Pairings: Elrond/group/other pairings
Summary: A sunny day in Firith, the Fading Time, is seized for reflection and leisure.
Feedback: Write me if you want to. I might even answer.
Notes: m/f, m/m, group, this series uses movie and books as basic canon-with embellishments. ;> OK OK -Elrond gets a day off finally, and Glorfindel comes home too.
Rivendell, in a time before the Great Ring's rediscovery...
Simmering in shades of gold and russet, the leaves in the trees along the cliffs were slowly turning brown in the cooling air and shortening days of Firith, or the fading time before cold winter set in. They danced in the slanting rays of the setting sun as the evening breeze drifted among the branches. The deep green of the pines that clung to the cliff side were a shadowy contrast to these fiery shades. The long grasses in the meadows were pale and tan and they flowed like an ocean wave as the wind stirred the long blades. Elrond walked along the meadows with his fingertips dragging among the plumes and tips of the swirling tide. Their warm fragrance was released as he moved among the shifting grasses. He stirred little clouds of dust as he kicked along the path like a child, carefree and unhurried. Elrond liked this flat open space; he could be alone with his thoughts here.
The wind stirred his hair and he paused and turned to catch the last of the sun's rays on his face, enjoying the fading warmth. Curious about his presence in their field, tall and dappled Elven horses came along in a line behind him, seeking an apple or a scratch behind the ears. He obliged his favorite with soft words and a gentle touch. They stood forehead-to-forehead and communed silently in respect and affection. This one was very large, even for the breed, and he arched his neck and sought another apple buried in the pockets before him. The swish of his tail and the sigh of the breeze were the only sounds around them until the dinner bells rang out along the valley walls.
The sound of the bells was faint, as he had walked a long way away in the open spaces, enjoying the solitude and peace he found in the meadows. Complaining to the attentive ears that pricked forward, he discussed the merits of dining with guests versus a quiet meal in his study. Large brown eyes watched him through long white lashes, but no comment was offered to resolve his dilemma. With a hand on its neck he turned the horse around to face towards the houses stacked along the heights.
Taking a handful of its long mane and getting a good grip on its broad back, he hoisted himself up with a jump and they slowly walked towards the stables, and home. The others followed along in quiet companionship. He enjoyed the slow pace and rolling gait of the giant animal, no racing for them tonight. His thoughts turned back over his years of experience with horses, hours spent as one with the powerful beasts, and to the dark gray mare that was his first and favorite at Gil-galad's court. Slender and small for the breed, she had been as fast as the wind and responsive to a thought and a word.
He had had many horses there, and the best of the breed. Racing was a popular pastime in those days. In the back of his mind he could hear hooves crunching in the beach shingle as they raced along the foamy tide line along the wide sweep of the outer bay. He could smell the sea and hear the cries of the sea birds overhead. He shook his head and shut that line of thinking right down. No ghosts were allowed near him today. He was, for a rare instant, deliberately living in the moment today. This was his favorite mount now, and he was home at Imladris where he belonged. He looked up at the rising rooflines in front of him.
The slanting rays caught the stacked roofs and porches and formed patterns and designs of light and shadow with the pillars, columns and stairways that formed the outer layers of the Great House and the other buildings clustered around it. He never tired of looking at it from any angle. The complex had grown over the centuries and formed an organic mass as it clung to its arched foundations over the rushing river, and wound down into this side valley.
The green houses were to his right along the cliff face and the sun glinted off rows of ancient hand blown glass windows in a scintillating flash of rainbow hues. Medical students leaving the main building waved at him as they crossed the arching footbridge over a deep cleft, and he saw others moving towards the Great House and the dining hall as the evening meal bells called the residents together for the evening meal.
It was one time of the day that all could enjoy the feeling of community and catch up with news at home and from outside. Guests were frequent these days, and news of the outside world was of interest. Trade flourished and life was rich and comfortable in the spiritual refuge. Hard work behind the scenes kept it that way. While legends preserved the restful and welcoming serenity in story, the managers and residents worked daily to maintain the peace and plenty against a growing darkness beyond the borders.
Arriving at the rambling stable complex, Elrond slipped off his mount with a grateful pat and a final scratch and passed through the ornate side gate as the grooms called the horses inside for the night. With a word and a wave to them he mounted the steps that led up to the Great House. Pausing in the courtyard he debated his next move. He looked down at his dusty boots and dirty hands. He knew he was sunburned and his hair was a tangle from being in the wind all day.
Brushing himself off in a cloud of dust he considered everything he would have to do to become presentable. He had amused himself all day with a walk-about of the paths along the river, swimming, a tour through the greenhouses, and then finally an aimless stroll in the meadows with the horses as silent companions. He was a mess because of it now, a contented, rested, windblown mess. He looked at his boots again and pondered.
Elrond had been in an odd mood that morning as Lindefal had arrived in the bedchamber at dawn, he was already awake and standing at the broad windows humming to himself. As Lindefal laid out his clothing and started to review the day's activities, Elrond said, "I am not meeting with anyone all day. Today I am resting my ears from the sound of voices." He rejected the flowing house robes in Lindefal's hands in favor of soft high boots, his favorite old leggings and a short loose tunic. Lindefal took pride in Elrond's appearance as an extension of his responsibilities as the Aide to the Master of the House, and Elrond was rarely allowed to suit himself when dressing. The faded, soft, patched and worn leggings he favored had been rescued from the ragbag more than once.
Lindefal grimaced as he watched Elrond smooth back his hair and wind it around in a simple knot at his neck, pulling the ends through to secure it within itself. This was an old habit that popped back up now and then, despite Lindefal's best efforts to care for the thick black hair and dress it in a fashion befitting the Master of the House of Rivendell.
Pleased with himself and his attire, Elrond grabbed a soft bath cloth and filled it with apples from the large bowl on his desk, tying the ends together and making a satchel. With this in hand he picked up his quilted jacket and his riding gloves and headed towards the stairs to the study. "You can't find me today," he said as he descended the curving stairway with a light step.
Nodding silently his aide had bowed and extended an arm to the stairs as he passed, accepting the change to the day's schedule gracefully. As Master of Rivendell, Elrond was generally available to any one; he met with the Inner Council on a regular schedule and held court frequently for minor disputes and other household problems. He moved among the residents with ease and performed his rotation of household chores when he could. Lindefal thought he could manage to arrange a rare day off for him today.
