33. The Journey to Mordor Part One
The tent was empty, Erestor was probably still with Gil-Galad preparing for the next day’s war councils. Elrond sighed as he took out a long grey robe from his chest before undoing his tunic and slipping the robe on. As a better precaution, he did not remove his leggings. He snuffed out the torches in a sand vessel enveloping the tent in darkness. It reminded him of the safety of Maedhros’s encampments. There was never light in the night, yet he had felt secure. He relaxed on the bed, lying down languidly on his stomach.
Erestor came in an hour later, his tread soft meaning not to wake Elrond.
But Elrond raised himself into a half-seated position as he murmured, “Is your day over? I trust the time you spent with Gil today was not uncomfortable.”
“No,” Erestor sighed as he removed his tunic and leggings in the darkness, before fumbling for his nightrobe in his chest, “Though he reminded me every possible opportunity that I had angered the High King himself. Still this will be nothing when Elendil and his sons arrive,” he fastened the ties on his nightrobe and joined Elrond on the bed, “I hope you do not mind sharing a bed.”
Elrond shook his head saying, “I will appreciate the company as we near the destination, I daresay.”
When he woke in the morning, he was surprised to find himself facing Erestor’s relaxed face. Then he remembered. Watching the steady rise and fall of his companion’s chest, he felt a sudden longing to run his hand along the smooth expanse of skin. Erestor’s hair had fanned out and was spread on Elrond’s form, tickling him gently. Carefully, he tried to extricate himself from the bed covers without waking the sleeping form beside him as his arousal grew. He gasped in horror as his erection brushed against Erestor’s leg, causing the sleeping elf to awake suddenly.
“Elrond,” Erestor murmured as he snuggled underneath the bed covers, “You are an early riser.”
Elrond sighed in relief as he tried to move away.
Erestor pulled him deftly so that they were lying alongside saying sleepily, “It is cold, you are warm.”
Elrond cursed silently as his arousal began dampening his robes. But Erestor had drifted into his dreams again. Elrond moved away carefully and crept out of the tent. Glorfindel was watching him closely as he pulled his robe closer about him to hide the too obvious bulge.
“My tent is empty, you can go there,” the Balrog Slayer offered sympathetically, “Elrond, if you want, we can swap places, Gildor will not mind. Two beds.”
“No, ,” Elrond said smiling pensively, “I am glad actually, apart from moments of embarrassment like these, it is as close to the blessed realm as I can be, to wake holding him. To watch him sleep, his features so innocent and noble,” he shuddered, “it reminds me why I love him, and I am glad of the pain it gifts me for it is a sweet pain.”
By the time Elrond returned, Erestor was already dressed in deep brown formal robes and brushing his hair and said harried, “The Gondorians have come. Gil is discussing strategies today. Oropher and Amdir have already arrived. Our prince looked in to greet me before leaving to dress for the council. And he was surprised when I told him we were sharing a tent. Now I have to go and receive the delegates because Gil is in his bath, Glorfindel refuses to go, you were missing leaving only me as usual. Where were you?”
Elrond just smiled and dressed hurriedly. It would not do to tell Erestor that he was the reason why Elrond had gone missing.
When Elrond entered Gil-Galad’s tent, the Gondorians and the dwarves led by Durin had arrived. Amdir, Amroth and Celeborn entered behind him bidding him a good morning as they did. Gil-Galad was deep in conversation with Erestor, maps spread out before them. Glorfindel was shooting filthy looks at Isildur who responded with equal willingness. Elendil was talking with his younger son.
“Elrond,” Gil-Galad called him, “Where is the Lord of Greenwood for we wait for him alone?”
Elrond wondered why he was supposed to know of Oropher’s whereabouts.
Celeborn answered, “He will be here in a few moments, Lord Gil-Galad. He was delayed by urgent business.”
Gil-Galad nodded irritably before turning to Erestor once again. Elrond wondered how they could spend time in each other’s company despite the harsh tension of their situation. Oropher arrived a few moments later, followed by his second seneschal. Elrond wondered where Thranduil was. Erestor’s curious glance directed towards the Sindar King made Elrond know that he was thinking the same.
