back to Strange Fates

Pride's Cloak
by Claudio & Elwing


PAIRING: Gil-galad/Elrond
RATING: NC-17
SUMMARY: The night before and morning of Elrond's departure from Lindon. Set in SA
DISCLAIMER: We own exactly none of the characters portrayed in this story. We just use them for our own
nefarious purposes. No harm intended, no profit made.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: The events in this story may or may
not coincide with stories each author is writing
separately.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Grey upon grey, the mist from the sea rolled over
Lindon. It swirled around the white sails of Círdan's
ships, lying at anchor in the Grey Havens; it probed
the long Gulf of Lune, creeping into the deep green of
the seaside forest, and it pressed against the stones
of Gil-galad's halls as the king looked out upon the
murk.

"They'll be back, of course," said a gentle voice
behind him.

"Who - the Orcs or the Numenoreans?" he asked,
scowling at the mist before turning to face Círdan.

"Both, I expect," the shipwright said with a wry
smile. "How does Elrond feel about these voyages? Is
he glad to see his kin?"

"Elrond?" the king said vaguely. "I... well, I assume
he is. I never really asked him."

"You should take more time with him, Ereinion," Círdan
said softly. "He worships you."

Gil-galad said nothing for a moment and then turned
away towards the window again. "Yes, well - we both
know what hero worship comes to, don't we?" He could
hear the bitterness in his own words and it surprised
him.

"I know the two of you are close," Círdan said
patiently. "Why is it so difficult for you to talk to
me about this?"

"Because I feel the same way about him as I did about
you!" the king hissed, turning suddenly, eyes fiery
and hurt. "The way I still feel about you. And still I
have to -" He ran his fingers through his hair and
faced the misty window once more.

"You have to send him away," Círdan said quietly.

Silence fell between them for several moments and then
Gil-galad whispered, "I almost died when I lost you. I
don't know that I could bear losing him as well."

Círdan took a step towards the younger Elf, an arm out
to comfort, then stopped as a knock came at the door.

"Come," the king said, his voice still hoarse with
emotion.

The door opened, and Erestor entered with an
apologetic smile. "I'm sorry my Lord, I've tried, but
it's not going to happen..." He bowed, and there
Elrond stood behind him, defiant, determined, and
wearing only soft cotton house clothes.

"I'm not wearing it," Elrond said.

Erestor shook his head. "I tried to explain that in
order to have the armour fit properly he needs to put
it on and have a few small adjustments made-"

"It fits fine," Elrond interrupted. "And I will of
course wear it when I leave tomorrow, but not now. Not
inside; it's awkward." He raised his chin and looked
at Gil-galad. Círdan, silver eyebrows raised just a
bit, took a definite step backward, suddenly very
interested in the mist outside the window.

The look of defiance sent a race of desire through the
king and his gaze met Elrond's, firm and unyielding.
"A warrior's strength depends on his grace in battle
and no warrior is graceful with armour that is not
perfectly fitted to his body." He fought back a smirk.
"You *will* put it on and you *will* be fitted. Do you
understand me?"

Elrond scowled. "I tried it already. And it fits fine.
That's good enough."

Erestor shook his head. "Elrond..."

"I said it's good enough." He took a step forward,
eyes still on Gil-galad. Erestor glanced at him, then
at the king.

Gil-galad moved towards Elrond, eyes fierce and
bright. "I will be the judge of that," he nearly
purred. "I want you perfect. You *will* try it on."

Elrond remained still and silent until the king was
close in front of him. Slowly he glanced over toward
Círdan at the window, then back to Gil-galad with
narrowed eyes. "It fits," he said, and then turned to
leave the room.

Quick as a flash of light, Gil-galad's hand shot out
and caught his herald's arm. "No," he said in low,
predatory voice, "it doesn't. It won't until you've
had the detailed fitting, which, given your attitude,
will be done in front of me." He gave a nod to
Erestor. "Bring it in, please."

Erestor bowed before retreating down the corridor
toward Elrond's chambers, and Elrond watched him go.
Then Elrond turned back to Gil-galad, twisting his arm
in the king's firm grip. But he said nothing, only
frowned.

"Perhaps I should be going..." Círdan murmured,
turning from the window.

"Not too far -" Gil-galad muttered, holding Elrond
tighter. "We dine in an hour and I want you there - if
that's all right with you."

The Lord of the Havens gave a small bow and left,
hiding a smile.

As soon as he was gone the king's eyes snapped back
onto Elrond. "And just what is the meaning of *this*,"
he said, holding Elrond's wrist aloft. "Making me out
to be a fool in front of my oldest friend."

Elrond twisted his arm again, but Gil-galad's grip was
strong. "Do not thank me," Elrond said. "I'm sure you
would have managed to act foolish enough on your own
without my help." Then he pulled hard away from
Gil-galad and said with a cool voice, "Now let me go;
you are acting like a child.

The king did everything he could to keep a serious
face. "*I'm* acting like a child, am I? Even though
*you're* the one who's balking at a fitting like a
*human* child might." He gave the younger Elf a smirk
and then barked, "Erestor, now!"

"One moment, my Lord..." Erestor called from the
corridor, and a moment later he was in the doorway. An
older Elf in a leather apron helped him to carry the
plate armour and garments of chain mail, which were
set on the floor next to Gil-galad and Elrond with a
dull metallic sound. Elrond looked away to windows on
the far wall.

Gil-galad waited while the armour was put on and then
stood back, regarding Elrond critically. "Here," he
said, tossing the younger Elf a sword, "try a few
feints. Let's see how it moves."

Elrond took an apathetic swing toward Gil-galad. "It's
good."

But the Elf in the apron shook his head and walked
around to where the king stood, then went to Elrond.
"It seems fine across the shoulders," he said, "but
right here..." He frowned and took a marker from one
of his apron pockets marked a thin like across the
plate at Elrond's lower back. "This here sits too low,
I think, and on the sides as well. I'll move the
entire section up about a finger's width, and that
should allow for a bit more flexibility."

He knelt and made another mark toward the bottom edge
of the mail skirt that hung almost to Elrond's knees.
"Also, this need not be so long. I'll remove the
bottom five rows of links from all four sections. That
shouldn't interfere with the protection, but it will
make it somewhat lighter." Then turning to Gil-galad,
he asked, "What do you think, my Lord?"

"That sounds excellent," Gil-galad murmured; "I don't
want his movement hampered. Being fast is one of his
talents - we don't want to lose that." He looked to
Elrond. "Draw your sword again and make a few feints."

 

Again Elrond made an effortless swing toward
Gil-galad, and the Elf in the apron nodded. "I'll make
those adjustments and then bring it back later this
afternoon for perhaps another final fitting." Then
he and Erestor helped Elrond out of the armour, and
they bowed and left.

"Come and have a glass of wine with me, Elrond," the
king murmured, turning to the sideboard and opening
the bottle. Elrond moved to stand next to him, close
enough so that their arms barely touched, and took the
glass that was offered.

"Thank you," Elrond said quietly, but added nothing
else. He looked intently at his wine as he drank.

"Are you truly ready for this campaign?" Gil-galad
murmured, tucking a stray lock of hair behind Elrond's
ear. "I need to know that you'll be taking care of
yourself. It's agony to let you go."

"Of course I will," Elrond said. "I'll be fine." Still
though he looked down into his wine, refusing to meet
Gil-galad's gaze, and his fingers tightened around the
glass nervously. "You worry too much," he added. "You
always worry."

"I'm the King - it's my prerogative," Gil-galad said,
smiling. "Besides, it's not like you're really
replaceable, now is it? I want you to come back to
me." He leaned in as if for a kiss and whispered into
Elrond's ear, "You *will* come back to me, won't you?
I shall miss you so terribly..."

Elrond only scowled and turned away, taking a few
steps back. "You told me such things before, when I
said I would lead this assault. There is no need to go
over it again. We are in a time of war, and we do what
must be done. You think too much on trivial matters."

There was a moment of silence and then Gil-galad's
voice was low and hoarse. "My feelings for you are
anything but trivial. Surely you understand how
difficult this is for me: I know beyond all doubt
you're the best one to lead, and yet - " He turned
away and looked out of a long window at the back of
the room, out to the tumbling line of the coast
beyond. "I fear this parting may be longer than either
of us plan."

Elrond's harsh expression wavered, but was almost
immediately re-established with greater determination.
"Well I am certain you will be able to endure it," he
said.

Closing the distance between them, Gil-galad took
Elrond's arm and stared into his face. "Why are you
acting this way? We have so little time left before
you leave - is this really the way you want to spend
it?"

Elrond only stared blankly back at the king, shrugging
off the touch on his arm. "Maybe," he said quietly,
and turned and walked to the door, pausing for a
second to look back at Gil-galad and add, "I will see
you later." Then he disappeared silently down the
corridor, passing Círdan with no more than a slight
nod of acknowledgment.

A wave of anguish passed through the king as Elrond
left and for one terrible moment he thought he might
drop where he stood. For the first time in all of the
years he had known him, Elrond appeared to be
indifferent to him, completely unemotional.

It was difficult enough to take in and of itself.
Their relationship had always been intensely close and
the feel of it missing was a shock to his system. But
coming on the eve of Elrond's ride to Eriador it only
highlighted the impending absence of his minstrel and
lover - an absence that would be fraught with worry
for Elrond's safety.

Moving as though through gauze, he wandered to the
window in the far wall and gazed unseeingly out at the
Gulf beyond.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Do you suppose he's angry?"

"No. I don't know. Why?"

"He hasn't come to see me all evening," Elrond said.
"Probably everyone else and his dog has come to ask my
opinion or give me advice or see if I need anything or
just get in my way, but I've not seen him since
midday. And now it is dark."

He sat on the bed with his arms resting on his knees
and looked over to Glorfindel, who stood at the
window. "I begged him to let me go, you know," he
continued. "I remember wanting more than anything for
him to trust me or find me competent enough to ride
with his soldiers. When he said I would lead I was so
terribly pleased with myself..." He shook his head.
"And now that I leave tomorrow I want more than
anything just to stay here."

Glorfindel smiled. "You are only nervous," he said.
"It will pass. Tomorrow, perhaps, when you sit atop
your horse and look over your troops standing before
you with their banners unfurled, you will be terribly
pleased again."

"I don't know," Elrond murmured. "The more I think on
it, the more I realize how unqualified I am."

"Every great leader must begin with a first battle,"
said Glorfindel.

"I suppose... I just wish it weren't such an
imperative one." Elrond stood and moved to stand
beside Glorfindel at the window, leaning his head
against his friend's shoulder. "If we are defeated..."
he started, but his voice trailed off and the thought
remained incomplete.

"You will lead them as best you can," Glorfindel said
quietly.

