Part 2 - Adjustment
Erestor felt hesitant to venture outside now that he was being released from the healing house. Everyone had been friendly toward him once they had learned the Elfling was allowed to stay. He stared at the doorway, wondering where he was supposed to go now.
His breath caught, hearing his name spoken in such a gentle, liquid tone. A silver-haired she-Elf had appeared in the doorway and kindly smiled at him. Aewithôn was beautiful, but she didn’t compare to this ethereal being. “Milady?” He tentatively rose to his feet and bowed his head.
“I am Celebrian, Elrond’s wife. Let me show you to your quarters.” When her husband had asked her to take the Elfling under her wing she had approved at once.
Shyly raising his eyes, he took in her magical sight. His eyes were drawn toward her hands, which she held protectively in front of her abdomen. And only then did he realize, “You are pregnant.” Realizing he had blurted it out aloud, he quickly covered his mouth with his hand.
Celebrian noticed his nervousness and waved his fears away. “Aye, I am pregnant with twins, or at least my dear husband thinks so. He is convinced I will give birth to two boys.”
“I apologize, milady. I should not have—“
Celebrian cut him short and extended her hand. “Come with me.” Erestor looked so young, and her awakening motherly feelings urged her to reach out. The way Erestor stared at her hand made her realize how shy and insecure the Elfling was. “Let me show you to your room. And later, I will take you to the library. Collneled is already waiting for you.”
Erestor cautiously placed his hand in hers. He would rather not touch her, feeling like he defiled her splendor with his touch, but her kind eyes assured him that it was all right. He followed obediently when she led him through the corridors, until she halted in front of a door. She opened it and then pulled him inside.
“I hope you like your new room,” she said, smiling warmly.
“It is bigger than my old one,” muttered Erestor, absentmindedly. “I like it. Thank you.”
She seemed to float past him and pulled him along again. For such a delicate creature she did seem to possess an amazing strength, and he let her, following suit.
“The library is this way.” Her soft laughter echoed through the corridor.
Erestor felt enchanted by her. His mother had died giving birth to him and he found himself fantasizing about her looking just like Celebrian. His mother had been flaxen-haired, - at least that was what his father had told him, during the many accusations the Elf had aimed at him. He bowed his head, still hearing his father rage at him, telling him over and over again that he had caused her death; that he was a murderer.
“Erestor?” Cocking her head, she studied him. She understood her husband’s worry about the young one. Erestor looked like a truly lost soul. She opened the door to the library and shooed him inside.
Feeling nervous, Erestor involuntarily met dark grey eyes, which belonged to an elder Elf, dressed in green. That must be the librarian Elrond had mentioned. Respectfully, he bowed his head. “Greetings, I am Erestor.”
Collneled nodded once. “Elrond told me you desire to be a scribe here?”
Erestor nodded as well. “I would be honored to work here.”
Celebrian smiled at both of them. “Collneled, I entrust him to you. Please make sure he does not tire himself out too much? Lord Elrond thinks he should pace himself for a few more days.”
“Of course, milady.” Collneled smiled, watching her leave, and then turned to Erestor. “Let us find out how good… or bad… your writing skills are.”
Erestor followed the chief librarian. His eyes greedily devoured the thousands of books that made up Elrond’s library. He had always loved to read. It had allowed him to escape reality.
“Copy this scroll in your best writing,” said Collneled. Elrond had told him to treat Erestor kindly, and he realized he would have done so even without his Lord’s order. Erestor was timid, even seemed frightened. Looking out of the window, he reckoned that Arien would set in two, maybe three hours. “I will check on you when Ithil appears.”
Erestor nodded obediently, dipped the quill in the ink and began copying the scroll.
Collneled studied his newest scribe, impressed by the Elfling’s concentration and motivation to copy the scroll in his best handwriting. He had seldom seen such determination in such young eyes. Walking up behind Erestor, he slowly rested his hand on the Elfling’s shoulder, about to praise him for his work. He was absolutely stunned when Erestor flinched away from him, quickly stepping away and pushing over the ink in the process. The black liquid flowed down the parchment, rendering his work useless.
