A Step into the Shadow
had been intrigued by the raven-haired elf the moment he laid eyes
upon him. Standing at the porch of the Last Homely House, the slender
elf had greeted them quietly, bowing his head as Elrond clasped his
shoulder and murmured warm words. There was something about the sleek
elf that vibrated with power, a black aura that radiated amidst
complacent peace. And those eyes, the eyes that looked deader than
alive, devoid of light; when he raised his eyes to greet the stranger
that he was, the dark-haired elf had looked into his eyes, and
Glorfindel had shuddered. His eyes had said nothing more to him than
they did to anyone else, but Glorfindel was drawn to them, for he saw
the haunting call that rested in those eyes, the deafening silence
that threatened to swallow anyone who dared to look, and drown them
in bottomless abyss.
Of course, the war had only just ended, and there were many weary elves of all shapes and color in this refuge. However, this elf was different.
As Glorfindel sat at the breakfast table, chatting amiably with the lord of the valley, the raven-haired elf rose to quietly excuse himself. Glorfindel's stare upon the retreating elf's back was answered by Elrond's apologetic smile.
"Erestor does not like to mingle."
For some reason, that did not surprise Glorfindel. He stood up and excused himself, and followed Erestor. But the dark-haired youth had disappeared from view.
And things continued to be so. Erestor did not like to mingle. He talked little, and smiled not at all. He would often fall into a pensive reverie, from which a lightning bolt next to his foot would not be enough to awake him.
"It used to be worse," said Elrond, one night by the fire. The two had been discussing the dynamics of Imladris occupants.
"He was a refugee. His eyes beheld a terror that only his silent heart will know."
Glorfindel said nothing.
They crossed paths, more than once. The silent young elf was, surprisingly, the head of Elrond's household. He was also his trusted advisor, though he had not been in the valley as long as some others. Glorfindel had raised his eyebrows when Elrond said the young elf was the one who had seen through the treachery of those who had tried to seize the place in Elrond's absence during the war. Erestor had acted ignorant until the last moment, and trapped them in their own schemes. And he was the one who oversaw the construction and expansion of the Last Homely House while Elrond had been away. The young elf apparently had a brilliant mind. And a brilliant tongue too, Elrond informed Glorfindel, when the latter commented on Erestor's apparent lack of a voice box.
And Glorfindel had raised his eyebrows at that too.
Whenever they met in the halls, Erestor would make a slight bow, and walk on. As if greeting an apparition, his steps did not falter, as his body gracefully curved and slid by. And Glorfindel would stand and watch him glide away, seeing those black eyes in his mind's eye.
"Why do you come to me when you have questions about him?"
Elrond put down his quill, appearing exasperated. Glorfindel knew better. Ignoring the elvenlord's apparent annoyance, he hopped onto the writing table, swinging his leg.
"You work your advisor like a slave."
The elven lord sighed. "It is not my place to stop him when Erestor chooses to do extra work."
The excuse was not enough. Glorfindel stared into the dark eyes of the elven lord, his unnerving gaze gnawing into him. Elrond raised his hands in defeat.
"I gave him the position because he overachieves in it. He tries to be helpful everywhere, every waking moment."
"What, is this a self-esteem issue now?" The voice was low and disbelieving, and the warrior elf flinched when Elrond gave him a suddenly stern look.
"He had none when he came here, and it became worse after I healed him." He stood up and walked to the window. His eyes narrowed as they looked through the glass. There were no birds in Imladris yet. "Work makes him forget. It makes him feel needed. He is not like you, Glorfindel."
At these words, Glorfindel did not reply. He silently hopped off of the table, and was soon gone.
Left alone in the study, Elrond smiled wryly. It took tact to pretend not to know about one's friend. But he knew that Glorfindel knew. Elrond had not befriended him in one day. He simply wished to refrain from touching a deep wound.
Sighing, he went back to the petitions he had been signing before Glorfindel had barged into his study.
He was walking in a hallway when stopped by one of the young maidens. Her questions regarded forest patrol, but it was clear that she adored him. Every elf would come running at the softest call, fall to his feet and offer to be of help to the mighty Glorfindel. He was new, but he was already the brightest star of Imladris. Cheerful, courteous and friendly, Glorfindel of the Golden Flower was once again as beloved as the books told him to have been.
