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1
Comfort

Disclaimer: The characters, the context and the main plot belong to Professor Tolkien, whom I greatly admire. I’m only trying to fill in the gaps he so graciously left for us, fanfic writers, to have some fun.


~~~

A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION

This story is being written as an answer to a birthday challenge, for those very supportive members of the Silmfics group who have encouraged my writings all the time. After Círdan had generously written a birthday fic for me two months earlier, I offered to follow the hobbit custom and write a birthday present for my friends until October 2002.

Therefore, the individual chapters are dedicated to different members of the aforementioned group, according to the wishes their voiced. All events described in this story are canon – in the sense that you won’t read here anything that would contradict any canon fact. Since we all understand something different under “canon”, let me clarify: I consider “canon” everything that is in “The Hobbit” or in LOTR, since these are the books Tolkien himself felt fit to publish. I usually follow the “Silmarillion” or “Unfinished Tales” for Frist and Second Age stuff, and often use things from the HoME-books, but with these, I allow myself a lot more freedom.

Any influence from “The Lost Tales 1.” has been embraced by choice, in this one.

Oh, and my heartfelt thanks to Cirdan for beta-reading.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

CHAPTER ONE: COMFORT

Dedication: Chapter 1 is for Finch who wanted these two Elves to have a good time together.

Author’s notes:
The name of Gil-galad’s castle is courtesy of Aerlinnel. Gildor’s Mum was christened by Artanis. Elrond’s infamous hair is an investment of The Tired Scribe, though I lessened it a little. I don’t know who has the™ for the Erogenous Elven Ear.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[Mithlond, in the year 442 of the Second Age]

Elrond had been sitting in the main hall of Mithlond’s library since sunrise, hunched over his very own writing desk in focused silence, while his hand moved with smooth elegance along the finely-drawn lines on the parchment. Unlike other scribes, he preferred to write in a sitting position – he was often laughed at because of this peculiar habit, but he cared not. He found it easier to keep his writing even while sitting, not to mention that it made the creation of the exquisite miniature illustrations that opened every new page a lot easier.

And there was much work to do. The High King wanted his own library ready for transporting once his palace, Edenalphond above the port of Forlond was finished, and though that work might take many more years yet to finish – several decades, in fact, in spite of the help of Dwarven stone masons – there were even more books and scrolls to copy.

Of course, on an ordinary day there would have been dozens of lesser scribes working on the same huge project, headed by Pengolod, the greatest lore-master still in Middle-earth. Only that this one was not an ordinary day. It was the day of Erulaitalë(1), Midsummer’s Eve, when the great Sea Festival, the biggest and merriest feast of Lindon, normally began. And though the Falathrim celebrated it in a very different fashion than the Men in Númenórë, it still was their most important feast – one that lured in high-ranking guests from far-away Elven realms as well.

The opening ceremony, as always, would be held in the Sea Palace of Círdan the Shipwright – a place of great and strange beauty that had been the home of the Lord of the Falathrim ever since the change of the world. A most wondrous place it was, indeed, built in the likeness of the Lord Ossë’s own home of old, back in Valinor, and with the help of his vassals, or so it was told among the Falathrim.

Elrond, who came to live with the High King under Círdan’s roof somewhat later, having spent a length of time with traveling across Middle-earth in the company of Eönwë, knew not how much of these rumors was truth and how much was pure legend. But indeed, though made of carved white stone, the Sea Palace’s walls shimmered with the pearls that adorned them in intricate patterns mimicking seaweed and seashells; and it floors were paved grey-green in a wavy muster like sea-water; and its tapestries were like the glint of silver skins of fishes, showing their true colour only when the sunlight fell upon them in a particular vector. And its roof of white stone looked like the foam that crowned the waves.

There was a huge sea-gate under the palace, opening to the gulf of Lhún directly – though it might have been false to call it a gate, for it always stood wide open for the Sea, and it was said that the vassals of Ossë, the Oarni and the Falmaríni and even the long-tressed Wingildi often swam up the Gulf to the palace itself to visit the Shipwright.

The spirits of the foam and the surf of the ocean they were, often seen far away in the open waters, dancing and laughing while riding the crests of the great waves – but only during the Sea Festival did they come near the shores, filling the hearts of the gathering Elves with great joy and awe, with their music, laughter and weightless dance.

