
only know him well professionally. Sorry, Rúmil.” He suddenly smiled -
the first time Rúmil had seen him do so during the discussion. “I’ll
see what I can find out today, shall I? Will you be at dinner tonight?”
Rúmil nodded. “I’ll meet you then, and tell you if I’ve discovered
anything. In the meantime, find yourself some nice clothes for tonight
and make yourself look extra-special - not that you’re not already a
very attractive young elf, I might add.”

“You think so?” Rúmil had never been so sure of himself. It was always
Haldir and his other brother, Orophin, who received all the attention
from potential sweethearts.

Erestor nodded slowly.

“I haven’t really got any special clothes with me…I wasn’t expecting to
have to impress anyone.”

“No? How long is it until you’re due to meet with Glorfindel and Lord
Elrond today?”

“Another hour, I think.”

“Good. Then come with me. I don’t think any of my clothes will fit, but
I think Glorfindel must be about the same size as you, even if he’s a
little taller. And his dress sense is excellent. We’re bound to find
something for you.”

“Really?” Rúmil couldn’t suppress his hopeful smile. Glorfindel was the
kind of Elda who drew all eyes when he walked into a room, and he’d
already noticed the golden-haired warrior’s taste in clothes. “Won’t he
mind?”

“Not if I’m with you.”

“So he is that lover you were talking about the other night?”

Erestor started, his hand coming up to smooth his already immaculate
hair. “That’s between me and him - ” he chewed his bottom lip ruefully
“ - and, I admit, half of Imladris. Yes, Rúmil, yes we are.”

Translations:
meleth - love


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 2


“Good morning, Faelon. I see that you are punctual as always. Elrond's
given me the plans for the additional wing he wants to build on the
Last Homely House, and I’d like you to look over them. We may have to
negotiate with Mirkwood and Lórien for some of the materials.” Faelon
nodded and accepted the sheaf of papers which Erestor laid in his hands
He took a seat at the nearest table in the large library and spread out
the documents in the most practical arrangement.

“Anything else?” he asked, looking up when he realised Erestor hadn’t
moved.

“Yes. I need a scribe for a meeting with Elrond this afternoon. Can you
do that?”

Faelon nodded. “What time?”

“Directly after midday meal.”

“I won’t be late.” Erestor half-smiled in satisfaction.

“One more thing.”

“Yes?”

“The inventory lists I set you to look over; I rechecked them yesterday
afternoon. You overlooked the unexplained loss of nearly fifty arrows
from the weapons stores.”

Faelon swallowed uncomfortably. Erestor did not tolerate mistakes. The
younger elf shook his head in denial. “But I looked over those lists
four times! I’m sure I didn’t miss anything.” Erestor did not seem
impressed by his protests. He realised he hadn’t a chance of winning if
it became an argument. “I’m sorry,” he apologised. “I’ve been
rather…distracted lately.”

“Distracted?” Erestor repeated, one eyebrow raised disapprovingly.
Faelon didn’t answer the enquiry; he found it uncomfortable enough at
times talking to Erestor about the impersonal business of the
management of Imladris, never mind his own personal problems. He
certainly wasn’t about to explain to the sober counsellor that, in
spite of his rejection of that irritating young Silvan elf, Rúmil’s
face would not stop invading his thoughts.

“Aye…I will try to concentrate better today.”

Erestor nodded and, seemingly mollified, left the younger elf to work.
He seated himself at a nearby table, opened the old book he was
carrying, and picking up quill, began to write on a piece of parchment
lying next to it.

Faelon got to work; the chief adviser had been quite correct. Some of
the timber Elrond wanted would have to be transported in from Lórien,
which would require elves to supervise - he could manage that himself -
and in these troubled times, an armed escort would be needed.
Glorfindel would not be pleased when Faelon put in that request. The
golden-haired Elda was always ruing the fact that he hadn’t more scouts
to send out on patrol as it was.

“Are you hungry?” Erestor asked suddenly, his soft but clear voice
interrupting Faelon’s concentration. “I was just about to fetch some
refreshments; I could get something for you as well if you’d like. ”

Faelon glanced out of the window, and realised with surprise that he’d
been working for well over an hour. He was a little taken aback by
Erestor’s offer; he thought the counsellor was annoyed with him because
of the inventory lists, so wasn’t expecting such thoughtfulness, but
nonetheless he composed himself quickly. “Yes, please, if you are
getting something. A cup of fruit tea would be welcome, and perhaps - ”
he decided to indulge the sudden craving “ - sweet bread with berry
jam.”

