Pairings: Elrond/Gil-Galad/group/other pairings
Summary: 36 hours in a rainy late winter (echuir, or the stirring time) at Rivendell encompass a landslide, current pleasures, past nightmares, and secrets shared.
Feedback: Write me if you want to. I might even answer.
Notes: m/f, m/m, group, flashbacks, lust, jealousy, power, grief, magic - you know the good stuff. The series uses movie and books as basic canon-with embellishments. ;>
Rivendell, in a time before the Great Ring's rediscovery...
Late winter was drawing to a close with cold nights and warmer sunny days; it was the time of stirring, or echuir. The time of renewal had descended upon the valley and the dull colors of winter were turning new and green again. Legolas had been back at Rivendell for a short time and he and Elrond had ridden frequently in the early morning mists and well into the chill but clearing days. Interacting with the powerful and intelligent Elven horses kept Elrond's hands busy and out of trouble while allowing him to share the company of his favorite guest. Legolas was selecting 3 of the proud and graceful animals to take back with him to Mirkwood. The cool sunny days flowed past them in the slow time stream experienced by Elves, and they enjoyed their time together.
Legolas was still awed and amazed at life in Rivendell; at the hanging gardens and balconies that wrapped around the rooms, at the great halls and the stacked buildings that led away down the cliff side into the side valley. Nowhere else had he come across the easy-going customs he found among the residents there. Elrond moved among the residents with ease and good humor, and had even taken a turn washing dishes the other night, a lively evening in the downstairs halls for certain. The participants had slowly stripped down as they became drenched in sudsy water, until Legolas wondered where it would stop! He had never laughed so much in the performance of household chores before. He wore a crown of suds back to his guest room, he had knelt and been dubbed King of the Kitchens by Elrond with a wooden stirring spoon.
His father would never consider doing anything this informal, and Celeborn and Galadriel were seen by appointment, if then. Even the air had a quality of its own at Rivendell, perhaps the constant spray from the many waterfalls aided in the cleansing atmosphere that pervaded the corridors and hallways of the house. Just to be there was to be healed of care and worry and woe. To be in the company of its Master lightened his spirit and his heart, and made him glad.
At his father's hall life was harder around the edges, things were different, more concerned with survival. Less elegance and minimal attention to detail was the norm in the dark halls there. Sword practice and fighting skills were emphasized over reading and study. Life at Lothlorien was different still, elegant and elite, high in the lofty boughs of the mallorn trees. He wondered what was at Rivendell and at Lothlorien that made them so different in feeling and texture, what preserved them in time, he wondered why life in his father's halls was so different. History and personalities must be just a part of the story he thought.
For a few days he and Elrond had gone out with Elladan and Elrohir on an extended patrol of the border, riding far down the valley's length on business as well as pleasure. Elrond's twin sons kept him informed of activities along the border and in the surrounding lands, and were as serious as any in monitoring the defenses of the valley refuge. However, he had called them home for a time and now they enjoyed this outing together. Elrond worried that life had gotten too dark for them all lately and had engineered this change in their schedules. Legolas could honestly report back he had worked on patrol duty while there as well. His father would understand that activity. He was expected to carry his weight when visiting other places.
Legolas would be taking 3 horses back to Mirkwood when he returned-it was the purpose of this visit. The rare and extremely valuable horses were the agreed on price in reparation for the endangerment of Legolas' life in the horse race last year. The price was a horse each for his father, mother and himself. He was secretly pleased he would have these elements of Rivendell at home with him now.
Word of that foolhardy event had beaten the youth home. He had gained new hero status among the youth at Mirkwood as the dangerous race had been described to his father, just as he had at Rivendell. That generation was not much different across the Elven settlements. Elrond would have sent the entire stable to keep relationships between the two communities friendly, and to ensure that Legolas could come and go on these brief visits.
While camping out in the woods Elrond had watched Elrohir manage dinner over the crackling fire as Elladan and Legolas had shared some joke and were busy shoving and elbowing each other in a tussle as they laughed and finally fell off the log they were seated on. The rough outing, sitting on the ground with camp fare for dinner, the refreshing company of his twins and Legolas, mixed with long hours watching the glittering stars between the swaying branches above, and the comfort of the woven blankets at the cool dawn, had been enjoyable in the change of pace for Elrond. He did not want to lose his edge completely in the comfortable life at Rivendell. The nights were still chill and damp and the fire was welcome and drew them all closer. They left their cares behind for a short time as they explored the riverbanks, fished in the falls and cascades, enjoyed the sun on their faces and napped in the fragrant grass.
Elrond woke in the early hours the last night out and saw Elladan standing watch in the shadows, and as he moved to rise for his shift, his son waved him back with a smile and a nod. It was nearly dawn. He fell asleep again with the image of the glowing coals of their fire casting highlights and shadows across Legolas' ashen hair as his still form slept nearby.
As they had ridden the plateau road the next day Findalor and his Border Guards caught up with them and Elrond had been convinced to stop and pay attention to a serious problem while they were there. The old and disused path was crumbling away and whole sections had fallen to the valley path below. It was time to address the problem and take action before anyone was injured.
As Elrond and Legolas stood shoulder to shoulder and looked down the steep path, they saw it had degraded much since their race of last year had taken them up the already dangerous path. They exchanged raised eyebrows and a wry look today at the state of the path and the memory of the race. Elrond wondered if 3 horses were enough to pay for his folly that day. Elladan and Elrohir looked down in amazement as well, they had seen the pounding vertical climb last year and the race along the plateau. Not even their father on his favorite horse could manage that climb today. Plans were made to survey the damage and start plantings and walls to shore the eroding cliff side up. Legolas' time was up in Rivendell and he was leaving the next day. Another survey was planned for then.
The late afternoon sun of the next day slanted down across the steep valley cliffs as figures moved in scattered groups across the rocky outcroppings and ledges overlooking the river below. Cirgalad and his students were gathering samples of medicinal plants that grew close to home in the wild and overgrown underbrush. Findalor and Elrond, with several of the Border Guards and greenhouse staff, were assessing the old and unused pathway near the plateau, determining where new plantings and a few retaining walls would best secure the crumbling switchback path. The decision was made to start work planting at the top of the cliff and move down along the path.
As they looked straight down between their feet at the thin silver stream of the rushing river, they found the situation much worse than they imagined. It would be barely be possible to climb up from the river to the plateau using this path now, much less ride horses up the steep incline as Elrond and Legolas had done last year. No one mentioned that foolhardiness today, but Findalor gave Elrond a few looks now and then of amazement that he had survived the suicidal climb, and that he had allowed Legolas to follow him upwards. But that had been a time when normalcy had been set aside.
Tied together for safety while moving along the crumbling path, even their most careful steps were treacherous in the soft turf. Feet slid and all had slipped and grabbed for balance during the afternoon's exploration. Determining they could go no further, and that conditions were too dangerous to proceed, they were climbing back upwards to the plateau and their horses when, with a sudden crack and rumble, the ledge below them gave way.
Everyone immediately dropped and dug in at the sound. The ropes tied between them tightened with a jerk as Ilvar, who was the lowest person in the line, slipped downwards, grabbing for a handhold in the tumbling rocks. Elrond, next in line, had turned at the sound, and now threw himself back into the slope and straightened his legs into the soft soil. The rope was looped across his shoulder and around his arm, and it snapped taut with the dead weight at the end, nearly jerking him down after Ilvar. Findalor, grabbed by others beside him, held the rope steady.
The rope was tight across the remains of the flat ledge, and Ilvar's fingers sought to gain a hold as his footing crumbled away beneath him. With the supporting soil tumbling downhill, and the pressure of the rope and the weight of Ilvar on its edge, the remains of the ledge split and broke into large sections. They battered Ilvar as they fell, and crying out, he barely covered his head with his arms before the largest piece scraped along his shoulders and down his back to fall tumbling into the valley. He swung in open space, slowly turning.
Elrond was slowly sliding downwards in the soft soil and Findalor was pulled along as well above him. Clods of earth and stones rolled down around them. Findalor regained his footing and backed upwards into the arms of the Border Guards. Elrond was caught in the slow tightening grind of the ropes as Findalor moved up behind him and Ilvar swung freely below him. Others were carefully heading down to aid them and to secure Ilvar. They tugged the rope upwards until they could grab Ilvar's clothing and pull him to the soft ground near Elrond's feet. They untied the ropes and boosted Ilvar into more waiting arms and they scrambled up to the plateau edge.
Cirgalad and the medical students had looked up at the crack of the ledge breaking free, and watched this split second event with dismay and horror. They too had been slipping along the rocky ledges that afternoon and were aware of the unsafe conditions there. Cirgalad sent them to the plateau edge to offer assistance, and he made his way slowly along the cliff face to the tight group perched on the edge of disaster.