They did it for Círdan alone, whose eyes had once opened for the first glint of the new starlight in Cuiviénen. For Círdan, who never left the shores of Middle-earth, not even after the very shores at which he had spent his life had been drowned in the dark waves, even after so many of his kin had left, had been their friend ever since then, remaining on this side of the Sea, out of love to the endless ocean and its Lord. And his people, who stayed with him, became separated from other Elves for a very long time – in speech and custom, but above all else in their great love for the Sea.

And so, though Ereinion Gil-galad, son of Fingon(2), was called High King of the Noldor, and several other Elven realms accepted his leadership, the Sea Festival was Círdan’s privilege to hold. Gil-galad might have been the King of Elves, but Círdan was the Lord of the Falas, even if he accepted the young King voluntarily, and there was no one who would challenge his authority among his own borders. Ever. Compared to him, all Elvenkings of Middle-earth were but children.

Only the golden Glorfindel, twice-born hero of the First Age and slayer of the Balrog was older than Círdan, and even he only by mere moments(3). But Glorfindel, having died and clad in new flesh, was restored to the youth of the Firstborn again, while Círdan had to live through all hardships of a long and hopeless war (wars, to be more accurate) against the Dark Foe, without the light of the Two Trees rejuvenating both his fëa and his hröa, and the passing of time, spent in Middle-earth in its entirety, left behind subtle changes, hidden deeply among his fine features.

One could not say that the Shipwright had aged – not the same way as mortal Men, even the long-living Edain of Númenórë did – but the changes were there. A slight hardness of the thin lines around his mouth or in the corners of his sea-grey eyes… so subtle, indeed, that none else but Elrond noticed. He knew these signs. He had seen them on the face of his own brother.

Having been given the life-span many times of that of common Men, Elros Tar-Minayatur, King of Númenórë, aged very slowly – yet still with an alarming speed for Elven measures. A whole Age left hardly more than slight imprints on Círdan – but Elros grew old in a mere five hundred years… and now he was dead.

The message about his passing had come only a few days ago. Ever since then, Elrond could not cease contemplating their strange fates and the mystery of aging. He was still fairly young for an Elf – would he be dead, too, had he gone with his brother, choosing the Gift of Men as well? Or would they have different life spans, just as common mortals have?

There was no answer to these questions, and he knew that. He regretted not having chosen to remain among the Firstborn, and the terms on which his ways parted from those of his brother had not been the friendliest, yet – for the first time in his life – he felt utterly alone. Lonely. Empty.

He had chosen to be an Elf, yet he understood at last that he always would be different. More than a mortal, for sure, but not quite an Elf, either. For the blood of mortal Men flow in his veins, too, and noticing the passing of time on Círdan’s face, who was one of the very Firstborn, made him realize that eventually he would begin to age, too. Slowly, gracefully, thank the inheritance of Melian, but eventually, he would. He might not die in mortal fashion, but should he remain in Middle-earth long enough, at the end he would show his age.

The sound of light Elven footfall broke him out of his musings. Someone was coming to fetch him. He sighed and put the pen back into its holder. He would continue his work later. No matter how little he wanted to join the festivities, it was inevitable that people would miss him. He belonged to the royal court, after all. And his absence would be an insult, not against Círdan alone, but against the Lord Ossë himself.

For this was the only time of the loa when the great and rather irritable Sea-Lord would show himself openly near the shores, in the company of his spouse, the Lady Uinen, escorted by the merry sea-spirits. Though it was whispered among the Falathrim that he often met Círdan secretly, in bays that were hidden from every one else’s eyes, and that they would hold counsels among themselves, unknown to any others.

Elrond listened not to these rumors; in truth, he cared little what the true bond between Círdan and his great Lord was like. The Shipwright was his host and his teacher, just as he had been once Gil-galad’s, and deserved his respect – a deep and honest respect that he gave willingly. Círdan remained an enigma for him, but not more so than Glorfindel, who had become so much more than a mere Elf after having returned from the dead – and whose closeness with Eönwë, Mightiest of the Maiar, was an other secret he was not eager to unlook.

Or the slight changes and increase of his own powers, resulted through the teachings of Eönwë, given him from mind to mind during their travels. The Herald of Manwë had explained him that the… enhancements were only possible because of the blood of Melian in his veins – and because he had chosen to remain among the Firstborn. But that answered not what was happening to him – only why.

