“We are betrayed,” Fingolfin said bitterly as he saw the red glow. It gave the clouds a strange, angry look that many considered to be an ill omen. “But I will not betray he who is my brother. We will follow as swiftly as we can.”
They walked for many days, shivering at the biting wind that came from the north, only to see the white barren expanse of the Helcaraxë in front of them. Fingolfin sighed in dismay and turned to his sons and nephews. “Each of you will be in charge of a group; I daresay they will become as your own household by the time we reach the Outer Lands.”
Glorfindel and Fingon were nearly the same age, and close friends, in part due to being distant kinsmen through Indis' line but in larger part because they shared a deep love of horses and were counted among the best horsemen of the Noldor.
"I would be your liegeman, if you will allow it." Glorfindel told Fingon. "You need help setting up your household."
"I am honored but I would have you go with my brother," Fingon replied. His grey eyes held a distant look. "He needs your counsel more than I."
Ecthelion was standing watch near Turgon’s tent and thus he was the first to see Glorfindel approaching the camp.
“Glorfindel! What brings you here?” Ecthelion asked as the golden Vanya approached.
“I am here to join Turgon, if he will have me.” Glorfindel replied. He had known Ecthelion from his earliest childhood, for their families had lived quite near each other in Tirion and the two were as close as brothers.
“I see.” Ecthelion paused, for he sensed more lay behind his best friend’s words, but he chose not to press the matter. “Turgon should be free in a few minutes; stay here with me so we can catch up on the news.”
And so they talked quietly as they waited but it was the vast ice field that lay before them which dominated their thoughts.
They had been struggling across the Helcaraxë when it happened. The ice shelf had given a massive shudder and groaned before it broke off suddenly, taking a large number of Fingolfin's host with it.
Turgon made a sudden lunge for Elenwë, and his daughter Idril cried out, reaching for her mother too, but Aredhel had held her back, and the girl clung to her aunt, sobbing wildly as she watched her mother disappear.
Glorfindel had been but a few steps closer, yet even he had not been quick enough to reach Elenwë. He had made a wild grab for her arm, but instead, his fingers grasped a small fragment of worn, threadbare cloth. He had pulled on it, hoping the cloth would not tear in his grasp, for the child was unexpectedly heavy.
“Got you,” he heard Ecthelion say and he realized the other man was holding on to him by his ankle. Glorfindel said nothing, continuing to stretch a little farther to grasp more of the boy’s thin arm and raise him from the crevasse, only to discover there was not one but two small elflings holding onto each other’s hands.
The boys did not appear to be related, for one had blue eyes and hair almost as golden as Glorfindel’s own (but without the curls) while the other boy had the sleek dark hair and grey eyes of the Noldor.
Despite careful questioning and a lengthy search, no-one seemed to know who the boys were, nor could any of their family members be found, so it was assumed that their parents had been lost with Elenwë.
As their leader, Turgon was responsible for all orphans and he put the two boys in the charge of Echthelion’s family. Glorfindel had joined the family as well, for they counted him as one of theirs. The boys were either unable or unwilling to give their names, so Ecthelion named the dark-haired boy ‘Erestor’, after his youngest brother who had turned back with Fingolfin’s host, while Glorfindel named the blond boy ‘Legolas’ , after one of his favorite Vanyar uncles.
The journey across the grinding ice seemed endless and, in private, many elves began to think that they would all perish there.
But less than two months later, there was a hint of warm air and before long, the entire host of Fingolfin and his sons staggered wearily onto the shores of Lake Mithrim. It was there that they learned all that had befallen Fëanor, his sons, and the Fëanorian people.
But Turgon was restless, and eventually he moved his people to Vinyamar. There he had a vision from Ulmo that directed him to find a hidden place and build a city that would be safe from the darkness. And so it was that Gondolin was built.
As the walls were being built, it became apparent to everyone that the city would be extremely insular not only by its nature but by necessity as well.
