Dinîf en Qualen
Elrond decided to drop by his study before joining his guests for lunch. He hadn’t seen or heard from either Glorfindel or Erestor and was beginning to grow worried. Opening the door to his study, he halted in his tracks, seeing Erestor enveloped in a tight hug. Glorfindel looked up, met his gaze and nodded once. Elrond released a relieved sigh; somehow Glorfindel had found a way to break down Erestor’s defenses. He closed the door behind him, but gave them a moment to compose themselves, remaining standing near the doorway, not approaching yet.
“Erestor? Elrond just arrived. Maybe you should tell him what you just told me.” Glorfindel pulled back slightly, but maintained his hold on the raven-haired counselor, whose dark eyes now hesitantly sought out Elrond’s.
Elrond advanced on them and sat down behind his desk, still maintaining his distance. The last thing he wanted was for Erestor to feel pressured.
Erestor wiped away the remnants of his tears and tried to break free of Glorfindel’s embrace. The blond gave in and released him, and Erestor struggled to his feet. Swaying slightly, he quickly sat down on a chair.
“What is Glorfindel talking about?” asked Elrond, concerned. Erestor’s eyes were red from crying.
“You have to make sure my father is never alone with one of the twins. He is dangerous,” Erestor paused briefly to search for the right words, “He is a predator.”
Elrond knew Elladan and Elrohir could easily hold their own against Eridhren, but Erestor still thought of the twins as Elflings, having helped raise them. In Erestor’s opinion they would always need protection. Elrond cleared his throat, hoping his next assessment would make Erestor open up farther. “And he preys on children? Very young children?”
Erestor shivered violently, lowered his eyes and wished the floor would open and swallow him.
Elrond sighed deeply. “I will tell Elladan and Elrohir to be careful when dealing with Eridhren. And you do not have to join us for lunch, Erestor. I would understand if you preferred to stay clear of Eridhren.”
“No,” said Erestor in an urgent tone. “I will be there. I do not want him to think I am afraid of him.”
“But you –are- afraid of him,” pointed out Glorfindel, who had regained possession of Erestor’s right hand. He was soothingly rubbing the dark-haired Elf’s knuckles.
“I have always been afraid of him,” said Erestor, whilst looking into Glorfindel’s eyes. “But I refuse to give in to that fear.”
Glorfindel nodded approvingly. “Facing your fears will make you stronger, and you have our support.”
Elrond wondered just how afraid Erestor was and if it was wise to let his friend attend lunch. “Stay close to Glorfindel.”
Erestor nodded thankfully. “I will.”
Elrond and Glorfindel exchanged a look filled with understanding. Together, they would deal with Eridhren.
Thranduil looked over his shoulder and saw Elrond, his advisors, and the twins approaching. The party had now reached their table and they seated themselves. To his relief, he found that Erestor wasn’t seated next to Eridhren, but at the other side of the table, safely wedged between Glorfindel and Elrohir.
Elrond signaled for everyone to begin eating and Thranduil caught himself occasionally looking at the half-Elf. It was hard to imagine they had been best friends once, even lovers, but then Gil-galad had taken Elrond away from him. Elrond had possessed a passion and beauty which he had admired, and after some very clumsy seduction attempts the Peredhel had given into his advances. For a very brief time they had been lovers, but then Gil-galad had taken an interest in Elrond and had stolen the half-Elf away from him.
His bitterness stemmed from losing a lover to someone he had always instinctively disliked. Oropher’s death had only deepened the chasm between them. There was a lot of old pain between them and his heart still ached because of this lost love.
Ah, but why was he giving in to these gloomy thoughts? He was here to negotiate a truce between Mirkwood and Imladris, not to dwell on the past. He’d had his chance with Elrond and it hadn’t worked. He had to let go. It had happened so many centuries ago!
“Thranduil, I trust your quarters are satisfactory?” Elrond, having noticed Thranduil’s absent-minded expression, raised an eyebrow inquisitively. The blond Elf started momentarily, but then replied in a formal, somewhat distant tone.
