Pairings: Elrond/Gil-galad/Other pairing
Summary: 48 hours at Harvest Time reawakens painful memories for Elrond.
Feedback: Write me if you want to. I might even answer.
Notes: Uses movie and books as basic canon-with embellishments. M/M, and of course a plot 10 feet thick, slog on readers, flashbacks a-plenty to sort through here. ;>
Rivendell, in a time before the Great Ring's rediscovery..
Slanting rays of sunlight and shortening days washed Rivendell in mellow golden tones as the turn of days rolled through the seasons and lazy summer drew to a close. Lindefal watched the sunset from a bench on the South Porch, hearing the last of the bells chiming their call to the communal evening meal in the dining hall. He was perfectly content to while away more time with his feet propped up on the railing, eyes half closed as the sounds of the community drifted upwards in muted tones. This spot on the porch caught some of the last warm rays of the sun in the afternoon, and was perfect for napping. It was his favorite quiet spot.
Elrond's summer schedule had been blissfully moderate, allowing both the Master of the House and his busy aide and secretary some much earned leisure time. Harvest activities were optional for the community, however most, including Elrond, enjoyed the seasonal task of bringing in the fruits and vegetables. Haymaking was also favored, followed by trysting in the fragrant freshly mown mounds. The bell's final peal rang away in echoes down the valley. Hunger won over laziness and he rose from the stone bench and headed slowly through the Great House to the dining hall.
As he entered the hallway he met up with Erestor, the Seneschal of Rivendell, apparently just up from the kitchens with a large platter piled high with seed cakes in honey. He was disheveled and not his usual calm and collected self tonight. "Well," he said, "Don't look at me like that, everyone was in the vineyards and the fields all day today for the harvest. Everyone but you that is. Who's cooking and carrying but me when the kitchen's hands are busy elsewhere?" Lindefal shrugged, "If everyone was in the vineyard, what room was there for me?" "Besides, you know I prefer to deal with the grapes after they are in the bottle, and not before. Dirty clothes and sore backs and hands are not for me." The old companions continued this line of half-hearted bickering as they entered the long dining hall and took their seats at the Master's Table. Not everyone was picking grapes or harvesting vegetables that day, but many were thus occupied. The crowd in the hall was small tonight as there was a picnic in the greenhouses for those turning in their baskets and shears. Lanterns glowed and laughter rang out from down in the valley and along the terraces above the greenhouses.
Elrond brushed the dust from his short loose tunic and leggings, then brushed off his hands as well. A long slice across his palm had bled, then congealed in the dust and now was sore. He had caught it on a sharp basket edge while hefting loads of grapes into the waiting wagon. He pushed his hair off of his face with the back of his hand as he waited in line at the fountain to wash his hands and face. Someone asked him if he was adding dirt to his hands from his face, or to his face from his hands. "Both," he replied with a laugh. Conversation was easy, and tired comrades joked and jostled at the end of a hard day. Wagonloads of workers coming up from the lower fields joined the group as the dust and dirt of the day were washed away in the merrily bubbling fountain of cool spring water.
Many of Elrond's hours were normally spent among the precious books and scrolls in the Great Library Hall, where centuries of gathered histories, legends and medical texts were to be found. Constant copying of these materials was a never-ending task, either for sharing with others or for basic preservation of the information, as simple paper and parchment did not have the lengthy life span of their Elven caretakers. Riding and swimming kept his lean frame fit and supple, however he had always enjoyed the physical aspects of gathering the bounty in from the valley. A bit of dust in the mouth and eyes, a nicked finger or a tired back reminded him of the passing of days and delicate role of the caretakers in the ecosystem of the valley. He relished the peaceful agrarian activities of the autumn: the grind of the cider press, the Mill wheel turning across the grain, and rich smell of the cold root cellars in the deep caves. Long past were the days when danger kept all on the sharp edge of alertness and training.
In the warmth remaining from the day, groups spread out along the grassy areas around the greenhouses on blankets and along the low walls, and snacked on fruits and vegetables, sausages and cheese, bread and jams. The stars came out one by one and joined the relaxed evening with twinkling participation. Fireflies drifted about the diners and lanterns glowed in the dusk.
Elrond joined the others along the narrow grassy stretch and settled against the warm stones of the low wall with a groan. He unwound his long legs straight out in front of him and set his dinner basket in his lap. He had spent half the day in the lower hay fields and the afternoon along the grape vines today, so he had managed to discover long forgotten muscles in every part of his body. He even found a few he had missed yesterday pulling cabbages and carrots. Lifting heavy baskets, carrying weighty loads and climbing and stooping had done him in. Fresh bread and mellow cheese, matched with heady smelling pears and apples, promised to quell the dinnertime hunger he shared with the others.
As he leaned back and enjoyed the joking chatter and laughter, the sweet and simple flavors, and the warmth of the wall on his back, he looked along the terraces climbing up the cliff side. The cliff face curved down and around a smaller valley that joined the plain along the river. Flickering lights were seen here and there along the stacked terraces, and his thoughts were suddenly cast back to a less peaceful time when massive armies had bivouacked in Imladris, with tents pitched on every inch of ground available. Campfires had glowed in the night along the terraces as he had walked the perimeter with the High King Gil-galad, discussing the training and equipping of the armies. The gathering of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men was unprecedented, as Sauron's threat to the free peoples of Middle Earth moved them to extreme responses.
Pressed back into duty for the High King as Herald, where he had maximum flexibility on the field, and as the Master of Rivendell and host to thousands, Elrond was privy to all arrangements that were made over the next 3 years of training, arming and strategic planning. Climbing, swimming in the chill springs and constant exercise slowly developed the gathered ranks into a lean and purposeful war machine. Elrond's days were spent on the flat grassy training grounds refining swordsmen and archers skills. The clang from the forges rang out around the clock and formed background noise for years. After a while, people only noticed the noise when it stopped. Drilling himself as well as the mixed races of the armies, the days became an endless stream with the clash of arms ringing in their ears. His nights were spent pouring over maps, calculating rations and other administrative tasks.
The leaders and their staff were housed in the Great House, with the formal receiving hall turned into a war room. Gil-galad and Elrond worked side by side for months planning and working out details. There had been a strain between them when Elrond left the Court at Lindon to establish Rivendell in the deep valley as a haven against the darkness of the world. Elrond had left Lindon and founded Imladris with mixed feelings after the fall of Eregion and the brutal death of Celebrimbor, but he had been compelled to seek his own destiny. He was not seeking a renewed relationship with his old mentor and lover. Gil-galad had respected his choice.