Elrond was humming again, and Lindefal could not place the tune that drifted back to him. Old sea shanties were not part of his personal history, whereas Elrond had spent hours at sea when he lived at the Grey Havens, and had enjoyed the company of sailors as he worked the riggings and charted the coastlines. This old cheerful song came unbidden to his mind and was hummed unconsciously.
Of course today there was a long list of things to be done and people to meet, and guests arriving later, but things would resolve themselves. Lindefal decided not to make a fuss about the change this morning for some reason. He stood on the landing outside the study and watched the tall figure descend the stairs. Elrond passed through the courtyard below and beneath the arched stone gateway, and across the lawn to the river gardens.
Erestor was sweeping along the outer corridor on a different level with an armload of linens and handful of documents. He was discussing the arrival of the guests later in the day with his aides, and dinner plans as well, and he wished to catch Elrond before he became enmeshed in whatever Lindefal had planned for him that morning. He happened to look out over the railing as they came around the corner and he froze in his tracks. He handed the linens to one aide and the pages to another as he leaned out for a better view. Squinting in the misty morning light, he saw Elrond in casual clothes strolling along the well-worn path upriver, with something slung over his shoulder. He gritted his teeth, rolled his eyes and growled in frustration. It was going to be one of those days today.
He watched as Elrond turned aside to a small pocket garden near a spillway and sat down on the bench there. The tumbling falls filled the air with mist and rainbows in the morning sun. Elrond carefully stretched his long legs out before him, laid his arms along the bench and slowly leaned his head back. These actions were so deliberate and relaxed that Erestor guessed his business would have to wait until later. Much later. He turned, assigned his aides new tasks and headed towards the kitchens. His own plans for the day were now juggling in his mind after this change in their regular schedule. He'd have to proceed without consultation then and make all the arrangements as he normally did, with his own impeccable taste and elegant style. "What would they do without me?" he thought as he hurried down the stairs.
Findalor and the evening shift of Border Guards were riding home along the lower cliffside path in the mist, that path now made safe since the crumbling upper areas had been secured with plantings and retaining walls. They were visiting among themselves and ready for breakfast when they noticed the still figure seated sunning in the garden across the rippling water. Findalor just nodded to himself as they passed, noting mentally that a change to the routine was going to occur today.
He would advise the Household Guards to be watchful. Now and then the daily schedule was adjusted without plan, and his Household Guards kept a discrete eye out for the wandering Master of the House, in case he was needed for an emergency, or had an emergency of his own. He wondered if Elrond enjoyed himself thinking he was free from his responsibilities and on his own for a while. Elrond, on the other hand, enjoyed these times specifically because he knew that his movements were noted and hidden eyes watched over him. He had given up long, long ago trying to have any secrets from Findalor.
As Elrond brushed himself off again in the evening dusk, he decided he would rather finish the delightful day of solitude in his study. Cleaning up for an appearance at dinner was just too much trouble tonight. He was at peace and rested in his soul after a lazy day, and had no intention of disturbing that state of mind now. Knowing that if he went anyplace near the Dining Hall that Erestor would introduce him to someone, or have some business in hand, so he took the side stairs to the kitchen instead.
After a long day in the fresh air he was starving, and the smells from the kitchen made his mouth water. Having shared his late lunch with the horses he had actually gone all day with nothing more than a few apples to snack on. He had preferred to keep his solitary day free from contact with people and had stayed away from the settled areas. He was mostly alone in the greenhouses when the students and greens men were at their noontime meal. He had managed the day's schedule to suit himself.
As he strolled down the hallway and turned into the pantry of the kitchen he was greeted by warm smiles and the question, "Well, Milord, are you dining with us in the kitchens tonight? What will your guests think?" Elrond held his hands out and shrugged, denying all responsibility for his guests, whoever they were. His appearance gained him several more witty comments and a general round of laughter at his expense.
As he washed his hands and face in the large pantry sink, a heaping plate was prepared for him and covered, and he took it and a bottle of wine with thanks and headed to his study. He could see himself with his feet stretched out to the fire, in his favorite oversized chair with lots of cushions, tucking into the wonderful food he could smell on the plate. He leaned forwards for a sniff. It would be the perfect end to his perfectly engineered day. He smiled and got a little shiver just thinking of it. Could he be so lucky?
The evening darkened as he climbed the winding stairs to his study and flickering lanterns lit the way. He set the plate down and lit a few more candles in the study. Gathering up bits of wood, he built up the fire. It was cool in the evenings now and he was spoiled and liked a fire at his feet anymore. Its warmth was not nearly as comforting as the crackle and snap it made, it was the sound of safety and home. It warmed his soul more than his feet.
He pulled his chair around until it was just so, located the small footstool and set it exactly where he wanted it, and he arranged the small table beside it with the bottle of wine and his favorite wine glass. It was a very old glass, tall stemmed and elegantly blown and etched, it was the last survivor of its set of twelve. Celebrian had favored these glasses and he remembered the sparkling design glimmering through her slender fingers.
He often protested he was not enamored of material things, but he had a fondness for this particular glass and the way the wine glinted through the design. A survivor of the ages, he felt a companionship with it. It was a beautiful fragile thing that had withstood years of hard knocks and rough handling intact. "Not unlike myself," he thought with a laugh.
He stood and rubbed his hands as he surveyed the scene with satisfaction, and he fetched his plate from the desk and settled into the cushions. He put his feet up and noted that fire was blazing away with just the right amount of color and sound. The broad arm of the chair was the perfect table for the plate and as he uncovered it, the meal was still steaming and the savory fragrances filled the air. His favorite sauces pooled around the vegetables and other delicacies and he poured a glass of the wine. Sitting back with eyes closed he took a sip. In the silence the fire crackled and the wine was cool and flavorful as it slid over his tongue. This was bliss. Pure bliss.
He heard Lindefal and Erestor arguing outside the study, and footsteps behind him. "Why weren't you at dinner?" he heard Erestor's voice across the room. He closed his eyes and took another sip. Maybe they would go away.
