Secret Garden - Epilogue

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'Secret Garden'

Epilogue

“And she didn’t say anything else?”

They were squashed together in a narrow bed in a guest room on the cliff side of the house. It was the kind of room reserved for unexpected and not very important single guests and all it had to recommend it was its convenience to a little used back staircase. The door was locked, the shutters closed, and dust motes danced in the bars of sunlight that slanted through the narrow slats onto the bed.

Erestor lay on his side, head propped on a hand. His hair fell across Elladan’s chest, a stray sunbeam catching the rainbow hues sparkling in the rich blackness. Elladan was idly rubbing his arm while they talked.

“That was it,” Erestor said. “She heard me through, thanked me for the warning for your grandfather, said I’d have to find the means to safeguard those toads in the future, and was pleased we’d managed to find Gildor but thought it a pity he hadn’t been scared off the sauce by his near death experience. I asked her what she knew of Laegon or the mysterious Madame or Mirkwood’s plans for expansion, but she said if I was meant to find the answers, I would; apparently the truth is out there, if one knows where to look.”

“When Mother acts obscure, she’s worse than Grandmother,” Elladan agreed. “Do you think she knows more? She didn’t seem surprised by any of this.”

“I don’t know,” Erestor admitted. “She had a strange life growing up, I think she knows a lot about things most people have never heard of. She did say we’d be best off following Gildor’s example and trying to stay out of it, in fact she told me directly that I wasn’t to involve you in anything more of this…”

“I think I’m old enough to make my own decisions,” Elladan purred, running his hand along Erestor’s flank, the touch butterfly light and enticing. “Don’t you think I’m old enough to make my own decisions, Ery?”

“Stop that, we need to talk. Yes, you’re old enough. You were born old.”

Elladan laughed and returned to running his fingers through Erestor’s long hair. “Your hair’s gorgeous, do I tell you that enough? Especially in the sun. All right, what do we know?”

“You tell me enough, but once more won’t hurt. What do we know? Well, we know Thranduil’s son is a dangerous lunatic…”

“Even with one arm.”

“You shouldn’t sound so smug about that. Yes, even with one arm. And whatever he’s involved in, they’ll rebuild what was destroyed in the fire.”

“Gildor said the dye was highly flammable and when I checked I found he knew what he was talking about. So that would mean the supply they had there is gone, right?”

“It should be, those buildings were among the first to burn. We can hope anyhow. We need to guard the toads and the dye in future so they can’t get any more to make their disgusting drug. “

“And Mother will make sure Grandfather doesn’t meet with Thranduil – I can’t believe they were planning to drug Grandfather, make him kill Grandmother, take her ring, come here, drug Mother, get her to take Father’s ring… Are we sure this wasn’t Gildor’s imagination running away with him rather than joining up the pieces of things he overheard?”

“I don’t think so, Dan,” Erestor said, sliding down slowly to lie with his head on Elladan’s shoulder, hand resting in the centre of his chest. Dan felt solid against him, reality in an unreal world. “It makes sense. I’ve done a little research into the dye and the kind of drug that might be distilled from it and yes, it would be a powerful hypnotic and if it was enhanced in some way I can see that being possible – though it was never tested so we can’t know if it’d work. But it feels right, and he had no reason to make it up. He was sober, too.”

Elladan conceded with a nod, his hand still on Erestor’s hair. “We don’t know how widespread the flowers are, or those pods.”

“Or how many of those different species we saw in the secret garden have been seeded in places like Mithlond or even here.”

“I think we’d know if there were pods here. I didn’t have time to look too hard at the rest, though there was a creeper that tried to kill me. I’d know that one if I saw it again.”

“You know, that sounds exactly like the kind of thing Gildor will say after a few drinks.”

“I’m getting to understand that,” Elladan said dryly, shifting to get the fit between their bodies right.

“The worst is we can’t prove any of it. The flowers are gone, the secret garden is gone, the whole thing sounds like some kind of a wild fantasy. Your own mother says to let it be, that stirring up a hornet’s nest means we’ll just get stung ourselves.”

“She’s scared, isn’t she?” Dan said quietly, stroking Erestor’s hair.

Erestor thought about it, relaxing under Elladan’s rhythmical touch, trying to read past Celebrían’s bland expression as they walked together towards the Hall of Fire, pretending to discuss plans for the harvest festival. “I think she’s uneasy,” he said at last. “I think she knows things she’d rather not talk about. Your father’s a good, decent man, but far too trusting. I think she’s trying to protect her family as best she can. Scared? Not so sure about that. Your mother isn’t someone who scares easily.”

Dan nodded. “That’s probably it, yes.”

“Right now we need to think of a way to find out what’s going on over there and who else is involved.” Erestor moved abruptly so he was lying sprawled over Elladan, arms crossed on his chest, chin resting on his wrists. Elladan gave a half protest, something about his weight, but lay still. Their eyes were almost level.

“Mithlond. Those flowers are all over Mithlond,” he said, idly rubbing Erestor’s shoulders. “And that’s where Gildor disappeared from. And – there’s something really wrong there, Ery. I’m sure Galdor has something to do with it. Do you think there’s any chance Círdan would believe any of this?”

Erestor considered, then shook his head. “It sounds too far fetched. And he’s old fashioned, he would never believe elves could work against other elves.”

“What? He was around for two kinslayings.”

“Yes, but this is different. No Oath, no hot blood, no Silmarils. Cold blooded plotting. He’d never believe it of elves, he’s too straight.”

