Part 4 - Advisors
Erestor drew in a deep breath, telling himself he could do this, had to do this because Elrond had told him so. He sensed Lindir’s eyes on him, which made him even more nervous. He really didn’t want to let Elrond down, but what had possessed the Elf-Lord to put –him- in charge for the next few days? He was an Elfling!
Quietly, he stepped into Elrond’s study where several advisors were already going through the half-Elf’s papers. Clearing his throat, he wondered what to say. They would never listen to him!
“What are you doing here, Elfling?” One of the advisors, a dark-haired Noldorin Elf called Brass, glared at him. “Your place is in the library, not in our Lord’s study. I do not know what possessed him to take on a Mirkwood Elf as his secretary, but that stops now.”
Erestor shook, and cold shivers coursed through his body. “I beg your pardon, but Lord Elrond himself asked me… me to…” Stuttering, his voice faltered and he lowered his eyes. His fears and panic overwhelmed him.
“Return to the library and do not disturb us again. Why Lord Elrond chose to trust in you is beyond me, but you will find that you cannot wrap us around your little finger that easily. We know Thranduil sent you to spy on us. Now leave!”
Erestor’s fingers clawed at the door handle and he left the room, trying to get his breathing back under control. Once the door had closed, he leaned against the wall, panting hard. Oh, Elbereth, he had made it easy for them to dismiss him. His every emotion had been on his face, and his fears had made him shake fiercely. They had seen his weakness and had sent him away. Elrond would be disappointed in him!
Bowing his head, he realized he didn’t want to let Elrond down, but how could he face that mob again? It was obvious they wanted him gone.
“Erestor?” Lindir, who had passed the Elfling by, saw the distress in the dark eyes and halted in his tracks.
“They threw me out,” whispered Erestor, still taken aback. “I let Master Elrond down.”
Lindir carefully considered his next move. “And you let them throw you out?”
Erestor stared at the white-haired Elf. “They are Lord Elrond’s advisors. How can I oppose them? They are right, you know. Why should they trust me? I am a stranger to them. The fact that Lord Elrond trusts me still baffles me.”
“You should not let them get away with treating you like that.”
Erestor shrugged. Lindir didn’t know he had been treated in a similar way by his father his entire life. He was used to being put down like that. “I should return to the library and ask Collneled which scrolls to copy. What was I thinking, actually going in there and facing them?” He flinched when Lindir suddenly grabbed hold of him. “What?”
“You will go back in there and make them listen to you! They cannot defy Lord Elrond like that, and they know it! They are counting on you being too timid, too emotional to call them to order. Now go in there and tell them you will carry out Elrond’s orders. Now!”
Erestor had managed to steady his breathing during Lindir’s speech. “How do I do that? They only need to take one look at me and see the state I am in. I cannot face them.”
Lindir sternly looked at Erestor. “Act. Even if you do not feel confident, you can pretend you do. That is what they do as well. It is a role they play; a mask they wear. You can do the same thing.”
Erestor stared at Lindir in disbelief. “Act confidently?”
“Pretend.” Lindir grinned. “I am sure you can do that.”
Erestor wasn’t so sure. “I can try.”
“No, do not just try. Do it.” Lindir nodded once. “Do not let them treat you like that. You deserve better.” Resuming his walk, he headed for the kitchen to fetch Celebrian’s hot tea.
Erestor couldn’t believe it was supposed to be so easy. But Lindir had made it sound easy. Just act, pretend. He could do that. He had acted his entire life, trying to fool the Elves in Mirkwood, hiding his feelings. Only Thranduil and his wife had seen through the pretence. He had watched Elrond for weeks now, and he knew how to act dignified and in control.
After drawing in a deep breath, he straightened his robes and adopted a regal and reserved expression. Inwardly he was falling apart from nervousness, but his outward appearance radiated confidence and control. His hand still rested on the door handle and he now pushed it down.
Five pairs of eyes instantly looked at him and Brass glared at him menacingly. He almost reconsidered and bolted from the room, but then Lindir’s words returned to him. The elder Elf was right; he didn’t deserve to be treated like that. “Hîri,” he said, addressing them in a calm tone, “I will carry out Lord Elrond’s orders. He asked me to carry out his duties for a few days and I will not disobey him.” Inwardly, he was running scared, but he made sure none of his raging emotions showed when he glared at them. The fact that he sounded calm surprised him, and he felt thankful for it.