However, after months of working closely together the feelings between them rekindled and smoldered within. A touched arm, or accidentally brushed shoulder or thigh was electrifying. A particularly long and trying day had thrown them together from predawn hours to midnight, arguing issues and solving problems, settling disputes and riding from one end of the valley to the other dealing with the tiring, annoying, and petty details that went along with the administration of thousands of soldiers and their needs. Wearily standing side by side late that evening in Gil-galad's room, warming hands and backsides at the crackling fire, Gil-galad had said simply, "By all the spirits, I have missed you terribly."
The intervening years had melted away in Elrond's mind over the past few months and he replied simply, "And I have missed you as well." Clothes few off and the massive bed creaked at their joined weight as they hit the linens in a dive. Tiring and stressful days of concentration had left them both hungry for a touch, a kiss, a joining of souls. The intense and fevered grappling that renewed their loving relationship belied the long day that had tired them so. With adjoining rooms, their thinking became as one over time, as did their tired and weary bodies. They often collapsed into bed with just a comforting embrace before sleep overcame them. The stress of lengthy preparation was as draining as the eve of a battle, or the sad and dismal aftermath. Their discretion, mutual respect, and the power of their personalities again gained them the respect of those around them.
Elrond had joined the Court of Gil-galad in Lindon in his youthful days, and his energy and quick thinking, as well as his appearance, and family tree, made him desirable to the High King in many aspects. Growing up orphaned, and under the fostership of Maglor after the raid upon his home in Sirion, Elrond and his brother Elros had known acceptance and had been treated fairly by their captors. They never saw their parents again after the bloody battle that destroyed the Sea Haven at Sirion. Their father Elendil had been away sailing with Cirdan, and their mother Elwing had hidden her sons and had thrown herself into the sea in terror of the approaching army. Legend rejoined these doomed lovers, but their sons were cast adrift in the cruel world.
Elrond had been attracted to the power and elegance of the Court of the Grey Havens at Lindon, and was readily accepted into that community. Witty and wise beyond his years, Elrond had held his own in council meetings, on the training fields, and in the bedchambers as well. He grew in wisdom and understanding of the ways of men's thoughts and hearts during his years at the Court of the High King. He mastered the histories of their people and studied with great healers during this time. He was rarely far from Gil-galad's right hand, night or day.
He was the perfect foil to the hale, hearty and out-spoken Gil-galad, and Elrond provided him with a strength few understood, while Gil-galad provided a family and a strong model for Elrond. He was also a loving companion. Gil-galad sought to preserve the ancient line of Luthien and Melian's blood through Elrond, and recognized and sought to cultivate the latent power within the half Elven and half mortal being. Elrond had chosen to be counted among the ancient race of Elves when called upon to do so, his brother Elros had stepped aside to the ranks of men. In him the wisdom and leadership skills that characterized their family were displayed when Elros became the first King of Numenor as Elros Tar-Minyatur. Granted years beyond expectation, his eventual death had saddened Elrond, who was truly alone then. His distant kindred in the world of men would not cross his path again for centuries.
The death of Gil-galad at the hand of Sauron on the battlefield of Dagorlad, and the failed attempt to destroy the Great Ring of Power, remained hazy and painful memories in the dark mists surrounding those sad days. Having received the Elven Ring Vilya from Gil-galad before his death, Elrond had secured it safely in the valley upon his return home, and its healing powers extended to the community and beyond even while at rest deep in the caves below the city. Its power helped cleanse the valley and return it to lushness and fertility after the ruin of the encampment.
Elrond shook his head as these painful memories flashed through his mind in an instant. He passed a hand over tired eyes, a gesture that always caught the attention of those who watched him closely. The heart and soul of Rivendell, Elrond's well being was important not only to his friends, but to the community at large. Pampered and waited on by many, Elrond never took these actions for granted, or discounted the love that motivated the concern and attention. Proud and self-sufficient, his allowance of the pampering was part of the game. He suffered the fussing with good humor.
Findalor, Master of the House Guards, remarked on the gesture as he sat down beside Elrond with a basket of bread and cheese for himself. "Too much dust and sun today?" Elrond smiled a greeting at him as his old friend settled against the wall close by. Well, his face was sun and wind burned now Findalor mentioned it. "Too much of everything I am afraid," he admitted. Findalor looked at him as he broke a crusty roll into manageable portions, "Without doubt, I saw you loading the wagons this afternoon. And you swing a mean scythe as well. It's a wonder you can walk at all tonight." He paused, then asked, "But why the sad face, a little horse liniment will cure you." Elrond looked back along the terraces at the flickering lights with a sigh, " I was just thinking back to when Gil-galad and Elendil walked these paths and their armies were ranked along the terraces. It was such a different time then," he admitted. Findalor surprised, responded, "That was a very long time ago, much has changed indeed."
Elrond nodded, still seeing centuries ago into the past, "Yes it has, and I thought the valley would never recover from the damage of those years of overpopulation and the preparations for war. I can still see the ancient scars on the land if I look closely. Only the gathering of the Last Alliance was important enough for me to sacrifice our safety and security in the valley. Only a request from Gil-galad could make me open the paths to Imladris." He looked down and sighed, speaking softly, " Memory of that time makes this evening even more precious for its plenty and peace." Findalor nodded in agreement and ate his dinner thoughtfully.
He wondered what had separated this evening out among the endless stretch of days that made up their long lives. What had brought those distant thoughts to mind tonight? He had trained with the armies on the grassy swards as well, slept in tents and lived the rough life preparing for war. He was there on the battle plain at Dagorlad, and had been swept off his feet at the wave of power that had accompanied Sauron's dissolution. He had not seen the death of the High King and Elendil at Sauron's hand, nor had he witnessed the failed attempt to destroy the Ring of Power. He was not privy to the heated discussions between the leaders afterwards, but he had lived through the harrowing days of the aftermath with Elrond, and had coped with grief over countless lost friends and comrades. Only the task of dismantling the enemy's tower of Barad-dur kept the survivors on their feet and focused in the hollow victory after 10 years of preparation and siege. Findalor had worked alongside Elrond during those dark days, and had marveled at the grim determination that kept him working through his grief.