With the weight and strain of the rope removed, Elrond leaned against the moist soil behind him and caught his breath, loosening the rope that was now wrapped tightly around his arm. The sleeve of his jacket had protected him somewhat, but he had felt the burn as fabric twisted in the rope and dug in as it pulled across the flesh beneath. He stood very still, taking stock of himself and his location. He held his throbbing right shoulder as he caught his breath. The rope had snapped right across the joint and jerked it suddenly. Findalor remained alert and cautious above, waiting to determine what their next move would be. He asked Elrond about his position and his footing, and if he could use his arm.
The guards had gotten Ilvar to the top and were returning to offer assistance to them next. Cirgalad, snowy haired and ancient in days, was still as agile and nimble as he had ever been. He arrived on the scene and slowly eased himself down to the ledge to stand next to Elrond. "I don't have to look for you anymore you know," he said conversationally, his calmness belied his pounding heart. "All I have to do is locate the nearest ruckus, and you are in the midst of it."
Elrond looked at him wordlessly and with a bent eye. Cirgalad never missed an opportunity to scold him affectionately. Elrond just wished it was not happening now. Cirgalad looked him over closely and clucked his tongue, "Let's see that shoulder." He tested here and there around the joint, and moved the arm to test mobility. " Well, it is not dislocated, but strained certainly." Fingers moved behind his neck and gently probed. "Your neck is probably somewhat injured as well from the stress of the rope being there," he picked it up from across his shoulder between two fingers in example. "Yes, I saw it all, you were lucky this time." he remarked.
As he felt the joints with expert hands Elrond felt the subtle tingle of their auras merging and the warmth of Cirgalad's healing touch as he also felt for a disruption in the energies that flowed along the spine and neck. Cirgalad was one of the few healers who could channel energies as part of the healing process. He found the strong feelings expressed through Elrond's aura to both a benefit and a curse to a healer. The damaged areas were very easy to identify, however the strength of the disrupted flow could block any positive attempts to correct things. He secretly thought that Elrond's mortal half was responsible for his unusually expressive aura, and this uncontrollable aura, but kept that thought to himself. " I'll send someone around to check on you when we return. There are definitely some problems there." He looked up as the guards reached hands down for him and asked, "Now, Findalor, what shape are you in?"
Ilvar was carried back to the house on a litter. Somewhat recovered from the shock of the accident; Findalor and Elrond walked their horses down the safer path home, both preferring to feel the ground beneath their feet. Cirgalad lectured the students on the injuries they had just checked, and he discussed treatment plans, keeping a close eye on the walking wounded as he did so. Findalor's wrist was strained and he was lucky to escape with that minor damage. Elrond still held his shoulder and massaged the joint carefully.
Lindefal was waiting in the study with a steaming bath ready upstairs. Of course the Household grapevine had filled him in on all the details of the harrowing cliff side adventure. He was friendly with Ilvar, and concerned for his well being also. Erestor had met the group in the courtyard and had climbed the steep stairs to the study with Elrond in silent concern.
Not in the mood for discussion after his view down the rocky cliff beyond the dangling Ilvar, Elrond was thoughtful and introspective. He allowed Findalor and Erestor to fuss over him and remove his muddy and torn clothing carefully. Cirgalad was right, his neck was stiffening up already, and it must have been jerked well out of alignment when the rope snapped across it. A nasty red scrape was forming across his pale shoulder and along the flesh of his arm where the rope had tightened and dug in, and been pulled even tighter as Ilvar fell. The bruise would be spectacular he thought.
He walked slowly across the room and stepped into the steaming water in his oversized carved wooden basin. He sunk completely down into the scented water, and rose back up rubbing his face, pushing the loose strands of hair back. He collapsed back in with the hot water up to his chin and closed his eyes. Erestor and Lindefal just stood watching, speechless for once, in concern and anxiety. They could not scold him for an accident, but a fall would have been fatal for any of them slipping off of the face of the cliff.
Thinking of what could have happened in just an instant froze their hearts as they considered that injuries to their live friend were much preferable to the alternative state. Their normal bantering chatter was silenced by Elrond's pale reservation and quiet. Lindefal pulled his stool around to the head of the wooden basin, and leaned in, quietly asking, "Shall I comb this out now?" Elrond's hair had accumulated muddy leaves and twigs in the slipping and sliding through the brush that day. "Please," was the whispered response. Elrond sat up as Lindefal reached for the knot wound low on the neck. He tried not to remember the view that had awaited him below Ilvar's spinning body.
Erestor built up the fire with fragrant wood and sat on cushions piled in the oversized chair by the fire. Lindefal loosened the knot of hair at Elrond's neck and unbraided the thick coils slowly, easing leaves and twigs out as he went along. He removed clots of mud with a damp cloth. With great skill and gentleness, he parted the strands and combed through the thick dark hair slowly, in a manner meant to relax and sooth. The damp hair glistened as it flowed through the fine silver comb, and blue tones cascaded across the waves in the soft lantern light. Elrond wandered in the half dreaming state that rested Elven minds, he was still and silent, embraced by the warm water. He slowly relaxed under Lindefal's skilled hands in his hair.
Erestor stared across the room in fascination at the dark hair and its shimmering highlights as it moved through the comb, and he was jealous of Lindefal's care of it. Lindefal would dress it daily in complex braids with fine silver beads and clips, and he kept it glistening and healthy with constant attention. He combed it now with love and care. A slow hand ran down and smoothed the strands; he ran his fingers back up through it.
Erestor thought that no one else he had ever seen had hair like Elrond. Not even other Elven strands moved quite like his did; it could bunch and sway and cascade with a life of its own. It lifted in the slightest breeze and could caress skin like the fringe of a silken scarf. He got goose bumps just thinking about it. The slow drag of it across his chest and stomach never failed to arouse him, even after centuries of intimacy. It would fall forwards to brush his cheek before they kissed in bed, and its cool softness was like a loving breath across his face.
It would tangle between them across the pillows and he buried his face in it as they slept front to back in embrace. There was always a subtle scent, mossy and light, or deep and layered in sensual forest tones in the long strands. He found himself longing for its touch even when with others. He grabbed handfuls of it tightly as he spent in passion, and could feel its texture in his hands now, even across the room. With Elrond suffering a neck injury, it might be some time before he was in a position to enjoy those dark strands sliding across his body again. Elrond lay unmoving in the steamy bath, and the fragrant water eased the atmosphere with balmy scents.
A soft step on the stairs up from the study below broke into his meditations. Galenbrethil came into the bedchamber with a large tray in her hands. Upon it were arranged a series of small pottery bowls and vials, folded cloths and other accessories. She laid it on the table near Erestor and nodded a greeting. She was as tall as he was, and lithe and graceful as were most of the Elven kind.
Her dark hair was bound back in a cloth and she wore the long loose apron of a healer tied over her green gown. Her pale gray eyes were fringed with dark lashes. Cirgalad's own assistant, she was as masterful in the healing arts as either Cirgalad or Elrond, and she was invaluable in emergencies with her skill and compassion. She had spent months among the peoples of the South when they were ravaged by the plague that swept through their lands, and she had attended the King at Gondor when he and his family had died of it. Her Elven immunity sent her into the depths of death and disease among Men and she had become blessed and legendary among the survivors there.
She had displayed the ability to channel energies at a very youthful age, and had grown up in the Court at the Grey Havens with Cirgalad as her teacher. With a strength hidden by her graceful slenderness, she had set broken bones with ease and sutured vicious wounds on many battlefields where she spent uncounted sleepless nights and long days moving among the wounded and dying to give comfort and hope. She had come with Cirgalad to Rivendell at its founding, and taught in the medical school now. Tonight she stood with folded hands and watched Lindefal comb Elrond's hair. "He does have the most amazing hair, doesn't he?" she asked Erestor. He was irked she noticed.
She moved across the room and dipped fingers into the bath water. Nodding, she thought he should be relaxed enough for her to begin the realignment easily. "How is Ilvar doing?" Lindefal asked. "He has broken wrists and probably damage to his neck as well, many bruises and sprains. He will stay with us in the greenhouses a while. But he'll recover soon enough. Everyone was very lucky today nothing worse happened to them"
He laid the comb in its basket and braided a long loose plait back into the dark hair. Of course it had 5 pieces in a complicated woven pattern, he could never make less than art with Elrond's hair. He tied it off with a length of silken thread.
"Cirgalad sent me to adjust his neck and re-channel the energies that are disturbed. I will care for him tomorrow as well, and as long as he needs me," she said softly. Her fingers brushed the red scrape and darkening bruise that marred the pale skin across the shoulder. Lindefal nodded and leaned forward to whisper into Elrond's ear, "Time to get out now." The dozing figure stirred and looked up at Galenbrethil with a sleepy smile of greeting. He took her hand in his damp one; they were old, old friends. "Cirgalad did something nice for me with this choice," he thought, "he could have sent any of the other healers along." The choice of Galenbrethil was due to the old healer's concern.
