Always Been There
Chapter Nine

First Age c. 75
The Training Fields of Vinyamar

Through the vast stone arches of the great hall, Erestor could see the activity on the training fields. He watched as the long-time friends, Ecthelion and Glorfindel, sparred. Their strokes were evenly matched, and they presented a stunning sight as they thrust and parried. He stopped and watched as Glorfindel swung his sword in a wide arc, catching the usually sure-footed Ecthelion off balance. He could not help but feel envious as the pair laughed and joked together. Erestor's position in Turgon's court did not allow for much interaction with the palace guards, so it had been a while since he had any contact with the pair.

Erestor sighed and continued on his way. He had nothing in common with his old friends, and the camaraderie that had drawn them together after the crossing of the Ice seemed to have vanished. Now it was once more the division of position that decided their places in life.

As Erestor passed the last open archway, he could feel the eyes upon him and hear the whispers. He knew what they all thought. Ever since his Lord Turgon returned from his latest secret trip, Erestor had not left his lord's side. But he could not tell anyone of the reason; Turgon had ordered complete silence on Erestor's activities so he lived with the sly looks and the talk of him and his Lord.

The rumor mills said that Erestor warmed Turgon's bed, and that was why the young advisor spent so much time behind closed doors with their Lord. Erestor could do nothing about the gossip; he could only continue to follow Turgon's orders. If they only knew, he thought how he spent each day pouring over the tomes that had survived the crossing, drawing map after map of a city they had left and would never see again. How he wrote detail after detail, searching his memory for every little bit of knowledge of that beautiful home.

After the drawings of Tirion were completed, then Turgon had ordered extensive research: what would it have taken to make Tirion completely self-sufficient? All involved with the project had been ordered to be silent. For weeks, Erestor had worked on making Tirion a city all onto its own - at least on paper. What he did not know was that as each note was passed on to Turgon, the King then in turn passed those instructions on to others. In secret, a great store of supplies was made, and only Turgon knew its true purpose.

But all that occurred unknown to the public, and it did not stop Erestor from being the brunt of snickers and much dislike by the court. Many who felt the young Elf was reaching beyond himself, while others just thought him to be a whore. The rumors had set Erestor apart from the others, with no one to turn to, no one to share this burden with. The advisor had never felt this isolated, not since he lost his parents in the crossing.

Erestor was just about free of the training field when a familiar voice called his name. He stopped and turned as Ecthelion and Glorfindel approached him.

"Erestor," Ecthelion greeted him, while Glorfindel said nothing.

"My Lords," Erestor said, bowing briefly in response.

"We have not seen much of you lately, Erestor. We were hoping that you would join us for some refreshment and a chance to catch up?" Ecthelion's smile was hesitant, but his eyes pleaded with Erestor to accept.

Erestor mentally cringed. "I am sorry Ecthelion; I have duties still to my Lord." His eyes flashed to Glorfindel at the blond's snort.

Glorfindel was looking at him in displeasure mixed with something else that Erestor did not want to name. He knew he should let it go, but he could not. "What?" he asked the blond, challenging Glorfindel to explain himself.

Glorfindel did not back down, despite Ecthelion's hand upon his arm. "Duties, Erestor? Is that what it is called now? Your parents wanted you to succeed, Erestor, but I do not believe they would have been proud of your rising to the top by lying on your back in Turgon's bed," Glorfindel said, and Erestor finally named that look in the blond's eyes. It was disgust.

Erestor's face was white with shock, and even Ecthelion could see the devastation in his eyes. "Erestor," he started to say, but before he could reach out to the smaller Elf, Erestor turned and fled.

*********

Turgon closed the volume on crops that he was reading and shook his head. If he had ever read anything as boring, he could not recall. He glanced over at the quiet young advisor he and his daughter had adopted after the disaster that was the Ice. Erestor was always quiet, always a hard worker, but the past couple of weeks he had been even more so. Turgon could not recall hearing Erestor say two words that day, or the day before, and the young Elf had barely left the study. For meals only did he appear for, and then always sat alone or next to Idril at the head table when the she-Elf could coax him there.

