5. My Master's Man
I left the office without saying a word to Erestor. As ambassador, I did not answer to him and did not owe him any explanation of where I went, but usually I liked to be courteous and let him know that I was only going for a drink or needed a walk for some fresh air. This time, I simply left. I followed the winding corridors of Elrond's house until I came to the room that I knew was Glorfindel's. I had asked a servant about its location shortly after I arrived, and had been shown the closed door. Now, it was open, and I saw the interior for the first time.
Glorfindel had been quick. He was at his wardrobe, pulling on a fresh shirt. He had already changed his breeches. I said nothing to him, and made no noise, only watching from the doorway. I would see how long it took for him to notice me. Shirt on, he sat on a chair to pull off his riding boots and replace them with soft, indoor shoes. He combed the wind-tangles from his hair and tied it neatly back with a ribbon. He splashed his face with water. Finally, when I thought I could take being silent and still no longer, he turned toward the door
"Aer i tiet siavannaron!" he shouted. Or, whatever it was he shouted sounded very close to that. I did not understand the words. "Legolas! How long have you been standing there?"
"Only a moment," I lied.
He smoothed his hands over his hair, which seemed to help him regain his composure. "Well. Welcome to Imladris, then. I'm sorry I wasn't here when you arrived, but I hurried back as soon as I heard the news. How have you found everything so far?"
"I am enjoying it very much. I never expected to be made an ambassador."
"Ah," he said. "Right... about that."
"In fact, I expected to be your servant. Has our contract changed?"
"No... Not as such..."
"Then what?" I asked.
"I... didn't think it seemly for you, a prince, to come all the way here to be a servant. People would wonder about it. So, I thought of ways in which I could preserve your honour. I mentioned to Elrond that your father was interested in sending one of his sons here, and he suggested that you be given the role of ambassador. Since we have been without an ambassador from Eryn Galen for... uh... ever. Anyhow, in this position, you can continue to live with princely dignity. No-one needs be aware of our arrangement."
The reasons he gave made so much sense, spoken in his calm, smooth voice. I could easily have believed him. Except, I could see through his game. On that first night when I was told of my position, I had been convinced he was up to something catty and underhanded. But I gave him too much credit. He was merely being selfishly worried about his reputation. Those last words gave him away.
"Glorfindel," I began, "is all this discreetness for my benefit or for yours?"
His kindly smile froze on his face. "For yours, of course," he answered after an awkward pause.
"How so? No-one here knew I was a prince until you told them. No-one here would have recognised me. I could have come out of the east walking like a beggar, you could have said I was some poor orphan to whom you generously offered employment, and no-one would ever have known. I would have been one more unimportant servant to blend into the household."
"I would never want to force that life on you..." he started.
"If you didn't want to force that life on me, you never would have even suggested what I agreed to in our contract. It says, very plainly, that I am to be your servant. Not your ambassador, and not your secret on the side. That's what worries you, isn't it?" I asked. "You're afraid of what people would say. If you came home over the mountains with me on the back of your horse, what in the world would people think? Then when I started attending to you every day and sleeping in your bedroom every night? The rumours about Perfect Glorfindel would fly free. Whatever could he possibly be doing with that servant boy?"
"Now wait a minute-"
I interrupted him before he could say anything more. "That's what worries you! You don't care a jot about me; it's your character on the line, not mine. So what do you do? Make me an ambassador. Give me a position, give me greatness, make a spectacle so that the attention of the people will be drawn elsewhere. With any luck, nobody will notice that, once the moon rises, I'm still bound by the terms of our contract. Isn't that right?"
He did not answer my accusation.
"Isn't that right?" I repeated, louder than before. "Glorfindel?"
"You have a very vivid imagination," he said sharply. "And a large mouth that will attract trouble for you one day."
"And you have a large sense of self-importance."
"Your large mouth should learn when keeping shut would be best!"
"And your mouth can kiss my balls!" I shouted. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go. I might see you later, but not likely. I'm an ambassador now. I'm very busy with important diplomatic negotiations."
He stared at me, stunned, but I only returned the gaze for a second before spinning around and leaving the room. I walked as fast as I could in no particular direction, turning right here and left there through Elrond's corridors. I could hear Glorfindel following after me and calling my name, but I could not bring myself to turn around. No good would come of facing him again. I kept walking until, suddenly, I found myself out on a terrace at the very edge of the house. Before me lay a path into the forest. I hesitated only for a breath, hearing Glorfindel still shouting at my back, before taking off at a run.
One of the twins found me. It was Elrohir, though he said he was Elladan. At that point, I was lost in the hills somewhere in the general vicinity of Elrond's house and beyond worrying about what juvenile practical joke those two might be playing on me. I was too exhausted and hungry to care whether it was Elrohir-pretending-to-be-Elladan or anyone else, as long as he showed me the way back.
"Down here," said Elrohir. I knew it was Elrohir because his face was slightly fuller than Elladan's. Identical twins were never truly identical. Small differences showed themselves to the eyes of those who knew how to look. "There's an intersection of the paths, and we turn left toward home."
