Heart In Chains
Hours later, after having eaten the noon meal, Lindir escorted Erestor to Elrond’s study. Once Erestor was safe with the half-Elf, Lindir took his leave.
Elrond smiled at seeing Erestor enter and rose from behind his desk. “Good afternoon, Erestor. Please seat yourself.”
Erestor grew nervous, seeing the brilliant smile on Elrond’s lips. Why was Elrond so glad to see him? He gingerly seated himself opposite the half-Elf, the same place where he had sat yesterday. In front of him lay a book, bound in leather, which looked ancient to him. Next to it was a pile of notes. He assumed it was his task to sort them out and he didn’t mind at all, for it meant he would remain here in Elrond’s study for most of the afternoon.
“I am relieved to see you, Erestor. Upon my return last night I found you had left my chambers.” Elrond had studied his guest and reached the conclusion that Erestor seemed fine today. “Was anything amiss? Was your stomach still troubling you?”
Erestor took the way out Elrond offered him. “Aye, I felt unwell, but a good night’s sleep helped me recover. I feel better now.”
“In that case, would you do me the honor of having dinner with me tonight? And this time without Haldir and Glorfindel, as I have the feeling they need some privacy.”
Erestor knew he couldn’t refuse the Lord of Imladris and nodded reluctantly. “I accept.”
Noticing the conflicting emotions on Erestor’s face, Elrond decided a change in subject was in order. “Would you like to help me today? I seem to recall you offered your assistance yesterday.”
“I did,” confirmed Erestor. “I gather this is it?” He pointed at the notes and book.
“Aye, I need help with that. Over the years, I collected a large number of recipes for potions with healing qualities and they need to be committed to this book. My handwriting is hard to read at times, so do not hesitate to ask if something is unclear.”
Erestor’s interest had been aroused, realizing he might learn recipes for healing potions he didn’t know yet. “I will copy them in my best handwriting.” He held his breath, seeing Elrond rise from behind his desk to lean in closer to open the book at the appropriate page.
“You can start writing here. List the potion’s effects first and then its ingredients and quantities,” instructed Elrond.
“I understand.” Erestor shifted on the chair until he had attained a comfortable position. Picking up the quill, he gently dipped it in the ink and began to write, aware of the fact that Elrond’s eyes never left him. The half-Elf was studying him and suddenly he began to panic. What if Glorfindel had lied and *had* told Elrond after all? But no, Elrond couldn’t possibly be that calm in that case. It was his just own nervousness that was driving him to panic.
Elrond noticed the way the fingers that held the quill trembled ever so slightly and wondered if he had done anything to make his guest uncomfortable. He was about to inquire why Erestor felt uneasy, when Lindir suddenly burst into his study unannounced.
“My Lord! The Lady Arwen has just arrived! I hurried here, thinking you would want to know!” Lindir was panting, having run part of the way.
“Arwen? My daughter is home!” Overjoyed, Elrond gave Erestor an apologetic look. “Do you mind if I desert you to welcome her?”
Erestor managed to hide the apprehension sweeping through him. Arwen, Galadriel’s granddaughter and her favorite, had returned to Imladris. /I knew my happiness would not last./ Arwen had probably taken after Galadriel, as the two she-Elves had spent a lot of time together. An absurd thought occurred to him. /Did Galadriel sent Arwen here because she knows I am here? Is Arwen here to spy on me? Oh, by the Grace of the Valar, what do I do?/
“Erestor?” Elrond frowned when Erestor didn’t answer him. He caught one moment of intense stress in the chocolate eyes, but Erestor quickly locked it away again.
“Please welcome her and do not worry about deserting me,” said Erestor, forcing a smile onto his face. “I am sure you long to be reunited with her.”
“Thank you.” Elrond smiled at him and then hurried out of the room to meet Arwen.
Erestor stared at the quill. A moment ago he had been completely happy, and now his world was collapsing all around him. /Like Galadriel, Arwen will make my life miserable and I am in no condition to leave this place. I have to put the baby first and she will need a healer close when she is ready to be born./ So this was it. His happy time here had finally come to an end.