Turgon knew it was time to decide how to govern the city. He decreed that there would be twelve Houses, each headed by the best and the brightest of the city’s warriors, smiths and artisans. Of each of these noble Houses, it was soon apparent that the House of the Fountain headed by Ecthelion and the House of the Golden Flower captained by Glorfindel were considered by all of Gondolin (including Turgon, though he strove not to show any favoritism) to be the most noble and the most beloved.
When it was time, the many orphans were given to the various Houses to be raised. Legolas became the adopted son of Glorfindel while Erestor was adopted by Ecthelion. Both men were greatly pleased by this decision, for they had no sons or heirs of their own. Granted, both were still young men in their prime but only the most ambitious mothers remained convinced that one day one of their daughters would snare one of the great Lords.
Indeed, the adoptions were remarkably successful, for Legolas had a keen interest in the outdoor life, and Glorfindel easily taught him the tracking skills he had learned as a youth. As for archery, it was apparent that Legolas’ skill was innate and there was little for Glorfindel to teach him. Horses were another love they shared and once again Legolas’ skill as a rider soon matched that of Glorfindel. Oddly enough, Legolas had little skill with a sword; it took him far longer than Glorfindel had imagined to reach an intermediate level but eventually he developed into a skilled swordsman though it would never be his first choice of weapon.
Erestor and Ecthelion proved to be another success. Both shared a love of more scholarly pursuits and Ecthelion was as proud of Erestor’s accomplishments with a pen as Glorfindel was with Legolas and his bow. Ecthelion was a renowned warrior when the occasion demanded it, but he much preferred more peaceful pursuits. Even so, he insisted that Erestor learn basic defensive skills and strategy; it was soon clear that although Erestor was skilled with sword and bow, his real strength was an innate gift for strategy. Erestor’s keen eye for detail could spot the flaws in almost any plan and strengthen it to be nearly undefeatable.
“Though any plan can be defeated,” Erestor explained to Ecthelion with an earnestness that was oddly endearing. They had been studying various battle strategies and Erestor’s assignment was to try and improve the chances of winning. “But I believe this has the best chance of success. I would gauge it to be over ninety percent.”
“Well done, Erestor.” Ecthelion said with a smile as he took the paper from Erestor. “Do you mind if I keep this? I’d like to show it to a few people.”
“Of course you may,” Erestor stammered. He was always slightly surprised when Ecthelion wished to keep his work and show it to others. He was a mere beginner; what interest could others have in his work?
Glorfindel looked up at the knock on his office door and smiled when he saw Ecthelion.
“Come in, Thel. What have you to show me now?”
“Look at this, Fin,” the dark-haired elf said proudly and laid Erestor’s plan on Glorfindel’s desk. “Tell me what you think of this.”
Glorfindel studied the carefully drawn map and list of logistics and gave a low whistle.
“I think you and I will soon be out of a job. Is this Erestor’s work?”
“It is,” Ecthelion replied with a smug smile. “Perhaps we could retire together,” he added with a wink.
“You have every right to be proud of his work,” Glorfindel told him. “Let’s show it to Turgon.”
And so they did. The king was duly impressed and resolved to follow Erestor’s education with a close eye.
One summer’s day, Glorfindel and Legolas were shopping in the market square when Legolas spied Ecthelion and Erestor at a nearby book stall. “He’s very comely, isn’t he?” Legolas said, speaking of Ecthelion.
“He is indeed,” Glorfindel replied absently, for he was looking at a particularly fine headstall for Asfaloth and thought Legolas was referring to Erestor.
Infatuated by the dark-haired Lord, Legolas continued staring until Erestor noticed him. He gave Legolas a shy smile, which Legolas easily returned. Perhaps getting to know Erestor again would allow him to find a way to become closer to Ecthelion, Legolas thought. Both of the boys had been told many many times of their dramatic rescue on the Ice. Legolas also had a faint memory that they had been quite friendly as children, though they had grown apart as they grew older and had little in common now.