"The best I can could result in failure. Then what?
Will Gil-galad ride himself to correct my mistakes? Or
would the defeat be so disastrous that there is no
hope of salvation and Sauron would at last take
Lindon? I cannot do this, Glorfindel, I cannot; my
mind is so set on every possible losing outcome
that... I just cannot do this."

"Have you told him that?"

"No... How could I? After being so insistent? I only
wish..." Elrond paused and leaned on the window ledge,
looking down to the rocks below as the wind cause his
hair to dance around his face like fire. "I wish he
knew how afraid I am. Or how much wiser he would be to
choose another to take my place."

Glorfindel smirked, and put his arm around Elrond's
shoulders. "Is that why you were acting like such a
child this morning?"

Frowning, Elrond pulled away. "I don't know what
you're talking about."

"Erestor told me about the entire armour fitting
scene. I suppose that was an effort to help Gil-galad
realize just how dependable and responsible you are?"

Elrond scowled at Glorfindel, but gave no reply. He
went to his dressing table and toyed with the few
items rested there, giving his best effort at
appearing too interested in rearranging combs and
hair-ties to notice Glorfindel looking at him with
concerned eyes. He bit his lip.

"I wanted so much for him just to say that he had
changed his mind and wanted me to stay here with him,"
he finally said, very quietly. "To say that he didn't
think it was wise for me to leave, that I shouldn't
leave, that he didn't want me to leave."

"Hmmn," was Glorfindel's only response.

Elrond ran his hands through his hair and gathered it
into a loose pigtail at the nape of his neck. "In any
case," he said, "I am sleepy, and would go to bed now
to be rested for tomorrow's departure."

"Well then," said Glorfindel as he walked to the door,
"I will see you in the morning; do try to sleep well."
He grinned. "It may be your last night in a
comfortable bed for a long time. Good night."

Elrond half smiled back. "Good night," he said, and
let his hair fall free again as Glorfindel left.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Are you asleep?"

Gil-galad started up from his map table, eyes gone red
from the smoke of the torches. He'd been pouring over
maps of Eregion for hours and had dozed off
momentarily, his head on his hands. Now he brushed a
hand through his hair and blinked at Elrond, standing
in the doorway of his chamber.

"I would have thought you'd have gone to bed some time
ago," he said stiffly, avoiding the question. "Aren't
you leaving at first light?"

Elrond nodded. "I wanted to say... goodbye to you," he
said quietly. "And I couldn't sleep." With arms
crossed and clenched tensely across his chest, he
slowly walked to where Gil-galad sat.

"What seems to be the problem?" the king murmured,
looking up at him, wanting to wrap his arms around
Elrond's shoulders but not knowing how his herald
would take the gesture.

Elrond gently reached down to brush the few stray
tangled hairs away from Gil-galad's forehead and
cheek. "My bed was too cold," he whispered.

A wave of relief washed through the king at the touch
of Elrond's hand. He grasped it and pulled him down
for a kiss, long and lingering. "I thought you would
leave without saying a proper goodbye... I would have
hated that. You seemed positively contemptuous of me
earlier."

"I'm sorry," Elrond murmured, breathing against
Gil-galad's lips. "I was being so stupid. I was
just... anxious, I suppose, or nervous. I don't know."
His free hand moved and caught the back of the king's
neck, pulling him into another, softer kiss. "I am
sorry..." Elrond whispered again.

"Stop apologizing and kiss me again," the king
ordered, and when it had been done he pulled Elrond
onto his lap, facing him. He stroked Elrond's face
with long, powerful fingers and then asked, "Why
should you be nervous? You're the best I've got - and
the cleverest. If anyone can do this job properly it's
you."

"I've never done anything like this before," Elrond
said. "So of course I am worried. How can I not be?"
He rested his forehead on Gil-galad's shoulder,
momentarily abandoning himself to the soothing touches
of his lover's hand stroking his cheek and hair. His
arms snaked around Gil-galad's waist. "What if I
fail?"

A soft press of lips to his neck and Gil-galad husked,
"You will not fail. Whatever happens it will make our
position a better one. I believe in you that strongly.
So put away your doubts and believe in yourself."

Brushing the hair away from Elrond's neck, he nuzzled
against it, drinking in the younger Elf's scent.
"Stars, how I'll miss this..."

Elrond tightened his grip around the king's waist. "I
will miss *you*," he said. "I cannot imagine how we
should be apart for so long." He turned he head so
that he and Gil-galad were cheek to cheek with his
lips pressed against the older Elf's skin.

Taking advantage of the vulnerable neck so close to
his lips, Gil-galad nuzzled down and then, pulling
Elrond's head back by tugging at his hair, he bit down
softly, leaving marks at the juncture of neck and
shoulder. "I'll go mad without you, you know," he
murmured. "Wanting you... knowing you're so far away."

Growling softly, he raised his head and brushed his
lips teasingly against his herald's mouth, staring
hard into his eyes. "You will *not* fall in love - or
even in lust - with anyone else while you're away. Is
that understood?"

Elrond smirked. "How could I? Anyone else would pale
in comparison to you, my king." He rested his forehead
against Gil-galad's so that their noses touched. "Do
you think I could ever be happy with another?"

The slight huskiness of his voice made Gil-galad's
blood race and he pressed himself between Elrond's
legs, rubbing softly. "I would hope not," he
whispered, taking soft, teasing kisses, "but distance
is cruel to lovers... and you are beautiful enough to
kindle admiration in the coldest of hearts." He took a
deep kiss, eating softly at Elrond's mouth, still
rubbing at a growing erection. "You remember this
when you're lonely. Remember this night... remember
that you're mine."

"I will," Elrond whispered. "Every day I will remember
you, and every night I will dream that I am with you,
until I am again at your side and in your arms..." He
pressed his lips more harshly to Gil-galad's, and his
tongue moved more insistently. Slowly, his hands moved
around to the king's hips, pulling the two of them
closer together and making firmer Gil-galad's touch
between his legs. "...and in your bed," he finished.

"Mmm, yes..." Gil-galad murmured, "speaking of bed..."
He stood and began to move Elrond backwards, but just
as he did a knock came at the door. "Come!" the king
growled, displeasure obvious in his voice as he moved
apart from his herald and faced the now-opening door.

His squire looked in, his face sheepish and
apologetic. "Excuse me, sire - I know you gave orders
not to be disturbed, but Lord Glorfindel is outside
and would speak with you..." He trailed off and bowed
his head as he slipped out of the door, looking very
pleased to be gone.

With a sigh, Elrond pulled back from Gil-galad and
walked, arms crossed over his chest, to the far side
of the king's table. He sat on the edge and stared
down at the floor.

A moment later Glorfindel appeared through the door.
His eyes were drawn immediately to Elrond, seated,
though he quickly looked to Gil-galad with a strange
smile. "Well," he said, "I suppose one of my reasons
for coming to speak with you has already been
resolved." He glanced back toward Elrond. "I thought
you were going to sleep."

Elrond looked away, at the windows, and said, "I just
remembered something I had to tell Gil-galad."

"Yes, we have much to talk about," the king agreed,
taking a step towards Glorfindel as if to usher him
out of the room. "After all, Elrond will be in charge
of this campaign - I must be sure he knows my wishes
exactly. So don't fret about his welfare. I'll see he
gets to bed soon enough."

"Of course," said Glorfindel. "I am sure getting him
into bed is one of your top priorities. But, that is
not why I came to see you."

The king took another quick step toward the golden
haired Elf, eyes flashing. "Mind your tongue, lord,"
he hissed. "Now tell me your business and then be
gone. I won't have you and your bitter words hounding
me tonight."

Glorfindel glanced over at Elrond, then back to
Gil-galad. "Might I speak with you alone?" he asked.

For a moment it seemed as though the king would
refuse, but then, without taking his eyes off
Glorfindel, he murmured, "Wait for me outside, Elrond.
This shouldn't take long."

With a sigh, Elrond stood from the table and left the
room, not looking at either of them, though Glorfindel
watched him go. When he had closed the door behind
him, Glorfindel turned back to Gil-galad. "He does not
look too happy, does he?" Glorfindel asked.

"No, neither do I, I suppose," the king said tersely.
"Neither one of us like being interrupted." He turned
from Glorfindel and walked to large table, gazing at
the maps strewn over it. "What was so important that
it couldn't wait until morning?"

"Elrond's well-being, I would think," Glorfindel
replied. He slowly walked to stand beside Gil-galad at
the table before adding pointedly, "But, of course,
that might only be *my* concern."

The king waited for a moment, just a heartbeat of time
to try keeping his anger under control, but it didn't,
couldn't hold. With one furious wave of his hand he
swept the maps off the table and turned to Glorfindel,
their faces only an inch apart. "I have had *enough*
of your insulting, self-righteous remarks!" he hissed.
"You have registered your disapproval of my
relationship with Elrond. It has been noted. But the
relationship is one that both of us desire and whether
you approve or not it will continue. Given that, I
have no more need for your disrespect of me and my
position than I have for broken spears or lame horses.
All are equally damaging to our cause. Have I made
myself plain enough?"

Glorfindel took a quick step back but kept his eyes
focused harshly on the king. "I would think so," he
said. "And I do thank you for it, as it certainly
makes my position all the easier now that I know how
pleased you will surely be with what I am about to
say. So you can rest assured that there will be no
more as-you-say 'self-righteous remarks' from me, or
remarks of any other variety. Indeed I suppose it is
possible that you will not see me again after
tomorrow. I am going with Elrond."

The king's expression turned bitter. "Of course you
are," he said in a voice no louder than a whisper.
"You never could let him do anything on his own, nor
follow any orders other than those that came from
yourself. What a perfect opportunity to worm your way
into his confidence." Gil-galad raised his head just
slightly, his grey eyes fixed on Glorfindel's face.
"Now we shall see which is the stronger - his love for
me... or your poisoned tongue."

Glorfindel let out a soft hiss of breath. "Very well."
Then he quickly turned his back to Gil-galad and
walked to the door, opening it for Elrond. "You may
come back in now," he said to the younger Elf. "I
believe Araníon has something to say."

"Ereinion," Elrond said quietly, but Glorfindel gave
no reply.

"Glorfindel will be going with you tomorrow," the king
said simply to Elrond. "He believes I don't have your
best interests at heart and wishes to prove that he
alone does. I'm sure he and his opinions will be your
constant companions from this point on. Does this meet
with your approval?"

Elrond looked to Gil-galad and then Glorfindel,
frowning. "You... want to come with me?"

Glorfindel nodded.

"Why?" Elrond asked. "I mean, it is really not
necessary."

"Perhaps not," said Glorfindel, "but still I would
go."

"But you have work to do here. The accounts..."

"Erestor will take over my duties," Glorfindel
interrupted. "I have already discussed it with him."

"But you don't own any armour," Elrond said, almost
pleading. "Or even a sword."

"I can manage something."

