Part 3 - Babies
Elrond watched Erestor closely when the Elfling returned to his study the next morning to finish sorting out all his papers. Erestor seemed even more nervous than usual and the half-Elf distinctly noticed the quick, stolen glances directed at his desk where he had placed the note in front of him, clearly visible. He picked up the piece of paper and turned it around between his fingers. The movement seemed to make Erestor panic, as the Elfling began to pant softly. Recognizing the approaching anxiety attack, Elrond placed the paper on his desk, pushed back his chair and rose to his feet.
Erestor seemed to shrink into himself, trying to hide from the half-Elf’s stare, but Elrond refused to look away and advanced on the terrified Elfling.
Erestor desperately tried to remain calm, but his nerves were getting the better of him and he turned away from Elrond. He rested his hands against the wall and tried to re-compose himself. Leaving the note on the Elf-Lord’s desk had been a stupid thing to do.
Hearing the softness to Elrond’s tone, he slowly looked over his shoulder; he still didn’t dare to make eye contact. Suddenly Elrond rested his hands on his shoulders, and then turned him around so they were now facing each other. Lowering his eyes, he tried to bring his breathing back under control. “My Lord?”
“Why do you fear me?” asked Elrond, in dire need of answers. “Do you not know by now that I mean well?”
Shamefaced, Erestor cringed. “I cannot help it.”
Elrond sighed, dejectedly. “Tell me, did you leave that note on my desk? The one about the bridge?”
Erestor squirmed, wishing Elrond would let go of him so he could flee the room. “I am not sure…”
“You are not sure?” Elrond raised an eyebrow curiously. “How can you not be sure? You either wrote it or you did not.”
Realizing there was no way out, Erestor sighed shakily. “Aye, I wrote it. I know I should not have, but you seemed so frustrated and the solution was rather simple. I apologize for—“ His nervousness caused him to ramble, but Elrond cut him short.
“There is no reason to apologize. I should thank you instead. Thanks to your ingenuity we can now start to build this bridge, which will enable more traders to enter our lands.” Gently pulling him along, he steered Erestor toward the balcony, where a servant had served tea just a moment ago. “Sit down,” said Elrond, signaling for the Elfling to seat himself in one of the comfortable chairs so they could enjoy the morning sun.
Erestor sat down obediently, wringing his hands. What had he done? What had he gotten himself in to? Stealing a glance at Elrond, he wondered just how cross the elder Elf was with him. Maybe apologizing again to the Elf-Lord would help? Providing Elrond would allow him to apologize and not cut him down like he had done earlier. “My Lord, I know I was out of line and I should not have written that note and—“ Rambling, he wondered what to say. “I will never do it again! Please… I…”
Elrond leaned in closer, took hold of the teapot, and poured the Elfling some herbal tea. “I said it before, calm yourself. You did nothing wrong. I want to compliment you instead.” He handed Erestor a cup of tea and noticed how shaky the hands were that reached for it.
The tea nearly sloshed over the rim and Erestor forced himself to act composed, but inwardly he was shaking himself to pieces. He decided to remain quiet and wait for Elrond to address him again. The Elf-Lord was confusing him by not being cross with him.
“How did you know that it was the perfect spot to build that bridge?” asked Elrond, genuinely interested.
Erestor closed his eyes momentarily, realizing he had to be honest if he wanted the Elf-Lord to remain this mellow. “My… father was advisor to Thranduil and…” He flinched, hearing Elrond’s sharp intake of breath. Apprehensively, he looked at the half-Elf and found a puzzled expression in the blue eyes. “He was often asked to solve a similar problem, and I...” He shrugged his shoulders. “At times I read the reports and saw how he handled the situation. I did nothing special. I merely looked at the facts and—“
Elrond studied the Elfling. “Your father is one of Thranduil’s advisors?” Now that was something new!
“Aye.” Erestor wished he had never dropped that note onto Elrond’s desk. Now the half-Elf would continue to question him!
“You were not banished from Mirkwood then? You did not defy the King as you told me?” Elrond frowned. He wasn’t sure what to make of this new information. But it did confirm his suspicions that Erestor was an innocent and not a spy. “Why did you leave Mirkwood?”
Erestor squirmed on the chair. “Please, my Lord, I cannot tell you.”
“I order you to tell me.” Elrond was getting fed up with Erestor’s evasive behavior and decided to try a new, somewhat harsher approach. He didn’t want to intimate the Elfling, but he had to know what had happened. “You had been beaten. Is that why you left?”
Erestor wrapped his arms around his chest, barely resisting the urge to rock himself in search of comfort. “Aye, I fled because I was afraid for my life.”
Elrond leaned in closer, deeply probing the elusive, scared eyes. “Who beat you?”
