8. The Council of Elrond
Note: There are references to the Silmarillion in this chapter but they are Erestor's back story and you do not need to know all of them. Suffice to say that Erestor is old, has been around a bit, and has been associated with the House of Feanor as well as Elrond.
Beta: Gloriously wonderful Anarithilien who keeps me on the right track!
And thanks to Spiced Wine for her unflagging help and expertise in drawing out Erestor's story.
This is for Azalais, just for you.
Warnings for this chapter: Slash implied.
Chapter 8: The Council of Elrond
A low mist lay over the valley dissolving the skyline and distance into one.
Legolas followed Erestor's tall figure across the dew-scattered lawns above the rushing Bruinen and below the sounds of the river was a murmur of voices. They took some shallow steps up to a large porch that was positioned on the terrace above the steep banks of the Bruinen, looking east. Erestor waited for him and gestured with his hand that Legolas should step forwards. There were a number of Elves already sitting on the stone benches that were placed around the edges of the terrace, and the Man he had passed earlier coming out of Erestor's chambers. The Elves were all Noldor, thought Legolas in dismay.
At the farthest end of the porch was the Elf who had surprised him in the cellar and Legolas had a better look at him now in the early morning light. Although his face was ageless as all Elves, his eyes betrayed him; the immense wisdom and sorrow that Legolas had touched the evening before was evident in his grey eyes and when he turned towards Legolas, he felt the same swirl of Air rushing between the Stars and the Sea and thought he seemed weighed down by an immense sorrow.
Beside him sat the most glorious Elf warrior that Legolas thought he had ever seen; the sun seemed to adore him, and even in the pale morning, his hair was shining gold, and his face was impossibly fair. When he turned his keen bright eyes upon Legolas, he seemed both fearless and full of joy.
Legolas knew instantly that this was the legendary Glorfindel and he thought of the line from the song they sang of him in the Wood, that on his brow sat wisdom and strength was in his hand.* There was of course a ruder version of that song too that Galion sang and he tried hard to quash the memory of a very drunk Galion singing it loudly beneath Thranduil's flet; a well-aimed empty flagon had been hurtled from the flet and stopped the song, for a while at least. Unaware of both incident and Legolas' recollection of it, Glorfindel smiled kindly at Legolas who tried to keep his mouth closed for it had dropped open and he knew he gaped like a fish on a riverbank.
There was another Elf too sitting next to them clad in the colours of the Havens, with long black hair and the grey eyes of the Noldor. He did not smile.
Erestor led Legolas forwards. In the shadows was the Man, Aragorn, and Legolas' heart sank further. He could see there was no way out now. And then a deeper rumbling of voices came from behind him and he glanced over his shoulder to see a number of Dwarves had joined them. They nodded and bowed to all assembled, their beards wagging and eyes bright, looked about them and talked loudly. The important Dwarf with the snow-white hair who had opened the door to the Homely House even bowed slightly to Legolas.
Erestor stopped in front of the three Elves. All looked up and the middle one, the man whom Legolas had recognised as being his kindly benefactor caught sight of Legolas and smiled. 'You have found our emissary from Mirkwood, Erestor.' He stood and greeted Legolas with a slight bow and Legolas found himself realising with horror, that this must be Elrond! Mortified he thought how he had stripped off and stood half-naked emptying his boots out into Elrond Half-Elven's wine cellar. Smaug's teeth, how could it get any worse? He hoped the Elf in the colours of the Havens wasn't Cirdan. That was all he needed.
'My...my Lord,' he stammered, blushing furiously.
''An Elf come from Mirkwood to take part in a council of the Wise?' the Elf from the Havens laughed and Legolas frowned for it did not sound well meant. 'I suppose your King has other...'
'Mirkwood? It must have been an interesting journey,' Glorfindel interrupted smoothly and was looking at him with interest. He rose to his feet and took Legolas' arm, steering him to a seat. 'We were wondering if you travelled with the Dwarves.'
