Always Been There
Chapter Fifteen

First Age
Gondolin

Ecthelion’s eyes swept the quickly filling dining hall. Anxiously he stood next to Erestor’s empty chair at the King’s table. It was not like Erestor to be late; indeed, never had the advisor not attended the morning meal, and Ecthelion was not the only one to notice the councilor’s absence. Ecthelion glanced over at the King and saw him whispering to a servant. Once the servant had been sent off on his errand, Turgon waved Ecthelion to his chair and motioned for him to take a seat.

“Mayhap he merely overslept,” Turgon murmured.

Ecthelion sat next to the King, self-consciously awaiting the servant’s return. He only ate at the King’s table when invited by Erestor, and as he waited for his friend, he could feel the many curious stares directed his way. He started to rise. “Perhaps I should go and make sure all is well,” he said, but before he could leave the table, the King stopped him.

“Sit and enjoy your breakfast, Lord Ecthelion. I have sent a servant to inquire as to his whereabouts, and I am sure all is well. Even the ever-reliable Erestor can oversleep.” Turgon waved Ecthelion back into his seat, and with his words, those curious returned to breaking their morning fast.

But Ecthelion could only nibble on the pastry before him, his eyes trained on the doorway. It was several minutes before the servant returned to the King’s side, his face carefully blank. Ecthelion watched, bemused as the servant leaned down and whispered something in the King’s ear. He was further perplexed when the King immediately began coughing and his face turned red. Turgon looked at the servant, shock evident upon his face, and asked something too quietly for Ecthelion to hear. Again, the servant leaned down to whisper in the King’s ear, all the while nodding his head. Finally, Turgon waved the messenger away and sat with his head lowered.

“My Lord?” Ecthelion enquired, worried at the King’s and servant’s reactions to Erestor’s absence. Had something happened to Erestor? Ecthelion thought.

Turgon lifted his head, face carefully neutral. “Erestor will be joining us shortly, Lord Ecthelion,” the King said, before again lowering his head and finishing his meal.

Ecthelion turned his puzzled gaze to where the servant was standing. He was further mystified to see great amusement upon the Elf’s face and to see him whispering eagerly to another, both struggling to control their laughter.

*********

Erestor hurried down the corridor, straightening his robes and brushing at his hair. With every pound of his feet upon the stone floors, an equally harsh pounding was occurring in his head. He could not believe he had over-slept - and to have missed the morning bells! As his stomach churned and his head felt like it was about to explode, Erestor once again since rising berated himself for his folly of drinking the night before. There had been no time to think; indeed, he had barely been conscious when the pounding had started. His only thought had been to get to the door and make it stop!

He had not thought, even as he raced down the halls, so very late, of the picture they had presented to Turgon’s nosy messenger. Erestor’s immediate concern at the time was making it to the King’s side before he was any tardier. Later there would be time to remember his groaning at the loud banging upon his door and the anxious voice calling, “Advisor Erestor!” He had stumbled from the bed, not noticing the heavy arm that had been wrapped about him. Hastily grabbing a robe, Erestor had flung back the chamber door, growling, “What?” at the open-mouthed messenger.

It had only been when the servant’s eyes had widened at the sight over Erestor’s shoulder that the councilor had remembered. He had not slept alone last night. Erestor had slowly turned his head, dreading the sight behind him, only to gasp at the display of a bare Glorfindel leaning up on one arm, blinking owlishly at them. Erestor had quickly stepped into the servant’s line of sight, blocking the nude Lord from further scrutiny. He again barked, “What?” at the intruder.

The King’s messenger had reluctantly dragged his eyes from the enticing sight of Erestor’s bedmate and back to the angry advisor. He smirked. “The King has enquired about your lateness to the morning meal,” the servant said.

“I’ll be right there,” was all Erestor said before slamming the door in the nosy Elf’s face.

Now as he rushed to the King’s presence, Erestor gulped down the bile that rose. What had he done?

*********

Erestor mentally cringed at the looks he received as he made his way to the King’s table. He slid into the empty seat next to Ecthelion, wincing as his sore bottom came into contact with the hard chair. Erestor thought he heard snickers and laughter, but he kept his head lowered, apologizing to the King in a soft voice for his tardiness. Erestor was well aware of Ecthelion’s eyes upon him, but he could not meet the Lord’s silvery gaze. Reaching for the cup of tea a servant set in front of him, Erestor almost dropped the cup when he felt Ecthelion’s hand squeeze his leg under the table.

