Disclaimer: I own nothing, except the plotline. Even Gildor Inglorion isn't mine--Tolkien had him first.
Warnings: None except that it's slash. A faithful reviewer, Melanie, asked so nicely for this that I couldn't refuse. For anyone familiar with my previous work, this has a very different tone. Melanie wanted a tender, romantic little fic that discussed Gildor's and Haldir's relationship, so that's what this is.
Archiving: OLAS and anyone else who wants it, just let me know.
A/N: This is a continuation of my previous Unspoken story arc (Unspoken/Revelations/Changes.)
One Last Time
By Rune Dancer
Second Age, 3121: At King Thranduil's court
"You don't like me, do you, seneschal?" Thranduil was examining his favourite falcon, a blue/grey creature with bright, black eyes, but Glorfindel could not help but feel that it was he who was under inspection. The bright morning sunshine illuminated the large, open field behind the palace where they stood, near Thranduil's extensive mews filled with gerfalcons, peregrines, and sparrow-hawks of all shapes and sizes. Hawking was a popular sport in Mirkwood, and the king had a collection of truly majestic birds, all trained to hunt as well as any warrior. The king's current pride was Balantaur, who truly seemed to believe that he deserved his name--he was as pompous as a king himself. Indeed, Glorfindel thought he saw something similar between the two, as Thranduil stroked his proud pet's sleek feathers. "Not that I blame you, of course, that was a nasty little trick I perpetrated, wasn't it? But then, I flatter myself that, in my position, you would have done the same." "I must differ with you there, your majesty."
Thranduil looked up, and his glance was as keen as the sharp eyes of the bird he held. "Oh? But then, you are accustomed to living in safety, aren't you, seneschal? Residing at peace under the roof of one of Arda's most powerful elves. Oh yes, I don't like him, but I will concede the truth, even about my . . . " Thranduil broke off, although whether to release Balantaur or to avoid insulting Elrond in front of his servant, Glorfindel was not sure. It mattered little of course, as his meaning was plain enough.
"Enemy? Lord Elrond does not consider you to be . . . "
"Oh, I am sure he does not." Thranduil replied easily, shielding his eyes with his heavily gloved hand as he watched his favourite soar aloft. The latter was needed to insure that his hawk's talons did not do as much damage to its master as to its prey. "But, then, I am equally certain he would have found some very high sounding but firm way of saying no, had I requested your assistance in this matter." Thranduil glanced at Glorfindel, and that charming smile broke across his face once more. Glorfindel did not trust him any further than he could throw him, but even knowing everything that he did about Thranduil, he had to consciously force himself not to smile back. "Aren't you going to release Brinhalm? I believe she wishes to join her mate in the hunt."
Glorfindel looked down in almost surprise at the large white bird shifting restlessly on his arm; he had almost forgotten it was there, despite its not inconsiderable weight. As he released the falcon to soar upwards, he told himself to keep his mind on business, rather than on the impressive figure of his companion. Thranduil was quite a distraction, however, although just why he was Glorfindel couldn't have said. The king's silver fair hair was drawn back by a simple tie at his neck, with none of the elaborate braids his station gave him the right to wear. His hawking attire was rich--jade green suede and crisp white linen, except for a few brown leather accessories like his glove--but no more so than any well off elf might have worn. A large emerald sparkled on one hand, but it, like the ruby the night before, was carved like a signet ring, and Thranduil wore no other jewelry--not even his circlet of office. Of course, Glorfindel thought with sardonic amusement, if wasn't as if he needed a badge to proclaim himself king. No one could be around him for more than a few seconds and not recognise that here was the master of Mirkwood. Perhaps that was his true charm--the air of command he wore so easily.