Elrond sighed and shook his head. "I know why you are
doing this," he said, "and do not think that it is not
appreciated. But in truth I do not believe that you
fully understand what it is that you are asking. This
is a war, Glorfindel-"

"I am quite aware of the notion of war, Elrond," the
blond Elf interrupted, a hint of annoyance rising in
his voice.

"Then why..." Elrond silenced himself almost
immediately and shook his head again. He looked down
at the floor, then at Gil-galad. "You must say
something..."

"You seem to be labouring," Gil-galad said in an icy
tone, "under the misapprehension that Lord Glorfindel
would deign to do what I told him to do. It appears,
however, that he believes *you* to be the King, and
will therefore serve only yourself. So it is no doubt
for the best that he leave my kingdom and take his
spite and disrespect elsewhere."

After a moment of uncertain silence Elrond shook his
head. "I don't know why you two..." he muttered, then
turned to Glorfindel. "If it is your wish, and the
will of Gil-galad also, then I won't stop you from
leaving with me tomorrow."

"It is *not* my will," Gil-galad said quietly but
firmly, his eyes never moving from Glorfindel's, "but
since this paragon of the Eldalië owns me neither as
lord nor king there is nothing I can do to prevent his
going with you, short of slaying him where he stands,
and I have no intention of incurring the wrath of Aman
for such a person."

So saying he walked to the window and stared out at
the torchlights on the gulf. "Leave us, Glorfindel."

Glorfindel stood defiantly a moment before nodding to
Elrond and leaving the room.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When Glorfindel had gone, Elrond moved to stand nearer
the king at the window. "You'd think that after all
these years..." he started, but his voice trailed off
and he sighed.

"He would have gotten used to the idea that I'm king,"
Gil-galad finished the sentence for him. "Would you
believe he actually suggested that he was the only one
with your interests at heart? As if I were sending you
to Eregion out of spite." He stared out the window for
another tense moment and then turned to face Elrond.
"Tell me - is that how *you* feel about it? Do you
believe that I'm being careless with your life?"

Elrond smiled and took a step toward him, placing a
hand on the king's waist. "No," he said. His arms
moved around to embrace Gil-galad, and he smirked. "I
don't think I've ever seen you act any less than
absolutely and totally concerned about me."

"I *am* concerned about you," the king said quietly,
his own arms slipping over Elrond's. "I know the risks
you and your warriors will be facing and if I thought
anyone else was better qualified to lead them I'd keep
you here in a heartbeat." He brought a hand up and
cupped Elrond's chin, lifting the younger Elf's face
and searching his eyes. "You're the best I have.
There's no one who can think and plan the way you can
- no one who can keep his wits about him as you do.
This battle won't be won by mere strength. Strategy
and timing are the keys. And there's no one I trust
more with that kind of leadership then you."

He pulled back slowly, still searching Elrond's face,
and then walked to a carved wooden cabinet that hung
on the opposite wall. Reaching in, he drew out a
black, silken cord. On the end of it hung a shining
silver medallion, intricately carved with Elven
script.

"I have decided," Gil-galad said, bringing the
medallion to Elrond, "that your position as the leader
of this company should be formally recognized. I was
going to give this to you tomorrow morning, but now
might be better."

He hung the cord around Elrond's neck and then lightly
fingered the shining silver. "You are now my Vice
Regent in Eregion."

"I..." Elrond stood just staring at Gil-galad for a
moment before lowering his eyes to the pendant at his
chest. Then his own hand lifted to touch it. "I
don't... I mean, are you... are you sure? I've
never... I've never tried to... I just..." He looked
up again with disbelieving eyes to meet the king's
gaze.

"There is no one, Elrond, whom I trust more than you.
I know you will do your best, and that your best is
far beyond what I could expect of anyone else. Why do
you look so surprised? Don't you believe in yourself?"

 

"I... I don't know..." His fingers passed across the
pendant to clutch Gil-galad's. "I've never thought
about... or never imagined myself as... well... this."

"You're not a child anymore, love," the king said, his
voice gentle but firm. "Besides, the others will be
even more apt to respect you if you've been given an
official title." He fingered the pendant and let his
gaze wander over Elrond's face.

"You know what this means, don't you? It means that
you are in charge of all my forces in Eriador. They
will be looking to you for leadership and courage.
Glorfindel may believe you to be too young or naive to
take on such a role, but I know that you will do
splendidly." His fingers strayed up to the younger
Elf's cheek and stroked him slowly. "I expect great
things from you, sweet one," he said in a low, breathy
voice. "Will you do your best for me?"

Elrond turned his face away and looked at the floor.
"I can try," he said quietly, "but it's not Glorfindel
who thinks I'm unqualified for this."

"Is it you, then?" the king asked. He ran his finger
over Elrond's lips and cheeks. "Tell me your doubts,"
he purred, pulling the younger Elf closer. "Perhaps I
can lay them to rest."

For a second Elrond tensed, but then he relented,
leaning against his lover's chest and shoulder. He
closed his eyes and was silent, content just to feel
Gil-galad's reassuring arms around him and the warmth
of the king's body against his own. "I have never done
anything like this before," he said. "How will I know
what to do? How will I know when to attack, or when to
retreat? How to attack? Where to retreat? I know we
have gone over the maps a hundred times, but I cannot
know if I will remember them in the face of haste and
chaos. There are so many ways to fail..."

"You're right, there are," Gil-galad said quietly,
stroking the long, dark hair. "But there are just as
many ways to triumph. You may not believe it but those
maps are ingrained in your memory. When you are
actually there, riding through the landscape, they
will come back to you and you will feel as if you've
been there a thousand times. That's why I made you go
over them until you protested from fatigue - so you
*could* recall them in a time of crisis. You must
believe in yourself. You know every ford and every
valley between the Tower Hills and the Misty
Mountains. You know the ridges from which you can
attack and the gorges into which you can retreat and
not be seen."

He paused then and cupped Elrond's chin in his hand,
raising the Herald's head so that their eyes met.
"Remember always, Elrond - our main aim is to drive
Sauron's forces from Eriador, but the only army that
can defeat an enemy is an army whose soldiers are
alive and unwounded. Retreats may seem shameful to
young, inexperienced recruits, but wiser warriors know
that they are only temporary and may be absolutely
necessary in a prolonged battle." The stern face gave
way to a small smile. "You have the wits about you to
keep your troops alive and fighting. That is the most
important part of warfare."

After a brief silence Elrond slowly smiled back. "Your
faith in my abilities is truly amazing," he said.
"Now how am I supposed to argue with that?" He
tightened his arms around Gil-galad and leaned forward
to softly kiss his lover's lips. "I love you."

"And I you," Gil-galad murmured, gazing heatedly into
Elrond's eyes. "You just remember one more thing...
You're mine, and mine alone. No matter who is with
you, no matter what lovely strangers you meet..." He
kissed his Herald, a deep, forceful embrace that spoke
of hunger and possession. Breaking off he breathed
onto Elrond's mouth, "You... are... mine."

"I am yours," Elrond whispered, before his mouth was
covered once again by Gil-galad's branding kiss. Then
he pulled himself closer to the king, closer against
Gil-galad's body, as his hands slid across the fabric
of clothes that separated them. "I am yours," he
repeated, "forever. Only yours."

"Yes..." the king drawled, eating softly at the
offered mouth. "And no matter how far apart we are...
how many years divide us... you will always be my
sweet possession..." His hands drifted slowly down
Elrond's tunic in a long, heated caress. Thumbs
brushed erect nipples under fabric and hip pressed to
hip, arousals rubbing softly, pleasure blooming
between trembling legs.

"Oh, lovely Peredhel," the king whispered, warm breath
on Elrond's ear. "My dearest child..."

Elrond smiled and kissed Gil-galad's cheek. "Child?"
he asked. "You've not called me that in a long time."

"Mmm. Do you remember the first time I bedded you?"
Gil-galad purred, hands stroking softly down Elrond's
back. "You were nearly a child then - so young and
innocent, and yet..." He pulled the Herald to him for
a long, deep kiss. "So very eager," he said, lips
moving against Elrond's mouth.

"How could I not be?" Elrond said, grinning. His own
hands moved to Gil-galad's waist and, slipping beneath
the folds of his robe, toyed with the waistband of his
leggings beneath his tunic. Then Elrond slowly pulled
back from the kiss, biting gently on Gil-galad's lower
lip as he did. He lowered himself until he stood on
his knees before the king.

"Of course back then," he said, "I would not have been
so bold as to do this..." While he pressed small
kisses to the king's clothing, dampening the fabric
slightly with his tongue, his hands moved to the
lacings at Gil-galad's hips. He paused to look up and
smiled innocently.

A wave of heat passed through the king, his cheeks
colouring with it, and he stroked long fingers through
Elrond's hair, looking down at him hungrily. "Thank
goodness times have changed," he breathed. "Oh,
*stars* you've always looked delicious when you're on
your knees..."

Elrond only smiled, though less innocently, as his
fingers moved over and under the laces. Slowly, and
very carefully, he pulled at the ties until the
leggings sat loosely on Gil-galad's hips. Then he
gently tugged at the fabric, easing it downward,
taking care to kiss each inch of skin on the king's
flat stomach as it was exposed.

Gil-galad could feel himself twitch, a soft, throbbing
want blooming between his legs. Every touch of
Elrond's mouth sent a race of fire through his blood
and at last he closed his eyes and let out a soft
moan, his hands caught in dark hair, his hips pressing
forward instinctively. Lower and lower his herald
pulled his leggings, until the waistband sat just
above his barely-concealed arousal. As he arched
toward the younger Elf, Elrond dipped his head to let
his tongue slide across the bulge covered still by
fabric, teasing with the pointed tip. Then in one
quick movement the leggings slid down to Gil-galad's
thighs, and he was taken entirely by Elrond's hot
mouth.

The king gave a hoarse cry and arched his back, nearly
dropping to his knees with the intense pleasure of it.
He pressed forward, holding Elrond's head in place for
a few, deep thrusts before relaxing a bit and letting
the herald take back some control.

"That's it, my love," he murmured, squirming at the
warmth and wetness that surrounded him. "Oh... you do
that so well..."

Elrond pulled his head back far enough to grin
wickedly up at Gil-galad. "You think so?" he asked.
"Then here, let me try something..." Releasing his
hold on the king's hip, his hand moved to his tunic
pocket and he pulled out a few small silver-green
leaves. He put these on his tongue and, after chewing
a few times, took Gil-galad's shaft in his mouth once
again.

Gil-galad let out a sharp gasp, feeling a sudden
tingling all along the length of his member. It was at
once deliciously hot and icy cold, and it made him
want to press inward and pull away at the same time.
Instead, all he could do was shudder with pleasure as
the tingling spread upward through his belly, making
his heart race. "Ohh... little *sorcerer*" he rasped,
beginning to thrust now. "Give me more..."

