Pen DhŪnen
Chapter Four

S.A. 3441

Twelve years. It had taken twelve long years for The Last Alliance to defeat Sauron. Now, as Erestor stood upon the steps of the Last Homely House awaiting Elrondís return, his thoughts returned to those years. It had not been easy, staying behind, watching Elrond ride away. It had been almost as difficult as the battle to let his parents and little sister go, to say goodbye to the nightmares that had plagued his early years in Imladris. But those torments had only been replaced by worries for his guardian, Elrond.

Messages were stark and few, for Erestor knew, what news could Elrond send? Tales of battles and the toils of war Elrond would not share with him, and it was fruitless to demand he do so. In Elrondís eyes, such tales were not for his Erestorís ears. Instead, news of Imladris filled the pages of their correspondence. As the refugees poured in, families with cherished ones in the Alliance sought out sanctuary in Imladris to await word of loved ones; all these new Elves had to be housed, found useful tasks to while away the excruciating days/months/years. It fell upon Erestorís shoulders to run the valley until Elrond returned.

There were many days in which Erestor found it a struggle to remain in Imladris. It was overwhelming to be looked upon as their leader while their true Lord was away at war. He was expected to have all the answers, to feed and cloth them, and reassure them during those dark times. His people demanded much of him; they followed him, awakened him in the morning, and expected his attendance at every meal. There was no escape. Erestor understood that the residents of Imladris found him distant and aloof, but he could do nothing else, nothing but cling to his fragile control and manage the few words that had to be said.

Some things were easy. Erestor negotiated trade contracts with the surrounding settlements, and while all suffered in the absence of so many to the war, some commerce survived. Each Elven community felt the price keenly with so many warriors and providers gone, that those who remained behind had trouble feeding and caring for their peoples. But, with Imladrisí Chief Councilor leading the way, by pooling together their resources, the lean war years were endured. If Erestor was thought to be an aloof, stoic sort of Elf, they were willing to overlook this, for this was not as important. What was more important, was awaiting word of their loved ones.

As to reassurance, in this Erestor knew he failed. But what could he tell those awaiting the return of loved ones, not knowing if those precious ones would ever even return? That they should be thankful for the time they had together? That they died for a greater good? Erestor knew nothing of this. He had his family but a short time, before they were brutally killed in front of his eyes. He survived. What could he possibly say to grief-stricken widows, lost loves, sisters without brothers? That at least they had not been forced to witness their loved oneís last moments, their screams of pain and horror, and then finally the blankness of their faces in death? In this, Erestor thought them blessed.

After the first few years when all he seemed forced to do was converse with others, things finally settled in a way Erestor could live with.  Each Elf of Imladris knew their place and tasks, so Erestor was required to only attend them if they made a mistake or was derelict in their duties. Ironically, the threat of having to face Erestor and listen to his few words was enough to discourage most. The art of communicating ones displeasure in the fewest words possibly was something Erestor mastered.

The greatest number of new residents arrived weekly from Lindon. It seemed that without their High King, most Lindon Elves found the city unlivable. It was among those new arrivals that Erestor found his only friend. Lindir, a minstrel without a court to play to, sought out the quickly rising fame that was Imladris. The shy young artist had no family, and when not called upon to sing, was more often than not, quiet. Erestor did not understand how the two of them became such friends, for their company was passed almost entirely in silence, with only Lindirís music as communication. But as with Elrond, Erestor did not seem to need words with Lindir. Lindir could see beneath the distant exterior to the Elf who was as shy as himself.

In this manner Imladris was kept for her Lordís return, safe and somewhat prosperous despite the times. For an Elf who met few and spoke to less, Erestorís fame and reputation were firmly established. Lord Erestor was Chief Councilor to Lord Elrond and ruled in his stead. Erestor has done just as Elrond had wanted. If the hours upon hours Erestor spent in work were in effect the best escape he could ever have thought, Erestor relished that. If his need for solitude was even greater than that as an Elfling, then that was a small price to pay. For in the end, Erestor knew he had made Elrond proud.

Word had come, finally, of the warís end. Elrond was coming home. Erestor stood upon the steps, watching as far fewer Elves rode in than had ridden away. His eyes searched for and found the one who mattered most to him- Elrond. Erestorís heart clenched at the pain and suffering that was visible on his Lordís face. Twelve years and the loss of so many had left their mark. Deep lines appeared upon the once ethereal looking half-Elfís face.

Erestor had placed himself towards the rear of those awaiting their loved ones. He heard the mourning cries around him as those sought for were not found, and tried to control himself, wanting to hold on to the hard-earned dignity that his position demanded. But as Elrondís eyes continued to search the crowd, he could no longer hold back, and with a cry ran into his Lordís open arms.

To be continued...