“I cannot tell you…” Erestor’s voice faltered and he pleadingly raised his hands. “My Lord, I did not have a choice. I wanted to stay alive and thus I had to leave. Thranduil, he…”
Elrond edged even closer. Realizing that Erestor was pushing back the chair to maintain a safe distance between them, he moved back slightly. The last thing he wanted was to scare Erestor. “What did Thranduil do?” Why did this have to be about his former lover? He prayed to Elbereth that it wasn’t Thranduil who had beaten the Elfling; he had always thought Thranduil was an honorable warrior.
“He helped me escape,” whispered Erestor, quickly glancing at Elrond. “Aewithôn and he looked after me, and… he told me to come here. He hoped you would let me stay. I did not have a place to go and I do not know how to survive in the wilderness.”
Elrond sipped his tea and signaled for Erestor to follow his example; the Elfling’s voice was hoarse with emotion. He felt somewhat relieved, knowing that Thranduil had aided Erestor and not hurt him. But one question still remained. “Who hurt you? Who beat you so badly?”
Erestor averted his eyes once more, sipped, and calmed when the warm liquid flowed down his throat. “I cannot tell you.” Maybe it was misplaced loyalty, or maybe he was afraid that Elrond might contact Thranduil to ask questions about his father, but he clamped down, unable to mutter even a single word.
Elrond was at a loss. “Erestor, how can I protect you when I do not know the enemy?”
Erestor’s eyes widened. “Protect me?” What was Elrond talking about? “Why would you want to protect me?”
Elrond shook his head. “Aiya, Erestor…” What had the Elfling’s life been like for him to be this surprised at hearing that someone wanted to protect him? He was about to address Erestor again when suddenly Lindir stormed onto the balcony, panic radiating from his eyes.
“My Lord, your Lady has gone into labor!”
Elrond gasped. “But she is not supposed to give birth for another two months!” Instantly worried, he pushed Lindir aside. “Where is she now?”
“We took her to the healing house when she told us about her first contraction.” Lindir panted softly. He had run here.
Elrond marched into his study, headed for the door and disappeared into the corridor. Lindir turned to leave as well, but then realized Erestor was staring at him in shock. The look in those dark and haunted eyes warned him to not leave the Elfling alone. “Are you coming as well?”
Erestor was at a loss for words. Would Lindir allow him to accompany him? But he wasn’t part of this family; Elrond and Celebrian hardly knew him! Why would he be allowed close?
Lindir, eager to follow Elrond, simply grabbed Erestor’s arm and pulled him along.
Erestor sat frozen in the corner of the room. Several of Celebrian’s ladies in waiting were moving in and out of the next room, where he occasionally heard Celebrian yelp in pain. Wringing his hands, he tentatively looked at Lindir, who appeared calm, but Erestor swore he could see a bead of sweat sitting on the Elf’s brow. He had never really talked to Lindir, who was Celebrian’s personal assistant when it came down to running the household.
Lindir’s long, white hair reached his hips and a cunning expression lay in his grey eyes; now, that piercing gaze was aimed at him. Erestor shivered and cringed when another scream erupted from the next room. “Please do not let her die. Elbereth, please do not take her life.” He was painfully reminded of the fact that his mother had died in child birth.
/Murderer! You killed her! If it had not been for you she would still be alive now!/
Erestor whimpered softly when his father’s voice echoed in his head. Raising his hands, he buried his face in them, hoping no one noticed his distress.
But one did.
Lindir seated himself in a chair next to Erestor, observing the Elfling, who looked absolutely terrified. “Lord Elrond is a truly skilled healer, pen-neth. He will take good care of his wife. Before you know it, the cries of newborns will echo through these halls.”
Erestor peeked at Lindir through his fingers. Suddenly realizing how ridiculous he must look to the elder Elf, he forced himself to rest his hands in his lap. But now the tears and horror in his eyes showed clearly. The emotional turmoil he was in needed a way out and he stuttered, “I do not want her… to die. She is so young… so kind.”
Lindir smiled encouragingly. “Take heart, Elfling, she is the best hands. Lord Elrond will make sure she survives.” He understood Erestor’s fear to a certain degree, but couldn’t shake the feeling there was more to the younger Elf’s panic. “It is only seldom that an Elf dies whilst giving birth.”
Unable to hide the tremors that coursed through him, Erestor lowered his eyes. His anxiety was growing and he didn’t want Lindir to witness one of his panic attacks. Maybe if he let out the horrible truth, he would calm down. “My mother did.”
Lindir sucked in his breath. Erestor had quickly built a reputation of being reserved and it was a well-known fact that the Elfling seldom revealed personal information. So Lindir was surprised when Erestor continued.