Ecthelion had moved on to an adjacent stall, one that specialized in binding new books. He planned to have some of Erestor’s poetry bound in a special volume to give to the lad on his next name-day. Erestor followed slowly, for once not as interested in the seller’s wares as he normally was.
“May I ask Legolas to dinner sometime?” he asked Ecthelion.
“Of course you may,” Ecthelion said absently. He was studying sample designs for the book’s cover and was secretly relieved at Erestor’s distraction; perhaps he would be able to surprise him after all, for Erestor had an uncanny talent for discovering anything that was hidden. Ecthelion could not quite remember who Legolas was but he was pleased that Erestor was finally showing an interest in someone, for Erestor was bookish in the extreme.
Erestor nervously looked around before approaching Legolas. Legolas smiled encouragingly at him, and the slender, dark-haired youth made his approach.
“Would you like to come to dinner tomorrow, Legolas?”
“Yes I would, Erestor.” Legolas agreed readily since this was exactly what he had hoped for, just not so soon. “What time?”
“At the hour of seven,” Erestor said hesitantly. “We usually gather for drinks a half-hour before.”
“I will be sure to be on time then.”
Erestor was graced with another bright smile before Legolas turned away to follow Glorfindel. He then paused for a moment and gave Erestor a quick wave as he left the square. Erestor felt his heart give an odd little beat and he tentatively waved back before hurrying to Echthelion’s side.
“He is coming tomorrow,” Erestor said in a breathless voice.
“That will be nice,” Ecthelion replied. He had just finished ordering the design for gift book and he was feeling quite pleased with himself. He would deliver the poetry itself in a few days, and all would be ready in time for the name-day celebration. “Would you like Cook to serve anything special?”
“I, er… I hadn’t thought of that.” Erestor realized that perhaps he should have thought things through a little more – what if Legolas didn’t like the dinner?
“Don’t worry so.” Ecthelion noticed his dilemma and took pity on him. “I am sure everything will be just fine.”
The next evening, Erestor was surprised to see Legolas arrive, for he had almost convinced himself that he had imagined their entire conversation. But a footman announced his arrival and Legolas strode into the foyer.
“Legolas, hello. Please come in.” Erestor felt incredibly gauche but he recovered his manners in time and promptly invited him into the main library. “What would you like to drink?”
“Sparkling water, if you have it.” Legolas replied. He imagined there would be wine served at dinner; he had learned long ago that he did not care much for wine or liquor, though Glorfindel taught him how the right combination of such could enhance even the plainest meal.
“I’ll join you.” Erestor smiled and quickly produced two tall glasses of sparkling water, handing one to Legolas.
They drank in silence for a few minutes, turning in surprise as Ecthelion and Glorfindel entered the room as well.
“Hello, boys,” Ecthelion said, as he rummaged through the bar. “Glorfindel, your usual?”
“Are you staying for dinner as well, my lord?” Erestor asked.
“I am afraid not,” Glorfindel replied tightly as he took a small glass of clear, odorless liquid. “The king has called yet another special budget meeting for tomorrow afternoon.”
“Since Glorfindel and I have all of the reports at our office, we will be working there through the night so we can be ready.” Ecthelion gave Glorfindel a worried glance. Ever since Aredhel returned with her young son in tow, Turgon had called a good many ‘special budget meetings’ to discuss the possible ramifications. “I will be home late tomorrow, Erestor. If you should need me, you know where to find me.”
The four men talked for a few more minutes, and then the elder two left rather quickly. Unknowingly, they had given the younger two the perfect opportunity chance to learn as much as possible about each other – and their respective fathers.
Glorfindel and Ecthelion entered their shared office. Even though there was more than enough space for separate rooms, they worked so closely on so many projects that it was simpler to share one large office.
“I am glad to see Erestor showing an interest in someone,” said Ecthelion as he sat down at his desk, “though I am ashamed to admit I did not realize that he meant your Legolas.”
