Strange Harmonies, 1

Dedicated to Soledad - happy birthday!

Disclaimer: Tolkien invented these characters, but not these encounters.

Warning: second chaptert will contain m/m interaction. Pairing: Elrond/Gildor

Gildor could see that his mother was not happy with her son, though the slight crease between her eyebrows was the only sign of her displeasure. The only sign of displeasure, in fact, which he ever gleaned from her facial expression. Despite his approaching maturity, he still did not know if this was to be ascribed to the innate harmony of her soul or to a remarkable display of outward restraint. In moments as these, her mind remained shut.

'Your father tells me,' she began, 'that you intend to go through the Sindarin Choosing Ceremony. Why do I have to hear this from him?'

Why do you think, mother? Because I thought he would mollify you, perhaps?

Useless, of course, and Gildor Inglorion rebuked himself for trying to hide behind his ada's back again. If he couldn't do better, he might just as well postpone the whole ceremony for another hundred years or so. 'A good question,' he admitted. 'I should have spoken to you both. So, you have objections, Mother?'

'This goes against the Laws and Customs of the Eldar,' Nenárie replied calmly. 'The union of the body means marriage, and free excercises in pleasure do not exist. Not even for the honourable purpose of instruction.'

Father is of a different opinion, her son wanted to say, but he managed to swallow the remark in time. This was his own battle. 'They do - among the Sindar and Noldor of Middle-earth. The Laws and Customs you mentioned are laws and customs of Valinor, a realm that is the peak of perfection - much like Mount Taniquetil itself, I suppose. A place where people unerringly find their true soulmates without the need for trial or the risk of error.' His mother was the one who used to say that even in the Blessed Realm, marriages could fail and love remain unrequited. 'But we are not in Valinor, and I would adapt to the wisdom won on this side of the Great Sea.'

The crease deepened. Gildor felt sorry for her, but he wanted this too badly to give in. Any argument short of being personal would do. 'Are you afraid I will name someone entirely unsuitable?' It had been his father's only reason to be reluctant. 'Tell me which of all possible choices you would deplore most, and -'

She was shaking her head. 'In matters such as these, there can be no bargaining. You choose whom you will, or not at all. If you will not restrain yourself, I will not restrain you, my son.'

Suddenly, Gildor saw the light from a gem spill through her clutched fingers. Golden rays, the colour of her hair and his. She was holding it for support; it was a jewel crafted in Valinor, a gift of the High King Arafinwë, her grandfather-in-law, and it had the property to warm in times of chill when roused by the need of the holder.

'But sometimes,' Nenárie added, 'I think your father and I should have returned home directly after the War of Wrath.'

So he was free - free to feel guilty and yet keep his neck stiff. His father merely dreaded that his son would have the cheek to name the High King at his Choosing Ceremony. Which, as Gildor had to admit to himself, he would not hesitate to do if he felt attracted to Gil-galad, instead of mainly to the King's braid, and the King's crown and the authority that went with it. As it was, he wondered if a less ambitious and more emotional choice would not serve him better. All the same...

Eventually Inglor would embrace his son's decision. He was too much like his own father, who adapted and acted as he thought best under any given circumstances. Many had called Finrod Felagund a fool for adopting mortal men and even dying for one of that short-lived breed, yet not a few of them sang hymns to the evening star, which would not sail the heavens but for him.

Deep in his heart, Gildor knew the comparison was inept and delusive. He was mainly curious, and, to be even more honest with himself, chasing sensation. Which was one of the reasons, perhaps the most important one, why his mother would never give in.

His parents would go West soon, he realised in a flash of insight, which he was level-headed enough not to call foresight.

But he would not.

He was sauntering across the courtyard, vaguely contemplating a ride with the wind in his hair and perhaps his brain, when his younger sister Aglareth accosted him.

'Will you go through with it?' she wanted to know, her cheeks slightly flushed.

He knew what lay behind: she would take her lead from him in this. Not because he was her shining example, but because she was more easily blown away by the displeasure of others, and liked to use him for an anchor.

'Yes. Most certainly,' Gildor said.

'I want to know all...' she began, but then corrected herself. 'I have to know how you felt, afterwards. Not what you felt, of course.' Her smile came close to being a smirk.

I'll make it sound embarrassing, then, he thought. To deter you, and spare Mother the sight of two children waving goodbye on the quays of Mithlond, instead of only one. But he knew he would eventually be honest with her. There were few things he loathed as much as insincerity.

'I may even tell you,' he replied. 'But on the other hand, my expression may be telling enough - and being female, you're different anyway. And now I'm going for a ride. Alone.'

Aglareth pulled a face, marring her glorious, golden beauty.

On his way to the stables, Gildor set himself to face the most difficult question of all. At a Choosing Ceremony, you have to chose someone, and he still had not made up his mind.

***

The High King Gil-galad's castle rose high above the town of Forlindon. The upper half was built on the hilltop, the lower half was hewn from the rock itself, and the water of the stream providing the castle with water cascaded downhill through an elaborate arch carved into the rock face. The Singers' Hall was in the upper half. It had high, oblong windows bordering on the terrace to the South, which overlooked the Gulf of Lune. As the weather was mild, they were open today, lending the southern facade the appearance of a gallery, but they could be closed with transparent panes descending from the arches; only Celebrimbor son of Curufin knew the secret of this.

The Hall had no furniture whatsoever, save the beautifully-carved, low wooden banks running around along the walls, where people were supposed to sit and listen to the singers' performance.* It was lit by lamps that were attuned to the intensity of the light and glowed ever more brightly as the day waned into twilight and night.** In this Hall, Gildor Inglorion's Choosing Ceremony would take place.