Elrond rose slowly, with a moan, and stepped out of the tub as Lindefal wrapped the drying cloth around him. He patted Elrond dry, using care around his shoulder and neck, and he draped the cloth around Elrond as he turned to take up the loose sleeping robe. Galenbrethil held out her hand to stop him and asked Elrond, "Can you stand for a short time here?" He nodded yes. She handed him a small cup of warm tea and said, "Drink this, it will relax you and ease the pain." She turned Elrond so the lantern light fell across his back. She drew the cloth down and studied his shoulders. Taking up the heavy braid, she moved it forward over his shoulder for a better view. She gently moved him with guiding hands, turning him this way and that. Lifting first one arm and then the other, she moved them slowly up and back, forward and backward, watching the muscles ripple beneath the skin. He flinched as she handled the sore shoulder, and he shifted again with a groan beneath her firm touch on his neck.
The cloth fell to the floor at their feet as she moved around him and studied the damage with trailing, probing fingers and narrowed eyes. Running her hands along his spine she felt for disturbances along the energy channels. She moved her hands along the lower back, questioning him as she proceeded along each joint and energy junction. From his own medical training he could foresee her questions and answered them as well as he could.
Erestor sat in rapt attention of this physical survey and realized he was getting a bit bothered as he watched what could have been seen as sensual caresses rather than a medical examination. His helplessness, and exclusion from the treatment so far, was annoying and he felt tinges of mixed jealousy and longing. He rose from his chair and excused himself for the evening, wishing Elrond speedy recovery. The simple words truly expressed the deep desire in his heart. He swept down the stairs to the study and outwards to the darkening evening beyond.
Lindefal stood holding the sleeping robe clutched to his chest and watched the examining process as well. He found himself leaning this way and that way and flinching in sympathy for the patient. As personal aide to Elrond he felt it his place to supervise even the healer's treatment of the Master of House. After all, this part of the Great House was his responsibility, and as Aide to the Master of the House he felt he had a duty to be involved here. He watched attentively as her strong fingers probed here and there, identifying damaged areas for treatment. Like Erestor, he felt a bit left out and helpless as Elrond shifted in pain again from a probing touch.
"We won't be needing that for a while," she told him as she looked at the robe in his hands.
She guided Elrond around the oversized square bed and had him lay down on his stomach across its width. Lindefal had already turned back the snowy sheets and stacked the plump pillows. She brought the tray of medications and creams and set it on a small table near the bed. In the assortment of containers were analgesics, massage lotions, fragrant oils and other medications. The small pot of medicinal tea was there and she poured more into the tiny cup and added honey to ease its bitterness. Elrond correctly guessed its contents and accepted the cup back from her. She removed the lids and arranged the items to suit her treatment plan. When this was done she looked at Lindefal, who had picked up each of the containers after she had arranged them and sniffed the scents or touched the textures.
The one he held now gave off a sensuous nutty fragrance and it slid between his fingers with a wonderful glide. She took the small jar from him with a raised eyebrow and replaced it on the tray. "Did you make this?" he asked her. "Yes." Intrigued he asked, "Can I get some?" "Yes, I will have some sent up for you tomorrow." With folded hands again she just stared at him as he stood examining the contents of the tray before him.
She said calmly, "Cirgalad sent me to adjust his neck, and care for him tonight and tomorrow. Or as long as it takes. Can you see to a good breakfast for us late in the morning? He may not feel like eating, but he should try. And no one should disturb him tomorrow unless I give permission as well, can you arrange that?" Lindefal came to and realized he was being dismissed, an uncommon occurrence in his area of the house. "A good breakfast?" he repeated, catching up with her. "Yes, a nice variety of fruits too, and jam and bread, Elrond likes jam as I recall." Lindefal choked on his response to that one. Mysterious smears of jam still found their way to odd places in the study and bedroom.
"Fruits and jam. Don't you need me to help you tonight?" he asked. Suddenly he was unwilling to leave. True, others came and went through this chamber, and the bed, with some regularity, but that was for intimacy, not injury, and he was gripped by worry, jealousy and curiosity all at once about what would happen next. She smiled and said, "Lindefal, I am going to massage his neck and back a while with medicinal creams, then check the alignment of his energies. The greatest strain is there in the neck it seems. That is all, it is nothing exciting or to worry about. We helped you with your neck when you fell from your horse last summer, remember?"
Well, actually they had helped him with his neck. He could still hear the thud and crunch as he slipped off his horse while fording the river downstream. He had been talking over his shoulder and failed to pay attention as the horse lurched up the stream bank, and losing his balance, he fell off. Findalor had reached out quickly but was unable to stop the fall.
Of course he was not allowed to forget the incident for weeks afterwards. Elrond had tsk tsked as they checked him out on the muddy bank, and had packed him off for treatment to the greenhouses when they returned to Rivendell. Elrond scolded teasers with the admonition that Lindefal had a neck injury as a result of this fall, but kept a straight face with great difficulty. He bit his lip to keep from smiling. Erestor would just look at Lindefal over the dinner table and laugh for days afterwards, and Lindefal saw a suppressed smile and twinkling eyes when Elrond noticed this behavior between them. Lindefal's aggravated response one night, "I do know how to ride!" actually caused Elrond to have to turn away and laugh behind his hand after a particularly vivid retelling of the adventure to dinner guests. Far be it for him to appear uncaring or insensitive. But they did not often get the best of Lindefal, and he paid for his carelessness at the expense of his pride.
This embarrassing episode flashed back through his mind, and he realized he had felt better after she had skillfully massaged his neck for several days. She had even taught him some tips for the massages he gave Elrond, and others. With a shrug and a sigh he relinquished his territory to her and laid the robe across the chair nearby. Looking down he saw Elrond motionless across the bed, asleep again while others argued around him. He added branches to the fire to build it up, and headed down the stairs to the study.
She stood looking at her patient lying still before her. Well, he certainly seemed relaxed enough now, but from what she had heard about the close call and rescue efforts, he would not be pain free tomorrow. She took the tiny cup from his hand and set it on the tray. Drawing up the chair she sat at Elrond's head. She moved the heavy braid to the side so she could study the shoulders and neck before her. Gathering her thoughts she selected a cream and applied it gently to the snaking bruise that stretched across his shoulders and around his arm. Then she chose a potion with analgesic properties and warmed the silky cream between her palms.
She laid her hands on his shoulders and adjusted her feelings with the merging of their auras. His was strong even in rest, and as she moved her hands over him she felt that the area around his neck was the most disturbed. The energy channels were dark and disrupted there. With smoothing strokes she began to explore the knotted muscles along the shoulders and up into the neck. She paid careful attention to every inch she touched, and with eyes closed she guided the disturbed energies along the channels where they could realign their flow and aid rapid healing. She gently focused her aura along the damaged shoulder with gentle strokes along the bruises and around the joint. Choosing the fragrant cream that Lindefal had favored, her strong fingers worked the base of his neck and brought him back around with a groan and a flinch. "Ahhh, careful, careful," he moaned. She looked down at him with a slight smile and eased up.
Now that he could participate in the treatment she continued to explore the damage with feedback from him. He felt the tingle of their combined energies reacting to her touch and scintillating across his flesh like a whispered breath. He had never had the innate skill to wrestle with the energy flows around the body; as good as he was otherwise as a surgeon and maker of medicines. He could barely control his own radiating energies; much less manage another's. This self-perceived shortcoming had made him strive harder to master the other healing arts. Her touch made his skin crawl around the affected areas. The creams and medications began their work and the muscles and nerves relaxed under her touch.
She leaned forward and ran long firm strokes up and down the spine, which she was surprised to find was not more affected than it was. She asked him about the accident and what had happened. Of course in the split second of the fall and snap of the rope, he could only remember the jerk across his shoulder, and the slow burning slide of the rope along his arm. Only heavy gloves had protected his hands from being badly injured. She explored the muscles around his ribs and then along his lower back, where the temperature was cooler and the aura stayed soft and calm.
She sat back and addressed his neck again, not satisfied with the flow she felt there. Their merged auras and low voices, and the texture of his skin under her fingers, occupied her every sense. Lindefal, from his place on the stair watching along the floor level, decided she was right-this was not too exciting, and he had not seen anything to keep him from bed any longer. He rolled his eyes as he headed down the stairs, "A good breakfast indeed, HA!" he thought.
Galenbrethil moved to the bed and sat beside Elrond for a different view of the situation. She could slide her fingers up along his neck at a different angle from this position, and now the cream had deadened the pain somewhat, she worked at and loosened the tight muscles along the base of the neck and upwards with more firmness. Sitting back again, she took a more general view of things as she assessed his aura now. She noticed the puckered scar across his left shoulder.