Despite what everyone believed, Turgon was well aware of what was being said of the young councilor. Until he was ready to reveal his plans, however, there was nothing Turgon could do to stop the rumors. He swore to himself that when this was over, Erestor would be richly rewarded for his loyalty.

Turgon rose and stretched out the kinks in his back that had developed after so many hours in the same position. He looked over at Erestor's bowed head. "Come, Erestor. Enough for this night. Let us depart to the Halls and have some dinner," he ordered, softening his tone when he saw the panic in Erestor's eyes. He moved to the door, opening it and waiting for the younger Elf to join him. Turgon paused and gently cupped Erestor's face, raising it so that the dark-eyed Elf had to meet his own silver gaze. "It will be all right, Erestor. I promise," Turgon said.

Their journey together into the Great Hall did not go unmarked, and despite knowing better than to look, Erestor's eyes still sought out those of Glorfindel's, but the blank look he received in return had his own gaze dropping to the floor. It was with a heavy heart that he took the seat Idril saved for him. Concentrating only on the food on his plate, Erestor ignored the looks slyly directed at him. He was able to sit undisturbed and finish his meal, the happy thought that soon he could escape running through his mind made him deaf to the commotion at the front of the Hall.

It was only as the frantic messenger wearing King Fingolfin's livery stopped before the high table that Erestor became aware of what was happening around him. He rose quickly, following Turgon's bark for his advisors and captains to follow him and the messenger. They listened in horror as King Fingolfin's servant spoke of the earthquakes in the North, fire pouring from the fissures, and how the Iron Mountains spewed flames. Orcs were reported crossing the plain of Ard-galen, streaming down from the Pass of Sirion into the West and crossing east into Maglor's lands. All reports indicated that the attack was to be directed against Dorthonion. King Fingolfin was requesting that his son gather his forces and ride to join the assault against the servants of Morgoth.

And so the Captains were ordered to assemble their warriors and their arms, and the councilors scrambled to gather supplies for the departing host. Erestor, hurt feelings forgotten in the midst of war, packed Ecthelion's and Glorfindel's supplies himself. In addition to the normal rations, Erestor included for each a warm change of garments, a flask of sweet wine, and a loaf of almond bread. Into Ecthelion's pack went a wooden flute, and for Glorfindel there was a book of maps with fresh quill and parchment so that the blond could record his journeys. To the pair Erestor said nothing, only looked on anxiously as they accepted their packs from Erestor, each nodding at his blessings for a safe journey and a speedy return. Ecthelion did pause and give Erestor's shoulder a comforting squeeze before leaving to gather at the gates with Turgon's host. Erestor watched sadly as they marched away to war.

*********

Erestor read the daily reports that returned to Nevrast from the battlefields. His heart rejoiced as Glorfindel's and Ecthelion's names were continually absent from the lists of casualties and injured. All of Vinyamar rejoiced when word reached them that Morgoth's forces had been pursued across Ard-galen and soundly destroyed. Their warriors were coming home!

Despite the sound victory, all could tell that their Lord was deeply troubled upon his return. Turgon finally shared with his Captains his father's words and the unease they left him with. That he agreed not with Fingolfin's boast that save by treason among themselves after Dagor Aglareb, the Glorious Battle, Morgoth could never again burst from the leaguer of the Eldar, nor come upon them unawares. And so it was, with Ulmo's warnings ringing in his head that Turgon summoned his most trusted and sent them forth.

Erestor packed and prepared to leave another home, knowing somehow deep in his heart that like Tirion, he would never set foot in Nevrast again. He knew not of this plan of his Lord's for this great secret city, but his loyalty to his Lord unquestionable, he set forth with Glorfindel and Ecthelion.

To be continued...