He stopped mid-sentence in his courteous replies when he saw a black figure glide by. Excusing himself from the fawning maiden, he followed the dark elf.
"Did you smile today, Erestor?"
Erestor turned at the reverberant baritone which the whole of Imladris had come to know so well. And he stared at the smiling countenance of the blond elf. This was the first conversational question the balrog slayer had thrown his way, aside from greetings and discussions regarding the affairs of the household.
So, the beloved Glorfindel had decided to extend his friendly kindness to him as well. Except that those eyes belied the easy laugh and cheerful countenance.
The golden-haired elf, the one who had returned with Elrond not too long ago. He had introduced himself as Glorfindel of Gondolin. A painful wisdom of yore lurked in those eyes, though his body and smile were those of a barely grown elf. Erestor saw the darkness that haunted the blue eyes, the eyes that held something so deep and so well hidden that it may have been nonexistent. But Erestor saw it all, for he knew what it looked like – the deeply hidden whisper of the pains and joys of a long-forgotten past.
And he knew also that Glorfindel watched him, always watched him.
He knew. And he did not enjoy the attention.
"No, my lord."
Erestor bowed politely and continued to walk on. To his chagrin, the balrog slayer was following him.
"A day is wasted if you do not smile even once, Erestor."
At this, the young elf turned, his black eyes burning into those of the other elf. And Glorfindel stared back. He did not flinch away. He also knew the darkness that burned in those bottomless eyes. The shadows that Erestor harbored in his heart. And his eyes were fierce, stern, deep, as they looked back. Erestor turned away.
"I thank you for your advice, my lord."
"I am not your lord, Erestor."
The raven-haired elf made a point of ignoring the statement and walked further on, and Glorfindel continued to follow.
"I woke up to a sound of a bird today. Usually I get up late, drowning in dreams, but today I woke up to the first bird that cried outside my window."
"Is that so, my lord?"
Erestor's pace quickened. He stepped out into the gardens, which were yet to be completely constructed. Glorfindel's pace matched his.
"Many people believe the raven to be bad omen, but ironically it is the first bird to bless Imladris with its presence."
Erestor whirled toward Glorfindel. The blue eyes met his calmly, as black fire burned into them. Pale fingers clenched at dark robes as the young elf whirled back around, and continued to deliberately walk away.
Footsteps followed him. Erestor gritted his teeth. They were weaving in and out of shrubbery that had recently been planted as a part of a massive garden project overseen by Erestor.
"I have yet to be graced with a bird's presence so far, my lord."
"My name is Glorfindel. Not my lord."
Erestor rolled his eyes as he entered the halls again, and rounded a corner. "And I also hold little regard for ravens, my lord Glorfindel."
"Why? They are so beautiful."
Erestor could have laughed. Beautiful indeed.
They were inside Erestor's room by the time the lithe elf whirled around, knocking the taller elf against the wall, holding him in a deadly grip. His voice was a hiss.
"I do not appreciate prying eyes, and I do not need pity. Especially yours."
Don't you dare speak of ravens before me.
Glorfindel's voice was even.
"I have heard of the black pearl of Eregion."
The slender elf stiffened.
"He had escaped fire and ice, run across vast stretches of war-torn land, established a high rank among the household of the sanctuary to which he arrived as a refugee."
Pale hands suddenly released Glorfindel, and the elf was turning away from him.
Glorfindel tilted his head. He slowly stepped away from the wall, toward the narrow back of the frozen figure before him.
"I do not think mere birds deserve the fear of such an elf."
"What do you see when you cower from them, Erestor?"
In a flash, Glorfindel was knocked onto his back, staring up at the elf who violently pinned him down against carpeted floor. Dark orbs trembled as they looked down upon him, a white glimmer of a haunting light. It was the first sign of life that Glorfindel had seen ever since they had met. Glorfindel's eyes narrowed sadly, and he whispered a heartbroken sigh.
Craning his neck slowly upward, Glorfindel gently pressed his lips against the forehead of the slighter elf.
Blank eyes blinked down at him. And then, the black swirl instantly swept off of his body, as if burned. The door slammed, and Glorfindel was lying on Erestor's floor, wrists marked white, blond hair sprawled over the carpet – and his blue eyes staring up at the ceiling, haunted, silent.