Ignoring their indignant muttering and dagger-like glares, he walked toward Elrond’s desk and came to a stop behind it. He didn’t sit down, knowing that would be pushing the limits. Acting like nothing out of the ordinary was going on, he took hold of today’s schedule and addressed the first topic; the building of the bridge that he had suggested.
Elrond’s advisors were about to jump to their feet to protest, but he glared at them the same way his father had stared him into submission. He didn’t think it would work, but it did; they remained silent. Addressing one by one, he told them what needed to be done in order to build that bridge and as he talked, he realized they were actually listening. Was it really that simple? Was wearing a mask of haughty indifference the answer to his problems? At least they were now listening and at times they nodded their agreement.
Several minutes later, Elrond’s advisors left the study, muttering softly.
Erestor could tell he had surprised them, acting like that. But it had worked. /If it worked on them, will it also work on others?/ The expression in their eyes had been alien to him. It seemed to mirror respect, but he wasn’t sure. Why would they respect an Elfling? But it meant he could protect himself from getting hurt again. His jaw set grimly, determined to never let anyone treat him disrespectfully again.
Celebrian smiled when Erestor entered the bedroom. Elrond was seated in the chair next to the bed, playing with Elladan, who was trying to put his father’s thumb into his mouth to suckle it. “Pen-neth, it is good to see you. Sit down and talk to us.”
Elrond looked up and smiled at Erestor as well. Brass had told him how Erestor had taken charge, and he had to admit to being surprised. He hadn’t thought Erestor would assume leadership that easily, but apparently he was more talented than he had thought. Erestor would make an excellent advisor in time. “Did they give you any trouble?”
Erestor wavered between expressing his feelings and reassuming the mask which he had worn earlier. But this was Elrond and he did feel comfortable in the Elf-Lord’s and Celebrian’s presence. “They did, at first.”
Elrond inquisitively raised an eyebrow. “It is only for a few more days. I just do not want to miss my sons’ very first days on Arda.” Adoringly, he smiled at the baby in his arms.
Erestor smiled as well, seating himself near the window, maintaining a respectful distance from the couple; he didn’t want to infringe on their privacy.
Celebrian slowly pushed herself into a sitting position, swung her feet onto the floor and rose from the bed with Elrohir pressed tightly against her chest. She still moved cautiously, but more because of the baby in her arms than due to feeling weak. Holding the twins during the night had given her new strength and had aided her recovery. She walked over to Erestor and placed Elrohir into the stricken Elfling’s arms. “Hold him tight. I want to bathe in Arien’s beams for a short while.”
“Let me join you,” said Elrond, eager to share that moment with his wife. But Elladan was still in his arms and…
Erestor’s eyes widened when Elrond got to his feet and then placed Elladan in his arms as well. Now he was holding both babies and they were staring at him! Clearing his throat, he pleading looked at the parents. “I will drop them accidentally.”
“You won’t,” said Celebrian confidently. She took hold of her husband’s hand and they stepped onto the balcony, basking in the warm sun. She kept one eye on Erestor and the other on the babies. Erestor had looked startled at first, but was now cooing and making funny faces at the babies. “He will be fine… eventually.”
“I hope so. I talked to Brass earlier and what he said disturbed me.” Seeing her puzzled expression, he added, “Brass told me Erestor seemed to adopt a completely different personality when he addressed them. They were so taken aback, that they just listened and then left, carrying out his instructions.”
“What worries you about that?” Celebrian smiled, seeing Erestor squirm in the chair when Elrohir’s tiny hand managed to grab a strand of hair, pulling at it. She couldn’t picture Erestor like that; reserved and authoritative. Surely Brass had exaggerated!
“Brass said Erestor seemed like a totally different person. I do not like the sound of that.”
“Maybe he is not ready yet to assume the responsibilities you placed on his shoulders. He is still very young.”
“But,” said Elrond, after placing a kiss on her lips, “he has so much potential. He will make an excellent advisor.”
“Did you tell him that, dear husband?”
“Not yet, but I will… soon.”
Celebrian’s smile sparkled, hearing Erestor whimper softly. “Let us quickly rescue him.” Now both babies were pulling at his hair.
Elrond nodded, but at the same time he saw the smile on Erestor’s face. /I doubt he needs rescuing. He seems to be enjoying himself./
A few days later...