"But home should be right," I said. The mountains were on my left, which meant that Elrond's home had to be to the right. I had walked up toward the mountains when I left.
Elrohir shrugged. "Suit yourself."
I turned right. I was not stupid enough to fall for his misguiding directions. The right path led down alongside a creek, then curved back up, and snaked back and forth around clusters of trees. The entire way it felt as if we were walking downhill, but somehow, to my amazement and frustration, we managed to end up exactly back where we had started: at the intersection.
"That's... that's not... possible!" I stammered.
"I told you to turn left," was all Elrohir said. We turned left.
This time, the path seemed straighter. We crossed a little bridge to the other side of the creek. With every step, the sound of a waterfall in the distance grew louder. I knew we were drawing near to home. When we came to a second intersection, I asked Elrohir which way to turn, but he only shrugged.
"Right?" I asked, and he shrugged again. "Left?"
He provided no answer. I turned right. Not twenty steps later, the path dropped away at the edge of a high cliff over the river. I rubbed my eyes and sighed. "Left?"
"Probably a good idea," said Elrohir. Again, we turned left.
By the time we found our way down from the hills and into the flatter woodlands behind the house, it was nearly nightfall. The sun was become nothing but a red and purple streak on the horizon, and stars were already glittering in the east. My stomach growled; I wanted supper.
"We're past the enchantments now," Elrohir told me as we stepped over a fallen log.
"They're why you couldn't find your own way down. The paths are deliberately confusing, and trick you into turning the wrong way. But now that I've shown you where to go, you'll never be lost up there again."
"Oh..." I said. "Thank you."
"Want to race back to the house?"
"Race? Uh... Sure, why not?"
Elrohir grinned. "You'll never beat me!" he shouted as he took off in a straight line to my right. "I know a shortcut!"
Shortcut or not, he was heading away from the house. I ran toward it. I leapt over another fallen log and dodged a swarm of moths at a hanging lantern, arriving on the front step just in time to see Elladan, dressed in an outfit identical to that of his twin, standing there waiting for me. So that was their prank. They were not malicious jokers after all; just silly.
"A-ha," I said. "Very clever."
"I told you I'd win. Hand over the silver coin."
"The silver... what?"
"For winning. That was our bet. A silver coin."
"No, it wasn't."
"But I told-" Elladan stopped himself abruptly, and a dark look crossed his face. "Never mind," he grumbled.
They were a little malicious. I could already see that Elrohir was in for a sound tongue-lashing for omitting an integral part of the prank. I laughed to myself as I climbed the steps to the door, then fell silent once I was inside.
The heat of the argument with Glorfindel was passed, and now I felt both stupid and embarrassed for acting the way I had. I was meant to be a representative of my father's kingdom as well as a servant to Glorfindel, as per the contract I had signed. It had hardly been appropriate to tell him to kiss my balls. I cringed at the memory.
Of course, there was only one way to make it right. After grabbing a bread roll and a block of cheese from the kitchen, I went sluggishly to my room and undressed. My nightshirt was already out, tossed across the back of a chair from when I dressed in the morning. I pulled it on, combed my hair, and covered myself with a large house robe before heading back out into the corridor. Glorfindel's bedroom was placed conveniently close to mine. Not so close as to arouse suspicion, but close enough that I would not have to pass by any busier corridors and risk being seen. He had surely planned it that way.
The door was closed when I arrived, and a voice from beyond answered my knock with, "Who is it?"
I opened the door without replying. Inside, two candles still burned on a bedside table. Glorfindel was in bed already, under the covers but sitting back against his headboard, reading what looked like a letter. The blankets were strewn with scrolls and folded papers.
"Legolas," he said. He stared at me as if I were something astounding to behold. A unicorn. Or a cockatrice. He did look a little unnerved by my sudden appearance.
"You seem surprised to see me."
"I... well, yes. I am. Why should I expect you to come here after our little scene earlier?"
Because it was my duty. It was what I promised to do when I signed away my life. I could hardly tell him that, though. I could hardly say anything at all. I had no desire to. All I said, as I sat down on the edge of his bed and carefully climbed in, avoiding the mess of papers, was, "Sorry."
"Sorry," I repeated. I had no interest in saying anything more: no explanation, just a single word of apology.
After a long pause, he sighed and began gathering the papers. "Very well, then. You're welcome to sleep here if you wish. Good night, Legolas." He stowed the papers in a drawer in his table and extinguished the candles.
In the dark, I lay waiting with my unplaited hair fanning out around my head, looking, I was sure, like a maiden on her wedding night. Here I was the maiden, and this something akin to a wedding night. I shivered even in the warmth of the blankets. But all Glorfindel did was roll over to turn his back on me. I listened to his breathing drop to a low, even pace as he pretended to fall asleep. For hours, he lay beside me in the darkness. His breathing remained constant, and his shoulders remained tense. I knew he was still awake. Were he asleep, he would have moved or grunted or started to snore.
I had to do something. I would have gone mad to lie in that room all night, feeling Glorfindel's tension radiate and listening to him pretend to sleep. There was no way I could sleep. Carefully, I rolled onto my side, facing his back, and slid my hand onto his hip.