“She died after giving birth to me. I never saw her face.” Erestor shook with emotion and he almost rose to his feet to flee the room, but unexpectedly Lindir’s hand came to rest on his. The contact startled him and he involuntarily made eye contact with the elder Elf. The dam broke and an emotional flood was released. “I am a murderer, you know. I killed her.”
Lindir’s eyes widened in shock. “A murderer? Aiya, Erestor, you did not kill her! It was most unfortunate that she died, but you are not to blame.” Who had put that idea in the Elfling’s head? “Who told you that you are a murderer?” Who could be so cold, so cruel?
“My father…” Erestor suddenly jumped to his feet when a baby cried out in the adjoining room. “That is one…” But Celebrian had been carrying twins. “Let her survive. Please let her survive.”
Lindir got to his feet as well and rested a hand on Erestor’s arm, noticing the distinct flinch that traveled through the Elfling’s body. “Your father?” It was beyond him how a father could say something like that to his son when he should have been offering his comfort and unconditional love instead.
Until now, Erestor hadn’t fully realized what he had told Lindir, and now that realization set in, he panicked again. “I told you… How could I do that? Promise me… Promise me you won’t tell a living soul!”
Taken aback by the fear in Erestor’s eyes, Lindir promised. “I won’t tell anyone.”
Erestor calmed somewhat. “Please, Lindir. Keep that promise.” His eyes grew big when a second baby tested his lungs, joining in when his brother cried out.
Lindir tightened his hold on Erestor’s arm; the Elfling looked like he was about to flee the room.
The door opened and a very tired-looking Elrond appeared. In his arms, he held a baby. “This is Elladan, my firstborn. Elrohir is resting with his mother.”
Lindir, the ladies in waiting and several advisors now approached, congratulating Elrond. Erestor stayed at the back, and managed to gaze into the next room, eager to find out how Celebrian was doing.
Elrond thanked all present for staying and then Lindir shooed everyone out of the room. Seeing that Erestor was leaving as well, Elrond called the Elfling back. “Erestor? Stay.”
Erestor felt frozen, and when Elrond advanced on him, his gaze settled on the baby in the half-Elf’s arms. Black hair already showed on the scalp and large, blue eyes stared at him from beneath long eyelashes. Erestor sighed; the baby was adorable.
“Come with me,” instructed Elrond as he returned to his wife’s side.
Erestor hesitantly shuffled into the room, and his first gaze was for Celebrian, who looked exhausted, but at the same time she was smiling happily at her youngest son.
Elrond sat down on the edge of the bed and gently pulled his wife close, making sure she rested comfortably against him. After placing a tender kiss on her lips, he stared into her eyes and said, “Thank you for this treasure.”
Celebrian smiled warmly and placed a kiss on her husband’s brow. Her eyes then searched the room and came to rest on Erestor. “Pen-neth, you must have been worried.”
Erestor shakily nodded his head. Curiously, he looked at the baby in Celebrian’s arms. Did all babies look identical when they were just born? But no, these were twins. How would anyone be able to tell them apart? Suddenly Elrohir, resting in Celebrian’s arms, opened his mouth and released an unintelligible sound, making everyone smile. “They are adorable,” whispered Erestor, shyly, uncertain if he was allowed to talk during such an intimate moment.
Celebrian gestured for Erestor to approach and sit down on the chair next to the bed. She watched the Elfling closely when he finally obeyed. There was so much pain in his eyes that her heart missed a beat. Although she was exhausted, she had to know what was troubling him so. “Erestor? Why are you in pain?”
Maybe it was easier to say the words because he had already told Lindir, but he blurted out, “My mother died after giving birth to me. I was afraid you would die as well.” Lowering his eyes, he tried to stare at the floor, but Elrohir’s big, blue eyes seemed to meet his, which couldn’t possibly be. A newborn couldn’t focus his gaze like that. And yet, it seemed like their gazes met and he instantly fell in love with the big, blue eyes. He didn’t know why, but he ached to hold the babies in his arms. /What is wrong with you? You are a stranger to them! It is amazing that Elrond and Celebrian allow you this close!/
Celebrian saw the longing in Erestor’s eyes and cocked her head to whisper into her husband’s ear. “Let him hold Elladan…”
Elrond nodded; he had been thinking the same thing. Rising from the bed, he walked over to Erestor and slowly placed the newborn in the Elfling’s arms.
Erestor stared in mute shock at the Elf-Lord. “Please don’t, I will drop him, or—“ Feeling a small, warm body in his arms silenced him. Large, blue eyes stared at him and Elladan raised a hand as if reaching for him. Feeling entranced, Erestor gently cradled the small baby to his chest and offered him a finger. Elladan wrapped his tiny fingers around it and pulled, making Erestor smile blissfully. “He likes me.”
