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'Beyond Night's Fall'
Chapter 1 - Where The
The senior librarian, sitting at his desk on the other side of the
room, winced as Erestor closed the brittle scroll with a practiced
flick of his wrist.
“I have no idea,” he admitted with a sigh, pushing his black hair
out of his face as he added the history to the small pile of books,
scrolls and extraneous pieces of parchment on the table beside him.
“I can find no record of any such thing happening before, so I have
no idea why it should now. Did Círdan say anything useful?” His tone
was dubious. Círdan was rumoured to be on confidential terms with
the Lords of the West, though Galadriel always maintained the degree
was hugely exaggerated.
Gil-galad shook his head, rubbing the area between his eyebrows with
his fingertips. “He just says it’s the Way of the Valar, whatever
Erestor gave him a sharp glance. “Head hurt?” he asked in
Gil-galad grunted and leaned back in the chair, causing it to creak
softly in protest. “Whatever the reason, he’ll be here tomorrow
evening.” He pushed the literature around vaguely. “Was there
anything useful in there about him? Details about his background and
Erestor selected a thick tome and opened it carefully, leafing
through till he came to the item he had read earlier. “Here you
are,” he said. “Glorfindel of Gondolin, lord of the House of the
Golden Flower, son of…”
“What kind of title is that, anyway?” the king interrupted
irritably. “Can you imagine giving any of this lot here a title like
that? How Turgon got them to agree to some of those… mind, how he
managed to talk them into shutting themselves away in that gilded
prison in the first place, I’ll never understand.“
Erestor glanced pointedly towards the table near the window where
the king’s lore-master, Elrond Eärendilion, was sitting writing a
letter, then sat back and waited for Gil-galad to remember that one
of his kinsman’s titles was, in fact, Prince of Gondolin. Amber
brown eyes met deep blue as the flood of words came to a premature
stop and memory prompted a nervous glance towards the window. They
shared a solemn stare, and then Erestor’s lips twitched and Gil-galad
gave a slightly sheepish chuckle.
Elrond gave no indication of having heard a word.
“All right, whatever,” the king conceded. “Lord of - all of that.
Distant kin to Turgon, senior warrior, commanded the rearguard in
the final stages of the Tears, held back a balrog so that Elrond’s
grandparents and father could escape Gondolin. Now, is there
anything in there to explain why the Valar would send him back here
Erestor had been scanning the text while Gil-galad was speaking and
finally shook his head, closing the book.
“Nothing,” he said. “Nothing at all.” He put his elbows on the table
between them and rested his chin on his hands and gazed at a point
somewhere past Gil-galad’s shoulder, thinking. The king, who enjoyed
few things more than watching his advisor, sat appreciating for the
umpteenth time the long-lashed, amber eyes, the smooth black hair
that shimmered when the light caught it, the fair skin, high
cheekbones, sensual mouth…
“What?” Erestor snapped.
Caught staring - and not for the first time either - Gil-galad
blinked and flashed his most charming smile. “I like watching you
think,” he said with complete honesty. “You seem to go so far away,
then your face changes as though someone lit a lamp behind your eyes
and I know you have the answer. You always have the answer
eventually,” he added, looking hopeful.
Erestor shook his head. “Not this time, Ereinion,” he said tiredly.
“This time we’ll just have to remain in the dark and explore the
possibilities together. We need to get him settled in and then play
it by ear.”
“There are few things I enjoy more than the opportunity to explore
possibilities in the dark with you,” Gil-galad said with an
absolutely straight face.
Erestor returned look for look. “Tonight you’ll be doing that alone,
I’m afraid. I suppose, in courtesy, Elrond and I need to get
together an honour guard and go and meet your guest. At the very
least we can make sure he has a properly managed, formal arrival
into your capital.”
“Not even for you would I go through that again.”
Gil-galad, in the process of divesting himself of formal robes and
ornamentation, turned as Erestor let himself into the room and
strode directly across to where the flask of dwarf brandy was tucked
discreetly away behind the wine decanter.