'No!' he said rather more loudly than he meant, and the Dwarves looked around. The most important Dwarf with the snow-white hair and heavy gold chain turned and looked inquiringly at Legolas. 'No, I mean... Not really,' Legolas said quickly. 'We merely arrived at the same time.' Glorfindel looked politely amused and Legolas blushed furiously.
'Are you not a servant here?' asked the Dwarf astonished. 'I thought...'
'No!' said Legolas again, slightly louder and feeling slightly hotter. 'I am a messenger, from the Woodland Realm. I have a message for Mithrandir,' he said, wishing for all he was worth that Mithrandir would appear.
'He will be here soon,' Elrond said kindly and Legolas felt as if a balm had been poured over him. Slow peace washed over him, like warmth, and his trouble was soothed away. It seemed that he was not the only one for a contemplative quiet fell upon them all.
And then a small figure stepped onto the porch, and looked about himself bemused. Behind him was Mithrandir and two other Hobbits, one of which Legolas recognised as Bilbo Baggins, though he was much changed and now seemed bent over with some great care.
At their entrance, Elrond rose and all eyes turned to him. Erestor discreetly shoved Legolas to a seat and inclined his head meaningfully while Elrond turned to the assembled company. His wise face was kind and he looked suddenly as though he felt the weight of all his lineage and his sorrowful history and Legolas felt his troubles dwindle before the ancient sorrow of Elrond and his house.
'Here my friends,' said Elrond slowly, seriously, 'is the Hobbit, Frodo son of Drogo. Few have ever come hither though greater peril or on an errand more urgent.'
Legolas stared. What peril could this Hobbit have come through that was so immense that it merited this council of all the Peoples of Arda? For it seemed to him that the Song was amplified and he knew that all these people were supposed to be here, and that included him. He caught Mithrandir's eye then and the blue eyes twinkled and the Wizard gave him a nod in greeting. Legolas tried to keep his gaze and frowned and willed him to understand, but to his consternation Mithrandir looked away in what Legolas thought was almost willful misunderstanding.
And so he missed the fact that Elrond was making introductions and the next thing he knew everyone was looking at him expectantly and Elrond was saying, 'Legolas, a messenger from his father, Thranduil King of the Elves of Northern Mirkwood.'
Legolas almost jumped up but Elrond moved smoothly on. 'Here is Boromir, a man of the South. He arrived in the grey morning and seeks for counsel. I have bidden him to be present, for here his questions will be answered.'
But then, what was said over the hours that followed, reduced him to a state of stunned fear. For the Hobbit had the One Ring, Isildur's Bane, and he had been pursued by the Nazgul and now brought it here to Elrond. Legolas listened attentively to Gloin's story of Khazad-dum; he remembered something in his lessons once long ago about Dwarves living there and he thought his father might need to know but he was still reeling from the news of the One Ring.
Bilbo had had it when he was hiding in the stronghold, he thought in horror. The Ring had been there, in his home. Only now when he had heard all of the story and how Gollum was involved did he realise just how great a task the Wood had been given. Aragorn had just spoken, saying that he for one was glad that the Elves of Mirkwood had Gollum safely in their keeping and Legolas knew that he had to speak for he could not keep silent now.
Slowly he rose to his feet, heart pounding and he felt himself hot and flushed. Elrond's kind eyes turned to him as he rose and he felt the weight of the whole council's regard. 'The tidings I was sent to bring must now be told,' he said ashamed and distressed for he knew this would bring trouble to the hearts of the Council and he had heard what trouble there was already on the world. 'They are not good but only here have I Iearned how evil they may seem to this company. Smeagol who is now called Gollum, has escaped.'
Aragorn made a sound of disgust. 'Escaped? That is ill news indeed. We shall all rue it bitterly I fear. How came the folk of Thranduil to fail in their trust?'
The words were bitter and spoken in haste, Legolas knew, but he turned in swift defence of his home.