He had had that one for a long time, and the regenerative healing of the Elven kind had smoothed it somewhat over the centuries, but it had been a bad injury from the start. At the time she had peeled the embedded chain mail back carefully from the shredded flesh, and the wound was just a bloody mess. A vicious stab from sideways and below had slid between plates of armor and into the chain mail, causing a ragged wound aggravated by the cutting edges of the mail rings. She laid a gentle hand across puckered skin and soothed the landscape of ridges and scars. She had seen far too much of what steel could do to flesh in her history as a battlefield healer.
Her hands moved over him with less interference from his aura now and she perceived that she had eased the damage as best she could tonight. Tomorrow she would apply her skills again. She sat with hands lying on his back, looking at the stretch and flow of muscles under the pale skin. She had sat beside him like this before, centuries ago, with hands along his shoulders and back, at Dagorlad in the aftermath of the great battle against Sauron. Three days of relentless pounding away at the stones of the tower of Barad-dur with a huge weighty hammer had finally brought him down completely in pain and exhaustion.
Findalor had sought her out and Cirgalad had released her to go along with him, and to see to others who were working to re-establish the command base around Elrond's new tent. The healers were spread thinly among the survivors of the massive armies. After the decision had been made to raze the tower of Barad-dur, Elrond had personally worked out his grief and frustration against the black walls with a huge and weighty hammer. The constant pounding and pushing away of the broken stones had taken its toll on his already greatly strained psyche and physical self.
She had been hard pressed to deal with the strain and damage to his muscles through his shattered emotional state and grief at the death of Gil-galad. His overwhelming feelings at that death, and the deaths of thousands of others, and the deeply haunting failure to destroy the one ring, kept him in a highly disturbed mental state and affected his natural energy flow. Medicines were in short supply and she had to rely on her extraordinary skills and abilities to calm and sooth the damage.
His aura had snapped and sparked in rage and anguish, and was an effective barrier to any positive energies she had to offer. Findalor had held him tightly, speaking softly in his ear for a long time before Elrond relaxed and allowed her to touch him the first night she was there. Even though he knew her, he resisted interference with his pain and grief. Findalor and Galenbrethil together managed to offer enough support for him to gather his wits and move ahead. His solution of a dose of violent activity to deal with grief and pain expressed itself again several times over the centuries, and those around him watched for the warnings closely. The intelligent eyes, skillful hands and kind demeanor harbored a fragility of balance that was occasionally rocked from its center.
"Well, am I healed then? You have stopped the treatment," he turned to his side and asked her as he carefully laid his head in his hand. "No, you are not healed and yes, I have stopped for now." She rose and took up the sleeping robe and laid it across his shoulders. "Are you ready to rest now?" she asked. He sat up in the bed and shrugged into the robe, moving his shoulders and neck slowly but with ease. "Your skills grow better with the ages you know," he said. He took her hand in his and gently kissed the fingers. Catching a whiff of the scented cream he said, " I think Lindefal would like this one." She laughed, "You are right, he did." With raised eyebrows he asked, "Just what did I miss?" "Oh, I had a bit of help arranging my tray," she said smiling. He nodded, "And where is he now?" She shrugged, and removed her apron and the cloth around her hair. She ran long fingers through her dark hair and pulled it around to braid it loosely as she asked him how he felt now.
"Alive again, thank you." She tossed the long braid back over her shoulder and slipped out of her shoes. "I'll have to attend your neck again tomorrow, I have some concerns about it still." He nodded. He imagined he would want her to check it again in the morning after a night of stiffening up. She moved over to the fireplace and added small bits of fragrant wood to build up the flames again as the room had cooled off in the evening breeze. She washed her hands and face in the small basin as they discussed Ilvar's injuries and the plans for preserving the path before more accidents occurred. They were comfortable together as ones who were periodically intimate in a casual way could be.
She moved about the chamber and blew out the candles and lanterns until the fireplace glow was the only light. It was late now and the community was quiet under the waning moon. Arranging the chair where she could sit and watch over him she then turned and unfolded the sheets from the foot of the bed. Holding them up she said, "Beddie-byes." He sat there watching the firelight create a glow around her. He reached out and took her hand from the covers, and drew it to his mouth for another kiss pressed across the long skillful fingers. "You can't feel that much better," she scolded with a professional frown. He pressed her hand to his cheek, and laid a kiss in the palm.
" I do now, but I won't for days after tomorrow." He pulled her forward slowly. "It is cold and I am tired, come lay beside me tonight. Besides, it will give Lindefal something to think about when he brings breakfast in the morning." She frowned at him again, "You devil, he was truly concerned for you tonight." Elrond shrugged and smiled a secret smile.
He pulled her into the bed beside him. She lifted her gown over her head and they moved under the sheets and into the oversized field of soft linens and pillows. "You know you can't do anything energetic without pain tonight," she reminded him. As he drew her down upon him he whispered in her ear, "Yes, but you can."
The wind came up in the night and rain showered and splashed the porches and walkways of Rivendell with a peaceful sound. Distant thunder rolled along the cliff faces. Galenbrethil stirred and turned to her side, leaning against Elrond's long back. His skin was cool to the touch and she laid her arm around his waist and slid her fingers along his arm. His fingers closed around hers gently. His breathing was calm and measured. A quick mental feel along his back and neck registered some continuing disturbance, but the massage and medicinal creams were very effective. Lindefal's careful braid had come loose, with some help, during their lovemaking. The dark hair lay in bunched waves along the pillow. She hid her face in the subtly scented strands and drifted off.
He registered the rain and wind unconsciously. He lay still, but his dreams were troubled by the near miss of a fatal fall today. He felt the arm around him to be comforting, but he was lost in a drift of time. The sounds of the rain and the thunder took him back to the time when he lived at Court at the Grey Havens. Memories washed across him.
He had gone to sea early that day with Gil-galad and a large crew to test the newest ship from Cirdan's shipyard. It sailed like a dream and was long and sweeping and proud on the waves. They were waiting on her personality to reveal itself before they named her. Elrond and some of the crew stripped down and dove off the prow into the clear green waves and paddled in the swells during the warm afternoon. Gil-galad had found business elsewhere on the ship during that time.
Elrond had clambered back aboard and dressed, laughing with the others hopping into their clothes and dripping on deck. His skin tingled with the salt drying there, and he felt alive and refreshed. He had climbed high in the mast riggings and hung there for hours watching the sea birds and the waves from on high. He undid his tight braids and let the wind whip through his wet hair and pluck at his clothing. He would need help with the comb tonight for certain, he thought. The canvas sails snapped in the wind. He felt completely free here, unrestrained and open to cleansing by the elements. Looking out around him all he saw was the darkening lowering sly and the far distant horizon, and sea birds called out around him as they darted around the mast.
Dark clouds were building and squally rains were slanting along the distant shoreline. Below, Gil-galad laughed as his first mate remarked that his young protégé took after the sea birds like his mother had, and that they'd better watch to make certain he did not fly away. He laughed, but outwardly only, Gil-galad did not want to lose this special one from his side in any manner.
Elrond had done well with his responsibilities at Court, and had more than made up in his studies for the years of captive fosterage at the Court of Maglor. The basic skills he had learned there blossomed and expanded at the elegant and refined Court of the High King. He was adept at reconciliation and arbitration in council, and had shown a real skill in the healing arts. His amazing memory for song and legend and his interest in learning found him spending days at a time in the large library. He graced the festivals and ceremonies with his calm presence and they benefited from his attention to organization and detail. The riding skills he had learned at Maglor's court kept him at the front of every race, and he had a special bond with the horses in the royal stables. Gil-galad swore they became one being in the races as horse and rider seemed to fly above the racing field turf.
Gil-galad was yet waiting to see where the likeable youth's real skill and power lay, he had the seeds of greatness in him, and the blood of legendary figures. The King wondered if the sea would call to this blood as it had for his father Earendil. Cirdan, who had sailed with Elrond's father many times, thought not. While he had the skills of a natural sailor, most of the harbor crew could see that his heart did not hear the siren sounds of the waves.
They were returning to the quays in the bay at sunset and racing to beat the storm. They sailed into the harbor with ease and grace. Elrond stayed in the riggings as the ship was secured and he aided the crew in striking the mainsail before the storm arrived. He climbed down with feelings of disappointment that the day had ended. The ship was beautiful and sailed with a fluidity that was captivating.
Finished with securing the ship, the crew dashed off to see to their own business as the rains set in quayside in a downpour. Elrond had gone below to gather his things from the captain's quarters where he had left them after a review of new maps of the coast. He stood at the rain-splashed window looking out over the darkening sea as the ship rocked in the gathering waves and wind. Gil-galad had been caught in the sudden drenching rain and had come back down to the cabin himself to wait out the storm. He stopped and stood watching the silent figure at the window. His dark hair was a wild and tangled mass of twisted strands after the afternoon spent in the riggings. Gil-galad thought he might lose it all right there at that sight.