"He cares for his own convenience, as do we all, of course, and it would certainly inconvenience him to lose a servant such as yourself." It took Glorfindel a few seconds to realise that Thranduil was still talking about Elrond. "Although I am sure he cares for you as well," he added, amused to see the angry glint that had come into Glorfindel's eyes. "I understand that; as a king, my people's well-being is my first responsibility also. So perhaps you can comprehend why I am concerned that whatever creature is wreaking havoc in my lands threatens those whose lives are my responsibility. I needed an expert to help with the problem; I knew where to find one; and I obtained his services in the most time and cost efficient manner possible. Most would say that was good stewardship, although I will, of course, understand if you should differ." Glorfindel had the distinct impression that Thranduil was laughing at him, but nothing but goodwill shone in those bright green eyes.
"I would not dream of arguing the point, my Lord. It is, at this juncture, irrelevant."
Thranduil clapped him on the back, warmly enough to almost send him staggering, but Glorfindel kept his balance. "I quite agree, but back to our original discussion. I will wager that you would have done the same as I under similar circumstances, but of course, you would never have to, would you? Vilya protects Imladris, as Nenya does Lorien. But we here in Mirkwood--closer to Mordor than any other Elven realm, and beset with many other dangers as well--have no such good fortune. Here we must rely on the keenness of our bowmen and whatever wisdom I have managed to acquire through the years, to fight or bargain our way out of difficulties. Other elves, who do not face the daily problems we do, find it possible to look down their noses at us. They say that we here in Mirkwood are too low minded, too venal, too base, to be true elves. They say "wood elves" in the same tone of voice some use to say dwarf or human, as if talking about something not kin."
Glorfindel started, surprised to hear Thranduil own his and his people's reputation so bluntly. "They say of me--yes, seneschal, keep your fair words of diplomacy, I prefer plain speech--they say I am more dwarf than elf, and love gold and mithril and the jewels of the ground more than green things that grow. Yet does not the same ground that feeds the trees form the crystals the dwarfs so prize? Does flower's crimson shine brighter than that of ruby, or water run with a fairer light than sapphire? When will Imladris or Lorien need to pay such things to form alliances among men, or to buy off an enemy--both of which I have been forced to do in the past and may yet do again. If your Lord wore Vilya not, the treasures I accumulate so carefully might mean more to him than they do. We wood elves, too, fought and died in the Last Alliance." Although Thranduil did not say it openly, Glorfindel knew he was thinking of Oropher, his father, who had been one of those who fell in the great battle. His death formed a prime cause for the tension between the two realms as Thranduil still blamed Elrond, in part, for the tragedy. "We send aid when something threatens our people, but the same courtesy is not always extended to us."
Thranduil looked skywards again as his hawk closed in on a fat partridge, which its mate had flushed out of the undergrowth. "Oh, well done! Are they not magnificent birds, seneschal?"
Glorfindel murmured suitable compliments to the birds' prowess, and in truth, he was grateful to them for the reprieve. The force of Thranduil's words, when coupled with the king's vibrant personality and earnest expression, was enough to cloud even Glorfindel's usual clear head. But he was given little time to escape the spell the ruler of Mirkwood wove so well, for he turned back to him almost at once.
"My people are dying, seneschal, because of whatever it is I have out there. Twelve, so far we have lost--those with homes on the outskirts of my realm--twelve who by rights should never have tasted death, and who looked to me for protection! And the danger draws closer every day, but my people have had no luck even in tracking it. In my place, speak truly, would you have acted so differently?"
"Probably not." Suddenly, it seemed difficult to Glorfindel to justify animosity over the ruse used to trick him here, when such danger threatened.
"Then you concede the point; I have won my bet."
"But, no bet was made, your Majesty."
"Ah, my dear Lord Glorfindel, did I not say, I will wager with you? You need to pay more attention--your debating skills have grown soft, serving a master who only wishes to hear his own thoughts echoed back to him. You should try working with someone who would value your advice, and heed it, too, in matters where your experience outweighs his own. But then, it is early days yet; we will speak of this again sometime. For the moment, let us resume discussion of your forfeit. Do you know," and Thranduil smiled charmingly at him once again, a devilish glint in his viridian gaze, "I rather think I have something in mind." Seeing Glorfindel's slightly widened eyes, the king's booming laughter echoed through the forest, startling even more birds from their perches and giving his falcons ample work to do.