He tensed as soon as I touched him. "Legolas!" he hissed. "What are you doing?"
"What I came here to do," I said. I pushed lower, feeling the warmth of his skin against my fingertips, but his hand shot down to grab mine before I could go too far.
"I don't think that's very wise." He turned to face me, pressing my hand and arm against my chest as if giving them back to me. "Not tonight."
"Because I say so." Once again, he rolled over to face away, pulling the blankets tight around his shoulders. "Good night, Legolas."
It was hard to say which I felt more acutely: relief at not having to go through with what I thought I would, or offence at having been brushed off so lightly. Sighing, I rubbed my hands over my face. "Do you mind if I go sleep in my own bed, then? I'm not at ease in here."
"By all means," he said.
I clambered out of bed gracelessly, not caring if I disturbed him or not. The frame gave a satisfying creak as I sat on the edge. "I'll... see you tomorrow?"
"If you wish," he answered, drawing the final word out into a loud yawn.
I returned to my own bedroom with curses to Glorfindel spinning through my head.
The next morning, after a terrible sleep, I made a promise to myself not to go to him unless I received a summons. If he wanted to stay angry at me, I could stay angry at him. There was no use in trying to mend ties with somebody who would only undo them again. I went to Erestor's office for our daily arguments, then ate supper with some visitors from Mithlond. All day, I neither saw Glorfindel nor heard from him. I went to bed in a foul mood.
The next day was a repeat of the previous. The day after that, I briefly ran into Glorfindel in a corridor around dinner time, but he said no more than a handful of words to me. Those were, "Sorry, no time now, I'm late for a hunt with Elladan and Elrohir." Then more days of silence passed.
When he finally did, once again, invite me to his room, it was for a small, private supper. Someone had set a table near the bank of windows, and we dined on delicate fish and steamed greens. Throughout, Glorfindel kept up a stream of pleasant but meaningless chatter. He told me about the hunt, where Elrohir had loosed the arrow that killed the stag, and asked how my work with Erestor progressed. He said nothing that even hinted at our contract. When I tried to steer the conversation that way, he would answer vaguely before changing the topic to something even blander than before.
"Glorfindel," I began, "if you've changed you mind and no longer want me to-"
But he interrupted with, "Mm! This fish is wonderful. Is that a hint of liquorice in the sauce? It works very well."
I gave up on trying to talk to him about anything more than the weather. Once we had finished our meals, he yawned and stretched in his chair, putting on a show of how very tired he was. "Excellent supper!" he said. "Thank you for joining me, Legolas. We must do this again soon. I prefer dining away from the crowds in the halls, but eating alone is a little depressing, wouldn't you say?"
"Now, you're welcome to stay the night here, if you wish, but I warn you I have another hunt planned with the twins, early tomorrow morning, so I'll be going to bed immediately."
As the servants carried away our dishes, he began to strip off his clothes right there in front of them. He removed his shoes first, placing them on a shelf beside his wardrobe, then his robe, then the thin shirt and breeches he wore beneath. Fully naked, wearing not even so much as a hair tie, he stood at his bedside and stretched again. He twisted from side to side, showing all there was to see, with his lean muscles flexing beneath his skin. His long, golden hair could only hide so much. It ended in a teasing, tail-like flip just above the smooth curve of his bottom.
I had to look away. Too much heat had risen into my cheeks, and my throat felt suddenly dry. "I might... uh... stay..." I managed, voice wavering.
"As you like," he replied.
I heard the swishing sound of a nightshirt being pulled on, and the creak of the bed frame. Only then was it safe to look back. He was in bed, as I hoped, with the blankets pulled safely over his clothed body.
"Can you put out the candles before you come to bed?" he asked. "Thank you." Just as before, he tightened the blankets around his shoulders and turned his back on me. There was no mistaking that this would be a repeat of our first night together, if I chose to stay.
I chose otherwise. I extinguished the candles for him, as he asked, and left him behind in the dark room. All I could think of, as I made my way back to my own bed, was that I had no idea what in the world he was trying to do. None of this made sense. It only made me angry. He seemed to be avoiding me, or deliberately cutting me out of his life. He had brought me here all the way from Eryn Galen, and for what? To have supper every once in a while, when I was free from the endless negotiations with Erestor?
I had to admit to myself that I may have guessed wrong in the beginning. Now that I was here, it looked as if he may not want me at all. He may never have wanted me. It was possible that he only chose to bring me here as a way of hurting Father and Mother. He could have taken me away as a cruel jab at them, but it seemed unlikely. The simplest explanation was that he wanted an alliance between Eryn Galen and Imladris, as he said. I was a political hostage and nothing more, here to facilitate communication between Father and Elrond. That was all. Everything else was a misunderstanding. Everything else, I had fabricated in my own head. Why would someone like Glorfindel ever want anything to do with a dull youth like me? He would not; that was the answer. I had been mistaken.
With those self-deprecating thoughts, I fell into bed with all my clothes on and lay where I was until dreams came. Repetitive and exhausting dreams. Through the night, I relived every wrong assumption I had made, every error, and felt all the more foolish.
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.