Author's Note: I have begun working on some stories that explore the household of the Last Homely House, primarily Elrond's family and his chief counsellor, Erestor. Primarily, they are a set of character studies on Erestor as seen through the eyes of Elrond and other members of his household, but eventually a longer background story will be told explaining Erestor and his idiosyncrasies. In the process, it's also fun to explore Elrond and his family. These stories ARE part of the Undying Friendship Series.
Note: The use of the terms man, woman, girl or boy refer to gender and not race.
A Matter Of Some Concern
By Nieriel Raina
"I'm telling you, Elrond, there is something not right with that man."
Elrond watched in amazement as his wife of three months paced the room, her hands gesturing as she laid out her concerns. She had lovely hands, though he preferred them moving over his skin to waving wildly about in the air as she talked. He was still captivated by the way she spoke with her hands, so different from his own mannerisms.
It was not unusual that the new lady of the house would pace as she voiced her concerns. Most of the staff had become accustomed to the way Celebrían threw herself into her duties, pacing and gesticulating as she spoke. What was unusual was the rooms in which they were currently standing were not their own, and the concerns that she had were…
Well, he had concerns too, but there were some things that he had long accepted he would never understand — answers he would never have — and there was no way he was confronting his chief counsellor on the matter!
"Celebrían," Elrond interrupted her tirade as she paced away from him. "I understand your concerns, but why was it necessary to bring me here to discuss them? Erestor would be greatly displeased to find us here." His stomach flipped unpleasantly at the thought of Erestor finding them in his quarters. "And when I say greatly, I mean greatly. You do not yet know him well enough…"
"I know him well enough to know that there is something not right with him, Elrond!" Celebrían insisted, as she turned to face him, her skirts flaring out.
Elrond's eyes were drawn downwards with the movement, his gaze lingering in hope that he might catch a glimpse of one of her delicate ankles, but the material settled to the floor, hiding any skin from his eyes. Disappointed, he looked back up into her flashing blue eyes. By the Star Kindler, he loved it when her eyes sparkled like that!
"Have you not been listening to me?" she asked, throwing up her hands.
Ah, such long fingers she had! "I was listening," he confirmed, pushing his ardor down so that he might address her concerns, "and I agree. Erestor has some…quirks, but he is an invaluable part of this household and those idiosyncrasies do not keep him from doing his job and doing it well."
"What's in the chest?" she asked, gesturing to an ancient trunk set under a window and irritatingly ignoring his explanation.
The trunk in question was long and narrow…and locked. Elrond had wondered himself what was kept in that chest, but the one time he had nearly asked, he had received such a dark glare that he had nearly bitten his tongue to hold in his inquiry. Never mind that he had been little more than a child at the time.
"I would imagine it holds something that he wishes to keep private, as is his right." There, that should quell her curiosity and allow him to focus on other things, such as the lips she puckered as she glanced about the room. Such kissable lips she had. Just plump and red enough to nibble…
She blew out a breath and threw up a hand towards a framed work of art. "And that?"
Elrond looked to where she pointed and inwardly winced. He had no idea why Erestor had that. It was certainly not something anyone would expect the stoic counsellor to own, let alone display in his private rooms. In fact, with Erestor's preference for dark colors, the painting of a light stone fountain surrounded by cheery, yellow blossoms seemed out of place. He shrugged. "Maybe he just likes it, or perhaps someone gave it to him, and he feels obligated to keep it. Like you kept that hideous vase that Lady Ovorwilith gave us at our wedding." He nearly shuddered as he recalled the red, yellow and purple swirls.
"She is one of my mother's oldest friends. I could not…not keep it!"
He gestured with his chin to the painting. "There you have it. Erestor could be in the same position."
"I hid the vase in a trunk and plan only to display it if Ovorwilith visits. Erestor has that thing displayed prominently in his bedchamber!"
Elrond would like to have Celebrían prominently displayed in their bedchamber, preferably on their bed. But being as he was in Erestor's quarters, he forced his thoughts back to the painting. "It's actually quite lovely," Elrond mused, looking at the garden setting. "Peaceful."