'Not through lack of watchfulness. But perhaps through over-kindliness. And we fear that the prisoner had aid from others and that more is known of our doings than we would wish.' For it had not been Anglach's fault, nor his, and he tried not to think of the nervous and suspicious glances between the warriors, or how they had treated some of the Woodmen in the days after the attack. 'We guarded this creature day and night at Gandalf's bidding, much though we wearied of the task.' He threw a look towards Gandalf thinking he might at least intervene and save him this scathing humiliation but the Wizard was silent, his brows drawn together and his head slightly bowed, listening. 'But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure and we had not the heart to keep him forever under the earth in his dungeon where he would fall back into his black thoughts...'
He told his tale briefly, not embellishing it for he did think he could do justice anyway. And in that moment all he could see was the terrible plunging pursuit into the southern part of the Wood...
...Laersul's cries urging them on, recklessly, foolishly almost and himself standing amongst the twisted trees, bow taut, arrow drawn against his cheek, fingers ready to fly open...and ahead of him, a crowd of Orcs jeering and calling, too many. And suddenly between them he just glimpsed Naurion, his face white and screaming, his eyes squeezed shut, and a glint of steel caught...there was a spear being shoved slowly, slowly into the Elf's twitching body but not quite enough to kill and his hands clasped and opened and clasped and the steel shaft thrust in and out like a rape...There was a clear shot...and a cry and Laersul going down under a seething mass of Orcs like black beetles swarming and there was cold, freezing his scalp...
He hoped it was enough that none would now question him for he did not wish to speak of it further, the image of Anglach in his last moments, the gurgling blood in his throat and the slow glazing of eyes that had shared so much with Legolas. He hoped the tears that had scalded his face as he held Anglach would not fall now... And perhaps they saw that in his face for no one questioned again that the Woodelves had failed in their trust. Even Aragorn was silent.
He sat down heavily and looked at his hands. Mithrandir told the last part of the story then and when Legolas raised his head at the evidence of Saruman's betrayal, which had long been the belief of Thranduil, he caught Erestor's strange amber eyes on him. The counsellor did not look away but inclined his head and gave a slight smile.
That kindness almost undid Legolas and he had to look away. He did not speak again though he listened carefully to the debate about what to do with the Ring. And he did not ask why they simply did not ask one of the Eagles to fly over Oroduin and drop the Ring into it, because he thought they would have considered it if it was not foolish and he was determined not to make any mistakes that would shame his father and his home.
When Elrond decided that the Ring should be taken to Mordor in secret, he thought it would be Glorfindel and Mithrandir who would take it, and maybe Erestor for he had hidden power too. So when the noon bell rang and Frodo stood and said that he would take the Ring, Legolas stared at the Hobbit with absolute respect and remembered that his father had always spoken most highly of Bilbo who had exceeded all the expectations of Elves, Men and Dwarves and as he realised that, he knew in his heart that this was right.
Legolas had escaped the Council as soon as Elrond ended it and slid between the pillars of the porch easily, evading everyone and walking quickly back into the house. He had been a little bit lost but finally found his room at the top of the house. It was empty. The bed stripped and his belongings gone.
He sat for a moment on what he thought of as 'his' bed, head in his hands. It hurt still, the telling of his tale, for the grief was still too near and he did not wish to speak of it more. It had been harder than he had ever thought it would be and he thought now how foolish he had been to want to do this and not let Thalos come instead. His brother would have managed it with suavity and persuaded the Council that the Wood had done more than its due, had paid the highest price. Thalos would never have hidden his name for shyness. It was shameful.
There was a scuff of feet on the wooden stair outside and he lifted his head to see Berensul standing there.
'You should have told me,' he said accusingly.
Legolas looked away uncomfortably. 'I know that now. But I thought I would only be here for a day or two at most. I did not think it mattered.'
Berensul gave a disbelieving snort. 'I suppose I should call you your Highness or something now.' In spite of his anger however, Legolas noticed he did not leave or move away.
'No. I am none of those. I am as I told you, Legolas of the Woodland Realm. That is all. I am no Prince of Elves or great Lord. I am the son of my father that is all. I have two older brothers who are far better than me at everything,' he said miserably and heaved a great sigh and hung his head again.