Findalor left those sad memories to the dark reaches of his mind when he could, content that his position gave him responsibility for the safety of the valley and the Great House, and not more. His glance along the cliff side did not bring those same memories back, but then, he had been inside those tents, not watching over them. Elrond had the stresses and concerns of a leader to tinge his view.
Laughter and a song interrupted his thoughts. A pleasant evening under the stars unfolded and was shared by all. Those still able to move freely after the long hard day danced in the grass under the stars. As the night grew cooler and later, tired souls gathered up their belongings and headed home for the night.
Findalor walked up the steep path with Elrond visiting about the day's harvest, and other news around the community, hoping a melancholy mood was not settling in. Those dark eyes had crinkled in laughter many times over the summer and the agile mind had seemed content lately. Harvest time was a time that Elrond enjoyed. They paused on the landing, and Elrond remarked kindly, "You have that concerned look in your eyes and a grave face, Findalor. You don't have to worry about me. It was an idle memory sparked by the lanterns along the paths. Memories that stretch back as far as ours carry sad times as well as glad ones." He smiled sadly and with a handshake and a pat on the shoulder they went their separate ways. Both thought however, "Was that really all there was to it?"
Elrond mounted the curving stairs that led to his study high in the Great House. He stopped at the doorway and looked out over the darkness, heard the river splashing and sparkling in the lantern light, saw the stars overhead and felt the smooth wooden banister beneath his hands, just as he had done countless times over countless evenings. The seconds flowed into minutes, hours, days, years and centuries for the long-lived Elves; they noted the seasons passing, but lost count of the Millennia. Sad days and happy ones did merge in misty memory. His reverie was shattered by Lindefal calling out, "Its about time."
Peeking out over the bedchamber loft's railing, Lindefal stood with towel and comb in hand. ‘ I am about ready to get in the bath myself, I thought you might be staying the night out among the vines and dirt." Elrond sighed and thought, "Such is my life at home." His evenings were much changed since the passing of Celebrian and the growth of his children into independence. The community was his family now, and his close circle of friends and co-administrators were his crutch and salvation in sad or quiet times. Lindefal not only managed the Master's Bedchamber and Study, but he also oversaw the Great Library Hall and arranged Elrond's schedule for each day. With Lindefal keeping him fed, dressed, and out and about on business, Erestor managing the daily affairs of Rivendell as Seneschal, and Findalor watching the community and the borders with the Household Guards and the Border Guards under his command, the four managed to run Rivendell with all the wisdom and grace that legends preserved for the outside world. What transpired behind closed doors and in heated council meetings rarely made it out to the community, much less to history.
After leaning, lifting and crouching all day, Elrond hoped the bath water had not cooled too much in his absence. He gingerly strolled across his study and slowly mounted the curving stairs to his bedchambers. The break for dinner had allowed his muscles to stiffen enough to complain now. He plopped gracelessly into a chair, extended his legs and unlaced his tunic as Lindefal removed his heavy work boots. He asked for a hand up out of the chair and slowly removed his clothing. He held out grimy arms and laughed at the dirt caked on his hands. He felt the grit on his neck and face and in his hair. Lindefal was tsk tsking as he stood by the bath with shampoo and a cup in hand to rinse the dirt away from Elrond's dark hair. The thick hair had been braided tightly and wound around in a knot to keep it out of the way during the day's work, yet it had gathered enough of the fine dust and sand from the terraces to dull its shine.
Elrond slipped into the still warm water, splashed his face and neck and scrubbed them well with a cloth, then leaned back with a deep sigh. The dirt was not coming off his fingers and he gingerly scrubbed the cut on his palm clean. Lindefal deftly undid the knot and thick braid, and combed through the dark waves before pouring water along the strands and lathering up the dark mass with an herbal soap. He rinsed the suds out into a bucket, toweled the excess water away and combed the ebony strands smooth. There was little comment from the bather. It was a balmy evening and the crackling fire in the fireplace warmed the air. The fragrance from the bath water scented the chamber. Noticing that his subject was very still and quiet indeed, he leaned around and saw that Elrond had closed his eyes and was breathing slowly and deeply, fast asleep in the warm water.
"Great." Lindefal thought, "Just great. Well, we warned you about over-doing." He patted Elrond gently on the shoulder and whispered in his ear, "Get out of there before you slide down and drown. Get up and lets get you to the bed." He grumbled looking into the water, " I'll have to shovel the mud out of this basin tomorrow." Elrond rose slowly and stood dripping, loath to leave the embracing warm water. He stepped over the high side of the carved wooden basin and Lindefal handed him a cloth for drying off as he moved to get the soft sleeping robe from a nearby chair. Laughing at the helplessly sore-muscled Elrond trying to dry himself off with many "ouches" and moans, Lindefal briskly toweled him off and handed the robe up straight arms and onto the broad shoulders. He looked at the cut across Elrond's palm and sat him down on the side of the bed while he sought a pot of salve and then dressed it. Not deep, but a long gash. He wrapped a short piece of gaze around the cut and tied the ends.
"Alright-into bed before you fall off of it," and he held the sheets up as Elrond collapsed in bliss across the snowy pillows and soft linens. He was out before the covering sheets drifted down and touched him. Lindefal shook his head as he moved about the chamber putting out the lamps and candles. "No harvesting for you tomorrow," he thought, and wondered how long Elrond would sleep into the morning without a wake-up call.
Elrond woke in the mid-morning of the next day to quiet voices and the clink of cutlery on pottery. Gathered around his bedchamber desk were Lindefal, Erestor and Findalor, busy at a fragrant brunch it seemed. He watched them silently from his soft pillow and considered closing his eyes and just checking out for the entire day. The slightest move brought a wave of aches along each and every muscle. His hands hurt just being still. His extreme enjoyment of the sheer physical nature of the harvest and the warm sun and fragrant earth over the past few days was extracting its cost today. Findalor noticed his open eyes and rose and walked across the room, bending low to peer closely at him. "Ready to jump up and bring in the hay today, or would you prefer to just lie perfectly still and suffer?" With no answer to that the others joined them and everyone piled onto the oversized square bed, sitting around the still figure of Elrond. Sometimes he thought they were all children again and none of the long sad years had ever touched them. "How did they manage to stay carefree?' he wondered.