Erestor came around into his field of vision; well it would have been if he had had his eyes open, and stood with hands on hips. "Where were you at dinner? You know we have guests in from Caras Galadhon, and I was stuck with them all evening!" Elrond kept his eyes closed and held the wine glass where he could sniff its aroma. Lindefal said, "Well, you said you would be out today, you did not say you would miss dinner too. I had them in the library all day long and they can't find what they wanted. It's a wreck in there now."
Elrond opened his eyes and very deliberately picked up his fork and stabbed a bite that looked very juicy indeed. He placed it in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully, ignoring everyone. His cooks had outdone themselves again, probably for these guests he had forgotten about. He took another bite as Erestor simmered before him.
"Are you going to stand there the entire time while I eat my dinner, or do you think you might sit down and give me a moment's peace?" Elrond asked calmly. Erestor just stood there not moving, heedless of the sarcasm. Lindefal pulled another chair around and sat nearby, taking a bite of bread roll and dipping it in the sauce on Elrond's plate. "I thought they did a very good job with this tonight, " he said as he popped the bite into his mouth. Elrond's hand paused and the fork hung in the air above his meal. A bent eye from Elrond slowed Lindefal's second dab at the plate, but he continued and savored that bite as well. "So, how was the day off?" came Findalor's voice down the stairs.
"Well, this is cozy," he said as he came down the curving stairs from the bedchamber and joined the group. "I thought you'd be with the guests from Lorien now," he continued. "It's a larger group than last time. They don't think they are happy in the guest wing." He pulled up another chair and sat next to Lindefal, taking the roll from his hands and dabbing it in the sauce also. Elrond moved his wine glass close to his chest in protection from the meal's marauders.
While Lindefal and Erestor had come by to catch the Master of the House up on business, Findalor had come to judge whether the day off had benefited Elrond or signaled deeper problems to come. He was relieved to see the calm demeanor and clear eyes before him. He was no stranger to haunted memories and unsettled nights spent with the quiet figure seated in front of him. Nights spent in those arms in pleasure were nearly equaled by nights spent embraced in pain. It was the nature of their relationship.
Centuries of close association, working together, playing together, emergencies, battlefield trauma and casual intimacy made this group right at home with each other. Elrond had their undying devotion in all things, had their support and obeisance at ceremonial affairs, and they were informative and helpful in the course of the day's business. But here in the privacy of the study, Elrond was just one of the guys, and he recognized this now, when one of the guys was not who he wanted to be at the end of his perfect day. Erestor finally got tired of posturing and pulled another chair around to the fire, and there they all sat.
Elrond chanced another bite. It was delicious. "I don't suppose I could ask you all to come back tomorrow could I?" he asked hopefully. Negative nods met this question. "I don't suppose I could order you all to come back tomorrow, could I?' More nods with raised eyebrows this time. "Well, It was worth a shot," he said and took another bite. "This would taste so much better without you here to bother me," he said through a mouthful. He poured more wine. No one moved. They watched him eat.
"I hope you are planning to bathe tonight before going to bed," Lindefal remarked with a sniff, "Your bed linens are clean and it looks like you brought back half the fields with you. And look at your hair, it's a mess." Elrond shrugged, and chewed another bite. Lindefal could not help but scold, but he secretly wondered how that knot of hair had stayed exactly as he had tied it that morning. With a smudge of dirt still on his cheek, he thought Elrond looked like a sunburned and errant child who had played in the dirt all day long. Maybe a day spent playing was good for him, but he would not let him get away with going to bed dirty-those oversized linens were a pain to wash and to dress the bed with. Enough other things happened there anyway, he could at least start the night out clean.
"I'll go get the bath ready then," he said as he headed up the stairs. Elrond had given up preferring showers years ago; Lindefal could fuss over him so much better in the carved wooden basin anyway. It made him so happy to do so that Elrond had not only given up on efficiency of the shower, he had actually grown to relish a nice soak at the end of the day. He looked across at Erestor who was lost in thought.
"So, did we make them happy in the guest wing then?" he asked through another bite. "Yes, they all got their own rooms and their own pages and stewards and anything else they asked for, just to please them. You know Melindir is very fussy and demanding when he is here. You are too accommodating to him." Elrond nodded, thinking that if anyone could make the priggish group happy, Erestor could. "Well," he said, "he is the counselor to Celeborn, and he is a renowned scholar, so we should be honored to have him study in the library at Imladris," he said with a wry smile. "Did Glorfindal come home with them?" Erestor nodded, "Yes, he was glad to see our rooftops he said, after months of living in the trees. We have missed his wit at mealtimes I can say for certain." "And his sharp eyes along the borders, " added Findalor. Taking his final bite Elrond chewed slowly and thought a bit. Speaking to himself he muttered, "I think I know the manuscripts they need to see tomorrow, I will have to think where we put them however. They were very old and fragile," he frowned in deep thought.
Looking aside at Findalor, as he was studied in return, he smiled and asked, "And how are the borders then, all secure?" Nodding, Findalor replied "Quiet and calm as can be. Our guests have been the only traffic for days. The river is up a bit from the rains on the plateau, but not enough to worry about." Elrond nodded, "And the Household and the guests, all secure?" Findalor nodded. Having noticed the close looks he had gotten from Findalor, Elrond could not resist asking, "And the Master of the House, well and secure also?" Findalor smiled, laughed, and said, "Well and secure it seems." He laid a hand on Elrond's shoulder and gave it a squeeze as he rose to go. Elrond both tolerated and appreciated the close watch his circle kept upon him. He was here today because of them. Elrond polished off his wine as Lindefal beckoned him upstairs to bathe. Erestor joined Findalor as he headed out the study door.
Elrond rose from his chair and set the empty plate on the desk, and carefully placed the favorite wine glass next to it. He blew out a few candles and headed slowly up the stairs. 'A whole day of doing nothing was very tiring," he thought. He brushed a strand of hair back from his face and sat down in a chair upstairs to remove his boots. He unlaced them and slid them off with a sigh. He sat back in the chair and looked around the bedchamber. A small fire flickered up here as well and candles gave the space a warm glow.
