Heart In Chains
Haldir eyed Glorfindel carefully when the Elda mounted Asfaloth. Glorfindel had suggested inspecting the southern borders today and Haldir had been unable to refuse when asked to accompany him. After all, Elrond was doing Celeborn a big favor by letting Erestor stay here. The least he could do to repay that debt was to share his strategic knowledge with Glorfindel.
“Are you always this quiet, Haldir of ‘Lorien?” asked Glorfindel in a teasing tone. He was leading today’s patrol, which consisted of twenty of Imladris’ finest warriors. Normally the twins would also accompany him, but an insane urge to extract revenge for Celebrian had sent them onto the road, eager to slay as many Orcs as possible. He missed their presence, their teasing remarks. They had become completely different people since Celebrian had been attacked and he was afraid their hearts would never open again. Looking at Haldir, he saw the smug smile on the handsome face and wondered about the other. “I thought you would be more talkative, my friend.”
Haldir’s smile turned into a smirk. “You are the first to think me that, Glorfindel. My brothers are the talkative ones.” He preferred a comfortable silence when possible.
Glorfindel pretended to pout. “Then I will do my best to change that!”
Haldir gave the Elda an impish grin. Glorfindel was very pleasant company and he continued to steal glances at the blond Elda. The Balrog Slayer was a stunning sight, effortlessly guiding Asfaloth through the bushes so they could reach the hidden path the Elda had mentioned earlier.
Once they were on that path, Glorfindel gently kneed Asfaloth closer to Haldir’s horse and wondered about the stunning smile and adoring expression in the other’s hazel eyes. They sparkled with life and energy and seemed to draw him in. Although the silence between them felt right and comfortable, he desired to hear the march warden’s melodic voice again, and asked, “I do not recall that you ever visited Imladris before.”
Haldir nodded once. “Your memory does not deceive you. This is my first time here.”
“And do you like our valley?” What Glorfindel really wanted to ask was, ‘Do you like me?’ But making such an inquiry might be rushing things and he was more diplomatic than that.
“What I have seen of it seems very peaceful and beautiful,” replied Haldir honestly. “And I will do my best to help improve your men’s training, if that is possible.”
“Elrond and I greatly appreciate your help.” Glorfindel smiled warmly at the march warden, wondering what the future held in store for them.
“Yield!” demanded Glorfindel, grinning impishly. He had managed to roll Haldir beneath him during their sparring match and had now placed his knife at the silver-haired Elf’s throat, careful not to draw any blood.
“Never,” growled the march warden. Haldir of ‘Lorien would never yield to anyone in battle – love, being a different matter, but not in battle. He wrestled his right arm free, curled it around the Elda’s neck and managed to flip them over, landing him successfully on top of the Balrog Slayer, who looked rather shocked.
Glorfindel heard his men giggle and cursed Haldir’s idea to demonstrate this particular move to him with them present. It seemed he had finally met his match in battle.
“Yield,” whispered Haldir sweetly, carefully keeping any victorious feelings he might have out of his voice. Looking deeply into Glorfindel’s azure eyes, he realized he was embarrassing the Elf in front of his men. Glorfindel couldn’t yield, even if he wanted to. “It was a good fight,” said Haldir, pleased, jumping to his feet and extending his hand in offer to Glorfindel. “Allow me to help you back to your feet.”
Glorfindel appreciated the fact that Haldir was giving him an honorable way out and accepted the limb, letting Haldir pull him back onto his feet. “You need to teach me that move.”
Glorfindel felt mesmerized, seeing the laughter and pleasure in those hazel eyes. Haldir seemed to exist of light and energy and he was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. /One warrior to another. We are the same./
That exact thought had drifted through Haldir’s mind as well. And like a warrior, he planned to take what he wanted. Glorfindel would fight him, and he wasn’t sure which of them would win this battle, but one way or the other, their future would be decided shortly.
After their bout, they mounted again and returned to inspecting the borders. Hazel and azure eyes regularly sought out one another, casting probing glances and trying to find out where the other stood.
Haldir was growing hopeful that his feelings were mutual and couldn’t help flashing back to Erestor’s advice to seduce Glorfindel. But contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t a flirt and had little experience when it came to seduction. So how did one go about seducing a Balrog Slayer?