Erestor raised an eyebrow but said nothing, only nodding slightly in
acknowledgement, and with his usual understated grace, glided out of
the room.

***

Erestor set off towards the kitchens at a brisk walk. As he passed the
library, another raven-haired elf emerged through the double doors,
running a hand through tousled locks. Catching sight of Erestor, he
fell into step beside the chief advisor. “Good morning,” he said,
glancing outside and frowning at an angry-looking cloud which hung
sullenly above the horizon. “Although I daresay it will not remain that
way for much longer.”

“You may be right, Melpomaen,” Erestor answered. “But I imagine the
library will remain dry however much it may rain, and I doubt you would
find yourself lacking in things to do were you to remain there should
the weather continue to deteriorate.”

“The maps which you asked me to update?” the younger elf asked
rhetorically. Erestor nodded. “They are nearly ready, I promise. And
I’m glad they are. I’ve spent long enough on them.”

“I would not ask you to do all of them, but you have a much better eye
for detail than your younger brother.”

Melpomaen grinned. “I hope you’re finding just as much work to keep
Faelon occupied.”

Erestor responded with raised eyebrows. “I would not like to think that
he was becoming bored.” He abruptly stopped, and turned around,
explaining quickly, “I was heading towards the kitchens, but as we were
talking, I seem to have walked straight past them.”

“The kitchens? That was where I was heading as well. I need some
refreshment before I face those maps again. I bet they have ripe plums
just waiting for me.”

“Faelon asked me to fetch fruit tea, and…sweet bread with berry jam.”

Melpomaen laughed. “Did he? Berry jam, indeed - I thought he’d have
grown out of that by now. He always used to love blackberries when he
was an elfling. He’d come back in after playing outside in summer
sometimes, and he’d be stained head to foot in purple from eating every
one he saw.”

“I’m pleased he doesn’t turn up in my study in that state,” Erestor
remarked dryly.

“Oh, you should have seen him! He ruined several perfectly good tunics
that way. Eventually, he persuaded Nana to let him grow his own bramble
plant in one of the flowerbeds, and he looked after it as he would a
treasured pet. She used to wonder why he couldn’t just get a pony or a
hound like any other elfling. It was so invasive, within a year it had
choked most of the other plants in the bed, but he didn’t seem too
worried.”

“So he ended up with an entire bed full of brambles?”

“Well, no. He cleared a little space where he grew /elanor/. Lady
Celebrían gave him a plant once when he was very young, and he kept it
flowering constantly from then until he reached majority.” Melpomaen
realised he was starting to ramble now, and seemed surprised Erestor
had not yet told him to stop. When they reached the kitchens,
Melpomaen’s bet proved correct - the plums looked deliciously ripe and
he happily walked off with a large bowlful. Erestor had to wait whilst
his request was seen to.

The kitchen staff did not waste time, and the advisor soon had a
steaming cup of fruit tea and a platter laden with light sweet bread
for Faelon. He also had some more information about his protégé which
he could relay to Rúmil.

***

Faelon found his eyes straying yet again to the young Silvan elf
sitting across from him. This was ridiculous! He wasn’t attracted to
Rúmil! The idea was about as likely as his falling for one of the
Dunedain chieftains Lord Elrond fostered from time to time. He forced
himself to concentrate on transcribing the discussion taking place.
Erestor insisted on a full written record of all important meetings in
Imladris. Even at less crucial councils, he’d bring a scribe to take
notes of the main points. From time to time, he leaned across and
murmured a few words to Faelon: “Put that Haldir looked displeased when
Glorfindel suggested that,” or, “Add a note about that - I’ll have to
check if that can be done.” He complied, writing in quick shorthand
which could be copied up neatly later.

This was the last stage of discussions, a relatively simple matter of
cementing patrol plans already agreed between Lórien and Imladris, and
for Elrond and Erestor to calculate how soon Imladris could provision a
group of elves for a trip of this length. Erestor seemed confident that
everything could be dealt with, but Faelon could tell Glorfindel was
unhappy.