He had taken Elrond in several years ago, remembering well his father and mother, and knowing some of the sad history of his life. Slender, silent and pale, with dark hair and dark eyes that made heads turn, he was intelligent, and witty when he chose to be, and he carried the best ancient bloodlines of both Men and Elves. His family ties made him very attractive to the King, as he was a true prince at Court, noble in birthright, rank and bearing, if not position and wealth. Gil-galad could provide both of those missing material possessions to redress the wrongs of his life so far. With the security and comfort of Court life his regal aspects came to the fore as Elrond no longer had to fight to survive in an unfriendly environment.
Gil-galad been reserved in his affections, treating Elrond as an equal, a son or a brother, fencing and wrestling with him along with others, making him feel accepted and welcome in the community and at Court. His protection of the newcomer relieved Elrond of some of the stresses of normal Court life, not that he was unaware of the politics involved around the seat of a King. Elrond was well aware of the subtle shift of power in his favor when he advanced in a few years as the High King's personal advisor and again, when his chambers were moved into the royal wing of the Court.
They had discussed leadership skills and military strategies as part of Elrond's education. Strengths and weaknesses of lieutenants and courtiers were determined and the best way to use their talents effectively was stressed. Gil-galad was frank and honest with Elrond as he sought to develop a trusted right hand. He taught him to accept gifts and attention with grace and understanding of motivations. Elrond's insights into the true natures of those who stood before him was a valuable tool for the King.
Histories and legends were studied and examined in late night sessions over wine and delicacies. Life at Court was rich and textured, and the rituals, customs, and procedures fascinated Elrond. Gil-galad's acceptance of him, and the encouragement of his rise in knowledge and power, helped fill a void of emotion deep within him. Elrond and his brother had been captured children from a raid living at Maglor's court, and though raised kindly in a fosterage of sorts, everyone did not accept them. Elrond certainly had no position to speak of in that environment. In the community of the Grey Havens, his family was known and he was respected for his heritage and his own strong personality. He was a prince at court and favored by the High King. Their relationship was one of mutual love, respect and support.
Thunder boomed overhead and the ship rocked as the winds increased. " I believe we are stranded on board until this storm passes," Gil-galad said. Elrond turned and looked at the hale figure, standing in the doorway with wet hair and damp clothes. He located a cloth and handed it to the King to dry his hair and face. Gil-galad pulled off his soaked quilted jerkin and laid it across a chair to dry. He rubbed his face and hair, then dabbed his arms and the loose silken shirt. He rolled up the sleeves and said, "I am starved, let's see what they decided the captain of this vessel should have in his pantry shall we?" He moved to the compact galley along the wall.
Surveying the shelves inside a cabinet he said, "Well, we have crackers and cheese, not too bad, a dried sausage - it is getting better, and wine. I think we'll survive the storm after all-don't you?" Gathering these items up he turned and Elrond swept up the pile of maps on the table to clear a space for their impromptu meal. He deposited them with care on a side table as thunder rumbled overhead and echoed along the harbor walls.
Gil-galad sat down and Elrond sat across from him with 2 heavy glasses in hand for the wine. Elrond poured as Gil-galad sliced cheeses and sausages into bites. "I bet you never would have imagined that the High King would sit on a wooden bench and eat plain sausages and cheese for dinner, would you?" he asked, popping a cheese wedge into his mouth. Elrond handed the glass of wine over and said with a smile, " I would imagine that the High King Gil-galad could do nothing that would surprise me. The High King does what the High King does."
"A pretty cheeky answer that, but you are not one to fawn are you?" He laughed as he looked at the smoky gray eyes that regarded him evenly. Elrond gathered his tangled strands up into his hands and pulled them back into a twisted knot off of his face. Gil-galad nearly groaned, the action was more striking to his senses than the loose hair had been. They sat in companionable silence and snacked away as the wine sloshed in the glasses and the cabin rolled on the waves. Gil-galad took up the cloth and dried his hair and face again. He laid his brawny arm down along the table, and from across the table Elrond laid his beside it. His slender hands and long fingers were half the size of Gil-galad's thick and scarred ones. Elrond held his arm along side and measured the length and size of their forearms with a smile and shrugged.
"Your skills lie in speed, agility and intelligence," Gil-galad said, "Not in brawn and brute force. Don't worry about it. You are quick with your wits and quick on your feet. You are good with a sword as well, much improved lately as a matter of fact. And you did give me this little souvenir. He pointed to the long narrow slash where Elrond's sword had caught him on the forearm above the training gauntlet. Elrond took a deep breath and grimaced at the reminder. He had been driven to over extend yesterday, and had recovered with a sneaky side swing that hit its mark. The blunted training swords still had sharp edges. He had pulled back in time not to make a serious cut, after all part of the practice bout's lesson was not to injure your training opponent while you learned to kill your enemies.
"Well, I do have the best teacher around," Elrond replied slyly. "Better answer now, better answer, you do improve!" Gil-galad laughed heartily at this exchange, and finished off his glass of wine. He poured them more. Elrond rose to light a lantern as darkness fell; his shadowy form a ghostly figure in the flickering light. The rain pounded on the deck above them and lightening and thunder crashed around the ship as the storm settled in overhead.
Perhaps the static in the air encouraged their heightened senses, maybe it played off the feelings that were expressing through their auras and charging the air around them, but they felt restless within the rocking cabin. Elrond walked around the room, surveying the elegantly carved walls curving upwards into ceiling beams, the finely detailed cabinets and other woodwork, the large square bed built into the wall across from the table. He touched the flowing carvings that whirled and curled along the cabinets and beams. Every detail was masterful and elegant in its carving, painting and design, and the feeling was one of springing elements, something alive and organic. Gil-galad watched him move gracefully around the cabin snooping.
He opened cabinets and drawers, noting the simple efficiency of shipboard supply and storage. As he pulled open a shallow drawer built into the bed frame he smiled. The supplies in this drawer were highly specialized and very imaginative. The long colorful feather was very amusing, and he recognized other exotic toys as well. Small vials and jars of scented creams stood ready for use with caressing strokes. He closed the drawer slowly and walked around the room again rubbing his arms in the cooling air. Gil-galad held up a new glass of wine and beckoned him over to sit again. "This will warm you up," he said.
Elrond took a seat next to the High King, and wondered how he had come to be there at that time and place. They spoke of the sea and of sailing, and of storms. They discussed the sword training yesterday, and what had been learned then. They had continued to practice with each other long after the need, to keep their skills sharp and to assess the other's personalities. Both learned a great deal about their friend and opponent in the flash of a sword and the parry of a stroke.
Seated this close to each other, their auras merged along the fringes and tingled along their skin. Neither moved away as would have been polite in Elven society. Personal boundaries were well defined by the extension of the auras, and a strict set of rules governed behavior with this sixth sense, even within families and between lovers. Elrond was comforted, not only by the large and powerful body by his side, but by his aura, which was surprisingly delicate and calm. Gil-galad was intrigued by Elrond's raw and unfocused energies, and the power he exuded unconsciously.
He wondered if his unsettled upbringing contributed to this personal quality. Gil-galad knew he still suffered bad dreams, as the hall steward was watchful and checked on his cries in the night. When questioned about them, Elrond said he had no memory of the dreams. After several years at Court, Gil-galad had hoped that the routine schedule he had provided and the extended family environment would calm those tortured thoughts, but they lingered on. Some mornings those clear gray eyes were cloudy and had dark circles beneath them, and frowns creased the normally calm countenance. Gil-galad felt that deep waters ran below the calm surface, and his healer Cirgalad agreed.
He wondered what had happened in the short life to cause such hidden pain. The loss of his parents was a bad memory, as was the death and destruction he had seen in the raid on his home in Sirion. Gil-galad and Cirdan had arrived too late to prevent the attack on the havens at Sirion, and Earendil's family had been lost. Life at Maglor's court would have been an odd situation, but was there more? He and his brother Elros had gone separate ways in life, but there had seemed to be no close feelings between them. These mysteries only made the dark figure more tragic and more appealing to many at Court. Gil-galad's eyes were not the only ones that strayed over the long legs and raven locks in stolen glances.
Their playful conversation continued around bites of sausage and cheese with questions and saucy answers as the day ended under the lowering clouds, and the ship rocked beneath them. Both were refreshed by a day at sea in the bracing air aboard the new ship. They sat companionably side by side now and finished their wine. Elrond ran a questioning finger along a scar here, then there, on Gil-galad's sun-bronzed forearm, and he asked about each one. Today the touch was electrifying for the King and a thrill ran along his spine at the gentle brushing of the slender fingers. He shifted at the touch.
