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Part 5


“Lord Glorfindel?” The golden-haired seneschal turned from rechecking
his weapons for the fifth time at the sound of his name.

“Yes, Rúmil?”

“Do you know where Lord Erestor can be found?”

“Right now?” The younger elf nodded. “Probably in Lord Elrond’s study,
dealing with work which could quite happily wait until next month, next
year, or sometime after Arda is broken and remade. If the door’s ajar,
you can go straight in; if it’s shut he’ll be talking to Elrond and
they won’t appreciate the disturbance, so you’d have to wait. Is it
something I can help with?”

“I doubt it,” Rúmil replied. *Not unless you’re in on this whole plot*.
“But thank you for offering.”

“I offer out of concern, I assure you,” the Elda answered with a sly
grin. “Erestor doesn’t always take kindly to having his work
interrupted, even if he’s not doing something you or I would count as
important. Although you may be lucky - he does seem to have a soft spot
for you.”

“Aiya - Erestor hasn’t yet had to live and work with Rúmil for a couple
of millennia,” Haldir, who was walking past, added facetiously. “If he
had, maybe he’d think differently.”

“I’m not that bad!”

Haldir assumed a whining voice. “Oh, Haldir, we haven’t seen any orcs
for *three days*! I’m bored! Oh, Haldir, Orophin’s eaten twice his
ration of /lembas/! Oh, Haldir, I don’t like this /talan/; it’s lumpy
and so uncomfortable! Aye, brother, of course you’re not that bad.”

Rúmil swatted his elder brother. Glorfindel interceded before the
argument stopped being playful. “I think you’d better stop now. I have
enough problems with those Peredhel twins, without having to cope with
you two as well! And this sortie’s going to take some time.” The two
Silvan elves fell into line without further protest at the rebuke from
their elder, Rúmil glancing around anxiously to ensure Faelon was
nowhere nearby to witness him being treated like an elfling. But of
course, he wouldn’t be. What would a scholar want near the weapons
stores?

So when he passed Faelon in the hallway literally ten seconds later, he
was distinctly perplexed. The Noldorin elf was clutching a sheaf of
papers and striding purposefully towards the weapons stores which Rúmil
had just left. He did not react to the Silvan elf in any way. Rúmil’s
heart sank, but he willed himself to believe that Faelon was simply
preoccupied with some important matter of administration relating to
the outgoing patrol. He remained unconvinced.

***

Faelon didn’t have to visit the stores in person; he could just have
easily sent a message down there to the elf in charge, asking for a
list of everything in there at the moment. He still hadn’t found out
where those arrows had gone.

But some curious urge caused him to head down there himself, and he
reacted with bemused displeasure when passing Rúmil in the hallway gave
him a mildly uplifting sensation. This was ridiculous. Just because the
Silvan elf could play chess and read Daeron’s ballads didn’t suddenly
make him interesting. And worse was the fact that Faelon had actually
stopped, turned, and found himself admiring the sway of the
marchwarden’s slender hips as he disappeared off on whatever business
he was attending to.

***

Rúmil found the door to Elrond’s study slightly open so, following
Glorfindel’s advice, entered. Erestor was not seated at the desk, but
stood by the bookcase leafing through a well-kept volume on Second Age
history. He gazed at the intruder over the edge of the pages through
inscrutable eyes. “Is there something you want?”

Rúmil suddenly felt very silly. He shifted his weight from foot to
foot, and finally blurted out, “I’m leaving in just a few hours, and
Faelon’s still not showing any interest in me!” His shoulders slumped
miserably. “What can I do?”

Erestor sighed heavily. “You leave tomorrow morning, correct?”

“At dawn.”

“I told you Faelon was difficult. There’s still a chance, but you can’t
expect an instant response. It’s more of a medium-term tactic; you’ll
have to wait to see results.”

“All right.” He would have agreed to anything if it allowed him to
cling to the strand of hope which insisted Faelon might still accept
him.

“You need to find out when Faelon’s begetting day is. You could try
talking to Melpomaen. No-one else I’ve asked seems to know. It’s not as
if, on one specific day every year without fail, he undergoes any
noticeable personality change, so I’m certain it’s not that he’s trying
to forget his begetting day for whatever reason; presumably he just
hasn’t thought to tell anyone else the date. Then drop a message off at
the kitchens, and tell them that on that date, they are to prepare a
special surprise for him from you. What that surprise is, I’ll leave to
your imagination - after all, it is you who is courting him, not me.
Remember what I told you before?”

“He loves blackberries, and his favourite flower is /elanor/. I can
manage all that…”

Erestor held up a hand. “I’m not finished yet. Faelon, at the moment,
has a small but annoying problem which he’s supposed to solve, but his
success so far has been…well, non-existent.” He described how the
inventory and requisition lists over the last six months failed to
match up, how nearly fifty arrows had gone missing from the stores. “If
you could track them down, he - and I - would be very grateful.”

“Have you asked the twins? Perhaps they decided to hold an archery
contest, or maybe they’ve been sneaking out on midnight orc-slaying
patrols.” He’d got to know the Peredhil slightly over the course of his
stay, and was now well aware of their impulsive natures. But Erestor
shook his head.

“That was the first thing I thought of. They knew nothing about it.”

“And you think I’ll be able to solve this?”

“I trust your resourcefulness.”

***

Rúmil had left his message in the kitchens, feeling very pleased with
himself and quite sure that Faelon wouldn’t be able to deny his
thoughtfulness. But moving on to the second problem, he remained
stumped, and it was getting on towards early evening. He had a matter
of hours to solve a problem which had been vexing Faelon for days.

He wearily made his way back to his rooms, envisioning the welcome
sight of a steaming bath and the soft sheets of his bed. He needed them
to help him forget about his troubles. Erestor thought he was so great,
but what did he know…?

As he passed the library, he overheard voices, one of them raised and
getting more and more heated by the moment. The other, he identified as
Glorfindel’s; the seneschal sounded patient yet bored, as if they had
been arguing in circles for some time. “Tellumiel, no, and again, no.
You are *not* accompanying the party south. I’m not risking it.”

“You think I’m incapable!” she shot back. Rúmil, aware he was
committing something of an indiscretion, pressed his ear to the door so
as to be able to hear the exchange properly. He knew full well why
Tellumiel wanted to come; ever since he and Haldir had come to
Imladris, the elfmaid had been besotted with his brother. Haldir
revelled in the attention, saying she’d been like this with him for
years. Rúmil thought she was being very childish, especially the way
she glared at anyone else who even so much as asked Haldir for a dance
at feasts, and *especially* at those who were accepted.

“No, I think you’re inexperienced. You’re untested in battle, and I
don’t know how you’ll react. I have no idea of your capabilities, so
I’d be likely to put you in danger by assigning you inappropriate
tasks. If you’re really serious about becoming a patrol rider, I can
arrange for you to go out with one of the regular border patrols
sometime. Then, if you find yourself out of your depth or you’re
confronted with a new situation, backup is close at hand and not so
much will ride on the outcome of your decisions.” He paused. “You know,
I had an almost identical conversation with the twins when they were
about your age.”

“You never object to their patrols!”

A groan. “I did at the time. Elrond and I agreed to make them wait. I’m
doing the same now with you. But Tellumiel, you are not going on *this*
patrol. It’s too late to start making plans for additional riders now,
anyway.”

“So you’re saying no?” The young elfmaid sounded desperately
disappointed.

“For now, yes, I am saying no. In future, maybe I’ll change my mind.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I still have preparations to attend to.”
Rúmil moved away from the door so as not to look suspicious, and
affected ignorance of the exchange as the seneschal left the library.
“Oh, hello, Rúmil. Have you any idea what’s got into Tellumiel today?
She’s suddenly started acting as if her inclusion is essential to the
successful completion of our patrol. She even claims to have been
practising her archery in secret over the last year!”

“Maids, honestly - there’s no logic to them,” Rúmil agreed, then
paused. “Practising her archery?” The pieces clicked into place. He was
halfway down the hallway before he’d taken another breath, leaving a
bemused Glorfindel staring after him.

“It’s not just maids who have no logic,” the golden-haired warrior
sighed to himself, shaking his head. “It’s youngsters. All of them.”

***

Rúmil stopped outside the study, realising he couldn’t just charge in
there, proclaiming that he had the answers to all Faelon’s problems.
How was he to approach the subject? An idea tentatively formed in his
mind, and he ran back to the weapons stores, to return a few minutes
later clutching a slender arrow fletched with pure white feathers. This
would require a little prevarication, but he thought he’d get away with
it, assuming Faelon was really just a scholar and not a scout.

He took a deep breath and knocked. Faelon’s voice from inside called
for him to enter. The Noldorin elf looked up curiously as Rúmil stepped
over the threshold, and his expression hardened. “What could you
*possibly* want?” he asked tetchily.