Eventually, the golden-haired warrior confided to those present what
was troubling him. “This orc band we’re dealing with seems to have
assembled from many small groups which have been hanging around Eregion
for a year or more. Word from the patrols is that now several similarly
small groups of orcs have been sighted at various places along the
Bruinen. At the moment, the power in Imladris is easily strong enough
to deter them from attacking, but were they to gather together as the
Eregion band have done, they may dare an assault. I’m not happy leaving
Imladris more or less unguarded.”

“There is no need to leave Imladris completely unguarded.” Glorfindel
whirled in surprise when Erestor spoke up.

“Excuse me?”

“You appear to have vastly overestimated the number of Imladris elves
required on this patrol. Certainly, meeting the orcs sooner, as you
suggest, in the south, would normally be more prudent. I agree that
with Lórien archers, we have the advantage if we strike at them in
forest. But were we to allow them longer to track eastwards towards the
mountains, the terrain would allow us to eliminate the orc band without
a direct confrontation.”

“How?” Glorfindel demanded. His face had set into a hard mask. Clearly,
he was unhappy with having his decision challenged.

“Split our forces, and harry their flanks. We can drive them into the
Vale of Uialos. We already know full well that the pass into the valley
has been in danger for some time of being blocked by a rockslide. Were
we to seal the way after their host had entered, they would have to
track thirty miles to get out at the other end, and all uphill.”

“Then what?” Glorfindel asked in a disinterested voice. “We may be able
to pick half of them off with arrows, but after that?”

“After that, of course, we divert one of the tributaries of the
Glanduin to re-flood the valley’s dry river bed.” Erestor made it sound
as if it was the most obvious course of action.

“That can’t be done!” Haldir protested. Faelon had seen him following
the debate between the two Imladris elves with great interest. But even
the marchwarden had not been as mesmerised as Rúmil. Faelon was merely
glad the pen-neth had stopped gawking at *him*.

“Well…actually, it can,” Glorfindel admitted.

“The Bruinen can be flooded, if necessary, to repel intruders from the
west,” Elrond explained mildly. “There is no reason why it couldn’t be
done again elsewhere.” He did not elaborate further.

“It would be incredibly difficult!” Glorfindel protested. “A
straightforward confrontation in the forests would be far simpler, and
the chances of success are high if we use the tree cover.”

“But the number of elves required is too large,” Erestor replied
patiently. “And your plan *is* more risky.”

“*Your* plan involves procrastinating for several days while the orcs
go east. In that time, they will be joined by other groups, and cause
more trouble.”

“Better to take many all at once; it saves you from having to send out
smaller patrols later to clean up the scattered groups.” Neither elf
was shouting; both were speaking in deceptively light and civil tones,
which Faelon thought simply added to the latent discord between them.

“Why don’t we gain additional backup from King Thranduil in Mirkwood?”
Glorfindel suggested suddenly. “That way, a unit of my best fighters
could be left behind to defend Imladris, and the Mirkwood elves could
add to our numbers on the sortie. In fact, then it would be feasible to
take out this second band amassing nearby after neutralising the first.
Everyone would be happy.”

“Perhaps in your idyllic imagination,” Erestor responded caustically.
“But in the real world, the odds of King Thranduil even replying to our
requests for aid are about the same as the odds of a regiment of
dwarves offering their assistance!”

“Gentlemen, please,” Elrond said placatingly. “Perhaps it’s time to
call a recess. Let us consider the suggestions overnight, and see if a
compromise can be reached by tomorrow. Then perhaps we can listen to
what the envoy from Lórien thinks may be best, as well.” He glanced
meaningfully at Haldir and Rúmil. “*We* seem to have all but neglected
them whilst we compared the perceived merits and problems of our
schemes, when, after all, Lórien is as much a part of this matter as
Imladris.” The stress on ‘we’ clearly implied that the only parties
involved were the chief advisor and the golden-haired seneschal, and
both had the courtesy to look contrite. Well, a bit, anyway. The way
Erestor raised his eyebrow at Glorfindel before apologising mildly to
the Silvan elves suggested he, at least, was still not happy.

***

“Erestor? Erestor?” Glorfindel peered into the bathroom to find Erestor
running a brush through his long hair - which appeared to have gone an
even darker shade of black now it was wet - in front of the mirror. The
counsellor had thrown on a thin silk robe after bathing, and it clung
to his damp skin, highlighting every line of his slender, well-defined
body. Glorfindel allowed himself a moment to admire his lover’s beauty
before a wicked grin spread across his face.