“Aye, they are. Imladris is truly beautiful.” Eridhren snorted beside him and Thranduil glared at him.
Eridhren had averted his eyes and was now staring at Erestor, who seemed to shrink within himself beneath the look, which greatly worried Glorfindel. Holding Erestor’s hand beneath the table, Glorfindel squeezed in an effort to offer his support.
Erestor managed to answer Eridhren’s stare momentarily, but then averted his eyes. The cold expression in his father’s eyes was making him feel physically ill and he wished he had accepted Elrond’s earlier offer to not attend lunch. Knowing Eridhren was this close caused all sorts of horrid memories to return and he struggled to maintain control of them. Feeling Glorfindel’s fingers curled around his helped.
Elrond, sensing the tension, wondered how to do away with it. He didn’t want Erestor to leave; that would resemble a flight and then Eridhren would feel like he had chased Erestor away. But he had to do something! An idea suddenly came to mind. “Eridhren, why don’t we already discuss Mirkwood’s plans so that when we get together tomorrow Thranduil and I can quickly reach a decision?” Looking at Thranduil, Elrond added, “I am sure you are most eager to return home.”
Thranduil barely refrained from staring at Elrond in surprise. “You are right, of course.” Realizing Elrond wanted to talk to Eridhren in private, he wondered why. “We will talk in the morning then.”
Eridhren rose from his chair and followed Elrond onto the balcony. Stairs spiraled down and took them into the gardens.
A strangled sigh left Erestor’s lips once Eridhren was gone. “I cannot stay here any longer,” he whispered into Glorfindel’s ear.
Glorfindel reacted at once, got to his feet and pulled Erestor along. He cast an apologetic look at the twins, who also wanted to join them, but he quickly shook his head. It would be rude to leave Thranduil all by himself. Now it was up to the twins to play host.
“Erestor? Come with me.” Glorfindel steered the dark-haired Elf toward the doorway, eager to take Erestor away from the crowd. Once they were safely in the corridor, he forced Erestor to stop walking and waited for the dark eyes to meet his. “I do not want him near you. Please stay away from him.”
But Erestor objected weakly. “Tomorrow start the negotiations. As Elrond’s counselor I should be there.”
“Erestor, do you trust me?”
Erestor, feeling confused at hearing Glorfindel’s question, nodded.
“Then let me take your place at the council tomorrow.” Glorfindel looked pleadingly at Erestor. “Do not expose yourself to his presence.”
“But then he will think he intimidated me and…” Erestor’s voice faltered. “I cannot let the past repeat itself.”
Glorfindel drew in a deep breath and started walking again, guiding Erestor to his rooms where they had some privacy. He was determined to make the dark-haired Elf open up to him; he had to know what terrible secret lay hidden in the past.
Elrohir wondered if he was supposed to say something now that his father, Erestor and Glorfindel had left. “My lord Thranduil, have you ever been in Imladris before?” It seemed a dumb question to him, but it was the only thing he was able to come up with.
Thranduil actually managed a genuine smile. “Never. As you probably know your father and I had differences in the past.”
Elrohir looked to Elladan to save him from the awkward situation, which was becoming increasingly embarrassing. What could they possibly ask Thranduil?
“Do you have any children?” Elladan felt proud of having been able to think up that question and grinned broadly.
Thranduil sensed some of their unease and continued to smile to reassure them. The twins had inherited more than just Elrond’s good looks; they were charming as well. Elrohir especially reminded him of a much younger Elrond. “I have two sons. Valthoron is the oldest, and my heir. Legolas is about your age, maybe a tad younger, and more of a free spirit who roams Arda most of the time.”
Elladan knew he shouldn’t ask this next question, but couldn’t stop himself. “And their mother?”
A sad expression appeared in Thranduil’s sea green eyes. “Like your mother, she sailed to Valinor many centuries ago.”