There was a pause and then Berensul said coldly, 'I am to show you your new quarters. Proper ones for the son of the Elvenking of the Northern Elves.'
'Not even my father calls himself King really,' Legolas replied heavily. 'He is the aran. It is more like chief than King but it is too hard to explain to people outside the Wood. And usually we cannot be bothered,' he added.
Berensul said nothing. Then he breathed in and looked away down the stairs. 'Come. I have to show you where you are to sleep. It is in the family's wing.'
Legolas' heart sank. Did that mean he had to have dinner with them and make small talk. He did not think he could. There would be Elrond Half-Elven, Arwen Evenstar, the Sons of Thunder, probably Glorfindel of Gondolin and Erestor of...well, who knew? Mithrandir and him. Oh Manwe's holy wind.
He rose reluctantly and followed Berensul back down the stairs to the wide terraces and lawns as he had earlier and with an equally heavy heart. The room was on a lower floor than the one he had shared with Berensul. And far more luxurious. It had tall windows that were open and looked westwards down the valley. A cold fresh wind blew the sheer drapes and the sunlight gleamed upon the marble floor. Legolas looked around. Everything was elegant, light and airy. There were two further doors leading off the room. His meagre pack was on the huge bed and Berensul was unpacking it for him in stony silence and refused to even look at Legolas.
'Please leave that,' he said, holding out his hand to Berensul appeasingly. 'Forgive me?'
'You should have told me, my lord,' was all Berensul said. Again. Legolas could say nothing and Berensul bowed low and mockingly and left Legolas to his own misery.
It had been worse than he had thought possible. From the moment he had stepped into Imladris to now, he had done nothing but humiliate himself and his father. He felt himself cringe as he thought of Berensul's kindness, the welcome in the kitchen and even Erestor's benign interrogation. Why hadn't he simply told them who his father was? He had no excuse. And it had been Elrond of course who had come across him half-naked in the wine cellar and emptying out his boots. And then Aragorn had poured scorn upon him and he had simply let him with a feeble protest that they had been bid to be kind. And then that damned Dwarf, Gloin, had launched in with the usual complaint against the Woodelves. Not once had Mithrandir had shown any remorse for what had befallen the Wood because of his request - a request that he had made knowing full well brought immense danger to the Wood - and yet had said nothing.
Well, Legolas determined, he had yet to speak properly to Mithrandir. And he would give an accounting to Glorfindel of Anlgach's death, as he had sworn. And then he would leave. Elrond had indicated there would be messages going over the Mountains and though Legolas wanted nothing more than to sneak out of Imladris without having to see another soul, he did not relish another lonely journey over the Mountains. If it was in Aragorn's company, he thought, he would at least have an opportunity to put the Man right about the folk of the Wood.
He did not dare leave the room since it was in the family quarters and he could not bear to see anyone else right now. So he simply toed his boots off his feet and pulled the soft woolen blankets over his head and fell into reverie.
Once, long ago...in Nargothrond perhaps, thought Erestor as he strode through Imladris in search of Mithrandir, he had heard the Song like he heard it earlier that morning standing with Legolas in the garden. Then, it had been a strange ringing Song of the stone city, delved deep, carved and sculpted fair, and with sweeping grandeur. On such a morning as this had been, clear with the pale sun rising over the mountains and the river rushing below...
He sighed. Finrod had been glorious. Nor could he forget the two vibrant, sulky, selfish bastards who had shone and dazzled and betrayed. It was so long ago now and he felt, as he sometimes did, the weight of his years, the weight of all his losses.*
But standing with Legolas on the lawns of Imladris, he had heard Vilya's breath, soft and deep and like some great sleeping beast, or a storm far off in the Mountains but softened and eased in the Valley...rushing between the Stars and the Sea...like the breath of the Sea...
