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Fourth Age 5:
"Go ahead," whispered Finrod, speaking Sindarin. "Ask her to dance."
Erestor just shook his head, suddenly shy, and would not look up from the mosaic-tiled floor. It was a map of Arda, with Aman in the center. Most of it was covered with the feet of dancers as elves, whether Vanyar, Noldor, Teleri or, Sindar, mingled in the great hall of the High King of all the Elves.
Finrod, Prince of Eldamar and heir to the throne of the Noldor, looked upon the younger elf and smiled gently, his eyes compassionate. He saw an ellon with long dark hair and sea-green eyes with flecks of gold. In spite of the fact that Erestor was several millennia younger than the once King of Nargothrond, Finrod knew him to be a competent councillor and administrator to his friend Beren’s great-grandson, Elrond, who was also Finrod’s nephew-by-marriage as well as his first cousin thrice removed.
"She won’t bite, you know," he said with a wicked grin at Erestor’s discomfort.
"What’s her name again?" the younger elf asked. He was still adjusting to life in the Undying Lands and found most of it... unsettling.
"Lindorillë," Finrod answered. "She is the daughter of Cemendur Mastamo and Yavalda."
Erestor raised an eyebrow. "How is it a daughter of bakers is attending a formal ball welcoming your lady sister back home?"
Finrod smiled indulgently at the affronted sound in Erestor’s voice, however politely the question had been phrased. "She’s my squire," he said and enjoyed the surprised look on the younger elf’s face.
"Your... squire?" Erestor wasn’t sure he’d heard the Prince correctly.
Finrod nodded. "Yes," he replied. "She took formal oath to me some time ago."
"Not the Life Oath, surely?" Erestor asked in shock.
The Noldorin prince shook his head. "Nay, I would not accept that oath from her. The last time I took that oath from another...." His eyes darkened somewhat in memory and Erestor found himself looking away, shivering, though he wasn’t sure why. He was suddenly feeling rather young before this legendary Elf-lord, a feeling he had not had for quite a long time. Finrod seemed to realize what effect he was having on the elf standing beside him and smiled. It was as if Anor had risen.
"She was happy enough to take a... less binding oath," Finrod said. "I am well pleased with her."
"Now, go ask her to dance."
It was more than a suggestion but not quite a command. Erestor recognized the tone, for Elrond had used it on him often enough when he wanted Erestor to do something without having to order him outright. The elf sighed, nodded reluctantly and glided over to where the elleth in question was standing, speaking to her friends.
She was beautiful, he had to admit. He didn’t think he would find any of the Amanian elves to his liking, but he hadn’t been able to take his eyes off this particular elleth all evening. She was tall, taller than he by an inch or three. He sighed inwardly at that. His half Noldorin, half Sindarin blood meant that he was not as tall as most elves, though he was certainly as tall if not taller than most Mortals he had met. Her hair, which was braided into an intricate crown, was the color of ripened wheat; her eyes were a brilliant blue. She had high cheekbones and a shapely hröa, with just the right amount of curves. Her lips were full and generous and Erestor wondered suddenly how they would taste and had to force himself not to stop his approach.
She was dressed simply yet richly in a gown of gossamer silk the color of a summer’s sky, shot with greens and golds that brought out the beauty of her eyes. Her laughter was rich and fruity and Erestor had the sense that this one liked to laugh often.
As he approached, he had a sudden case of nerves and slowed his steps. He was never good with the social amenities and wasn’t sure what the correct form of address would be, and really, they hadn’t been formally introduced. He was about ready to turn back when she glanced up and saw him standing there, hesitant and unsure.
"My lord, is aught amiss?" she asked, looking concerned, and Erestor found himself mesmerized by her voice, a lovely alto, dark and velvety.
He mentally shook himself when he realized she was waiting for an answer. He gave her a bow. "Nay, my lady," he said, remembering at the last minute to speak Quenya, a language he understood better than he could speak, "all is well. I was wondering if... if you cared... I mean... if you would honor me with this next dance."
There. He’d said it. Why had it been so difficult?, he wondered. Then he waited anxiously for her to dismiss him with polite though meaningless words. Instead, she nodded graciously. "I would like that, thank you."
Erestor let out a breath he wasn’t aware he’d been holding and bowed again, offering his arm to her, but she did not take it immediately and now he wondered what was wrong. Damn! he so hated these social events and having to remember the correct forms of behavior and so on. He lowered his arm, not sure what he was supposed to do now if Lindorillë refused to take his arm. Without looking he could sense the amusement of the other ellith around them, as well as some of the ellyn standing nearby and could feel himself reddening in embarrassment. They were all Amanians, as far as he could tell, and he suddenly felt uncouth and...unworthy to be in any of their presence. Then he felt someone standing beside him and he glanced up (he really hated having to look up) to see Lord Finrod, who was smiling at him with some compassion.
"Allow me to make the proper introductions," the Elf-lord said quietly. "Lindorillë, this is Lord Erestor," Finrod said to his newest squire, "who has recently come to Aman. He is Lord Elrond’s Chief Councillor." Finrod then turned to Erestor. "My squire, Lindorillë, who was something of a trial to me when she was an elfling but has grown into a responsible elleth with whom I am well pleased."
