No warning this chapter
Characters: Everyone in Imladris but no Legolas
Tinu: little star
It was done. The prisoner had been dealt with in less than an hour. He had offered no defense and agreed to all the charges brought against him. Other than yes or no, he had spoken no word. He seemed almost absent in mind, if not in body.
The Lord of Imladris sat late in his study, carefully transcribing shorthand notes into proper documentation in the large register that covered half his desk when it was open. There was no expression on his face and no tremble in the hand that moved the quill with precision. He was recording the accusations and decision himself, although Erestor had insisted it was his duty to do so. Elrond had simply stated that he always recorded capital cases himself and this time would be no different. He turned a large vellum leaf of such quality that it was nearly snow-white and began another left-hand column by filling in a date and time. In the right hand column he transcribed the events that matched. "At this time Valendil left the room while greatly agitated and was gone for approximately ten minutes. When next seen by the witness he was carrying Estel Elrondion over his left shoulder. He proceeded to shackle the human to the wall in front of the witness and to remove his shirt in preparation for flogging." The hand holding the quill moved steadily to an adjacent inkwell, refreshed the ink, and then just as smoothly returned to the parchment.
"The witness –"
The hand paused.
"- was unable –"
The hand paused again and a tiny drop of ink fell out of place.
"- to take any action to prevent –"
Another drop fell, due to a small tremor that caused the quill to shimmer in the candlelight.
" – the accused from –"
Two heavier drops fell.
The quill was gently laid aside and a blotter placed upon the page. After a few moments it was removed and Elrond blew on the ink to insure it was dry, then very slowly closed the book. He clasped his hands before him tightly and whispered, "The witness was unable to take any action to prevent Valendil from beating his son before his very eyes." The hands clasped tighter until the knuckles shown white and he gave a dry, gasping sob. A moment later he thrust himself upright with a hoarse shout of anger and a swirl of red and russet. In a fury he grasped the desk and hurled it over on its side.
In the Hall of Fire, a wide-eyed young warrior skidded to a halt beside Glorfindel. "My lord! In Lord Elrond's study – I was passing by - " The elf panted and stuttered as Glorfindel rose to his feet. " – something is happening; a fight! –"
Glorfindel clasped the frightened elf briefly by the arm, "It will be seen to. Thank you." He ran from the hall, skirts flapping, while Erestor sailed serenely behind him. As the two turned into the stairs that led to Elrond's quarters, they heard loud crashing noises as well as shouting.
"I believe our lord is ready to discuss his repressed feelings with you now," murmured Erestor.
"I pray I survive the discussion!"
Glorfindel had arrived at Elrond's door, but instead of knocking he simply put one shoulder against it. Erestor grabbed his arm. "Wait! Take off your robe! You will not be agile enough with it on."
The golden warrior nodded and stripped the dark green velvet from him by ripping it down the front. The robe hit the floor at the same moment the door was sprung from its lock. Erestor bent and took up the torn robe, shaking it out sadly. "My dear friend; so distressingly impulsive." He calmly placed the robe neatly over one arm and headed for the dispensary to obtain bandages, herbal teas, ointments, headache powders, and brandy.
Inside the room, Glorfindel had ducked several flying objects by rolling across the floor and coming in close to Elrond's feet. He sprang upward and grappled the hysterical elf, wrapping his swordsman's arms tightly about him. Elrond struggled but only for a short time. Then he stilled and said quite calmly, "You may release me, Glorfindel, I am finished rampaging about."
Glorfindel released his lord but frowned at the blank expression in the grey eyes. He led him to a divan and righted it before urging his friend to sit. "Elrond, would you care to explain this little ruction?"
"I lost my temper for a bit. You have seen it happen before."
"Mmmm, yes, once or twice, but something always triggers it. What was it this time?"
Elrond did not reply and Glorfindel looked around the room until he spotted the register. It was never left off the shelf that was its home since it was so large and certain to be in the way. That meant Elrond had been recording the trial. -/Ah./- Glorfindel lifted the book onto a table, opened it to the last entry, and read. He mused thoughtfully, "You must have felt like hell just standing there, doing nothing at all while that demon beat your son to a pulp. Where was the heroic warrior, eh? Where was the father that Estel believed would never let anything bad happen to him, if he were only there to stop it?"
