Windows of the Soul
One moment, fire burned the very flesh from his bones. In the very next instant, the breath was frozen in his lungs. He could not feel his feet; ice encased his body as he struggled forward. The air was filled with screams -- the cries of the wronged. Swords flashed, their bright blades stained with Elven blood. Harsh voices whispering, "Kinslayer!" brought him awake with a stifled scream.
Glorfindel sat up, the damp sheet falling unnoticed to his waist. His head swung frantically around the room, but no one was there. He was alone.
Glorfindel swung his legs to the side of the bed, wearily raising a hand to push back sweat-dampened strands of blond from his flushed face. Would he never have relief from the nightmares of his past? The large room that had seemed so grand upon his arrival now felt like a prison. Glorfindel could *hear* the guard outside his door. Although his guardian did not speak, his silent presence was as loud as the slamming of iron doors. The four walls were closing in on him, and Glorfindel knew he would find no more rest this night. The moments after the nightmares left him feeling confined, caged, and restless. Only the freedom of his nightly excursions promised relief.
Their angry, tortured voices still called to him, begging for mercy and cursing the Noldor for their betrayal. The image of the red flames sparking high into the night sky as the ships burned tormented his memory; still the rumble and cry of the Valar echoed in his mind. Glorfindel growled -- he needed out of this room!
Glorfindel pulled on the leggings and tunic he had worn earlier. He approached the door and schooled his features. The young soldier turned to face Glorfindel as the door opened.
"Híren, may I help you?" The guardsman asked anxiously.
Ah, Glorfindel thought. This one is perfect. The awed look on the young ellon's face told Glorfindel everything he needed to know. This will be too simple. Glorfindel did not need to try very hard to look pale and strained, the confinement and nightmares took care of that. He looked into the younger Elf's eyes, letting his own proud shoulders droop just a touch.
"I-I had a nightmare," Glorfindel said, letting his voice slur and reflect weariness. "Lord Elrond has made a tonic that helps me to sleep. Unfortunately, I forgot to send for it earlier. If you do not mind?" Glorfindel flashed his best, charming smile and moved a bit closer to the infatuated Elf.
The guardsman seemed to snap to attention, whether it was from being in the presence of the great Glorfindel, slayer of a Balrog, or his future commanding officer, he appeared all to happy to help the Elda out. "Of course, Híren," he said eagerly. "I will be back quickly with your medicine." The young Elf turned and hurried away down the hall toward the healing wing as if the Balrog were on his own heels.
Glorfindel felt a flash of guilt over the trouble he knew the young Elf was going to get into when he returned to find his prisoner gone. That fleeting bit of remorse was not, however, enough to stop Glorfindel from quickly leaving his room. Besides, he thought as he walked briskly down the hall in the opposite direction, this would be an invaluable lesson for the young guardsman. Never underestimate your opponent.
After Erestor questioned Glorfindel, Elrond had relayed the happenings to the High King. Although a suspect was under guard, Glorfindel was innocent until proven guilty, and there was simply not enough evidence –yet—to prove his guilt. Gil-galad decided it would be prudent to issue a city-wide warning to all ellith living alone, but he knew as well as Erestor did that such a warning was pointless. All the evidence indicated that the victims knew their killer. Until Erestor's investigations were conducted, there was simply nothing else that could be done except wait, and hope the killer did not strike again.
Erestor had returned to the lab after questioning Glorfindel. Alone, he sat in his office, crime scene drawings and interviews spread out on the desk before him. He rubbed a hand tiredly over his face. There had to be something he was missing.
This killer was highly organized, that much was clear. The crime scene displayed a high level of control, and the killings themselves were very well planned. Each scene was carefully arranged to fit the details of whatever this killer's fantasy involved. The murderer also collected trophies: Brennil's robe and Cuileth's sewing basket. Erestor deduced that the killer was well thought of, bright, and considered a pleasant addition to society.
"Planning, then the victim selection, hunting, and finally...the murder..." Yes, Erestor thought, this is what you are doing...
The killer's modus operandi was evident in the lack of forced entry into the victims' homes, the seated placement of the bodies, the same method of subduing his victims, the mysterious contents of the teacups. Part of his MO, Erestor also figured had to be how he became close enough to the victims to allow entry into their quarters. Their killer also had to have established some element of trust – the same MO, the same killer.
