"Estel - hold still - do not - augh! By the Valar...Estel! Do not touch that! Es--o dear." Glorfindel all but wilted into the water of one of Rivendell's large indoor bathing springs as a bottle of bath foam left carelessly uncorked was spilled into the spring's already bubbling depths. That in itself would not have been a problem, had it not been for the natural jets of warm water that continuously stirred the baths and kept them heated. It was not long before the entire spring disappeared beneath a thick cloud of lavender-scented froth, and, sure enough, the child took a deep breath and disappeared with it.
It had been just over one week since the incident regarding Erestor's mutated countenance, and the human child was still stained rather grey with ink, despite his daily baths and Glorfindel's efforts at scrubbing him raw. (Erestor had suggested that they simply skin the boy and cover him with flesh-coloured cloth, but Glorfindel reasoned that, despite it being a good idea, Lord Elrond would likely be able to tell the difference.)
The young Adan's punishment had been sadly lacking for the dark-haired Elf. Estel had been made, of course, to scrub at the picture whilst under strict supervision, but the porous unpolished marble seemed unsalvageable. Once the boy had scoured 'til he could scour no longer, Ilmalin had taken over (as Erestor wished as few new faces as possible to view the "painting"), but even she could not manage to clean the wall completely, and a ghost of the image yet remained against the warm peach-coloured stone.
The weaver Anagwae had immediately been commissioned to create a tapestry slightly larger than the picture's dimensions. A sheet hid the caricature until he was finished.
"O Glorfindel," Erestor's voice drifted melodiously from the entrance to the bathing rooms, sounding abnormally pleasant, probably due to the fact that it was not he who had the responsiblity of keeping Elrond's foster son clean. (Glorfindel had, in fact, volunteered for the job more for the boy's safety than any actual want of it. Though he trusted Erestor with his life, he did not think it wise to trust Erestor with Estel's, especially in a room with so very much water and so very few witnesses.)
"Glorfindel," said Erestor again, padding into the smaller, more private bath which the golden-haired Elf and young human inhabited, peering distractedly down at his fingernails. "Apsaran wishes to know which meat the cooks are to prepare for the main course, deer or - by Elbereth!" he exclaimed upon sight of the mass of bubbles overflowing the pool. Glorfindel himself was nearly neck-deep in the foam. "...I realise Estel is not the tidiest of children, but do you not think this a bit...excessive?"
He inched cautiously around the edge of the spring, scanning its frothy surface warily. "Is he drowned and you merely covering up the fact, or does he yet live?"
"He lives," Glorfindel replied, poorly covering up the regret that tinged his voice. "Though if he goes any longer without breath, he soon will be drowned, lest he truly is a terror of the sea..." He began to feel about the water carefully, wadingly slowly along so as not to nudge too hard the small body hidden somewhere near his feet. He glanced up at Erestor, who had shed his outer robes on the way in and was now clothed much the same as Glorfindel, in naught but a pair of light breeches. "Are you not going to help?"
Erestor only shook his head. "Nay. I have bathed already today."
"Then why are you--"
Before the Elf-lord could finish, the small sea monster burst forth from the surface of the spring with a gleeful shriek, splashing water and bubbles in every direction until both the room and all of its occupants were thoroughly soaked from head to toe.
Wiping a crown of foam from his hair, Erestor sent a wry smirk Glorfindel's way. "I may be laundered more than once a day, but I refuse to submit my robes to such unneeded maltreatment. Silk is such a difficult fabric. Deer or hare?"
The golden-haired Elf sighed. "Hare."
Erestor nodded. "Deer it is."
"Of course." Glorfindel scratched a nonexistent itch on the bridge of his nose, covering up a smile. Either it had become an ongoing game between them, or Erestor simply failed to notice - always the darker Elf asked Glorfindel's preference on some matter of personal taste or another, and always Glorfindel would tell him the opposite of what he truly thought. Erestor would, without fail, purposely contradict him, and in the end the results were always those of Glorfindel's true choices. "And Erestor? Would you be so kind as to inform Lindir that the banners on the North end of the house are to be the blue?"
"Can you not deliver your own messages?" Erestor clicked his tongue in disapproval and heaved a dramatic sigh. "Ai, Glorfindel, whatever would you do without me?"
"Wither frightened in a corner somewhere, I am sure," Glorfindel replied sardonically as he tightly held the slippering, squirming human and hauled him out of the bath. Wrapping a linen towel around the boy's shoulders, he forced back a grin as the darker Elf wandered from the room to redress, and counted to ten before calling once more, "Erestor?"
He could almost hear the other advisor bristle, and seconds later Erestor's head reappeared in the threshold, now robed and toweling his hair dry, face straining to look patient.
"Here." Glorfindel nudged Estel foward and into Erestor's arms. "I bathed him. He is your responsibility now."