He tiptoed towards the bathing pool, which was still full of tepid,
lavender-scented water and, leaning down towards it, scooped some up in
his hand and splashed it at Erestor.

The counsellor turned and regarded the golden-haired elf balefully. But
to Glorfindel’s amazement, rather than coming out with some scathing
comment criticising his lover for being so juvenile, Erestor narrowed
his eyes deviously. Glorfindel wasn’t sure whether he was still angry
about the argument they’d had in the council meeting earlier. *He* had
already forgiven Erestor; how could he not, when Erestor was so
adorable? But his lover was difficult to read, and had a long memory
and a prickly temper.

Erestor suddenly leaned towards the pool and, without warning, splashed
twice as much water back at Glorfindel. The golden-haired Elda did not
react; he was utterly taken aback by the contrast between the playful
action and the terribly solemn expression on Erestor’s face. “I am
unhappy with your behaviour today,” the counsellor declared very
calmly. “And I think you need to experience some discipline.”

Glorfindel’s eyes widened. He was unsure what Erestor’s idea of
discipline might prove to consist of; though he had always loved
Elrond’s three children dearly, he had been a strict tutor with them
and never tolerated misbehaviour in his lessons.

With a movement far faster than any elf who was merely a *scholar* had
any right to make, Erestor tripped Glorfindel, pushed him to the floor
and began to tickle the golden-haired warrior along his stomach and
flanks. Glorfindel bit his lip at first, not wanting to show his
weakness - he’d faced a *Balrog* for Elbereth’s sake, he shouldn’t be
incapacitated by a bit of tickling! - but when he started to choke on
his suppressed giggles, he had no choice but to release them out loud.
“Erestor, /daro/!” he protested.

“I don’t know about that. What’s in it for me? You’re in trouble,
remember.” As he spoke, Erestor finally showed some mercy and eased up
on the tickling. His face remained perfectly serious and composed.

“I’ll dedicate this entire evening to your pleasure,” Glorfindel tried,
leaning upwards to capture Erestor’s mouth with his, teasingly sucking
the counsellor’s lower lip. Whatever response Erestor might have made
never formed.

Glorfindel ran his tongue possessively round the inside of Erestor’s
teeth, enjoying the sensation of his lover’s wet hair where it fell
across his cheek and shoulders.

Eventually, Erestor placed firm hands on Glorfindel’s shoulders and
pushed him back down to the floor. “I accept your terms. So, did you
come in the bathroom only to watch me - for several minutes - or was
there another reason?”

“I didn’t realise you’d noticed I was there…” Erestor shook his head in
disbelief.

“This time, I wasn’t absorbed in work, was I? So?”

“Actually,” Glorfindel grinned. “I was going to ask whether you knew
anything about my wardrobe.”

“What about it?” The question was so convincingly innocent, Glorfindel
was almost taken in and was about to apologise for ever suspecting the
counsellor. Then he saw a ghost of a smile whisper briefly across the
rose-coloured lips, and knew he was being played with - again.

“Well, you see, you may or may not realise that my aquamarine robes,
and that lovely silver tunic with the plum coloured trim - you know,
the one you like - have mysteriously gone missing. Can you throw any
light on the situation?”

“I’m sure they're in safe hands,” Erestor answered noncommittally.

“Oh, /meleth/, you really are impossible. I think I indulge you too
often.” He frowned. “How do you think Lord Elrond would react if
several sets of his best clothes mysteriously disappeared from his
wardrobe, and his lover seemed to know rather more about it than he’d
say?” Glorfindel realised that his attempt at scolding was somewhat
reduced in its overall impact by the fact that he was currently lying
on his back on the cool tiles of the bathroom floor, and was being
pinned there very firmly by the very person who was supposed to be at
the receiving end of the telling-off. On top of which, Erestor’s robe
had only been belted at the waist and was coming open above the satin
sash to reveal a glorious expanse of milky, smooth skin. Glorfindel
would have liked nothing better at that moment on to cover the perfect
body with tender, adoring kisses and licks. He forced his desire under
control. “Does this have something to do with that business with
Rúmil?”