Elladan cursed himself privately. He knew he shouldn’t have asked that question. “I am sorry…” Lost for words, he looked apologetically at Thranduil.
“You could not know. Do not worry about it.” Thranduil’s gaze continued to shift between the two of them. They were identical twins, but he felt confident he could tell them apart. Now it was time for a question of his own. “I noticed that Erestor is not feeling well?”
Elrohir frowned. “He has not been feeling well for some time now. He was wounded recently and I suppose he has not yet recovered completely,” said Elrohir quickly, when Elladan was lost for words. “Glorfindel and my father have been looking after him.”
Thranduil’s eyes narrowed. “So it has nothing to do with Eridhren’s presence?”
Elrohir and Elladan exchanged a worried look. Thranduil’s question had taken them aback. In the end, Elrohir said, “I did notice that Eridhren is remarkably reserved towards Erestor, considering they have not seen each other for so long.”
“Reserved…” said Thranduil thoughtfully. “Reserved is not the word I would use to describe him.”
“What words –would- you use?” asked Elladan curiously.
“Cold. Distant. Dangerous even.” Thranduil swore he heard a sigh of relief, coming from Elrohir’s lips. “You agree with me then?”
Elrohir nodded, suddenly wondering why he was discussing this with Thranduil. Somehow he had imagined Thranduil to be different, not this… mellow and friendly. “Maybe you should discuss this matter with my father.”
“I think I will,” said Thranduil in a slow, thoughtful tone. “If you will excuse me now, I think I will go for a short walk.”
Elladan and Elrohir reacted too slowly and by they time they wanted to address Thranduil, the Ruler of Mirkwood had already stepped onto the balcony, leaving them behind in wonder.
Eridhren had fallen into step beside him and Elrond constantly fought the urge to put more distance between them. The hair at the back of his neck stood rigid, warning him to be extremely cautious. He had never experienced such a fierce reaction before when meeting an Elf for the first time. “I trust you already have certain ideas how to set up these border patrols?” Eridhren’s clipped laughter caused gooseflesh to form on his skin and Elrond involuntarily pulled his cloak closer around his form.
“I have, but I doubt that is the reason why you want to talk to me.” Eridhren halted in his tracks and leaned against the trunk of an ash, studying Elrond.
Elrond took a step away from Eridhren, trying hard to keep his breathing steady. For some reason he felt unable to draw in his next breath. “What do you mean?”
“Erestor lied. I never hurt him. He was a rather confused child and mixed up certain things that happened in the past. I am his father. How could I possibly hurt my own flesh and blood? Could you hurt your sons?”
How did Eridhren know that they had suspected this? Elrond probed the icy grey eyes. “If you did not hurt him, who did?”
/Lies! He is lying!/ Elrond was on his guard, seeing the predatory look in Eridhren’s eyes. He didn’t believe a single word Eridhren had said.
Eridhren reacted quickly, stepped up to Elrond, grabbed the half-Elf’s wrist and pulled him close. “Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this is not about Erestor. Maybe it is about… lust?”
The sudden change in Eridhren’s eyes startled Elrond. They became narrow and evil, almost undressing and devouring him. A sense of entrapment swept through him and he tried to free himself of Eridhren’s hold. “Lust?” he echoed in disbelief.
“What is your pleasure, mighty Lord of Imladris?” said Eridhren in a mocking tone. “Do you want me to tie you down? Spank you? Bend you over and take you? Is that why you brought me here? You really need to be more diplomatic in future. I am sure the others saw through your guise.”
Elrond stared at Eridhren in shock, almost questioning his sanity. “What did you say? Do you really think I would want you in that way? How dare you assume such a thing?” Growing furious, he doubled his effort to rid himself of Eridhren’s hold. “Let go of me! How dare you touch me?”
Eridhren’s grin grew malicious, licking his lips, whilst leaning in closer to touch them to Elrond’s. “Ah, you like it rough.”