Second Age, 3121: At King Thranduil's court
"That's it, just a bit more, my lad, and we'll have it!"
"Have what?" Glorfindel entered Erestor's cell alone--the guards had apparently been told to pass him through without escort--and he could only be glad of that fact considering the sight that met his gaze. Erestor's ample backside was sticking out of a hole in the ceiling, where one of the massive stones making up the cellblock had somehow been slid partially aside. He reminded Glorfindel of a plump rabbit that, as an elfling, he had once pursued while learning to hunt, only to have it duck into the bole of a tree seeking shelter. It had been too large for the small opening, however, and had just hung there, little rabbit feet scrabbling uselessly in the dirt, fat haunches twitching. He had laughed so hard at the sight that he couldn't shoot it. He felt a similar sensation now, which was just as well considering what Erestor was evidently trying to do.
"Glorfindel, is that you?" Erestor's voice was muffled, but his feet began kicking excitedly. "Oh, good, you're just in time. Give us a hand, will you?"
Glorfindel was sorely tempted, he really was, as the Valar only knew when such an opportunity would come his way again. His hand actually twitched for an instant, before he quashed his ignoble impulses and, grabbing hold of a small, satin slipper, gave a yank. Erestor tumbled out of the ceiling and back onto the bunk below, before bouncing onto the floor.
"I meant for you to push me UP, you ridiculous elf," he sputtered, when he had righted himself. "Now we'll have to do this all again. Give me a hand up," he demanded, sweeping his dark braids from his eyes and clambering back onto the bunk.
"A hand up to where?" Glorfindel asked, highly suspicious, although it was pretty obvious what was taking place. Legolas' bright head appeared a second later, peering down from above, and several mysteries were suddenly solved for Glorfindel. "Now I know why your mood suddenly improved yesterday--at the same time as the return of the prince from his travels. He must have visited you last night, when I assume you two hatched this plot?"
"Lord Glorfindel, a pleasure to see you again," Legolas commented, with all the aplomb of one seated in state in the Great Hall, rather than hanging upside down from a hole in the ceiling. "Truly, I swear to you my Lord, I had no idea that father planned to keep Erestor in here. I was certain he would be treated well, as befits his station."
"Yes, well, no hard feelings, young one," Erestor assured him, and Legolas beamed at him with his father's smile. Glorfindel sighed, seeing the sweetness of that expression. They were supposed to be improving relations with Mirkwood, but if Erestor proved true to form, the opposite seemed far more likely. "Glorfindel, your assistance if you please!" Erestor was still standing with his hand held out, looking as imperious as possible with his robes tied up about his waist.
"But I do not please. Erestor, we have to talk."
"Father got to him," Legolas told Erestor, tilting a head slightly to one side to get a better look at Glorfindel. "I told you this might happen."
"Glorfindel!" Erestor looked furious. "Honestly, you are as bad as a child. To let a pretty pair of eyes charm you out of all sense of duty--and at your age!"
Considering the reason they were in this mess to begin with, Glorfindel was rendered momentarily speechless at Erestor's temerity. He recovered fairly quickly, however. "No one has 'gotten' to me," he said caustically, as Legolas dropped gracefully into the room and perched on the bunk. "I did have a conversation with his majesty this morning, and I happen to agree with his reasoning. I do not approve of the methods he used to get me here, but I do think . . . "
"I just cannot believe this!" Erestor looked perfectly outraged. "The elf deceives me into coming here, lures me into a trap, has those brutish guards of his truss me up like some deviant and drag me here, accuses me of something he knows perfectly well I didn't do, and throws me into this . . . this sty, leaving me to rot! And now, after one day--ONE DAY--in his company, you have suddenly become his loyal supporter! Yes, well, my dear Lord Glorfindel, you feel free to stay here and . . . socialize . . . with your new friend. I am going back to Imladris, and the first thing I shall do on arrival is to tell Elrond JUST what I think of the so-called help he sent me."
Glorfindel leaned against the wall and crossed his arms, looking at Erestor's bristling figure with amusement. "And shall you also explain how you managed to get away so handily? Or, would you prefer for me to write to him, giving details of your, er, explorations into the art of wine production?"