“I discovered my arrows were running short - Haldir and I had a run-in
with a small group of angry Dunlendings on the way here and it used up
a lot of arrows.” That part, at least, was true. “So I went to collect
more from the stores and found they were almost out of these, the kind
I use.” He held up the arrow he’d brought. Faelon had better not notice
that it was far too short and light to be any use with Rúmil’s tall
Lórien bow… It was, however, a perfect size and weight for a less
experienced elf still accustoming himself - or equally herself - to the
weight of a proper longbow. “The weapons master said you had all the
inventory lists at the moment, so I should come to you to find out if
there are any more around anywhere.”

Faelon frowned, and swallowed. “Unfortunately, there aren’t…”

Rúmil timed his interruption so perfectly as to look natural. “But I’ve
been asking around, and I found out Tellumiel keeps two whole quivers
full!”

“Does she?” The spark of triumph in Faelon’s eyes was unmistakable.
“What does *she* want with arrows?”

“I wondered that, too. Until I heard she’s been practising her archery
skills in secret so she’d be able to prove to Lord Glorfindel that
she’s good enough to join his patrols.”

Faelon’s expression alternated relief and satisfaction. Yet his
ingrained Imladris manners prevailed. “Rúmil - you’ve just solved a
problem which has been bothering me for some time. I have to admit I
owe you.” He dropped his voice and actually smiled in a conspiratorial
fashion. “If you hadn’t come to me today, I imagine Erestor would be
throwing me in the Bruinen a few days from now for failing to explain
why the stores don’t have as many arrows as they’re supposed to.”

Rúmil returned the smile. “Just promise me you won’t be too harsh on
Tellumiel. She might have caused you all this trouble, but she was just
being a silly young elfmaid who wanted to impress someone.” The
parallel struck him at that moment; he and Tellumiel were both striving
towards that same goal. He just hoped he would have more success than
she’d had.


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


Part 6


Rúmil was amused to discover that Glorfindel had evidently seen the
merit in Erestor’s strategy for dealing with the orcs and, instead of
heading southwest, the group rode almost due south. Lord Elrond had
been in contact with Lady Galadriel and she had promised to send more
elves from Lórien, who would travel with due haste through Nanduhirion
and past Caradhras - at this time of year, an elven company could
travel that route if they were well-equipped and provisioned.

They would meet in the foothills of the Misty Mountains and, from
there, track down the orcs and deal with them. Rúmil rode tirelessly.
After the sojourn in Imladris, however brief it had been, he was glad
to be free to move through the bright, expansive woodlands and gallop
across endless open plains. On the journey to Imladris, he’d been
nervous when he and Haldir had first emerged from the tree cover and
had set off across the exposed moorland. It had taken most of the first
day before he’d got over the initial sense of agoraphobia and learned
to appreciate the wild beauty of open spaces. And within two days,
they’d found a special place in his heart. He knew he’d now always love
listening to the wind whistling through the heather, watching lapwings
performing elaborate aerial acrobatics high above his head, gazing out
across leagues and leagues of undulating purple-green land. Yes, as a
Silvan elf of Lórien his soul would always reside among the towering
mellyrn in the Golden Wood, but now he also understood that trees were
not the only beauty to be found in Middle-Earth.

Glorfindel’s laughter carried on the breeze as Asfaloth fearlessly
leaped over a wide brook. For a while they could forget the gravity of
the quest and enjoy the journey. If only Faelon was here, with them,
instead of sitting hunched over some book in Elrond’s library. But that
wasn’t fair - Faelon had chosen his path and, if he genuinely enjoyed
his books, which he seemed to, Rúmil had no right to impose his own
preferences on the Noldorin scholar.

***

Some months later

Faelon awoke to the sound of the dawn chorus, with warm, pale light
falling across his face. Today would be a good day. He’d been left in
charge of translating some historical records from Gondor and
translation was one of his favourite tasks. As a result, he was feeling
very pleasantly disposed towards the world.

He was halfway to being dressed before he realised that today was also
his begetting day. And it was then that he spied the cake. It was
enormous, three-tiered, decorated with pinkish-purple icing and fresh
blackberries. Blackberries - his favourite. But who on Arda had sent
this? He crossed the room to examine the cake more closely.

The lower tier also had tiny white bramble flowers arranged around the
edge; the overall effect was very pretty, and clearly much time and
effort had gone into it. A small card rested against the engraved
silver tray on which the cake was presented. Faelon picked it up,
turning it over in his hands and noting the gold-embossed lettering and
decorative borders. He read the message aloud:

“Best wishes on your begetting day. I hope you enjoy yourself. Rúmil.”

Rúmil!? How had *he* found out? Nonetheless, the gesture was touching -
and when he cut a generous slice of the cake for breakfast a few
minutes later, he discovered it to be very good indeed. It had a sweet
and fruity jam filling which oozed out everywhere and made his fingers
sticky. This was no token gesture.

But this was just the first surprise. When he entered the study where
his translations awaited, he found it festooned with garlands of
flowers. More bramble briars, of a strange thornless variety, wreathed
the door, and little posies of…of /elanor/ stood at each corner of the
desk. The scent was it exquisite. And a second card, on top of the
other papers, said, “Thinking of you.”

He sent down, shaking his head. Rúmil had left Imladris months ago. The
Silvan elf must have arranged all of this before his departure - what
had caused him to be so thoughtful? Such an elaborate set-up suggested
this was more than just a passing crush. Sighing, Faelon pushed the
matter from his mind and got to work.

The day got better; Erestor was unusually mellow all morning and
professed satisfaction with the fruit of the younger elf’s labours.
What a glorious day this was turning out to be! The chief adviser even
added that, if Faelon wanted to finish early, the remaining work could
wait. “Go for walk, enjoy the day. The woods are beautiful at this time
of year.”

Melpomaen, on the hand, was his usual self - and had completely
forgotten his brother’s begetting day. Faelon didn’t bother reminding
him - the last thing he wanted was a frantic fuss being made over him
and for Melpomaen to attempt to obtain a decent gift on short notice.
So he settled for enjoying the good food at dinner and joining
Melpomaen in trying to coax Lord Elrond to sing for them. The Peredhel
eventually relented, and performed some popular ballads in his deep,
rich voice. Some other elves also offered to provide music and the Hall
of Fire was a lively place that evening.

As they headed back to their rooms, Melpomaen cleared his throat
nervously. “Faelon?”

“Yes?”

“It was your begetting day today, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“I forgot. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry, brother. You know I haven’t been bothered about it since
I was an elfling.”

“Yes, but it’s nice when someone remembers.”

“Yes, Melpomaen, it is.” He smiled distractedly.

“It’s odd that I should forget - do you remember that Silvan elf who
was here a few months ago?”

“Haldir?” Faelon asked, deliberately avoiding mentioning Rúmil if he
could.

“No, the younger one - Rúmil. He got talking to me the night before he
left on the patrol. It was very odd. He acted as though he just wanted
to make casual small-talk, but I noticed after a few minutes he kept
steering the conversation towards me and my family. And especially you.
And at one point he had me telling him the dates of all our begetting
days - mine, yours, our parents’ - even some of our cousins! You’d
think after that, I’d be able to remember, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes,” Faelon agreed, without really listening. “Yes, you would.”

***

Faelon had a short-term relationship with one of Glorfindel’s scouts
during the subsequent months, a good-natured elf who served along the
northern borders. But he broke it off after only a brief time, when it
occurred to him that unconsciously or otherwise, he’d chosen an elf who
reminded him strikingly of Rúmil, both physically and in character.

Increasingly during the day, he found himself staring at the large map
of Lórien pinned to the wall of the study and wondering what was going
on in the Golden Wood. Was Rúmil still thinking about him? And why did
he, a Noldorin elf living hundreds of miles away in Imladris, care?

“Faelon, you are persistently distracted and this transcript of
yesterday’s meeting is full of mistakes. One of the junior scribes
could have done a better job. You’re supposed to save me time, not make
me waste more double-checking every document you submit to me.” Erestor
glared at him across the desk.

“I’m sorry. I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

“Faelon, there are more orcs around every day. The shadow deepens all
the time. Everyone in Middle-Earth has a lot on their mind with that
kind of threat hanging over us.”

Faelon, abashed, realised the counsellor had a good point. Here he was,
angsting over his love life - and when had Rúmil begun to count as his
‘love life’ anyway? - when there were so many evil creatures making
trouble all around. “You’re right. My work has been substandard lately.
I’ll make up for it - that, and more - I promise.”

“Not good enough,” Erestor snapped impatiently. Then he paused, and
narrowed his eyes enigmatically. “I think you need a change of scenery.
As you are aware, Lord Elrond is sending me on a diplomatic mission to
Lórien in six days.” Faelon actually looked down at his stomach when he
felt it flutter as Erestor said the word ‘Lórien’.

“Of course.” He’d come alarmingly close to approaching the chief
advisor and asking if he might be permitted to accompany him on the
trip, before reason had won out and it had occurred to him just how
desperate that made him look.

“I want you to come with me. I could use an assistant, and it will
provide you with an opportunity to prove that in spite of your recent
performance, you are still an excellent scribe, an accurate translator
and a gifted administrator.”

“I’m…really?” Erestor’s curt nod made the compliments seem more like
accusations. “I’d be honoured to accompany you. Who else is coming?”