Said Balrog Slayer was entertaining similar thoughts. He was still trying to understand why the attraction hadn’t been there three thousand years ago, but maybe they had been too stressed at the time. He cast a longing glance at Haldir, but the silver-haired Elf was scanning the horizon. He had never felt such an attraction before and he hoped Haldir felt it too. But how was he to find out? If he made a move now he would seem insincere and rushed, as they had just met, but his body begged to differ. During the sparring match, when he had straddled Haldir, he had grown hard with desire and if his men hadn’t been watching them, he would have been tempted to simply rip the tunic from Haldir’s body. Such lust, such passion was new to him and was quickly taking over. He wasn’t sure how long he could withstand the desire to devour Haldir alive.
Haldir sighed softly, hoping Glorfindel hadn’t noticed his aroused state when he had managed to reverse their positions during their sparring match. He ached for the blond, wanted to taste him, make him come and swallow every drop the Balrog Slayer would give him. He stopped himself when his fantasies got more vivid, imagining Glorfindel squirming beneath him, whilst he thrust into the welcoming body.
Glorfindel’s voice shook him from his fantasies and he quickly composed himself. But how much longer could he fight off this desire to ravage the Elda? These feelings were quickly overwhelming him and causing him to stop thinking rationally. “We will return to Imladris before nightfall and I was wondering if… if you would agree to joining me for dinner in my rooms? The Hall of Fire can be rather loud at times and sabotage a good conversation.” Aiya, he hoped he wasn’t too transparent by issuing this invitation. He wasn’t sure *if* anything would happen once they were alone and had some privacy, but he was curious to find out.
“I am honored and accept your generous offer,” said Haldir in a hoarse voice, hoping Glorfindel had issued that invitation for the same reason that he had accepted it. Tonight would certainly be interesting.
Erestor spent the day inside his rooms. He had carried several pillows to the balcony, creating a nice, comfortable nest there. Sinking back into his soft pile of pillows, he listened to the song of the birds and the gentle splashing of the waterfall when it reached the stony surface. Imladris was beautiful and he wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his life here as a scribe or servant.
He would have preferred to work here as a healer, but he couldn’t reveal his healing powers to Elrond. There was too much risk that the half-Elf would then connect him to the healer who had saved his life, and he wasn’t comfortable with Elrond finding out the truth. What if Elrond for some reason decided that the baby was solely his and would take her away from him? He couldn’t rule out that the half-Elf would be furious with him for keeping his secrets.
It was clear that he had to keep his identity a secret and he had to implore Haldir not to let anything slip to Glorfindel. He smiled, happy for Haldir that he was in love again. It would be best for the march warden to get over him by falling for Glorfindel. /Haldir has to forget about me. We never had a future to begin with./
Closing his eyes, he focused on the little one growing inside him and he gasped softly, feeling the baby’s first kick. “Oh, you are a feisty one!” He had felt that! “Are you trying to tell me something?”
Elrond’s words returned to him, telling him to eat more. That reminded him, the breakfast tray was still on the table in his bedroom. Maybe he should try to eat something. He pushed himself to his feet, keeping one hand beneath his abdomen and sat down in front of the breakfast tray. The tea had long grown cold, but there was water as well and he drank that. Next were the apple and the strawberries. He already felt full, but knew the baby needed something more substantial to grow. He tried the raspberry preserves that had been placed beside the bread and managed to eat three slices.
Feeling full and bloated, he struggled back to his feet. “I hope you are happy now, little one.” The baby reacted with another fierce kick and Erestor hoped she was merely expressing her approval.
Once he was settled down amidst his pillows again, he wondered why he was so convinced that his baby was a girl. It was instinctual, he assumed.
“I will do everything I can to make sure you are happy here.” He realized he should start thinking of a name, but didn’t want to jinx it, as he was still afraid that he would suffer another miscarriage.
Leaning back into the pillows, he realized he had seldom felt happier. Maybe when he had lived with Elwing and had felt part of her little family. /It is strange how everything went. I minded Elrond when he was a baby and now I am carrying his child. When did everything become this complicated?/
Having been lured into a state of relaxation, Erestor watched Arien begin to move lower in the sky. Ithil was already rising, telling him he must have spent many hours here on the balcony. It was probably time for dinner and he wondered if another tray would be delivered to his room. Ah, well, he could hear it from here if someone knocked on his door, and he couldn’t be bothered to move now that he was this comfortable. And to be honest, he wasn’t sure if he could still get up.