Erestor narrowed his snapping dark eyes. "Elrond and I do not have an exclusive relationship. If you really believe you're going to blackmail me . . . "
"My dear Erestor, I wouldn't dream of it. However, if your relationship is as open as you say, it does beg the question of why, exactly, you listed the reason you did for your trip? Why not simply say, 'I've been captivated by the lovely son of your greatest enemy, Elrond, and although I am supposedly your advisor, I can assure you that my dalliance in Mirkwood will have absolutely NO effect on any counsel I might give in future.'"
Legolas had been watching the rapid wordplay between the two of them with interest, his head swiveling back and forth as they spoke, but now he concentrated his attention on Glorfindel. "I think you should know that Lord Erestor has already planned to inform Lord Elrond of our relationship as soon as he returns. I am going to live at Imladris so that we may be together." This was said with a loving look for Erestor and one of haughty disdain for Glorfindel, he supposed for his appalling lack of faith in Legolas' beloved. Glorfindel refrained from rolling his eyes--the elfling was obviously in earnest--and instead concentrated on Erestor's sudden unease.
"Oh, well, in that case, do forgive me, and please, won't both of you accept my heartiest congratulations? It is good to see Erestor finally able to settle down with just one person, rather than skipping lightly about after every pretty face who passes through. Yes," he smiled at the angry flush that darkened Erestor's cheeks. "I know Elrond will also be pleased at the news, and will join me in insuring that you two are very happy. Just think of it, bondmates for all eternity, never even looking at another elf as long as you live, finding all you need in each other's embrace . . . it is, truly, a beautiful picture."
"Legolas," Erestor's voice sounded a bit strangled, but he did manage a smile. "Would you go check on the arrangements? We need to make sure that this delay will cause us no trouble." Legolas regarded the love of his life with slight suspicion--tragic, Glorfindel thought, how little trust there was in Arda these days--but left, bouncing up to the hole in the ceiling and disappearing through it with a dancer's grace.
"I shall, of course, make all arrangements for the bonding," Glorfindel assured his rapidly purpling colleague. "It would be quite unfair, I think, to leave you to have to plan your own wedding . . . "
"You are the most evil elf in Arda."
"No, but you were rather lowering yourself, don't you think, teasing the poor elfling so? The child can't be much above his majority, Erestor; trifling with the affections of one so young, especially when you have every intention of throwing him over as soon as you pass Imladris' borders . . . well, it's hardly worthy of you."
"He did the same, and worse, to me. At least I have no intention of having him thrown in prison!," Erestor commented, sitting sulkily on the cot.
"He only did his father's bidding--and he must feel something for you, or you would not have been able to corrupt him so easily. In any case, you don't need to resort to such clumsy subterfuges. I've already arranged to have you moved to a guest suite upstairs. Thranduil agrees that, in light of the aid I am willing to provide him, it is the least he can do."
"How very generous of him." Erestor looked sourly at his companion. "You have gone quite mad, you know. Chasing down a Balrog on purpose? I don't care how charming Thranduil is, you'd be better off to leave with me, now."
"There's no Balrog, and you aren't going anywhere." Glorfindel smiled. "Really, Erestor, do you believe something like that could be loose in Mirkwood and not have burnt the whole place down by now? Forests aren't the usual haunts of fire demons for good reason."
"But something is out there. Legolas told me there have been numerous unexplained fires, and the homes of some families on the edge of the kingdom have been completely destroyed."
"Yes, but it isn't a Balrog that is causing the trouble--I would be willing to wager anything you like on that."
Erestor laughed shortly, but looked less grim. "Wager? You've been around Thranduil too long already. Seriously, Glorfindel, be careful. That one acquired his reputation for a reason. Legolas says his word is good, but that you had better be very careful that you know what that word is. Make sure you understand exactly what you're getting into, if you make any agreements with him. He doesn't mind twisting words to get his way."
Glorfindel smiled. "That, my dear Erestor, is exactly what I'm counting on."
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