But surprisingly, Erestor did not look as shattered as Glorfindel had expected. In fact, he nearly looked...pleased.
"Yes, of course," said Erestor easily, leading the young Man out of the room. "Come along, Estel," his voice echoed from the main baths. "Tell me, do you greatly enjoy games?"
Glorfindel trusted a band of Orcs to have civilised afternoon tea more than he trusted this. Erestor had to have something up his sleeve to be acting so jovial. Not even Ilmalin, Ilúvatar bless her patient heart, was that happily accepting of the boy. Glorfindel would get to the bottom of this, o yes...it would take careful planning and stealth, and it would need to be properly timed...
Perhaps when his fingers no longer resembled prunes, then.
Likely he appeared odd, a grown Elf-lord hanging precariously by one ankle and one hand hooked around a tree branch, his free hand holding back his hair as he peered upside-down through one of the library windows, wherein Estel was receiving his lessons.
Indeed, Thoronil had done a double-take of the sight that greeted him as he left the house to take his noon-time watch of the gates, and stared queerly for many moments at the carefully-balanced Glorfindel. Was it contagious, he wondered, this madness that seemed to grip the temporary Lords of Rivendell in Elrond's absence? Though at least it seemed a fairly benign, non-violent sort of insanity...
After some time, Glorfindel at last noticed the other Elf's presence, and slowly turned his head, his stoic expression unwavering. Blood had rushed to his face due to his positioning, and his skin was very pink.
Thoronil froze for a moment as he tried to decided which would be the best course of action: one, to enquire of Master Glorfindel's...well-being; or two, to merely smile, nod, and back away in a non-threatening manner.
The tow-headed Elf arched a questioning eyebrow.
Two it was.
Glorfindel watched him go, frowning. Strange fellow, Thoronil, he inwardly mused. Wherever he keeps his mind, it must be very well hidden, for so often does he seem to lose it...
Shrugging, he returned his attention to the window. He could not see very clearly the goings-on inside, as many shelves of books blocked his line of sight, but through the glass he could easily distinguish Erestor's voice - Erestor's, but never Estel's.
"Now, of the Two Trees of Valinor, which was the eldest: Telperion or Laurelin?"
Glorfindel strained his ears, but could discern no reply. Still, Erestor seemed to have heard one, for he spoke again, "Very good. And the last remaining flower from this tree following its destruction became what?"
Ithil, Glorfindel mentally answered, then smiled when Erestor confirmed his correctness.
"And the last fruit of Laurelin became...?"
"Excellent. Come now, take your sugar cube."
Sugar cube? Erestor was rewarding Estel with sugar? Estel? And yet the library appeared to be in one - slightly vandalised - piece. This could not be good.
Just then, a sort of groaning, splintering sound intruded upon Glorfindel's thoughts. Alarmed, he twisted around to stare incredulously at the suddenly very offended branch that held him. O no.
That could not be good, either.
Though Glorfindel had questioned the integrity of Thoronil's mind, he suddenly found himself thankful for the other Elf's skittish retreat. There were certain things - things like falling with distinctly un-Elven gracelessness to land flat on one's back - that could do without public knowledge. It would not do for his reputation to be tarnished by such...spasticity. That, and the grunt he had heaved upon impact with the ground was hardly becoming of one many, many centuries old and renowned for his cat-like prowess. Had Thoronil stayed, the guard would have probably suggested he stick buttered bread on his feet when next he planned on hanging from weak tree limbs, for "cats always land on their feet, and bread always falls butter-down; so if one has the good fortune to possess the gracefulness of a cat, but is still at times uncertain that they will indeed land on their feet, a little buttered bread to one's soles should help matters greatly."
Then again, by this course of logic Glorfindel could have easily flown with a little buttered bread worn atop his hair like a crown, had his usual grace not faltered. The repelling forces would have confused the nature of...well, nature, and in theory he could hover happily in the air until he saw fit to remove his crusted cap.
...he would have to give it a try sometime. Sometime when he was very, very much alone.
Tearing his thoughts away from butter and returning them to sugar, Glorfindel hefted himself up off of the stone-paved walk and brushed the dirt from his rear. Stealth was accomplishing nothing more than bruising his...ego; it was time for the direct approach. Though he knew Erestor deeply frowned upon being disturbed whilst he was teaching the Adan child, Glorfindel's curiosity outweighed his courtesy, and with his resolve set securely into place, he started off toward the library.
"And it was the healing tears of Yavanna that helped to bring forth the last flower and fruit of Telperion and Laurelin after they were smote by Melkor and Ungoliant, was it not?" Grey eyes met grey eyes, one pair wise and ancient, the other youthful and crinkled at the corners with a distrusting frown. Erestor waited patiently as Estel thought carefully about his answer, and rolled a sugar cube between his fingers.
Finally, the boy's gaze became resolute, and he blinked firmly twice, and gave his head a ruffled shake.