Erestor blinked innocently. Glorfindel could no longer resist those
wide, beautiful eyes, and with a deft movement, wriggled out of the
dark haired elf’s restraint so he could place butterfly kisses on both
of them. His fingers slid deep into the masses of wet hair, and he drew
back, holding Erestor’s head pinned between his hands. “Well?” the
warrior demanded, trying to feign sternness.

“Well…” Erestor repeated. “…I might have borrowed one or two of your
outfits…”

“Why?” Glorfindel was now far more curious than annoyed. Erestor’s
taste in clothes differed wildly from his; where Glorfindel selected
shades of azure, saffron and crimson, Erestor would go for black,
charcoal, deep maroon - or at best, muted pastels. And besides, few of
the Glorfindel’s clothes would even fit Erestor; the advisor was too
slender across the waist and shoulders.

“Will you be available to join the rest of the Last Homely House at
dinner tonight?” Erestor said sweetly. Glorfindel nodded, thinking that
his lover had hardly given an answer, but resigned himself to Erestor’s
characteristic evasiveness. “Ah, good.”

Translations:
daro - stop
meleth - love


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 3


Glorfindel turned up to dinner discreetly holding hands with Erestor,
their entwined fingers concealed by robes, wondering what in the name
of the Valar his lover had been alluding to before. He had reached the
conclusion that Erestor had, for some reason unknown to him, taken the
clothing to lend to another elf; and he would have gambled anything on
Arda that the elf in question was Rúmil. But the reason *why* remained
just as obscure.

He was correct. The young Silvan elf looked truly dazzling; the
aquamarine formal robes brought out the blue and green in Rúmil’s eyes
and made them sparkle like well-cut turquoises. His hair had been
braided and twisted with great attention to detail, and served to
accentuate his delicate features. If it weren’t for Erestor, perhaps
even Glorfindel might have been momentarily tempted by the Lórien
scout.

He and Erestor took their customary places near Lord Elrond, and
Glorfindel threw a casual glance at the gold cutlery in the hope that
the implements would tell him something of what to expect food-wise
tonight. They didn’t; there was no soup spoon, hence tonight, no soup,
but apart from that snippet of information, he could glean nothing. The
knives and forks were all of generic design and could be used for a
variety of dishes. He enjoyed this somewhat juvenile guessing game,
anticipating the dishes of the evening, whether they were cheese, fish,
roasts or casserole; he’d have another stab once the first course was
served. For the moment, though, he’d just have to wait and see.

Erestor, typically, ate in silence; Glorfindel, typically, took to
amusing himself by turning to Elrond and debating politics with the
Half-Elven Lord. However, the golden-haired Elda was also keeping a
discreet watch on Rúmil. The young Silvan elf seemed nervous and unsure
of himself, and kept throwing glances at, of all people, Faelon. If the
Imladris scholar noticed, he gave no obvious sign; but often when his
gaze wandered in Rúmil’s direction, he made an overt point of staring
through the Lórien visitor.

Glorfindel caught Erestor gazing at a dish of steamed vegetables, and
immediately passed it across; in return, his lover reached for the wine
and refilled the golden-haired warrior’s goblet. It was a fine but
heady wine, and although Glorfindel was far from drunk, he thought he
might appreciate some singing sometime soon.

***

Whatever explanation Erestor had given to Glorfindel to account for the
disappearance of some of the seneschal’s best robes, and their
subsequent reappearance on Rúmil, it seemed to have mollified him.
Glorfindel’s face showed only curiosity and - for a fraction of a
second, Rúmil was amazed to see - attraction, even if *that* had
disappeared a moment later. He relaxed and began to enjoy the meal.

He soon discovered Faelon was watching him. Not overtly; whenever
Rúmil’s eyes crossed to the dark-haired elf, he was either staring at
his plate or conversing soberly with one of the other counsellors
sitting nearby. Rúmil didn’t know whether to be pleased or
uncomfortable, and ended up compromising and feeling a combination of
both.