"Staff meeting time, remember?" remarked Lindefal. "Lets see that hand again while I am here." He took up the injured hand, slipped off the gauze and showed the cut to the others who mused and hemmed and hawed over it with grave dignity. "More salve?" asked Lindefal, and the others nodded. A great glob was slathered across the hand as Elrond tried to doze and ignore the pesky trio in his bed as best he could with his hand being passed around between them.
He finally remarked crossly, "There has not been so much noise and activity in this bed since the children were young and afraid of the thunder." Findalor looked confidentially at the others and said, "Well, the night before last was pretty entertaining. It sounded like some noise and activity was happening here alright," and they all fell about laughing as Elrond took his hand back and pulled the sheets up over his head. Voices carried in the quiet of the night, and the unmistakable sounds of passion were normally discreetly ignored. But not among this group, and not this morning, as they tormented their old friend. He was far from being the regal Master of the House while hiding under the sheets.
Pages from the kitchen came to clear away the breakfast dishes and only raised eyebrows signaled that they noticed the group seated on the bed speaking to the mound beneath the linens. "Bring the tea here," called out Erestor, "and our cups." Everyone settled down, and with new hot tea in hand, they shared their weekly reports with each other, with occasional remarks from beneath the sheets. Erestor mentioned he wished he had had them leave the toast as well, and the words, "No toast in the bed," came from beneath the sheets with authority.
Surrendering to the relentless tormenting, Elrond finally threw the covers back and sat up, propped against the richly carved headboard and the mounds of soft pillows. He gathered the tangled sleeping robe around him with some dignity and said, "Well, here we all are, together again in bed. I am sure each of you would rather not review any previous activity in this location for the other's amusements, eh?" Silent negative nods met his flashing eyes. "And as for you, Findalor, the highest bell tower in Rivendell is really not the most discreet location for a tryst, now is it? I seem to remember that your activities the night before last were well known to many on the lawn, especially when the bell ropes became tangled in the throes of love. Your delightful companion was thoughtful in calling out your name, wasn't she? Your technique was certainly educational for those of use seated in the shadows beneath the tower."
"Anyone else want to hear a review of their recent activities?" Checkmated by the one who really did know most of everyone's business in Rivendell, they bowed low and ceremoniously to the Master of the House, now fully awake and back in control. " I concede to you all that I did not take your advice and work moderately over the past few days. Rest assured I am now paying for my enthusiasm. If anyone wants me this afternoon I will be soaking in the hot springs behind the greenhouses." Supportive nods met this announcement. Elrond was not the leader of this small band of cheerful and mischievous souls for nothing, he could out-prank, out-think and out-do any of them in anything, and they adored and worshipped him for it. Centuries of intimacy and association bound them together in unbreakable ties of love and friendship.
"Now, if you are all finished with torturing me this morning I would like to try to get out of this bed and get dressed," Elrond growled at them all. Confident that Elrond was restored to his regular humor, they piled out of the bed and took seats around the room. Lindefal gathered the clothing for the day, again a short tunic and leggings, but soft high boots instead of the mud-caked ones near the door. Lindefal remarked as he held the clothing, "Your schedule today is a free morning, and you have booked yourself into the hot springs for the afternoon. Will there be anything else today?" Elrond replied as he carefully shrugged into his tunic with a grimace, "I'll be at the Mill afterwards to check the new stones and then I'll be back for dinner in the hall." Thus the day was planned and the others rose to go about their tasks now that the Master of the House had settled into a more reasonable schedule. All but Lindefal had their own share of achy muscles and stiff backs to concern them.
Elrond wandered down the winding stairs and headed towards the connecting series of rooms that made up the kitchens and pantries of Rivendell. A late breakfast was still cooking for those coming and going to the fields, and he filled a plate and sat on the steps and visited with the crew from the hayfields as the day stretched to noon. He strolled down the steep path to the greenhouses and walked along the long narrow rooms filled with every variety of plant life that could be gathered over centuries of toil and study. He stood behind a class in herbal medicine and refreshed his memory of a certain class of poisonous plants. He found it so much easier to remember these things when an oral exam later was not hanging over his head. The hours slipped away in the warm and fragrant rooms as he checked new plants and old ones, and visited with the plant keepers.
He left the warm moist environment of the greenhouses and climbed the steps to the bubbling pool that fed from a hot spring deep beneath the valley. The heat and steam from this pool kept the greenhouses warm and moist throughout the year, and the water was so hot it had to be cooled somewhat in the connecting shallow pools where members of the community bathed away their aches and pains. Stripping down amidst woven screens, he wrapped a short cloth around his waist and stepped across the pavement and down into the hot bubbling water. Decorum was somewhat observed in this public bathing area. Legolas had been uneasy about soaking in hot spring water at first, but had adopted the practice readily after his first visit. Soaking in hot water for the health benefits, or just plain fun, was not something his father would approve of.
Legolas had visited a few short times over the summer, and his calm and sunny disposition had lightened the daily affairs of Rivendell. As he soaked in the gently moving water, Elrond thought about the similarities between his own situation at the Court of Gil-galad, and how he had come there as a fresh-faced lad, and the situation of Legolas during his visits to Rivendell. While Elrond had embraced his physical relationship with Gil-galad, he had managed, thus far, to resist any relationship beyond friend and father figure with Legolas, painful as that was sometimes. He often walked with Legolas with his arms crossed tightly across his chest, and while foreboding in appearance, it kept wandering fingers away from silky strands of hair and off of the supple frame beside him. Legolas came and went as he could, and as he pleased, and it pleased Elrond that he returned as often as he did within this freedom. Elrond had known strong ties that bound him to the Grey Havens at Lindon, ties that were painful to break when he finally left the Court there.
Unlike Legolas, who was an honored guest, Elrond had first served as page, then aide to the High King, and had gained increasingly more responsible positions at Court. He had enjoyed his power at Court, and found it greatly improved after his chambers were moved into the royal wing of the house. The inevitable night came along when they were thrown together in the late hours, alone. While not inexperienced in loving embraces with other males, Elrond had rarely felt the mixed emotions of love, respect and burning desire as he had that night with the High King. It had been a memorable evening starting with flirtation, then dalliance, and finally pleasure in each other's arms. While exploring their bodies, their wants and needs, the King had been the most gentle tutor and lover, and Elrond had surprised him with a few movements of his own. Neither claimed dominance that night or the next day as repeated joinings led them down many different paths to pleasure. First the loved and then the lover, they both enjoyed every aspect of joining, and their auras meshed with a dazzling scintillation that was new for them both.