“Glorfindel had volunteered to escort us himself. I think he will also
assign some of his scouts to us - perhaps Tellumiel, that youngster
he’s been training recently.” Faelon frowned as he thought back to the
elfmaid’s exploits. It had emerged that she’d been sneaking out to
practise archery for several weeks before the Lórien envoy had arrived,
succeeding in avoiding being seen by any Imladris’s residents the
entire time. Thinking of Tellumiel reminded him of Rúmil all over
again. “There will be plenty of work for you in Lórien, so you will be
busy. I won’t tolerate inefficiency.”

“I will be a model of efficiency,” Faelon assured him. He meant it -
the more quickly he got through whatever tasks Erestor had in mind for
him, the more time he would have to explore Lórien, and perhaps run
across a certain Silvan elf in the process…

***

“This is not the best route,” Erestor declared, drawing back the hood
of his cloak as their horses retreated under the trees away from the
torrents of rain. It was as if Ulmo had decided to relocate all Arda’s
oceans to the sky, without considering a way of keeping them there.

“It’s the shortest,” Glorfindel replied. He slung his cloak over the
saddle-pommel and nonchalantly shook the water from the tips of his
hair.

“Not if we have to stand around in this copse for the next hour waiting
for the rains to stop.”

“We don’t. The track ahead is gritty and free-draining - if we go
carefully, we can make good time even in this weather. And after a
mile, it meets a ridge which offers some shelter.”

“Going via the forest would have been a far better idea,” Erestor said,
refusing to give in so easily.

Glorfindel sidled up to the chief advisor until the two horses’
shoulders were touching, and brushed his lover’s cheek with two
fingers. “You’ll dry off, /meleth/. And you’ll thank me for this when
we reach Lórien nearly a day sooner.” Erestor didn’t look convinced.
“You’ve hardly left Imladris in the last half a century, /penvain/.
Leave the route-planning decisions to me.” He’d almost been tempted to
give in to Erestor earlier and take the longer, drier route through the
trees, purely for the sake of spending more time with his beloved, but
instead concluded that it would be far more rewarding to press on, and
instead be together in a comfortable /talan/ in Lórien.

He addressed the whole party, which besides him and Erestor consisted
of Faelon and two armed scouts. “Let’s have a brief stop here, and
carry on in a short while.” He would have said, “and carry on when the
rain eases off,” but suspected the odds of that happening any time soon
were extremely low.

As soon as Erestor dismounted he seized his lover’s hand and steered
him towards a large oak tree growing nearby. There, he sat down on the
moist, springy moss, pulling Erestor down with him, encouraging the
counsellor to lean against him. Trapped between the rough tree trunk
and a wet Erestor, he was perfectly content. His hands felt their way
to the fastening on his lover’s cloak and he removed it, squeezing as
much water out of it as he could, watching the drops bounce as they hit
the earth beside them. The hood had kept most of Erestor’s hair dry,
but the ends, where they’d escaped from under the rim, were damp and
tangled. He used a dry corner of his own cloak to towel-dry them,
smoothed them into place with the rest of the raven mane. His own hair
went wavy when it got wet, but Erestor’s hung perfectly straight, no
matter what. Yet another contrast between them, he supposed.

Faelon was looking, if it was possible, even more miserable than
Erestor. Elven cloaks might be waterproof, but he still gave the
appearance of being utterly bedraggled. It was daft, really - when the
soft, warm rain fell in Imladris, no-one objected, and, in fact, almost
everyone enjoyed it. Elflings would run barefoot on the grass, and even
older, supposedly more dignified elves would stand out in the downpour,
water trickling down their faces, singing joyful songs to the restless
skies. Yet if the weather ever had the audacity to interrupt a journey,
or arrive without due warning…

Glorfindel smiled and beckoned Faelon over; the younger elf clearly
wanted some company, but was reluctant to intrude upon the lovers’
private moment. He seated himself a short distance away and pulled out
a flask of /miruvor/. “Do you want some?” he offered, holding it out.

The elder elves refused politely, and Faelon took a few sips before
putting it away again. They rested for a few minutes before Erestor
stood up and approached his horse again. Opening one of the saddlebags,
he produced a clean, dry cloak.

Glorfindel shook his head. Erestor hadn’t mentioned he had a second
riding cloak when the golden-haired Elda had been wringing out the
first one earlier. Trust him to be awkward. Trust him to be well-
prepared. Glorfindel supposed it wasn’t really a surprise, considering
he knew how much his lover hated travelling in wet clothes.

Faelon glanced somewhat longingly at the thick, dry fabric; and when
Erestor shook out a third cloak, even Glorfindel was amazed. “So you
have changes of clothes for Lórien, food for the journey, paper, ink,
quill pens, sand and everything else you’ll need once you’re there,
*plus* a seemingly inexhaustible supply of riding cloaks, all packed
into those tiny bags?” he asked.

Erestor nodded. “It’s just a matter of packing carefully.”

“Even careful packing can’t make bags bigger on the inside than the
outside,” Glorfindel muttered.

He was glad he didn’t mind the rain nearly as much as the two scholars.
“You know, we could break here and stop overnight,” he suggested, as he
watched Erestor steel himself to brave the weather outside. “There’s
only a couple of hours of daylight left.”

“Even the trees here don’t keep all the water away,” was the scornful
reply. “We are going to get wet, whatever we do, and I daresay we shall
remain that way until we reach Lórien. The sooner we leave, the sooner
we’ll arrive somewhere civilised.” Erestor shrugged the cloak closer
around his slender shoulders and mounted up again.

Glorfindel realised that the chief advisor’s action had prompted the
two guards to prepare for departure as well, which was vaguely
irritating as *he* was meant to be in charge of the party for the
duration of the journey. “Check the horses’ legs for any cuts or
grazes,” he called across to them. “They’ve all stumbled in the mud at
some point over the last few hours.”

The scouts’ horses were not hurt, but Faelon found a small wound on the
heel of his mare’s forefoot. “It looks as if her hind hoof struck her
fore pastern when she slipped on that slope just before noon,”
Glorfindel concluded thoughtfully. He applied some salve from his
medical supplies, and examined the cut for any sign of infection. “I’d
prefer to bandage it, but with the mud and the rain, it’d be off in a
matter of minutes. Keep an eye on it, and tell me if she seems to be
suffering any discomfort.”

Asfaloth, who seemed to find the scholars’ misery as amusing as
Glorfindel did, trotted over to the Elda of his own accord, and nudged
him in the shoulder. “You want to get going?” he asked the stallion
lightly. “Very well then.” At the golden warrior’s command, the party
emerged once more into the rain and headed westwards along the stony
path.

***

The downpour continued, and they rode close to the cliff, clinging to
the small amount of shelter it provided. The horses skidded in the mud
with increasing frequency, so all five elves were relieved when the
earth at the cliff’s foot gave way once more to free-draining rocky
ground and gravel. The horses disliked the rough surface, but the
footing was better as the ground was level and firm.

Glorfindel had been correct when he’d promised the cliff would shelter
them somewhat; the wind was blowing from the mountains to the
northwest, and they were protected from the worst as they passed along
the track which ran at the base of the southeast-facing overhang.
Still, everyone had to squint against the rain and almost shout to be
heard above the noise of hooves, the bells on the headstalls, the rain
on the rocks and the gusts of air which swirled and whistled through
cracks in the cliff face. Glorfindel hummed to himself, still
apparently unperturbed by the weather, occasionally shaking water
droplets from his hair as a hound will shake itself off after swimming
in a river. He chatted amicably with the guards and his fair skin
seemed to glow in the fading light as water droplets ran over his
forehead and cheeks. Erestor, by comparison, became quieter and
quieter, seldom initiating conversation and retreating further into the
confines of his hood.

Faelon concluded that he may as well make the best of the situation; he
was now so wet, he couldn’t see any way in which he could become any
wetter, and stopped worrying about it. Instead, he observed the
surroundings. He began to appreciate the obscure beauty of the dripping
landscape, marvelling at the way Arda seemed to revive under /menel/'s
moist touch. The vegetation smelled pleasantly wet and fresh and, after
the long period of dry weather, wilted plants breathed once more and
swelled with new life. As the evening drew in, and the persistent rain
lessened slightly, nimble bats could be discerned flitting against the
darkening sky, whilst rustling in nearby bushes hinted of other
nocturnal comings and goings.

His reverie was cruelly broken by a cluster of rocks tumbling down from
above and Asfaloth’s irritated snort as the stallion jumped sideways to
avoid getting hit. Glorfindel backed his mount up, both to escape the
heavy chunks of stone and to get a good look at what was going on. The
other five riders followed suit, putting a good thirty feet of open
land between them and whatever had taken a disliking to their presence.
“Yrch,” Erestor and Glorfindel spat at the same time.

Sure enough, savage orc faces leered at them from the top of the cliff.
There was a harsh grating noise of heavy objects being moved, and
several huge boulders suddenly appeared up there as well. “Get back!
Get back out of range!” Glorfindel yelled to the others as he pressed
Asfaloth into a controlled gallop, wary of the terrain when visibility
was generally so poor. He only pulled up when there was no chance that
the boulders which the orcs were rolling off the cliff-edge would be
able to reach them.