If Glorfindel was more than a mere Elf, so was, in a lesser extent, Elrond himself. Yet at the same time, the mortal blood in his veins made him somewhat less than an average Elf. He could understand why Elros felt it too much trouble to live with all these different sides of his own nature and chose to become mortal ere the weight squashed him to death. Yet he also knew that it was not his way to choose.

The light steps came closer, and a moment later the heavy door opened soundlessly and in came Gildor Inglorion, another promising young member of the High King’s court. Though slightly younger than Elrond himself, Gildor was actually the same generation as Eärendil, and was as different from Elrond as it was possible for two male members of the same fair race. This was true for both their looks and their tempers.

While Elrond was marble-pale, even more so than the Noldor generally were, Gildor’s skin had the slight golden hue of the Vanyar, inherited from his mother. Elrond had raven-black hair, fine and weightless like cobwebs, that moved on its own by the slightest breeze – another trait inherited from Melian and Lúthien. Gildor’s hair was silky, too, but heavy like precious metal and glowed like molten gold.

Elrond had the clear grey eyes of Turgon, his great-grandfather. Gildor’s eyes were wide and greyish-blue like the sea-foam, somewhere between Noldorin grey and Vanyarin blue. Despite his mortal ancestors, Elrond was tall, slender and elegant in his stature; Gildor was equally tall, but, surprisingly, the one with a stronger, brawnier build that came from his Vanyarin ancestors. The only trait they shared were the high Finwëan cheekbones that gave both their faces a proud and kingly expression.

Their natures were even more different. For what could be more opposite Elrond’s quiet, scholarly nature than the youthful brashness of the youngest Prince from Finrod’s House? Though both Inglor and his wife, the Lady Lintári, were calm, measured and soft-spoken Elves, their children certainly took back to earlier generations. Especially Gildor had something in him that Glorfindel preferably called “the typical arrogance of the Finwëans,” hinting that the inheritance of the first High King was still strong, even in the fifth generation.

Needless to say that it had been no love lost between Glorfindel and the late King, though the twice-born Elf never told the story to any one.

Elrond shook his head, smiled inwardly and rose from his seat.

“What is it, Gildor?” he asked. “Am I being missed already?”

“Nay, not yet,” the blond Prince grinned, “but you will be, soon. The King has asked for you already.” He gave Elrond a queer look and added. “Your hair is a mess. Again. Scratched your head with the blunt end of that pen, have you?”

“Obviously,” Elrond felt around his head and realized that a few of his formerly tight braids had indeed come loose. “It matters not. I have to go back to my room and put on something more appropriate, or the King will have my head. This hair will be my downfall one day.”

“Want some help?” Gildor asked casually, eager for a chance to play with Elrond’s wondrous hair – like just about anybody. Elrond rolled his eyes; for him, his much-adored hair was naught but a nuisance.

On the other hand, it was easier to let someone else work his fingers wound with it. Even Elves could not get a good grasp on their own heads.

“If you want…” he said with a shrug. “Come with me, then.”

They went over to the living area of the palace, where they both had their rooms. Elrond pulled the simple working tunic over his head and laid it over the back of a chair, then walked to his wardrobe to choose something to wear. Gil-galad wanted the members of his court to be clad properly, so he had seen to it that Elrond had something to choose from. He was the young Peredhel’s next of kin, after all.

“Nay,” Gildor shook his head when Elrond selected a gold-embroidered robe in deep, burgundy red, “that would make you look even paler than you already are. ’Tis not your colour.”

He wore dark blue and silver, which made his golden hair shine even brighter. If aught, he certainly had a good taste in clothes.

“It matters not,” Elrond shrugged. “I look pale whatever I wear. And I like red.”

Now it was Gildor’s turn to roll his eyes, but he knew Elrond well enough to cease arguing. Once the Half-Elf had made up his mind, there was no way to change it.

“Sit down then,” he said instead, “and let me bring this bird’s nest in some sort of order.”

Elrond laughed quietly; the friendly banter with the hot-headed blonde Prince lifted his spirits a little, as always. They were not truly friends, but with Gildor around, one could not brood too long. He sat down obediently, and Gildor, producing a finely carved bone comb from his belt pouch, began to unbraid and comb his hair. The smooth, even moves were strangely soothing, nearly lulling him into a nap.

“Your neck is too tense.” Gildor pushed the comb in his hand and slid his strong fingers into the incredibly silky, black hair. “If we cannot loosen these knots, your head will ache for the whole festival.”