“Elrond?” Glorfindel stepped into the half-Elf’s study and searched the stormy eyes. Elrond always appreciated his company during the evening meals, but tonight, Glorfindel had different plans. “I won’t be joining you for dinner.”
Elrond raised an eyebrow. “And why might that be?” Although it was really none of his business, he liked to tease his friend once in a while. Especially now when Glorfindel’s skin was flushed and the eyes rather dilated.
“I asked Haldir to join me for dinner in my rooms.” Glorfindel saw no reason to lie to the Peredhel. Knowing Elrond, the half-Elf would quickly find out what was going on in his household anyway.
“Haldir of ‘Lorien?” Elrond gave Glorfindel a cocky smile. “May I assume there is a reason why you did that? I gather you would like to compare battle strategies? Discuss tactics? Maybe spar?”
“Someone already told you,” groaned Glorfindel, collapsing on the chair opposite Elrond’s desk.
“I overheard two of your men when I went for my daily walk in the gardens. It seems you were bested, my dear Glorfindel.” Elrond grinned broadly.
“I did not yield!” said Glorfindel in a pouting tone, ashamed that Elrond had heard about the embarrassing performance he had given.
“Nay, you did not have to because he saved your honor by helping you to your feet.” Elrond rose from behind the desk, covered the distance between them, and rested his hands on the armrests of Glorfindel’s chair, effectively keeping his commanding officer in place. “And now you are blushing and averting your eyes?” His thoughts raced. “My, Glorfindel, should I assume that you are in love with our beautiful march warden?”
“You think Haldir beautiful?” Glorfindel sized Elrond up, as if considering him competition.
That jealous reaction brought a grin to Elrond’s face. “Peace, my dear friend, I do not desire Haldir!” Although he acted cheerfully most of the time, he still missed Celebrian. She had been his other half for so long. But thanks to his mysterious healer, he no longer grieved for her and had again found his zest for life. If only he could thank his savior for that!
“You are not interested in him?” Glorfindel wasn’t sure if Elrond was merely teasing him.
“I am not interested in Haldir,” said Elrond reassuringly. “Even if I were, I doubt my children would approve of me taking a new mate so soon after their mother sailed for Valinor.”
“Are the twins still hunting Orcs?”
“Aye, and I won’t feel at peace until they return safely home.” The light-hearted tone had vanished and Elrond began to pace his study. “I expect Arwen to arrive home in a few days.” She had retreated to a small cottage further up the Bruinen to have some privacy for quiet reflection.
Glorfindel rose from his chair, hoping Elrond had been sincere when he had said he wasn’t interested in his march warden. “Celebrian told you to love again before she left.”
“I know that,” said Elrond, sighing. “But my family is not ready yet for a new addition.”
Glorfindel had almost reached the doorway when he turned around. “I almost forgot to ask… How does our pregnant Elf fare?”
“I examined him. As long as no complications occur, he should be able to carry the child to full-term. But you were right when you told me he was easily frightened. I barely had a chance to study his face, as he was constantly hiding behind his hair.”
Glorfindel realized he had forgotten to ask Haldir about their mysterious healer, and said, “I want to wait a little longer before questioning Haldir on your savior. I do not want him to think that I am befriending him in order to gather that information when I am truly interested in him.”
“Haldir of ‘Lorien has the reputation of being an excellent warrior, Glorfindel. You might want to be tactful and cautious for a change.”
Growling, Glorfindel replied, “I already know he can best me. I will be careful all right.”
“You are excused then, but I would like for you and Haldir to join me tomorrow evening. Erestor might feel more at ease with Haldir close.”
Glorfindel hadn’t considered that in his desire to get Haldir alone. “I will be there tomorrow evening.”
“Good, you may leave then.” Elrond returned to his desk and sat down to finish the day’s paper work. Realizing Glorfindel hadn’t left yet, he looked at the Elda. “Yes?”
“Are you going to keep an eye on Erestor? When I asked Haldir to join me I did not think of the effect it might have on our pregnant Elf.”
“I will look after him,” said Elrond reassuringly. “And now take a bath, Glorfindel, if you want a chance with Haldir you’d better not stink of horse and dirt!”