Faelon glanced back as he halted near the golden-haired warrior, only
to discover that the orcs, seemingly not content with anything less
than a kill, were now swarming down the cliff face, finding far more
handholds and footholds than there had any right to be. “They’re
pursuing!” he warned the seneschal.

Glorfindel didn’t answer, but Asfaloth sprang forwards under him once
more and, half-turning in the saddle, he waved for the others to
follow. The ground disappeared under the horses’ hooves as they tried
to put breathing distance between them and the orcs, but as she veered
sharply to avoid a rock partly hidden by ferns, Faelon’s horse stumbled
and broke into an unsteady trot, favouring the already injured foreleg.
Glorfindel, hearing the younger elf’s shrill curse, slowed as well. He
let Faelon catch him up and, without losing his seat or altering
Asfaloth’s stride, somehow lit a torch and held it up so the light
would illuminate the other horse’s lame leg. “Bleeding,” he said,
glancing over his shoulder. “Thank the Valar for the horses’ speed - we
still have time.” Erestor and the guards fell into stride alongside
them a moment later; the counsellor frowned as he saw the injury.

“There’s a river ahead,” he said. “It’s wide, and deep - except for a
narrow ford. Do you know it?” he asked Glorfindel. The seneschal
nodded. “If we can get across without them following us to the ford, it
could take them hours to find another way across - enough time for us
to reach Lórien’s borders. ”

“As I recall, you have to push through a lot of thick scrub to reach
that ford,” Glorfindel said, the spitting torch flame throwing odd
patterns of light and shadow across his patrician features. “You and
Faelon have all the important documents. You two ride on. We’ll buy you
time; we’ll catch you up later. ”

“/Meleth/…” Faelon raised an eyebrow at the offhanded way Erestor used
the endearment. He knew about Erestor’s relationship with the golden
Elda, but Elrond’s chief adviser seldom used such an intimate address
to his lover in public. “If you’re staying behind, I’m not leaving
you.”

“We can handle it,” Glorfindel answered confidently. “The papers need
to reach Lórien.”

“I can transfer mine across to Faelon. Four of us stand a better chance
than three against all those orcs.” As he spoke, he drew a long, thin
knife from his robes and carved an experimental arc through the air.

“Someone has to go with Faelon to show him the way, “ Glorfindel
countered, seemingly unimpressed by the skill with which the scholar
handled the blade. “You have time if you go now. You *must* reach
Lórien. Go!” As if to emphasise his point, he directed an urgent,
“/Noro lim/!” at Erestor’s horse and, stringing his bow, promptly
issued the same command to Faelon’s mount. “Trust her; she’ll get you
there!” he shouted at the younger elf’s back. “She’ll gallop on a lame
leg if it’ll save her life!”

Faelon felt guilty for leaving Glorfindel and the guards to face the
orcs alone, even if it was only a smallish band. But, he realised as he
tried to sit lightly, attempting to ignore his horse’s bobbing head and
uneven steps, he was no warrior and would most likely just prove a
liability. And the documents he carried, triple-wrapped in waterproof
cloth, *had* to reach the Lord and Lady of the Wood. The diagrams,
reports and contracts contained within the sealed packages could not
simply be relayed by Elrond Far-Speaking with Galadriel or Celeborn.

He followed Erestor, who seemed to have a very exact idea of where he
was going, keeping the counsellor’s bay mare always in sight. Erestor
led him into a patch of dense thornbushes, bracken and thick shrubbery,
further hindering his lame mount’s progress. He whispered words of
encouragement to her, begging for more speed; he could almost smell the
orcs behind them. He earnestly prayed Glorfindel and his men were
distracting enough of them.

The twigs all seemed to be trying to grab him, tugging at his cloak and
leggings, overhanging branches snagging his hair and pulling his braids
apart. A thick bough appeared at the same level as his head, thudding
into his skull and causing him to inhale raggedly in pain. The night
was no longer starless, as several were bursting before his eyes. He
rubbed his head and felt torn skin and sticky blood.

Then the ground dropped sharply away and his horse skidded down a muddy
slope to land with a splash in water up to her fetlocks. “Keep in a
straight line,” Erestor’s voice drifted to him in the semi-darkness.
“Don’t falter, as the water runs deep both sides of the causeway. Ride
straight - and hurry!”

Faelon glanced at the water, which looked black in the twilight, and
saw that the surface was smooth and calm; it was indeed a deep river,
and probably had a strong current as well. But his logic informed him
that if Erestor called from ahead, the advisor had crossed the river
safely, and therefore the ford really did exist and was passable. He
urged his mount forwards. Should Lady Uinen decide she still held a
grudge against Noldorin elves now… But the causeway dropped no lower,
and his mare picked her way carefully to the far bank. He sighed with
relief as the water gave way to solid ground again, but before he could
reflect further, Erestor’s voice was coaxing them onwards again.

***

Glorfindel was not fond of night encounters, especially when orcs were
involved. They were truly creatures of darkness, with better night
sight even then elves’. At least he could locate them by sound - and,
to some extent, smell. They were not the most stealthy of creatures,
especially in lands like this, where all the plants and animals
despised them, and would make no attempt to ease their passage.

Fortunately, the odds were not bad; the elven company were only
outnumbered sixteen to three; or sixteen to six if he counted the
horses, who would loyally aid their riders wherever they could.

They peppered the oncoming orcs with arrows, but soon had to abandon
their bows when the orcs got too close for arrows to be properly
effective any longer. As a Noldorin elf and a former captain of
Gondolin, Glorfindel’s weapon of choice was the sword rather than the
bow anyway, so he was all too glad to sling the long, slender arc of
wood across his back and draw his blade instead. The battlecry that
leaped from his lips was a name familiar to every elf in Imladris, and
most in Middle Earth - an elf who had once been Glorfindel’s closest
friend. “Ecthelion!”(1)

Sharp teeth sank into his shin, and he cut downwards, cleaving an ugly
skull in two. On the upstroke, he twisted and opened up the ribcage of
another hideous creature who was trying to sneak up on him from behind.
A third fell to the ground, gurgling wetly and coughing up bloody
froth, when Asfaloth lashed out with a powerful hind hoof. Arrows sang
in delight; one of the scouts had repositioned himself so he could
shoot at the orcs again; the slim bolts sliced first through the damp
air and slanting raindrops, then through orc-flesh. The fight was over
quickly.

“I suppose we ought to do something with the corpses,” Glorfindel
remarked, wiping his sword off on a clump of grass. He was largely
unhurt; his only concern was the bite on his leg, which could well be
poisoned from those disgusting yellow fangs. He’d better clean it up
before they moved on. His companions were both covered with a fair
amount of blood, but he could smell even at this distance that it was
not their own. One of the elves was favouring his right side a little,
but made no complaint; nothing urgent, then.

He was more than grateful for the rainstorm now, as it served to
cleanse him of much of the sense of contamination which clung to every
square inch of his skin. He avoided touching the bodies if possible,
gingerly kicking them into an irreverent pile to one side of the track.
It would take a wizard to get this soaking wet mound ablaze…

When they left the battleground, the corpses were certainly not ablaze
- they smouldered sullenly, sending great plumes of hissing black smoke
spiralling up in reeking columns into the night. Glorfindel buried his
nose in the collar of his cloak and curled his lip in revulsion.
Extending all his senses forwards instead, he felt for the aura of
light and power which signalled that they neared the welcome borders of
the Golden Wood. He smiled faintly; it wasn’t far now, thank the Valar.
Asfaloth knew they were nearly there, too, and quickened his pace.

***

“/Daro/!” Two Silvan marchwardens dropped from the trees, arrows
pointed squarely at Faelon’s chest. Looking ahead, he saw Erestor had
been similarly challenged.

“I’m a member of the envoy from Imladris,” he said hastily, stressing
‘Imladris’. “I believe we are expected?”

The arrows were lowered a few inches, but the bowstrings remained taut.
“You’re injured, and your horse is lame,” the leader commented coolly.

Faelon dabbed at his forehead self-consciously with an already stained
sleeve. “She stumbled; we’ve had to flee a band of orcs in a hurry.”

“Only one band? An uneventful journey here, then.” A trace of wry
humour crept into the elf’s voice. “At least we begin to see proof that
the joint venture of six months ago was successful. Come; you were
right, you are expected. You may refresh yourselves at our company’s
/talan/ tonight, and we shall escort you to see the Lord and Lady
tomorrow.”

“Is it far?” Faelon asked, worried about his mare’s heaving flanks. He
dismounted and ran a concerned hand down her arching neck.

“The company’s main /talan/ is another hour’s walk from here; but our
captain, Haldir, won’t be there. He’s challenged his brother to a
poetry contest to pass the hours until their watches begin and they’ve
commandeered a smaller /talan/ further to the east for tonight.” The
mild envy which tinged the elf’s voice hinted that he, too, would
sooner be among their company than out here this night.

Faelon felt a flame of hope igniting and growing within him. “Haldir is
your captain?”

“You know him? Aiya, but he was in Imladris a short time ago, was he
not?”