Erestor smiled. "No? Are you certain?"
Estel breathed a loud huff through his nose, indicating that yes, he was quite sure, and Erestor nodded, pleased. He handed over the sugar cube without further hesitation.
"Good, Estel. It was in fact Nienna's tears which coerced the Two Trees into releasing their final blooms. Now, moving on to--"
"Ai Elbereth!" a horrified voice shouted from the doorway. Erestor turned in his seat, looking perturbed at the interruption.
"No, Glorfindel, our next topic is Aulë. If you cannot follow the lesson then kindly do not make your ignorance known."
Glorfindel ignored the other Elf, and moved somewhat dumbstruck closer to the human sitting on the floor. "Erestor..." he said at last.
Erestor did not so much as glance up from the page he was skimming over in one of three books laid out on the table in front of him. "Hmm?"
"You have...you have broken him?!"
"Hm? Nonsense," Erestor scoffed, casting an eye down at Estel and wrinkling his nose in distaste as the boy made a sudden slurping sound to keep from drooling on the floor. "We are merely incorporating play and schooling, in order to better capture and hold Estel's attention."
"You have Estel himself captured and held like a wild animal!" Glorfindel exclaimed, his arms flying up in the air nigh violently.
"I most certainly do not!" Erestor protested. "Saddled horses are very tame!"
"He has a bit in his mouth!"
"Where else would you have had me put it? His--"
"Ahem," a soft but very crisp voice cut into their argument, and both advisors whirled around to see a lightly-floured Ilmalin standing near the door, in the same place that Glorfindel had ony just vacated. Balanced on the fingertips of her right hand was a covered silver platter, which she held out to Erestor with a small bow. "Fresh from the oven, my Lord, baked to a light golden-brown, as requested."
"O, excellent!" Erestor thanked her and relieved her of the tray, and Ilmalin smiled warmly at all three males, shook her head slightly at Estel's reined state, then left to return to her breadmaking.
"What, in Eru's name, is that?" Glorfindel asked, grimacing at the sour smell eminating from the dish.
"Estel's written lesson for the day."
The flaxen-haired Elf pinched his nose shut as Erestor lifted the lid from the platter and waved away the foul steam that rose from whatever substance resided within.
Cut leafs of parchment sat neatly stacked atop the tray, marked with childish scrawl in some sort of dried brown liquid.
"Ah, yes..." Erestor mumbled to himself with a satisfied nod, grasping the topmost sheet of parchment between his thumb and forefinger and holding it up in front of his face. "Yes, everything appears to be in order..."
"What in Arda did you have him write with?" Glorfindel gawped as he knelt down to untie Estel's reins from the table leg to which they were attached.
"Milk," Erestor answered simply.
The darker Elf nodded. "As ink was most definitely out of the question, yes, milk."
From the floor, Estel reared up on his knees and gave his best horse whinny as the bit - no longer hindered by the reins - fell from his mouth. "I am a warhorse, Glorfindel!" he announced proudly.
"That is nice, Estel..." Glorfindel absently replied, and glared up at Erestor, who only shrugged.
"He refused my suggestion of a dapple-grey pony."
"I cannot believe you! How could you constrain a child in such a manner?"
"But I am not a child!" Estel interjected. "I am a warhorse, receiving my orders before I am to depart for battle."
Erestor arched an eyebrow at Glorfindel in much the same way as Elrond often did when someone else made his point for him. But Glorfindel would have none of it.
"Come, Estel," he ordered, taking Isildur's heir by the hand and leading him out of the library. "You are finished with your lessons for today."
The Adan child skipped alongside the Elf, and Erestor watched them go with a strange gleam in his eye, waiting until they had reached the threshold before speaking again, "Glorfindel? A morsel of advice?"
Glorfindel glanced back at the other counsellor, still scowling. "What?" he snapped.
"For the good of your health, I believe it is best that I inform you - your warhorse has consumed more than a dozen sugar cubes within the last hour alone."
Glorfindel's eyes barely had time to widen in alarm before a sudden and surprisingly forceful tug on his arm yanked him around the corner of the doorway and into the hall with a startled yelp.
Erestor smiled to himself as he listened to the pitter-patter of a warhorse's hooves running at a gallop down the corridor, and a high-pitched cry of "BATTLE!!" echoed throughout the house.
Oy vey. I can't believe it's been nearly a month since last I updated this. Sorry for the wait. My humour muse went on holiday without giving its two weeks' notice, but now it has returned, tanned and with a large collection of little paper umbrellas, so here's hoping the next chapter will be out much faster. ;) Thank you all for reading/reviewing/being patient - I'm giddy that so many are enjoying this! And just in case anyone's wondering, I've thought up somewhat expanded roles for Thoronil and Ilmalin, so there will be more of them in future. I'm growing rather attached to them... :)