"Lindefal," he said, "We need to look for those manuscripts we copied from the ones at the library at the Grey Havens a few years ago, the ones on red parchment with silver ink. I think they are in the tall cabinet by the south window, they are the ones tied with blue ribbon. Melindir is seeking the earliest version of a tale I remember we copied onto the red parchment."
The image of the long halls at the Grey Havens Library, lined with high writing desks, crept into his mind. It had been remarkably unchanged from the days of his youth the last time he was there to study. He remembered days and nights spent there as he caught up his education, or prepared information for the High King's use. He would sit hunched over the tall desks in silent concentration for hours as his hand moved smoothly along drawn lines on parchment. One particular night he squinted at the page to be copied in deep concentration. He studied the exquisite miniature illustration that flashed in the candle light with flecks of gold among the rich colors. He had been so engrossed he had not heard Gil-galad approach in the still darkness, and the High King had moved silently behind him, and watched him work for some time.
As he reached out to touch the shoulders hunched over their labor, he startled the scribe, and the pen jumped a bit on the page, spoiling the perfection of the copy with a splatter. Elrond cried out a hearty curse and sat up in tired dismay, placing the pen in its holder and surveying the damage. He would never scrape the ink off the page and start again; he would start with a fresh page tomorrow. Gil-galad's brawny arms encircled him in a bear hug. "You spend too much time here with the books and not enough with me anymore," he growled. He buried his face in the knot of braids wound low on Elrond's neck.
The subtle scent of the mosses that grew along the shore was present in the strands. Elrond had shown great skill in the preparation of distilled scents, but rarely used them himself, and then only in the soaps and shampoos he made that were so popular among others at Court. This made him quite different from others; especially the ones who sought to create a signature with their scent.
Unpleasant memories for Elrond were tied to some of those heavy scents favored by the jaded courtiers. His affections were sought by others there, with close conversations, or feigned appointments to entice him to a solitary place. His favor with the King made him a target for those wishing to further their own interests. Some of them reeked so that one could smell them coming long before they arrived. They left the heavy scent in the rooms after they left as a haunting memory as well.
Elrond had always smelled of the sun and the sea and of clear and simple things, not complex layers of deep and heavy scents. It made him unique and different among the courtiers, as if he needed anything else to keep him in the King's heart. Gil-galad had crushed him into another embrace and kissed his neck, "Come to bed now," he begged, "It is late and I have missed you today." Elrond shivered as he felt those arms around him now in his bedchamber, he focused on the manuscripts he had in mind now. 'I am sure we put them in that cupboard now."
Lindefal looked over his shoulder and nodded. Leave it to Elrond to know exactly where some obscure item was stored, after all, it was his library and his knowledge of the many items stored there was amazing. In fact he had copied many of the manuscripts found there himself over the centuries, and his smooth and flowing script, and beautiful spacing and expression, was easily recognizable.
Lindefal busied himself adjusting the steaming water to a tolerable temperature, and he added a subtle green scent. It had been diluted many times. He was always after Elrond to pursue an elegant pleasing of the senses, both for himself and to please others. He now restrained himself when adding scent to things, to make them manageable to Elrond's sensitive nose. As a healer Elrond preferred to keep his senses sharp and clear, they were important for blending medicines and identifying plants. A sneezing fit one morning had caused the robes cupboard to be emptied out onto the floor in a rare fit of temper. The cupboard had to be aired for days after Lindefal's heavy-handed application of fragrance among the garments had unexpectedly annoyed Elrond beyond endurance.
Elrond had stood in the midst of the tangled robes on the floor and made a remark about the heavy scent reminding him of the smothering fops at Gil-galad's Court. He had left the chamber in a huff after that, and was stormy in temper for days afterwards. Lindefal made certain that the garments were laundered and hung to air immediately. That particular fragrance was never again used anyplace in the Great House. Gil-galad's ghost was present often enough in the night without other reminders to call him forth.
Lindefal wondered what memory of unpleasant events in the distant past had been prompted by that fragrance to cause such a reaction so long afterwards. He was very careful with fragrances now. Cirgalad had given him good advice on flavors and types of scent to use, but shared no insights on the fit of temper. His wise eyes knew the story, but his lips did not reveal it.
Elrond pulled his loose tunic over his head. Rising, he unlaced the soft and worn leggings and stepped out of them. "I want to see these washed and returned to their drawer Lindefal, don't even think of scrapping them." "Whatever, but they are just rags now. I don't know how they stay together," replied his aide, "they are just not decent to wear." Elrond walked to the basin and stepped in. Lindefal had managed to get the water just right, and the scent was very faint, and pleasing.
Elrond sat in the warm water, reached back and untied the knot of hair. An old sailor's trick to keep it out of his face, it was the style he favored on his days off. It was simple, effective and it annoyed Lindefal no end. Cirdan had tied it up like that one day for him, and Gil-galad had laughed at the simple solution applied to Elrond's thick dark hair as it had whipped in the sea wind.
It was the perfect hairstyle still for those rebellious days away from responsibility. Lindefal did not know he had retied it after swimming, and again in the meadows. The silken strands worked themselves loose from any restraints as the day progressed. It was as if they desired to wave and stir in the breeze, and to tangle around his face and neck in waving coils. He had kept it tightly braided and knotted at his neck at Court at the Grey Havens when he was young to prevent having to deal with it during the day. Certain lovers there had enjoyed the slow untangling of the braids in bed, and taking it down in the candle light at night had been that much more tantalizing to Gil-galad as they spent quiet time in his great study over-looking the harbor. Elrond's hair fascinated everyone but himself.
He sat back in the water and laid his head down on the cloth along the edge of the basin. Lindefal smeared an ample slather of cream across both of Elrond's cheeks and said, "Here, rub that into the sunburn while your skin is damp, there is more when you get out. Galenbrethil sent it up for you." Lindefal ran a damp cloth over the dark hair to remove the dust and then combed though it with the delicate silver comb. The engravings flashed in the candlelight as it moved through the strands, which were for the most part smooth and untangled, despite his complaint earlier. He'd never admit that a sailor's knot in that long dark hair was acceptable, or useful.