“Aye, with his brother, Rúmil.” Faelon heard how his voice cracked as
he pronounced the name.

“Faelon, what *are* you doing?” Erestor wound his way though the trees
towards the younger elf, leading his horse by the bridle and looking
thoroughly exasperated. “It’s long past sunset, we’re wet, tired and
hungry, your horse is lame, and you can think of no better pursuit than
making small talk with the local marchwardens? ”

“*Faelon*?!” exclaimed the Silvan elf, jerking his head up and grinning
like a cheeky elfling. “*You’re* the one he’s been pining for this
entire time!”

“The one *who’s* been pining for?!” Faelon demanded.

“Rúmil, of course.” Faelon was going to urge the marchwarden to
elaborate, but a delicate cough from Erestor’s direction effectively
communicated the advisor’s impatience with the conversation. The Lórien
elf took the hint and, gesturing for the visitors to follow him, set
off deliberately, picking the best paths between trees with such
dispatch Faelon had to increase his own speed to keep up. After a few
paces, the marchwarden remembered the visitors were unfamiliar with the
woods and turned back sheepishly to check he hadn’t lost his wards
already. “Seems as though his taste wasn’t as bad as I thought, after
all,” he commented appreciatively, eyeing the Noldorin scholar
critically.

Faelon’s eyes widened in astonishment and renewed hope, just as he saw
Erestor shaking his head wearily. He looked questioningly at the elder
elf, but Erestor only rolled his eyes and sighed. But Faelon was
falling behind his escort again and, in his haste to catch-up, missed
the devious and self-satisfied grin which then spread slowly across
Erestor’s face as he watched his dark-haired protégé hurry through the
trees with a freshly optimistic spring in his step.

Translations:
daro - stop
meleth - love

Notes
(1) Book of Lost Tales 2, p181
"Tis said that Ecthelion's folk there slew more of the goblins than
fell ever in all the battles of the Eldalië with that race, and that
his name is a terror among them to this latest day, and a warcry to the
Eldar."


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


Part 7


A curse hissed through Faelon’s teeth. He’d been walking along in a
distracted but rather pleasant state of introspection, the stinging of
the graze his head forgotten among the swirl of hopeful thoughts, and
had somehow succeeded in losing his escort altogether. He’d have to go
back until he picked up their tracks, then catch up with them again. Of
course, there were a few problems with that. He couldn’t be sure he’d
gone in a straight line since they’d parted ways, he couldn’t recognise
individual mellyrn well enough to be sure he was truly retracing his
steps, and trained marchwardens wouldn’t be easy to track, even for an
experienced scout like Glorfindel or one of the twins, never mind a
normally sedentary scholar like him.

He leaned wearily on his mare’s shoulder. This was typical of his luck.
If something had to happen, it would happen to him. The rain was
penetrating the canopy of leaves and soaking through the rips in his
cloak. A sigh escaped him. His horse whickered sympathetically, and
nuzzled his shoulder. He forced a smile, then dug around in the
saddlebags and found a handful of oats for her. She accepted the
offering graciously, but her cheerfulness seemed as superficial as his
smile. She was resting her foreleg to keep the weight off it and, when
he ran a hand over it, he could feel heat and swelling. There was a lot
of bruising and probably some infection.

He felt guilty; she was doing her best, in spite of her injury, while
he, uninjured aside from the superficial wound on his forehead, was
worrying about getting lost within the best-guarded borders in Middle
Earth. “We’d better find somewhere to sleep,” he said to her. She
raised her head, apparently listening and scenting the air, before she
turned to the east and set off at a stiff walk. “This way?” he asked
thoughtfully. Elven horses had an excellent sense of direction, so she
could well lead him straight to Cerin Amroth. He walked beside her, one
hand resting on her withers; he may have lost the others, but he
wouldn’t lose her. “To think I once called Rúmil ignorant and crass -
he wouldn’t have ended up in situation like this, would he?”

***

“Rúmil, when was the last time you wrote a poem which wasn’t about
love?” Haldir asked, sounding bored, as the younger Galdhrim finished
speaking. “Honestly, brother, you should get over him. He clearly isn’t
interested in you, or you would have heard from him.”

The younger elf knew he looked dismayed by his brother’s words, but
answered boldly, “I’m not ready to lose hope yet! I knew Faelon was
more than just a crush from the outset, and I’m prepared to wait if it
means that at the end I get a chance at a real relationship, not just
one of those roll-from-one-side-of-the-bed-to-the-other-and-cry-out-
somewhere-in-the-middle kind of flings you seem so fond of!” He
collapsed on to a low stool nearby and sank his head into his hands. “I
just wonder how long I have to be alone before that,” he admitted after
a long pause. Haldir curled his lip, but reached over and patted his
younger brother’s shoulder.

After a while, Rúmil stood again and wandered out of the room. The
adjoining room was open to the night, and felt peaceful; he sat down
and dangled his feet over the edge of the /talan/, swinging them back
and forth as if he were an elfling once more.

He gazed sadly out upon the forest, thinking it looked so empty this
evening. The stars shone down serenely from above, but below, all was
still. Or so it seemed, until his keen eyes picked out signs of
movement on the ground underneath the /talan/. It was one of Haldir’s
border guards, running through the trees and looking extremely
flustered.

“What’s going on?” he called down.

Haldir came out at the sound of his brother’s shouting. “Is everything
all right?” He spotted the guard. “You know it’s my night off,” he
remarked drily to the elf, who had stopped directly under the tree.

“I’m sorry, sir. We have something of a situation.”

“Really?” There was a note of sarcasm in his voice. Rúmil knew Haldir
had been looking forward to the first night off in ages. The borders
had been lively recently, and it was only in the last couple of months
that things had started to settle down enough for the guards to breathe
a little.

“A party’s arrived from Imladris. We were escorting them to Cerin
Amroth, but one of them has gone missing.”

“Elbereth Gilthoniel! All right, I’m coming down,” Haldir replied.
Rúmil followed, concerned. “Who’ve you lost?”

The marchwarden glanced nervously at Rúmil. “He said his name was
Faelon...”

He was given no opportunity to say anything more. “Where did you last
see him? How long ago?” Rúmil could almost see Eru’s hand moving fates
around, like pieces on a great chessboard. This news was too well-timed
to be just chance.

“About a four miles west of here, perhaps an hour ago.” The guard
offered a brief description of the route the escort had been taking.
“I’ve ordered the border guards to search for him, but we were in a
small group, and I couldn’t spare more than a handful.”

Rúmil was back into the /talan/ so quickly his feet hardly touched the
rope, snatching up his bow, the first quiver of arrows he could find
and a spare cloak. “I’m going to find him,” he declared as he reached
ground level once more. The determination in his voice came as a
surprise even to him.

Haldir didn’t argue; he knew his brother was as good a marchwarden as
any, and had enough sense not to start a vain debate over whether or
not it was wise. He simply said, “Be careful,” squeezing Rúmil’s arm
before the younger Galadhrim turned and set off into the wood.

***

His ears were tuned to pick up the slightest sounds of movement - a
cracking twig, a rustle of leaves which didn’t match the breeze. His
eyes searched the darkness for an shadows which didn’t quite fit. Every
sense was directed towards a single goal: Faelon.

However, so far he’d not had any luck. In over two hours of searching
in unrelenting rain, he had not yet picked up Faelon’s trail, and so
had given up with that strategy and was instead making his way towards
where the guard said the Imladris elf had last been seen. The rain
dripped from the leaves of the /mellyrn/. His footsteps added a steady,
soft counterpoint. Taking his tempo from these noises, he began to
recite his latest poem once more:

*At the end of every night
Will come the golden dawn
At the end of every winter
Comes springtime bright and warm*

But all he could think of was Faelon out there, alone, lost, possibly
hurt, probably tired, wet and worried. He quickened his pace, knowing
he’d hit the escort’s trail in no more than a few minutes. After some
minutes, he found what he’d been hoping to see - a small disturbance in
the leaf litter, revealing the soil underneath. Someone had passed this
way. With this positive omen spurring him on, he looked even more
carefully, squinting into the darkness for any clue that he was still
heading the right way. More signs appeared: a trampled sapling, a long
brown hair from a horse’s mane or tail, hoof-prints in the soft ground.
He found himself continuing to speak the words of the poem under his
breath, his naturally musical voice giving them a tuneful resonance.

*And so at the end of my loneliness
I trust I’ll find my heart
But right now he feels so far away
Why must we be apart?*

Just as he was about to commence with the next stanza, he was
interrupted by a snuffling noise, the sound of a wet, tired horse
exhaling wearily. It was followed by a small voice in the damp
darkness. “Hello?”

The speaker was unmistakably elven. Rúmil’s heart fluttered. He broke
into a run, heading towards the source of the sound. “Faelon?” He
stopped at the top of a gentle slope which led down to a wooded dell
where he sometimes used to play when he was younger.

An elf was leaning against a tree below, his other hand resting on the
withers of a chestnut mare. His shoulders were hunched and he looked
about as miserable as it was possible for an elf to be. “Faelon?” Rúmil
called out again. The elf seemed to rouse himself and stared up at the
marchwarden, taking a moment to locate him among all the shadows.
“Thank Elbereth *someone’s* here. I thought I’d be wandering around
here all night,” he said with a weak attempt at humour.