“I suppose. There’s one final thing.”

“What else? Erestor stretched then pressed himself against Elladan, relishing the feel of warm skin and hard muscle. “It’s getting late, I need to sit in on your father’s meeting with the Goldsmiths’ Guild.”

“Your life is so exciting,” Elladan laughed, rolling them over fast so that Erestor lay under him in a tangle of hair, trying to catch his breath, laughing as well. “Seriously - one last minute seriously? We need to find out who Madame is. Gildor said that’s very important. He said there were people who worked directly for her, not Laegon, and that they were foreign to Mirkwood. Find out who she is, and we’ll know what we’re really dealing with.”

“Can you stop talking now, Dan?” Erestor asked, moving lazily against him. “I’m running out of time.”

A fire crackled merrily in the grate in the old stone room. Scarlet drapes were drawn against the night. A small round table bore a vase of leaves and twigs, a bottle of extremely good wine, two Gondorian crystal glasses, and a small platter of snacks. Finger food they called it, the things eaten casually with a glass of wine.

“More wine, my lady?” Círdan asked, his hand on the bottle.

The woman across the table nodded, the tiny emeralds in her intricately coifed black hair twinkling in the candlelight. “It is most good. From the south, yes?” Her voice was high and clear with a strong but not unpleasant accent, her slanting eyes a green to match the emeralds. She held the glass out in a small, delicate hand, and Círdan filled it.

“A toast,” he suggested, filling his own. “To Prince Laegon’s health, perhaps?”

Her laughter tinkled unkindly. “Burns will heal, arm will not grow. My precious one took it quite off before – before the bad thing happened.”

He hoped she was not about to cry again. She had been in floods of tears when she told him the fate of those nightmare-inducing pods she referred to as her ‘babies’. “Even so, he is important to the reworking of our plan,” she continued. “We will be reworking it, yes? They are most insistent. There must be no retreat.”

She sipped her wine and looked at him seductively over the glass. The look made no impact, Círdan would have her later anyhow, it was part of their agreement. She would lie naked on the couch, her long legs drawn up and spread for his inspection, and when he had sucked and fingered her to his satisfaction and she was keening with need, she would turn over onto her hands and knees for him to plunge into wet heat and ride her senseless as befitted the bitch she was. But first, business.

“It was a good plan. Entice Celeborn to a meeting with Thranduil, drug him, then hypnotise him into taking Nenya from that wife of his. Then having him administer the drug to the daughter, making her retrieve Vilya. I was a little unclear about the next step though. Laegon would never have agreed to those rings going anywhere but Mirkwood, which would not have suited our purposes.”

She tossed her head casually. “Oh, Laegon. So blind with hatred, it is easy to turn his thoughts. No, the rings would have been brought here for safekeeping during the war with Lórien, of course. One of my own servants would have protected them. He could not find fault with that. If he had, he would have died for it. And once here…”

“Once here, Telerin dominance would have been restored with ease, things would be as they were for all those years before the Noldor came out of the West bringing nothing but trouble and arrogance.”

“Yes, yes, as you say.” She selected a cube of cheese impaled with an olive, inspected it, sniffed it, then slid it languidly into her mouth. “And it will still be done, only we find a new way to reach my lord’s no-good, Noldor-loving nephew, yes?”

“Well, first things first. Do we have any of the hypnotic left?”

“No. You will get more.”

Círdan leaned back in his chair. “That might be easier said than done. If there’s nothing left of the store in Mirkwood, then the only place the raw ingredient can be found is Rivendell, and I suspect that will be less easy to get to than it might have been before. Elrond’s brat and that crow Erestor will make sure of it.”

“They not know enough,” she said positively. “Maybe a little about flowers, but not the rest.”

“Maybe not, but I suspect Gildor would have picked up some information at least in the time you were holding him. Why your people didn’t take him and leave him in the heart of the forest to find his way through the spiders I have no idea.”

She shook her head. “No, no. They say he not to be made dead. Not he, not the witch. Not yet. Will be too much questions Over There.”

He grimaced but nodded. “They have a sentimental streak, more like. But very well, we won’t kill any Finwëan royalty, just clip their claws. Drink will silence Lalwen’a son, and once bereft of the ring, the woman will weaken. After that, in the vagaries of war all things are possible.”

She smiled and despite her beauty it was not a pleasant sight. Lifting her glass she raised slanting eyebrows at him. “We drink toast to it?”

Cirdan looked down at her and nodded, his smile matching her own. “Indeed, a toast might be in order,” he said, touching his glass to hers. “To the success of our plans, the confusion of our enemies and the resurrection of the Telerin nation.”

“Morgoth take dwarf and Noldor,” she said more pragmatically, draining her glass. “Break Menegroth, kill my beloved. We not forget. We will tame new pretties. Make new plan. Soon I have my revenge, and all you have lost is yours again. To the future.”

“To the future,” he agreed, and drank deep. “And now, Madame,” he continued, finishing his wine and rising, “there are other appetites we share that need slaking. On the floor before the fire this time, I think.”

She rose and crossed the room to the fireplace, shedding clothing casually as she went. “We are planting a new secret garden, did I say? I tell you all about it while you do good things for me. Tell you how things will be when we make the future our own.”


 

Beta: Red Lasbelin
Artist: Red Lasbelin (who did an awesome job)
AN: thanks to Red for wonderful artwork, for beta reading, for hand holding and for being a really good friend, and thanks to chaotic_binky for brainstorming and pointing me down the right road.

Written for the OEAM Big Bang