As he smoothed the creamy lotion over his sun and wind burned cheeks Elrond's mind drifted back over his perfect day. After a lazy morning spent idling along the riverbanks, he had wound his way to the deep spring pool where swimming was a favorite pastime for many in the community. It was too cool for swimming now autumn was fading into winter, and no one was around the banks at this time of the morning. He stripped down and dove in, sputtering at the shock of the cold water as he splashed upwards again. He struck out with long smooth strokes in the clear water, and swam lap after lap, enjoying the bracing cold as it flowed around him. He waved at the circuit guards riding by on the path above the pool and made another lap. His location had been noted and they moved on.
He climbed out to catch his breath and untied his satchel to dry himself off with. He pulled on his leggings and laid in the grass to enjoy the midday sun, it was warm today for the season. He bit into one of the apples he had brought along, it was crisp and the juice ran down his chin. He thought back to days spent swimming in the ocean at the Grey Havens, and he missed the plaintive call of the sea birds now. The rush and slide of the waves across the pebbly beach there was different than the bubbling and splashing of the river through the settlement here, but the presence of any moving water soothed the Elven soul and tied them closely to nature.
Swimming in the cool, clear spring water was very different indeed to rising and falling along the salty sea waves, but that was where he swam then, and this was where he swam now. He had chosen his own path; he had left that life behind him. He untied his hair and leaned his face back into the sun. He banished the images of the beach, the quayside and the buildings along the sea. Imladris was his home now.
After he had warmed up in the sun he dressed and retied his hair into the simple knot and climbed the stairs to the greenhouses stacked along the cliff sides of the lower valley. It was quiet and the classes were still dismissed for the midday meal. No one was in the long alleyways between the tables of fragrant flowers, herbs and medicinal plants. He strolled through a drying room under bunches and clusters of plants and stems hanging from rods along the ceiling, and noted trays of drying leaves and stems without disturbing them. Neatly lettered notes marked each group, and he mentally reviewed the many uses for the materials. Galenbrethil looked at him curiously from an adjoining aisle, and he smiled and gave her a little wave, and kept moving along, observing the medicinal plants on the trays. The variety was amazing.
She watched him for some time and decided if he needed anything he would ask. The touch of sun on his normally pale cheeks gave him a spark of warmth and youthfulness in appearance. He looked calm and relaxed. She made a mental note to send a cream along to ease the burn. She had not been to the Great House lately, as she was tied to her work in the greenhouses. She had even missed the communal meals this week as well.
As she observed the play of sunlight through the windows and across his hair and face she realized she had missed his company lately. She determined to make time in her schedule for dinner tonight and to find him on the lawns later. She returned to her work without a word. One of the reasons he liked her so well was this independent streak she had, and her respect for his personal space. The spirits above knew he had intruded inside hers more than once, and none to gently either.
He moved outside and sat at the hot springs with his feet in the rippling water. He watched the bubbles as the flow from the hottest pool dripped downwards and swirled around his feet. Galenbrethil and Cirgalad paused as they passed through the pool's courtyard on their way to class, they exchanged a look and he smiled. He had been alerted to the change in the routine of the house already.
In fact he had advised Elrond to spend more time in reflection and relaxation at every opportunity he got. He was amazed to see his advice taken today. Shaking his head he passed along the courtyard and into the greenhouse before him. Today they were discussing poisons and antidotes; he did not want to be late. Galenbrethil looked back over her shoulder as she passed through the doorway, things seemed to be all right as far as she could tell from observation. She wondered at the change in routine.
Pulling on his boots again Elrond descended the stairs past the flourmill, stopping to watch the giant wheel turning lazily around in the rippling bubble of the millstream in its channel. He liked this old building with its simple stone construction and towering eaves; he gave a wave to the miller and the Household Guards standing in the loft's opening and headed down to the pastures. The wind stirred the long grasses and they waved and flowed in the wind, rippling and flashing the mellow hues of autumn. Here and there gray and white horses grazed in the rich grasses.
He took off his jacket and untied his hair, and climbed up on the fence. He sat there with the wind in his hair and on his face, hearing the dry rattle and swish of the grasses as they brushed against each other. Holding out his arms he moved them in the strong wind blowing across the flat meadows just to feel the pressure and slide of it along his skin as it plucked at his clothes. The dark strands of hair whipped around his face and curled around his throat. The guards up on the hill could imagine what they wanted to, he did not care. At least he was not on the roof today seeking to be one with nature.
It always worried them to find him on the rooftop. He had laughed the first day they came to get him to call Arwen down from a perch on high, she had found the study roof to be the best place for watching the sun rise. Instead he had climbed up to join her. They had often sat in high places together and enjoyed the view and wind in their faces. Findalor finally had had benches built for them there. Elrond missed his dark haired daughter and wished she was at Rivendell for a change. She was torn between two homes, and he let her chose her schedule as she pleased. He imagined she would return before long. When she was in residence in the Great House the twins stayed around more, and adding sunny Legolas to the mix caused a youthful exuberance to descend upon the Great House and its residents. Elrond hoped they would all gather for winter festivities soon.
He let the elements wash over him now, the sunlight, the wind and the sounds of nature. He had always been able to find a mental release in isolation with the elements. He felt they could cleanse him of worldly cares and of the woes in this life. They could scour him clean as they burned his cheeks and dried his skin, and the wind could air out his soul, sweeping away the dark memories and haunting voices that lurked always at the edge of consciousness. Even though he embraced the Elven love of evening's coolness and the starry nights, he had a fondness for the sun on his face as well. He had learned this at sea with Gil-galad and Cirdan, and he relished his time alone in nature here in Rivendell as well.
Leaving further memories of his past life on the blue rolling sea behind him he headed out across the swelling sea of swirling grasses and walked to the far ends of the meadows. The sun was sinking slowly and he wanted to relish this last part of his day. His favorite horse had seen him and was ambling over through the high grasses. Together they walked side by side along the worn path to the stream that ran through the pastures. The bells for the evening meal rang out.
Elrond rose from the bath water refreshed. He chose a loose velvet evening robe over the soft sleeping robe Lindefal had selected. He stepped into his low shoes and gathered his hair back into the knot again with an inner grin. He got the loud and heavy sigh he was seeking from Lindefal as he did this. He had to chuckle at the sound. Voices rose in song from the lawns below as evening star gazing began. The early winter nights could be clear and cold, and leaping bonfires lit the night as dancers circled the fire and traced complex patterns in the night air. The Fading Time was the last of the clear weather before winter set in, and was appreciated as one of the turning points of the seasonal year. Soon the singing and telling of tales would move indoors to the Hall of Fire. Fireflies danced above their heads.
