The First Time…, Ever I Saw Your Face
Erestor lifted a steaming cup of rosehip tea to his lips then absently took a sip, his blue eyes meticulously running over several charters splayed out before him on the desk.
He was seated in the library; the home for tomes and ancient texts of the histories of Beleriand and Middle-earth collectively catalogued and pigeon-holed for posterity. Everything from the writings and illustrations on the healing properties of the plant life of Middle-earth to Elven law, or even the creation of Arda itself, you name it, it was here.
There were various scrolls of star charts and maps of lands and realms which either sat idle or had been spread upon the very surface of table tops, for future perusal.
Erestor loved the solitude of the library. The ambience made one feel like they had stepped back in time without the grief and despair typical of elven memory.
He did a lot of his work here uninterrupted except by the odd elf, looking for a quiet corner to flick through pages and pages of accounts, from the sacking of Eregion, Erestor’s own, or the Kinslaying of Doriath, which Elrond had compiled from the narratives of Maedhros and Maglor, and Sindarin survivors.
Erestor made a face at that thought. It must have been exceptionally awkward for Elrond, prizing that information from their foster fathers.
He and Elrond had been close since they were young, as children they had found themselves in the care of Maedhros and Maglor Feanorion. But they had parted ways after that; Erestor had ended up in Eregion and eventually with Celebrimbor; Elrond in Lindon, only meeting up again late in the second age.
The Councillor set his cup down and took up the quill dipping it into the ink pot. He scribbled his name and position on the bottom-most part of the charter that read ‘Woodland Realm’.
Sunlight suddenly streamed into the library through a large skylight in the roof, the shafts of light illuminating the dust motes present in the air and turning them gold as they floated about.
“Ah! There you are,” a voice interrupted and echoed across the room, causing Erestor to glance up.
Elrond was peering round the door, his grey eyes sparkling. He pushed the door open wider allowing a black cat to dart in through the space between him and the door frame.
“Callo,” Erestor cried, his face lighting up at the sight of his feline friend.
The cat jogged across the room and without hesitating jumped up onto the table, bumping Erestor’s face with his own. He sat back on the parchment purring loudly and staring at Erestor with his big green eyes.
The councillor laughed, giving the cat a much deserved scratch behind the ear.
“I see I am not the only one who has been looking for you,” the lord of Imladris said, smiling as he stepped further into the room.
“Oh?” Erestor said, arching an eyebrow as he replaced the quill and stood.“Is everything alright?” he asked.
“Yes, of course, why wouldn’t it be,” Elrond assured him with another smile, unrolling a star chart and pretending to be interested in its contents. He cleared his throat, “I…, ah…, came to ask, if you would join me for supper, purely business of course.” There he had said it, Elrond thought nervously.
Erestor smiled softly, “Business you say. In that case, I would, yes,” he replied, never one to pass up an evening talking about the finer points of business. He had counseled many a lord in his time and had been the coordinator of all trade between Eregion and Lindon. Eregion. The smile suddenly faded and his face returned to its sombre demeanour.
Elrond looked up. “Oh! Good,” he said, sounding surprised and relieved.
Erestor raised his eyebrows, a noise escaping his throat that could almost be considered a chuckle. It was something Elrond had not heard from the councillor for such a long time. It seemed almost unnatural to imagine Erestor finding something amusing. He had been such a grim individual since the events of the second age that had sent him a refugee from Eregion first to Lindon and later to Imladris.
Elrond smiled fondly at the councillor. “Forgive me,” he said, “I am a little rusty when it comes to socialising,” he admitted sheepishly, trying to keep the moment light hearted. “Celebrian was the one who organised such things.”
“You seem to be doing okay to me,” Erestor gave him a ghost of a smile..
Elrond’s cheeks flushed as he hastily rolled the star chart up and placed it back with the others.
“I better get back to it,” he said bashfully.
“Right,” Erestor responded as he lifted an eyebrow appraisingly.
Elrond stared back at him for a moment, a little mesmerized by Erestor’s blue eyes, they were beautiful. How had he not noticed before today? Then he remembered himself, clearing his throat.
“Supper then, in my chambers at seven?”
