The Dance of Shadow and Flame

Demons of the Night

It was a piercing cry.

Elrond knew the voice well. But when he burst in the unlit room, he did not see a youth thrashing in fevered dreams. The silence was colder than the darkness.

Glorfindel sat upon his bed, still as a statue, white under the gleaming moon. As if tears had exhausted life, and grief had wrenched out the heart and seeped out the blood from a once-breathing being. Turned to an eternal, tearless stone. Elrond kneeled before him.

"Glorfindel," he called softly. The warmth of his lantern invaded the fringes of the darkness.

Glorfindel raised his eyes. They flickered, hollow and gleaming, an already-ended battle of hope and despair.

Elrond gently grasped his hands. "You must tell me about your dreams."

Light began to reach into frigid blue eyes. A slow smile spread across a weary face. As if an age-old stone had slowly warmed back to life by the gentle dance of the lantern light – and restored to its pulsating tears and grief. Glorfindel shook his head.

"I need no healer," he whispered. His voice was hoarse. "I am a healer."

"No one can heal himself." Elrond squeezed his hand. "That is why we become healers."

Silence stretched woefully. Glorfindel stared at the darkness beyond Elrond's shoulder. The candle from the lantern was dancing, and his eyes were bright and terrible. Elrond squeezed his hand once again, dreading the light in his eyes that had already seen death and beyond.

"Good night, Elrond." A distant smile. So far beyond the reach of the elven lord, so far beyond the reach of his years. Elrond bit back a despondent breath.

Elrond could build a sanctuary. He could heal the wounded. But he was helpless before the wise, emptied look of hopelessness that cleansed this smile, the beauty of the defeated. And so he despaired. Stood, vowing for another day. Another way.

The balrog slayer lay down again, turning away from the elvenlord. Stubborn shoulders set, untouchable, trembling with things unsaid.

Perhaps there were things that could not be said.

Elrond slowly straightened his back. The silence of the room suddenly seemed deafening. It was overwhelming, this despair.

"Is there no one that can heal you, dear Glorfindel?" he whispered.

Silence.

Elrond slowly made his way to the door. As he stepped out of the dark threshold, he looked back at the bed once again. The cold shoulders were stiff and silent. And in the final hush of the night, they tumbled down to one woeful answer.

"They are all dead."


Erestor made no comment as he watched Glorfindel of Imladris shrink away. The bright laughter faded, and the golden glow was snuffed. Glorfindel spoke little. He did not seem to see Erestor. Perhaps he had never seen Erestor. The Chief Councilor knew this had been the truth from the very beginning. But now, he did not know if the golden elf saw anything at all.

In this life, that was.

Erestor was overseeing the construction of the west gardens when he saw Glorfindel return from the day's patrol. It was later than usual, and he was alone. Erestor raised his head. Glorfindel met his gaze. His eyes were dusty, weather-worn. He smiled wearily.

"They returned ahead of me. Fear not, dear Councilor. The guardsmen are safe."

Erestor frowned. Glorfindel looked as if to move on, and faltered. His eyes were set on the latest construction of paths among of the bushes. He looked at Erestor, and smiled. It was light, this fleeting smile. Weary.

"Continuing your escape, I see."

Erestor narrowed his eyes. It had been many days since the incident. And the first words Glorfindel spoke to him after that, aside from business, were riddles again. Riddles that existed only between the two.

Resentment rose. Erestor's black eyes flashed, before dulling again.

"You assume much, Lord Glorfindel."

Warning.

He had twisted and warped everything in him. And now, he was even beginning to touch his nightmares. But that was one territory where Erestor could not back down. He could touch everything else. But not this one.

"'Tis naught but a habit, Lord Glorfindel. I would not speak of it."

"Building shelters and havens will not relieve you of your dreams."

A thin smile. This elf knew exactly what he spoke of. Erestor looked up. There were no ravens today. And yet he felt haunted.

"What do you suggest I do?" The whisper was defiant.

Silence rested between them. The last of the workers were leaving. The evening breeze was cool against his hair. Erestor closed his eyes.

"What can I do to drive my demons away?" he whispered.

Tell me. Look at me in the eye. I am no longer afraid of you.

When his black orbs stared straight into blue ones, Glorfindel shuddered involuntarily, and looked away. His eyes immediately shot back, a hint of apprehension in those young and ancient orbs of blue, but it was too late. Erestor's eyes were narrowed, contemptuous.

"Hypocritical coward."

You cannot help me.

Erestor whirled around, and disappeared into the house.


"Do you have nightmares too?"

Elrond stopped what he was doing, and looked up at Glorfindel. The young warrior perched himself up on top of the elvenlord's writing table, and put his open palm down upon the papers that had previously been claiming the lord's attention. He leaned forward, staring intently into the dark orbs.

"How do you drive nightmares away?"

Elrond rose, and walked slowly around the table to the other side. Glorfindel watched warily.

"If you're not going to give me any help here, Elrond, you might as well tell me why you called me in the middle of the night. The reports-"

"The reports can wait. Can I not invite a friend for a friendly chat?" Elrond smiled as he approached the hearth.

Glorfindel snorted. "I don't believe you. Conniving Peredhil."

Chuckling softly, Elrond began to kindle the hearth. Glorfindel watched, silent. Flames sparked to life, kindling the screams in his heart. And Elrond knew. He knew that Elrond knew.

"You fear Erestor."