“I am glad to see it as well,” Glorfindel replied as he rubbed Echthelion’s shoulders. “They were friends as children; perhaps they will renew it only to find a deeper friendship now.”
“Perhaps,” Ecthelion replied. “We can only hope they are as lucky as we are.”
“Yes,” Glorfindel said as he leaned down and kissed Ecthelion on the lips.
Unseen by either of them, young Maeglin had been wandering the halls when he saw the two men entering their office. Curious, he followed quietly, taking great care not to be heard. He listened but they said nothing of interest; this was boring. Maeglin was almost ready to leave when he heard a kissing sound. Hurriedly, he turned and watched as they kissed not once but several times. Strange – he hadn’t known men kissed other men like that.
Then, much to his great annoyance, the dark-haired man got up and closed the door, locking it. Maeglin sulked at this affront to him, the King’s nephew, for a time but then he decided to wait and watch and listen. He was patient, and he was good at keeping quiet in the shadows, for he had learned that if a thing happened once, it was likely to happen again.
He would also find out who the men were, for while nearly everyone in Gondolin had black hair, very few had curls of Vanya gold.
After the successful dinner date, Legolas and Erestor were often seen in each other’s company. For once Erestor’s keen intuition failed him; he was falling more deeply in love with Legolas every day and not once did Erestor realize that Legolas was infatuated with Ecthelion. For his part, Ecthelion was secretly amused by Legolas’ clumsy attempts at flirtation, assuming they were mere practice for later, less awkward attempts with Erestor.
Legolas was blind to the depth of Erestor’s feelings for him. He would have been horrified to learn of it, for he was genuinely pleased that he and Erestor had renewed their childhood friendship. The fact that Erestor was Ecthelion’s adopted kinsman was an added plus.
Glorfindel thought that Legolas and Erestor made a fine couple and was happy for them. He was mildly concerned about them being so young but then he and Ecthelion had been much the same age when they had first met in Tirion. Legolas had never been serious about anyone before either, and Glorfindel had warned him many times about the serious consequences of trifling with the feelings of another, be they male or female.
“Always remember, Legolas, that we can die of a broken heart as surely as if we were struck by an arrow. And even those who do recover are never quite the same afterward.”
The day of Erestor’s name-day celebration marked a turning point in the whole unintentional charade. There was a small informal gathering in the afternoon, which many of their neighbors and his former classmates attended. Only small cakes and tea were served but there were still quite a few gifts that had to be opened, exclaimed over and admired. Erestor received many books, several of which he had been privately longing for, for quite some time.
But it was the small, quiet gathering hat evening that was the biggest surprise. The only guests were Glorfindel and Legolas, which was expected and Erestor was more than half-convinced that Legolas would ask him to join in some sort of committed relationship.
Erestor was thrilled by Ecthelion’s gift. He had never dreamed of receiving a bound book of his own poetry and he was deeply touched by Ecthelion’s thoughtfulness.
Glorfindel’s gift was the latest foal sired by Asfaloth; a rich gift indeed.
Legolas’ gifts had been a fine leather-bound journal and several new quills and ink that accompanied it. Erestor had been hoping for something more serious from Legolas – perhaps a ring – but he also knew that Legolas’ own name-day was rapidly approaching; perhaps Legolas was constrained to wait before being able to speak up.
Glorfindel sensed Legolas’ confusion but did not know the cause. He assumed that it had something to do with his renewed friendship with Erestor. Glorfindel had hoped that Legolas would confide his feelings to him but Legolas seemed oddly reticent. One evening just before Legolas’ own name-day, Glorfindel decided it was time they had a private talk. He knocked quietly at Legolas’ door, unsurprised when the door swung open and he saw the youth sitting on the rail of the balcony, looking at the forest beyond the walls.
“Come, Legolas. I believe that we have much to say.”
“Yes, brother.” Legolas jumped to his feet and hurried to walk beside the taller man.
Together they left the house and went to one of the smaller town squares, which was dominated by a large decorative fountain. Thel’s design, Glorfindel thought, and seated himself on the fountain’s ledge with Legolas copying his every move like a quiet shadow.