In compliance, Elrond ran his tongue up his lover's
length until only his lips remained closed about the
head. The tip of his tongue slowly circled around,
tasting and teasing before sliding down again as
Gil-galad thrust toward him. Then he repeated the
motion, up and down and again.

The king growled softly, his head thrown back and an
undeniable rhythm building within him. The tingling of
the leaves filled his body now, his mind blank save
for one, aching desire: to thrust and thrust hard into
the sweet, hot cave of Elrond's mouth. "Can't..." he
panted, "Ah *stars*..."

Elrond's movements slowed and then stopped altogether
and he pulled away. With Gil-galad's hands still
tangled in his hair he stood, sliding one of his own
hands around to the king's back while the other
remained teasingly between Gil-galad's legs. "We
should go to the bed," he murmured.

Another long, low growl escaped the King and he
reached downwards, picking Elrond up and putting him
over his shoulder. "You little *demon*!" he swore in a
strangled voice, carrying him to the large bed in the
adjoining room and tossing him down on it.

"You'll have to be punished for that, you know," he
growled, removing his leggings entirely. "Capital
offence."

Elrond only laughed, and pulled Gil-galad down onto
the bed on top of him. "Then punish me," he said. "Do
your worst. I can take it."

"Can you?" Gil-galad panted, squirming in sheer
frustration. "Very well then..." With that he scooped
the younger Elf up and turned him over on his belly,
pulling at his leggings until they were literally torn
off of his slender hips. Breathing hard at the sight
of smooth, tight buttocks, Gil-galad brought his hand
down on them with a light smack, smirking at the faint
pinkish mark left on Elrond's skin.

"Nnnmmm..." Elrond winced, but only slightly, and
licked his lips. "Is that the best you can do? Surely
a king can do better..."

Gil-galad let out a low growl and brought his hand
down harder, this time with a clearly audible smack.
Three times more and the tender skin beneath his palm
was hot and reddening. His shaft was hard, twitching
and leaking at the sight of Elrond beneath him.
Leaning over, the king blew gently across the chafed
buttocks, murmuring, "I'm only getting started,
love..."

Holding handfuls of crushed bedsheets, Elrond lifted
his head and turned to glance at Gil-galad. "I am glad
to hear that," he said, still grinning, "because your
punishment so far has been less than adequate. Surely
it will take more than a feeble spanking to get me to
repent and beg you for forgiveness, O mighty king!"
As he spoke, his eyes grew narrow and dangerously
bright, and his grin twisted into a wicked smirk. "I
would have you truly punish me..."

Gil-galad leaned forward and lightly grabbed a fistful
of Elrond's long hair, pulling his face closer. His
rigid shaft pressed against the warmed flesh of the
younger Elf's bottom as he whispered, "Oh yes? And
what would be a fitting punishment for the frustration
you've put me through? Shall I run you through...
spear you to the bed...? Or tease you until you beg me
for release?"

"Hmmm..." Elrond smiled and turned his head further,
just enough to press a haphazard kiss to the corner of
Gil-galad's mouth. "I do not know. Both seem such
frightening and terrible punishments..."

As Elrond spoke his hand left the crumpled sheets and
traveled downward along the edge of the bed. Slowly,
he slid his fingers between Gil-galad's hip and his
own, until he was able to close his hand around his
lover's shaft. "Though I think," he continued, "given
a choice between the two, I'd say the spear is much
more enticing." He moved his hand in a few gentle
strokes, arching himself closer against Gil-galad as
he did. "But do not be gentle with me. I do not
deserve any kindnesses tonight."

"No, little demon, you don't," the king said, grasping
that stroking hand and forcing it behind Elrond's
back. The other, still gripping the bedsheets was
caught up as well and Gil-galad soon had both of the
younger Elf's arms pinned in one of his larger hands.
With the other hand he stroked himself, letting the
drops of warm arousal coat his fingers before
beginning to probe between the cleft of Elrond's
bottom. As they pushed past the tight ring of muscle,
Gil-galad's knees roughly pressed his herald's legs
apart. With one, swift movement, he slid two fingers
in deep, whispering, "I think that's enough
preparation... I want you nice and tight for me."

"Yessss..." Elrond hissed. He had closed his eyes and
clenched his teeth at the severe intrusion, though he
still smiled impishly. "Oh yes... But do not slow now,
my lord! You punish me very well, but I deserve much
worse."

"And wouldn't that make you happy..." Gil-galad purred
in Elrond's ear. "I want you to feel me all the while
you ride, tomorrow." His last words were somewhat
breathless as he pulled his fingers back and spread
his lover wide open. Elrond looked so vulnerable that
the sight nearly made the king come then and there. He
willed himself to relax, though, and gave one long,
firm thrust inward, watching as Elrond's body gave way
before him. "Uhn... *take it*" he hissed, his blood
racing at the feeling of tight heat.

Elrond's wrists twisted and pulled in Gil-galad's
grip, but the Halfelf could not free himself. Instead,
he surrendered to allow one feral moan as the king
pulled away to thrust again. "Ah, you are a wonderful
tormentor..." Elrond murmured. He had arched his body
even further, pressing hard upward against Gil-galad
in response to his lover's movements, echoing every
thrust of the king's with a push of his own. "Do give
me more..."

A press of Gil-galad's knees and Elrond was opened
just a bit wider, allowing the king to sink in deeply.
He gave a long, pleasured groan and whispered, "You'll
get it all, lovely child... everything I have..." Once
more the long shaft was withdrawn until only the head
nudged up inside the younger Elf. Gil-galad eased in
to where he knew that tender spot would be, then
rubbed back and forth in small, firm strokes, knowing
he'd found the right place when his captive began to
squirm beneath him.

"Oh my king..." Elrond hissed, his lips curved and
twisted with pleasure. "Aah... you do... my favourite
punishment..." His breath was coarse and strained, and
his words uneven, as Gil-galad continued the small,
maddening movements. Elrond closed his eyes and
allowed another growling moan before biting down hard
on the feather pillow beneath his head.

Clasping both of Elrond's wrists in one hand,
Gil-galad slipped his fingers under his writhing
Herald, catching hold of Elrond's arousal and giving
it a possessive squeeze. He began to stroke it, each
caress in time to each little press forward, his own
breath growing ragged at the sight of Elrond, his wise
and proper Elrond, looking so completely wanton.

Elrond could only groan his approval of the king's new
torment, the edge of the pillow still caught up in his
clenched teeth. Trapped between the two pleasures, he
pressed first forward into Gil-galad's hand, then back
against the continuing thrusts. His arms still
strained and twisted in Gil-galad's hold. The king's
gaze had been fixed on that sweet place where he and
Elrond were joined, and now he pulled back until just
the very tip of his erection teased the younger Elf's
entrance. Then he stopped moving, his entire body
perfectly still, and whispered in panted breaths,
"Don't move."

At the king's words Elrond ceased his movements and
lay still, though tense. His breathing was hard.
Releasing the pillow from his bite he slowly hissed to
exhale a long breath. "Is it a new punishment," he
asked, "that I am not allowed to move at such a time?"

"Yes, indeed," Gil-galad murmured, giving Elrond's
arousal a long, firm stroke. "You are not to move at
all until I tell you that you may." His thumb swirled
lightly around the heated tip, brushing warm fluid
down the length of the shaft. At the same time, he
pressed inward again, with aching slowness, to find
that same vulnerable nub inside of Elrond's body. "You
are perfect for me," he whispered as he pleasured the
younger Elf from both sides. "No one could ever be a
better fit than you are, my love... so sweet..."

"Mmmmnnnn..." Elrond bit his lip as he strained to
remain motionless despite Gil-galad's taunts to his
body. "And you are cruel to me," he said in a shaky,
growling voice, "to torment me so... Please, my king,
have mercy..."

"Mercy," Gil-galad murmured, stroking, pressing, his
breath hot in Elrond's ear. "What would mercy feel
like, my love? Tell me what you want... beg me for
what you want."

"I beg you not to keep your touch so light and
scarce," Elrond hissed. "I wish to feel your hands
plainly upon me. Please..."

The king gave a tiny lick to Elrond's ear and then
grasped his arousal more firmly in a long, slow
stroke. Once, twice, three times, each caress rougher
than the last, and then - nothing. Only the faintest
touch of fingertips along Elrond's length as Gil-galad
withdrew and brought Elrond up to his hands and knees.
Leaning forward, he began blowing softly on the
younger Elf's swollen testicles.

"Uhhhnnnn..." Elrond moaned, but only quietly. His
eyes were screwed shut and his mouth twisted in either
pleasure or frustration. "Just touch me," he pleaded.
"Please, or else..." His voice trailed off into
nothing but heavy breaths for a moment. "Or else," he
continued, "finish what you have started. Do you too
not long for release?"

"My release will be all the better," Gil-galad
breathed, "having seen you in such lovely torment. But
I suppose even I can be merciful..." Squeezing softly,
the king began to stroke Elrond's shaft again, lightly
at first, growing firmer as he pressed his mouth to
that vulnerable opening. He groaned in pleasure and
invaded the younger Elf's body with his tongue, by
turns flattening it and rasping gently, then pressing
the point in, hard and wriggling, until his lover was
dripping wet.

Elrond gasped at the new sensation, and clenched his
hands hard around the folds of bedsheets beneath him.
"Let me move," he whispered. "Gil-galad, please, let
me move, or finish me. I cannot take much more of
this."

"Mmm... you may move," Gil-galad said, looking up at
the squirming Halfelf. "And I will finish you soon,
now... very soon."

Elrond pressed forward against the king's hand, moving
in time with his light strokes. Gently at first, but
becoming less restrained as he grew nearer to release.
"Must I..." he gasped, "ask your permission... before
I..."

"Of course," Gil-galad murmured, moving back now that
he was sure Elrond was wet enough. "You will wait,
love. Patience is a virtue in a leader..." Feeling as
if he was about to tumble over the edge himself, the
king got to his knees and lifted Elrond's slender
hips, positioning himself at that tight entrance and
pressing inward at the same time he drew Elrond back.
For several moments it was a delicious, teasing dance
- in just a bit, then drawn back. In a bit deeper,
then out again to tease the fluttering opening.

The teasing became too much even for Gil-galad,
though, and at last he gave a long moan and slid in to
the hilt. "Ahhh, love..." he whispered, head thrown
back, eyes closed in intense pleasure.

Elrond's voice was only a faint whisper, low and
hoarse. "You must let me..." He hissed air slowly
through his clenched teeth as his muscles tensed and
pulled him further toward the imminent release. Then a
small groan escaped while he did his best to hold
back. "Please let me..."

"Not yet," the king said, his voice low and breathy,
his hips moving steadily now. With every thrust
inward, strong fingers stroked between Elrond's legs,
Gil-galad working him steadily from both sides. Gazing
down at the trembling Elf beneath him, the king had to
smile. "You remember this the next time you decide to
tease me so cruelly. Remember wanting it so badly..."
and here his movements became quicker, more insistent,
"...and having to wait."

