Always Been There
Chapter Three

1490 Year of the Trees
Tirion on the green hill of Túna

If Erestor’s parents marked his improved spirits, they did not comment. For two blissful days, Erestor floated on the belief that he had his dear friend back. He now looked forward to Ecthelion’s upcoming Begetting Day party. Erestor had carefully thought of a gift for the other Elfling and it was with that end in mind that he finished up the scribing for the King’s bard. Erestor floated home, the efforts of his work tucked securely under his arm. Erestor opened the door to his home and bounced into the room, only to halt as the visitor rose at his entrance.

Erestor’s teacher Tarmindo, rose and faced the child. "Erestor," he said gravely.

Erestor looked about, confused. His Nana and Ada sat along with Glorfindel and his Ada. Glorfindel was seated, small shoulders bowed, face red.

"Suilad, Teacher Tarmindo," Erestor greeted. He looked about the room, ignoring Glorfindel’s Ada’s glare. "What is going on Ada, Nana?" he asked. Erestor could feel the anxiety of his parents, but honestly did not know what had brought their visitors here today.

Teacher Tarmindo glanced at Hlárleru, and receiving a nod, addressed Erestor. His tone was gently and hesitant. "Erestor, I came today with Glorfindel and his Ada to address a serious issue that has come up regarding your schoolwork." Tarmindo looked down into his best student's eyes, hating what he had to do. "Now, Erestor, no one is accusing you of anything. I am sure there is a reasonable explanation for this-"

Tarmindo was cut off as Glorfindel’s Ada hissed angrily and rose to his feet. "Stop dancing around it, Tarmindo." He turned to pin Erestor in place with his icy blue gaze. "Did you or did you not copy the counting assignment from my son and turn it in as your own work?" he demanded.

Hlárleru rose to his feet, his face furious. "My Lord! That is enough. You have no right to speak to my son in that manner." Hlárleru was trembling in his rage. Glorfindel’s Ada might be a Lord and he only an advisor, but no one came into his own home and spoke to his family in that manner. It took the touch of Firingë’s hand upon his arm to calm him somewhat, and he was able to continue in a more reasonable tone. "Erestor does not tell falsehoods and we have not given him a chance to speak."  Hlárleru turned to his son; his expression said clearly that he expected Erestor to clear this mess up.

Erestor’s mind whirled. His eyes sought those of Glorfindel’s, but the blond would not meet his gaze. Erestor felt his stomach turn, and he felt sick as the betrayal settled in finally. Glorfindel had copied Erestor’s work and turned it in as his own… Of those watching, only Firingë saw the light that died in her son’s eyes, and she knew what had happened. Perhaps if Glorfindel had the courage to meet his friend's eyes, he too would have seen the consequences of his action on the small, dark Elfling, but he did not.

Erestor took a deep breath and his small shoulders squared. "It was my fault, Teacher Tarmindo. I asked for Glorfindel’s help with the counting assignment. I had forgotten and had not the time to complete it." Erestor bowed his head. "So I copied his and turned it in as my own," he finished in a whisper.

"Ha!" Glorfindel’s Ada said, and bending down, he grasped Glorfindel’s arm tightly, pulling his son from the sofa. "I told you my son would have no cause to cheat," he gloated and looking down at Hlárleru, he smirked. "You will, of course, understand if I ask that your son stay away from mine from now on. Glorfindel’s studies are too important, and we need not a repeat of this episode." That said, Glorfindel was dragged out of the small house leaving behind stunned faces and one small Elfling’s broken heart.

No one left in the room had believed Erestor’s story, but Erestor had made further investigation impossible with the certainty of his statements. Tarmindo sighed his shoulders slumped. He looked apologetically at Hlárleru, before moving to stand in front of Erestor. "Erestor, you know that I will now have to give you a failing grade on that assignment." His own face saddened even more as the little Elfling nodded, his breath hitching. Tarmindo placed a hand on Erestor’s shoulder, squeezing briefly before he left.

As soon as the door closed behind his teacher, an Elf he admired and respected, Erestor broke, and with a cry fled upstairs to his room where he flung himself upon his bed, sobs shaking his tiny frame. Firingë stepped to follow Erestor, but was halted by Hlárleru’s hand on her arm. "No, let him be," he ordered harshly.

Firingë stared at her mate in disbelief. "You cannot believe that he did that?" she questioned, shock in her voice.

"Of course not!" Hlárleru said as he began pacing about the room, anger evident in his every stride and the swish of his dark robes. "No one who was in this room believed that tale of rubbish. Even Glorfindel’s wind-bag of an Ada knew that Erestor was covering for his little blond brat." Hlárleru stopped and looked at Firingë, his own heartache visible in his eyes. ""I cannot think of a harsher lesson for our ion to learn than this, but it is his lesson to learn," Hlárleru could say no more, and with a last anguished glance at the stairs leading to Erestor’s room, he left the house.

Firingë’s heart was torn in agony. Her eyes went first to the stairs and then to the closed door her mate had just gone through. Finally, with no idea whom she should comfort first, she sat and buried her face in her hands, tears running down her pale cheeks.

Erestor did not come down for dinner, and his presence at breakfast was silent. Hlárleru and Firingë kept glancing at their son, but they said nothing and could only watch sadly as Erestor gathered his books and left for school. Erestor approached the school building with butterflies dancing his stomach. He hoped that word had not spread of what had happened, but as he entered and took his seat, that hope was dashed. The whispering and snickering that followed him to his seat were almost more than he could take, but Erestor kept his face cold and blank. He would not give them the satisfaction of knowing how their actions hurt him. No longer would Erestor wear his heart upon his sleeve for them to trample upon.