Erestor’s eyes widened, realizing he had forgotten about Lindir. What was the white-haired Elf still doing here? “Do you not wish to join Elrond in welcoming the Lady Arwen?”
Until a moment ago, that had been exactly Lindir’s plan, but now he reconsidered. Erestor looked lost and he didn’t want to leave the pregnant Elf alone. “I can welcome her later. What would you like to do? Continue to work here or—“
“Aye, I would like that. It is quiet here.” Erestor placed the tip of the quill back on the paper and continued to write, ignoring Lindir.
Lindir felt at a loss, but he still didn’t want to leave Erestor. “I will return here in one hour to escort you back to your rooms. That way you have more than enough time to rest before joining us for dinner in the Hall of Fire.”
The quill stopped moving. “I do not think I will join you tonight.”
“I doubt Lord Elrond will approve of that. There will be a feast to celebrate Lady Arwen’s return.”
Erestor didn’t want to attend a feast, but couldn’t say that. “I will be there.” His place at Elrond’s side would doubtlessly be taken by Arwen, banishing him to a table with strangers. But maybe he could convince Haldir to desert Glorfindel momentarily to support him.
Lindir nodded approvingly. Laughter, song and dance was just what Erestor needed. Hopefully it would cheer the distressed Elf up. Closing the door behind him, he left Erestor to his work.
Elrond’s heart filled with joy at seeing his daughter. Arwen had taken some time to sort out her feelings after Celebrian had left and he was relieved to see her healthy and smiling. “I missed you!” He opened his arms, caught her in them and pressed her carefully to his chest, giving her a tight hug.
“And I missed *this*, Ada,” whispered Arwen, somewhat smothered in her father’s embrace. She had always loved being buried in a hug by him. “I am glad that I am home.”
Elrond reluctantly released his daughter and smiled at her. “You look well, Arwen. When you left I was afraid you would not return so quickly.” She had been sad and depressed – understandably so after losing her mother – and he had been hurt deeply, realizing he couldn’t help her deal with the loss, that it was something she had to do herself. First she had spent some time with Galadriel, who had comforted and supported her the months after Celebrian had left, and later, she had retreated to one of the cottages near the Bruinen to find her strength again. Now that she had found peace of mind, she had been eager to return home.
Studying her father, she realized Elrond had also found a way to deal with the loss. “And you look absolutely radiant.” She had been afraid to lose him when Celebrian had sailed. He had become withdrawn, and had stopped eating. But it seemed he had recovered nicely. His inner light burned bright again.
“Radiant?” repeated Elrond, slightly stunned at hearing that.
“Aye, it is in your eyes.” Arwen cocked an eyebrow. “Did I miss something whilst I was away?”
“A lot!” said Elrond cheerfully, taking her arm and escorting her to her rooms. “Glorfindel got married for example.” He knew he had stunned his daughter – as he had planned – when she stumbled over her feet. He caught her and smiled at the dumbfounded expression in her eyes.
“Glorfindel?” Arwen rolled her eyes. “Our Glorfindel got married?” She laughed warmly, shaking her head, her reaction mirroring Elrond’s when he had found out. “I never thought that scoundrel would ever get married. And who is the lady that has made him lose his head?”
A frog suddenly seemed to be caught in Elrond’s throat, when he coughed, “Hal…dirof… ‘rien.”
“I did not quite catch that, Ada.” Arwen wondered why her father was suddenly blushing.
Elrond shaped up. “Haldir of ‘Lorien.”
“But Haldir is a male Elf… Oh…” whispered Arwen, growing flustered as well. “I never knew he favored males, as he seemed to be flirting with the ladies all the time.” She had met Haldir once and had seen him from a distance several times during her stays with her grandmother. Haldir had been an imposing figure and had greatly impressed her. Celeborn had once mentioned he had utter trust in Haldir. Hearing that he had married Glorfindel stunned her. “I will blush when I meet them, I just know it.” She’d had a crush on Glorfindel when she had been a child, and she still secretly adored him.