He was an excellent sword-fighter and archer, and practiced hard to keep himself on a hard edge. Therefore, his fingertips were calloused, and as he began to gently massage Elrond’s scalp and neck muscles, that soft hair crackled under his fingers, sending tiny jolts through Elrond’s skin. The occasional brush over the sensitive tip of an ear helped not, either. Elrond suppressed a groan and leaned back into Gildor’s skilled hands.

“Have you ever thought of becoming a healer?” he asked with closed eyes, focusing on the wonderful sensations. Gildor laughed. It sounded like a purr of a big cat.

“Nay; too bothersome. I prefer to be pampered, not to pamper. And if I were a healer, I would have to tend to every one in need. I am… picky in whom I lay hand on.”

Elrond opened a suspicious eye. “Does it mean that you like to lay your hand on me?”

“You should only ask the questions you truly want to get answered,” replied Gildor with a devious grin and began to rebraid his hair. To Elrond’s envious surprise, it took him mere minutes to get the unruly mass under control. “Now, get dressed. The Festival begins in less than an hour.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Sea Festival was marvelous as always, but this time it could not capture Elrond’s heart, nor his mind. He liked the Sea as much as any other Elf (aside of the Falathrim, of course, who were simply part of the Sea), but the great love for the waves and for ships he had not inherited from his father. It always had been Elros who dreamed of great journeys and strange lands beyond the waves, where he could build his own kingdom.

He got his wish. Over 400 years had he ruled Númenórë – a great King of Men, a ruler of peace and order. And now he was gone, bringing the shared memories of their childhood to his grave. With Maglor gone, too (if in a different fashion), there was no-one else to whom Elrond could truly belong.

Sure, Fíriel still remembered the little sons of Elwing from Sirion, but she very nearly died back there when the maddened sons of Fëanor destroyed the settlement and slew most of its inhabitants, and never saw the elflings grow up, become strong, learn things, adapt and change. That was something the brothers shared with each other only, and now with Maglor gone and Elros dead, no one else would remember.

He sighed and shook his head, wondering idly if his foster father had heard of Elros’ passing. Ever since the message came, he had thought of Maglor often… where he might be, wandering restlessly in everlasting anguish over what he had done, what he might be doing now… No one had seen Maglor since the end of the War of Wrath when he tried – with the help of Maedhros – to wrestle the Silmarils from Eönwë.

Maglor would love a Festival like this, he thought absently, snuggling closer to Gildor who had a loosely-wrapped arm around his waist; there was so much comfort in the closeness of the high-spirited young Prince. A feast where Maiar would come to the shore to join our merriment and sea-spirits would dance for us upon the waves. It would remind him of his childhood, spent among the Lords and Ladies of the West. What wondrous songs he would sing for us, was he here, I wonder?

“You wonder too much,” replied Gildor, and Elrond realized with a half-smile that he had spoken aloud. “You think entirely too much for your own good. ’Tis a feast – try to enjoy yourself!”

“My brother has just died, Gildor,” Elrond reminded him, mildly annoyed. The blonde Prince shrugged.

“So what? You had lost him already, four hundred years ago.”

“Nay… not truly,” Elrond protested. Gildor gave him the Finwëan eyebrow.

“You think so? Tell me: how often have you visited him on that island of his? Or how often has he come back to see you?”

Elrond answered not. ’Twas true, the contacts between him and his brother had been scarce at best, since Elros set sail for Númenórë. A few messages… the announcement of the birth of children… half a dozen visits from his side (Elros never came back to Middle-earth)…and then the news of the King’s death. Gildor, though rather blunt, was right. He had lost his brother a long time ago.

Still, it hurt badly.

“See?” said Gildor, and his eyes softened a little. “No need for driving yourself into endless grief. ’Tis a very old loss you suffer.”

“And a very old pain,” Elrond replied softly. Gildor nodded.

“I cannot attempt to understand you fully,” he said after a while. “My life has been sheltered, so far. But I can offer you comfort, if you are willing to accept.”

Elrond blinked in surprise. Despite all the flirtatious jokes Gildor spread so easily around, the offer came unexpected.

“I doubt that your parents would approve,” he answered. “They live by different rules than the Sindar.”

“Yet they dwell on Middle-earth now,” said Gildor, “and respect the customs of those they live among. They allowed me to partake in the Choosing Ceremony, after all!”

“But I never saw you take on any offers during earlier feasts,” Elrond said. Gildor gave him a wry grin.