“Lord Oropher,” Gil-Galad began impatiently, “Now that we have been graced by your presence, can we start or are we to wait for your son?”
Thranduil entered the tent, his fine features set in a light scowl as he went to stand by his father and King. He had obviously heard the High-King’s words.
Oropher said coolly, “We had set the meeting at ten. I find that you are early, that gives you no reason to call us late.”
Gil-Galad began to retort, but Erestor said clearly, “Now that we have all assembled, let us not waste time, My King will briefly tell us of his strategy to combat the forces of the enemy.”
Gil-Galad said in a calmer tone, “I would first hear my fellow rulers’ commitment and conditions to lead into battle their forces. Are they willing to accept my command?”
Durin said determinedly, “We will fight alongside you, Lord Elf, but never under you. Conditions, we have none. Except that you treat us as you would your own warriors, with the same courtesy and respect.”
Isildur cleared his throat at what he felt to be a dry speech. Gil-Galad merely bowed to the great Dwarf King and then turned to Elendil.
The handsome ruler of Gondor said, “I have no conditions on my part, merely gratitude that Gondor is not alone in this battle. I will accept the leadership of the Noldor King as he has more experience and wisdom.”
Gil-Galad said, “Well spoken, Lord Elendil,” he looked towards Oropher, who was still conversing with Amdir, “What say you, King Of Greenwood?”
“I will lead my elves to battle, Lord Gil-Galad,” Oropher paused, “My son, the Crown Prince will command our troops.”
“And Lord Celeborn shall command mine,” Amdir said clearly.
“So you will not cooperate even for a noble cause?” Isildur cut in, “That you have to stand divided? Or is the house of noble Gil-Galad not illustrious enough to command your troops?”
“Prince Of Gondor,” Erestor said quietly, “We are here to pledge alliances not allegiances.”
“True, Lord Consort,” Isildur remarked, noting with pleasure Erestor’s discomposure. “Thank you for reminding me.”
“I believe you owe me an apology, Prince Isildur,” Erestor said calmly.
“We were discussing alliances,” Gil-Galad cut in before Isildur could respond, “Lord Isildur, I will not have you insulting my chief counsellor again before me. Now, shall we move on to the strategy? Or is there any demand yet to be voiced for the alliance?”
“I wish for an elven consort,” Isildur said firmly, “An elf worthy of me. Not the cowardly elves you send to me.”
“Dare you call our warriors cowardly? Then it seems that you have too easily forgotten the defeat at the hands of an elven warrior not so long ago” Elrond asked sharply. He could not believe that someone with his twin’s blood in their veins could be so base.
Isildur turned to face him, before saying innocently, “Mayhap the one that defeated me was a true warrior.”
“What do you mean to imply?” Gil-Galad asked him, his eyes narrowed.
“I want a true elven warrior as my consort during this battle,” Isildur said determinedly, “And since you have said that Lord Thranduil is a mighty warrior, I choose him as my consort.”
There was a sudden silence at the end of his words before Amroth said angrily, “If you were not of Lord Elrond’s blood, I would have killed you where you stand!”
Anárion came to Isildur’s defence saying, “My brother said nothing disrespectful, the wood elf should be happy.”
“Lord Gil-Galad, I will not have the prince of Greenwood insulted, by fools who cannot even comprehend the depth of his lineage,” Amdir said sharply, “If the young lord cannot conduct himself in a manner more worthy, then it would be more advisable for him to stay away from these councils.”
Gil-Galad looked at Erestor, but the latter was still speaking to Glorfindel, so he said quietly, “The offer was made by Prince Isildur as the condition on which he would deign to join his army with ours. And we wait to hear Prince Thranduil’s answer.”
Oropher stepped before his son protectively before saying coldly, “For someone who witnessed the betrothal of my son to the Princess of Lothlórien, Lord Gil-Galad, you have a short memory.”
Durin was looking scandalized at the scene before him.
