22. Chapter 21
Elrond placed the book in his satchel and had returned to the bookcase to find another when he heard the tapping on his library door.
"Come in," he called, reaching up to a high shelf to retrieve the book he sought. Tension filled his body when he sensed who it was coming through the door. He turned and walked back to the desk to place the book with the others in the satchel, all the while very careful not to look at his visitor. "Ilmarë, I did not think you would be finished with breakfast so soon."
"I have not been to breakfast," Ilmarë said, feeling very uncertain as she walked into the library. "I wanted to come see you first. You are leaving again?"
"Yes, but only for a few days. There are some things I need to do for Círdan."
"Oh," she said, her resolve deserting her upon seeing his distant behavior again. "Then I will not keep you."
Her turning to leave at last caused him to look up and he frowned, leaving the desk and walking to her. "Ilmarë…" he said and then noticed her slightly favoring one leg. "Is something wrong?"
Ilmarë shook her head. "It is nothing. I slipped and fell."
"Let me have a look at it," Elrond said, but Ilmarë did not stop.
"Really, there is no need, it is only a little sore. My pride suffered the worst of the injuries." She offered him a small smile but it was forced. "It is no cause for concern."
"Ilmarë," he said, putting his hand on her shoulder, "anything that pains you is my concern. Come, sit down and let me see."
She nodded and allowed him to lead her to a small sofa nearby. As she sat, Ilmarë noticed a stack of books on the small tablet next to the sofa. "Were you reading last night, Elrond?"
"Yes," he said, not meeting her eyes. "Some writings I had been intending to read for some time."
Ilmarë did not answer for she was thinking of her own evening, the majority of it spent alone until Ereinion came looking for her and asked her up to his study for drinks and conversation. While she had appreciated his thoughtfulness, she felt as though she were imposing on Ereinion. No doubt he would rather have spent the evening in Harlindon with Anarríma.
Elrond knelt before Ilmarë, picking up her foot and lifting the hem of her dress just far enough to expose the ankle.
"Where does it hurt? In your ankle?" he asked, inspecting her ankle carefully.
"Neither," Ilmarë said and put her hand on her upper thigh. "It is here," she ran her hand up to her hip, "and here."
Elrond's hands on her foot stilled. Though his head was bent, Ilmarë saw his shoulders become stiff and tense. He took hold of the hem of her dress again, hesitating a moment before quickly moving the fabric of her dress aside to allow him a view of her upper leg. Her breath caught when he ran his fingers over the skin of her thigh. After probing her leg lightly he then laid his hand flat against her skin, running it slowly up to the curve of her hip. A quick, surprised breath escaped her when his fingers made contact with the bare, sensitive skin there and she felt his grip tighten in response.
"You will be fine, perhaps a slight bruise…" Elrond muttered as he tried to jerk his hand away but Ilmarë's hand shot down and held his, keeping it against her skin.
"Do you not enjoy touching me now? Is that why you avoid me?"
He raised his head to look at her, frowning as he did. "No, Ilmarë, that is not why. I cannot touch you this way…"
He tried to pull his hand away again but it was such a half-hearted attempt that Ilmarë had no trouble holding it fast. She felt the need rising in her again, some uncontrollable thing that made her pulse quicken and her head swim.
"Yes…yes, you can. I want you to touch me this way…please…"
Elrond's breathing was heavy enough now that she could hear it, could see the rise and fall of his chest. Ilmarë ran her hand along his cheek and he closed his eyes, letting his cheek rest against her palm. She leaned forward until her face was close to his and she pressed a light kiss to his lips.
"Elrond…please…" she whispered and kissed him again, this time garnering a response both immediate and exhilarating.
He rose to his knees and forced her back against the sofa, his hand tightening on her hip, holding her in place as he moved his body between her legs. He kissed her fiercely, groaning against her mouth in what sounded like a mixture of pleasure and frustration. In her haze of ecstasy it seemed to Ilmarë that his mouth was everywhere, on her mouth, her face, her neck – his tongue taking a frantic path along her skin. She closed her eyes and let his hands roam where they would, almost crying out when one grasped her breast, his thumb running over the rigid tip as his tongue filled her mouth again. The hand on her hip pulled her toward him, moving her down on the sofa until their bodies met. Even through the fabric of their clothing, Ilmarë felt his hard length as he moved his body against hers. His rhythmic movements rocked her hips, making her feel as though all the desire and need would burst from her in a violent eruption if it were not sated immediately. When his mouth released hers to travel down her neck again, Ilmarë whispered against his ear.