Elrond’s eyes narrowed dangerously and he prepared to fight off Eridhren in earnest when an angry voice cut through the air.
“You heard him, Eridhren. Remove your hands from his person.” Thranduil appeared from behind them and glared at his counselor. “Return to your quarters and stay there until I send word.”
Eridhren hissed at Elrond, but then let go of the half-Elf and after shooting a venomous look at Thranduil, he turned and marched away.
Elrond, still furious, now aimed his anger at Thranduil. “Are you insane to bring him here? He is obviously a very troubled soul!”
Thranduil forced himself to remain calm. He knew from personal experience that Elrond had to vent his anger first before he would really listen to him.
“His presence upsets Erestor and –“ Elrond paused momentarily, still trying to comprehend what had just happened, “He assaulted me!”
Thranduil briefly considered pointing out to Elrond that it was the half-Elf’s letter that had brought Eridhren here, but refrained from doing so, not wanting to aggravate the dark-haired Elf any farther. “Are you done?”
Elrond glared at him; his eyes shot deadly daggers and they were aimed at the blond.
Thranduil drew in a deep breath, met Elrond’s defying glare, and said, “I know Eridhren is a danger and that allowing him to come here is dangerous, but if I had refused he would have sneaked after me. At least now I know where he is and what he is up to. I do not have to worry about him operating in the dark.”
Elrond finally managed to calm down. Rubbing his wrist to sooth the chafed skin, he nodded once. “Continue.”
“Your letter made him determined to come here. I kept Erestor’s whereabouts carefully hidden from Eridhren, but you addressed that letter to him personally and I was unable to intercept it.” Thranduil pointed at a bench near a lovely stream. “Why don’t we sit down?”
Elrond followed Thranduil, still remaining on his guard. After sitting down, he waited for the blond to continue.
“Eridhren is dangerous. You do not want him as your enemy.”
Elrond cocked his head in question. “You followed us here.”
Thranduil nodded once. “I know Eridhren. You are a challenge he cannot exist.” A challenge he hadn’t been able to resist either centuries ago. “You might want to keep an eye on your sons. Eridhren will try to prey on them as well. I take it Glorfindel is guarding Erestor?”
Stunned, Elrond stared at Thranduil. “What do you know about Eridhren that you are not telling me?”
Thranduil nodded his head. “Eridhren is a predator. He preys on the young, the innocent. The children, young Elflings. He hurts them in so many ways. When Valthoron and Legolas were born I had to station Eridhren on the outskirts of my realm, for I did not want him near my children.”
Elrond suddenly realized that he was holding his breath. “Why are you still keeping him around?”
Thranduil shrugged. “As I said before, as long as I know where he is and what he is up to I can prevent the worst. If I had banished him, he would have been free to make more victims.”
“Do you know what he did to Erestor?” Elrond had a hard time believing Thranduil was on his side. He had mentally prepared himself for a very ugly confrontation, but then again, Thranduil had never been predictable. It was one of the things that had first attracted him to the blond.
Thranduil leaned back, stared at the clouds that were obscuring the sun, and then nodded once. “Eridhren was already one of my counselors when he got one of the maidens pregnant. I forced him to marry her, but it was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. The maiden died in childbirth and Eridhren tried to abandon the child. I stopped him and forced him to care for the baby. Eridhren hated Erestor and mistreated the poor child badly. Throughout the years he abused Erestor, not only emotionally, but physically as well.”
Elrond listened breathlessly. Thranduil was finally providing him with the missing pieces of this puzzle.
“Years before Erestor reached majority I found him in one of the halls. He had been beaten bloody and was incapable of speech. He was in shock and I took him to my rooms. My wife took care of him, and when he had regained some of his composure he confirmed my suspicions that Eridhren was responsible for his state. Erestor begged me to help him get away from his father, and I could not decline. I provided him with a horse, and water, and I escorted him to our borders.” Thranduil averted his eyes before making his next admission. “I told him to make for Imladris, where you would surely allow him sanctuary.”