“I am not asking your son to wed me, Wood King. I merely seek him for pleasure till the battle is over, I am married and have sons who will be fighting alongside me,” Isildur reminded him.
Elrond saw the white pain and fury flash through in Oropher’s green eyes before Thranduil stepped forth saying mildly, “Since we are merely discussing consorts, I beg your permission for Lords Oropher and Amdir to retire now. Our troops have not yet settled, and would need supervision.”
Amdir did not wait any further before beckoning to Celeborn. Together, they led a harshly breathing Oropher out of the tent. Amroth closed the distance between him and Thranduil in a gesture of support.
“Now that the dotard has left, will you give my brother an answer, wood elf?” Anárion asked.
Thranduil raised an eyebrow before saying nonchalantly, “I would be proud of being a wood-elf were I one. A Silvan is no lesser than the Noldor.”
Isildur moved forth to stand before Thranduil, “Then if you are no wood-elf, pretty one, what are you, a cave-elf?”
“He is the heir to the throne of Ingwë,” Erestor said quietly, “And you would do well to accord him that respect.”
“You have not yet answered,” Gil-Galad said impatiently, “I am ill-inclined to spend my day hearing of your ancestry, Prince Thranduil.”
“I agree, Lord Gil-Galad,” Thranduil smiled coldly, “Prince Isildur, I have no idea why you would even presume to think that I would be overwhelmed by the prospect of being your consort. I want Mordor to be vanquished, and for that I will give my body and soul if need be. I would have given myself as a consort to you for life had you spared my father the ill-courtesy that he does not deserve. But you have hurt him,” Thranduil looked at Isildur coldly, “Do that again and you shall die under my blade.”
“Are you threatening my son?” Elendil asked furiously.
“Not threatening, My Lord,” Thranduil said calmly, “I was merely informing him of my actions should he presume to insult my father again,” he bowed politely before striding out of the tent, an equally angry Amroth followed him.
Isildur sneered, “He talks, he threatens, I will not let that affect me.”
“Then you will have to learn of him the hard way,” Glorfindel retorted before leaving.
Elendil pushed his sons towards the exit of the tent muttering, “That Sauron would hear of what we think of on the very eve of battle!”
Gil-Galad shuffled back to the maps, his eyes avoiding Elrond’s and Erestor’s.
“You knew he was going to ask that,” Elrond accused him angrily, “And you did not even warn Oropher!”
“Elrond,” Gil-Galad sighed, “Sacrifices have to be made by those who are burdened with leadership if we are to win this war. Oropher is right to be angry, but we need Isildur’s men. Do you think I do this willingly, that I bear a personal grudge towards the Sindar? I may dislike Oropher, but I would never wish his son such disgrace. I bear Isildur no more love than you do, indeed I hate him more for what he has wrecked on my marriage.”
Elrond looked to Erestor, but the Chief-Counsellor was marking something on the elaborate maps, his features concentrated in a light frown.
“You could have warned Oropher!” Elrond muttered furiously, “It broke my heart to see his face when he heard Isildur’s base words!”
Gil-Galad nodded pensively, “I should have, but I thought he would not even bear my presence had he known that I had been aware of the human’s designs on his much beloved son.”
“Oropher is no fool, My King,” Erestor spoke for the first time, his eyes still on the map, “He knows that you would be aware of this. As does Thranduil.”
Gil-Galad turned to Erestor saying furiously, “I care not, better his son than my bonded-mate! I will not let Isildur come within a yard of you if I can help it!”
Erestor raised an eyebrow before saying sardonically, “I feel safe, My Lord, by your kind words.”
Elrond watched with increasing apprehension, as Gil-Galad stormed to Erestor and spat, “What more can you ask of me? That I give up this battle because you cannot stand Isildur.”
Erestor looked truly bewildered as he said, “As a chief counsellor, I would never advise that, My King.”
Elrond said tentatively, “Gil, will you accompany me to the barracks? It would do our warriors good to meet you.”
His words fell on deaf ears as Gil-Galad pulled Erestor into his arms and caught his lips in an angry kiss. Erestor’s eyes widened at the brutality.
