Always Been There
Chapter Eleven

First Age
c. 326
Gondolin

Erestor was not purposely being dense, but something like this had never occurred to him. That is, until Legolas of the Tree pointed it out to him. Erestor realized later that indeed Ecthelion had been around much more than before, but courting him? It just never entered Erestor's mind that he was being courted. The Lord of the Fountain had many an excuse for what brought him to the King's court so often, and his explanations always seemed to make sense. Erestor did not mark anything unusual about Ecthelion's many meals taken by Erestor's side. He just assumed the Lord had business with the King, thus it made sense to sit at the King's table.

It was not until Ecthelion had presented him with a flower, given in full view of many members of the court, that the Lord's actions became suspicious. Erestor had stood, eyeing the flower warily, when Legolas came upon the young advisor. Legolas' remark that his admirer had good taste was what finally made Erestor realize that Ecthelion had no business with the King, but that *Erestor* was the reason for the frequency of his visits. To say that Erestor was stunned was an understatement. He had stood with his mouth open, clutching the flower, until Legolas had warned him bewares of flying bees.

Erestor was not quite sure what to do. It was true that Ecthelion was a handsome Elf and a much sought-after companion. The Lord was renowned for his musical talent. His voice and flute were the favorite of many an Elf maid and ellon. Erestor greatly enjoyed Ecthelion's company, and he valued the Elf Lord's friendship. But Erestor was not sure if his feelings went further than friendship. It was this indecision that led Erestor to seek the peace of the King's garden, and where Idril found him lost in thought among the trees and flowers.

Idril sat down next to her father's young councilor. "Erestor," she called, noticing that the dark-haired Elf had not seemed to notice her appearance next to him at all. But it was not until she touched him lightly on the arm that Erestor turned to her.

"Oh, my Lady!" Erestor exclaimed, jumping up and bowing to the King's daughter. "I am sorry," he apologized.

Idril laughed and tugging on Erestor's sleeve pulled the flustered Elf back down on the bench beside her. "It is all right, Erestor. Your mind must have been a mile away," she laughingly replied. "What has you so preoccupied, my friend?"

Erestor adjusted his robe nervously and smiled shyly at Idril. "Tis nothing, my Lady, just a personal problem."

Idril studied the advisor for a moment before speaking. "Sometimes it helps to talk our problems out with a friendly ear," she said, hoping the shy Elf would open up to her. She, like her father, felt that Erestor spent too much time working and alone. She had seen the attention paid to the advisor by the handsome Lord Ecthelion and had a feeling it was that attention that had Erestor a-flutter.

Erestor stammered and blushed, lowering his eyes to his restless hands. "I-I have discovered that someone is interested in courting me, and I was sitting here hoping to figure out what to do about it," he whispered, embarrassed to be discussing this with the King's daughter.

"Ah," Idril said simply, eyeing the blushing Elf. She smiled gently and asked, "Do you return this Elf's attentions, Erestor?"

"I do not know!" Erestor exclaimed, his wildly flying hands revealing his frustration.

Idril laughed and caught the flying limbs. "Erestor, that is what courting is all about. Coming to know someone and finding out if you have special feelings for them that go beyond friendship. Courting is supposed to be enjoyable and special, Erestor. So I say, sit back and enjoy yourself, take it slowly and see if you have feelings for this Elf."

Erestor calmed as he listened to his friend's words. Idril gave his fingers a squeeze before releasing them and rising. "Just enjoy this attention Erestor; it is not a battle, map, or great problem to be solved. It is courting. Romance," she said with another smile, before turning and leaving the advisor to his thoughts.

"Thank you, my Lady," Erestor called as Idril left the gardens, smiling at her waving hand that acknowledged his thanks. Despite Idril's advice to relax and enjoy the attention, Erestor still felt uneasy. He knew he liked Ecthelion, respected the Elf, but he was sure that he was not in love with him. But could he come to love him? Was that not the purpose of courting? Erestor did not know, and it was at moments like these that he felt his parents' absence keenly.