Their discretion and mutual respect kept the relationship from being seen as one of advantage and power over youth and position. Elrond's strong personality and exalted bloodlines kept tongues from wagging in a mean fashion. After all, wasn't the pursuit of beauty and love the essence of life for the Elven kind? And few dared evoke the awesome wrath of Gil-galad.
Elrond leaned back against the stone edge of the pool and stretched his legs out straight; they were stiff and slowly relaxing in the hot water. This was bliss, he thought. The attendant gently tapped him on the shoulder when his time was up, as he had fallen asleep again. Cirgalad, the Chief Surgeon of the Medical School that met in the greenhouses nearby, sat beside him; robes pulled up and bare feet dangling in the hot water. He had a small pottery jar nearby.
"Too much time spent in this high temperature water is not good for the bones," he said. Elrond turned his head and nodded to his old teacher, "So you have told me. However it certainly feels good to these tired bones right now." The old sage nodded, "I hear you have outdone yourself in the fields and vineyards again, here is a pot of balm for your shoulders and neck. And, I imagine, your hands probably ache as well. They are not what they used to be you know, we do age over the years." He shook his head; "Let me see that cut on your palm while I am here." "The grapevine from the house runs straight to Cirgalad," Elrond thought as he raised his open palm for inspection. The sage tsk tsked and said, "Not too bad, it could get infected if you are not careful working in the fields, you know."
Cirgalad was one of the watchers that protected Elrond from himself, and he doted on Elrond in his own scolding manner, having watched him grow up, suffer through many trials and become a successful and respected leader. Elrond knew that he had just had a thorough visual inspection while he slept. He felt the warm and comforting aura that Cirgalad exuded naturally. Cirgalad had been a healer at the Court at Lindon, and had been in the inner circle around Gil-galad and Elrond during the years of the Last Alliance.
He had also been on the field at Dagorlad, and had held Elrond the first night after Sauron's dissolution and the horrible death of Gil-galad from the heat and power of Sauron's body. Leaving the wounded to the medical teams, he had washed his hands and removed his blood stained apron, and he sought out Elrond after Cirdan had told him of the days events. He had heard of the death of the High King and Elendil, and of the rebellion of Isildur with grave concern, and Cirdan told him of his own worry for Elrond, who refused any food or help that night. Grief could do strange things to Men and Elves.
As he entered Gil-galad's tent Cirgalad saw Elrond seated alone on the floor, still and silent. His hands lay limply in his lap and he rocked ever so slightly back and forth. Armor and chain mail had been cast off carelessly and lay in piles here and there on the ground. His sweat-soaked and blood-spattered padded jerkin was unlaced and hung open. His dark hair was a tangled mass of sweat and blood as well, having whipped in the wind all day long. Elrond had charged into battle without a helmet so his troops could see him clearly. A golden chain glinted around his neck dully in the dim light, a ring hung from it hidden in the folds and laces of the jerkin. It was the last gift from Gil-galad, given for safe keeping to Elrond on the morning of the battle. Just that morning, it seemed ages ago now. Aware of the enormous power and the history of the ring Vilya, and of the responsibility that fell to him now, it hung heavy around his neck.
In the quiet darkness of the evening, the horrors of the long and brutal day had settled in on him hard. Even though experienced and a war veteran, his mind had shut down, unable to cope with the unimaginable events that had stacked one on the other over the past few hours. The death of Gil-galad, the death of Elendil, the dissolution of Sauron in a mighty blast of heat and power, Isildur's gaining of the Ring of Power, and his decision to keep it, and his threat to Elrond as they came down the mountain, and the overview of the field of battle with heaps of the dead and cries of lament, it was all too much to take in and remain sane.
Cirgalad added fuel to the dying fire in the low bronze vessel, and gathered a coverlet from the cot nearby. In the confusion of the aftermath no one was seeing to the survivors in their shock and reaction to the events of the day. Long hours of violent action and the extreme emotional drain of battle often left the survivors in worse shape than the wounded. "Elrond," he said gently, and got no response. Elrond's vacant stare and deep silence had spoken of wells of unexpressed grief. He had lost his second father and his lover in the brutal death of Gil-galad, and it happened instantly and directly before his own eyes as he watched helplessly. Cirgalad spread the blanket over the shoulders before him, and sat down wordlessly behind the hunched figure. He gathered Elrond into a firm embrace and gently rocked the shocked and unresponsive body.
They sat slowly moving together for hours on the ground by the fire as silent tears coursed down their sooty and blood stained cheeks. His stiff body finally relaxed and he lay back into Cirgalad's arms, and he slept towards morning. Cirgalad never lessened the tight embrace or ceased the slow comforting movement. His healing aura bathed them both in serenity and calmness as best as possible considering Cirgalad's own deep grief affected his skills as a healer. Gil-galad had touched many lives, and many mourned his passing.
Elrond had pulled himself together by mid-morning and had moved through the following days silently and grimly, tied to the work at hand. Gil-galad had chosen him not only for appearance and personality, but he had seen the seeds of greatness as a leader buried within Elrond. Those seeds had bloomed at Court in Lindon, and with the founding of Imladris, and they stirred again as he became a walking symbol for those who survived the battle. Burning the piles of Orc bodies, burying or burning the dead of the Elves and Men according to custom, and sorting out rations and water kept him visible and busy. If Elrond could manage to move forward, then other survivors took heart and worked long days as well.
Cirgalad wondered now how Elrond had ever overcome the deep sense of loss, and how he had worked through the crippling pain. None of them would ever again share Gil-galad's essence and spirit again as he had died a death of the body and had not passed over the Western Seas. The failure to destroy the Ring and Isildur's rapid departure had added a huge sense of failure to the already great loss of life. Time had changed after that night; nothing was ever to be the same again. The Third Age had begun.
Cirgalad had stayed on at Rivendell and started a Medical School there after the wars. His life was now tied to his fatherly love for the Master of the House, even though Cirdan had assumed Mastership of the Grey Havens and re-established the community there at Lindon. He had chosen the cosmopolitan life at Rivendell over a new life back in the Grey Havens.