“Maybe he likes that smell,” teased Glorfindel in return.
“You do not really want to find out! Go!” Elrond shooed Glorfindel from his study and once the blond was gone, he realized it was time to change for dinner. He had been working all day long and a bath and a clean set of clothes was just what he needed.
Haldir dotingly stared at Erestor, who was still asleep amidst a cloud of pillows. He had first wanted to wake the dark-haired Elf, but had then reconsidered. Erestor needed his rest and he had seen the nearly empty breakfast tray. His main concern had been that Erestor hadn’t eaten all day, but now he felt reassured. “I will check on you later.” Much depended on how his ‘date’ with Glorfindel went.
Elrond frowned; everyone had arrived for dinner, which was about to be served, except Erestor. Looking at Lindir, who sat to his left, he asked, “Did Erestor tell you why he is not joining us?”
Lindir’s eyes widened slightly. “My Lord, I have not spoken with him since his arrival. I assumed you would tell him to join us for dinner.”
“Then he does not know he is expected here.” Elrond felt the overwhelming urge to bite his fingernails, an old habit that he thought he had overcome millennia ago. But now he felt nervous, as well as guilty for being such a poor host.
“I will ask Erestor to join us.” Lindir began to rise from his chair, but sat back down again, seeing Elrond raise a hand.
“Nay, stay. I will see to that.” Elrond pushed back his chair and signaled for the servants to start serving dinner. “Erestor and I will join you later.”
A soft murmur traveled through the Hall of Fire. They were more than willing to wait until Elrond would join them again, but no one dared to disagree with their Lord.
Elrond left the hall and headed for the guest quarters, where he hoped to find Erestor. What else had he forgotten to tell Erestor? Briefly, his thoughts drifted to Glorfindel and Haldir, who were having a private dinner. Ever since Glorfindel had returned from the great Halls of Waiting he had hoped that the blond would find a suitable mate. It wasn’t the way of the Elves to stay unattached. /I hope you are up to the challenge, my dear Glorfindel./ He had heard on several occasions that Haldir could be stubborn and a handful. /Well, in that case they are evenly matched./ Glorfindel also was a pain in the butt at times.
He had finally reached his destination and knocked on the door to Erestor’s rooms. “Erestor? May I come inside?” When he didn’t get an answer, he grew worried and knocked again. “Erestor? Is all well? Would you please answer me?” But still there was no reply.
“Erestor?” Carefully, he turned the doorknob, finding that Erestor hadn’t locked the door. Soundlessly, he entered and looked about. The first thing he noticed was that Erestor was nowhere in sight. The breakfast tray was still on the table, but as he looked around, he grew worried. Where was Erestor?
Then he noticed the missing pillows from the bed and couch. Where had they gone? The balcony doors were wide open and Elrond slowly stepped onto the balcony, smiling when he found Erestor fast asleep amidst the soft fabrics. But then his gaze darkened. Had Erestor been here all day? He would have expected some curiosity from the Elf, who might have explored the Last Homely House a bit, but now he realized that Erestor had done nothing of the kind. Erestor had stayed in his rooms after the examination. That really wasn’t acceptable. Erestor might have had enough fresh air out here on the balcony, but he needed some exercise as well. /I have to take charge and make sure things happen differently from tomorrow on./
The current circumstances did leave him with a dilemma, as he didn’t want to startle Erestor awake. /But I have to wake him up. He needs to eat something./ Experimentally, he cleared his throat, hoping it was enough to wake Erestor.
Something disturbed his formerly peaceful sleep and he startled awake, finding Elrond towering over him. “My Lord!” Quickly, he tried to push himself to his feet, but failed, losing his balance when he stumbled over his own two feet.
Elrond instinctively reached out and caught the stumbling Elf. “Be at peace. I am merely here to remind you that it is time for dinner.”
“Dinner?” Big-eyed and forgetting he was supposed to hide behind his long hair, he stared searchingly into Elrond’s eyes.
“Aye, dinner. You cannot afford to miss a single meal in your current state.” Elrond still had a tight hold on Erestor’s arm and used it to steady the other Elf. “Will you join me for dinner?”
“I… you did not have to… not hungry…” A bit startled to find Elrond this close, Erestor averted his eyes, wondering why Elrond had come himself to tell him that it was time for dinner.