The dull eyes filled with bewildered pain. "How can you say that to me? I…I did not look for such from you, Glorfindel…"
"Neither did I look to have the pain and guilt remaining from the Fall of Gondolin so brutally stripped bare as you did when you saved me from despair. But I needed it then as you do now."
Elrond rose and walked tiredly to the balcony. He suddenly threw his arms out in anguish. "I welcomed him here. I welcomed him into my House. My Power, my foresight; all worth nothing. He nearly killed you, and Erestor, and one of my sons; I have never apologized to you for that. Never apologized for welcoming the elf that took a dagger to one of the most beautiful faces in elvendom. I missed every sign. He wrought havoc unhindered by the mighty Lord Elrond, wisest of the wise! And yes, Glorfindel, I did feel like hell when I was powerless to keep Estel from being…." Elrond was silent a long time and then, looking down, whispered the most damning indictment. "He begged me. He begged me to stop the pain. I hear him crying out in my dreams. 'Ada, stop him! Ada, please make it stop!'."
"Selfish little bastard. He knew you could do nothing. He had no business making things worse for you."
"What! Are you mad! Of course he begged me to save him! I am his Ada!"
"Well, surely you took him to task for putting that burden upon you?"
"Took him to task? You are as demented as Valendil! I spent weeks convincing him he did no wrong; that he must not feel ashamed! It was the hardest part of his healing!"
"Neither did you do wrong, Elrond. No force on Arda can predict what madness will do or when it will strike. As I recall, Valendil was beating you, not Estel, when Erestor and I finally made our move. And you are not alone in your guilt, Elrond. It is my charge to keep Imladris safe. It was my responsibility and my most desperate intent to find you before harm befell you." The golden warrior stepped up behind his lord and placed a hand on his back. "Elrond, you did all you could possibly do. Estel has told me all that occurred; how you kept a cool head and helped him to deal with what was happening. I heard myself how you diverted Valendil's attention back to yourself. We both know all the words you would tell another in this situation. Tell them to yourself and believe them."
While Glorfindel and Elrond spoke, Erestor had walked onto the balcony and righted an overtuned table. He left his supplies there and listened to the conversation, ascertaining how far Glorfindel had managed to guide their lord and friend. It appeared he was just in time. He walked to Elrond's other side and also placed a hand on his back. Glorfindel's hand slipped away and the marshal stepped backward into the room behind him. Elrond turned toward Erestor to see a sight few were privileged to observe. The piercing dark eyes, normally sarcastic or annoyed or weary with the stupidity of others, were warm and concerned. He said softly, "It is time to give over your grief and guilt, Tinu."
The childhood name broke the lord's control and he moved stiffly into Erestor's hold. Slowly, one by one, bitter tears began to soak the black robe. Long, pale fingers stroked hair almost as dark as Erestor's own as he murmured words spoken at the beginning of the Second Age, then again at the death of Gil-Galad, and most recently, at the departure of Celebrian. Soothing, fond words, first whispered into a frightened youth's ear so many, many years ago. Words that still had the power to warm and heal, even after entire ages had passed.
Glorfindel sighed with relief and said a short prayer of thanksgiving as he quietly left the two alone.
The troop of mounted elven warriors were in an unusual formation. They had formed a circle, spears lowered, facing one lone elf who was mounted on the sorriest pack horse in Imladris. Glorfindel, on foot, stood next to his second's horse and spoke quietly. "Do not let anyone harm him, Taurnil. Anyone."
There was a world of meaning in the ancient warrior's voice for he knew of the outrage of his adjutant when the decision was handed down. Taurnil's eyes protested but at the stern gaze of his commander he finally nodded. "I will obey you, my lord. As I always have—though I have not always enjoyed my obedience."
Glorfindel smiled. "I do not require enjoyment." His eyes drifted over the elves that waited. "I have not sent Elladan or Elrohir as they would be impossible to deal with on this mission. I will keep them under my hand until you have gone too far for them to follow."
Glorfindel returned his gaze to Taurnil. "I will not have him harmed by my command. Elrond has passed judgment and I, too, obey orders." Taurnil grinned but then sobered as a firm hand reached up and grasped his arm, pulling him down, closer to Glorfindel who lowered his voice. "You have understood me. So long as he is docile, neither you nor your company will touch a hair on his head. But if he tries, by the least move to escape, you will fetch him down. I will not have him loose in Middle-earth to threaten my lord again. Kill him, Taurnil."