"Well, enough of a break for me, back to class," he said as he gracefully rose from the stone edge of the hot pool. The years had whitened his hair, but had done little else to challenge his enormous energy and agile body. "Be careful at the Mill today, I don't have to tell you what those grinding wheels can do to a hand do I?" he slipped into his low shoes and strolled off humming to himself. "No secrets, I have no secrets,' Elrond thought as he rose from the hot water and sought his clothing.
The afternoon was getting on to evening as Elrond stepped down the stairs to the Mill along the river. He felt relaxed and his stiffness was eased somewhat, though he thought he would be using Cirgalad's balm tonight on his arms and hands. He had placed it in the small bag hanging from his belt for safekeeping. The churning river race coursed along its channel to turn the large wheel, this aspect of waterpower had always caught his fancy. He nodded and spoke to those going about their business off-loading sacks of grain and stacking sacks of already ground flour into wagons. He saw the large worn-out carved stones beside the doorway where they had been temporarily laid aside when the new stones had been installed yesterday. They would eventually join others in the retaining walls along the terraces.
Inside the great wheels turned around grinding and creaking and the fine powdered flour flew out into trays. The flour-dusted Miller and his aides stood watching with pleasure as the new wheels turned with precision, they had had finally settled into their places and the adjustments had been finalized. The flour was perfect. Elrond visited with them, tested a handful of fine ground flour and then climbed the stairs to the loft where the grain to be ground was stored. The fragrant bins were full and he was pleased at this demonstration of the fertility of the valley, and the skills of his field managers. Rivendell was able to feed its community and many guests year round with no strain on its resources. The working of many hands in community, the sharing of tasks and especially the coming together in the autumn to bring in the crops, was a reflection of their devotion to each other, to Rivendell and to its Master.
He looked out the loft window and saw the Great House shining in the slanting rays of the setting sun. Its hanging gardens and exterior stairways, tall bell towers and staggered roofline was enchanting even after centuries of residence here. Elrond always enjoyed the look of wonder that crossed the first time visitor's faces as they came into the Courtyard, and he enjoyed his strolls around the clusters of buildings with Legolas, who saw everything with fresh new eyes. The growth and evolution of the complex of buildings had taken place over the centuries. He crossed his arms and leaned against the window frame, lost in the view. The grinding slowed and stopped downstairs and the crews prepared to break for the day, and the evening bells pealed out their call to dinner.
The Miller popped a white and dusty head up the stairwell and said, "We are off to dinner now, is there anything I can do for you before we leave, Milord?" Elrond said no, and wished him good evening. "Be careful on these steps coming down, they can be slippery when covered in flour like they are." Elrond nodded a thanks and returned to the view. He watched with a smile as the Mill crew climbed the steps patting each other on the back for the successful mounting of the new grinding wheels. They moved in a little cloud of white flour dust. Silence settled over the fields and valley as the working community closed itself down for the day.
Elrond remembered he had once stood on a tower overlooking the ocean in Lindon one day, much as he stood here against the window frame. The tall masts of the large ships swayed as they rocked and creaked in the waves, and he was lost in the ebb and flow of the waves crashing along the shore. He had not heard Gil-galad's step upon the stair. The plaintive call of the sea birds had brought to his mind the tales of his mother, and he had been moved to a great sadness and longing for someone he barely remembered. Being the son of legends was cold comfort indeed. Gil-galad had sensed the sadness and moved behind him gently. Embracing him from behind with a kiss on the shoulder he sought to ease the pain he found radiating outwards before him. Elrond leaned back into the broad chest and felt comforted by the brawny arms that encircled him and drew him close. The calling birds rose and dived in the shifting breezes.
"You are thinking of your mother are you not? You favor her in the eyes you know." Elrond nodded. "She was very beautiful and she loved your father dearly." Elrond replied without emotion, "So the legends tell." Shaking his head Gil-galad replied, "They did not have an easy life that is true, but they did love each other, and they did love you and your brother. Your father's desire to sail the seas caused his absence from the one who loved him, and brought her great sorrow. He was not there when Sirion was attacked and his family was lost." The cry of the swooping birds and the swish of the waves across the sand carried upward to the watchtower. "Your home is here now, with us in Lindon, and we love you. Few in the world have a second chance for love and family as you do with us. "
Elrond turned and looked his mentor and lover in the eyes with a thoughtful glance. "You are kind to take me in and make me a part of the Court. You have made your family my family, and I appreciate that." Gil-galad's eyes crinkled as he smiled, "I love you, you must know that. I cannot change the past, and I cannot mend the misfortunes that befell you, however I can gladden your days while we are together." He bent forward and sweetly kissed Elrond. The comforting presence and enveloping aura of Gil-galad affected Elrond and he moved closer to the taller figure before him. "Seal that promise again, would you?" The cold stones of the tower's rooftop landing were warmed by their passion in the twilight. They lay spent in each other's arms as the sun slipped below low clouds on the horizon and turned the cloudy sky radiant with blazes of pink and red. Gil-galad had leaned low and whispered, "See, the heavens blush at the depth of our passion. Don't you know you are where you belong now?"
Elrond watched swifts dart and whirl in the air outside the Mill and felt a warmth rise along his neck at that memory. He almost expected to feel the warmth of the broad body behind him and to hear that low voice whisper again in his ear any moment, and unbidden, tears welled in his eyes. For someone who had been as tall, hearty and powerful as Gil-galad had been, for someone with a temper like an ocean tempest when aroused, he had been an incredibly sensitive and caring lover. Their reunion years later in the encampment at Rivendell had continued the supportive and loving relationship as if none of the intervening years had separated them. Gil-galad had been father, mother, brother and lover to Elrond's emotional emptiness in a mix that was incomprehensible to others.
The sight of Gil-galad's horrible death on the mountainside at the hand of Sauron had been seared into Elrond's brain, and then blanked out in denial. Cirdan had grabbed his arm and directed him and Isildur upwards to the open gateway on the mountain above. "Destroy the ring now," he called out. Isildur's father Elendil had been ready to do whatever was necessary to remove the evil of Sauron from the world, and had died trying. Would the son have that courage as well? Waves of unbearable heat rose all around them as they entered the mountain cavern. Isildur had the Ring in hand as Elrond had marched out to the very end of the jutting platform over the leaping flames. He turned and gestured to the fiery blasts licking at their feet. "Cast it into the flames! Destroy it! " he called out. But the Ring had worked its magic on Isildur's weak human mind already. It had whispered of power and glory and wealth and fame. "No," he breathed. He clutched it in his fist, turned and strode away. "Isildur!" Elrond cried out in disbelief.