“I doubt you will be the only one blushing,” said Elrond, offering her some reassurance. “I still need to get used the idea of them being married as well. I just hope they will behave in public, but knowing Glorfindel’s mischievous streak I doubt it.”
“I agree,” whispered Arwen in a conspiracy tone. “Ah, it is good to be back!” They had reached her rooms and she entered them, glad to be home, surrounded by her personal belongings. She extended her arms and spun herself around. Exhausted, she flung herself into her father’s arms minutes later. “I won’t be leaving for quite some time,” she said, knowing Elrond wanted her close. “Will dinner be served in the Hall of Fire tonight?” Arwen sat down, tired from the trip, but she still wanted to make an appearance tonight. She was dying to see Haldir and Glorfindel together and secretly she hoped they would misbehave. That would liven up the normally dull evening meals.
“Aye, and before I forget to mention this to you; we have a guest with us.”
“A guest?” Curious, she cocked her head. “Do I know that guest?”
“Nay,” said Elrond, growing slightly nervous. “His name is Erestor and Celeborn asked me to supervise his pregnancy.” Looking at her, he waited for her to fully understand what he had just said.
“But you said ‘he’…” Her voice trailed off, her eyes grew big and she jumped up from the couch. “Are you telling me he is pregnant?”
“I think that is what I just said. Almost eight months to be exact.” Elrond smiled, bemused. “I think you will like him. He is a bit shy, but I am sure you can make him feel comfortable and welcome here.”
Arwen was still trying to wrap her mind around the concept of a male Elf being pregnant. “And he will stay here until after the birth?” Her father was a renowned healer, which was probably the reason for her grandfather sending Erestor here.
“I think so. Celeborn would like for Erestor and his child to settle down here and become part of our household.”
“There will be a baby in our home?” Arwen was overjoyed. “I always was the baby, at least Elladan, Elrohir and you treated me like that. Now there will be another baby.” Her motherly feelings awoke. “Do you think Erestor will need someone to watch his baby? Would he let me help?”
“Arwen, calm down. I am sure he will appreciate your offer to help, but the baby has not been born yet.” Arwen’s enthusiasm was making him giddy in turn. “And aye, it will be good to have a little one in the house again.” Until now, he hadn’t really realized that. This baby would have a lot of Elves fussing over him, as they would all want to pamper him. Children were a grand gift to them and Elrond was sure the baby would be everyone’s favorite.
Arwen was smiling happily. “And I will get to meet Erestor this evening?”
“At dinner.” Elrond placed a parental kiss on his daughter’s brow, knowing she would want to freshen up and change her clothing. He was about to push down the door handle, when he turned around to ask Arwen one last question. “You visited ‘Lorien many times. Did you ever hear of an extremely powerful healer who resides there?”
Arwen searched her memory, but had to disappoint her father. “I did not.” Seeing he was about to ask another question, she quickly added, “And I never heard about Erestor either, if that is what you want to know.”
“That was what I wanted to ask you,” admitted Elrond. He nodded absentmindedly, feeling disappointed now Arwen couldn’t help him solve any of these two mysteries. “I will see you at dinner, then.” Elrond returned to his study, hoping Erestor hadn’t left *again*.
“Ha, you are still here, good!” Relieved to find Erestor still writing down the recipes in the book, Elrond took his seat behind the desk again. “I apologize for running off like that, but I have not seen Arwen for several months. Losing her mother was hard on her… on all of us.” Elrond noticed that the fingers holding the quill still trembled, but the handwriting remained impeccable.
“No need to apologize,” whispered Erestor, not making eye contact. “I understand you were eager to see her.” An hour had passed by and he expected Lindir to return any moment now. Their afternoon walk was off of course, now that Arwen wanted to spend time with her father. He already dreaded having to face her at dinner.