Elrond picked up a blanket from the top of the chest by the railing and started down the stairs. Lindefal tidied his robes and smoothed his hair, and followed the silent figure. They passed through the courtyard and down the stairs, to the lawn and the river gardens, where he had begun his day.
Findalor was leaning inside the courtyard arches speaking to Glorfindel as they watched the dancers. Glorfindel greeted Elrond with a grasp of the arm and warm words, and was glad to see the calm face and relaxed stance. He worried about his friend and colleague when he was away. They had been through much together and he had a great respect for the wiry strength of body and spiritual endurance Elrond had revealed over the centuries. Elrond had stayed in Middle Earth through sad and grim times, guarding the ring Vilya, and using it cautiously to enhance life in the valley. It kept the community strong, and the residents ageless.
He knew that Elrond was tired in spirit, and that he foresaw sadder days to come. Glorfindel knew much, and it made their relationship stronger and deeper. He too was a guardian of the Master of the House in love and admiration. He had missed the relaxed atmosphere of Rivendell while away at the more somber and restrained Court in Caras Galadhon. He was glad to be home, and with a parting word to all he moved nimbly down the steps to join the dance.
Findalor fell in with Elrond and Lindefal and they walked in companionable silence along the path. Coming to one of the secret places tucked along the river's edge, Elrond spread the blanket out on the mossy turf and settled into the center of it. Tall rushes rustled all around them. He kicked off his soft shoes and lay back with arms outstretched over his head. It was dark and cool here, and the flickering firelight and the lantern's glow was across the river and down stream now, veiled by the tall grasses that grew along the banks. Elrond began a quiet recitation of the names of the autumn constellations as he picked them out across the inky sky.
Findalor kicked off his boots and waded in the cold water at the edge of the flow. He watched the dancers across the water as the rippling flow cooled his feet and refreshed his spirit. Finally the water became too cold to bear and he returned to the blanket and sat down to watch the dancers through the reeds as their shadows played across the firelight. Lindefal stretched out along side Elrond to follow along in the patterns in the stars. "There was something to be said for the simple pleasures of life," he thought. Fireflies sparked in the night around them.
A soft step along the path and a gentle humming preceded Galenbrethil as she wandered around the turn that led to the sheltered place. "I thought I saw you pass by here," she said softly. She pulled up her long gown and settled in behind Findalor and he leaned back into her embrace. She extended her warm thoughts to them all and enjoyed the embrace of Findalor's aura, with its low throbbing and gentle calm. "Why aren't you dancing tonight?" he asked her as he looked back over his shoulder, "This is your favorite song isn't it?"
She wiggled her bare toes into his hips and said, "I have done my rounds for the night, and I am catching my breath." She pressed her nose against his ear and a soft kiss into his neck, 'It is time for other things now." He placed his hand over hers as it rested on his shoulder. Thrown together in trial and adversity centuries ago, they had remained companions and true friends in the years since.
She moved in and out of the inner circle as she was needed and as she desired. Lindefal and Erestor knew her from their days in the aftermath of the Great War with Sauron, the days of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. They had worked together with Elrond and Findalor to regroup the survivors and finish the work they started in the battle and seven-year siege of Sauron in the tower of Barad-dur. She had moved among the survivors to give them hope and dress their wounds.
They knew that she and Findalor had helped Elrond through the first nights after the fall of Sauron and the desertion of Isildur and his troops. They understood something extraordinary had bonded them together in that time. Findalor and Galenbrethil had shared the tent next to the large one he had set up for Elrond as the new base of command. Their few personal possessions were stored there, but they spent their nights together with Elrond in a tangled pile on the blankets and carpets heaped on the ground.
Those were grim nights when fear and grief and despair were shared and healed between them. The night of the burning of Gil-galad's body in the warrior's honorable release from mortal coils had been the worst. The finality of the fact he was lost to them forever through the death of his body was driven into their hearts as the smoke spiraled upwards and the songs of lament rose in the air. Findalor feared for their survival and sanity that night. He felt that his soul had been scorched by the raw emotions they endured, and Galenbrethil had been taxed to her physical and psychic limits to cope as well. Elrond remembered this night only in tortured dreams.
Findalor knew that Galenbrethil knew about the ring of power, Vilya. Common knowledge to those in the Inner Council of Imladris, the rest of the community was blissfully unaware of the ring, and its healing and preservative powers. Elrond had wielded it, mostly successfully, only occasionally over the centuries, it was a draining and risky task to practice the magic needed to wield the ring. It radiated its preserving magic on its own as it hung, stored, in a cave beneath the city.
She had seen it around Elrond's neck during those days when they lived side-by-side, and in and out of each other's minds. Gil-galad had placed it around Elrond's neck on a golden chain the morning before the last battle, the morning of the day he fell at Sauron's hand. There around his neck it stayed, but he let no one touch it and did not speak of it himself. She had seen it as they lay together in the firelight and as they grappled in his fits of anger and grief. She had felt its power as she accidentally activated it by a near touch and a simple thought.
Her exceptional powers as a healer merged with it on some unknown level, and she had seen it spread its energy field around them one night. The ring's power had terrified her. She knew it had healed Elrond and had given him the strength to continue, she knew it was now hidden in Rivendell somewhere, and she knew it preserved the valley around them. Findalor had never asked her about it and she never spoke of it to anyone.
In the intervening years at Rivendell she had spent more pleasant evenings in their arms. There was nothing like sharing one's innermost secrets and darkest fears to pave the way to trust and intimacy. They were comfortable with each other as ones could be who knew they had seen the worst, and who sought the best now.