Elrond gave his wife a loving glance. She would never stop to amaze him. “I love you,” he whispered, returning to her side and kissing her on the lips. Their love was so different from the passion he had shared with Gil-galad, and the silent understanding he had felt with Thranduil. “You are my life…” She had given him life, had given him sons.
Celebrian’s smile broke momentarily, staring deeply into her husband’s eyes, and seeing the reflection of others there. She had never been able to make Elrond forget his past loves and she sighed, disappointedly, knowing she had to share his heart with others. Elrohir thankfully cooed and wiggled in her arms, distracting her.
“He is probably hungry.” Elrond rose to his feet to retrieve the milk he had asked to be prepared. Celebrian had enough milk to feed one of them, but not two.
Erestor, who had been lost staring into Elladan’s big eyes, started when Elrond pressed a milk bottle into his hands. “What?” His gaze was suddenly drawn to Celebrian and he quickly looked away, as she was breastfeeding Elrohir.
“Feed him, pen-neth. Elladan is hungry.” Elrond watched, bemused, as Erestor placed the bottle at his son’s lips. Elladan, apparently craving the milk, drank eagerly. His gaze shifted back to Celebrian and he smiled contently. Although his sons had been born two months early, they were healthy and drinking greedily.
Celebrian had reached the same conclusion. She had been terrified when the first contraction had taken her by surprise. The fear of losing her babies had nearly paralyzed her, but thankfully Lindir had taken charge and taken her to the healing house. When Elrond had joined her, she had taken heart, and although the birth had exhausted her, she felt invigorated as well. But now her eyes were growing vacant with fatigue.
Elrond noticed, leaned in closer and eased Elrohir, who instantly began to cry, away from her breast. “Quickly, fetch another bottle of milk.” Lindir brought him another bottle and he sat down, feeding his son. Now that Celebrian was asleep, he allowed himself to relax. His wife had given him two beautiful sons and although she was exhausted, he was confident that she would recover quickly now that she could hold her sons in her arms.
Looking at Erestor, he saw a blissful expression on the Elfling’s face. Elladan seemed extremely comfortable in Erestor’s arms. The baby burped and Erestor instinctively removed the bottle. The large eyes grew vacant and Erestor’s heart missed a beat when they began to close. “My Lord?” Wide-eyed, he stared at Elrond.
But Elrond smiled reassuringly. “They are half-Elven. Like me, they will sleep with their eyes closed at times.” Seeing him sleep like that had startled Celebrian at first as well. “It is to be expected.”
Still worried, Erestor checked the baby’s pulse, and found it steady. Elrond was apparently right; the little one had fallen asleep.
Elrond disposed of the now empty bottle and sat down on the bed again. After rearranging the baby in his arms, he lay down. Celebrian snuggled up to him and he looked dotingly at his wife, love filling his eyes and his heart.
Feeling like an intruder, Erestor slowly got to his feet, approached the bed and placed Elladan in Elrond’s arms. The Elf-Lord looked at him thankfully, now cradling both his sons in his arms.
Erestor took several steps away from the bed and headed for the doorway. He could tell that Elrond wanted some privacy, and he was already surprised that the Elf-Lord had allowed him to hold one of his sons.
Realizing Erestor was about to leave, Elrond quickly addressed him. “I want to spend some time with my family, but certain formal matters cannot wait. You are familiar with my plans. I want you to take over.”
Erestor gasped in surprise. “But milord, what about your advisors? I am just your assistant!”
“Erestor, you will work together with them.” The potential he had seen in the Elfling would now be put to the test. “I trust you to take good care of Imladris for the next few days. And now close the door behind you and let me tend to my family.”
Dumbfounded, Erestor stepped into the corridor and softly closed the door behind him. Elrond couldn’t be serious! None of the advisors would allow him to take part in their council! He couldn’t carry out Elrond’s orders! They wouldn’t let him!
Erestor spun around, startled at unexpectedly hearing Lindir’s voice.
“Elrond told me he wants you to replace him for the next few days. You should talk to the other advisors and tell them.” Lindir’s eyes narrowed, seeing the apprehension in the dark eyes. “Is anything wrong?”
“But I am just his secretary, his assistant! How can I… I am not an advisor… I…” Stuttering, despair crept up on him. “Is there not someone else who can replace Lord Elrond? Maybe you?”
Lindir laughed softly. “I am sure Lord Elrond chose you for a reason. Now follow me. They are already waiting for you.”
“Lord Elrond’s advisors.”
Erestor abruptly halted. “I cannot face them.”
“You must,” said Lindir in a firm tone. “Lord Elrond wishes it.”
Erestor nearly bolted from the room, but he didn’t want to disappoint Elrond, who, for some elusive reason, had decided to put his trust in him. Drawing in a deep breath, he followed Lindir to Elrond’s study, where the Elf-lord’s advisors awaited him.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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