"Yes, Elrond…yes…now, please…please…"
And then he was gone. Ilmarë opened her eyes and sat up, breathing heavily and watching in confusion as Elrond stalked across the room. He stopped when he reached his desk, his hands curling around the edge of the wood and his head dropping forward as he drew in deep, heaving breaths. Ilmarë stood and followed him.
When she reached him she rested a hand on his shoulder and asked, "What is it? Are you all right?"
Elrond jerked his shoulder back, knocking her hand away and he bit out, "Do not touch me, Ilmarë. Please, just leave."
She backed away from him and tears filled in her eyes. As she stared at him she heard the faint, whispering voice in her head again. He never loved you. He merely desired you but even that is gone. Now he longs only to be rid of you. She listened, her thwarted desire changing from disbelief, to sadness, and finally to a rage welling up from her chest and into her throat, almost choking her.
"I will leave," she managed to say, "I will leave and I will never touch you again."
Elrond turned around as she moved toward the door, shocked by the anger in her voice. "Ilmarë, wait. I am sorry, I should not have been so harsh." He caught her by the shoulder and tried to turn her to face him but Ilmarë pulled away.
"Take your hands off me," she snapped. "You wish to be rid of me and so you shall. I have listened to your lies long enough and I will not be made a fool of by you."
"Ilmarë, what are you saying?" Elrond frowned and studied her with worry. "You are making no sense. I have never lied to you and I have never wished to be rid of you."
He lies even now… the voice whispered, stoking her anger even higher. "Then why do you avoid my company? Why do you never touch me or just spend time in my company?"
"It has nothing to do with how I feel about you." He looked down for a moment, then raised his eyes again. "It is because I am weak and I have been ashamed to admit it. I have not the will to be near you and not touch you. I am unable to control my desire for you."
"And where is the wrong in that?" she demanded, his admission doing nothing to curb her anger. If anything it enraged her even more.
"We cannot be intimate until things are decided between us. You know that." He paused as though reluctant to speak, then said, "Perhaps it is best if we wait until your task is finished here. Then you can return to Valinor and ask permission for us to be wed."
"Wait until I return to Valinor?" Ilmarë said, incredulous.
He cares nothing for your pain came the voice his self-righteous morals and ethics mean more to him than you do…
"You would leave me frustrated and unhappy for so long merely to satisfy your own self-righteous sense of ethics? So you can cling to laws you are not even certain you wish to hold to?" Her nose curled up and she shook her head. "You have lied to me. You said my pain was of concern to you, but my pain means nothing. You think only of yourself."
"Ilmarë, that is unfair. Once we leave for Eregion and have time alone together, this will be easier to sort out…" Elrond tried to reach for her again but Ilmarë backed away from him until her back met with one of the bookcases.
You do not need him. You can go alone.
"You are not going to Eregion with me," she said, pointing a finger at him. "I will ask Círdan to arrange for my travel to Eregion and I can stay in the city alone. I do not want or need your company."
"You do not mean that. Please, just calm down and we can discuss this…"
Look at what he did to his own brother. Do you think he will treat you any differently?
"What is there to discuss?" Ilmarë's voice rose along with her anger. "You have always been selfish, Elrond, always been blind to the pain you cause others. You caused your brother pain almost all his life and yet you felt no guilt, no concern for his happiness. You cared only for yourself. He died with that pain because you were too selfish to ease it for him."
"How did you…" Elrond began, but Ilmarë had worked herself into a full fury.
"Elros was right about you. Your heart is empty and hollow, and sealed so tightly that nothing will penetrate it."
"That is enough, Ilmarë. I have heard enough." Elrond was angered now and raised his voice to be heard above Ilmarë's tirade. "Keep silent until you have regained control of yourself.."
He is upset because your words frighten him. The truth frightens him.
"You do not wish to hear it because it is the truth."
Elrond shook his head and glared at her. "You are not yourself."
"If the truth does not frighten you then I would hear you speak it. I was foolish enough to entertain the notion that I loved you. Tell me, Elrond, do you feel the same? Is there even a possibility of it in your heart?"
He shook his head and looked away from her, frowning as he stared at the wall. He shook his head a few more times but said nothing.
Do you see now? whispered the voice in her head, he cannot say it because he does not love you. All this time he has misled you with false promises…
"Liar!" Ilmarë cried, snatching up an empty vase from the bookcase behind her and flinging it at Elrond as hard as she could. He ducked aside and the vase flew past him, and Ilmarë felt an inexplicable surge of satisfaction as it hit the far wall, the glass shattering and the pieces falling to the wooden floor in a rain of noise. But the satisfaction quickly drained out of her and she sobbed as she ran toward the door.
"I never want to lay eyes upon you again, Elrond. Never," Ilmarë choked out as she flung open the door and ran into the hallway.