“The stars are quite beautiful, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they are,” Legolas agreed. “I wish I could have seen what they were like at Cuiviénen.”
“So do I,” Glorfindel replied. He was rather surprised at Legolas’ words, for the youth seldom hinted at anything from their past in Valinor. They sat quietly for a time, each lost in their own thoughts, before Legolas spoke hesitantly.
“Glorfindel – brother, I…”
“It is alright, Legolas. I think I know what you want to say.”
“You do?” Legolas hadn’t realized his feelings were so transparent. “You mean you know and approve?”
“Yes, I do. You must always follow your heart, little brother. Your heart will never lead you wrong.”
“Thank you, Glorfindel.” Legolas threw his arms around the Vanya and hugged him tightly. “Thank you for your blessing.”
“Come then.” Glorfindel smiled and dropped a chaste kiss on the top of Legolas’ bright head. “You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow. I think a celebration of some sort is in order.”
The next evening, Legolas was finishing his last braid when he chanced to look out his bedroom window. A tall, dark-haired man was standing alone in the formal garden watching the sunset. Ecthelion! Legolas felt his heart flutter, vaguely wondering why it hadn’t happened before. He was so in love with him that surely it should have happened before now.
Then the man turned slightly and Legolas saw that it was not Ecthelion at all, but Erestor. Erestor? Surely he couldn’t be in love with him – he thought of Erestor as his friend – his best friend, not as a lover. Legolas drew back further into his room, not wishing to be seen. But he had left his bedroom door slightly ajar, and now he heard Glorfindel and Ecthelion’s voices carrying up the stairwell.
“… so pleased.”
“Yes, I never imagined that our houses would be united through our heirs as well as us,” Glorfindel said with a chuckle.
“I knew you were mine the very moment I laid eyes on you back in Tirion,” replied Ecthelion in a husky voice. “It has always been only you.”
There was a long unbroken silence then and Legolas wondered what he should do next. He was almost afraid to move, fearing the slightest noise might give him away; the last thing he wanted was to be caught eavesdropping.
A door closed downstairs and Legolas simply knew it was Erestor who had reentered the house. Legolas slowly eased his door closed, thankful that he had taken care to oil the hinges so that it would not give him away.
Legolas sat down on his bed and thought quickly, trying to sort out a myriad of conflicting emotions in the next few minutes. They would expect him downstairs any moment now.
Glorfindel said to follow his heart, for it was never wrong in such a matter. And it was so obvious that Glorfindel and Ecthelion were a couple; how could he have failed to see it? Legolas might have been infatuated by Ecthelion but he had to admit the older man never saw him as anything more than a friend – he had just imagined it all.
Legolas held his head in his hands for a long minute then. He had made such a fool of himself – and worse, he had come close to ruining several lives. He knew now that Erestor saw him as far more than just a friend. Legolas really did like Erestor – and hadn’t Glorfindel always said that a real friendship was the basis for true love?
Legolas leaned over and unlocked the little drawer of his nightstand. He had been keeping a ring in it, a ring he had planned to give to Ecthelion. But even as he took out the box and opened it, turning the ring in his fingers, it was obvious that this ring would never have quite fit Ecthelion. It would, however, fit Erestor perfectly.
His mind made up, Legolas stood and carefully placed the ring back in its box and the box back in his tunic pocket. He would enjoy his birthday dinner, make merry and open his remaining presents – and then he would present Erestor with the ring. Erestor would accept, and Legolas was certain that they would be very happy together.
With a bright smile that reached his eyes, Legolas opened the door and began to walk down the stairs.
Beta: A very special thank you to IgnobleBard, for tireless and very patient beta work. Any remaining mistakes are mine.
A/N: Slightly AU. Legolas is Legolas of Gondolin -- not Mirkwood.
Chapter end notes:
Rating up to = G
Written for = Ae
Written for = Ae
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