"How much longer?" Elrond hissed. "I cannot...
aaahhh..." He moaned again, less quietly, and the
sound was desperate and pleading. "Please..."

The sound of Elrond's voice - the sheer need it held -
made Gil-galad shudder, and a profound pleasure
bloomed suddenly between his legs, rushing up from his
shaft and spreading over his entire body as he tumbled
over into his release. "Now!" he said in a harsh
whisper, his own body moving now in sweet, rhythmic
pulses. "Do it now!"

At these words, Elrond pushed roughly forward into the
older Elf's grip, his movements frantic and insistent.
Three times, then with a final groan, he surrendered
himself to Gil-galad's touch. He gave one more push
forward, spilling onto the king's hand, and held his
breath as his body tensed at the overpowering
pleasure.

"Ah," he whispered, "my Gil-galad!"

As the shuddering stopped, the king buried his face in
Elrond's hair, panted breath and soft whimpers coming
from him, though he tried hard to still them. He
tried, too, in that moment, to feel every inch of the
beloved body against his, to hear every gasp of
breath, feel every beat of the younger Elf's heart.

/I'm losing him,/ the thoughts came unbidden. /Who
knows when we shall see each other again, and he the
very centre of my being, my brightest star. Oh the
years will be lonely.../

Stroking roughly at Elrond's dark hair, Gil-galad
pushed it back from his ear. "I love you," he
whispered, "more than any star in the heavens, more
than any land or any throne... more than my life
itself, Elrond. Never doubt it. Never forget it. My
love for you is stronger than the sea. It is yours for
all time."

Elrond could only collapse against the bed,
breathless, with the warm and secure presence of
Gil-galad's body pressing on top of his. Slowly, his
hands sought his lover's arms, and guided them around
to his shoulders until he was entirely contained
within the older Elf's embrace.

He dropped his head to lean against Gil-galad's
wrists. "As I love you," he quietly said. "Though I
fear I cannot say more, as I do not trust my voice."
As he spoke his words grew fainter, and faltered,
until there was only silence. But Elrond's hands still
remained on the king's arms, pulling him closer.

Tightening his hold, Gil-galad pressed a kiss to
Elrond's ear. "I want to sleep this close beside of
you tonight," he whispered, "and feel you when I wake
in the wretched morning..."

Elrond smiled. "You may sleep any way you wish, so
long as your arms remain around me." He turned his
head to kiss Gil-galad's shoulder before falling back.
"Though I think I would rather you did not sleep at
all, but stayed with me awake until the dawn. I do not
think I will sleep."

"Won't that put you at something of a disadvantage
tomorrow?" the king murmured.

"I do not care," said Elrond. "I will be disadvantaged
regardless. But I have such little time left with you,
and I do not wish to spend it all asleep."

Gil-galad put a finger under Elrond's chin, turning
his head so that they looked into each other's eyes.
"And why, my dear vice-regent, will you be
'disadvantaged regardless'?"

Elrond lowered his chin to kiss Gil-galad's hand. "I
will be away from you," he said. "Is that not
disadvantage enough?"

A languid smile crossed the king's lips as he leaned
forward and claimed a long, soft kiss. "There are
some," he murmured, "who might count that as an
*advantage.*" Nuzzling softly against Elrond's mouth,
he teased for a moment and then kissed him again.

"Well I do not," Elrond whispered against Gil-galad's
lips. Then he sighed, and curved himself closer
against his lover's body. "It will be the greatest
disadvantage to have to face every night alone."

"Mmm - I'm sure Glorfindel will keep you company," the
king growled, wrapping his arms snugly around Elrond's
slender body. "Probably never leave your side."

Elrond only laughed. "I doubt if his idea of a
comforting presence is anywhere near as interesting as
yours. His quiet sensible words will be a poor
substitute for this, I think." As he spoke, Elrond
pulled Gil-galad's arms closer around him.

"No, you're right, he probably doesn't see you this
way... even if I am obsessed with jealous thoughts
whenever he's around you." Gil-galad pressed a
delicate kiss to the tip of Elrond's ear and let his
fingers trail over the younger Elf's flanks. "He
disapproves of us being together, you know.
Disapproves fiercely." Another kiss, then, pressed
just behind the ear lobe.

"I know," Elrond sighed, leaning into Gil-galad's
kiss. "He always has, though I've never been sure why.
And in truth I don't see why he cares so much."

Giving Elrond's neck a soft, possessive bite,
Gil-galad shifted even closer. "Because he believes
you to be a little lost lamb and me... well he
believes me to be a very selfish wolf who ravishes you
against your better nature." Closing his eyes, the
king buried his face in Elrond's hair, drinking in the
scent of it. "Who can say?" he added. "Perhaps he
wants to see you happily married to some Elven maid
who can bear you beautiful children."

"Perhaps he'd do best to get happily married himself,"
said Elrond. He paused, then grinned. "I don't think I
can imagine Glorfindel ever marrying, you know." His
hand reached up to caress Gil-galad's cheek, stroking
softly, as the king leaned against his neck. "He's so
formal and stoical all the time that it's impossible
to think of him doing anything like... well, like
this."

"He'd probably be sure to do it with the lights out
and the minimal amount of movement," Gil-galad said,
sighing happily and running his hands over Elrond's
belly and thighs. When he spoke again his voice was
softer. "Do you ever think about that, Elrond? Getting
married? Being with a woman?"

Elrond shook his head. "No, I never have." He paused
before adding, "I suppose I just imagined that I would
always be with you." Slowly, his hand trailed down to
clasp Gil-galad's as it rested on his hip. "What about
you?" he asked. "Have you ever considered marrying?"

The king was silent for several moments, thinking back
on his childhood, and the first love he'd known.
"Never," he said quietly. "Not once. The first time I
fell in love... that was Círdan, and it was only him
until I met you. I've never wanted anyone else. I
suppose I'm fairly conservative that way. When I see
something I want, I stay with it."

"Hmm," said Elrond, and he smiled. Then he turned his
head toward the king, and raised his hand again to
Gil-galad's cheek. "Kiss me," he whispered.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Gil-galad was up early, long before Elrond, who had
finally succumbed to sleep, had stirred. He spent a
long time just watching his lover, dark lashes
feathered on his cheeks and long hair tumbling over
the pillows. Then he rose and dressed himself in his
formal robes, ones appropriate for such a solemn
occasion. With a last look at Elrond, he turned and
headed out the door of his chamber.

There was no sound beyond the bedroom door, and little
light. The sun was still half-hidden behind the
horizon, casting only thin pink and orange rays
through the narrow windows. The king paused a moment
to watch the light falling on the stones. Then turned
to his left and headed down the corridor toward the
stairwell. He had almost reached the corner when
Erestor rounded the wall suddenly and the two nearly
collided.

"Gil-galad!"

"Good morning," the king said, reaching out a hand to
steady the other Elf. "I trust all is in readiness -
or nearly there?"

"Oh... yes, I think so," said Erestor. "Or it will be.
Very soon." He grinned nervously at Gil-galad and then
quickly looked down at the floor, then at the wall.
"Yes, very soon... I do hope. Erm, how is Elrond?"

The king's brow furrowed at the badly-hidden tension
in his advisor's voice and manner. "He'll be up soon
enough, I expect. Erestor... is there anything wrong?
Anything I should know about?"

"No! ...I mean, nothing that should worry you.
Everything is completely fine and ready to go."
Erestor nodded as he spoke but refused to meet
Gil-galad's gaze. "Only..." he added after a pause,
"do you have a knife we could borrow?"

Gil-galad's brows furrowed deeper. "A knife? Whatever
for?"

"Oh, nothing really," said Erestor. "Only a few
last-minute preparations, you know. Glorfindel just
needs a knife to fix up his armour a bit."

"No," called Glorfindel from around the corner, "I'm
finished now. I used the sword instead. But I do think
I need new breeches; these ones have gone somewhat
green in places. And a shirt, Erestor, if you can
manage."

Willing himself not to make a face, the king nodded
curtly as Erestor hurried off. "Glorfindel- what's
wrong with Erestor? He's more nervous than I've ever
seen him."

Glorfindel's head appeared from around the corner.
"Wrong?" he asked. "No, I don't think anything's
wrong. We are just somewhat anxious, yes, as I am
leaving soon and he is taking over my position with
the accounts management, but of course you knew that.
Why are you up so early?"

"To make sure everything is prepared, of course.
Surely even you wouldn't think I'd lie abed on a
morning like this. These *are* my forces leaving,
after all. I do have a stake in how they fare."

"Ah," said Glorfindel. "Of course, I see, yes." He
cleared his throat and remained unmoving, still
staring at Gil-galad. An awkward silence passed
between the two. "But..." Glorfindel eventually said,
"Elrond isn't yet awake?"

"He may be," the king said off-handedly. "I think we
can trust him to be where he needs to be at the time
he needs to be there... even if you don't escort him
personally."

"Yes, I would think so," said Glorfindel. "He's always
been quite good at following your order and rule and
doing as you expect. Rather a well-trained little
poppet, I'd say."

"As any herald should be," Gil-galad countered
smoothly, chafing inwardly at the urge to slap the
golden-haired Elf. "And you should know - I've made
him my Vice-Regent in Eregion. His 'training' should
suit him well in that position."

Glorfindel was silent for several long moments. "I
see," he finally said, and then said nothing further.
He remained levelly holding the king's gaze until
Erestor returned.

"Here," Erestor said as he handed Glorfindel a bundle
of clothing. "I brought the leather shirt as well if
you want to put it all on now. And I can help with the
clasps if you need."

"Thank you," said Glorfindel, and he disappeared back
around the corner.

Erestor turned to Gil-galad. "I suppose I should help
Elrond also?"

"If you like," the king replied, staring after
Glorfindel, his mood already blackened. "You'll find
him in my chambers." Then he nodded curtly and hurried
off down the corridor to check on the horses.

Erestor stayed only a moment before starting after
Gil-galad. "Wait, my lord, please..." He ran to catch
up with the king and softly place a hand on his arm.
"He's only trying to upset you, you know," he said.
"This wasn't my idea at all; actually I tried to talk
him out of it, but he insisted."

Gil-galad turned and stared at him, a faint line
forming between his brows. "Erestor, what *are* you
talking about?"

"Well the armour, of course," Erestor said. Then he
took a step back and frowned. "You... didn't see?"

A thin current of something - fear? anger? - ran
through the king. "Erestor *what* has he done? Tell
me. *Now.*"

Erestor shook his head. "Oh no, it's nothing like
that! Nothing too terrible, or hindering at all. He
was only... fixing up some old armour to wear. That's
all. You needn't worry about it. Forget I said
anything." He coughed and smiled nervously, then
looked at the window.