“As if I’d let that happen,” Rúmil stated emphatically, descending into
the dell.

The elf was so bedraggled, tired-looking and generally dishevelled,
dark braids coming undone, wispy bits of hair sticking out everywhere,
twigs and leaves in his clothes and several scratches on his face and
hands, Rúmil was barely able to recognise him as an elf at all, let
alone give him a name. His face was smeared with dirt, and some blood,
although the wound just below his hairline did not look serious. But
then Faelon’s eyes locked with his, and he knew he’d found what he’d
been looking for.

He almost ran at the lost elf, encircling his poor, exhausted beloved
with supportive arms, cocooning him in the soft folds of the cloak he’d
been carrying. Faelon rested his head on the marchwarden’s chest,
accepting the warmth and comfort offered, allowing himself to be guided
to a moss-covered rock then pulled on to Rúmil’s lap as the Galadhrim
seated himself on the makeshift stool. When he spoke again, it was in a
husky whisper, brittle with emotion and weariness. “Rúmil?” he asked.

“It’s me,” Rúmil answered, realising Faelon had only just recognised
him. “What have you been up to?”

“There was an escort with us…but I got lost…I decided to follow my
horse, and find some shelter, and then I ended up here. I was losing
hope; I thought maybe she was mistaken in picking this direction, but
then I heard a voice. Someone was reciting poetry.” he shook his head
in confusion, then a soft smile touched his lips. “It was lovely.”

Rúmil answered with a smile of his own. “It’s not far to our /talan/ -
at least so long as you don’t get lost again. If you and your mare can
manage that much, there are clean, dry clothes and a very soft,
inviting bed waiting for you.”

“Sounds wonderful,” Faelon said.

“And I’ll see to that cut as well,” Rúmil informed the Noldo,
indicating Faelon’s forehead. “Do you feel ready to go now?” Faelon
nodded and rose slowly to his feet. Rúmil slid an arm around his waist
in case his charge faltered, and pointed out the way to shelter.

***

It seemed to be taking forever to reach the talan. Neither the elf nor
the horse made any complaint, but Rúmil could tell the mare was in
pain, and Faelon had quite clearly had enough of wandering around in
this stormy night.

“But tell me,” the Noldo said suddenly, breaking the silence between
them, “That poem you were reciting - I’d never heard it before. Who
wrote it? And who were they writing about?”

Rúmil looked as Faelon’s drawn face, shadowed eyes, straggling hair,
and thought his heart would break. He seemed so dejected tonight. And
in that moment, Rúmil abandoned all caution, reservation and probably
all good sense and, turning Faelon in his arms, pressed his lips
possessively over the other elf’s. He tasted of rain. It was not at all
unpleasant. “I wrote it, /penvain/, you silly, dishevelled thing - and
I was writing it for *you*!”

He was totally unprepared for the exultantly incredulous look in
Faelon’s big, limpid eyes. “Really?” he asked. “You really meant all
that?”

“Of course I did. Why else would I go traipsing through the wood on my
night off looking for a mud-caked Noldo with no sense of direction.”

Faelon shook his head, then laid it on Rúmil’s shoulder. For the first
time, the Galadhrim realised Faelon was slightly shorter then him. “But
you sounded so sincere,” the scholar murmured. “I’d always thought you
were just a silly infatuated elfling."

Rúmil smiled ruefully, and affectionately brushed Faelon’s cheek with
his fingers. "Maybe I was - at first. But the more I saw of you, the
more strongly I felt. If it had remained as just infatuation, then
after all these months I would surely have moved on. But luckily for
you, I suppose, I haven't."

He saw the light ahead - the amber-yellow lamplight coming from the
comfortable /talan/ he’d left so many hours ago, and pointed it out to
his companion. The sight gave Faelon new energy, and it wasn’t too long
before they were looking up at the wooden flet. “Haldir?”

“Any luck?” said the voice from above.

“Let the ladder down, and you can see for yourself!”

But Faelon lay a hand on Rúmil’s arm to stay him. “You really meant it,
didn’t you?” There was so much emotion in his face, Rúmil couldn’t
begin to identify it all.

“Yes,” he said, realising he was repeating himself, but not really
caring so long as Faelon understood the extent of his feelings. “I
really meant it.”

“Elbereth!” Haldir interrupted, dropping to the forest floor. “Is that
really an elf?” He held out a flask of /miruvor/, which Faelon accepted
and sipped at cautiously. It seemed to bring some colour back into his
cheeks, and for that Rúmil was grateful.

“I told you I’d find him,” he answered with a trace of smugness. He
turned back to Faelon and regarded the bedraggled elf tenderly. “I care
about you. When I heard you were lost, I couldn’t rest until I knew you
were safe.”

“It’s not as if you’ve been thinking about anyone else for the last six
months...”

"Haldir, can I finish please?" The elder Galadhrim pouted at the rebuke
from his younger brother, but Rúmil had decided it was time to take the
plunge. He held Faelon’s gaze for several long moments, trying to
discern what was going on in the stormy depths of those beautiful eyes,
then began, more tentatively than he’d intended. "Faelon, I know I've
propositioned you once before, and that time you refused me, but..."

"But possibly for the first time in my life, I'll willingly admit I
made a mistake,” the Noldo replied, sounding alive for the first time
since Rúmil had found him in the dell. “Rúmil, I underestimated you
most unfairly back in Imladris. I didn't give you a chance to show your
good qualities to me. You had every right to hate me for my
rudeness...yet you became more friendly and caring towards me with each
passing day, even when you only met coldness in return. And tonight -
well, if it weren’t for you, I’d still be lost, alone and ready to give
up. This time, I should be the initiator.” He took a deep breath,
steadying himself with a hand on the trunk of the tree. “I apologise
for my attitude before, and Rúmil, if you can find it in you to give me
a second chance, I'd love to have the opportunity to become better
acquainted with the only elf in all of Middle Earth who can remember my
begetting day."

Rúmil enveloped the Noldorin elf in an elated embrace, burying his face
in the ruffled locks, allowing them to absorb his hot tears of joy.
After waiting for so long, finally Faelon had come around to him!
“Faelon, /penvain/, *of course* I accept your offer - and there is
nothing to forgive.” He ran his finger along the Imladris elf’s
jawline, sliding up one ear and gently playing with the pointed tip.
“I’ve been falling in love with you, even while we’ve been apart, and
I’m enjoying every moment of you. Come though, /penvain/, promises and
offers aside, I’m neglecting your current condition entirely. Let’s
bathe that injury, and get you to bed.”

“Is there room for two?” Faelon suggested, a mischievous sparkle
appearing in his eye. Rúmil was pleased that he was reviving a little,
and helped his beloved ascend the rope ladder. Haldir made a noise
which could have been a cough or a laugh, then made some remark about
needing to attend to Faelon’s horse and deliver a message, and remained
below. But the muttered comment he made as the other two emerged into
the /talan/ reached both sets of ears:

“Isn’t it ironic that after all these months of silence, suddenly he
wants to push the relationship to new heights in a single evening...”

“All right then,” Faelon admitted reluctantly. “I suppose I don’t
really have the energy for that tonight. But I almost lost you once,
and I don’t ever want to push you away again. Would you mind so very
much if I asked if you would lie beside me as I sleep tonight? It has
been...an eventful trip, and I would like to wake up knowing I’m safe
and not alone.”

Rúmil held his new lover tightly and promised that he would sleep with
Faelon in his arms every night from now until the end of Arda, if that
was necessary.

Faelon fell asleep almost as soon as his head touched the pillow. Rúmil
watched him fondly for some minutes, loving the softness of the Noldo’s
features as they relaxed in peaceful slumber, the newly-found love
sparkling in the vacant brown eyes.

He wriggled out of his shirt and leggings, kicking them off the edge of
the small bed, and pulled the covers over both of them. With one hand,
he happily caressed Faelon’s hair, staring adoringly at the pretty
little nose, long eyelashes and skin the colour of whipped cream. Even
asleep, a smile curved upwards on the sculpted lips.

He pressed a kiss on to the dark-haired elf’s forehead, below the
dressing he’d secured over the graze - which, he’d been relieved to
see, was not serious. “Sleep well, /meleth/. I’ll be here when morning
comes.”

A happy grunt came from Faelon, and he wriggled close into the
Galadhrim’s arms. “Hmmm...” he purred. “Rúmil...”

When Haldir poked his head into the bedroom an hour later, he found the
two lovers lying so close their noses touched, identical expressions of
contentment gracing their fair features.

***

Erestor watched his Galadhrim escort pace and curse, as he had been
doing almost constantly for the last hour. “I can’t believe he lost
us!”

“It was dark, he was tired, and he’s not used to these woods,” the
advisor replied, somewhat impatiently. “He’ll be safe within the
borders; his hurt looked superficial. You’ve sent out guards to search
for him and you’ve alerted Haldir. You said Rúmil was looking for him
and you know he’s an excellent tracker. What else can you do?”