Awash in horror at the missed opportunity, and paralyzed with grief and dismay, Elrond missed his chance to grab the Ring away and destroy it himself. He ran after his distant human relation, and they argued violently all the way down the mountainside, until Isildur drew his sword and threatened Elrond with the jagged blade. Elrond sank to his knees in defeat and exhaustion and watched as Isildur stormed away with his swaggering walk, joined by his captains who looked back at Elrond with distrust and fear. The Last Alliance was sundered at that instant.
Elrond knelt in the cinders and jagged rocks and looked out across the battle plain through the smoke and heat and dust and saw piles of bodies as far as he could see. He heard cries of lament, and saw banners flap in the dry wind. Sauron was defeated, but his power remained. He would return in time. The courage of men had failed and the years of preparation, the toil, the suffering and the loss was all for a delayed destiny, nothing more.
Lost in this painful ancient reverie he did not hear Findalor come up the stairs behind him. Findalor stood there silently a while, caught up in the waves of sadness and grief radiating from Elrond in the silence. The images of the battlefield were apparent in Findalor's mind, projected as part of the burning aura snapping and sparking around Elrond. Findalor knew what Cirgalad did not about how Elrond had dealt with his grief at Gil-galad's death.
No one had attacked the tower of Barad-dur with such fury and hatred as Elrond had in the weeks after the battle. The black tower symbolized Sauron's evil and had been the source of the armies that battled them throughout the 7-year siege. The decision to destroy the tower was instant and unanimous among the victors. Stone after stone was wrenched from its place in the wall and hurled down to smash on the rocks below.
Others scrambled out of the way and watched in wonder at the fits of anger and frustration that gave Elrond unbelievable strength in those days. He was covered in dust and cut with flying stone shards as sharp as knives as he swung the massive and heavy hammer again and again against the black stonewalls. He pushed the weighty loosened blocks away and over the side, and swung again and again, for hours on end. Grief and anger drove him mercilessly, and all stayed away from the ravaged face and fearful eyes until he dropped to his knees in exhaustion from the efforts. Cirgalad had been concerned about the depth of his grief, as Elves could surrender their souls in despair. He determined that Elrond was deeply shaken, but would survive. He had been called away to tend the grievously wounded and had been far away from the black tower's destruction. The upper stories had fallen rapidly in the surge of hatred felt by the survivors in the weeks after the battle ended. The tower was eventually torn down to its foundations.
Cirgalad did not know that Findalor too had held Elrond during the nights when he trembled in exhaustion and anger and with raging adrenaline charging his pounding heart. Tears flowed silently in grief and anger, and his tired hands clenched and unclenched in the night. The muscles in his arms trembled uncontrollably with over-
exertion from the day's destructive actions.
Appearing the second night after the battle's end to report on his unit's activities that day, Findalor had entered the tent unbidden when he heard a crash. He looked around in amazement at the overturned bed, the torn linens and he ducked as a metal gauntlet flew across the space under his nose. The pillar of strength and model for the survivors was coming apart at the seams, and a folding camp table flew across the space to follow the gauntlet into a broken heap. Having training relentlessly with Elrond at Rivendell in the years of preparation, Findalor was emboldened and awash with compassion at the same time. He moved across the floor and grasped the angry arms tightly. He crossed them and pressed them back across Elrond's chest, and whispered slowly, "Stop, stop, stop."
Elrond was flushed and wild-eyed before him, and Findalor had no doubt that he could be crushed in a single angry blow from either of the arms he held still before him. He had seen the power of this anger push huge blocks of stone from the tower that day. He released his grasp of the arms and embraced their bodies into a bear hug, whispering all the while, "Stop now, stop, stop." Exhausted, Elrond's knees gave way and they sank to the floor amidst the tangled bedclothes. Findalor relaxed his grip yet held on, whispering repeatedly and slowly, "Be calm, you can stop fighting now." He recognized shock and exhaustion from his years of training as a warrior and grabbed a blanket from nearby to wrap around the trembling shoulders before him.
Findalor had joined the Last Alliance at Rivendell, and had never been to the Court at Lindon. However, he knew of Gil-galad and Elrond from training at Rivendell, and from rumors among the soldiers. Elrond and Gil-galad moved and thought as one in the strategy meetings and training grounds, and on the battlefield. They had the complete devotion of their Elvish units, who would have, and did, die for them. Findalor had been a unit commander under Elrond, and had a great respect and liking for the lean dark leader. The armies of Elendil grew to respect them and accepted their wisdom and leadership as well. Findalor acted without conscious thought now as he vigorously rubbed the tired shoulders before him and poured a goblet of wine. He held it before Elrond until he was able to take it himself and drink. They were common soldiers coping together with the aftermath of battle in the dim light of the fire.
With the simple compassion of a fellow soldier he moved to sit side by side with Elrond, leaning them against the overturned bed frame. He placed his arm across the broad shoulders next to him and with the other one he pulled the blanket tighter around the still shivering body. Ignoring the ravaged and open soul exposed beside him, he spoke plainly and to the point. He sympathized with Elrond over his loss, and spoke of the horror of the battle, of the numbers of survivors, of anything to keep talking as he watched Elrond settle and grow calm. He poured more wine and added fuel to the fire as it burned low. He spoke of the loss of his friends in the field. He spoke of the strength of his sword and the piles of Orcs he laid at his feet, and then he looked up at one point and saw Elrond gazing at him with a sad smile on his lips. "Please stop," he whispered, "Give my ears a rest." Elrond had accepted his comfort and his presence, and his fevered mind eased itself. The crackle of his greatly disturbed aura calmed in rest and the air in the tent grew quiet.
They lay on the ground in the tangle of linens and Findalor kept a tight hold around the silent figure. Elrond finally slept. Nights afterwards were unsettled and disturbed by nightmares, but then again so were many other dreamers disturbed across that dark plain. Findalor, with innate common sense and wisdom, arranged for a new tent to be set up near the center of things as the command center. This was a large tent, filled with different furnishings for Elrond, and he had moved into it without a word. The heavy losses on the field left much to be redistributed among the survivors.