The High-King broke away ordering, “In our bed, now. I care not for your duties. Elrond, leave us.”
Elrond began to speak, “Gil, I must protest!” But Erestor had already walked to the other side of the tent with his head lowered, his pace unsteady.
“LEAVE!” Gil-Galad turned to Elrond, who reluctantly left, his heart thudding in pain.
He had to find Glorfindel now. Only the Balrog Slayer could handle the King while he was in such a mood. He ran to the barracks, unconcerned by his warriors’ looks, and hailed Glorfindel, who was training with his bow on the archery range.
“GLORFINDEL!,” he shouted, “Join me now.”
The Balrog Slayer came hastily, his expression worried as he approached Elrond, “What is it, Elrond? Did Isildur insult us again?”
“No,” Elrond wrung his hands in fear, “Gil is in a fell mood and ordered Erestor into his bed. I, I am scared that this will not end well.”
Glorfindel did not even wait to put his bow away as he ran towards the King’s tent, Elrond following him.
Elrond waited nervously as Glorfindel barged in demanding, “Gil, Where is Erestor? He has not yet come to the barracks!”
“By Eru!” Gil-Galad cursed, “Can I not even have my own bonded-mate for myself? Who asked you to come into our bedchamber?”
Glorfindel said in a voice of menace, “You will hurt him, Gil, and I shall not let that happen as long as I draw breath, bonded-mate or no. He returns with me.”
“Glor, please leave us,” Erestor’s voice was cold, “I am touched by your concern, but as the King says, it is a matter between him and I alone. Leave.”
Moments later, Glorfindel came to Elrond’s side whispering, “I can do naught, he is in one of his darker moods and will not let me help him.”
That day, Elrond held a lonely vigil outside Gil-Galad’s tent for Glorfindel had gone to Círdan to tell him of the news. Barely after dusk, the tent flap opened as Erestor let himself out, his face composed despite the obvious rents in his fine robes and the tousled hair, which had left its braid.
He glanced about and saw Elrond, who hurried towards him, muttering hesitantly, “Is everything all right?
“As well as they can be. The King is resting and I do not think you can see him now if you need to speak with him,” Erestor pulled his robes tighter, his eyes roving the darkening skies.
“I meant,” Elrond faltered, wondering how to approach the matter without making obvious his too deep fears, “Is everything all right with you? You look not so well.”
Erestor smiled tightly before saying, “I am well, Elrond. I think I will take a quick bath in the river near the Lothlórien tents before I retire. It has been an unsettling day,” his face darkened a moment before he said in a less certain voice, “Can I stay with you for the night? I would not wish to wake the King again, his rest is important now that we are nearing our destination.”
“You should not have to ask such a question,” Elrond said truthfully, “Whatever is mine is yours.”
Erestor nodded before walking stiffly away in the direction of the Lórien encampment. Elrond sighed as he made his way to Thranduil’s tent. He was in need of advice, though he knew that the Sindar Prince would be in a foul mood himself.
“Elrond,” Thranduil was standing outside his tent, watching crows fly north, “Are things all right there? I tried to seek Erestor out, but could not find him anywhere.”
Elrond took a deep breath before telling the whole story, Thranduil’s face increasingly darkened before the prince finally said, “Erestor is no fool. He must have a reason to believe that Gil-Galad loves him, else he would not give in. And then your cousin is as besotted with Erestor as he was all those centuries ago, it appears to me as a case of pent-up desire and frustration than an unwilling episode. Erestor has, I felt, been tensed by the long abstinence, it does not agree with him. He is like me, I fear. However, I will talk to him tonight. I heard he stays with you. Do you not find it difficult?”
Elrond grinned self-consciously at Thranduil’s knowing smirk before innocently asking the prince, “Who are you staying with?”
Thranduil shrugged pensively, “Alone,” seeing the worry flash across Elrond’s features he said hastily, “I genuinely chose to be alone, for I do not wish to seek pleasure with another now that I have bonded with her. She said she did not mind, but,” he shrugged again, “I thought I should not.”