Elrond was about to tell Erestor more about his family, when Lindir knocked, and entered. Frowning, the half-Elf wondered what Lindir was doing here.
“Ah, you are back,” said Lindir, smiling at Elrond. “I was wondering if you required my services this afternoon in looking after Erestor.”
Elrond shook his head, slightly confused. “Nay, Erestor will stay with me. We will work for another hour and then we will go for our walk. I will return him to his quarters before dinner.” Frowning, he added, “Is my tailor already working on Erestor’s new robes?”
Erestor blushed at that. He knew he needed new clothes, as he was quickly growing out of the ones Lindir had brought him. They wouldn’t fit in another month.
“Aye, and he already completed the first garment.” Lindir smiled at Erestor. “I think you will like it. I will have a servant deliver it to your rooms before dinner.”
“Thank you,” whispered Erestor, wondering if he would ever stop thanking them for their kindness.
“It is our pleasure,” said Lindir reassuringly, who then left them to their work.
Now that they were alone again, Elrond wanted to start another conversation, but sensed Erestor preferred to work in silence for now. Something had upset the Elf. /Is it Arwen’s arrival? But why would her presence upset him?/ Maybe he could find out during their walk.
“Erestor? I cannot help but wonder who fathered your children and why he is not here.” This subject had to be addressed. Maybe he could help. Erestor’s scared expression worried him, but Elrond did not retract his question. “Is it Celeborn? Haldir? It will be hard to hide if the baby is born with silver hair.”
Erestor, feeling cornered and slightly hysterical, laughed bitterly. “My daughter’s hair will be as black as the night.”
Elrond arched an eyebrow. “So none of the ‘Lorien Elves fathered her?”
Erestor bit his bottom lip. “I cannot tell you who fathered her.”
Elrond accepted that reluctantly. “Can you tell me why the father is letting you do this on your own? You need his support.”
Erestor’s eyes danced wildly in their sockets and he looked away, hoping Elrond didn’t catch his extreme discomfort. “He does not know he has fathered her.”
Elrond froze in his tracks. “What? Why did you not tell him?” It vexed him that Erestor was doing his best not to meet his gaze. “Erestor?”
“He is married and has a family of his own. I do not want to cause him any embarrassment.” Erestor was extremely nervous and tried hard to sound calm, but inwardly his feelings raged.
Elrond forced back a growl that seemed to rise from the pit of his stomach. “He has a family of his own and yet he fathered a child with you?”
Flinching at Elrond’s tone, Erestor realized he had made a grave mistake. “I do not want to discuss this any longer. Can we return to the house, please?”
Elrond realized Erestor had misunderstood. Gently, he placed his hands on Erestor’s shoulders and slowly turned him around until they were face to face. To his relief, Erestor allowed it. “You misunderstood. I am not cross with you, but with him! He should have known better than to bed you when he has his own family.”
Forcing a weak smile onto his face, Erestor stared at Elrond, rendered speechless by the half-Elf’s words. “Can we please stop discussing this? It upsets me.” He was about to burst out into tears and his unbalanced emotions were making it even harder.
The half-Elf saw the swimming eyes and nodded. “Let us continue our walk.” He released Erestor from his hold and fell into step beside the pregnant Elf. “Have you already thought of a name for your daughter?” Erestor was convinced his baby would be female and he trusted the other’s instincts. Elves did have a special sense for this kind of thing.
“Nay,” whispered Erestor, a bit more at ease with answering this question. “I…” He briefly glanced at Elrond and then averted his eyes again.
“Please tell me what is troubling you.” Elrond had caught the distress in the dark eyes.
“Camfael asked me to read about the documented cases on male pregnancy, and the outcome was never happy. The babies either died, or the pregnant Elf suffered such grave complications that his fëa traveled to Mandos.” Now that he was opening up, he felt he couldn’t stop. “Either I, or my daughter will die, and I do not want to think of a name, knowing…”
Elrond rested a hand on Erestor’s arm and said, “That won’t happen. I will be there to prevent it.”