“I do not believe you are not hungry.” Elrond carefully steered Erestor toward the bathroom. “Would you like to freshen up first?”
“Yes…” Erestor swallowed hard, and moved into the bathroom the moment Elrond released his arm. He closed the door behind him and stared at the mirror. What was he supposed to do? Did Elrond want to dine with him privately or would he have to face an entire room of Elves? He wasn’t sure he could do that.
Trying to regain his composure, Erestor splashed some cold water onto his face. His hair was a tangled mass and he quickly ran a comb through the strands, biting down the pain when he encountered a knot. Listening closely, he could hear Elrond pace his bedroom. By the Valar, the Peredhel was still there! Probably waiting for him! There was no way out of this! Drawing in a deep breath, he hoped he would survive this evening.
He stepped into the bedroom once more and immediately sensed Elrond’s probing eyes on him. “I am ready to go.” He felt somewhat proud, realizing his voice sounded steady.
“Allow me to guide you to the Hall of Fire.” Elrond caught Erestor sharply drawing in his breath and wondered why. “And in case you are wondering, Haldir won’t join us tonight. It appears Glorfindel and Haldir have a lot to discuss.” Eyeing Erestor closely, he was pleasantly surprised to find a stunning smile on the handsome face. Apparently Erestor had noticed the attraction and approved. /I am glad he does. Things might have turned awkward if he continued to need Haldir close. I wonder what the exact nature of their relationship is./
Erestor nodded absentmindedly. “Aye, I assume two warriors like them have a lot to talk about.” But he did regret missing Haldir’s company. Then he chided himself. Haldir was entitled to a life – and love – of his own. “I do not know Lord Glorfindel that well, but they seem equally matched.”
“Aye, they are.” Elrond proceeded to tell Erestor about the sparring match, hoping it would break the ice between them, as he found he liked Erestor’s quiet, but solid company.
“Haldir defeated him?” A smile seemed plastered onto his face, trying to imagine the look on Haldir’s face when he told the famous Balrog Slayer to yield.
“Haldir has quite a reputation as a warrior.” Elrond hoped that talking about Haldir might bridge the emotional distance between them. Again, he wondered why Erestor seemed so familiar. And again he failed to recall exactly why.
“He has been my champion for many millennia.” Erestor bit his bottom lip. Why had he let that one slip?
“For how long have you known him?”
“Over five thousand years,” replied Erestor, realizing he had to be more careful in future. Elrond was intelligent and would find out the truth about him, otherwise.
They had reached the Hall of Fire and Erestor tensed. Every Elf in Imladris seemed to have gathered here, but he knew he was only seeing a fraction of the valley’s inhabitants. “Do I really have to go inside?” Oops, had he really said that aloud? He had merely wanted to think it.
“Would you prefer a more private setting?” Elrond was more than willing to humor his guest.
“No!” said Erestor quickly, preferring this crowd to being alone with the half-Elf.
“Let us join them then.” Elrond carefully took hold of Erestor’s arm and guided the pregnant Elf to the main table, where Lindir and a few other Elves were seated. He now felt grateful that his table stood slightly apart from the crowd. “Please sit down here.”
Erestor’s eyes widened, realizing he was sitting at Elrond’s right side -- at the main table. He hadn’t expected that. Gingerly, he seated himself. He had hoped to blend in with the crowd, but he could forget about that now. A servant appeared beside him, placing a plate in front of him. It was filled with various fruits and his stomach growled, reminding him he had to eat for two.
“Eat,” decreed Elrond, smiling at Erestor’s surprise. /What was his life like in Lothlorien? I will try to make him open up to me. Maybe he knows something about my mysterious healer./
When the second course was placed in front of him, Erestor realized he was being served food items that were different from the others. Why?
Catching Erestor’s questioning look, Elrond quickly explained. “I asked the cook to prepare some special dishes for you. You need to be on a special diet and these foods were selected because they will stimulate the baby’s growth and strengthen you.”
“That was very thoughtful of you,” mumbled Erestor in a tiny voice. He was surprised that Elrond had done that for him and it urged him to eat as much as possible. When he had left Lothlorien, he had thought that he would see Elrond just for the examinations, but now he wondered if the half-Elf wanted to befriend him as well. It was more than he had ever hoped for.
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