Erestor’s breathing was too fast and he fought down another panic attack. He hadn’t heard the librarian approach! His gaze shifted from the Elf to the scroll and he released a shocked gasp, seeing the damage the ink had done. “Oh, I am so sorry…”
“No,” said Collneled, “this was not your fault. I startled you.” Why had Erestor reacted like that? “I will clean this up.”
“No! I will!” He was about to protest once more, but then the librarian’s stern gaze silenced him. He felt like an utter failure. He had worked so hard and had hoped Collneled would approve of his work; now everything had been ruined because he was so jumpy.
“Elfling, go for a walk in the gardens, eat and then sleep. Return here in the morning.” Collneled was determined to have a word with Elrond. Maybe the half-Elf knew what had spooked Erestor. “And I do not want to see you here before Arien has risen, do you understand?”
Feeling miserable, Erestor nodded. “Are you sure you want me to return at all?”
“As I said just now, it was my fault, not yours. Now go and put this behind you. No harm was done.” He turned Erestor around and gently nudged him toward the exit.
Erestor left, feeling more depressed with every step he took. Why had he deluded himself into thinking things would be different here? His father was right; he was good for nothing!
“Erestor?” Elrond frowned. He had been on his way to ask Collneled how the Elfling had done when he happened upon a listless Erestor in the corridor.
Erestor cringed, unable to meet the Elf-Lord’s eyes. He came to a halt, bowed his head and kept his eyes downcast.
The Elfling’s behavior worried Elrond and he stepped up to the younger Elf. “Is something wrong?”
“I spilled ink and ruined the scroll I was copying. I am so sorry.”
“Was it an accident or did you do it on purpose?” He had to push through the self-contempt that radiated so lividly from Erestor’s eyes.
“I would never do it on purpose!” Realizing he had raised his voice, Erestor flinched.
“Then stop blaming yourself for accidentally spilling the ink. Now go to your room. I will have one of the maids deliver dinner to your room. Eat, and then go to sleep.”
“Yes, milord.” Erestor would never defy Elrond and would do what the half-Elf had said, though he doubted he could sleep.
Elrond watched Erestor walk down the corridor and he disliked seeing so much pain in someone that young. He had to talk to his wife. Maybe they could somehow help this tormented young soul.
Erestor lay curled up in his bed, hidden beneath the covers. He couldn’t help listening to every noise that sounded in this wing of the house and he trembled, hearing voices in the corridor. “It is not my father… He is not here… is not….” His body failed to stay vigilant and he fell asleep sometime during the night, dreaming of his father, who was ripping the clothes from his body.
Celebrian smiled dotingly at her husband, who had finally fallen asleep after telling her he was worried about Erestor. Unable to sleep herself, she slipped out of his embrace, pulled on a warm robe and tiptoed into the corridor, trying hard to not wake him. Humming softly, she rubbed her growing belly and smiled, walking down the corridor. Maybe some hot milk would help her sleep.
Unexpectedly, soft sobbing reached her ears and she halted in her tracks, trying to pinpoint the source of the pitiful noise. Slowly, she walked down the corridor and then realized who was crying that brokenly. It was the Elfling, Erestor.
Shuffling her feet, she wondered what to do. But then she knocked, softly.
Not getting a response, she pushed the door ajar, relieved that Erestor hadn’t locked it. Erestor was whimpering softly, and seemed to be pleading with someone.
“No… please… no more… stop it…”
Suddenly, something moved into place behind her and, startled, she looked over her shoulder. She sighed, realizing it was her husband. “I thought you were asleep.”
“I woke when you left.” He quickly gathered his robes around him, fastening them with a belt. “I thought I heard someone crying, but I had no idea it was Erestor.”
The Elfling was now struggling against the sheets, which had wrapped themselves around him during the night and soft whimpers left his lips. “No… no more… I can… not…”
“What do you think happened to him?” asked Celebrian, worried.
“I do not know,” said Elrond, worried as well. “It will take time for him to learn to trust us, maybe even confide in us. But what he needs most, I think, is peace and quiet.”
“In that case, he will have it.” Celebrian closed the door behind her and resumed her walk to the kitchen, this time with her husband at her side.