Looking directly—as he usually avoided doing—at the scars that still showed faintly on Glorfindel's face, the adjutant straightened and reached behind his shoulder to caress the bow on his back. "If he tries to run he will be found with my fletching in him."
High above the troops, on the Lord of Imladris' balcony, two stood watching. The shorter of the two had his arms wrapped around himself and the other watched him with concern.
Estel had not seen Valendil since Glorfindel had carried the boy from the springhouse. There was no lack of witnesses against him and Elrond had decided Estel should not attend the trial. He stared with a dreadful fascination at the round-shouldered figure in the courtyard below. This was again a mere wisp of an elf, completely impotent of any power over anyone, including himself.
As if he felt the boy's intense gaze, Valendil raised his eyes from his horse's withers for the first time since he had mounted. He moved his eyes slowly upward, first across the ground to the steps that led to the hall. Then up the wall, seeing the intricate carvings, the ivy and flowers, and the openings to the rooms of each floor. Finally he saw Estel and as their eyes met he also saw Elrond take an abrupt, protecting step to the boy's side. He would not look at the face of Elrond, the enemy who had vanquished him so completely.
But when Valendil's eyes held Estel's the white-haired elf suddenly felt an intense gladness that this boy whom he had tormented was standing safely beside his foster—nay, his father—and that his own plans had come to naught. As Estel stood with Elrond's hand against his back, the young man moved one hand in a gesture of blessing. Elrond, not seeing the movement, stared in amazement and some anger as Valendil gave Estel a small, grateful smile before dropping his eyes to his hands again.
Concerned, Elrond said "You do not need to be here, Estel. Go in and bother your brothers. I give you permission!"
The boy smiled. "That is tempting, Ada, but I want to see him go. Otherwise I may not believe he is gone. I have not seen him for two months but I have known that he was here. It has been…unsettling."
Just then a voice spoke from the doorway. "Did you hear that, Elrohir? What we have always suspected is true. Adar sends him to pester us!" The words and tone were lighthearted, but the eyes, looking toward the courtyard, were hard as flint.
Elrond frowned. "I thought you said you would stay within until he is gone."
"I did, but I am sorry, I find I cannot. Like Estel, I must know he is gone." Elrohir stood at his brother's side, nodding his concurrence. Together they walked to the balcony edge and Elrond saw that each carried a bow. Things were getting out of hand.
"Come here! The two of you! Right here!" The father had become the elf lord and his sons obeyed, though reluctantly. He lined them up against a wall that did not overlook the balcony and then spoke decisively as he walked back and forth before them.
"You are unhappy with my decision. In spite of your attempts to keep your feelings to yourselves –" The sarcasm fairly dripped from his words. "-I have become aware of them. There are several points you should keep in mind. One! You are not the Lord of Imladris. This was my decision to make. Two! You say you want justice. Then take care, for if I begin meting out justice without mercy there will be two in Imladris whose lives will become much more unpleasant! Three –" Now Elrond turned to face his sons and his voice held frustration. "What should I have done? He was marred in the getting, he was marred in the rearing, he was marred all his life. If I put a broken-winged bird on the floor before you, which of you would take its life without thought?"
Elladan raised his eyes to meet his father's. "Not without thought; but if I could not heal it, I would put it out of its misery."
"I do not think you would find it that easy, my son. And an elf is not a bird. In addition, would you send him to the place where he may find Maedros? I have banished him from all elven kingdoms in Middle-earth and Cirdan will see that he is carried to Valinor—by force if necessary. Perhaps there he can be helped. I could think of nothing else to do. I cannot be held as totally impartial in all this. If I sentence him to death, it will be said by some it is for revenge."
"Ada! They are leaving!"
The three joined Estel and saw the rather odd site of the tightest, grimmest formation of troops the courtyard had ever seen—all to guard one unarmed elf. Two warriors held leading reins; Valendil was not bound and no one was going to chance him taking control of his own mount. The horses clattered over the flagstones as the procession slowly headed away from the House.