*********

Erestor keep his feelings to himself, but he did enjoy Ecthelion's attentions. The pair spent many an evening in each other's company. They walked the many gardens and courts, enjoyed the different variety trees and flowers, and talked a great deal. Erestor found Ecthelion to be a lovely companion, and their discussions were lively and interesting. Almost every eve, Ecthelion entertained Erestor with his flute, the many talented singers and players of his house often joining in with their Lord.

The gossip-lovers spread the word quickly that Ecthelion was courting Turgon's advisor, and many a curious eye followed the pair. Some of these were happy for the young councilor, but some also were envious. Erestor did not know which camp Glorfindel fell into, for the Lord of the House of the Golden Flower seemed to be avoiding them. He did not join in the merrymaking at Ecthelion's house, nor did he attend the many state dinners that Ecthelion accompanied Erestor to. And when the pair did encounter the blond, Glorfindel was polite, but distant. Ecthelion said nothing of his friend's inattention, so Erestor did not bring the matter up, but he worried that he had somehow come between the childhood friends.

Things might have progressed in this manner, had not duty halted Ecthelion's courting. For some time Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, the White Lady of the Noldor and the King's sister, had grown restless. In Valinor, the Lady had great freedom. She had enjoyed riding through the wild lands and walking in the forest, but in Gondolin, that type of freedom was impossible. For none could leave the Hidden city, not even the King's sister.

*********

Erestor sat outside the King's office trying to not listen to the raised voices of his Lord and his Lord's sister. This type of discussion had been occurring regularly for the past month as Aredhel argued for freedom to travel. Erestor jumped as a loud crash sounded from behind the closed door, then the King's angry voice. "Go then," Erestor heard Turgon say. He listened as Turgon warned about the dangers of the journey, and ordered Aredhel to obey his guards and journey only to their brother Fingon's land.

Erestor listened in disbelief as Aredhel argued that Turgon could not command her. But Turgon warned his sister again that no one could discover Gondolin's location. Finally their voices lowered, and before long the door opened and Aredhel hurried from the chambers, brushing past Erestor who had stood at the Lady's approach.

"Erestor," Turgon called.

Erestor came forward at his Lord's words. "Yes, my Lord," he asked, stepping hesitantly into the room.

Turgon rubbed a weary hand across his brow before addressing his advisor. "Ask Ecthelion, Glorfindel, and Legolas to see me," Turgon ordered, and Erestor, seeing the unease and unhappiness of his Lord, hurried to do his bidding.

Erestor found Ecthelion and Glorfindel in their houses, but Legolas was at the second gate. Erestor had to send a messenger to fetch him to the King. Erestor returned to his office, knowing that Ecthelion would fill him in on what was happening, and indeed, barely an hour passed before Ecthelion knocked upon Erestor's door.

"Enter," Erestor called, knowing even before the Elf entered that it was Ecthelion.

"Erestor," Ecthelion said, coming forward with a smile. "I came to say goodbye. I am part of the escort for Aredhel."

Erestor rose and came around his desk. He smiled back at Ecthelion. "I figured that you had drawn the duty when the King asked to you. How long do you expect the journey to be?" A flash of gold caught Erestor's attention and he looked toward the door, noticing for the first time that Glorfindel stood in the hall awaiting Ecthelion. The blond looked back at Erestor, his eyes unreadable.

Erestor forced his attention back to Ecthelion, making himself smile into the Lord's silver-gray eyes. He listened, all too aware of the blue gaze that watched them as Ecthelion spoke of their journey. Erestor was shocked out of his thoughts when Ecthelion leaned down and placed a soft kiss across Erestor's lips. Erestor's eyes flew to Ecthelion's and he flushed when the Lord winked at him before turning toward Glorfindel.

Erestor's face felt on fire as he met Glorfindel's gaze. The blond was frowning, and Erestor's blushing face fell at Glorfindel's obvious disapproval.

Erestor slumped upon the corner of his desk once the door was closed. His hand rose to his lips. Ecthelion had kissed him! Erestor was dumbfounded…

To be continued...