“You can pour me one as well,” the king told him, dropping the last
item of outer clothing onto the nearby chair. Clad in a thin linen
undershirt and very little else, he left the heap of garments to be
retrieved and put away by his personal servant the next morning.
Striding over to the long window opposite the bed, he drew the
drapes back slightly and stood looking out over the palace garden
towards the moonlit sea.
Erestor filled two glasses and went to join him, silently passing
him the less full of the two. They stood drinking in silence for a
few minutes, and then Gil-galad glanced down at him.
“Really that bad, was it? The reception was… awkward enough.”
Erestor breathed out a long, heartfelt sigh and moved closer to Gil-galad,
who put a strong arm loosely around him and began to absently rub
“You had to be there,” he declared, shaking his head. “Ereinion, I’m
reasonably personable, I can carry a conversation, my manners are
acceptable - my parents made certain of that. And yet in the hours
we spent together on the journey here from Mithlond, that blonde
said barely a word to me, just left me to prattle on until I ran out
of inspiration. I’d have sworn it made no difference to him, talk or
silence, save that when I stopped he simply looked at me expectantly
until I began again.”
Gil-galad opened his mouth to say something placating at this point,
and Erestor interrupted him. “Oh yes, I know. He’s completely
disoriented, everything’s strange to him, his memories must be
horrific. Yes, I know all that. But the only time he seemed
interested in anything was the one time the escort lost formation.
Then he had a few comments to pass about lack of discipline…”
“He lived in very dark times and under very different circumstances
to us now,” the king said reasonably, putting his glass down on the
windowsill and beginning to one-handedly unfasten Erestor’s soft
hair from its formal arrangement. The shorter elf jerked his head
away, but a large, firm hand on his arm kept him still as the
removal of clasps and ties continued. He submitted and stood in
silence sipping his brandy and staring broodingly at the view.
“He’s…exceptionally attractive,” Gil-galad ventured after a time.
Erestor snorted, coughing on a mouthful of brandy. “Like a
well-executed painting or sculpture. The outside is all clean, pure
lines and wonderful colour - blue eyes, golden hair, skin like pale
honey - but inside? Inside he looks out at us and disapproves the
new world he sees around him.”
“Oh, I don’t think it’s that,” Gil-galad said, retrieving his glass
after placing the last clasp on the windowsill. He bent in an
attempt to nuzzle Erestor’s long neck but his lover made a sound of
irritation and moved away.
“Ereinion, he looked at the escort and said they were armed like
farmers. He looked at the horses and said their legs were too thin.
He looked at me and asked who and what I was…”
“Yes I know. Elrond mentioned that.”
“Oh, Elrond,” Erestor said on a half-laugh. “Apparently Elrond bears
no resemblance to his grandparents or great-grandparents. It was
implied that this was a serious lack. And when I asked why the
Shining Ones had seen fit to send him back, he told me that it was
not my place to question the decisions of the Mighty. As though
dealing with a nagging child…”
Gil-galad gave a deep sigh and turned abruptly to cross the room.
After rummaging through two drawers he found the well-worn pair of
loose pants that he had been seeking and pulled them on in silence
after taking another large swallow of brandy. He then put an old and
rather worn-looking surcoat on over his undershirt, pushed his hair
back behind his ears and, finishing the brandy, said peremptorily,
“Right, come along then.”
Erestor, who had been watching all this with an air of mild
curiosity, looked at him blankly. “Where?” he asked, a hand going
instinctively to his hair which was tumbling loose down his back to
a spot just above his behind.
Gil-galad gestured impatiently with the hand still holding the cup.
“Don’t start fussing with your hair, no-one’s going to see us. Come
on, let’s go. You need a bit of fresh air and moonlight to settle
your nerves. And I need some exercise after that endless reception.
“I wonder what it’s like - being dead.”
“I’m in no great hurry to find out, not even to satisfy your
cat-like curiosity,” Gil-galad said with a fond glance. They were
walking along the beach on the firm sand close to the waterline,
hands clasped and fingers linked. The moon was slightly more than
halfway to fullness and, despite the clouds chasing across the night
sky, the beach was bathed in soft light from both moon and stars.