Celebrían huffed. "You only think that because you are a healer and like gardens. I would not be surprised to see such a painting in your rooms. But I've never seen Erestor in a garden. Have you?"
He'd like to see Celebrían in the private garden off their rooms, lying in the grass, smiling up at him… But until he could appease her, he was stuck in Erestor's rooms, the last place he wished to be. Elrond thought for a moment. "Yes, actually I have. But not in the ones with fountains near the house. He prefers the rock gardens, higher up on the slopes near the falls."
"See!" She exclaimed, as if that explained everything. "Odd!"
Elrond frowned. "Because he likes the high gardens? He is far from the only one. Lindir also prefers those gardens and often can be found up there with a lap harp as he composes his next masterpiece. Celebrían…" Elrond caught her eye with his gaze, giving her a small smile to ease the tensions he could sense growing between them. He did not wish to have discord between them. He actually would prefer nothing between them, not even clothing, but since she was so distraught, he tried to soothe her.
"I admit that Erestor is a bit…eccentric. But I do not think those peculiarities warrant this much concern."
"Really?" She lifted her brows in a manner that was too reminiscent of her mother for Elrond's comfort. "Then what about his clothing?" she asked, as if that proved all her concerns were justified — which they most likely were, but Erestor was Erestor, and Elrond had long accepted him as he was.
"Black, Elrond," she continued. "Always black!"
Elrond blinked. "So he likes to wear black? So what?" Actually, Celebrían looked striking in black. It accented the pale silver of her hair perfectly…especially that delicate nightdress she sometimes wore.
"No one wears black all the time!"
"It is not normal!"
"It is for him."
Letting out another huff, then marching over to Erestor's wardrobe, Celebrían threw open the doors, revealing the contents. Her fingers traced over the clothing displayed, as if doing an inventory. "Black robes, black tunics, black trousers, black sparring clothing, which he wears even in the heat of summer!"
"I believe that is why he removes the sleeves," Elrond mumbled, then winced as she threw a glare his way. He shrugged. "As I said, he likes black."
Smirking, she pulled open a drawer and tugged out something small and black. She brandished it triumphantly as she marched up to him, waving it in his face "Even his small clothes?"
Now that he had not expected. Elrond stared in shock at his beautiful wife, waving about a pair of Erestor's undergarments as if they were some kind of prize. Why couldn't it have been his small clothes she waved? "Is it really necessary to wave those around in my face?"
"Yes! It is not normal!"
"I agree, it is not normal for the lady of the house to go about pulling out her husband's chief counsellor's undergarments and waving them about in his face!" He frowned. "How did you know his undergarments were black anyway?"
She waved off the question, as if it were of little significance, though Elrond was beginning to find it greatly significant. "The maids know everything. How I knew is not the point, Elrond. Black! All he wears is black! Black, black, black!" She tossed the small clothes back in the drawer and slammed it shut, then spun on her heel and pointed across the room. "Except that!"
Elrond glanced at the ancient green cloak hanging on a peg in a corner. The large sun in the center of the back appeared to be embroidered with real gold thread, as did the edging of golden flowers. It was magnificent. "He never wears that," Elrond muttered, staring at the cloak.
"Probably because it is so old." Celebrían snapped back at him.
"He's had that as long as I can remember." Which was a long time, Elrond admitted to himself. Few articles of clothing lasted as long as that cloak. There was something very special about it, something significant that he had never been able to discover. Something about it niggled at the back of his mind, as if he should easily piece the puzzle together, but the answer always evaded him. Most answers evaded him since marrying the fiery woman pacing the room. He could think of little else for long, except for how to get her out of her clothes. He was quite good at puzzling that out!
"Elrond," Celebrían made a noise of exasperation. "Do you not find it odd that he owns no clothing of color except a cloak he hangs in a corner?"
Elrond shook his head. "No. It's just Erestor. He's always been that way. I've never seen him wear any color but black, nor wear that cloak."
"Because it's ancient! Like he is! It would most likely crumble if he moved it."
He frowned. Ancient? Now hold on just a minute…
"After all," she continued, "he was born back in the First Age. He has probably had it since then!"