Elrond drew his knees up and she leaned over and embraced them with an arm. His usual aura of vibrant energies whipping along extended channels was surprisingly calm tonight. She rubbed his knees gently with a loving hand and asked, "Did you have a pleasant day today?" "Yes, very," was the quiet response. "Did you get that cream for the sunburn I sent up?" "Yes, thank you. It was very comforting." Lindefal held up a fragrant hand and waved it about in the air, "Yes and it smells wonderful as well!" She pushed his hand aside and leaned over Elrond to tickle him. She always sent extra of anything to Elrond's chambers, knowing of Lindefal's delight in scents and textures. He was the perfect guinea pig for new concoctions.
He bunched and laughed as she grabbed a handful of robes and dug in his ribs. He sat up and grabbed her shoulders for a quick kiss on the cheek. "You may be finished dancing, but I have not started yet. The next round is my favorite." He gathered his shoes and rose, heading back along the path to the laughter and voices on the lawn.
She gave Elrond a tickle too for good measure. Sitting back she untangled her legs from around Findalor and lay down beside the still figure. Findalor sat with chin on knees and watched the chains of dancers intertwine around the fire. She looked at Elrond with her head on her hand. She dragged lazy fingers across the complex embroidery of his robe, tracing the swirls and twisting patterns. She mentally felt along his aura looking for trouble and found none. As his healer she had the right to this gentle invasion of privacy, and their relationship was nothing near normal anyway. She saw only the rosy and violet hues that indicated his pleasure in their company. He reached over and ran a thumb along her jaw line and across her cheek, and took a lock of her long dark hair in his fingers. He gently pulled her face down for a sweet kiss in the darkness.
She moved long slender fingers along the robe's silver fastenings. They slipped open one by one and her cool fingers slid inside. His skin was warm and soft under the heavy fabric. She laid her head on his chest and drew lazy circles on his chest. Findalor lay down beside her and watched the stars, his hand lying along her hip. The sounds of song drifted over the evening air as the tempo changed. The words and music created images in their minds.
Their auras were slowly merging in a symphony of colors and sounds. Their personal identities of vibrations and hues were changing in proximity to ones who were accepted into personal spaces and loved. Galenbrethil looked deeply into Elrond's clear gray eyes, and they seemed to reflect the light of the stars above them. She felt the warmth, love and compassion she had come to know as the true nature of his being, and she had come to understand why the others fought so hard to protect him from his ghosts.
She now knew that his gentle touch as a healer, his wise smile and his concern for all who came under his roof were the true expressions of his ancient soul. The tortured nights on the burned and ashy plain of Dagorlad had been the result of stress, grief and fate twisted into terrible contortions of being. His unimaginable love and devotion had been the source of the deepest despair and insane grief at the loss of Gil-galad. He both loved and lost with unbearable passion. Cirgalad had wondered why he had not surrendered his spirit up in the utter darkness of the moments of loss, but had determined he would survive. While the inner circle worried for his fragile nature, they also knew he had the endurance of the stone of the mountains, that he had the strength of the crashing sea waves and the warmth of the summer sun in his true soul.
She leaned forward into another kiss, sweet and soft and teasing, lingering over the bottom lip and ending with a gentle lick across them both. She withdrew her hand from beneath his robe and embraced him, drawing closer and placing her leg across his. This increase in contact with her increased his response and began to affect the air around them. Elrond's aura was powerful and beyond his control sometimes, it could set the pace for others in many situations.
He kissed her again with a new need and projected longing that entrapped her soul. It took her days to recover psychically from a joining with Elrond, but she welcomed his embrace tonight. She moaned as he licked her jaw line and nibbled and kissed her neck. His fingers drew her long hair away from her face and stroked her temples gently. She arched into him in pleasure. Findalor turned to lie against her and embraced them both. He laid his face into her hair and kissed her neck.
He too had had pleasant evenings with these lovers since their fevered days on the field at Dagorlad. He was glad that today had passed smoothly and easily. The little problems with the guests would be soothed over by Erestor, and Elrond would answer their questions tomorrow and provide just the bit of paper or parchment they needed. Findalor had no doubt of it. He left the Great Library to Lindefal and Elrond to manage, and he was never surprised to hear of the wondrous things that were to be found there.
His job was the inner and outer borders of Imladris and the security of the residents. He also watched the Master of the House closely and was alert for signs of dark days descending. He was the one most concerned about the ghosts of the past, and along with Galenbrethil, had relived far too many grim and wretched days himself. He was pleased at the calm and comfortable tumble he found himself in now. He was pleased that Elrond had seen sunny days and serene nights the last few months. It made all their lives so much easier.
She rose over Elrond and teased him with her hair and little bites and licks. His hands moved along the laces at her back and loosened the long ties, he pulled the shoulders down and kissed the white arms and nibbled along her collarbone. Their soft voices formed a cocoon around them. Findalor reached across to the laces and finished the loosening. He slipped a hand under the soft fabric and caressed her side and hip. He slid the dress off her arm and kissed her back and neck, he pressed his growing interest against her as they moved together.
Drifting clouds moved across the stars and seemed to close the space in around them. Within their joining auras filling their minds no sound or evidence of the outside world intruded. As senses heightened the sliding of velvet and silk became a rough drag of fabric across skin, and the feeling became unbearable. Robes were shed in fluid motion and skin sought the touch of skin in the bonding of shared touch. Galenbrethil turned and opened her arms to Findalor. He rose across her and entered slowly, sliding into her welcoming depths. He kissed her, then leaned across and kissed Elrond beside her, taking handfuls of the dark hair as he fell into the sensations of the moment. Just the feel of those dark strands in his fingers caused him joy.
She moved against him moaning and caressing his muscular back. She was quite the vocal lover, and her every feeling was expressed with a sigh, an expressed desire or a cry of pleasure. She hummed and moaned as Findalor moved slowly inside her.
In the complex sharing, caressing and thrusting movements this threesome had become comfortable with, they dissolved into a quivering mass of flesh. Touches and licks built intolerable needs and desires, and trading places smoothly, flowing between legs and under arms, laughing and smiling into bites and licks while offering soft mouths, warm tongues and eager kisses, they built the fires of passion between them. The dragging of firm fingertips across nerves and muscles beneath trembling flesh caused more moans and sighs of pleasure. Firm flesh rubbed against firm flesh as breathing became ragged and the grappling more intense.