Findalor re-organized the base camp. Other tents were moved and pitched in the new order. Erestor and Lindefal had joined with him, adding their organizational skills to the administrative mix. No one complained as new staff members were gathered from survivors, and many were glad just to have someone tell them what to do next. Gil-
galad's possessions were bound together and made the pyre for his final burning in the warrior's cleansing release from the constraints of the mortal world. His loss of spirit forever from any manifestation of Elven existence was a cruel and bitter blow to many. The desolate field of Dagorlad saw order imposed over it during the next months as the victors regrouped and finished their grim tasks. Findalor's tent was pitched next to Elrond's in those days, and he had returned to Rivendell with the survivors and stayed on. Lindefal and Erestor had come with them
Now he relived those desperate and tortured nights through Elrond's mind. He could smell the smoke and see the fires, and he heard the long banners snap from his own memories. He worried at Elrond's place in the open window, would the grief overcome him Millennia after the events? Would he join Gil-galad in the final death with no afterlife? Could he surrender his soul in despair and grief and leave them all behind? He felt his heart ache at the distant events and he moved forward suddenly and embraced Elrond from behind to stop the flow of overwhelming memories spiraling explosively outwards into the calm air. The close contact merged their auras and memories, and Elrond was exposed in his deeply seated grief and longing. They sank to the floor and sat against the low wall, still entangled in an awkward embrace. Findalor was not letting go for the world until he felt something better in the emotional landscape.
He began to whisper steadily, "You did not come to dinner when you said you would and I was worried. The Miller said you were still here. I know you too well. Memories catch and hang in your mind. I could see your grief for Gil-galad rekindled in your eyes the other night, and I could feel it your heart, even after all these years. I know his ghost walks the halls of Rivendell and haunts your dreams. I see him in your mind when I am there in bed with you. Those days are long past, and he is gone forever. But I am here now."
Elrond drew small figures in the white dust on the floor and slowly regained his composure. He plucked listlessly at the gauze tied around his hand. Silent tears still rolled along his cheeks. "You have been there for me before, and I know you are here for me now." He drew a white flour-dusted thumb across Findalor's cheek and said, "We are blood brothers too, remember?" Findalor laid a gentle hand on Elrond's thigh, above the long scar from the wound that had made them blood brothers. "I am tired, Findalor, the past visits me more than it should." Findalor thought, "And we assumed that autumn was going so well, how were we so mistaken?" Elrond continued, "I miss Celebrian, I miss the boys, and I am going to call for Arwen to come home from Lothlorien for a while. Aragorn and the twins are more involved in the outside world than I would desire, but their news is disturbing and I cannot bring them home yet."
Findalor listened with all the sympathy and understanding that only a long-time friend and lover could muster. His hand on Elrond's thigh and the other along his shoulders drew them close for another hug, and a simple kiss on the cheek. The atmosphere was calmer now, the air quiet and the sun was setting low. Elrond's white dusty hands moved to either side of Findalor's cheeks and left white streaks there as they moved into his hair. Findalor lay back on the warm stone floor as Elrond moved over his body and kissed him sweetly and slowly. Grief responded to compassion, and then turned to passion and longing between them. "No ghosts with us?" Findalor asked as strong fingers roamed his chest and stomach, plucking at the loose laces there. "No ghosts," replied Elrond. "No dinner?" he asked with a smile. "Later," breathed Elrond as he pulled the tunic upwards and over Findalor's head.
His hand moved across the lacings of Findalor's leggings and encouraged the growing interest he felt there. Findalor noticed that Elrond's dark hair was streaked with white flour, and that their clothes were well covered by now. "How are you going to explain to Lindefal how this flour came to be in every pore and wrinkle?" "He knows I was coming to the Mill today, I just inspected it very thoroughly, " Elrond said absently. Findalor shook with laughter at this response and pulled Elrond's tunic over his head in return. The satiny flour was well rubbed in all over them in appreciation of the texture and earthy scent. "Those new mill stones work very well, I'll have to tell the Miller you approve." Findalor joked. "I already told him I approved," Elrond sputtered through a mouthful of flour, his usual licking kisses were a bit dry along their body's well dusted conditions. Boots and leggings slid off in slithering motions, and they raised a small cloud of white dust as they moved alongside each other. "I'll never think of bread the same way again," puffed Findalor as he blew out a breath of floury dust. The odd situation eased the tension and added humor to their joining. Auras calmed and turned warm and embracing as they moved together and became one mind in growing passion.
Slow easy motion raised their pulses and other things as well. Caressing, stroking fingers increased the heat between them and their breathing became ragged. The stress of the moments before, the tenderness of their relationship at this time and the long and deep intimacy they had shared over the centuries allowed them to relax in the aftermath of the stormy memories and move into this state of heightened awareness and pleasure. The somewhat gritty environment they found themselves in inspired them to improvise in their current face-to-face position, and with firm touches and experienced hands they peaked in unison and met their releases shuddering into the evening's darkness.
The lantern Findalor had brought and left below was the only light nearby. "Some one will come looking for us soon," Findalor reminded them after a while, "we should get dressed." Much brushing and dusting of clothing ensued to no avail afterwards. They snapped the garments out the window, only to coat the side of the building in a fine spray of white powder, and still leave plenty of the white stuff enmeshed in the fabric. They stood in the lantern light and considered their snowy white and incriminating appearances. It was impossible to return to the House in this state. They both looked like ancient elders with snowy hair, Findalor gave his head a shake and watched the white dust drift down in the lamplight.
"Swimming! Swimming is the answer," declared Elrond. "Wet clothes are easier to explain than flour-covered ones!" "At this hour? The water will be freezing!" Findalor hated the large and cold spring-fed pool where swimmers could dive and race to their heart's content. Elrond thought back to the afternoon, "Alright then, the hot springs." When they ask tomorrow why there is flour in the pool you'll have no idea-right?"
They dashed down the Mill steps in a flurry of snowy flour and headed for the stairs to the greenhouses at a run. They arrived at the pools and leapt in as thankfully no one else was around. The ridiculous situation had them laughing and gasping as they scrubbed the flour from their skin and hair, yet it only made clinging dumplings in their clothes. Resigned to their fate, they climbed the stairs to the Great House, and wound around the exterior staircase to Elrond's study, squishing as they went. Just as they thought they might reach refuge without being seen, Lindefal meet them at the top of the stairs with crossed arms. His sly voice drifted down to them from the lamplight of the study landing, "So, how was the Mill?"
Continued in "The Abyss"
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