The Sea...it had washed against the bottom of the white cliffs and a bird cried above the sobbing of the children....Had there been a sail far off on the horizon?**
He paused, looking out over the Valley that had become his home, the sanctuary that Elrond had been determined to found, that had become his life too. And now the Ring was here...and Imladris trembled on the brink of disaster. He did not think he could bear seeing Imladris destroyed as Nargothrond had been, as Himring, as Sirion...Imladris was the last Sanctuary.
It was worth dying for.
He frowned at his dark thoughts; why was he suddenly pulled back into the Past? He knew the reason. The One Ring, Ash Nazg, sought all their weakness. It sought the cracks, to further divide them.
At the Council, Erestor had not wanted to see the Ring. He had seen it before on the slopes of Oroduin when Isildur cut it from Sauron's hand and took it himself. Its whisperings and lure wrapped cold black fingers around his heart and fingered its way into his darkest thoughts...He braced himself as it was taken out and the surge of Power was like the Sea.
...A bed, in disarray, sheets pulled off the bed and twisted like it was part of the passion. A long, lithe body lying on his bed, on his side, his back to Erestor but oh, colour and wildness, a wild coil of colour about his body, long blond hair pulled over one shoulder, the muscles of his body tensed and he looked back over his shoulder at Erestor and smiled, blinding, beautiful, seductive...Legolas Thranduillion.
Erestor did not gasp then and he did not now. He had already recognised the temptation, that he was seduced, and that his curiosity was stirred but not his heart. And he did not think he needed Ash Nazg, the Ring, to have this child of the Wood who was naturally curious, already off balance and needing reassurance.
A momentary and fleeting desire. No more. His heart was buried deeper than that...
You will have to do better than that, he said to the Ring.
And it had....
...Eyes like starlight, a thick coil of copper silk hair pulled over one shoulder, he looked back over his shoulder at Erestor and smiled, blinding, beautiful, seductive...Erestor's mouth dry. Scorched by the intensity, his desire...
'One day you will come here for me....' Said with all the confidence of his House.
And he had. Oh, he had and there had been such glory in it...but they were gone. All of them. Ash Nazg could not bring them back. There was nothing it could offer him.
You are nothing, he told Ash Nazg. You are not Bauglir.****
He shook himself. Too long ago, too far away and beneath the waves now, and he could not dwell upon what was Past. For one who had survived the Oath*, Ash Nazg was as nothing.
He turned away then from the view of the Valley stretching away between the Mountains and into the blue distance. He turned away from the view as he turned from the truth.
...For he lied. There was one thing. But he buried it so deep in his heart that he did not admit it even to himself. He did not allow himself to even take out a single memory, buried it deep where none could find it.
He took three steps at a time, striding up the wide stone steps, and narrowly avoided a collision with one of the minstrels, Lindir, so immersed was he in his memories. He did not apologise or bow. Lindir was a useless frippery, as far as Erestor was concerned, who played badly. For he had heard the voices of Finrod and Maglor, and how could anyone come even close?
Erestor threw open a door and peered within. He took three steps across a room, a hallway, leapt down the steps four at a time, thinking that Elladan was a better singer than Lindir, his voice deeper than one would expect when he sang, and resonant. His nature was gentler than his wild and furious brother who would take both those Sons of Thunder to damnation. And there was nothing he, Erestor, could do to stop them.
Amidst the musical patter of the Hobbits' voices was a drift of smoke. Mithrandir lifted his head at Erestor's approach and nodded slightly.
Erestor did not interrupt. The Wizard would know to come. There was much to discuss.
He found himself near the stables. They had returned and he had much to think about and he found himself searching for the black horses of Elrond's sons.
At last hunger woke Legolas and he sighed and rolled onto his back, looking up at the ceiling, which was carved and painted. Of course, he thought grumpily. He could not really just stay here forever, he told himself. He would have to find Mithrandir. And he had vowed that Glorfindel would know of Anglach. He lay, looking upwards and listing in his head what he had yet to do.