It was then that he saw that Faelon was sipping very sparingly at the
wine. Not carefully, as an elf would do when making absolutely sure he
did not accidentally become inebriated, but disapprovingly, as if he
did not agree with the choice of vintage. Faelon seemed to have a good
point; this wine could have benefited from being laid down another year
or two. However, Glorfindel had just been complementing Lord Elrond
with great enthusiasm on the selection; Faelon must have been reluctant
to contradict the seneschal and risk offending his Lord. Rúmil chuckled
to himself. He could see that, actually, the two elder elves were
drinking a different wine altogether, a white, when he and Faelon were
sipping a red. But as the goblets were inlaid mithril, Faelon, from
where he was sitting, would not be able to see the contents. He was
unaware that Glorfindel was loudly proclaiming the virtues of an
entirely different wine to the one he was drinking.

“Tell me,” Rúmil said to a servant as he laid another dish on the
table. “Is this red wine Lord Elrond’s selection, or that of his
vintner?”

The servant was momentarily taken aback. “Lord Elrond personally
recommended the white, sir, but I believe the vintners chose the red,
on the advice of a note he received today.”

“Curious. This wine is too young, you see, and does not complement some
of these dishes.”

The servant became flustered and apologetic, before Rúmil made a
placating hand gesture. “It doesn’t matter, no harm has been done.
Could you just instead open several bottles of the batch we brought
from Lórien? And send some to the elves over there - the ones wearing
indigo.” He pointed to the group around Faelon. “Say it comes highly
recommended from Lothlórien, and you hope they find it more to their
liking.”

The servant ran off to do as instructed; Rúmil looked once more,
longingly, at Faelon before returning to his food. As he did so, he
made brief eye contact with Erestor. The counsellor had not spoken to
anyone the entire meal, and did not now; nor did he smile. But Rúmil
saw the sparkle in the dark eyes, and wondered how much of his
conversation with the servant Erestor had ever heard, and how much the
advisor knew about it all.

***

Faelon looked up in surprise when a servant appeared, hovering at his
shoulder with an unopened bottle of wine. “I have been asked to open
this for you,” the elf explained. “It comes highly recommended from
Lórien, and I hope you should find it preferable to that which you were
drinking before.”

Faelon was intrigued. Surely, the servants hadn’t been watching him so
closely as to realise he wasn’t enjoying the first vintage? He had
deliberately not made a display of his disapproval, as it would hardly
do to slight Lord Elrond’s competence as a host in front of guests -
even if those guests probably wouldn’t know a good wine if it was
poured over their heads. But someone had ordered a better bottle for
him, and he remembered from his last visit to Lórien that Lady
Galadriel was personally fond of this one.

He thanked the servant and allowed a fresh crystal goblet to be half-
filled with the drink. Holding it up to the light, he took in the rich
colour, an intense burgundy like molten silk. The aroma was exquisite
and complex, oak and river air, dark plums and warm earth. And the
flavour was as exceptional as the scent had promised. Whoever ordered
this for him knew their wine; it was a perfect accompaniment to the
game dishes being served all around. He nodded his satisfaction to the
servant. “Please pass my gratitude to whoever sent this,” he instructed
with a subtle smile which he’d picked up from Erestor.

The servant dashed off, heading for some elves further down the table.
He leaned down to say something to one of the Silvan elves from Lórien
- Rúmil, in fact - before disappearing from the room. The servant was
busy tonight. Faelon wondered what Rúmil had wanted; he’d noticed the
sardonic raising of the young elf’s eyebrow as the servant spoke, and
wanted to know more of the exchange which had taken place.

Lost in thought, it took nearly a minute before Faelon realised he was
staring at Rúmil again, admiring the way his long locks shivered when
he laughed and the way his eyes glittered. Faelon was quite sure he’d
seen those robes before…the way the sheer surface reflected the play of
a nearby candle flame as Bruinen reflected Arien’s bright rays was
distinctly familiar. He remembered in an instant. But what in the name
of the Valar was Rúmil doing in Glorfindel’s robes?

“What in the name of the Valar is Rúmil doing in Glorfindel’s robes?”
muttered Melpomaen into his brother’s ear. Faelon jumped, shocked by
their identical thought patterns, until he remembered that he’d been
watching the Silvan elf so intently it was no surprise Melpomaen’s
attention had been drawn to him as well.

“Don’t ask me,” he answered curtly.

“It looks almost as if he’s trying to impress someone,” Melpomaen
mused. “I wonder who the lucky one is… If he’s got Glorfindel to co-
operate with him on it, he must be keen. And I must say, I think I envy
the object of his affection, just a little. He cleans up rather nicely,
don’t you think, brother?”