Erestor saw the elleth in question blush prettily even as she gave him a proper curtsey. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance, my lord," she said demurely.
"And I am pleased to make yours, my lady," he said quietly yet fervently as he gave her his own bow.
"Well, Lindorillë," Finrod said with mild exasperation tinged with subtle humor, "you wasted enough time insisting on proper etiquette that you’ve missed the dance that I wanted Erestor and you to have before the two of us would be called away." He turned to Erestor with an apologetic smile. "I’m afraid that you and I have been summoned by Ingwë. You will have to wait until another time to dance with the fair Lindorillë."
Erestor sighed, trying and failing to hide his disappointment. He had been Elrond’s Chief Councillor long enough to accept that sometimes personal desires had to be put aside when his lord needed him. It was galling but it could not be helped. He nodded to Finrod and turned with a bow to the elleth and her friends.
"I regret we did not have the opportunity to dance, my lady," he said quietly. "Perhaps there will be a future time when we may do so."
"Perhaps," Lindorillë said and something in her tone caused her lord to frown slightly but Finrod did not comment. Instead he nodded to the group and without another word turned and walked away. Erestor followed, refusing to look back.
Finrod led Erestor to an antechamber off the hall where they found not only Ingwë, but Arafinwë, Olwë and two others whom Erestor did not know. He thought it interesting that there were no ellith in attendance and wondered what was up, for he saw that Elrond also was missing. He gave the three High Kings his obeisance and then waited for one of them to speak.
"You are Erestor of Imladris," Ingwë said and Erestor could not hide his shock when the High King of All the Elves addressed him in Sindarin. Ingwë hid a smile. "Why are you surprised that I speak the language of Ennorath, child?" he asked, gesturing for the younger elf to come closer. Erestor nearly fainted when Ingwë put an arm around his shoulders and led him to a chair, silently bidding him to sit even as the others took their own seats. "Finrod and Glorfindel were very good teachers." He cast a brilliant smile at his great-nephew who returned the smile with one of his own.
At the mention of his friend Glorfindel’s name, though, Erestor suddenly found himself weeping. He didn’t realize how much he missed that impossible golden-haired ellon. He understood why Glorfindel had remained behind to guard Elrond’s sons... and Arwen... and the Mortal descendants of his lord Turgon, but it had still been a wrench to his heart when they had said their final farewell. He thought he had accepted the fact that it might be some time even by elven reckoning before he saw his closest friend and confidant but Ingwë’s mention of Glorfindel’s name, the sense of unease at his new surroundings, the insecurity he felt as to his proper place in this new society and the very strangeness of the situation, proved too much and now the tears he had refused to let come flowed unheeded. He started to rise, to flee the room in shame for breaking down before these august personages, but Finrod held him in his place even as he was fishing out a handkerchief and handing it to him.
"You have nothing to be ashamed of," Arafinwë said solicitously as they waited for Erestor to bring himself under control. "My son has that effect on people."
Erestor looked at the Noldóran in confusion, then glanced uncertainly at Finrod who still stood beside him before turning his attention back to Arafinwë. "S-son?"
The Noldóran nodded. "Glorfindel became my ward when he was released from Mandos," Arafinwë explained. "It was deemed the best solution, for his own family...." He did not finish that thought and Erestor wondered at that. Glorfindel had never, ever, spoken of his relationship with those in Aman. Indeed, he rarely spoke of his time in Aman at all, keeping to generalities and insisting that whatever his life had been like in the past, it was less important than his present life in Imladris as Elrond’s Chief Captain of the Guard and Seneschal.
"I miss him," Erestor said quietly in the lull and blushed furiously at that admission, castigating himself for sounding like an elfling.
"As do I," Arafinwë said. The others all nodded.
"It is why we asked you here, child," Ingwë said. "We wanted to hear what you would tell us about one who is dear to all of us."
"Bu-but why?" Erestor asked in honest confusion. After all, they only needed to ask Lord Elrond if they wanted to have any information about Glorfindel. He certainly couldn’t add to whatever information the Lord of Imladris had already given them about his Seneschal.
"Were you not his closest friend?" one of the other ellyn asked. Erestor noticed the close resemblance the ellon had to Ingwë and suspected this must be Lord Ingwion, the High King’s heir.
Erestor nodded. "I... I would like to think so," he allowed, then gave them a lopsided grin, "though there were times..."
Now there was genuine laughter all around and Erestor began to relax somewhat, still unsure of the real purpose for this impromptu... interrogation.