She heard Elrond call out her name, but she did not stop. She ran down the hallway until she reached the stairs. Between her tears and her hurried flight, she nearly lost her balance going down the stairs before steady arms wrapped around her.
"What is wrong?" Ereinion asked, trying to look down at Ilmarë but she kept her face pressed against his chest. "Ilmarë? I was leaving the house when I heard you shouting."
She heard Elrond's footsteps approaching the stairs and she pulled away from Ereinion and said, "I do not wish to speak to Elrond. Please take me away from here."
He kept his arm around her as she all but ran down the remaining stairs. "There is a carriage out front. Wait there for me. I will be out in a moment."
Ereinion watched Ilmarë as she ran out the front door without looking back, then he turned to Elrond who was halfway down the stairs. Ereinion put out his hand and stopped Elrond as he tried to hurry past.
"What happened, Elrond?"
Elrond shook his head and frowned. "I do not know. I have never seen her behave in this manner, Ereinion."
"Did you do something to anger her?"
"I did, but not to the state she was in. She was not herself." Elrond stepped past Ereinion and said, "Let me go to her. I…"
Ereinion's hand stopped Elrond again. "I do not believe that would be wise. I will take her away for a time, allow her to calm down. When she returns, if she wishes, she will speak to you."
Ereinion sensed that Elrond wished to say something, but he did not. Only studied Ereinion's face intently and frowned.
Finally he said, "Look after her, Ereinion. I will be here waiting when you return."
"I thought you were leaving for Harlindon this morning."
"No, I will take no more trips to Harlindon," Elrond said, turning to walk back up the stairs. "I will remain here, as I should have done all along."
Ereinion turned and walked out the front door, speaking briefly to the driver sitting atop the waiting carriage before stepping up into the carriage himself. Ilmarë was already sitting inside, staring out the window. Her tears had stopped but she did not look at Ereinion as he sat down beside her.
"Ilmarë, tell me what is the matter," Ereinion said as the carriage began to move, the horses hooves beating a rhythmic pace against the cobblestone drive.
"I do not know," she said softly, still not meeting his eyes. "I became angered with Elrond for his avoidance of me and my anger overwhelmed me. I had no control over it." She touched a hand to her temple. "I hear a voice in my head…here…saying awful things…"
Her voice trailed off and Ereinion pondered her words as she continued to stare out the window at the passing streets of Forlindon.
"Ilmarë, it is possible that this Mortal body imparts weaknesses upon you which you have not considered."
She turned away from the window and asked, "What do mean?"
He shrugged and said, "I have known many fine Mortals and many have been dear friends to me, but they have a tendency to be somewhat…impulsive. At times, their emotions are stronger than their judgment and they behave irrationally. We Elves are like this when we are younger, but over time we gain a firmer hold over our emotions. Mortals are not allowed enough time to do this, therefore their emotions often overpower them."
"But this voice, it sounds so real. As though it were a part of me, coming from within my own thoughts. Yet at the same time it seems foreign, trying to make me do things I otherwise would not." She shook her head and looked back out the window. "Oh, I am making no sense…"
Ereinion took one of her hands from her lap and held it. "You are making sense. You are upset. I would imagine that such strong emotions could seem like an actual presence in your mind. You must learn not to let them get the better of you."
"Ereinion," she said, looking at him again, "I said such terrible things to Elrond. Awful things. He will never forgive me…"
"He will forgive you." Ereinion squeezed her hand and offered her a smile. "He loves you. How could he not forgive you?"
Ilmarë's chin trembled and she said, "He does not love me."
"How do you know?"
"Because I asked him."
She started to rest her head on Ereinion's shoulder as she had done in the past, but then thought better of it, not wanting to make him feel awkward with her outward displays of affection. Ereinion saw her hesitation and moved closer to her, putting his arm around her and guiding her head to his shoulder.
"Think no more on it, Ilmarë. I am taking you to Írien. You may stay with her for the time being. I am sure the situation will look better once you are able to reflect upon all that has happened."
Ilmarë was relieved that she would not be returning to the mansion to face Elrond. How he must hate her now, after the horrible things she said to him. She looked out the window again and noticed the snow had stopped falling and the sun was out, shining down upon the white city. She hoped Haleth was correct in that the change of seasons was upon them. For Ilmarë, the spring could not come soon enough.
NOTES: You'll have to forgive the lack of polish on this and future chapters. If I keep editing the chapters over and over like I usually do, I'll never get this story finished, so I'm just going to write the chapters and move on. I'll go back over them for spelling and typos, but other than that it's straight from my head and onto the paper, as it were. I apologize in advance for the diminishing quality from here on out, but if I'm ever going to get this damn monster story finished I'd best get a move on. :-D
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