“It’s the fact that he needs cleaning up at all which puts me off.”

“Perhaps.” Melpomaen tilted his head thoughtfully. “Still…you *were*
looking.”

“Oh, come off it.” Faelon cursed himself for sounding so defensive. “I
was admiring the statue over there.”

“The one that’s been there for the last four hundred years?”

“Melpomaen.” The name was spoken with a mild but unmistakable warning.

“Suit yourself.” The elder brother returned to his food, leaving Faelon
to his thoughts. He sipped the wine again, appreciatively. Next time
the servant who had delivered it walked past, he beckoned the elf over.

“Did you pass on my thanks?” he asked without preamble.

“Of course, sir. I relayed your message as soon as you gave it to me.”

“But you went to speak to Rúmil.”

“Yes, sir.” The servant was well-trained enough not to look smug, but
his polite smile was perhaps just a little too polite.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 4


At first Faelon didn’t recognise the chief advisor hurrying down the
hallway, as only Erestor’s eyes were visible above the enormous pile of
books he was carrying. “Do you want a hand there?” he asked
courteously, pointing to the stack.

Erestor considered for a moment then accepted the offer. “I’m taking
them to Rúmil’s chambers - I found him in the library earlier, and he
asked me if I knew whether Lord Elrond had a complete set of Daeron’s
early compositions.”

Faelon knew that Elrond, but they were kept in the Master of Imladris’s
personal study. A complete set of the works was now a rare and valuable
asset. “I had some time,” Erestor continued, “so I thought I'd deliver
the books personally, as a favour to a guest.” It was surprising in
itself that Rúmil would be asking about such highbrow literary works.
*Or perhaps, considering the business with the wine last night, not so
surprising*. Faelon was beginning to feel that the Lórien envoy might
be worthy of further attention.

He took the top six volumes from Erestor’s arms, momentarily taken
aback with their not insignificant weight, and followed the counsellor
towards the guest quarters. It was a glorious day, with a refreshing
and good-natured breeze to offset the warm sunlight, yet Faelon was not
in the best of moods. Melpomaen had been teasing him about Rúmil,
*again*, until Faelon had practically had to escort his older brother
from the room. The worst thing was, he was starting to doubt himself
whether or not the other Elda had a point.

Erestor somehow managed to balance his books on one arm in order to
free up one hand to knock on Rúmil’s door, then entered. The Silvan elf
was not alone; he was in the middle of a chess game with his brother,
and when Faelon glanced at the board, it was obvious from the numbers
of pieces remaining that Haldir was losing.

“I’ve brought the books you asked for,” Erestor said brightly. “Where
would you like me to put them?” Rúmil did not look up from the board,
but indicated a nearby table, and the counsellor complied. Faelon saw
that if he were to add his own to those Erestor had placed on the small
table, it would result in a dangerously unstable column, so hesitated.

“Is there somewhere less precarious where I can leave these?” he asked
the room in general.

Rúmil’s head shot up with a small gasp. “F…Faelon? I wasn’t expecting
you.”

“I was merely assisting Erestor with these books,” he returned stiffly.

“Oh, yes, of course.” A flush rose in the young elf’s cheeks; his
distraction caused him to make a bad move in the game.

“Check,” Haldir declared lightly, placing one of his ebony pieces with
a carefree air.

Rúmil regained his concentration and captured his brother’s offending
piece, at the same time putting Haldir in check in turn. The elder
brother groaned. Erestor casually moved to Haldir’s side and whispered
something to the Silvan elf. The marchwarden’s defeated expression
became a calculating smirk. “Perhaps…” he breathed, and made his move.

Rúmil’s eyes grew wide as he watched Haldir remove his queen from the
board. “But…” His response was desperate and sacrificial, but protected
his king.

Erestor made another suggestion to Haldir which, judging by the smile
on the marchwarden’s face, he liked. The strategy was highly unorthodox
and both Rúmil and Faelon frowned. “That was rather risky,” the younger
elf commented, and took another of his brother’s pieces.

“Not so,” said Haldir coolly. He made his answer. “Check again.”