He had been able to keep his desire for the slender frame beside him at bay for years, but lately it had become unbearable to be together without contact of some kind. Elrond had grown and matured rapidly in his years at Court and the pale slender youth had filled out into someone with whipcord strength and graceful agility, matched by intelligence and wisdom beyond his years. This combination was a very powerful draw to the King. Elrond had his mother's expressive eyes and the nobility of his heritage was seated on a handsome and rugged face. The cheeks were sunburned now after a day in the riggings, and his eyes were clear and twinkled as he teased.
He had caught himself watching Elrond at Council with more than professional interest. His eyes also strayed to survey a hip or slender wrist of their own accord. He noticed the sunlight through a window across the knot of braided hair, or along a cheek. He was glad that Elrond kept that mass of dark hair pulled tightly back in braids and knots, because he dreamt of those black strands caught along his fingers during his own unsettled nights.
Elrond had displayed a flair for dressing in the elegant and heavy draped robes popular at court, the velvet fabric helped hide his considerable charms. Gil-galad left him to his love of swimming, he could not bear to watch those long smooth strokes and glides though the water. The tight leggings and a short tunic at sword practice were another story as well. That was how Gil-galad had managed to get a nice slice along his arm yesterday, a shapely thigh's rippling muscles had distracted his attention long enough to slow his blocking move. He was glad Elrond had stayed in the riggings most of the day today, his attire was very distracting, though normal for a sailor at work. And he had seemed so happy with the wind in his face.
Gil-galad had waited years for some physical response from Elrond, not desiring to push an unwanted relationship onto his protégé, whom he loved in many fashions. Having to wait for affection was a novelty to him, he normally just took what he wanted. But for some reason he did wait for the day when the barriers might come down between them. He did not want to deal with rumors that he had pressed his power and position to force a relationship onto the attractive youth. He knew Elrond dallied with other members of the Court, but without any continuing relationships or favorites. He wondered if it was his unspoken claim on the dark eyes and lively mind that kept things from developing further with others. He knew in his heart it was.
Elrond reached over and ran a finger along the new cut and said, "You were not paying attention yesterday. I would have never have scored a mark on you normally." Gil-galad looked at the down turned face, the rosy burn along the cheeks colored skin that was normally as pale as marble. He replied, "Don't be so sure anymore, you have developed a speed and grace that is astounding. I am sorely taxed to block your blade now. But yes, I was distracted." Elrond continued, still looking down at the red line along the bronzed skin. His fingertip traced around the wound gently "You have taught me that any distraction is the door to death in a swordfight. How comes it that you were not paying attention, even in practice?" he continued to look down, and drew his finger along a corded muscles on the arm beside him.
Elrond's heart was pounding in his ears as he had just decided he was able to allow closeness between them at last. He had known of the King's growing desire for him, and had been especially conscious of it over the past few months. A look, a word or an action had given the King's increasing interest away day after day. The accidental brush of a hand gave Elrond a flash of insight through the merging of their auras; he felt warmth and desire directed towards him in warm colors. Elrond had dallied with maids at Court and others that caught his fancy, but his position or theirs, or some other subtle difficulty, kept them apart. He was grateful he had this personal freedom, and was a discreet and attentive lover when he had the opportunity. He had been afraid of the path that might lie ahead with Gil-galad's increased attentions. He had not responded to opportunities for intimacy between them placed his way by the King.
However, during their long days together in the past year he too had begun to feel a growing physical attraction for the robust Elf beyond their working relationship. There were many difficulties here, after all, he was the High King, and Elrond was his advisor and aide, it was a delicate balance to work this closely and remain separate entities. The power, wealth and advantage he had gained at Court were due to Gil-galad's favor as much as to own skills. He admired and respected Gil-galad as a father figure and as a mentor of great power and wisdom. He was privy to secrets and plans at Court that bound him close to the King in loyalty and service.
He loved and respected Gil-galad for his patience, and for keeping a distance between them, yet he now felt he was teetering on the brink of a decision that would affect the rest of his life. Conflicting thoughts and emotions were exploding in his head in a riot of color and sound, he thought he might melt into a quivering blob like some gelatinous sea creature. His purring seduction continued but his uncontrollable aura gave him away.
"What was the distraction then that gained you that souvenir?" He kept his face down and watched his finger tracing elaborate deigns along the muscles of the arm beside him. He waited for an answer to this leading question and he well knew the answer. Gil-galad smiled as he detected the slight shift to rose, then purple in the energy flowing beside him. It was a good sign. "I was paying attention to you, but not to your sword. There are many weapons that can be used in battle, and not all are made of steel."
Elrond's aura warmed and enveloped him with waves of delight and longing, and the hues of violet and purple revealed to Gil-galad that his feelings of desire were reciprocal. He was gratified that he was accepted at last into this innermost circle of their relationship, on one could lie through their body's energy field. He felt his pulse quicken as the slender fingers continued their survey of his arm.
"And are these soft weapons as effective as steel?" Elrond asked quietly. His lowered his voice to drew the King nearer. He was as smooth and honey-tongued as anyone might want, and enjoyed teasing the object of his desire as he considered what might happen next. "Can they pierce the heart with accuracy and speed?" He looked up into the dark eyes beside him. Gil-galad laid a hand over Elrond's as it rested on his arm and replied, "The softest of weapons are the ones that pierce the heart with the most deadly accuracy. The curve of a cheek, a wisp of hair, a smile."
"And soft weapons distracted you during our practice the other day?" Gil-galad nodded with a smile. "And they pierced your heart then?" He nodded again. Around them both time expanded to the infinite boundaries of the Universe and contracted to a frozen instant. The mere touch of his hand over Elrond's was causing Gil-galad to have difficulty breathing. The ship rocked in the swells as the rain continued to drown out the rest of the world around them. The lantern flickered in a cool draft. Elrond continued to tease with a smile growing slowly across his lips, " So I gained internal and external points in the practice bout then?"
"I granted you the practice round yesterday as fairly won for the point you scored on my arm. You won the bout with my heart years ago." He wrapped his large fingers over the slender ones. They were speaking softly head to head now in the guttering candlelight. Lips so close, cheeks inches apart, their breath a whisper across the skin. Their auras had begun to merge in the psychic joining before a joining, and their senses were heightening and the burning desire within them grew.
Elrond wondered how long he could prolong the torture, either for himself or for Gil-galad. He still had reservations about sealing his fate with the High King. His wolfish aggression towards his lovers, and his strong feelings of possession were common knowledge at Court. His temper, when evoked, was awesome and vicious when it exploded. The temper was his shortcoming in a sea of positive aspects. Elrond had been able to stem the explosion with a gentle hand on a shoulder in council a few times, but he had seen it exercised freely as well. As High King, Gil-galad was the master of all he surveyed, whether across the fields or across the sheets. If Elrond surrendered himself, life would never be the same again. He also knew there was no way now to stop the eventual tumble forward into each other's arms. He determined to remain true to himself regardless of what happened between them.
Every cell, every nerve, every fiber cried out for intimate touch and embrace between them. Scintillating rainbows of desire flowed from within him uncontrollably. He was already uncomfortable sitting on the bench, his leggings binding his growing desire. He felt he was no longer on the edge of a cliff, but falling forward into the deepest, darkest abyss.
"You are trembling, are you cold?" Gil-galad asked. He placed an arm around Elrond's shoulders and drew him close. After his day of freedom in the riggings with the wind in his face and hair, Elrond felt he was now being dragged down into a place he did want to go, but where he so desperately wanted to be. Gil-galad washed him in feelings of love and longing, but still waited for him to take the lead. He had desired this moment for so long, he was not going to jeopardize it now. His heart pounded in his chest and he ached to embrace Elrond fully and without fear of rejection. His fingers wanted to touch the face, to tangle in the mass of hair before his eyes, and his lips burned to kiss anywhere on the body beside him. He relished the feel of the warmth hugged close to him now.
" So I have won your heart fairly?" Elrond asked in a whisper, knowing the answer and wanting to hear it aloud. Gil-galad moved until their foreheads touched and they brushed noses. "Yes, you have my heart. Take it, and all the rest of me, before I die of desire here in your arms." Gil-galad moved forward and sealed their doom with a soft, ever so slight, brush on the lips before him. His restraint was difficult and added to his feelings of frustration, but it also fed the fires he had cultivated in the long waiting game.
Any feelings of remorse or regret Elrond had were washed away in the final flood of emotions released by that simple intimate touch. Gil-galad felt the rush of blood from his head as his nights of longing were meeting their fulfillment at last. Elrond was lost in his lonely and deep need for comfort, love, justification and recognition. Thunder rumbled above them, its warning unheeded.
Only Gil-galad's patience and understanding of the needs and desires of his protégé had allowed Elrond to come to this place. He leaned forward and took Gil-galad's lower lip in a bite, then a silky kiss. The bench was not adequate to withstand the fires that flared and lapped around it now as auras joined and throbbed and flowed in unison between them.