During the next few weeks, Erestor fell into a comfortable rhythm of working in the library and spending his evenings in his room, or walking in the gardens. Sometimes, Celebrian would seek him out and accompany him on his strolls. They seldom talked, as she respected his silence, which made him in turn more willing to trust her.
“Erestor, would you help out my husband this afternoon? Collneled highly praised you and Elrond needs a personal assistant, someone who can create order in his chaotic pile of papers.” Celebrian smiled at him. She had quickly discovered that he adored her, and seldom denied her when she asked him for a favor. “He is working on some road maintenance plans and is becoming frustrated with being unable to come up with a solution to the problem.”
“I would be honored to help,” said Erestor shyly. He quickly averted his eyes, hoping she didn’t see the growing affection in them. Celebrian had quickly become the mother he had never had. And Elrond? Elrond was doing his best to make him open up about his past, but he was determined to never mention his father to the half-Elf.
Growing tired, Celebrian sat down on a bench. Patting the space next to her, she hoped Erestor would get the hint - and yes, the Elfling sat down, but still remained at a respectful distance. At times like this, she wanted to hug him close. “You seem to feel at home here now. Do you not miss your life at Mirkwood?” She caught the violent shivers that suddenly coursed through his body and berated herself for bringing up something that was obviously painful to Erestor.
“I miss Thranduil and Aewithôn.” Erestor’s eyes widened in shock, realizing what he had just revealed to her. He had told Elrond that he had defied the King and had been banished… and now he had admitted to missing the royal couple. What was he doing? He had to remain alert! He couldn’t let his guard down!
Celebrian saw the cornered expression in his eyes and refrained from probing deeper. She sighed and rubbed her belly. “Two more months, Erestor, and then the babies will be born.”
Relieved that she had changed the subject, he smiled warmly. “Did you decide on names yet?”
“Elrond is still convinced they will be boys, so we decided on Elladan for the first born and Elrohir for the youngest. I hope I will one day give birth to a girl as well.” She smiled blissfully.
Erestor was at a loss for words, seeing the happiness in her eyes.
“Ah, there you are! I finally found you!” Elrond walked up to them and Erestor immediately rose to his feet, bowing respectfully. The half-Elf sighed; he had told Erestor to stop bowing to him, but the Elfling wouldn’t listen. He had been pleasantly surprised, realizing Celebrian and Erestor were becoming friends. Apparently his wife was getting through to the Elfling when he could not.
Celebrian, who now rose slowly, reached for her husband. Elrond quickly supported her. “Are you not tiring yourself out?”
“I am fine. Stop worrying over me.” Celebrian directed her lovely smile at her husband. “Erestor agreed to help you out this afternoon.”
Elrond’s gaze shifted from Celebrian to Erestor, who was still staring at the ground. “Elbereth knows I can use all the help I can get!” he said, jokingly. “But first we should walk Celebrian to her rooms.”
Celebrian met Elrond’s gaze when Erestor stayed several steps behind them, keeping his distance. Like her husband, she hoped that Erestor would grow more comfortable with being close to them. The downcast eyes unsettled both Elves.
Erestor made sure that Elrond didn’t hear his sigh when he went through the unsorted pile of papers that covered most of the half-Elf’s desk. How was it possible that Elrond found anything at all? This was such a mess! Not even Thranduil had been so badly organized!
Elrond, realizing Erestor felt like he wasn’t being watched, studied the Elfling, who was now shaking his head, sorting out all scrolls. He was discussing these road plans again and was getting fed up with them. There was no way to satisfy all parties involved. No matter where he wanted to build the bridge, someone objected. “We will stop now and discuss this later!”
None of his counselors dared to protest and, one by one, they left. Frustrated, Elrond flung the plans onto his desk. He walked over to the balcony doors, opened them and deeply inhaled the sweet air.
Erestor shook his head again, and began to sort out the plans, which had fallen onto the floor. Absentmindedly, he scanned them. His father, being one of Thranduil’s advisors, had worked on construction plans in the past and he realized what Elrond’s problem was and how to fix it. But it wasn’t his place to point that out to the ruler of Imladris. He was a mere scribe.