“I’ll be there,” Erestor reassured him.
Elrond smiled as he paused at the door, turning back to his friend, “We can go over some of the preparations for the summer festivities,” he said, then he disappeared beyond the door.
Erestor glanced down at Callo who had spread himself out across the charters and was proceeding to clean himself.
“You are a fine one, Callo,” he tut tutted his furry friend, then relented, giving the cat an affectionate stroke. “What will I ever do with you?” Callo meowed back in response.“Quite,” Erestor said as if he knew what his feline friend had said. “I suppose I could use a break.” He gave Callo a suspect look, “Don’t you touch anything,” he warned, “I’m going for a walk.” With that he was gone.
Elrond’s chambers sat overlooking an immense waterfall that cascaded into the thunderous waters of the Bruinen River, far below.
Erestor leaned on the balustrade taking in the scenery; feeling the cool tingle of the fine mist on his face as it hung in the air, he closed his eyes.
It had been a while since he had allowed himself any kind of luxury, to feel in any way.
A touch to his shoulder made him open them again and turn. Elrond handed him a goblet filled with sweet wine; he took a sip, savouring the crisp clear taste.
“Beautiful, isn’t it,” Elrond said of the view. “One of the advantages of being the Lord of Imladris,” he said wiggling his eyebrows.
Erestor raised his ebony eyebrows, “So is this how you won over Celebrian?”
“Oh yes! It was all about the view,” Elrond jested, with a smirk.
Erestor stared back at him impassively; the smile fell from Elrond’s lips and he cleared his throat.
“Shall we?” he gestured toward his chambers.
A table had been set, and a platter with all kinds of bread sat in the middle - the bread was fresh baked that day and the aroma wafted about the room, making the councillor’s mouth water. There was freshly churned butter and orange conserve, and this was just the starter.
Later, they lounged on a settle, relaxed and a little inebriated; braziers blazing in opposite corners of the room, the scent of cinnamon and apple permeating the air.
“Do you remember the time when we found that waterfall, and Elros refused to join us in the pool,” Erestor said. He chuckled softly, the firelight casting his face in a warm glow.
“Yes. Yes, I remember,” Elrond replied his eyes taking on a faraway look as the image of Erestor stark naked appeared in his mind, standing atop a cliff. A smile crept onto Elrond’s face. He had looked magnificent; broad shoulders and hair blue/black that spilled like a river to his waist, not to mention all the other parts and pieces to him. Was it any wonder Celebrimbor had pursued him.
There was a sudden knock on the door. “My lord!” Elrond jolted back to the present and the room.
“Would you like me to get that?” Erestor asked, making to rise.
“No, no!” Elrond hastily rose. “You relax, you are the guest here, Erestor,” he said, laying a hand on the councillor’s shoulder as he passed. He crossed the space to the door, opening it.
Erestor sipped his wine, listening to the low murmurs coming from the other side of the room. Elrond reappeared a few moments later. “I’m terribly sorry about this, but I am needed in the infirmary, a child has inadvertently stabbed themselves with a quill.” He shook his head at the absurdity. “But, please stay, enjoy the wine, it should not take too long and I will be back shortly.” Erestor nodded, “I’ll be here,” he said.
After Elrond had rushed out the door, the councillor drained his goblet placing it on the table in front of him and stood. Feeling a little light headed he wandered the room, curiously picking up ornaments, studying them and replacing them. He looked up at a sword and spear mounted side by side on the wall and read the inscription engraved on a plaque below; Ereinion Gil galad, High King of the Noldor. Sorrow flickered across his features at the memory.
“I did not know you kept this?” Erestor whispered to the room as he brushed his fingers along the blade of the sword, the runes inscribed, blazing to life, Celebrimbor’s craftsmanship. Erestor withdrew his hand abruptly at the response to his touch.
He lowered his gaze to a shelf in front of him and his eye was caught by what was clearly a very old letter, for it was dated the first age, and reverently placed beneath a portrait of Elros. He could see it was written in Quenya, something Maedhros and Maglor had made a point of tutoring them in, and then further down the page was his name. His eyes widened and he glanced up and around, making quite sure no one was about.
