Warning: Child abuse. Torture. (later chapters)
Characters: Everyone in Imladris but no Legolas
Aragorn is nearly 16; follows the "Buried" series chronologically but there are only two brief references to the series.
Elrond strode into the assembly room several minutes late as was his want when council members or visitors with council business needed to be reminded just who was Lord of Imladris. Three or four brisk strides into the room his nose caught up with his body. Elbereth's Stars! What was that stench! The Imladrians were looking surreptitiously around, trying to locate the source of the odor. The visitors pretended to notice nothing while at the same time they gleefully stored away the incident to savor later when gossiping.
Elrond looked for his chief advisor—the obvious one to handle the situation. In fact, it was odd that Erestor had not already gracefully suggested moving to another room while gently chivying the council out of the currently uninhabitable one. Looking around, Elrond could not see Erestor anywhere. He set a junior council member to the task of moving everyone while he looked for the hideous object, whatever it was, that was shortly going to be buried in the deepest pit in Moria if he had anything to say about it.
As the elf lord followed his nose toward the tapestries that hung from ceiling to floor, he realized he had smelled the odor before. He was trying to pin down the memory when he pulled back a tapestry depicting the creation of the sun and moon. Behind it, lying in a huddled heap was his First Councilor, apparently drunk. The reek came from the dark-haired elf. Now Elrond matched the odor to long ago battlefields and their attendant healing encampments. Apparently Erestor had not only drunk some vile raw spirit but had bathed in it as well. Elrond carefully lifted the lolling head and felt for the pulse – it was weak and erratic. The council session forgotten, he shouted for help and his cry brought an elf from the hallway.
"Quickly! Summon a stretcher from the healers and elves to bear it. RUN!"
Glorfindel walked into the house for nooning and into an atmosphere as tense as any he had felt outside of wartime. /Ah, another restful day in the Last Homely House/ And to think he had worried that Imladris would be dull after his previous homes and experiences. He saw Elladan and Elrohir speaking in lowered voices halfway up the graceful, curving stairway that led to the family quarters. The twins were nearly identical and, with their heads inclined closely together, looked like one elf and his mirror image. Long sable hair in warrior braids flowed over rust colored tunics. Glorfindel ran up three stairs at a time and put a hand on the shoulder of each twin. "What have you done now?"
Elrohir started at the touch of the ancient one's hand but did not remonstrate with him. His eyes were dark with worry as he said, "Erestor is very ill. Ada found him in the council room this morning and he was drunk."
"Do not be absurd. Erestor never has more than a glass or two of wine. Ever."
Elladan nodded. "We know. Everyone knows that. Nonetheless, he is lying in the healing wing with so much spirit in him that Ada says he may not survive it."
Glorfindel stared at him. He said slowly, "It takes a great deal of liquor to incapacitate an elf. It is hardly possible to do in any ordinary way. Even you two have never managed to get more than two sheets to the wind." He ignored the rolled eyes and turned abruptly to start back down the stairs. Over his shoulder he said, "I have some things to attend to."
Glorfindel did not head for a sickroom he would be denied entrance to anyway, but instead went to the council room. He looked around carefully, found nothing, and extended his search to Erestor's quarters. What he found there surprised him, although he had been certain he would find something that would explain Erestor's intoxication. Grimly he pulled several objects from behind a clothes chest, gathered them loosely together, and started for the healing wing.
He met Elrond coming from a room that was reserved for very serious cases. It was true then; Erestor was in some danger. Elrond began to say that Erestor could have no visitors, but Glorfindel cut him off. "You need to see this. Where can we be private?"
Elrond knew that tone and without comment turned and walked past a few doors in the hallway and then stopped and opened another. "In here. What do you want to show me?"
"How is he?"
"Quite ill. I have been purging him but he had already absorbed most of it. We will know more in a few hours."
In a very controlled voice the seneschal asked, "Will we lose him?"
"I think not, although, as I say, the next few hours will be crucial." Elrond looked with sympathy at Erestor's closest friend. "Such obstinate spirits do not yield easily to the call of Namo."
Glorfindel gave a short, angry bark of laughter, "Aye! Who would have thought we would be grateful for his stubbornness?"
"I must return to him; what do you want to show me?"