“Apparently, you never looked closely enough. Fíriel kept you on too short a leash, it seems. Which reminds me – how come you are not with her tonight?”

Elrond shrugged. “We agreed to end our… involvement. ’Twas never earnest among us… based mostly on shared memories. Ending it makes me – or her – no more lonely than we were before.”

“You are not old enough to be so wisely boring.” Gildor tightened his one-armed embrace around Elrond’s waist. “Come, let us escape the crowd. I shall make you forget your concerns, at least for tonight.”

“We cannot go now!,” protested Elrond, suspiciously near to panic. “The opening ceremony has barely begun – we would be missed!”

“You truly believe anyone would notice?” With his free arm outstretched, Gildor pointed towards the shore where Ossë and his whole court was emerging majestically from the waves; all eyes were focused on the enchanting sight. “They have seen us attend the feast. Now that ’tis going on, they could not care less whether or not we still are here.” He leaned closer and nibbled a little on the sensitive tip of one ear, knowing well that it would turn Elrond into putty in mere moments. “Come, I know just the right place…”

“You are one evil, manipulative Elf!” Elrond groaned; the ear thing never failed to undo him. Gildor grinned.

“I know. And you are a brooding, miserable Half-Elf in serious need of some merriment and pampering. I shall see to it that you get what you need. Now, be quiet and come with me!”

Elrond hesitated for a moment, comparing the shining golden light that was Gildor to the tall, dark, forbiddingly beautiful image of the High King that had haunted his dreams for quite some time by now – and gave in. Once again, Gildor was right. He had denied himself far too long.

“I fear I shall regret it,” he said with a deep sigh, “but you can be very… persuasive, when you put your mind to it.”

“Why should you regret aught?” laughed Gildor and began to pull him by the hand towards the palace. “Nay, you shall enjoy yourself – and no-one would find us. I promise.”

Elrond smiled ruefully, for indeed, that was his only remaining concern: to be found in the middle of a merry tryst, while he should be attending to the official festivities. Despite them being casual friends only, Gildor had already learnt all too well the pathways of his thoughts.

“You fret too much,” Gildor added lightly. “You spend too much time with Gil-galad. One day you will become just like him – when you find a way to let your nose grow three more inches.”

Elrond could not help but laugh, for truly, the only fault in the unblemished fairness of the High King, if one could find one, was the slightly long nose(4). Not that it would make him look less venerable, he thought. Gildor interpreted his laughter as an agreement and tugged him along to the backyard of the palace.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Your hair is a mess again,” Gildor said sleepily, letting the bone comb slide through Elrond’s black tresses.

“It held longer than usual… considering what we have been doing for the last hours,” Elrond replied, closing his eyes in deep satisfaction. “Is that comb of yours enchanted?”

“Not that I would know it… and I should. It was I who made it, after all.”

Elrond opened his eyes and turned to him in surprise. “You made the comb?”

“Certainly.” Gildor shrugged and turned the item in question a few times in his hands. “I have not the talent of my father or grandfather to carve stone… but I like to work with bone or horn. You like it?”

“’Tis pretty,” Elrond nodded, taking a closer look at the tiny stars, adorning the comb. Gildor shrugged again and pushed the it into his hand.

“It is yours then. Nay,” he raised a hand to stop Elrond from protesting, “’tis nothing. I can always make a new one for myself. And stars go more with you than with me. Humour me in this one.”

“Then I gratefully accept.” Elrond gave him the comb back. “Would you mind re-braiding my hair once more? We should return to the festival, or else someone will be sent to look for us.”

“Alas, that might happen,” Gildor agreed, getting to work eagerly. “And we would not want them to find out about us, would we?”

“Nay,” Elrond answered. “’Tis between you and me. It is we who should decide where to go with it.”

~~~

End notes:

(1) “Praise of Eru” (Quenya) – the midsummer feast in Númenor. (See: UT: A description of Númenor). Of course, the Sea Festival is an entirely different matter. Just the time of the year is the same.

(2) Still going with the Sil here. Forgive me, Finch.

(3) I cannot simply presume that everyone knows my other writings, so for the record: in my imagination both Glorfindel and Círdan had awakened at Cuiviénen – Glorfindel, being a Vanya, by default a little earlier than Círdan, a Telerin Elf.

(4) For better visualization: in my stories Gil-galad is “played” by actor Julian McMachon. (See: Profiler, Charmed, etc.)


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