Energy and creativity, as well as balance and care, were needed to please all with little harm done accidentally. Kneeling, rising, arching and collapsing together, they touched all the secret places on their bodies and in their souls. With first one in the middle then another, the three intertwined and became one in rising passion.
With the joining of their auras and minds, as well as their bodies, they were one wanting, needing, longing soul together, trembling while awaiting release, each on the edge of each other's delight as a feedback pattern layered multiple sensations within them all. As the friction, caresses and firm touches drove one of them melting into deep moans and cries of pleasure, they all shared the sensation of those rhythmic contractions, and they were all swept into the timeless, space less oblivion of perfect joy and uncontrollable release. Elrond's whipping energies never failed to grab them in its wake and energize their activities with sparks and increased sensations.
Galenbrethil could never finish without laughing at the tangle of arms and legs. Sometimes bruises from a stray knee or elbow were souvenirs for days afterwards. Their "trophies" from these sessions amused them for days afterwards. She thought she'd have some colorful marks on her neck tomorrow as well, she wondered who had indulged her cries for "more" and "harder" just then. Falling off the edge of the black abyss of pleasure, caught between them in gentle thrusts fore and aft, someone had pushed her over the edge with skillful nips and then hard bites at the nerve junctions along her neck. Her cries were buried in a kiss, and then echoed by the others.
Sandwiched between them, joining them all through the narrow channels of her flesh, she was still enwrapped in strong arms and a tangle of legs. As they kissed above her head she remembered leaving a few bite marks of her own on Elrond's shoulder. She was glad to be supported between them in the warmth of their bodies; she had no control over her trembling limbs yet.
She slowly sought to sort out her own energy waves and become herself again. She was accustomed to this merging now and the strength and speed at which she lost herself as a separate entity did not disturb her anymore. Engaged by passion, Elrond's rapidly expanding energies could tear their personalities away from them and blend them together into a joined entity with breathtaking speed and thoroughness. Its unrestrained power could grab the energy from all nearby and channel it as one flow, and the pleasure that resulted from their joinings was radiated outwards in a blast of emotion.
She had learned to sort things out slowly and gather herself back together bit by bit as they lay collapsed in a tangle of arms and legs afterwards. She had learned this on the plains at Dagorlad, when she had felt she would never regain herself from the raw emotions and deeply draining joinings there on the pile of carpets and blankets. Successfully therapeutic sex between this threesome had been forged brutally in the heat of need and despair, and they had refined their art of pleasure over the centuries since then. Their auras danced around them now in scintillations of color and vibration as they caught their breath and remained locked in embrace.
It was late now and Lindefal was walking back along the path along the river's edge. He saw Glorfindel's tall slender form in the dim light, sitting on a large rock looking out over the river as it splashed and bubbled along its stony bed. His ashen hair glowed in the darkness and drifted in the breeze. He smiled in the low light of the dying bonfire across the river. The sounds of the songs had died away and the fire had burned low. Tired celebrants were heading home for comfortable beds and the arms of loved ones.
He patted the rock next to him and said, "Have a seat, keep me company. I am very happy to be home in Rivendell tonight. I have longed for the valley and dinner in the dining hall. I have missed the laughter and the joking and the dancing and the love that is everywhere here." He looked at Lindefal, "I have even missed you old friend."
These things are in Caras Galadhon, but they are not the same somehow. He glanced at Lindefal, and said, "I was happy to see the twins at dinner tonight, their sister misses them as well. But tonight I am home, and I have had my fill of good food, good wine and good friends and wonderful dancing and laughing and love."
He smiled warmly and was happy to sit on the rock in the cool darkness and be back in cosmopolitan Rivendell. The social structure at Caras Galadhon was very strict, and he found it oppressive. Arwen's ready laugh lightened the environment there somewhat, and her pranks both frustrated and delighted her grandparents. Her skills at riding matched her father's now, he thought, there was a mystical bond between them and the animals that bore them. He was supposed to be her chaperone on those outings in the Golden Woods, and she had outraced him every time with laughter floating back in the slipstream between them.
Galadriel had released him as her guest with knowing eyes and a gentle smile. For all her sternness, she knew the truth in the hearts that stood before her, and she was compassionate as well. She saw the desire for home in his eyes and in his heart. Back at Rivendell now, he sat beside Lindefal in the darkness and listened to the river ripple and bubble by along its bed.
In the quiet of the evening came sounds of low voices, moans and giggles from nearby. Galenbrethil's soft laugh floated over the rustling of the reeds around them. Then came the un-mistakable sounds of passion mounting. Glorfindel sat quietly, holding a slender reed from the riverbank twirling in his fingers. A slight smile played across his lips. "See what you missed by going dancing when you did?" he asked softly with a wink. More soft voices carried to them in the evening breeze. They shared a knowing look when cries and panted breaths signaled the culmination of the struggle to find love and peace in the night. The warmth and release and joy they felt flowed outwards in radiating patterns that swept across the two listeners in a pleasant fashion, enabling them to feel the sensations shared by those grappling in love play nearby.
With a little shiver, Glorfindel said, "I am happy for them, it seems they needed each other a great deal tonight." He looked at Lindefal, "They manage together very well, and their auras are something wonderful to feel, even over here. Elrond's is always unique isn't it?" Lindefal just nodded with a smile. He thought back to the night when he and Legolas had stood in the loft unseen and watched Elrond and Erestor below in the study. The wave of warmth and release had not been so strong then, but enough to engage them physically in the wash of emotion. He wondered what the youth had thought; they had never discussed it afterwards. Well, the emotional feedback was just a part of Elven life, and would have been no surprise to Legolas. That was why the sounds of passion were normally discreetly ignored when overheard by accident. Or by plan.
"He seems content these days," continued the quiet and introspective Glorfindel. Lindefal nodded and replied, "We have had a calm autumn and only a few unsettled nights. He has been himself again lately, the past has stayed in the past for a change." Nodding with the smile still playing across his lips, Glorfindal said, "I am glad."
He rose and said, "Lets leave them to their untangling. It feels like it could take them quite awhile to recover. I'm for a tour of the pantry, another glass of wine and bite of that excellent cheese we make so well here, maybe midnight breakfast will be served if enough of us turn up." He rose gracefully and held out his hand, "Coming?" he asked.
Continued in "Winter Joinings"
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