Erestor felt relieved now that Elrond had returned to his formal duties. Standing close to the window, he stared outside. But he still continued to listen to the reports the advisors were giving Elrond. The construction of the bridge had begun and so far the progress the builders were making was satisfying. He felt some pride, knowing it was his idea that was now being carried out.
Elrond’s voice pulled him from his musings and he inclined his head, waiting for the Elf-Lord to continue. The reserved and authoritative attitude that he now adopted at formal meetings was quickly becoming a second skin, making him feel safe. The only time his mask slipped was when Elrond addressed him. He trusted the half-Elf, and couldn’t keep up the haughty attitude when Elrond sounded so compassionate. “My Lord?”
Elrond’s brow furrowed, seeing the reserved expression in the Elfling’s eyes. Had he made a mistake, asking Erestor to fill in for him? Had he pushed the young Elf too far? What had caused the change in the vulnerable Elfling who now acted distant and cold?
Addressing his advisors, he gave them permission to leave and after the door had closed, he rose from behind the desk and advanced on the Elfling. “I hardly recognize you. For how many days did you perform my duties?”
“I filled in for you for five days,” said Erestor, wondering why there was such a strange expression in the half-Elf’s eyes. “I hope I did not disappoint you.”
“You worry me,” admitted Elrond. “Now that we are alone, you have reverted to the Erestor I have come to know the last few weeks. But when my advisors are near, you become cold and reserved. Why?”
Erestor quickly averted his eyes, and stared at the floor. “I do not know what you are talking about, my Lord.”
“This… personality… that you adopted during the meetings worries me.”
Erestor shuffled his feet, nervously. “It was the only way they would listen to me.”
“Do not let it go too far,” advised Elrond. “Do not pretend to be something you are not.”
In his heart Erestor knew Elrond was right, but at the same time wearing this mask empowered him, took away those feelings of fear and weakness that usually terrified him. Curtly, he nodded once, but he didn’t plan to give up on wearing this mask. It kept him from getting hurt.
“Erestor, I need to catch up on my correspondence, and that will take several hours,” said Elrond. “But I do not want Celebrian to be alone this evening. Will you keep her company? The babies have been crying the entire time and are keeping her from getting enough sleep. They are wearing her down.” The babies usually grew quiet when Erestor was near and he hoped the Elfling’s presence would calm them down as well this time. Maybe then his wife could get some sleep.
Erestor nodded, bowed and fled from the study. He was looking forward to visit Celebrian and the babies. When holding them he felt at peace, and Celebrian’s cheerful chatter always lifted his spirits.
Erestor knocked on the door and Celebrian answered at once. Opening the door, Erestor’s features contorted in sympathy. Celebrian’s long, silver hair was a tangled mess because Elladan was pulling at the strands and Elrohir was clinging to his mother’s waist as she tried to soothe him back to sleep.
“Erestor! Thank the Valar Elrond sent you… Please help me?”
The way she looked at him told Erestor she was truly drained. Wanting to help, he managed to pry her hair from Elladan’s little, possessive fingers. Instantly Elladan wrapped his fingers around Erestor’s dark hair, tugging slightly.
“I am so tired, pen-neth. They just do not want to go to sleep. I do not know what to do!” Celebrian sighed, somewhat relieved to see Elladan snuggle up to Erestor when the Elfling sat down in her rocking chair with the baby in his arms.
“You look tired, my Lady. Who don’t you give me Elrohir as well? Then you can get some necessary sleep. I would love to hold them.” Elladan had finally released his hair and was now cooing happily.
“Elbereth bless you,” whispered Celebrian, exhausted. She placed Elrohir on Erestor’s lap and then walked over to the bed, where she curled up beneath the sheets. “I won’t sleep long. Wake me in an hour.”
Elrohir stretched hands and feet, reaching for him. Erestor smiled giddily, rubbing the soft tummy. “We need to be quiet now. Your mother needs to sleep.” Two pairs of large, blue eyes were staring at him and he gathered the little ones close, cradling them against his chest, one baby on each arm. Humming softly, he rocked in the rocking chair.
Celebrian smiled when the babies calmed down. Her fatigue overwhelmed her and she quickly fell asleep, trusting Erestor to take good care of her sons.
Rocking them, first Elladan and then Elrohir’s eyes closed, falling asleep like their mother. Smiling warmly, his eyes traveled to Celebrian’s form. Her features were relaxed in sleep and it looked like she was smiling.