Rúmil’s eyebrows drew together to form a single line above his nose,
and Erestor’s eyes gleamed with triumph. Sighing obviously, Faelon
pulled up a padded stool beside the younger brother. “Two on one is
hardly a fair match, is it?” he said. “I suppose I’ll lend my aid.” He
intentionally put a facetious note in his voice, but Rúmil evidently
interpreted it as mocking.

He gave a look of disgust which was of a standard with one of Faelon’s
own. “I don’t need your help.” But he was clearly discouraged by
Erestor’s cunning strategy.

“He’s a wicked one for quiet moves,” Faelon advised, ignoring the
younger elf’s refusal. He knew from experience, having played the chief
advisor often enough, generally when Glorfindel got sick of being
beaten.

“Then he’ll set me up to lose that rook, won’t he?” Rúmil murmured
back, so softly it only carried to Faelon’s ears, and took his
brother’s last-but-one pawn

The counsellor gave a brief but scornful smile and turned once more to
Haldir. The Silvan elf looked at him aghast. “Surely it would be better
to…” Erestor shook his head.

“That’s what they *expect* you to do,” he argued reasonably.

“If it suits you. But it’s your fault if this doesn’t work.” The move
Haldir made had nothing to do with trying to capture Rúmil’s pivotal
rook.

Rúmil dealt Faelon a suspicious glance. “You said…”

Faelon gestured for the young elf to come to the window at the other
side of the room, affording them a small amount of privacy to talk. “I
said he liked quiet moves,” he whispered. “*You* said he’d go for the
rook.” Rúmil glanced across at the chief advisor. Erestor was
completely ignoring the two younger elves, seemingly absorbed in
straightening ornaments on a nearby shelf. “Listen to me,” Faelon
continued in an undertone. “He’s as cunning as any double-dealing Dwarf
or Man and a good deal more subtle. You won’t beat him by trying to
anticipate him. I know. I’ve tried.”

“Then what should I do?” Rúmil demanded, trying to sound challenging
but actually looking rather helpless.

“Play like you’ve never played before,” he replied. “Use your
instincts. Treat it like a real pitched battle. And remember, Elrond
wouldn’t have chosen him as chief counsellor if he wasn’t a brilliant
strategist.” He glanced back over at the game board, where the other
two elves were once more conferring. “Come, I’ll show you. I’ll play
the next couple of moves, and then you can take over.”

With immense joint effort, the two managed to stave off Erestor and
Haldir’s inevitable victory for a good two hours, at which point Haldir
came out with some unusual strokes of inspiration of his own, and
managed a checkmate with only four of his own pieces remaining. Faelon
suddenly realised the time and, thinking of the amount of work he still
had to do, excused himself. Haldir pleaded hunger and went to get a
bath and something to eat.

Erestor and Rúmil were left alone in the room. “Thank you for the
books,” the Silvan elf tried weakly.

“It was no problem. In fact, it resulted in an intriguing diversion,
don’t you think?” The younger elf nodded agreement. “And you managed to
get Faelon not only to pay attention to you, but to co-operate with you
for some time.”

“No,” Rúmil corrected. “You did that. You set the whole thing up from
the moment you started giving Haldir tips.”

“I may have started it, but you persuaded Faelon to ally with you. He
isn’t *naturally* as soft-hearted as, say, Glorfindel, you know. He
didn’t help you out of pure pity. He saw you had some real talent at
the game and recognised that, with some guidance, you had the potential
either to beat Haldir and me, or make us fight for the victory. I could
see he was impressed by your ability - that’s why his advice was so
vague and general rather than specific.”

“I impressed him? That’s impossible. He thinks of me in much the same
way as he thinks of Men - not very intelligent and something of an
embarrassment to be around.” Erestor was shaking his head.

“I suspect that wine episode of yours got him thinking, and along with
your reading preferences, it seems have convinced him to re-evaluate
you.”

“Yes - about the wine episode. You looked very knowing at dinner. Did
you have something to do with that?”

“I might have.”

“You did!” Rúmil laughed incredulously. “You set it up so we got an
inferior wine!”

“I might have,” the counsellor repeated.

Rúmil rolled his eyes. “I’ll find out,” he threatened.

Erestor didn’t seem especially intimidated. “I hope you enjoy the
books.”

“I am certain that I shall. But you know you didn’t have to bring all
of them. I only really wanted the first three.”

“If I brought only the first three, would Faelon have offered to help
carry them?”

“Oh. I see.”