They stood and moved around the table to the bed before them. With tender and exploring gestures Elrond lifted the soft shirt up and over Gil-galad's raised arms. He laid sweet kisses along the broad chest and embraced the figure in front of him. He laid his head on the chest with a lick along the nipples and a string of nips and bites, working up to waiting lips. The loose tunic slid over Elrond's head and he dropped his arms to the tall shoulders in front of him and moved close to touch body to body. Gil-galad's massive arms encircled him and drew him closer as their auras whipped up to a level that extruded the deep colors of passion into their minds. The vibrancy of their mix was a new sensation for both of them and added to their pent up desire for release in the beloved one's arms. The colors were right and tuned their Elven brains to a heightened awareness that made each touch and kiss almost unbearable in its overwhelming sensation and pleasure. This perfect vibration was one of the ways Elves found their soul mates and marriage partners; not every joining resulted in perfect harmonics between souls.
Gil-galad had his turn to tease as he reached for the band of Elrond's leggings and, with fingers tucked into the sturdy cloth, pushed him back. He slowly drew the lacings out in a brushing and caressing fashion. Elrond's head fell back as he leaned into the strong hands. His undoing of Gil-galad's loose silken leggings was somewhat lacking in grace and technique as he felt his control slipping away in the wash of desire sweeping over him. Remains of clothes were kicked away. Lost in need and want Elrond drew them down onto the bed and whispered exactly what Gil-galad had longed to hear for the past three years, "I surrender this bout to you, take your spoils."
The ship rocked in the waves as the wind howled around the timbers and the rain lashed down outside. Beyond endurance now, they lay face to face, entwined, and joined along every inch of skin they could press together. Gil-galad had desired this for so long his mind was lost in the dream as his body met its needs in slow grinding motions and he grabbed handfuls of skin and hair in unrestrained caresses. Surrendering at last to someone he truly loved and cared for, Elrond was spiraling deep down to the dark secret place where his fears and longings had been hidden for so long.
Caught in the firm grip of pleasure at Gil-galad's loving touch these feelings exploded outwards in a mental release that made him cry out in the pain and joy of the moment. His emotions were relayed to Gil-galad in a blast of love and heat that were un-encountered in his broad experience, and he held Elrond tightly through his throes as he shuddered and buried his face in the broad shoulder. Elrond's emotional release and final motions brought the King into his own place of joy and pleasure, three years of lust and desire burning in his heart and mind had prepared him to respond to the simplest intimacy tonight. The touch of Elrond's hand exceeded his most fevered dreams in the tactile reality of the moment, and he was awash in waves of pleasure that blocked out light, sound and consciousness of anything beyond their fevered joining.
The storm sheltered them with its rocking waves and the continuous patter of rain on the decks. They lay together quietly and slept entangled in each other's arms. Elrond had marveled as he fell asleep that the hearty and robust King had such a sweet and caressing aura, one that enveloped him with such compassion and love. The force of the release he had felt from the dozing figure in his arms had shaken Gil-galad, and he determined to shelter the deeply wounded spirit as long as he could in this life. He vowed to himself to respect and honor the strong bonds he had forged with Elrond over the past few years. He buried his face in the dark hair and rejoiced in his long awaited conquest. His hands tangled in the long strands and his fingers relished the texture of the dark waves.
Roaming hands awoke Gil-galad later and he found himself aroused again. The candle had burned out and the cabin was in darkness. Gentle pattering indicated the rain continued outside. Probing, teasing fingers moved around his stomach and chest in caressing circles and slid along his ribs to come under and grasp him from behind. Elrond gently turned him over and continued to caress and explore every ripple of muscle and turn of a joint. The scent of the garden and a silky slide meant Elrond had found some aid someplace as his fingers moved along long sides and down the arching back with creamy ease. Strong fingers stroked upwards along the inner thigh as he nipped and kissed along behind them.
Gil-galad allowed himself to be manipulated and found the change from aggressive lover to beloved was unexpectedly pleasant and desirable with Elrond. This was different from his fantasies and dreams, but was real and enticing to his fevered brain. A strange desire to be possessed grew within him. There were others he could visit for a rough grappling, or quick release, that was different now. He was reserving the cultivation of the finer loving arts for practice with Elrond. The joining this time was less hurried and explosive. Gently and slowly they rose to heated heights again as the ship beneath them rocked and swayed.
Elrond teased with slicked fingers and bites and kisses until Gil-galad ground into the bed with a deep moan. He pushed back against Elrond as he entered slowly, relishing the heat and the feel of someone new. Elrond teased him with slow motion and simple kisses, and with a whispered warning, gave up his reserve with a cry and collapsed against the broad back before him. Gil-galad was unhearing as firm hands had brought him beyond his peak and over before they slid away to grasp him tightly around the waist.
"Even your soft weapons have unexpected edges," he whispered into Elrond's ear as they lay together. "You gain point after point on me now." His hands were again curled along the dark strands of hair, and he felt he might never move again. When they had not been joined they had caressed and kissed the night away, or slept in the comfort of close embrace. Soft rosy light glowed in the window in the storm's aftermath.
Gil-galad stirred and Elrond muttered a low moan and turned to his side, burrowing deeper into the warm bed and edging closer to the warmth beside him. He smiled at the firmness that lay between them. The cabin had cooled off in the night and the air was cold beyond the blankets tangled around them.
"You know things will change for us now," Gil-galad whispered into the dark waves and tangled hair beneath his lips as he slid a massive arm over the ribs and around the body next to him in a warm embrace. We must be discreet, but honest about this." Elrond nodded yes and pulled the covers over their heads. He did not want to speak about these things this morning.
"We must get dressed and return to the Court, Cirdan will be here soon to check on his new ship after the storm." "What storm?" asked Elrond sleepily, "What ship?"
"The one you apparently christened last night." came a hearty voice from the doorway. "The fluid usually flies across the bow, but I imagine across the bed will do as well. So, what did you name her? The Sea spray?" Elrond peeled back the edge of the sheet and saw Cirdan standing in the doorway leaning on the jamb with arms crossed. "How was she then? " he looked at the mess left on the table, the remains of their meal. " I trust you found all you needed last night? I would have laid in better wine had I know of your plans ahead of time." Gil-galad looked out from beneath the sheets at this last remark. Cirdan was smiling as he continued. 'Its about time too, I have had a wager on this for months now; it looks like I can finally collect. With a wry laugh, he shook his head, turned and climbed the steps to the deck. The words "Let me know when you are finished here, I'll be on the quay," drifted back down to them.
These memories washed across Elrond's mind as he leaned back towards the warm body next to him. The rain continued outside and it was cool in the bedchamber. In the mix of faces and timelines that haunt dreams, his memories flowed back and forth through the events of his life. He was unaware in his deepest rest that the images also appeared to the one next to him through their joined auras and because of her extra sensitivity.
Dreaming, he had relived the first night of passion with Gil-galad, and saw the many more that followed. He saw them together in the large bedroom at Court overlooking the gardens, in the woods and together again at Rivendell. Scenes from many different battles appeared in misty images, and the cries of the wounded flowed and mixed with cries of passion from other times.
The study of the High King wavered in his memory as he re-lived his explanation to Gil-galad of the need to go east and found a new settlement, and he felt the anguish of their long and bitter argument. It had been the only time that the King's fiery temper had ever turned on him. He saw Imladris grow and prosper before the damage and destruction of the great encampment of the Last Alliance along its valley floor and terraces. Legolas walked beside him along the corridors and stairways around Rivendell's stacked houses.
Scenes from his childhood mixed with scenes from his marriage. He saw smoke and fire, and heard the cries and shouts as Maglor and Maedros attacked Sirion, and he remembered being dragged along balconies and walkways by his mother. He and Elros were children, and they could not keep up with her frantic steps. She hid them in a cave, and as they looked out in fear and wonder they saw her climb to the highest point of the sheer cliffs, clutching at the Silmaril that hung around her neck, watching behind her. As the raiders ran towards her she cast herself off the towering heights into the ocean.
A vision of sunlight on Legolas' hair stirring in the breeze changed to the honey-colored braids of Celebrian as she unwound them in preparation for bed. Her soft robe hung open and her pearly skin glistened with fragranced oil. She leaned across and kissed him in her teasing and gentle manner, but the memory faded away. The image of Vilya appeared and turned slowly on its chain as the valley bloomed and grew lush under its influence.
She turned in her sleep, disturbed. As faces and images from his memory flashed before her inner eye, Galenbrethil recognized this ring in her own mind, she was one of the few who knew of this Ring of Power, and she knew that it was in Elrond's care. She had seen it on the chain around his neck at Dagorlad, and he would not remove it or allow her to touch it in her treatments then. She had actually studied it quite closely one night in the light of the fire when a particularly rough evening had ended in a 3-way tangle of arms and legs. Findalor had asked her to come and help him again that night and the struggle between them to calm the fevered Elrond had turned to caresses and kisses.