Looking at the babies in his arms, his eyes filled with tears. Had his father felt like this when holding him in his arms? Had Eridhren loved him? Had his father rocked him? Sang soft lullabies? He couldn’t picture his father doing that.
“I know you cannot tell anyone,” he whispered in a conspiracy tone, “so I can safely say I love you. You are not my children, but I would have loved to have little brothers.” A tear flowed down his cheek.
How had his father been able to call him a murderer? Even if the birth had killed Celebrian, he couldn’t picture Elrond accusing his children of being murderers.
Elrond traipsed into the room, looking contently at Erestor and his sons. Elladan had fallen asleep whilst sucking his thumb and Elrohir had wrapped his tiny fingers around Erestor’s ring finger. The three of them looked very comfortable, and, reassured, his gaze traveled to his wife, who was blissfully asleep in their bed.
“Thank you,” he whispered, addressing Erestor, who looked startled at hearing his voice.
Erestor started, not having heard Elrond enter, and felt uncomfortable beneath his stare.
“She has not been able to sleep for two days now. No matter what I did, they would not go to sleep. The twins really adore you.”
Erestor blushed weakly. “I think they are adorable as well.”
Elrond felt relieved now that the reserved mask was gone from Erestor’s features. He pulled up a chair and sat down next to him. Fascinated, he watched his sons sleep; their tiny chests regularly rising to draw in breath. “It is a miracle.”
Erestor nodded, instinctively knowing what Elrond was referring to. He had lost his heart to the two little ones as well. “And they have the best parents they could wish for.”
Something in Erestor’s tone alerted Elrond. The sadness and regret in the soft tone made him wonder about Erestor’s family. “Would you not like to be reunited with your family?” He wasn’t prepared for Erestor’s pallor and stricken expression. He could tell that Erestor would have liked to jump to his feet and leave the room, but the babies were keeping him in place. “Or not?”
Erestor shook his head, giving Elrond a pleading look. “Do not contact my father.”
/Father?/ thought Elrond./ What about the rest of his family?/ He carefully considered his next words. “If you prefer me to not contact him, I won’t, but I must admit I wonder why you do not want me to tell him how well you are doing.”
Erestor blinked. How -well- he was doing?
“I am thinking about making you one of my advisors in future. If you continue to carry out your secretary duties satisfactorily I will make you my personal assistant, and advisor eventually.”
Erestor blinked again. “But… I have not reached my majority yet and…”
“You are very intelligent and cunning; qualities which every advisor needs.” Elrond smiled, seeing the stunned look on Erestor’s face. “But you will stay my secretary for a few more years. I just want you to know you have a future here… if you want it.”
“Of course I want it,” whispered Erestor, pleasantly surprised at hearing Elrond praise him like that. His father had always told him how stupid he was and now Elrond Half-Elven wanted him as his personal assistant?
Elladan shifted against his chest, rolled onto his side, opened his arms and grabbed as much of Erestor’s waist as he could. Dotingly, Erestor smiled at the baby, gently rubbing the tiny back.
“You do realize you are more to us than just a secretary? You are quickly becoming part of my family.” Seeing the surprise in Erestor’s dark eyes, Elrond added, “And you seem to be the only one who can put them to sleep.”
Erestor smiled hesitantly. “I do not know why they react to my presence like that.”
/They sense you love them. Maybe they sense even more than that. They might feel your pain and react to that. You won’t confide in us and you keep everyone inside, but the twins bring a genuine smile to your face. Erestor, why can you not allow us in? Why lock us out? What have you been through to act like that?/
Erestor’s gaze shifted away from the baby and was directed at him, puzzled and inquisitively, making Elrond wonder if the Elfling was able to read his very thoughts. He had to be more careful, a bit more guarded. He wanted Erestor to feel safe, not cornered. “Holding them both cannot be comfortable. Why don’t you give me Elladan?”
Erestor nodded, and watched as Elrond gathered his oldest son in his arms. Suddenly, his arms felt strangely empty, even whilst Elrohir was still cradled against his chest. /I need to watch my feelings. I cannot let go like that. They are not my children./ Saddened, he rubbed Elrohir’s soft skin, deeply inhaling the baby’s sweet scent. /But I cannot help it. I love you both./
Hîri -- My lords
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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