“Erestor? Will you join Celebrian and me for dinner tonight?” Elrond turned around and looked at the Elfling. “She finds so much pleasure in your company.” It was true; Celebrian always spoke warmly of Erestor.
Erestor choked up. “My place is not at your dining table, my Lord. I am not worthy of such an offer.” He quickly lowered his eyes and continued sorting out the papers. He had already found more of a home here than he ever had at Mirkwood.
Elrond, still frustrated from working on the road plans, advanced on Erestor and slowly rested a hand on the Elfling’s shoulder, noticing that he still flinched. “You would make Celebrian very happy if you joined us.”
Erestor, feeling nervous, nodded eventually. “As you wish.” There was no way he could deny the Lord of Imladris.
“And now I should return to these plans.” Elrond sat down behind his desk, and groaned when Erestor handed him the assorted papers. “I am growing tired of this. Why can I not find a solution that pleases everyone?”
Erestor almost opened his mouth to make a suggestion, but then reminded himself that it was not his place to advice the Elf-Lord. Busying himself with alphabetically arranging Elrond’s correspondence, his nervousness increased. Why would they want him to be present at dinner? They had never invited him before, and he had been content to eat dinner in the safe confines of his rooms.
Elrond noted Erestor’s jerky movements. He had learned to recognize them as outward signs of the Elfling’s discomfort. Celebrian was doing the right thing in trying to befriend Erestor. They just had to try a little harder.
Erestor shifted uncomfortably on the chair. Celebrian continued to smile at him and Elrond was still complaining about these accursed road plans. Suddenly Elrond released a groan and seemed to rub his shin beneath the table. His eyes widened; had Celebrian kicked her husband?
“No more talk of work this evening,” decreed Celebrian. “Sing for us, dear husband.”
Erestor actually flushed. /Sing for –us-? Why include me? What am I doing here?/
Elrond, still rubbing his shin, pushed back his chair, rose to gather his harp, and began to sing. Erestor, who had never heard the half-Elf sing before, looked at him in wonder; Elrond possessed a unique voice. His eyes were beginning to swim, hearing the emotion in the gentle tone. Suddenly Celebrian’s hand settled on his, trying to rub his knuckles and he needed every ounce of his courage to not pull back. She didn’t deserve the rejection.
Long moments later, Elrond finished the song and bowed at the waist when Celebrian praised him. His gaze then shifted to Erestor, realizing the Elfling’s stare was directed at his wife’s hand, resting on top of his. What was going on in Erestor’s head? Celebrian was the right age to be his mother… Did the Elfling need a mother in his life? It did sound logical.
“Regretfully, I need to return to my study,” he said, addressing his wife. “Do not wait up for me. These road plans—“
Celebrian sighed, silencing him. One of her ladies in waiting hurried to help her rise and then assisted her back to her rooms. She was growing heavier with every passing day.
“Ah, Erestor, you should go to bed as well. Someone as young as you still needs lots of sleep, even if you do not realize that.”
Realizing he was being dismissed, Erestor rose from his chair and bowed. “Thank you for allowing me to have dinner with you. It is a great honor.”
Elrond raised a hand and waved the comment away. “You are welcome to join us again tomorrow evening and now go to sleep, Erestor. You need rest.” He watched the Elfling leave, and swore he could literally see the burden the young Elf carried on his shoulders. “Why won’t you confide in us?” He signaled for one of the servants to refill his glass and indulged himself, emptying it before returning to his study.
Erestor felt like an intruder, leaving Elrond’s study. He had entered without the half-Elf’s permission and was now shaking, hoping his visit had remained unnoticed.
Elrond sat down behind his desk, and went through the plans again, hoping he would finally find a solution. This was definitely driving him insane!
Going through the plans, a note suddenly dropped onto his lap. That was strange. He couldn’t remember ever seeing it before. What was it doing here? Scanning it quickly, he realized it was a suggestion to improve the road plans. Now that it had captured his attention, he continued to read, occasionally nodding and whispering ‘yes’.
“This would work and it would satisfy all parties.” It was the solution he had been looking for, but had been unable to come up with. The question was; who had found the solution to his problem and had then dropped a note between his papers? Why not tell him personally?
“Of course…” There was only one person who would do such a thing. “Erestor.”
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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