The war inside Gil-galad was over - anger had won out.
"You said, and I quote, 'You didn't see?'" he said,
stepping closer still to Erestor, his voice only a low
growl. "What didn't I see, Erestor? Tell me at once!"

"Your father's armour," Erestor whispered, paling
noticeably at the king's rage. "I do not know where he
found it, but he has an old chain mail sheath that he
claims Fingon your father wore when the Siege of
Angband was set. And I believe it, for this is no
simple soldier's garb, but indeed that of a prince. It
had the arms of Fingolfin sewn across the tabard, but
he cut this off saying that he would wear no emblem of
any Noldorin high king, nor the colours. We were up
half the night trying to dye the blue cape to green."
He put his hand on Gil-galad's arm again and
continued, "But please do not think to much on this;
he is only being foolish and stubborn..."

Gil-galad's eyes flashed. "You did *what*? To my
*father's* armour? What were you thinking, Erestor?
Have you *no* respect for my ancestors - for my
house?" He backed away, feeling a shiver of betrayal,
a sudden loneliness. Glorfindel's hatred of him was
becoming a visible, palpable thing. Erestor had gone
along with him, both of them desecrating one of the
few heirlooms that had survived the ruin of Beleriand.
And worst, of course, Elrond was leaving. Who knew
when they would see each other again?

For a long, aching moment he stood staring at Erestor.
"If this is the way my closest advisors act," he
murmured at last, "Lindon is as good as fallen." He
turned suddenly and headed towards the stables, unable
to look on Erestor's face any longer. Without turning
around he called back, "See that Elrond is properly
outfitted," and then he turned the corner and was
gone.

The dark-haired Elf stood staring after the king for
long seconds and then turned slowly and headed for
Gil-galad's chambers.

Knocking on the door, he called softly, "Master
Elrond? I've come to help you on with your armour. May
I come in?"

Almost immediately the door flew open and there stood
Elrond, already in his heavy leather clothes. He
looked out into the corridor past Erestor with a
glance hopeful of finding Gil-galad there, but Erestor
was alone. He gestured for his friend to enter.
Erestor was pale and tensed in silence, causing Elrond
to frown with concern. "What's wrong?" he asked.

Erestor, looking somewhat stricken, came into the room
and closed the heavy wooden door behind him. "I... I'm
afraid I've angered the king," he said, forcing his
eyes away from the bed and its tumble of blankets and
pillows. "It was stupid of me, but Glorfindel wanted
to do it and I didn't feel I could refuse and yet -"
The words tumbled out until Erestor threw himself down
on a low chair and put his head in his hands. "I
really should have known he wouldn't want his father's
armour touched..."

Elrond knelt beside Erestor and placed a soothing hand
on his shoulder. "This was Glorfindel's idea?" he
asked quietly.

His friend nodded miserably. "He's not an easy one to
refuse, especially since I *am* supposed to be his
aide." He raised his head, glancing over at Elrond.
"Do you think the king will forgive me?" he asked.

"Of course he will," said Elrond. He smiled at Erestor
and gave his shoulder a small squeeze. "He can't stay
angry forever, especially once he knows how upset you
are over this. And you've been a good friend to him
for so long. Of course he'll forgive you."

"I certainly hope so," Erestor murmured, running a
hand through his hair. "And you..." He looked back at
Elrond, eyes searching. "How do you feel about
leaving?"

Elrond looked down to the floor. "I... I think you
must already know that in truth I wish I were staying
here," he said. "But," he continued, turning his face
back up to smile sadly at Erestor, "I'm not so
distressed over it as I was yesterday."

Erestor stood, looking distinctly uncomfortable, the
mussed bed looming large in his peripheral vision. He
walked to the armour, waiting in the corner. Fingering
the edge of the etched metal, he murmured, "I would
think that you would be eager to show the King your
abilities in battle. Do you not look upon this as an
excellent chance to do just that?"

"I... suppose," said Elrond, walking over to join
Erestor. "I did think that way at first, but lately
I've been focused more on the possibility of
disappointing him if I fail." He laughed
half-heartedly as his eyes scanned over the plates and
mail links. "It would do me better, wouldn't it, to
focus on trying to impress him? Though would to Varda
I had the same confidence in me that he has."

Picking up the glittering mail undershirt, Erestor
smiled at his friend. "He has all the confidence in
the world in you. You should hear the way he talks
about you when you're out of the room. Anyone would
think you were one of the Maiar the way he goes on."

"And I think no less of him," Elrond murmured, more to
himself than to Erestor. Then he shook his head. "But
look," he said, "the sun is rising. We should hurry.
Gil-galad will be wondering where I am."

Piece by piece, Erestor helped Elrond into the shining
metal, helped to sling his sword and pack his knives,
and lastly place the soft blue outer hauberk around
his shoulders, marking him as the leader of the
company. The pendant Gil-galad had given him hung
against the armour.

Then they stood, both staring into the glass opposite
the bed. "Well," Erestor said softly, "what do you
think?"

A grin slowly broke across Elrond's face. "I think I
don't look much like myself, for certain." He turned
to Erestor, still smiling. "Other than that, I think
everything is quite well. Shall we go find Glorfindel
and head downstairs?"

"Yes," Erestor agreed, smiling back at him. "I'm sure
the muster is well underway, and the king will no
doubt want to speak with you before you leave." He led
the way out of Gil-galad's rooms and together they
headed down the broad stone staircase to the main
level.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The sounds of a large crowd, dozens of horses, could
be heard in the large courtyard beyond the front gate.
Elrond slowed his pace and then stopped, glancing at
the gate before turning to Erestor. "Do you think that
I ought to go out there yet?" he asked nervously. "I
mean, things may not be ready, or Gil-galad might have
something to say to me..."

Erestor shrugged, and was about to speak when
Glorfindel's voice interrupted from behind.

"Erestor! Here you are; I was wondering. And Elrond,
good." The two Elves turned to face Glorfindel, who
walked quickly across the hall until he stood beside
them. "I was wondering where you had gone," Glorfindel
continued, smoothing his hands down the sides of his
mail coat. "The clasps on this are tricky little
things, but I think I managed to do them right on my
own. How does it look?"

Elrond took a thorough look over his friend, now
dressed in a coat of steel mail that came to his
knees, with an unadorned white linen tabard and
leather swordbelt over top. A green cape fell from his
shoulder to just above the floor. He carried the steel
helmet in one hand, and his shield in another. A smile
slowly grew on Elrond's lips as he stared at
Glorfindel. "You look like an illustration in a
history book," he said. Then he glanced to Erestor.

"You both look splendid," Erestor said. "Ah,
Glorfindel," he added in a slightly lower voice, "did
the King find you? I got the feeling he wanted to talk
to you before you left..."

Glorfindel shook his head. "No, I've not seen him yet.
I was just on my way to find him, though. Do you know
where he's gone?"

"I'm right behind you," Gil-galad murmured icily,
sweeping into the hall from a side room. "My, what an
interesting set of armour you're wearing."

Erestor's face went pale and he dropped his eyes to
the floor.

"Hnn," said Glorfindel. "I'm glad you like it." His
voice was neutral and expressionless, as was his face,
though he seemed hesitant to look Gil-galad in the
eye.

A look that might have been interpreted as outright
hatred passed briefly across the king's even features,
then he turned to Elrond. "I need a few last words
with you." He looked over at Glorfindel and Erestor.
"*Alone,*" he added.

Erestor nodded and turned to leave, but Glorfindel
only tilted his head slightly to one side and remained
standing in defiance. "Surely, my Lord," he said,
"there is no need for such secrecy. Erestor and I
will not hinder your conversation, which, I am
assuming, of course will be of a military nature?"

Elrond sighed. "Glorfindel, I think we should go..."

"When I ask you to leave my presence, Lord Glorfindel"
Gil-galad said in a softly menacing voice, "I expect
you to go without question."

Glorfindel scowled and looked to Elrond, but Elrond
only stared down at the floor and refused to meet his
gaze.

"Glorfindel..." said Erestor, tugging gently at his
friend's arm. Reluctantly, Glorfindel was about to
turn away when Gil-galad raised his hand.

"However," the king said more calmly, a penetrating
gaze still on the blond Elf's face, "there's one more
thing I need you to do before you leave. Just go back
to the armoury with Erestor, take off that what you're
wearing, and find a different set. There are plenty
there that should fit. Go. Now. Your warriors are
waiting."

Glorfindel looked down at his armour and ran his hands
over the tabard to smooth out any wrinkles. "With all
respect, my Lord," he said slowly, "I do not see any
problems with what I am wearing now."

"That armour belonged to my father. You had no right
to alter it. I don't want you wearing it, plain and
simple. It's not yours. Now go - there's not much
time." There was steel in his voice.

"Ah but it is mine," said Glorfindel. He glanced up
and looked squarely at the king. "I've had it for
years, you know. And as you say, there is not much
time, so I do not see why I should waste what time
there is trying to find new armour when my own, though
somewhat outdated, will serve perfectly well."

Gil-galad took a quiet but threatening step toward
Glorfindel. "No, it is *not* yours. It is my father's
- I recognize it, despite your alterations. And I
don't care if you say you've had it since the dawn of
time, I want you to return it to the armoury, *now.*
You are going out to battle as a representative of
*my* kingdom. You will dress as *I* tell you to
dress."

"I follow Elrond," Glorfindel retorted, and he
gestured toward the pendant that hung at Elrond's
chest. "Look; I see he wears your little token. Does
that not give him the power of a good prince, at
least? And he has so far made no objection to my
outfitting. I do not see why you do." He paused, a
slight smile curving his lips. "Nobody else has such
great interest in the tattered raiment of a fallen and
forgotten king."

Moving with lightning speed, Gil-galad lifted an arm
and back-handed the golden-haired Elf across the face.
"Don't you *ever* refer to my father that way again,"
he hissed. "And though you may follow Elrond around
like a pitiful watchdog whose useful days are over,
you ride out under *my* banner and under *my* command.
That 'little token' means that Elrond rules as an
extension of *me.* If you wish to remain by his side
you will show the proper respect not only to him but
to the one he serves. Is that understood, *my lord*?"

Glorfindel slowly raised a hand to his cheek,
tentatively dabbing his fingers at the corner of his
lip where a small stream of blood escaped. He stared
down at the floor for several seconds, avoiding the
king's furious gaze, until finally giving a small nod.
"Yes," he murmured.

Erestor, beside him, exhaled a quiet breath of relief.
"I'll... I'll find something for you," he said
quietly, and turned toward the armoury. "We should
hurry..."

Gil-galad said nothing, keeping his gaze fixed on
Glorfindel and willing himself to calm down. To his
left, Elrond shifted uncomfortably. "I will... go with
Erestor for now," he said before quickly backing away.
He followed Erestor's path from the hall, looking back
once before he disappeared from view.