Elladan's breath came hard and fast until the procession was completely out of site. He then turned to his father. "Adar, forgive us. We should not have questioned you or increased Estel's distress. It is just – " He broke off and looked out into the courtyard again, a muscle working in his jaw. Elrohir stood beside him and finished what he could not. "It is just that we lost one parent in pain and suffering and we were so very afraid…"
"Oh, my sons." Elrond sighed. He had been so worried about Estel he had totally overlooked the fear his older sons had faced for those hours that must have seemed like an entire age. "I am sorry; that aspect of the situation did not occur to me. Estel, come over here, away from the balcony. He is gone." Soon all three sons stood before him, unsettled and fidgeting. Elrohir and Elladan looked as uncertain as Estel. Elrond rubbed his chin with one long fingered hand as he pondered on how to comfort and reassure two grown elves. He knew what to do with his youngest, but…then he smiled. Perhaps they would prefer not to be treated as 'grown' just now. "I think that this elf lord needs to spend an evening alone with his sons. What shall we do?"
Estel thought for awhile and his brothers watched him, content to let him decide. Suddenly he grinned. "I think we should do what I suggested when this all started! We should all sleep with Ada tonight! Elladan, Elrohir, and I can sleep by the fire and we can have some of the exploding corn that Lolindir discovered and lots of pastries and we can play Long Alley –"
"In my rooms?"
"Yes, we can move those old books and the other things –"
"The breakable things?"
"Yes, and we can put the skittles beside your desk and bounce the ball from the –"
"You are surely too old for such nonsense and your brothers will not want to –"
"Oh, yes we will, Ada!"
The Lord of Imladris lay prone, eyeing the distance to the kingpin and observing the slight imperfections in his polished marble floor. He sprang to his feet, grabbing a beautiful wooden ball as he rose. He tossed the ball idly in his right hand as he frowned down the lane that had been cleared of irrelevant items (such as the only intact urn from Gondolin). Thirty some feet away, the pins and his sons mocked him.
"Come on Ada! Just throw it!"
"Yes, father, it is not like you could hit anything! It has been how many years since you played this game?"
The elf lord, every hair in place, suddenly took two rapid strides forward and hurled the ball down the lane. It bounced once and knocked the kingpin flying. Elrohir, who had bet on his father in the teeth of his brothers' scorn, war whooped and swooped down on the stunned duo. "Pay me! Pay me now!" Elrond dusted his hands daintily and walked smirking to pick up his goblet.
Glorfindel and Erestor, who had come to investigate if there was another lunatic elf loose in Imladris after hearing the ruckus coming from Elrond's quarters, toasted each other. They clinked glasses, smiling, since they, too, had bet on their lord. Erestor was drinking tea but Glorfindel was enjoying the rarest vintage in the cellars. He carried a fistful of a crunchy white substance to his mouth and chased it down with another swallow of wine. He mused that one would not have thought the two would go well together.
Estel looked around the room which was full of warmth, laughter, and love. He felt his eyes sting as gratitude for them all—for his family—filled his heart. The thought flashed through his mind that Valendil was probably bedded down by now, with enough guards for a Nazgul. His bed would be hard and lonely. He marveled that he was able think of the elf without feeling much besides pity. He hoped there would be peace in Valinor for him.
A sudden pain interrupted Estel's musings as Elladan elbowed him sharply. It was Estel's turn and he strode to the hearth poker that marked the throwing point and stooped to pick up the ball. Since his father had taken out the kingpin he could hit any other and score points. He drew his arm back as the final bets were made. He threw with a twist and the ball bounced a little short but still managed to knock down three pins. The extra spin made two of the skittles ricochet off each other and one shot through the air and smacked Glorfindel on the forehead. He went out like a quenched torch. The other hit the wall and fell to the floor without maiming anyone. Erestor pulled out one of Glorfindel's eyelids and peered into the bluer-than-blue eye. "I think he will live. Pay me, Elrohir."
Estel, aghast at what he had done, cried in disbelief, "You bet that I would hurt Glorfindel?"
Erestor looked up with the fabled warrior's eyelid still between his thumb and finger. "Of course not! What do you take me for? I merely bet that you would injure someone tonight."
A/N "Long Alley" is an ancient game that some believe is the precursor to bowling. The wooden ball is about the size of a baseball and is thrown in such a way that it should bounce once before striking the skittles.