The wavelets lapped softly just short of their bare feet.
“Still, I wish I understood better,” Erestor admitted. The walk had
led to him feeling calmer as Gil-galad had known it would, and he
was beginning to reassess the journey with the fabled defender of
Gondolin in a slightly different light. “I was annoyed because I
felt so ill-prepared and useless, but he seemed so - empty somehow.
I have no idea what I expected, but not that.”
“My impression was that he seemed lost almost,” Gil-galad said
slowly, “We need to remember he has been returned to a world changed
out of all recognition, even down to the geography. Everything he
remembers has gone.“
Erestor nodded thoughtfully. “Elrond asked amongst the remaining
survivors from Gondolin, but there is no-one left who knew him
personally. Not a single soul to say welcome home.”
Gil-galad shot him a look. “Well, I certainly said it. This is his
new home after all. Though I know what you mean. Tell me, Erestor,
when you think of home what comes to your mind?”
Erestor fell silent for a while before turning the question back to
him. “I always wanted to ask you that,” he admitted. “You seem to
fit everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Or am I presuming too
He glanced at his companion as he spoke, and strong, roughened
warrior’s fingers tightened around his hand in answer.
“No, no, I don’t mind. Not from you.”
They had almost reached the rocky outcrop that marked the end of the
small beach below the palace and paused, preparing to turn back.
Gil-galad looked down at Erestor and reached out a hand to gently
tidy back the locks of hair that had blown across his face.
“I was moved around so much when I was young,” he said quietly, his
deep voice almost blending with the sound of the ocean. “’For years
the place I thought of as home was anywhere I had slept for more
than ten consecutive nights.”
They had similar experiences and shared a smile at the memory, then
Gil-galad’s face sobered and he said, still stroking the silky black
hair with the tips of his fingers, “I learned early that home is
where the people you love are, the ones you worry about when you’re
apart. For Glorfindel, there is no home left. Gondolin has gone,
vanished as though it never was, and everyone he knew is either dead
or somewhere across the sea. And yet he was sent here instead of
being reborn in Aman as is the norm. I think we were both right -
empty and lost. He must feel so terribly alone.”
They began walking slowly back the way they had come, still holding
hands. Judging his earlier responses and actions and finding himself
lacking, Erestor nodded. “I suppose I could have been a lot more
patient with him. Anyway, Elrond agreed to spend some time with him
over the next few days, introduce him to a few people and help him
get settled… I suppose I should have been the one doing that.
Elrond’s very busy…”
The king laughed and pulled his hand free so that he could put his
arm around Erestor to give him a quick, affectionate hug. “As though
you have nothing to do. No, he’s better with Elrond - at least they
have his family in common, even if my cousin fails to resemble his
grandparents. And I think once he’s settled in you’ll find
Glorfindel has a good heart and a generous spirit - why else would
the Valar have thought well enough of him to send him back?” He
looked down at Erestor, still serious. “ But what of you? You
haven’t answered the question yet. Where do you think of as home?”
Erestor had changed his definition of home several times over the
years, but it was fairly clear to him by now. “This is home,” he
answered instantly. “Here, this beach, anywhere that you are. Rock
crumbles, the future is beyond our view, but, no matter what might
happen, for me going home will always mean going to where you are.”
Gil-galad glanced around quickly, ascertained they were alone on the
beach and bent his head to kiss Erestor softly. His lips brushed the
black-haired elf’s mouth gently before his tongue sought entrance
and briefly but thoroughly explored the warmth and sweetness so
willingly offered. They drew closer together, their arms around one
another, and stood for a few minutes kissing in the moonlight with
the ocean as a backdrop and their only witnesses the moon and stars.
The king finally, reluctantly, broke the kiss. Stepping back, he
brought a hand up to caress Erestor’s cheek while looking down
tenderly into the clear, amber eyes that shimmered softly in the
“Home is where the love is,” he agreed. “Here where we are. Always.”
Beta: Red Lasbelin