He tensed as the elvenlord patiently fed the fire. The room brightened into a warm hue of gold.

"You fear the shadows that haunt him, the darkness you see when you look into him."

Elrond straightened his back, and walked toward the corner of his room. "Glorfindel of Imladris, I cannot comprehend what your heart desires."

"Do you say Erestor does?" The balrog slayer's tone was almost a snarl. Elrond tilted his head in a placating manner.

"Perhaps he knows instinctively, Glorfindel. Just as you do."

From a corner by the fireplace, he gently guided out a large apparatus covered with thick brown leather, positioning it before the fire.

"You hate him because he proves to you over and again that he is not whom you see in him, and because his eyes lay bare your lies."

He lifted the leather cover, revealing a gleaming harp. He carefully positioned himself before it, and plucked a string experimentally. A lingering note vibrated in the air as the two remained silent.

"I know not whom you see in Erestor, Glorfindel." He looked up. The strings trembled under his loving caress. "But everything this being holds, everything and everyone he represents and binds together, cannot be where you seek them to be."

Elrond's hands began to move gently over the strings. And where they touched, a mournful tune began to sing.

"I hate you."

Glorfindel slowly sank down into Elrond's abandoned chair, hugging his knees.

"Perhaps."

The golden-haired youth leaned his chin upon his knees, staring at the fire, as the music caressed the air. And he did not move as the harp sang quietly, lovingly, and the fire burned itself away throughout the darkness of the night.

"I hate you."

The fire continued to burn.


"You were screaming."

Erestor crossed his arms. His dark eyes glittered ominously in the dark of the night. Seated upon his bed, Glorfindel stared up at him incredulously. Erestor was still dressed in what he was wearing during the day. Which meant he probably fell asleep somewhere outside his room again. And probably – though it disturbed him to think it – slept curled upon the floor in the hallway, which explained the possibility of his presence here at this time.

Letting out a weary sigh, the blond elf ran a hand through loose strands of hair.

"'Twas naught but a dream." A smooth, easy statement. Well trained.

Erestor did not budge from his position before the bed. "You were screaming."

The moonlight streamed in through the window, brightening a small arc of space between them. It had waxed. Now a heavy crescent moon, it leaned flatly in the dark night sky, illuminating the silence, while yet shrouded by the shadow.

Wearily, Glorfindel leaned back on his palms upon the bed. His gaze defiantly met Erestor's.

"I do not see why you should come," he replied, casting a glance outside his window. His eyes narrowed upon the moon.

"What makes you say so, my lord?" The dark-haired elf yet stood before him, his eyes burning into the darkness. Glorfindel tilted his head.

"You are not fond of me."

The dark shadow moved forward. Glorfindel swallowed. Erestor cocked his head discreetly, a sinister gleam in his eyes.

"Am I not, my lord?"

"Erestor..."

Before Glorfindel could react to the proximity, the lithe body swiftly moved forward, a streak of white as he moved through the moonlight. Breath was knocked out of Glorfindel as he found himself pinned onto the bed, pressed against the sheets. The blond elf gasped. Hovering over him was a wavering ocean of infinite darkness, and a vicious white gleam that threatened to tear him apart.

"Does the shadow hold sway over you as well?" The voice was a sensual whisper. A sweet promise of demise. Glorfindel shuddered.

"Do the ravens tear at you already?" A vicious snarl.

"My demons are naught of your concern." Glorfindel hardened his voice.

A soft chuckle. It was an edge of a blade. The pressure on his wrists tightened.

"Ah, but that is not fair, my dear Lord Glorfindel." The voice caressed his ear softly. "You invade my dreams as you wish, and yet you cast away the mirror I bring before you."

Glorfindel gritted his teeth. He pushed against the slender elf hovering over him, but was held down with surprising tenacity. Soon the silence was filled with gasps as the two forms struggled on the bed, thrashing and grabbing, and waves of gold and raven swirled in the dark.

"You are my greatest demon."

Glorfindel's fervent whisper suddenly loosened the hold on his wrists. Instantly gaining an upper hand, the blond warrior rolled over and pinned the slender elf onto the bed, staring into the black eyes that suddenly seemed blank. As Glorfindel looked into his eyes, the darkness gave way, and a hollow gleam slowly set in. Erestor looked up, almost confused, fearful. The black abyss was filled with trembling glimmers.

Glorfindel slowly hung his head.

"Your eyes haunt my dreams stronger than any fire I have burned in..." the whisper trailed into the dark, and Erestor's breaths were silent, frozen.

A soft gasp slid from the dark-haired elf's lips as vicious fingers suddenly dug into his shoulders with vehemence. A low, fevered snarl spread against his skin.

"I have been keeping them at bay, Erestor. Until you came along and looked at me, I was able to believe that I was free of the nightmares!" A violent shake of the unresisting body. Erestor's eyes remained on the ceiling, vacant, trembling.

A soundless cry broke forth from Glorfindel's throat. Reincarnated youth, legendary balrog slayer, untamed warrior – he loosened his hold, slumping onto the body below his own, defeated. Gold tresses fanned out against the bed, mingling with motionless dark threads, and he slowly buried his head into the darkness beyond the slender elf's neck. His body was enveloped in silent tremors.

"What have you done to me?"

As the hot whisper shattered against the night, silent arms slowly rose to enfold the broken body that trembled into the darkness. And in the haunting dark, the black eyes continued to look up at the ceiling, unmoving, eternal.


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