“I know you have not slept well since you left your land,” Elrond sighed, “I can come at nights just to give you, you know, a sense of safety. No pleasure.”
“Erestor needs you more, I think,” Thranduil smiled softly, “I will manage, I had thought to speak with Lord Celeborn, he might stay with me. Now that we near the enemy’s realm, I need my rest.”
Elrond entered his tent quietly, he had spent a few hours walking in the encampment, thinking of their situations. Erestor was already in bed, his eyes closed as he turned onto the other side, in a deliberate way to prevent conversation. He had still not changed his torn robes, and Elrond could see the red mark of teeth on his neck as his hair slipped down.
“Thranduil came?” Elrond asked quietly as he smelt the distinctive scent of pine and cedar lingering within the tent.
“He did,” Erestor pulled the covers up higher, “I am sorry, Elrond, but I am not in a particularly conversant mood right now.”
“Is there anything I can do to help you?” Elrond asked trying to suppress the guilt, anger and pain in his voice, he could not forgive Gil-Galad, whatever Thranduil had said.
“No,” Erestor said quellingly. Elrond sighed and crept beside him, turning to the other side, willing himself to ignore the slight wince that his companion made when he pulled to the far end of the small bed.
After a long moment, Erestor said quietly, “He was right, when you actually think of it. I cannot let my personal dislike of Isildur affect my counsel to the King. It is not as if he wantonly lets the human insult me or Thranduil. He cannot do much.”
Elrond gave a noncommittal grunt. Erestor said dryly, “Come, Elrond, atleast he made it up to me today despite what you and Glorfindel think,” he paused before adding, “I cannot say that I did not enjoy it. It has been a long time.”
Elrond asked incredulously, “Even when he hurt you?”
“Well,” Erestor said with a hint of suppressed mischief in his voice, “I suppose he would put it the other way around. Whatever Glorfindel thinks, I can manage this. After all, a rather well-experienced prince taught me the ways of the bedchamber.”
Thranduil paced his tent angrily, he was tired and desired a good night’s sleep, but he could not afford to scare his warriors by screaming like a frightened elfling after his nightmares. Maybe, he should have accepted Elrond’s offer. No, he thought half-smiling, that would be a disaster with our mutual desire.
“My son,” Oropher greeted him as he entered the tent, taking in his son’s distressed pacing, “What is it? No company for the night? It is a remarkably long abstinence, if I may say so. And it obviously disagrees with you.”
Thranduil scowled at his father before walking to pull him into a chair by the low burning charcoal fire, he said pouting, “I will not break my promise to her.”
“Now you understand why I abstain,” Oropher smiled at his son’s faithful proclamation, “I am proud, but this promise is likely to send you to the healer’s, my son, what with your lack of rest.”
“Ada,” Thranduil rested his head on his father’s lap as he sprawled on the floor, “Stay with me, I am scared.”
Oropher pulled his son’s hair gently eliciting a muffled ‘OW’ before saying teasingly, “You make a strange bed partner, my son, one which I am not sure I should invite into my bed. Maybe you should ask Amroth, or Celeborn. Incest is not a boundary I am willing to cross.”
“I beg your pardon, Ada,” Thranduil looked up indignantly, “You estimate yourself overhigh! Thranduil Oropherion looks for a certain ‘something’ in his bed partners, which I can confidently say that a rusty old blade like you lacks absolutely!”
“Well then,” Oropher said laughing, “Maybe Isildur will match your criteria. Certainly, he will possess that ‘something’ you seek for.”
“I would rather sleep with Durin than a human,” Thranduil said laughing relieved to find that his father had left brooding over Isildur, “And with an orc rather than Isildur!”
“Then come, my son, lead this old blade to your bed,” Oropher mussed his son’s hair gently.
Gil-Galad would never understand Oropher unless he had a son like this, the proud father thought as he watched Thranduil’s eyes dilate in reverie. He pressed a loving kiss on his son’s forehead before lying down.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.