Elrond nodded. “I took him in. I realized something was wrong with him, but he was so… distant. I could not reach him.”
“I think that Erestor was very determined to never get hurt again. He would not let you in for he feared you would emotionally hurt him.” Thranduil’s heart still missed a beat, thinking back to finding that huddled form, full of misery, hidden behind his throne. It had been the one place Erestor had felt safe.
Elrond’s eyes narrowed. “I never realized you knew Erestor that well. I never noticed anything during our meetings.”
“Erestor always feared that Eridhren would accompany me and he remained alert the entire time. He also did not want you to grow suspicious. You would wonder why we knew each other. He was protecting himself.”
“I never suspected a thing,” whispered Elrond, shocked. Forcing himself to focus on the problem at hand, he said, “What do we do with Eridhren? I do not want him loose in the Last Homely House, trying to hurt my sons as well.”
“I suggest you station guards near his rooms and check on him regularly. He will try to get close to Erestor and we must prevent that from happening.”
“I will make sure Eridhren is guarded at all times.” A strange sensation coursed through Elrond’s heart, hearing Thranduil’s worried and compassionate tone. “Thranduil?”
Thranduil’s gaze became guarded, hearing the unexpected change in Elrond’s tone. “Aye?”
“We were friends once, were we not?”
“Friends?” Thranduil’s tone changed, and became more distant as if lost in memories. “We were more than friends. We were lovers... until…”
Elrond flinched involuntarily. “Until Gil-galad appeared in our lives.”
“He wanted you and it did not matter to him that we were together. He seduced you, and you—“ Anger surfaced in his voice. “It is not wise to discuss this now. Even after these millennia I get angry when…”
Elrond slowly placed a hand on Thranduil’s arm, and when the blond looked at him, he said, “It was infatuation, Thranduil. We were young. What we felt was not love.”
Thranduil laughed, embittered. “Elrond, I do not know what you felt, but I loved you. Did you really love Gil-galad? Or was it lust that made you forget my declarations of eternal love?”
Elrond watched, surprised, as Thranduil jumped to his feet and began to pace.
“My father was against our love and yet I snuck into your tent every night because I wanted to be with you! Oropher constantly told me that I was stupid to trust you to return my love and I told him how wrong he was! I was convinced you loved me!”
Elrond’s eyes had widened during Thranduil’s speech, and he moistened his lips to speak as well, but then Thranduil beat him to it.
“And yes, I did hate you for contributing to my father’s death! Aye, he acted rashly and moved out without direct orders, but when we sent for help we did not get an answer because Gil-galad was busy taking his dirty pleasure from your body!”
Elrond, speechless, just stared at Thranduil, whose rage had now reached its maximum.
Thranduil realized just what he had revealed and felt angry with himself for letting go. He had never wanted Elrond to find out that he was still hurting after all these centuries. “I—“ He shook his head, spun around and marched away, leaving Elrond behind in complete shock.
Elrond stared at Thranduil’s form until the blond had vanished from sight. By Elbereth, he hadn’t seen that outburst coming! Slightly shaky from having these intense emotions aimed at him, he reached out for support and placed his hand against the trunk of a tree. It was true then; Thranduil had really loved him. Gil-galad had convinced him that the blond just lusted after him, and when the High King had made his move, he had given in willingly, happy to have found someone who did love him.
/I was so wrong. I should have trusted my instincts and feelings back then instead of taking Gil-galad’s words for granted./ Thranduil had really loved him. Immensely saddened, he hung his head in shame and regret. /Why did I listen to Gil-galad? Because of his splendor? His power? He was so different from Thranduil./
Thranduil had always made slow, passionate love with him, whilst Gil-galad had just taken what he had wanted. /I was a fool./
Elrond raised his head, and stared at the green leaves, sheltering him from the powerful rays of the sun. “I loved you too,” he whispered sincerely, “but I was afraid to admit it.” And that fear was the reason why he had lost the one person who had truly loved him.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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