The mutilation of the eyes and the robe, Erestor thought, was the ritual. The ritual, as compared to the MO, was something that the killer felt played a necessary role in the fantasy he created for himself.
Erestor cursed in frustration. Going over the information repeatedly resulted in nothing new. He needed answers, and he knew just where to start looking for them. Determinedly, Erestor shoved the chair back and left his office. Striding the down the hall of the guest quarters, he came to an abrupt halt at the sight of one of the King's guardsmen running from Erestor's prisoner's room, a look of panic on his face.
The ellon paled at the sight of Lord Erestor in the hall. He swallowed. "Lord Erestor, I am sorry, but it appears Lord Glorfindel has escaped." The young Elf's voice broke only once, and Erestor arched a brow as he moved to the nervous Elf's side.
Erestor glanced into the empty room and turned his attention back to the guard. "Yes, it does appear as if my prisoner is missing. Would you know how that came to happen?" Erestor asked calmly. His quiet tone seemed to do more damage to the young Elf's composure than if Erestor had raged and raised his voice.
"Y-yes, sir. He complained of nightmares and said Lord Elrond had medicine to help him sleep. I was only gone for a moment, and when I came back, Lord Glorfindel was gone." The guardsman stared straight ahead; already he could hear the Captain's voice sending him to the worst duty in the realm. Erestor could not help but admire the young ellon's courage – he held his head high and met his fate straight on.
Erestor only shook his head. He should have spoken with Dórion about the type of guard needed; this had not been the assignment for a rookie. "You are dismissed. Please inform Captain Dórion that I want to speak with him immediately. I will wait here in case Lord Glorfindel returns." Erestor's voice was stern, but not unkind. He should have taken into account how the guards would feel guarding a hero such as Glorfindel. He was one of them, a fellow warrior, and a legend.
After the young guard bowed smartly and left to seek out his commanding officer, Erestor entered Glorfindel's room and shut the door behind him. Calmly, he started a methodical search of the room. If Glorfindel was going to disobey an order, from Lord Elrond no less, then Erestor was going to break the rules. Normally, he would obtain the suspect's consent or provide the King with enough evidence to allow a search. Elves valued their privacy highly, even in a crowded realm such as Lindon, and to invade that privacy was unthinkable.
But not this time. Erestor went through the wardrobe, finding only a few simple tunics and one robe, nothing resembling what the victims wore. The drawers revealed nothing either, and Erestor frowned at the lack of personal items. The walls were bare, the tops of the bureaus and even the mantelpiece were devoid of adornments. There were no mementoes; nothing that spoke of the blond's illustrious past, not even a token from an admirer. Even creature comforts were sparse in the Elda's room.
After his search, Erestor doused all the candles in the room, and selecting a chair in a dark corner, sat down to wait for the blond's return. He did not have long to wait. Only an hour or so passed before the door was cautiously opened and Glorfindel crept into the room. He smelled of the outdoors, Erestor noticed, and he waited until the Elda was in the center of the room and had frozen as his senses picked up on an intruder.
Erestor's cold voice broke the silence. "Am I now to be called to the scene of another murder, Lord Glorfindel?"
Glorfindel's head swung around toward Erestor's voice, and the moonlight that shone through the window was enough to reveal the fury in his eyes. "What are you doing in my room, Lord Erestor?" Glorfindel spat.
Erestor rose and approached Glorfindel. "I came here to question my chief suspect, only to find him escaped from his room. Why did you leave your room, Lord Glorfindel?" Erestor stopped directly in front of the Elda, now wishing for more light. He wanted to see the Elda's eyes, the windows into his soul.
Glorfindel took a step back. A flash of what could have been indecision or insecurity appeared on his face, before he quickly schooled his features. "I needed to walk," he stated simply, offering no further explanation.
"Walk?" Erestor said, sarcasm and disbelief heavy in his voice. "You deceived a member of the royal guard and defied an order – a *direct* order -- from Lord Elrond, for a walk? Do you really expect me to believe that?"