Glorfindel walked to a stripped bed that had neatly folded sheets at its foot and laid out two glass bottles, a funnel, a piece of river reed with a dark red stain at one end, and some short lengths of rope. The bottles had once been stoppered with cork and wax, though they were now empty.
"Smell." Glrofindel held out one of the bottles.
Elrond wafted his hand over the opening and took a small sniff. He coughed and his eyes stung.
Glorfindel held up two of the lengths of rope. "Look."
Elrond at once noted the rusty stains. He snatched up the reed and smelled both ends. His brows snapped together as he understood the meaning of the diverse objects that had been found together. "This explains the marks on his wrists. He was bound and someone forced raw spirit down him through the reed. This stuff is very strong; even a hard-headed man cannot drink more than a few swallows at a time. Elendil's healers used it to render men insensible for surgery."
"Was it here or was it brought here?"
"We have some, certainly. Not a great amount; a few bottles. I have not used it much myself, but, as you know, I keep at least a little of all the medicaments of men and elves here. One never knows when a new use for something will crop up."
Elrond paced about the small room, hands behind his back. "I knew, of course, as soon as I examined him, that Erestor had not merely gone carousing. But, Glorfindel, who would do such a thing?" An unwelcome thought struck him. "…Elladan and Elrohir?"
The old warrior shook his head. "They would never endanger him. And for all they tease him about being stuffy, they would never humiliate him so. Erestor loves them in his contrary way and they know it well. And to answer your next question: Estel did not do it either. Whoever it was hurt Erestor. The ropes chafed him and the reed tore his throat. I know I call Estel a limb of Sauron, but there is no possibility that he would harm Erestor. His pranks have sometimes gone awry and caused someone pain, but never was that his intention."
Elrond crossed the room and laid his hand on Glorfindel's arm for a moment. "Thank you, mellon-nin, I know what you say is true but I had to at least think of the possibility. After all, the three of them have done some outrageous things! But you are right. They would never deliberately harm anyone. Which puts us in a difficult situation. Because there is no one who could get close enough to him that is not a member of this household. We are not dealing with Orcs or Easterlings; we have a rat in our cellar, Glorfindel."
"Aye. A clever rat who does not mind using his teeth."
By that evening it was known that Erestor would survive. He was absolutely miserable and likely to remain so for some time. Estel had been worried about the advisor so Elrond let him help with the rather disagreeable chores that needed doing as the councilor's body tried to rid itself of the poison. The boy should know what he was getting himself into if he wanted to follow the Healer's Path.
Estel set aside the basin and covered it with a linen cloth. He took another cloth, wrung it out in cool water, and gently cleansed the councilor's mouth. Erestor could not speak for his throat was badly damaged and the retching was making it worse. Estel placed a soft honey-laced numbing lozenge against Erestor's lips and he parted them. Estel smiled warmly and pushed the lozenge within and against the councilor's tongue. "That will help your throat a little, Erestor, though only time will give you any real ease." The councilor reached a trembling hand to clasp one of the boy's. He mouthed, "Thank you" and Estel dared to press a quick kiss on the back of the hand before replacing it gently on the bedclothes. Then he placed another cool, folded cloth on Erestor's pounding head before he quietly set about straightening the room.
While Estel watched over Erestor, Elrond held a meeting with Glorfindel and the twins.
"I have put it about that Erestor ate some bad meat. It is ridiculous but the best story I can come up with to account for his collapse and being in the healing wing. I do not want every elfling and imbecile laughing over this. For now, I want to keep the investigation between the four of us. Elrohir, I want you to research every elf in Imladris and see if there is some connection—some ill feeling from the past. It will not take too long as most that knew Erestor before he came here have sailed or perished. Glorfindel, you and Elladan will undertake the physical investigation. I will get whatever information I can from Erestor as soon as he is strong enough to write."
Glorfindel agreed but added a caveat, "He must not be left alone. It is not clear whether he was only to be humiliated before the council, or if killing was intended. If the latter, he may still be in danger. I am not entirely happy with Estel being there alone with him."
Elladan sprang up and left the room, tossing back at his elders, "I will go there now and will stay until you organize some guards."
End Chapter 1
Next Chapter: "Glorfindel Second"