Once Elrond had gone Glorfindel hesitantly lifted his
eyes to meet Gil-galad's.

"I don't care what passed between you and my father,"
Gil-galad continued, his voice low and threatening,
"but as long as you ride under my banner you will show
his memory respect. I demand that, Glorfindel; even if
you end up belittling *my* name to Elrond, you will
*not* do so with my father's."

Glorfindel slowly nodded. "Yes, my lord," he said
quietly. Then he looked to the floor again, hand still
at his cheek.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The last goodbyes had been said, the company blessed
by their king, and now Gil-galad stood again at his
window, watching the glimmering Host of Lindon march
eastward towards Eriador. The only sign that he was
sending off the love of his life into certain battle
and possible death was the grip he had on the
windowsill. Over the grey stone his knuckles were
white with tension, and his gaze never left the tall,
slim figure in the lead of the host until it was too
far away to be seen.

He didn't look away even when a knock came at the
door. "Who is it?" he said, his voice not quite a
growl, but close enough.

"It's Círdan," said the soft, familiar voice of the
Shipwright outside.

"Come in," the king called, and this time his tone was
gentler.

Círdan entered silently, shutting the door behind him
and walking across the room until he stood at
Gil-galad's side. With a sad smile, he set his hand
softly atop the king's. Both Elves stood without
speaking, staring down at the road that wound out from
the castle gates.

"You will see him again," Círdan eventually said. His
voice was little more than a whisper.

"This is the same feeling I had as a child," Gil-galad
murmured. "watching you go off to battle... standing
there watching the ships sail off and feeling helpless
to do anything... wondering if you'd come back...
wondering what I'd do if you didn't."

Círdan smiled, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. "But
I did come back, and so will Elrond. You need only
have faith in him, Ereinion. He won't disappoint you."

 

The king looked down at their clasped hands and then
his gaze moved up to Círdan's grey eyes. The
Shipwright was the only person on earth he could ever
say it to, could ever admit any weakness to...

"Did I do the right thing, Círdan?" he whispered. "Is
he ready?"

"I don't know," Círdan said. "But we have to believe
so. You had to make a difficult decision, and you
chose the best you could." He looked back out to the
road before continuing, "Only time can tell anything
with certainty. For now we can only hope."

Gil-galad said nothing for the moment, only stared at
Círdan and wondered what the silver-haired Elf really
saw. It was said his gift of foresight was greater
than any of the Elves in Middle-Earth. It made the
young king shiver that his long-time friend was now
saying nothing at all.

"But," Círdan continued, gently shaking his head, "We
should not worry too much. Elrond will do the right
thing. You must trust in him." The shipwright took a
few steps back from the window, turning his gaze once
again to Gil-galad. "He will do the right thing," he
repeated.

Gil-galad looked at Círdan and smiled sadly. "Yes, of
course. Let us hope I made the right choice." Having
said it, he turned his gaze back towards the window
and gazed long upon the road that his lover had taken.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

By sunset Círdan too had left, and the king was alone
in his chambers. He stood over his table, motionless,
looking down at the carefully-folded chain mail armour
that sat there. Slowly, he reached down to pick it up,
but as his fingers met the edge of the metal rings, he
paused, and looked up to the doorway.

"Erestor."

"The door was... the door was open," Erestor said,
forcing a small smile. "You are not busy... are you?"

"No - no, not at all. I should thank you for...
helping Glorfindel to find more suitable armour this
morning." He looked back down at the mail sitting atop
overdyed cloth. "It... it meant a great deal to me."
A moment passed and then he said quietly, "So, what
brings you here?"

Erestor wordlessly crossed the room from the doorway
to stand beside Gil-galad, head bowed. In his hands he
held a folded garment of white fabric. He, still
silent, placed it onto the table on top of the mail
shirt and cape, then looked hesitantly up to the king'
face.

Running his hand over the fabric, Gil-galad frowned
slightly, then opened the folded cloth. The tabard
that Glorfindel had changed was resewn, Fingolfin's
device of blue and silver clearly visible again. For
a long moment, the king simply stared at it, fingers
lightly touching the new threads. When he spoke his
voice was hoarse with emotion.

"Thank you, Erestor. It wasn't your responsibility to
do this..." He glanced over at the other Elf and
smiled softly. "But I am very grateful to you for
thinking of it - and for taking the time."

Erestor quickly shook his head. "It was no trouble to
me. And I... I too had a part in what was done this
morning, and felt I should be the one to set it
right." He sighed, looking down to the cape. "But I am
sorry about the green dye. I'm afraid that won't be
undone so easily."

The large, quiet hand of the king moved to the cape.
"No," Gil-galad said quietly, "this... is beyond
repair." He was silent for several moments as he
picked up the cape and walked to the darkening window.
Holding up the green fabric, he brushed it over one
cheek in a strangely child-like gesture and then
murmured, "Why does he hate me so, Erestor? What goes
on in his mind, to feel such contempt and derision?"

"I don't know," said Erestor, taking a few uncertain
steps toward the window after Gil-galad. "I would say
it is because of... because of your... close
friendship with Elrond, but... maybe that's it, maybe
not. I don't know." He paused, standing only inches
from the king's side, and waited an awkward moment
before lifting a tentative and shaking hand to place
it lightly on Gil-galad's shoulder.

"Maybe," Erestor continued in a softer voice, "he'd
rather be in Aman. He talks about it all the time, you
know. Valmar really, most of all. When I first met
him, all those years ago, he told me all about
Valmar... Then not long ago he was speaking of it
again, and I asked, 'Why do you not return, then?' and
he said, 'Elrond,' but... I can't see what he meant by
that, and he would say nothing further..." His voice
trailed off into silence.

It seemed obvious to Gil-galad what that meant.
Somewhere, during his time in Middle Earth, Glorfindel
had become enamoured or indebted to one of Elrond's
ancestors. Now he felt a responsibility towards the
younger Elf, stifling a relationship though it might
be.

"But what has that got to do with me?" the king
murmured aloud, half to himself. "So he'd rather be
there - why should he choose me to receive the brunt
of his frustration?" He turned and looked into
Erestor's eyes, as if searching for the answer to his
question in their grey depths. Erestor shivered,
holding Gil-galad's gaze for a moment before blinking
away

"Maybe..." Erestor said, "he might blame you. Maybe he
thinks that after the war Elrond should have crossed
the sea, but you..." He turned his eyes back again to
meet the king's. "Or maybe he just hates to think of
you being with Elrond."

The king gave Erestor a wry look and crossed the room
to where a beaker of wine stood atop a bookcase. "That
much I knew all ready, although he doesn't seem keen
on marrying him off, so I don't know why it's so
horrible that Elrond and I -" He stopped himself
mid-sentence and began to pour the wine into two
glasses. "I've always sensed that Glorfindel blamed me
for Elrond staying here after the War, but why that
would be I haven't a clue. Elrond made his own
decisions. They had nothing to do with me."

Turning, he held a small glass out to Erestor. "You'll
join me by the fire for a bit won't you? It's awfully
quiet about and I'd certainly appreciate the company."

"Yes, of course," Erestor said, nodding. He quickly
crossed to where Gil-galad stood, taking the offered
glass. "Thank-you," he murmured. His fingers grazed
lightly over the king's as he pulled his hand away,
and he tensed.

"Sit, please." The king waved a hand to a low, padded
bench before the fire, sitting down himself on one
side of it and taking a long, slow sip from his glass.
"I have to admit that there's an air of tension gone
now, with Glorfindel out of the castle," he mused. "I
don't suppose he'll ever be back..."

Hesitantly, Erestor also sat. He rested his own wine
glass on his knees, hands clutched tightly around it.
"You... don't think that he'll, or they'll be... I
mean, you don't think that Elrond will... that maybe
he won't return?"

A spasm of pain crossed the king's face as he stared
into the fire. "I don't know," he said simply. "I
don't have the gift of foresight, so I can only listen
to my feelings in the matter. It's true I worry that
he will have to stay in Eriador, if Sauron's forces
are to be held at bay."

Erestor only nodded, sipping his wine and glancing
from the fire to Gil-galad and back again. "I'm sure
we'll see him again," he said after a long moment, his
voice quiet and sombre. Looking sadly at the king,
Erestor lifted his hand and placed it gently on
Gil-galad's shoulder, stroking over the long dark hair
that fell down his back.

The king gave a small start and looked over at
Erestor, as if he'd forgotten the other Elf was there.
Smiling sadly, he said, "So, are you ready to take
over Glorfindel's duties?"

"I suppose," Erestor said. "I've been assisting him
for so long that I... I think I should be able to
handle things on my own." He nodded vaguely before
quietly continuing, "It's not that difficult," seeming
to speak the words as more of an assurance to himself
that as an answer to Gil-galad.

The king looked over at him, a sympathetic, sidelong
glance. "It's quite a lot of responsibility, and don't
believe I don't recognize that. Glorfindel's leaving
was completely unknown to me until last evening, and I
can't thank you enough for helping to step in to the
place he so irresponsibly vacated." He leaned forward,
elbows on his knees, looking up into Erestor's face.
"Truly, it means a great deal to me, and I know that
you are capable of replacing him admirably. Don't
trouble yourself so."

Erestor blushed and bit his lip before murmuring,
"Thank-you..." He glanced down at his wine as he
lifted the cup to his lips, finishing off the drink in
one long swallow then closing his eyes. "I'd never
leave you, you know," he said. "I mean, not like
Glorfindel did. I would never leave like that. For as
long as you asked me to stay, I would stay."

The king put a hand on the other Elf's arm. "You don't
know how much it means for me to hear words like that
right now." He gave his hand a squeeze and then looked
into the fire, his face still and melancholy. "You
know, Erestor, there are days when it feels as if the
whole world would rather be somewhere else... 'Being
with the king' usually means business, for most
people, not pleasure. So it's very comforting to know
that there are folk like you about."

"I never consider it only business to be with you,"
said Erestor, shaking his head. Then silently he
raised his own hand to cover Gil-galad's, and sat only
looking at him for long moments before speaking again
in a less stable voice. "I'm sure... I know there are
some who would gladly be... close to you, if... if you
would let them."

"Really?" Gil-galad smiled at him with a dubious look.
"Then by all means, bring them on. I'll give a supper
for them and we can sit around telling tales at our
ease..." The king shook his head but his hand remained
on Erestor's. "I think I know my court better than
that. I fear it will be lonely for a good, long while
now."

"No, do not think that!" said Erestor. He took
Gil-galad's hand and lifted it to his mouth, pressing
an anxious kiss to the knuckles. "*I* would be with
you! *I* would be close to you! If you would let me,
my lord, I would be! If you are lonely, then I..." His
voice dropped and faltered, shaking under his words.
He breathed a moment, still clutching the king's hand,
before continuing in a half-whisper, "I would be with
you."