Glorfindel began pacing the room, his every move frantic, as if the walls were closing in on him. "Believe what you will, but yes, I needed to walk," he retorted.
Erestor stalked toward the blond. "Did you walk, or did you perhaps proposition some elleth, and once in her room you strangled her to death and cut out her eyes?" With every word Erestor moved closer and closer, until the blond was backed against the door with no means of escape. He pinned the shocked blue orbs with his fierce black gaze. "What did this one do to you? What imagined fantasy placed her in your path? Or is that you had a taste of Kinslaying at Alqualondë and decided to continue the slaughter of your own kind?"
Glorfindel shoved past Erestor and swung around to face the investigator furiously. "No!" he shouted. "I have nightmares of those times. I cannot sleep for the visions of blood and fire and ice, so I walk. That is all I do, Lord Erestor. I have nightmares, so I walk..." Glorfindel's voice broke and he lowered his head.
Silence built between them. Erestor studied the bowed head. He was, for one of the few times in his life, confused. His analytical mind failed him now. Mentally, Erestor ticked off the evidence that pointed overwhelmingly toward the Elda. The killings began shortly after Glorfindel arrived in Lindon. A witness placed him in the vicinity of the second murder. The story of passing through the hallway and discovering the first murder was entirely too convenient. He was wily enough to escape the guard placed on his room. The answers Glorfindel gave to questioning were nervous and evasive. And finally, he was tainted with the blood of the Teleri. It stained his hands already – the blood of the Kinslaying.
But for reasons unknown to him, Erestor believed the Elda. He simply could not in his heart believe the stunning blond, the Balrog slayer and hero of Gondolin, could have committed such atrocious crimes.
The silence was broken by a knock upon the door, and without a word to Glorfindel, Erestor moved to answer it. It was with no surprise that the grim face of Captain Dórion himself greeted Erestor. Undoubtedly, the young guard had informed his superior of what had happened, and Dórion took personal responsibility for the mishap. For once, Dórion had no derisive comment to make.
Erestor turned back to look at the blond, but Glorfindel had not raised his head. "Captain, I would like a more experienced guard posted on Lord Glorfindel. One who will not be so awed by our Lord's reputation as to not do his job." Erestor stepped briskly out into the hall, but paused. With one last look at the blond, he added one more order. "And allow Lord Glorfindel to walk the grounds with a guard accompanying him." With that, Erestor turned again and walked down the hall, not once looking back to see if Glorfindel had heard his last order.
Erestor returned to his lab, stopping only to pick up the two teacups recovered from the crime scenes. He needed to see someone who would be able to tell him what the purplish substance was in the cups, Lord Elrond...
Evidence in hand, Erestor did not make it to the door before it swung open and Gildor appeared. The younger Elf was flushed with anger. "I heard that Glorfindel escaped his guard and left the palace," he exclaimed.
Erestor calmly sat on a corner of his desk. "It has been addressed, and Lord Glorfindel is safely back in his quarters," Erestor stated, struggling to keep the impatience out of his voice.
Gildor nodded, then his face softened and he came to perch next to Erestor, pressing his body firmly against the other Elf's side. "Are you finished for the night?" he asked hopefully.
Erestor's mind was not on the younger Elf, but on Glorfindel and their confrontation earlier that evening. The Elda had seemed so sincere and had reacted so horrified to Erestor's accusations. Erestor only murmured a response to Gildor; his mind was firmly interlocked with his case.
Gildor placed a hand upon Erestor's thigh, stroking up and down the tight muscles. "Then if you are finished, what do you say to going back to your quarters and working off a little of your stress?" Gildor waited, but Erestor said nothing, only stared off into space, his lips pulled into a frown. "Erestor?" Gildor pressed.
But Erestor did not hear Gildor, or even notice the hand caressing his thigh. Abruptly, he rose off the desk, Gildor's hand falling away unnoticed. "I have to speak to Elrond," Erestor said, and walked out the door, leaving Gildor seated open-mouthed upon his desk.
Gildor stared at the open door in shock. His face flushed and he stared down at the floor for a moment, before the hurt changed to anger. Squaring his shoulders, Gildor left the lab, closing the door behind him.
To be continued...