“There must be something. I should have realised he wasn’t with us as
soon as we became separated.”

“But you didn’t. So this is the situation as it stands. You've done
what you can, now for Elbereth’s sake, *please* stop that pacing and
get some rest.” As if to prove the counsellor’s point, the Galadhrim
yawned suddenly. “Glorfindel and the others from Imladris will be here
soon. Why don’t you go and lie down and I’ll get some tea ready for
them?”

The Silvan elf nodded reluctantly and pointed to a cupboard in one
corner. “You’ll find what you need in there.” Rubbing his eyes, he went
into the adjoining bedroom.

Erestor rifled through the contents - honestly, had anyone tidied in
here properly since the dawn of the Third Age? Eventually, he found a
pot and several sachets of herbs, which he identified by scent as
fennel and peppermint. He started to prepare a refreshing infusion.

Glorfindel did not come. The tea brewed, then sat, then cooled. He
filled the pot with fresh water, then set it to boil again, this time
more slowly. Glorfindel still did not come.

Erestor watched the pot moodily and the water began to bubble (watched
pots may not boil for anyone else but, under Erestor’s stony gaze, no
pot would ever be audacious enough to disobey). He threw some herbs
in, then suddenly looked up, sensing he was not alone. The Galadhrim
had come back, dressed only in an undershirt and leggings. “I couldn’t
sleep,” he apologised. “I feel so guilty - I was responsible for him.”

“Tea?” Erestor asked indifferently. He was familiar with the self-
punishment the marchwarden was experiencing now - it was a natural
reaction to such an unfortunate event, after all. It was also
incredibly dull to have to put up with such recriminations when he’d
known so many others to go through the same process before.

The Galadhrim held up a hand in refusal. “Does he have the skill to
look after himself in the open overnight?”

The advisor shrugged. “He has some basic survival training and he’s not
stupid - he’ll manage. Especially if he stays close to the mare. She
may not be rideable after that trip, but I know that horse. She won’t
let him down. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she led him directly
to help.”

Seemingly encouraged by the other elf’s words, the marchwarden nodded.
He’d dropped to sit cross-legged on the wooden floor, his head resting
lightly against the wall behind.

But Erestor’s concerns lay with a different elf. Despite his confident
words earlier, he worried about his lover. “I hope Glorfindel and the
others dealt with those orcs all right,” he mused. “He should have let
me stay and help.”

It was the Galadhrim’s turn to offer reassurance. “He’s the Balrog
Slayer. We’ve been told stories about him since we were elflings and,
even if they’re exaggerated, Glorfindel’s no ordinary Elda.” He
grinned. “A mere band of orcs won’t be anything he can’t handle. And
you and Faelon *had* to make sure these documents got to the Lord and
Lady; Faelon would never have got across the ford without you leading
him.”

They said nothing for some time, draining cups of tea and leaving the
remainder to simmer lightly. The flavour would probably be somewhat
unorthodox by the end, but Erestor realised he would soon be able to
keep time just by counting how many rounds of tea he’d brewed and then
discarded.

After a period of time which may have been fifteen minutes or two
hours, the Galadhrim rose and went to peer our of the window. “There’s
a small party coming through the woods a little way away,” he declared
with raised eyebrows as he returned to his place on the floor. “They
all look unhurt. And I spotted Haldir approaching from the other
direction.”

“Haldir? I thought you said he was off-duty this evening.”

“He is. That’s why I’m surprised.”

The marchwarden was the first to arrive, sticking his head up through
the /talan/ entrance, grinning at the counsellor and frowning at the
Galadhrim. Once all of him was inside, and he’d appropriated a stool,
he explained himself, sipping at the tea his subordinate had pressed
into his hands in a futile attempt at a peace-offering. “So, any luck
with your mislaid Noldo?” he asked the Silvan elf pointedly.

“Well, sir, I...”

“You’ll be pleased to know that he’s now accounted for, despite your
inattentiveness. Make sure this never happens again on your watch, or
the only thing I’ll let you escort is mice out of the granaries.
Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Haldir winked at Erestor. “Faelon and Rúmil are currently snuggled up
together like a lifebonded pair. Very cosy.”

“Just as it should be,” Erestor agreed, returning the smile.

At that moment a golden head and a beautiful face popped up into the
/talan/. Glorfindel flicked back the stray locks from his face in what
he presumably (and, Erestor secretly decided, quite justifiably)
thought was a dashing manner. “I think a certain other pair of elves
might want to be thinking about adopting the same position themselves,
for remains of the night,” he suggested, approaching Erestor. “What is
your counsel on this matter, o wise one?”

Erestor kissed two fingers and touched them to Glorfindel’s lips with a
playful (for him) smile. He felt heat rise in his cheeks; as usual, his
lover’s unabashed openness had caused him to blush. “My counsel is that
no self-respecting elf would agree to snuggle with you until you remove
those repulsive garments from your person.” He indicated the Elda’s
shirt, leggings and cloak, all splattered with orc-blood. “My counsel -
probably in vain - is also that you refrain from proclaiming such ideas
so overtly in front of such an extensive and interested audience.” He
pointed now to the two Galadhrim, who were hiding sniggers, and the
Imladris guards who had entered behind their captain, who now stood
with eyebrows raised with amusement. “However, I am forced to admit
that your suggestion is very, very appealing.” He leaned forwards so
his lips almost touched Glorfindel’s ear, and whispered, “Were you to
draw yourself a bath now, once you were satisfactorily clean, I think I
would be inclined to join you. Then perhaps we could find ourselves a
nice, soft mattress somewhere, which I’m sure you’d prefer to this
rather small wooden chair, which was clearly never designed for
multiple occupants.”

Glorfindel blinked innocently and tugged at Erestor’s ear in a gentle,
affectionate gesture. “We could snuggle on a midden and I’d relish
every moment simply because you were close.”

Erestor shook his head. “/Penvain/, you are truly beyond hope.”

Translations:
penvain - fair/beautiful one

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


Part 8


Faelon was happy. Everything was wonderful. Rúmil was more amazing than
he’d thought it possible for one individual to be; he was generous,
caring, sensitive and intelligent, interesting and amusing… Faelon was
always thinking of more complimentary adjectives that could be applied
to his new lover.

And as an added bonus, his work was progressing well. The documents
they had brought to discuss with the Lord and Lady had been met with
full approval. Celeborn had shown some interest in becoming discreetly
involved in one of Imladris’s existing trade arrangements with a
settlement of Men in the north, whilst Erestor was surprisingly
enthusiastic about information Galadriel had obtained from…somewhere
that a complete set of early Third-Age annals had been discovered in
Gondor which, apparently, were stubbornly resisting the scholars’
attempts to translate them.

He was actually regretting the fact that he would be returning to
Imladris within the month - in between successful talks with Celeborn
and Galadriel, walking in the woods with a certain Galadhrim and having
that same Galadhrim curled up in his arms each evening, he was having
more fun than he recalled having in a millennium.

The feast scheduled for tonight promised to be a lively affair and
Rúmil had talked him into attending. He smiled to himself as he put the
finishing touches to his braids and checked his robes were all
straight. He was looking forward to the evening - what was there not to
look forward to?

Although he was far too proud to admit it, he was both incredibly
grateful to Erestor for deciding he wasn’t working well enough and
brining him on this trip, and secretly glad he’d got lost and been
given a chance to discover Rúmil’s sincerity. He had sorely
underestimated the Galadhrim once, but he promised himself that he
would *never* do so again.

***

“Come on, Erestor!” Rúmil approached the counsellor wearing a dazzling
smile and a leading Faelon by the hand. Erestor held up his own hand in
polite refusal.

Now Faelon joined in with his new lover’s plea. “Yes, come on, Erestor!
You *never* dance…”

“Exactly. I never dance, “ Erestor countered with a firm shake of his
head.

Rúmil grasped Erestor’s fingers with his free hand and tugged gently;
the older elf instinctively pulled away. The Galadhrim’s eyes were
pleading. “Come on. You’ll enjoy it once you’re out there. This is one
of my favourite pieces of music!”

Faelon laid a staying hand on the young elf’s arm. He addressed the
counsellor with a small smile playing on his lips. “What if I bring
Glorfindel over?” He stood on tiptoe and waved towards the table behind
Erestor, on which a buffet had been laid out. He beckoned Glorfindel
over; the Elda arrived with at least twenty cherries in one hand and a
slice of cake in the other. He offered both to his lover, but Erestor
declined them as well.

“You wanted me?” Glorfindel asked, popping another cherry into his
mouth. Erestor wondered what he intended to do with the stone once he’d
finished; the golden-haired Elda did not seem to have thought to
collect a bowl before answering Faelon’s summons.

Faelon nodded. “We’re trying to persuade Erestor to dance, and we were
hoping he’d relent if you would.” Glorfindel responded with a raised
eyebrow, laying his hand almost protectively on Erestor’s shoulder.

“Do you want to?” he asked his lover simply.