Gil-galad's heart gave a strange leap at the touch of
those warm, trembling lips. "Erestor..." he murmured.
The other Elf's eyes were so full of feeling. It would
be so easy to fall into them, to wash that loneliness
in those grey depths. But there was Elrond...

Gently, the king put his other hand on top of
Erestor's, pushing it gently down until both their
hands rested on his lap. "I'll cherish your company,
my dear friend. We haven't talked enough - this will
be our opportunity."

Erestor looked away, slowly nodding. "Of course..." he
quietly said. "I would be happy just to... to talk
with you." Carefully, he withdrew his hand from
between Gil-galad's and lowered it to grip the edge of
the bench.

"Please understand," the king murmured, leaning closer
to the other Elf. "It's not for want of anything on
your part... but I am not free... my heart... is not
free to give anything but friendship." He reached out
and delicately took hold of Erestor's chin, lifting
his head so they were eye to eye. "But that friendship
I would give gladly, and generously... to you."

Erestor nodded again, turning his face downward so
that Gil-galad's hand cupped his cheek and he could
softly kiss the king's palm. "I'm sorry..." he
whispered, and sat more upright away from Gil-galad's
touch. "I shouldn't... I shouldn't have..." He closed
his eyes as his mouth twisted with a sad pain. "I'm
sorry."

"You don't need to be," Gil-galad soothed, wincing
slightly at Erestor's expression. "It's... it's just
that... I have a pledge," he added, whispering now,
"... with Elrond."

"I know," said Erestor. He lifted his hand to his
forehead and covered his eyes, his body slouching at
the words that he knew were true but had for so long
refused to believe. "You are... in love with Elrond.
And have been for a long time. I know that..."

Gil-galad stared at his hands, lying helplessly in his
lap. "Yes, I am," he said, his voice very low. "But
it's more than just that. We... have a bond, he and I.
Only a few people know." Feeling a sharp prick of
tears behind his eyes, he looked away from Erestor,
across to the window and the darkness beyond. "I
suppose the Valar might object to my calling it a
marriage," he whispered, "but we did everything that
other couples do... and Círdan said the blessings over
us." The darkness glowed from the window, the colour
of Elrond's hair. "It took every bit of will I had to
send him away..."

The king's voice was shaking now, the buried feelings
of the day fighting to get free. "I don't want to hurt
you, even though I know I must have..." He turned and
looked back at the other Elf, wanting to brush
Erestor's hands from his eyes. "It's just that right
now, at this moment, it feels as if you're my only
connection to him. It's selfish, I know - I want to
keep you here and yet... I'm hurting you if I do,
aren't I?"

Erestor nodded his head in slow movements, remaining
silent save for his quiet but shaky and uneven
breathing. He rubbed at his eyes before letting his
hand fall softly to his side. Even in the dim
firelight, Gil-galad could see that his eyes were
reddened and his lashes glistening damp. "I should...
go," Erestor whispered. "It is late, and sitting with
you... I can't... I have to go."

They both rose, slowly, Erestor turning to leave, and
then Gil-galad reached out and caught his wrist. "Must
you really go?" he whispered hoarsely. "Only I'm so
very lonely tonight..."

Erestor stopped and turned, staring down at the king's
hand on his arm, saying nothing. He took a hesitant
step, then another, until they stood only a few inches
apart. Shakily, he lifted his free hand, rested it on
Gil-galad's shoulder, and moved even closer so that
their bodies were pressed lightly together.

Long, dark hair - so like Elrond's... The king felt an
overwhelming urge to touch it, take it in his hands
and smell its fragrance. Surely his lover wasn't far
away - surely he himself hadn't sent him out to war.
Why couldn't he be here, standing before him, body
trembling at the thought of what they would do that
night. Without thought, or care, Gil-galad found his
vision blurring. The dark Elf before him had to be
Elrond, his beloved, his own. "Beautiful child," he
heard a voice whisper, low and fierce with emotion.
And then he was kissing him, pressing his lips to the
one he held, drinking eagerly from that sweet mouth.

The other tensed only a moment, just a hint of a
protest, before melting against his body and
surrendering completely to the fervid kiss. Hands and
arms found their way around Gil-galad's back, pulling
the two into a tighter embrace. Soft lips parted
against the king's own. For one long moment, the two
were together, and everything seemed as it should be.

Erestor pulled away first, turning his face to the
ground and leaning his forehead against Gil-galad's
shoulder. His arms slid down to the king's waist and
tightened their hold, but Erestor remained silent, not
daring to speak.

So like him, Gil-galad found himself thinking hazily,
and yet... not him at all. No, not him - someone else.
Someone else whom he should definitely not have
kissed. He tried not to stiffen at the thought, but
couldn't help it - that small pull backward, and how
to let go of Erestor without... without what? Hadn't
he already done the other Elf harm? Struggling with
what to say, the king lifted his hands to Erestor's,
tight around his waist. He took them from around
himself and held them up, kissing the palms before
gently letting them go.

"I'm so sorry, Erestor," he whispered. "Please forgive
me... that should not have happened."

Erestor slowly stepped away, crossing his arms
defensively over his chest even as he ran his tongue
over his lips to capture the final remnant of
Gil-galad's taste. "Of course not," he murmured. "It
was stupid of me to... to think that I..." He shook
his head. Then he opened his mouth as if to speak
again, but reconsidered and was silent, raising his
trembling hand again to his face to nervously wipe at
his damp eyes.

"It's late," the king whispered hoarsely. "You should
probably go..." He looked up again at the other Elf.
"I am so terribly sorry..." he said, and then quietly
turned away to the window. Ah, stars, he found himself
thinking, how am I ever going to get along without
him...

"Goodnight, then," Erestor said softly. He made his
way to the door, the fabric of his long robes swishing
audibly over the floor in the quiet room. He touched
the doorframe with his hand when he reached it and
paused to turn back a moment. "I will see you in the
morning, I suppose?" he asked, his voice still shaky.

"Perhaps," the king said, making himself turn to smile
weakly at Erestor. "I... may go for a brief journey to
the south, to... check the fortification below the
Gulf." He turned back to the window. "I may be gone
for a few days."

Though Gil-galad couldn't see, Erestor still bowed
from his place in the doorway. "I understand," he said
softly. "Good-night."

He shut the door behind him when he left, carefully
and quietly.

"Hannon le, mellon nín..." the king whispered to the
empty room. Then he reached out and put a hand up, as
if to touch Luinil, the gleaming blue star that shone
high over the Gulf. "May your sleep be sweet tonight,
my love," he murmured, "and may Lord Ulmo send ice
water through my veins until you return to me..."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Several leagues to the east, Glorfindel approached
Elrond, who stood with his back to the hasty camp they
had built. Even Elven warriors needed a chance to
rest. "We made good progress today," he observed,
following the younger Elf's gaze to the dark of a
western horizon no longer visible. "It will take us
but a few weeks at this pace, and we shall be on
them."

Elrond nodded slowly without turning to his companion.
"We have come far in just one day, haven't we," he
softly said. "Further than I'd anticipated. No, it
won't take us long to find our battle." As he spoke
his hand rose to his chest where the pendant from
Gil-galad rested, still hanging heavily around his
neck. He fingered the shape of the metal tentatively.

Glorfindel's gaze dropped to where Elrond's long
fingers moved slowly, an almost unconscious behaviour.
"A little present from your friend, the king?" he
asked, unable to keep a hint of ice out of his voice.
Elrond's hand stopped its movement and for one second
it clenched the pendant tightly. He turned to regard
the older Elf with cool eyes.

"Would you care so much if I said that it is?"

Glorfindel turned, still standing next to Elrond, but
looking to the east, over their encampment. "You're
nothing but a pet to him. Why is it that you're so
blind to that? He enjoys bedding you, and being your
great lord and master - but you're better than he is.
You deserve much, much better."

Elrond was silent for several seconds. "Why would you
think that, Glorfindel?" he finally asked. "Why would
you say that? You've never been in my position, or
his, and you can't begin to know how either of us
feels."

"I know you," the blond Elf retorted sharply, "and I
know enough about him. You'll never be more than a pet
to him. Never. He comes from bad blood and *you*-" he
pointed squarely at Elrond- "*you* should be setting
your sights on one less... tainted."

Hissing softly through clenched teeth, Elrond turned
to fully face Glorfindel. "You forget, *friend*, that
he and I share common kin. Where starts the bad blood,
do you say? Who is tainted by it? Those who left
Valinor? Fingolfin?" He scowled and narrowed his eyes.
"He is as much my forefather. You should remember
that."

"You have the blood of Gondolin in you," Glorfindel
retorted, "*and* that of Doriath. You are descended
from a Maia, and from Lúthien, the fairest creature
whoever walked the earth." He reached a hand forward
and lightly clasped the pendant around Elrond's neck.
"You should be a king, and what do you do with that
lineage but throw it at the feet of Ereinion
Gil-galad, whose only claim is a rough-hewn,
non-existent country that lies now under the wave." He
stopped, almost panting. "You are nothing like him...
your ancestry deserves better than the brat prince who
would be king."

Slowly, Elrond closed his eyes and turned away. He
walked a few steps over to a large rock and sat down,
head in his hands. "Go away, Glorfindel," he softly
said. "I don't want to listen to your words or hear
your complaints. There is a knife already stuck in my
chest and I don't think I can bear to have you twist
it any further. Please, just leave me."

Glorfindel stood for a moment, regarding him. "Very
well, but before I go I'll ask you to think about who
it was put that knife in your heart in the first
place. Do you think if you meant anything to him at
all he would have sent you away? Think about that,
Elrond. Good night." Then he turned abruptly and
walked back towards the encampment.

Elrond scarcely watched Glorfindel go, keeping his
eyes on the ground and seeing the other's movement
only in the corner of his vision. He pressed his
fingers against his forehead and sighed. //Only one
day gone and already he tries to come between us, as
if distance alone weren't enough...//

Standing, he shook his head and brushed his hair back
from his face. Then he turned away and walked toward
the dark trees that surrounded the camp, passing a
curious night patroller as he went.

"My lord...?"

"I am fine," Elrond said quietly. "And I will be back
soon. I just... I wish to be alone for a while."

The soldier nodded and backed away though the worried
frown remained on his face. Elrond nodded in return
before continuing into the forest.

The blackness and close trees seemed strangely
welcoming. //I wish to be alone...// He repeated the
words in his head, almost laughing aloud at the
frustrating irony. //No,// he though, //that is truly
the last thing I want right now.//

He slowed and then stopped, leaning back against rough
bark and leaves and turning his face up to the night
sky still visible through the thin treetops. The
perfect moon, sharp and white and unhindered by
clouds, shone overhead as he always did. And Elrond
wondered, as he stared up at the moon and stars, if
perhaps Gil-galad did the same thing at that moment
and thought of him.

 

*END*

 back to Strange Fates