"He has," Elrond admitted in a dull tone, his frown deepening. "And love… I was born during the First Age."
She blinked, as if just realizing what she was implying. She bit her lip, then smiled coyly up at him. "But not until nearly the end."
Elrond was not mollified. He moved in closer. It was time to end this. "Celebrían?" His voice was low, his gaze steady upon her, his eyes boring into hers as his breathing increased. "Erestor is my elder by little more than seventy years."
Her mouth fell open to form an 'o'. "He is?" she asked in a small voice.
Elrond nodded. "Yes, and furthermore, I do not care what he wears, or what paintings he owns, or what trinkets he keeps in that locked box, so long as he performs his duties well." Indeed, he cared far more what she wore…or even better, what she did not wear.
She stared at him; her lower lip trembled. He stepped forward and touched her cheek, his finger tracing down to the corner of her mouth. Such a pretty mouth. "Accept him with all his oddities, and give up on ever thinking you will have the answers. I have attempted to unravel the mystery of Erestor since I was a child. The fragments of information I have gathered only increase the mystery. I think he prefers it that way."
He leaned forward and brushed her lips with his own. "Let him have his secrets," he whispered, pushing her back against the wall and capturing her lips more fully with his own.
"Mmmm," she agreed, kissing him back.
Now this was more like it! This was what newly wed couples should be doing, not discussing the oddities of the various members of the household. He pressed closer to her, enjoying the feel of her body against his own, ignoring the nagging feeling that something was not quite right. She responded, pressing back. He was just reaching down to pull her thigh up to his hip when the sound of a throat being cleared broke through his lustful thoughts.
Breaking the kiss, he looked over his shoulder, his stomach twisting as he beheld Erestor leaning on the doorframe, his arms crossed, both brows raised and one corner of his mouth quirked in that not quite smile or frown. Oh how he hated that look! That was the look he always got when he was in trouble.
Celebrían gasped as she saw the object of her earlier ranting. Her cheeks flushing a lovely shade of pink, she buried her face in Elrond's shoulder. She, of course, would not be held responsible for the situation. Oh no, he would bear the brunt of any lectures.
He would have to salvage this somehow. Think of some brilliant explanation (as far from the truth as possible, of course). But when he opened his mouth, all that came out was, "Errr…"
The well known features went blank, except for those piercing blue eyes. They sparkled with mirth. Only those who knew Erestor well would see it. Oh, but Elrond would get a ribbing for this, after he was hounded for the reason he and his wife had been caught in Erestor's rooms in an almost indecent manner.
"Did you get lost?" Erestor asked.
"Yes!" Elrond took the easy out. Erestor's rooms were near their own. "Celebrían, my love, it appears we took a wrong turn." She nodded against his shoulder, where he could feel the heat from her face burning into him. Good, it served her right to be embarrassed after dragging him in here to look at Erestor's undergarments!
"Indeed." Erestor repeated, eying them speculatively, but thankfully, he did not question them further.
Elrond had no intention of sticking around long enough for that to happen. No, that would come later, unless he could think of some way to distract Erestor. There was that latest report of mysterious deaths to the north. It would not be unreasonable to send out a scout to investigate the matter, though it did not quite warrant his best scout, but he could make up some excuse. And he would send the order by messenger, of course, to avoid having those excuses shown to be as flimsy as he knew they would be.
He eased his wife out of his counsellor's rooms and down the hall as quickly as possible. As soon as they were safe in their own rooms, he glanced to Celebrían. She was too quiet. "Love?"
Without a word, she moved to the bed and threw herself on it face down. Her shoulders shook. Resigned to the hysteria of an embarrassed woman, Elrond sat beside her, rubbing her back. Now he had two problems: distracting Erestor from asking unpleasant questions, and figuring out how to console his wife enough to get back to what they had started in Erestor's rooms.
He reached to turn her over, and to his surprise found her laughing so hard, tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. "Love?"
"Don't you dare tell him I waved his small clothes all around the room!" she gasped.
A grin split Elrond's face as he began to laugh as well. "Oh, well, you'll have to convince me." He lifted his brows, then moaned as she pulled him down. Distracting Erestor would just have to wait.