“Please remember that I want you to do everything to save the baby, even if it means my death.” Erestor pleadingly looked at Elrond. “I lost my sons and will not go through the mourning process again. I prefer to die.”
The naked pain, staring at him from those big eyes, urged Elrond to repeat yesterday’s actions and he carefully embraced Erestor, guiding the other Elf’s head onto his shoulder, as he was slightly taller than Erestor. The pregnant Elf briefly objected, but when he kept him in place, Erestor relented and rested against him. “You might not fully realize it, but you have a friend in me, and as your friend, I am offering you comfort.”
Erestor relished being in Elrond’s arms again, but he felt like a fraud for not telling Elrond the truth. /But I cannot do that… Telling him would ruin everything./
Erestor closed the door to his rooms behind him and advanced on this bed, seeing Lindir had kept word to deliver his new robes before dinner. Gray robes, made from the finest silk waited for him on his bed, lined with silver. They were light, soft to the touch and wouldn’t add to the bulk he already carried.
Tears appeared in his eyes and this time he was unable to force them back. Cursing his fragile state of mind, he let them flow, but made sure not a single tear stained his new robes. /These are gorgeous, Elrond, thank you for them, but you did not have to do this./ He hoped no one would stare at him once he entered the Hall of Fire.
The knock on the door took him aback and he considered not answering, unwilling for anyone to see him cry like this.
“Erestor? It is I, Haldir. I know you are in. Elrond told me when I ran into him in the corridor.”
Erestor sighed, and wiped away his tears. “The door is open.”
Haldir, followed by Glorfindel, stepped inside and headed for the distraught Elf on the bed. Erestor probably never realized that his sobs had been audible in the corridor. Signaling for Glorfindel to remain behind him, Haldir went down on one knee and gathered Erestor’s shaky hands in his. “Why are you crying, lirimaer?”
Erestor cleared his throat and met Haldir’s eyes, still not realizing Glorfindel was also present. “Elrond… had these robes… made for me… He did not… have to do that.” Erestor continued to wipe away his tears, which refused to stop flowing. “I hate being in this way!”
“You are pregnant and these mood swings are part of it,” said Haldir soothingly. He stroked the long, dark hair and smiled at Erestor. “It is a good thing Elrond cares this much about you, is it not?”
Glorfindel, watching them, cursed himself for ever promising not to tell Elrond. There was no need for Erestor to suffer in this way, if only the pregnant Elf could bring himself to tell Elrond about the bond!
Erestor -- finally calming down -- nodded, and caught sight of Glorfindel, standing behind Haldir. “I think it is, but…”
“You are afraid to hope his interest in you will last,” said Haldir knowingly. “Erestor, no one knows what will happen in the future. Live your life each day to the fullest.”
Glorfindel nodded his approval. “Elrond does not offer his friendship lightly. He will always be there for you.” He wished he could somehow soothe this troubled soul.
Erestor had stopped crying and stared at the robes. “I am supposed to wear them tonight… I think.”
“You will look marvelous in them,” said Glorfindel softly. “But first you should take a bath and braid your hair.”
“He never wears braids.” Haldir shrugged.
“That will change now,” said Glorfindel firmly. “That is, if you will let me braid your hair?” He gave Erestor his best pleading look, hoping the dark-haired Elf couldn’t deny him.
Sighing, Erestor nodded. “I will let you.”
“Excellent! Off with you into the bathroom, then!” Glorfindel beamed with pride, now that he had made Erestor give in.
Erestor flinched. “I think I need help taking a bath. I have trouble getting to my feet again.”
“I will help you,” offered Haldir quickly, seeing Glorfindel was about to offer his help as well. “You will wait here… and behave.”
“I always behave!” pouted Glorfindel, sitting down mockingly. Tapping his foot on the floor, he watched them disappear into the bathroom. After the door had closed behind him, he jumped to his feet, left the room and headed for his own quarters. He had just the perfect piece of jewelry to adorn Erestor’s raven hair.
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