"Be at peace, child," Ingwë said, perhaps divining Erestor’s thoughts. The High King was well aware of how the youngster was feeling, the sense of loss and confusion and frustration. Erestor, like so many of the elves who had recently come from Endórë, was still adjusting to the idea that they were no longer on a war footing. He had seen it happen numerous times over the last two Ages and grieved that any elf had had to suffer in such a manner. Ingwë knew the ellon sitting before him looking somewhat lost and bereft had not been a warrior himself, though Elrond assured him that Erestor was the best scout he had ever known, but still he held himself in that unconscious manner of many of the Tol Eressëans — as if they expected to be attacked at any moment. It had not escaped Ingwë’s notice that even as Erestor was making his obeisance to him, the younger elf was automatically cataloguing every person in the room and memorizing their faces, as well as checking for all the exits. ‘Just in case’ had been Glorfindel’s explanation when the High King had caught the ellon doing the same thing early in their acquaintance. Even for the Reborn, old habits apparently were hard to ignore.
"We are not here to question you," Ingwë continued, "merely to ask if you would be willing to share some of your memories about Glorfindel."
"How did you two become friends?" the other ellon whom he did not know asked. Erestor could see this elf was much younger than the others, even younger than himself, yet there was something in his eyes, something that bespoke of experiences the Councillor of Imladris would never have. It was a look that he had sometimes seen in his friend’s eyes and more recently in the eyes of Prince Finrod. The oddest thing about him, though, was the single warrior's braid that he sported, sparkling with gems in a pattern he recognized as Doriathrin. He wondered about that but understood that this was neither the time nor place in which to satisfy his curiosity about the ellon.
Ingwë must have suddenly realized that Erestor was unacquainted with everyone in the room. "Forgive me," he said before Erestor could answer the stranger’s question. The High King gestured to the ellon who looked so much like him. "This is my heir, Ingwion, and the other ellon is Sador. He was also a ward to Arafinwë at the same time as Glorfindel. In fact, Sador and Finrod consider themselves, and Glorfindel, not only gwedyr but muindyr."
Erestor gave Finrod an enquiring look and the once King of Nargothrond nodded. "Glorfindel and Sador became my surrogate brothers while my own brothers still remained in Lord Námo’s care."
"He... he never said," Erestor stated, now feeling embarrassed for his missing friend.
"I am not surprised," Arafinwë replied with a wry smile. "My son kept his loves ever close to his heart and did not often share them with others."
Erestor sighed. "Sometimes, late at night, we would gather in the kitchen after all the others had retired or otherwise were engaged in their own nighttime pursuits." He smiled at the memory and the others smiled back. "We would sit by the grate and sip wine. Most of the time we just sat there in silence, enjoying each other’s company." Everyone nodded, understanding what he meant. Erestor’s expression turned pensive. "One time, though, he suddenly started talking about... about riding across a snowfield in the middle of the night, making his way towards... Valmar to... to fulfill an oath, though he never said what that oath was."
Erestor barely registered the fact that everyone else in the room had gone perfectly still as he spoke, his mind intent on the memory of that rather unusual conversation. "I asked him why he was telling me the story and his reply was rather odd...."
"I was reminded of it earlier when making my way across the snowfields outside of Imladris," Glorfindel replied, taking a sip of wine and shifting his chair an inch or two closer to the grate where a warm fire cheered them. "I hadn’t thought of that journey in ever so long," he continued, giving his friend a wry smile. "It did not end well."
Erestor raised an eyebrow. "Oh?" was his only comment.
"Ingwë was... very upset," Glorfindel answered with a rueful chuckle, "and punished me in a rather unique way."
Erestor looked at his closest friend in confusion. "Why would Ingwë punish you for riding across a snowfield at night?"
The golden-haired Balrog-slayer laughed lightly. "Not for riding across a snowfield, for riding across a snowfield without his permission and on a stolen horse."
"You stole a horse?" Erestor asked in disbelief.
Glorfindel nodded but did not elaborate, merely staring at the fire and drinking his wine.
Erestor gave him a surreptitious look over his own goblet. "So how did Ingwë punish you?" he finally asked.
The once Lord of the Golden Flower of Gondolin shook his head, his expression darkening somewhat. "I’m afraid that is between me and Ingwë. Perhaps if you ever meet him, he’ll tell you, but I will not...."
"Nor will I tell you," Ingwë replied as Erestor came to the end of his narrative. "For it lies in the past and it is forgiven." He paused and his expression turned somewhat sorrowful. "It grieves me that even after all this time he still hates me."
Erestor stared at the High King in shock, shaking his head. "Hate you?" he echoed the words. "Glorfindel never hated anyone, ever!" His adamant tone shocked even him, but he knew that what he said was true. "And in the rare times when he mentioned your name it was with respect, nay, with deep affection. I do not know what happened between you, but I know Glorfindel and he reserved his hatred for the Enemy and for no one else."
There was silence for a time and then Ingwë nodded. "Thank you, youngling. I needed to hear that."
"More importantly, Uncle," Finrod said firmly, "You need to believe it."
The High King gave his great-nephew an indecipherable look and nodded once. "I do, child, I do," he said quietly.
There was a bit of uncomfortableness in the air around them, then Sador turned to Erestor. "You still haven’t answered my question, though. How did you and my gwador become friends?"
Erestor found himself laughing lightly. "Over an elleth, actually."
Eyebrows were raised all around and there were amused looks on everyone’s faces. "It’s usually just the opposite," Ingwion opined. "Many friendships end because of an elleth."
Erestor only smiled. "Well, in this case...."
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