Elrond arrived early, as usual. He liked to watch others enter instead of being watched, and he was doing so from a corner beside the row of windows, where he could overlook both the hall as well as the terrace and the Gulf beyond. The corner on the other end of the 'gallery' was occupied by Sirnil, the High King's chief minstrel, who was playing a soft melody on his harp. It reminded Elrond of water rippling gently over pebbles in a stream.

But those were memories he

He had to admit that he was curious. There were persistent rumours concerning a sharp disagreement between Gildor Inglorion and his parents, or to be more precise, his rather strict mother. Nenárie was said to have brought along a private copy of Laws and Customs of the Eldar when she followed Inglor to Middle-earth at the onset of the War of Wrath. Elrond had read it, and copied it to have it available for reference, and though it contained ideas he did not share he understood why Gildor's mother would object to her son's wish. He was less sure about Gildor's own motives. Not a desire to adapt; he would rather have the world adapt to him, and only if that should turn out to be impossible he would settle for merely leaving a mark on it, Elrond Half-Elven supposed.

He thought of his own choice less than a hundred years ago. After some deliberating he had chosen Fíriel, the High-King's former lover, a woman marred by history whom few thought beautiful. But he had known beforehand this was not about beauty, or about being bedazzled or enchanted, but about learning, about the willingness to give, and the capacity to take.

For one brief moment, he had wanted to name Gil-galad. But he had shied back from the stir this would cause, loath as he was to draw too much attention to himself. Not that the King would mind being chosen. On the contrary. Normally, Gil-galad had to be careful in his courting, for he always ran the risk that people would respond to his authority rather than to his person. Therefore, Elrond was convinced that the King would happily consent to be the object of someone else's choice every once in a while. But nobody ever dared go so far. Not until now.

He saw Celebrimbor enter the Hall, alone, apparently wrapped in thought. What kind of lover would the grandson of Fëanor make? Elrond wondered briefly, but he was sure he did not really want to find out. Perhaps Gildor did. On the other hand, Celebrimbor was one of the few capable of refusing, feeling more at ease with inanimate objects than with people. No one in his right mind would choose him unless they had an excellent reason to think Celebrimbor would accept.

More and more people came in; he saw several Falathrim from the Havens, including Galdor, but tonight, Cirdan was not among them***. He noticed the arrival of Gildor's father Inglor, with his daughter Aglareth (who wore a look of maidenly shyness Elrond did not find wholly believable), but without his wife. And he spotted his distant and daunting kinswoman Galadriel, though not her Sindarin husband. And then it was Gildor's turn to enter.

For some reason, the subject of tonight's Ceremony managed to draw attention without making a sound. Of course, people had been waiting for him, but nevertheless the effect was interesting; faces turned, and some conversations stopped - though not all. Elrond, ensconced in his corner, tried to study the whip-like body, the angular face with the high cheekbones and the thick mane with the colour of molten gold**** as if he were a stranger who saw the youth for the first time. Whoever it was Gildor would decide to name tonight, his chosen one would have no trouble finding him attractive.

The last to enter was the King, announced by a gong. The next gong beat would mark the beginning of the Ceremony. However, instead of giving the sign Gil-galad scanned the hall, seeming to count faces, and walked over to. Would the absence of Gildor's mother be a problem? Elrond wondered.

'His mother's objections are heartfelt,' someone who seemed to read his thought spoke softly beside him. Elrond recognized Glorfindel's voice even before he turned his head to look at the older Elf-lord, who must have entered by the terrace. 'But she is too wise to stop him. If her presence were required, Nenárie would be here.'

'How well do you know her?' asked Elrond, genuinely curious.

'Well enough,' Glorfindel replied mysteriously, just before the gong rang out again.

The first part of the ceremony went by smoothly. If Inglor harboured any lingering reservations concerning the propriety of the custom, he never showed it when he led his son before the High King. With a twinge of envy Elrond thought of his own Chosing Ceremony. His kinsman Celeborn had acted the father part, as by an ironic twist of fate a child with two fathers had lost both of them: Eärendil sailed the heavens, while Maglor wandered along the seashores, lost and doomed.

After the King had declared Gildor to be of age, it was Galadriel who braided his hair into an adult fashion, just as she had done for Elrond. He remembered vividly how his own hair had chosen that particular occasion to assert its independence and slip from the braider's increasingly impatient grasp. Galadriel had not been happy, for she loathed to appear clumsy. Gildor's hair, though, proved more cooperative, and before long he was ready for the second part of the ceremony.

Sirnil the minstrel, who loved his role as the Master of Ceremonies, stepped forward again and sang: 'Gildor Inglorion, 'tis the time-honoured custom of the Elves of these Hither Shores that every young one who has reached adulthood choose someone who would teach them the ways of loving. Hast thou made thy Choice?'

Gildor's gaze swept the hall as if he owned it before he spoke the response: 'Indeed I have, Master Sirnil.'

'Then name us the one of thy Choice.'

Again, Gildor let his eyes roam. They alighted on Gil-galad, lingering briefly, but just as Elrond thought: he will actually do it! they passed on to Celebrimbor, who received about the same amount of attention before Gildor's eyes traveled on. For all the world, it looked as if his words to Sirnil were beside the truth, as if he had not yet made his choice. Elrond bent forward, ever more curious. The next moment he froze.

'For my first time,' Gildor said, loud and clear, 'I have chosen Elrond Peredhel.'

*Soledad kindly allowed me to borrow this from her description of the Castle of Edenalphond.

**And this was borrowed from the first chapter of Vorondis' Mortal Shores.

***Sorry, Cirdan. I'm not good at writing you.

****Details of Gildor's physique are mostly taken from Chapter 5 of Soledad's Erestor/Lindir story 'Innocence'.

The Choosing ceremony is partly derived from Chapter 12; any changes are entirely my fault.