The atmosphere of the aftermath of the battle with the Last Alliance and Sauron was strange and distorted. The smells, the mud, the soot and the grit of the battlefield flavored everything anyone did. In the extreme stress of the entire situation, which was the culmination of 10 years of preparation, battle and siege, the relief of the survivors was overlaid upon their grief. A powerful need to physically understand that they were alive and had feelings other than grief contributed to strange couplings in many tents as they did what they had to do to make it through the long and desperate nights of the aftermath.
It was in the late hours that Findalor had come to her and asked for help again. Extremely agitated, Elrond was pacing the tent and growing more restless and frustrated as he paced. Findelor had tried to calm him and watched him for hours as he stalked the sizeable tent's interior, muttering to himself. Her presence did not help matters and they finally got him to sit on the floor by the floor and rest a bit. Findalor held Elrond as she spoke to him that night, and she laid her hands along his fevered brow, and finally silenced his angry muttering with a kiss. Then another, and his arms moved forward to embrace her tightly. Her soul responded to the deepened of the sad and desperate kisses he rained upon her face and neck, and they stirred her as well. She threw her head back and moaned with pleasure, pressing against him. Findalor released his hold and they all lay back on the ground in the tangle of blankets over the rich carpets that had become their bed over the past few nights.
The calming and caressing strokes of a few moments ago turned into rough grappling and rapid undressing between them. The fact that they were on the ground in a pile of blankets, and in the tent that was the new center of command now, was of no concern in the distorted and bizarre atmosphere of those days. All that mattered was a touch somewhere, a kiss somewhere, and relief of the overwhelming desire that burned them all.
Galenbrethil was ready to leave behind the horrors of the battlefield injuries and the anguish of the wounded, and Findalor was glad to have survived with many of his friends along side him, and had found new purpose in keeping Elrond on his feet as leader of the remains of the massive army. Whatever it took to that, he would do. Elrond as yet remained in that world of grief and loss that blurred the vision and dulled the mind, but he felt a gradual lightening, and knew deep in his heart that he would survive this with the aid of the people beside him.
Kisses were shared and bodies ground together as they pleased themselves and they pleased the others in a fevered rush to relieve the stress and rejoice in the sensations of the living. The tangled coupling took them away from reality for just a while. As they collapsed in relief their cries in the night found them a sweat soaked pile of tangled hair and entangled hands and arms and legs.
As dawn approached Elrond moaned as he shifted uneasily in his sleep, and she awakened at the movement. She was lying with her head upon Elrond's chest, her hands caught up in his open shirt. Findalor had turned away and was snoring gently in the calm of the early hours, wrapped in the blankets. Opening her eyes she saw before her the ring Vilya on its chain around his neck. He had told her its name by accident as he had tucked it away last night.
She studied the carvings along the golden band as they were picked out by the firelight. It was beautiful and she reached a tentative finger forward to touch it. The deep blue stone in its center glinted and then glowed from within with a life of its own and she paused. She felt the ring interact with Elrond's aura, and with hers by proximity, and it felt as if a master healer was arranging their energies along the best channels for healing and renewal. Except that it happened to every juncture at once and all her energies were strengthened simultaneously. They raced along their pathways in a burning rush of sensations. Colors filled her mind as the energies flashed through the spectrum she could recognize and then beyond.
Her eyes grew wide, but she was afraid to move as her own skin tingled and twitched under the influence of the flow of power sweeping around them. Then the air stilled and the release from the washing waves of sensations was exhilierating. Her mind cleared and her tiredness and stress melted away as she lay still and trembling, her hands painfully clutching his loose shirt into tight bunches from fear. She would never have touched that ring for anything after that night. She did not know the history of the rings of power, but knew she was in the presence of something unimaginable in its capabilities.
She was not surprised that Elrond was soon able to gather himself together and go forward. She saw his grief calmed over the following days, and his body healed, and he became the leader they needed to guide the remains of the great army as they finished their work. He struck the last blow at the tower wall and kicked the final stone aside. The hated Barad-dur stood no more. The foundations were swept clean. Days and months had passed and they were finally able to disperse homewards. She had seen the ring's healing influence on the valley haven in the months after their homecoming. She knew it was hidden there somewhere. She had never spoken of any of this to anyone. She wondered if Findalor knew what the ring really was, and what it could do.
She shivered as she remembered its power. Colors faded and swirled and words echoed from the past in their minds. The sounds and sights of centuries of memories washed slowly and transparently across them like the ebb and flow of waves along the grainy sands of the shore. Joy and sadness were as one in the receding tide of emotion.
He stirred uneasily in his sleep at her side. Galenbrethil was disturbed by the restlessness beside her and the troubled thoughts that flowed from the dreamer and formed shadowy images in her mind. She touched his shoulder to wake him. She saw in a misty image the dark figure of Sauron appear before Gil-galad, and as Elrond ran forward the mighty hand swept outwards and seared the life from the High King as he struck him down. Elendil fell next. As the sword Narsil flashed and swung towards the dark figure, Elrond cried out and sat up in bed reaching out.
Galenbrethil was there immediately as he grabbed his neck and groaned at the sudden movement. He was breathing heavily from the stress of the dream and the pain of jerking his stiff neck and shoulder suddenly upright. Galenbrethil laid her cool hands on his forehead and neck and channeled compassion and calmness to him. She laid him back down gently and brushed cool fingers over his eyes. He took her hand and pressed a kiss into the palm. He drew her over him and embraced her with a strength and need for living contact that restricted her breathing. She pressed her hands on either side of his face and laid her cheek along side his with care and understanding. Smoothing his hair away from his face, she gently stroked the frown away. She held him until he slept again.
The nightmares still came and went, it had been reported to Cirgalad, and she could confirm those stories now. Her own memories of those dark nights after the battle had allowed the projected imagery to be stronger within her. Professional detachment was difficult when she was involved directly and loved those who had been there with her then, and who still suffered now.
She was dressed and seated against pillows and the richly carved headboard when Lindefal came in with breakfast. Her strong fingers were adjusting Elrond's neck gently as he slept across her lap on a pile of pillows. Her tray of treatment aids was beside her, and the fragrant creams scented the air nearby. Elrond's breathing was even and regular, and he lay sprawled on the wide bed while the morning sunlight played across the pale skin and muscular flanks buried among the tousled sheets. The bruise wrapped around the skin of his arm had darkened.
Lindefal set the tray down on the large desk and turned to her. "It rained last night." he said simply. "I know," she replied, "I heard it." He looked at the sleeping figure in her lap and said, "He had dreams last night didn't he? He dreams in the rain." She nodded, considering the connection between the two, "Always in the rain?" she asked. He nodded, "Generally. Did you see anything of them? He says he does not remember them later, but they are always the same. Did you see Gil-galad?" She nodded. "And his mother?" She nodded again. "Humm, that's the pattern it seems," he replied.
The horror of the images they had experienced in their minds had been compelling enough to drive Findalor and Lindefal to compare notes one spring day years ago, and to confront Erestor with their findings. The ghost of Gil-galad did indeed haunt that bed. The ancient past did not stray far from Elrond's sleeping mind. Cirgalad had advised care and compassion, and silence on the subject. "Leave the ghosts in the dreams for now," he had said. Celebrian had spoken to him about these haunting images deposited in her mind as well.
Those who were regularly intimate with Elrond, and who felt his unique and enveloping aura while embracing in sleep, often saw more than they wanted to in their shared dreams. It was sometimes a high price to pay for their pleasure. His tortured past replayed in their minds and became a bond that cemented them together as a loving unit more tightly than any other experience could have. "We keep a close watch on him during the rainy season," he explained simply, I knew you would there for him last night." Switching topics he asked," So, how are the neck and shoulder then?"
"Better," she said as she felt the tension and blockage easing and the flow of energy released and smoothing out around the affected areas. "Can I get you anything else now?" he asked. "No, we will eat something and then go to the hot springs today I think. Maybe visit Cirgalad in the greenhouses or walk along the river in the sun. He'll be his old self soon enough."
Lindefal looked at Elrond's dark hair tangled over his shoulder and across the pillows in her lap. She moved strands aside that became caught up in the massage cream. He took in the rumpled linens and pillows on the floor, and watched her skillful fingers move along the neck and shoulder muscles rhythmically. She was detached as she felt his reactions to her treatment on both the physical and spiritual planes, and Lindefal knew she saw things that he did not. He walked to the dresser behind him and returned to the bedside. He laid the elegant silver comb on the bed near her without a word, and sighing, he turned and left them alone.
Continued in "The Perfect Day"
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