Curious, and probably having more to drink than he was accustomed, Erestor picked it up to glance at and found the letter was addressed to Elros, unsent all those yeni ago, the paper displaying not an ounce of age. The wonders of elven fourdrinier.
His eyes shifted over its contents and down to his name;
~I do not know what to do brother, for you know I have been in love with Erestor since I first set eyes on him all those many years ago…
Erestor’s eyes left the page as he looked up, trying to process what he had just read. Suddenly he heard footfalls. He quickly tucked the letter back under the portrait and sat back on the settle, just as the door opened and Elrond stepped in.
“I am sorry,” Erestor apologised as he stood. “It is late and I really should be going.” He needed time to think.
Elrond seemed taken aback. “Oh, I thought…,” he broke off as Erestor reached the door. “Good night then, Erestor.” Elrond leaned forward and surprised him with a gentle kiss to the lips. Strangely it felt good, felt right, but he felt so confused and pulled away abruptly. “Goodnight Elrond,” he said, before rushing out the door, leaving Elrond staring after him.
Erestor strode to his rooms, closed the door behind him and leaned back against it, closing his eyes. He moved to his desk and picked up a missive from Lothlorien, trying to make sense of its contents, but all he could think about was the letter he’d stumbled across, and Elrond’s surprise kiss.
Callo appeared, meowing a welcome as he jumped up on the desk to get his master’s attention. Erestor smiled half-heartedly at his little friend, rewarding him with a scratch under the chin.
He dropped the missive as if deciding something and he walked over to a carved wooden box. Lifting the lid, he took out an old letter and stared down at it for a moment before hastily leaving his chambers with Callo in tow.
Bathed by the light of the moon, Erestor stared down at the piece of parchment in his hand, his eyes shifting over the words written in the ancient Tengwar script of Quenya. He was seated on a stone bench in the observatory leaning back against the wall behind him as he read the letter;
I am writing this because I know my time in Endorë is drawing to a close…
Erestor hesitated, tilting his head back against the wall as he let out a shuddering breath and blinked back tears that threatened to spill over onto his cheeks. He swallowed back the anguish and read on.
When I am gone, and yes, I have seen my death, beloved, I wish for you to embrace life again, not to live in sorrow for the rest of your days, but to find love anew. That is what I wish for you.
I do not want you to wait for me, for I will not be returning until the Dagor Dagorath, until my grandfather is released from the Halls. And that is not because I do not love you, but because I love you, that I will not be returning. For you deserve more than I could ever offer.
All my love
Erestor stared at the page for a long moment; he lifted a hand and ran his fingertips hesitantly over his beloved’s name.“Oh Celeb!” he whispered, as he lifted his face to the sky and the moon beaming its silvery light onto the observatory. Callo mewed in support, rubbing up against his master’s legs.
Erestor’s gaze took on a faraway look as he remembered the times when he and Celebrimbor would venture to the roof of Celebrimbor’s home and sit in companionable silence together; drinking the contents of a bottle of wine between them, enveloped in each other’s arms and watching the moon cut a path across the star studded sky.
He drew in a breath at the memory, such wonderful times. Now he was torn between letting go of the old and embracing the new. And yet Celebrimbor had told him, “Not to live in sorrow for the rest of his days, but to find love anew.”
“Forgive my intrusion,” a familiar voice interrupted, jolting Erestor out of his reverie. “I must apologise for taking you so unawares with the kiss, just I have -- admired -- you for such a long time and it was such a good night, and...all right, rather a lot of wine.”
“It’s all right, really it is, I was just taken aback. I shouldn’t have been so abrupt,” Erestor responded, apologetically. “This is a new idea to me, a strange one, and I have been alone for a very long time now.”
“Yes, I know,” Elrond said, “My life is still in turmoil after Celebrian.”
Elrond suddenly looked embarrassed and rather sweet and Erestor thought again what Celebrimbor’s letter had said; he couldn’t help smiling a little -- it was almost as though he could hear his old love’s voice.
“Both our lives need new balance. Maybe we can help one another,” Erestor suggested. "Perhaps another kiss, this time under moonlight, might be the way to begin.”