The sun had set, the sky blushed pink, and the distant clouds were tinged with gold. Cold mountain air filled the room with the scent of pines and there must have been lavender planted beneath his windows. He felt better for it, and the room was graceful, elegant, just as everything was in Imladris.
Decisively he swung his feet to the floor and pushed himself to his feet. There was no jug of cold water or basin to wash his face so he simply rubbed his face and tidied up his clothes, pulled on his boots and opened the door of the room and went out.
There was a long window facing West at the end of the passage and the sun flooded through, blinding him. He walked hesitantly eastwards towards the wide stone staircase that swirled around and down towards the Hall of Fire when he thought the air shifted and the Song changed. His felt his blood thrum and his heart suddenly pounded in his chest.
His feet faltered and he stopped, leaned against the cold stone.
Was there the scent of snow, clean and cold on the mountains? And high high above he thought he heard an eagle cry... a deep rhythm pounded in his veins, drums beating like a heart, a strong heart, noble, and a crimson light flooded the air around him. Warmth and heat caressed him.
He turned back towards the setting sun and lifted his head to stare at a warrior who strode towards him it seemed out of the setting sun - long raven-black hair like silk worn loose and flowing, he was tall and broad shouldered, a swordsman not an archer, light on his feet and clad in black leather close to his skin. His grey eyes stared straight ahead and he barely registered Legolas, simply strode past, but the light, the air, surged about Legolas and he felt time had slowed and his destiny approached...and passed. He turned, lips parted and eyes wide, staring after the warrior...and the crimson power surged around him, ebbed with his passing and left Legolas breathless and limp.
The warrior turned his head after he had passed as if Legolas had called to him, and his eyes were wide and starlit grey. He stared but he did not stop, and turned away again.
Legolas reached out to steady himself against the stone sill of the window and leaned his forehead against the cold wall, breathing hard. He shook himself and turned, took a step after the glorious figure, and paused. What would he say? What would he do if the warrior paused and listened?
He had lost his nerve and rubbed his eyes and slowly carried on... but he could not lose that image of power striding down he halls of Imladris and he knew then, here was his destiny.
*Taken from LOTR The Council of Elrond. I have used bits of the descriptions of Elrond and Glorfindel so you may recognise phrases.
Just to exlplain that reference if you do not know the SIlmarillion, Nargthrond - the ancient Elven stronghold/ palace of Fingon. Beren came to Nargothrond seeking help, Finrod went with him on the Quest for the Silmaril to repay his debt. Celegorm and Curufin,* (the sulky bastards as Erestor saw them) who were living in Nargothrond at the time, persuaded (using barely veiled threats related to their Oath to Feanor to recover the Silmarils) most of Nargothrond to stay behind; only ten warriors, headed by one Edrahil, were faithful and came with them. Beneath the Shadowy Mountains they came upon a company of Orcs, and slew them all in their camp. They took their gear and weapons and by the magic of Finrod their own forms and faces were changed to the likeness of Orcs. Thus disguised they came far upon their northward road between Ered Wethrin and the highlands of Taur-nu-Fuin. However the twelve were captured and imprisoned by Sauron on Tol-in-Gaurhoth ("Isle of Werewolves"). Thus befell the contest of Finrod and Sauron. Finrod strove with Sauron in songs of power, and the power of the Elven King was very great but in the end Sauron had the mastery. It is told in the Lay of Leithian and Finrod was slain.
*Elros and Elrond were abandoned by Elwing, their mother- who took flight as a sea bird. The twins were then fostered by the surviving sons of Feanor
*Bauglir- a name given to Morgoth
For those of you who haven't read the Silmarillion, it doesn't matter. You just need to know that Erestor has been around a bit. And he has seen dreadful things and wonderful things.
Last note for LOTR geeks: I know Cirdan had a beard, I want to show how little Legolas really knows of other realms and history. The 'less wise' referred to what was valued by the Noldor and that included 'book learning', Quenya, the history of the Noldor themselves. Legolas knows other things that to HIS people, are valuable. Oropher went over the mountains to escape the Noldor.