“I was worried about you, Erestor” he whispered, removing his hand. “Are you all right?” Erestor felt a bolt of shame hit him at the caring he heard in Ecthelion’s voice. He could only nod his head, unable to force any words out of his mouth. Again he heard a snicker, and taking a chance, he looked up into the smirking face of the messenger. Erestor flushed, painfully aware of the servant’s amused gaze. He darted a quick glance at Ecthelion, only to see the Lord frowning at the servant.

Erestor hastily rose, pushing the chair back loudly, and bowed to Turgon. “My Lord, if you will excuse me? I am not feeling that well this morning.” Barely had the King given his nod of permission and Erestor was rushing from the room. He knew he should have brazened it out, but the look in the servant’s eyes and his guilt were too much to bear at that moment.

He ignored Ecthelion’s cry for him to wait, instead fleeing as if the very Valar were waiting to judge. Once inside the safety of his now empty chambers, Erestor covered his face with his hands. He stood back against the door, unable to believe what had transpired in this very room. Slowly he lowered his hands, unable to look away from the bed with its covers strew about, most thrown upon the floor. The sight of his lost innocence, and his shame...

*********

Ecthelion frowned at the fleeing back of Erestor, deeply concerned. He wanted to run after the Elf, but the King’s command stilled him. “Leave him be,” Turgon ordered, his tone harsh, but when Ecthelion’s head swung in the King’s direction, he realized it was not himself whom the King was addressing. Instead, Turgon glared at his servant, the same one who had been sent to fetch Erestor. At that look from the usually mild-mannered King, Ecthelion’s concern mounted.

Ecthelion made it through the meal, but he did not partake of any more food. After the King rose signaling the meal’s end, Ecthelion rose and left for the training grounds, unaware of who else had been missing from the breakfast table. Only at his arrival to the training grounds did Ecthelion’s attention turn to a subject other than Erestor, and it was Glorfindel who caught his eye. The blond Lord was furiously hacking away at a training dummy with his sword. So angry and furious was his attack upon the straw-filled figure that quite a crowd had gathered to watch the golden Lord.

Ecthelion’s brow knitted. Now that he thought of it, he had not seen the blond at all this morn. Usually the pair broke their fast together, even to the extent that Glorfindel had been joining him at the King’s table, understanding that his friend wished to be close to Erestor.

Ecthelion was about to call out to his friend when the sound of laughter broke out behind him. He saw several of the members of the King’s house come upon the heatedly sparring Lord and snicker. Glorfindel seemed to notice the pair at the same time, for his strokes slowed and he glowered at the laughing fools. Like a hawk, his gaze suddenly swung around and pinned Ecthelion in place. Ecthelion was not sure what he saw in Glorfindel’s eyes, but he thought it might have been a flash of regret. But what ever the look had been, it was quickly gone, and the blond approached his friend. In a rare gesture of familiarity, he threw an arm about Ecthelion’s shoulders and steered him away from the others.

“Morning,” Glorfindel said, leading Ecthelion towards the barracks and off the training grounds.

Ecthelion took a seat on a tree stump and watched as the blond proceeded to dunk his head in a large rain barrel, emerging only to throw back his head, flinging water everywhere. Ecthelion cried out as the cold water pelted him, laughing despite his earlier concerns. The blond flashed him a quick grin, laughing himself and shaking more water upon Ecthelion before he turned to reach for his tunic. Rarely, if ever, had Ecthelion seen Glorfindel so playful, but the play seemed somehow false and so unlike the blond. Then, Glorfindel turned to face Ecthelion, and his face was grave. He looked into Ecthelion’s eyes for a moment, but then he lowered his own, and again Ecthelion thought he spied regret in those blue orbs.

“Glorfindel?” Ecthelion asked, his tone worried, and he could not help but be gripped by misgivings at his friend’s odd behavior.

Glorfindel gripped his hands tightly together, the knuckles showing up white. The blond began to fidget, and still he avoided Ecthelion’s eyes. Ecthelion opened his mouth, but before he could demand that Glorfindel speak, the blond did so.

“Itwasamistake!” Glorfindel shouted, before turning and fleeing.

Ecthelion stared after Glorfindel, his mouth agape. For the second time that day he rose as to follow, but before he could go further, his name was shouted by the two fools who had earlier laughed at Glorfindel.

To be continued...