Light as elves may be on their nimble feet the wooden floor resonated
rhythmically as they executed the steps to the current dance. Laughing
faces were everywhere he looked; some eyes were swimming with love,
such as those of the sweet young couple in one corner who were so
absorbed in one another, they’d just carelessly crashed into a table.
Others were alive with amusement and joy. Haldir was dancing with an
elfmaid in an absurdly overplayed genteel fashion which was making the
maiden blush as some of her other admirers watched jealously. One of
the guards who had accompanied the party from Imladris appeared to be
engaging a local marchwarden in competition over who could dance more
seductively, one which the Lórien elf was winning by several miles.
Erestor observed all this - and yes, he was almost tempted to join in.
But then his customary self-consciousness resurfaced, and he shrank
from the dance floor into Glorfindel’s strong, reassuring arms. The
golden-haired Elda rubbed his back in gentle circles.

Erestor shook his head at the two younger elves. “Maybe later. Not
now.”

Rúmil’s shoulders slumped in defeat. But his face brightens as he
turned his attentions to Glorfindel. “What about you?”

Glorfindel’s fine, pale eyebrows drew together. “I don’t know.
Erestor’s said he doesn’t want to, and I don’t think it would be quite
the same without him.”

“Do you want to?” Erestor asked, echoing the words which moments before
had been addressed to him. The look of longing that his beautiful
beloved threw at the cavorting couples said it all, and Erestor gave
the gilded elf a gentle push in that direction. “Enjoy yourself. I’m
sure those two will find you an agreeable partner.” Indeed, Rúmil was
already presenting Glorfindel with a pretty elf-maiden, who fluttered
long, curling eyelashes at him before curling a slender arm around his
waist and leading him into the throng.

Erestor watched in silence. He delighted in seeing Glorfindel’s strong,
supple body move in harmony with his partner’s; feet landing with
perfectly precision on every step, golden hair flying up like a gilt
fan when he whirled her around. Why had it taken Erestor so long to
admit his desire for that radiant warrior? Why had he ever held back?
*Fear*, his thoughts informed him. *Fear of getting hurt, getting used,
being rejected*. Had any of those things happened to him, he was
certain his spirit would have broken. He would have retreated from his
emotions and never let another see them ever again.

But when he looked into Glorfindel’s sparkling eyes he saw only love
and security, kindness and adoration. Those two precious jewels were
worth more to him than any treasure in Middle Earth, and he would
happily gaze upon them a thousand times a day. *Aiya, Glorfindel…my
Glorfindel…is it possible for one being to hold so much love for
another? Even when that other is you?* Sometimes, the love he felt was
so intense he was certain it must set his whole form shining with
emotion for all to see. The first time he’d felt that, he’d been
confused and a little frightened, unable to identify what was happening
to him. But then he’d realised.

For the first time in his life, he was no longer lonely.

***

Ithil outlined everything in a pale silver-blue; the trees, the
stylised arbours and trellises on the /telain/, the elegant
architecture of Lórien’s central refuge. Overhead, the silken sky was
embroidered with a million brilliant-cut diamonds. All the feast’s
guests had now returned to their rooms, and servants flitted from
lantern to lantern extinguishing the amber flames. Erestor turned his
back on the stunning scene and smiled at Glorfindel, who was draining a
cup of hot tea, having drunk just slightly more than was strictly wise
over the course of the festivities.

It took a few moments before the golden Elda noticed the intense
scrutiny to which he was being subjected. When he raised his head and
met Erestor’s eyes, he treated his lover to a puzzled look, replacing
the cup on its carefully-painted porcelain saucer. “What is it,
/meleth/?” he enquired.

“I’m ready to dance now. Will you come?”

“Now? You realise it’s hours past midnight. All the other guests and
even the musicians will have gone to bed…” He broke off, evidently
recognising some emotion flickering in Erestor’s eyes, and caught the
dark-haired counsellor’s hands in his. “Of course, /meleth/. I’d love
to. As long as you promise it’ll be you, and only you, who I get to
dance with,” he added teasingly.

“I promise,” Erestor said solemnly, entwining his fingers with
Glorfindel’s and fitting himself comfortably against the Elda’s side.

The two forms, both tall and comely, but one dark and one pale, glided
between the /telain/ like ghosts, their outlines softened by the
moonlight. They ascended the stairway to the Great Talan as if it were
no more than a gently inclined, perfectly smooth ramp, and never once
did they break the contact between them. Erestor attuned his senses to
every nuance of Glorfindel’s form, every small movement of his eyes or
body; he even felt the Elda’s heartbeat when he pressed close into his
lover’s possessive embrace.

They both hesitated at the same moment as they entered the largest room
in the Great Talan. The banqueting hall, just a few hours before as
colourful as a meadow in spring, was now empty, deserted - and yet even
more beautiful than it had been before. Ithil’s light left ever detail
shimmering as if it were made of pure /mithril/, darkening to pewter
where pillars formed from tree branches cast long, dignified shadows
across the floor.

But when Erestor turned to his beloved, he saw that one thing was not
/mithril/. Glorfindel was a sculpture of brilliant gold, a vision of
radiance harking back to the days when the Two Trees still lent their
gentle illumination to Arda. He could have been Laurelin itself, waxing
under Telperion’s delicate light.

Erestor had always known on some level that there was something special
about Glorfindel, but tonight he recognised and understood it properly
for the first time. This being had dwelt in Valinor, had entered the
Halls of Mandos and returned. He had stood before one of Morgoth’s
Balrogs and shown no fear, and by slaying it at the expense of his own
life, allowed hundreds of others to live. That nobility and generosity
which personified Glorfindel kindled a glorious inner light within him,
and it shone outwards for any to see who were prepared to look.

Glorfindel stepped into the centre of the great chamber and the golden
aura seemed to linger in the air for a moment even after he had passed.
His arms were extended in invitation to join him.

Erestor threw himself into those arms, as he had done so many times
before, capturing Glorfindel’s lips in a passionate kiss, inhaling the
sweet scent of his dearest love, detecting the subtle flavour of honey
and wine. Glorfindel, too, pressed close, seemingly needing the
closeness just as much as Erestor did. For a few moments, they just
stood there, lips still touching, barely even breathing, just enjoying
everything about one another, but then Erestor decided it was time for
the dance to begin.

His feet drew patterns on the floor, patterns they had not practised
for many a long year, which he’d feared he may have forgotten, but
which returned of their own accord now, heedless of the lack of music.

Glorfindel joined his partner. His movements matched Erestor’s, taking
their tempo from the dark-haired elf’s own heartbeat. His hips swayed
gently as he danced, his hands resting lightly on his lover’s slim
waist, the ankle-length formal robes he wore swirling around his feet,
a river of magical fire.

The harmony was perfect, the bliss total. Each elf knew instinctively
how the other would next move and willingly blended with it. Midnight
hair and golden lifted on the currents of air created by the two
dancers, chasing each other playfully in never-ending circles.

Without pausing in his steps, Erestor leaned in and kissed the smooth
column of Glorfindel’s neck, lapping briefly at the pulse he felt under
his tongue. “I love you,” he declared, realising this genuinely was the
first time he’d ever put that feeling into words. He had always been
afraid before…but now there was nothing to fear. Together, they were
two parts of a single, greater whole, he and Glorfindel, drawing
strength and completeness from each other.

He reached out with his hand, trailing his fingers across Glorfindel’s
face, and as they moved into a column of moonlight he saw, to his
amazement and delight , the fiery path of a shooting star reflected in
Glorfindel’s eyes. Did even Elbereth confer her blessing on them? How
he gloried as those cherished words, words which grew more lovely each
time they were spoken, fell freely and wholeheartedly from Glorfindel’s
lips. “I love you too, Erestor, /meleth/, more than anything.”

“/Míl uireb/,” Erestor whispered.

“/Míl uireb/,” Glorfindel agreed.

Then Erestor closed his eyes and drew, if it were possible, even nearer
to Glorfindel, letting his heart soar upon the tide of the only music
there would ever be for him. It was the only music that mattered - the
music of their souls. The music of their love.


THE END

Translations:

meleth - love
míl uireb – eternal love (‘love’ as in the /concept/)
penvain - fair/beautiful one

F/B welcome, good or bad, as long as it's constructive. This was my
first slash, btw...I think sorting the Grelvish was a good move, but
otherwise the text is unchanged.

(Extra!) Notes on the story:

1. I've taken plenty of liberties with Faelon, but I make no apologies
since he's a highly underused character. See this as a PR exercise ;)

2. To visit Faelon, go to: http://www.geocities.com/faelon_x/index.html

3. I think I've left the timeframe pretty open, but if you want a year,
I'd suggest maybe TA 2700. Sometime after Celebrían's upped and outed,
but before the Hobbit and LOTR.

4. Justin's actually Brett's *older* brother, but I've put Figwit and
Faelon the other way round. So there :-)

5.The author would just like to point out that any opinions expressed
by soggy, tired elves in this fic about any of the poetry contained
within do not in any way reflect the author's own views of
aforementioned poetry. There is a reason I am not Poet Laureate. That
is it.

6. OK, so unless Asfaloth was as immortal as an elf, he's not likely to
exist at this time, but it's not uncommon for people to have a whole
series of animals, all with the same name. Why not?

Hmmm...that's all.