Could this event not have marked a change in her son? Firingë thought? It was obvious to those that cared to look. She watched as her once-happy bird went about methodically dressing for Ecthelion’s Begetting Day party. No emotions appeared on that lovely little face. Erestor’s thoughts now were internal and shared with none, not even her, she mourned. Firingë was amazed that Erestor was still attending this party. Since that day, he had avoided his classmates. Erestor came home after school everyday; his only journeys now were to the great libraries of the King. Firingë gave her son a hug and a smile as she handed him the gift for Ecthelion.  The smile disappeared, however, as soon as Erestor closed the door behind him.

Erestor ignored the silence that descended upon the room as he entered the party. He had promised himself that he would show up, and he had. No one was going to say that Erestor was a coward!  Ecthelion’s Nana had invited him, and the elleth had always been kind to Erestor. Erestor approach the small group of children around Ecthelion, ignoring that next to Ecthelion stood Glorfindel. He had come to do one thing, and after that, he was leaving. Erestor stopped before Ecthelion and held out the package that rested in his arms.

"Happy Begetting Day, Ecthelion," he said formally.

Ecthelion’s Nana approached, and after giving Erestor a hug, she stood with her arm firmly about the little Elfling’s shoulders, lending without any doubt her support. "Well, go on ion, open it," she encouraged.

Ecthelion glanced nervously about at his friends, but he could not ignore his Nana’s wishes. He pulled the plain wrapping from a long, thin wooden box, and glancing anxiously at Erestor, opened it. Ecthelion gasped and his eyes rose to Erestor’s in disbelief. "How did you know," he whispered.

"I saw you one day speaking with the bard, and the way you gazed upon his flute," Erestor answered. He had seen the longing in the other Elfling’s eyes, and understood that music was something that called to Ecthelion's faer. Erestor looked up at Ecthelion’s Nana and smiled at the tender look she bestowed upon him. "Hannon chen for inviting me," Erestor said, and he turned to make his way to the door. (I thank you)

Ecthelion placed the handsomely carved wooden flute carefully into his Nana’s arms, already loath to part from it. He called to Erestor to wait and quickly moved to catch the other Elfling at the door. He stared down into Erestor’s dark eyes, which revealed nothing, and still Ecthelion could not fathom why Erestor had done this.  He knew the other Elfling was asking nothing in return - Ecthelion did not know how he knew that, he just did.

"Thank you, Erestor, truly, thank you very much," Ecthelion said, his voice somewhat hoarse with the emotion inspired by Erestor’s gift.

Erestor nodded and left Ecthelion’s party, and not once had he looked at his former friend, Glorfindel. Erestor could not but help feel proud of himself as he made the lonely trek home.

********

Over the next 47 and a half years, the Elflings shed their childhood ways and began to learn and train for their roles as adult Elves, in whatever manner Eru had designed for them. Individualism began to separate childhood bonds, and new friendships were formed with those of like mind. All this was seen as a natural part of growing up, and many young adults could have never imagined where their interest would have taken them.  Ecthelion and Glorfindel remained the closest of friends, despite Ecthelion also training under the best bards in Tirion.  The enchanting sounds of Ecthelion and his flute became a favorite of the citizens in Tirion. Ecthelion never forgot who had given him his first flute, and though he had since outgrown it, that small wooden flute still had a place of honor on the mantle of his home. The pair still trained daily with the finest warriors, Glorfindel’s Ada making sure that his ion had only the best instructors. But if there was something else that called to Glorfindel’s faer, he was never allowed to learn it; only becoming the very best of the best was good enough for his Ada.

If Glorfindel and Ecthelion trained to become the finest in their chosen paths, then Erestor had already obtained that status. The dark Elf sat at his Ada’s right now on the King’s council and had already gained a reputation as a fine advisor and lore master.  And indeed, if truth be told, had already the ear of many of his elders. Occupation kept the former friends apart, and at least in Ecthelion’s and Glorfindel’s hearts, forgotten.

Erestor was happy in his station in life. He no longer dwelled in his Nana’s home, but had his own room in the King’s court. His work was challenging and fulfilling, and every day he greeted his Ada with some of his old spark. That Firingë missed her ion’s presence in her home was not questioned, but as she watched some of her Erestor's old spirit return, she could not help but rejoice. No longer solitary, now Erestor freely mingled among the other advisors and masters of lore, apprentices, and statesmen. Discussion and debate often carried over from meals into late night. As his sharp young mind was continually challenged and fed, Erestor left behind the childhood shield and became a confident Elf many wished to consult with.

If some of those glances and words were more admiring than what his sharp mind alone warranted, Erestor was blind to them. Hlárleru could only shake his head and smile at his ion’s blindness to the flirting and courting that went on about him. His ion was beautiful, but Erestor did not see this, or perhaps, Hlárleru thought, care about such things. But the others of the court had certainly noticed. Hlárleru smiled fondly as Erestor’s words drew chuckles from those about him. His son had his Nana’s beauty, and when he smiled, Erestor’s face could take one's breath away. That those smiles were not as frequent as others were wont to distribute made them all the more precious. Erestor was not as tall or as broadly built as most Noldor - his stature brought to mind more of a dancer. Slim and graceful, his childhood clumsiness gone with self-confidence obtained, Erestor moved about Tirion as if he floated upon clouds.

Erestor was dark-haired and eyed like most, but his almond-shaped onyx eyes matched with the raven hair that flowed down his back to brush the tops of his thighs, combined with the milky paleness of his skin, was startling and eye- catching. Add his fairness, ruby colored lips and arching perfectly shaped coal black brows, and the final picture drew many a sigh of admiration among the court. Hlárleru shook his head in amusement.  With Erestor not even in his majority and already drawing so many interested looks, he knew that he would soon be having a conversation of a different nature with his son.

To be continued...