11. Messages Part 2/3
Gilraen was hard put to keep from laughing her surprise as she walked into the Great Hall for her meal to discover that all but those serving the food had dressed in their very best apparel. Even Elladan and Elrohir had obviously visited the baths during the afternoon, and were now sporting the fine matching robes that they hadn't worn since her first day there, with Elladan in emerald green and Elrohir in sapphire blue. Glorfindel still wore the white that sparkled silver and gold, and Erestor looked almost uncomfortable, but was still in his dark grey. Her father had at least brought a clean tunic and leggings, while her mother was wearing her wedding dress, which Gilraen knew normally sat at the very bottom of a cedar trunk at home.
Elladan and Elrohir had entered the room only moments before, and they were quick to claim warm hugs the moment she approached the high table. "It is about time Father allowed you to wear that thing after all this time," Elrohir quipped, his long fingers tinkering with the light chains. "You wear it with grace, by the way."
"Adar did not tell us what has put him in full ostentation mood," Elladan whispered to her. "I have not seen him have Imladris put on such a show since last my grandparents visited."
"And here, lest I forget." Elrohir slipped a folded paper to her. "Estel sent this with a friend to the village, just in time for us to bring it to you."
Gilraen's heart skipped a beat. "How is he? Have you seen him?"
Elladan shook his head as he laughed at her. "He is doing well, Naneth, we swear. His last message to us sounded much more… settled… as if he is starting to find his way."
She closed her eyes and let loose a breath of relief before slipping the paper into her pocket for later. "Now, where has Erestor decided I should sit tonight?"
In response, the twins began a quick game of rock-parchment-dagger until Elladan had won the best two out of three. "I will be on Adar's right," he announced with a triumphant smirk, "then you, and then Elrohir. Your adar will sit at his left, and then your naneth, and then Glorfindel and Erestor."
Her eyebrows raised. "He didn't put me with my parents?"
Elrohir shook his head, making the beads holding his warrior braids click softly. "You are to be considered as part of our family tonight. Erestor said that Adar made a point of mentioning that at least three times today."
"Then I should make the best of being between two of the best-looking and eligible bachelors in Imladris, should I not?" Gilraen said, capturing Elladan's arm with her left hand and Elrohir with her right.
"It should be fun seeing Glorfindel so displaced for a change," Elrohir chuckled into her ear as they moved through the room and then onto the platform.
Her smiled faltered slightly when her father's eyes lit on her and his brows slid into a frown. He murmured something to her mother, who looked over at her with startled eyes, and then bent to murmur something back. Whatever it was, it didn't please Dírhael at all. Suddenly, Gilraen was grateful she was being seated as a member of Elrond's family and not with her own parents, and she felt a hot streak of guilt slither down her spine for her apparent betrayal.
Still, with the Els on either side of her, she was kept pleasantly entertained throughout the meal. Thankfully, Glorfindel was on his best behavior, speaking gently with her mother and keeping that lady entertained. From time to time, Gilraen would lean forward and see her mother smiling behind her hand at some banter that was going on between Erestor and Glorfindel, whom she knew could keep people in stitches for hours when the mood struck them. Elrond was being a good host, keeping his attention on his guest to his left.
Soon enough, the meal was finished, and Elrond rose to offer in invitation to the evening's entertainment in the Hall of Fire. Gilraen snickered at the expression on Glorfindel's face when he understood that the Els were going to be her escorts for the entire evening. However, the stormy look on her father's face at the merry way the Els were treating her, including the way they very gracefully and adeptly kept her safely distanced from him, gave her pause.
"You know, as much as I am enjoying the two of you this evening, I should probably be spending time with my parents," she said finally, when both of them had seated themselves at her side.
"Adar wished for us to remain at your side this evening," Elladan told her, bending to her ear. "He was present when Lothiel spoke to Glorfindel about what she had heard…"
"He was most concerned that Lord Dírhael be given plenty of time to recover from the stresses of the journey before you are allowed to discuss… whatever it is that you and your father need to speak about," Elrohir finished for him. "He said he would tell us about that after the entertainment this evening."
"Allowed to discuss things with my father?" Gilraen was once again torn between gratitude and frustration. Her Elven keepers had her best interests at heart, she knew; but their protectiveness was not going to make matters easier for her when it came time to deal with her father. "I know you all are trying to help, but…"
"Lothiel said that your father raised his voice past an acceptable level," Elladan said, and his flat voice was a loud indication that Elrond hadn't been the only one enraged by her father's lapse, even in second-hand narrative. "Adar felt, and El and I agree, that he should not be allowed near you until he has calmed down. We are well aware of his temper, Gilraen."
She looked up and saw her father disengaging himself from Elrond and dragging her mother along with him with the obvious intention of coming over to talk to her. "Well, I hate to tell you this, but unless you intend to allow a public scene, I suggest you let me talk to him," she said with a note of warning. "Now."
Both Elves looked up at the same time, with the same expression of displeasure on their faces. But Gilraen knew she was right: unless they were willing to allow this to turn into a public spectacle, they would have to let her deal with her father in his time, not theirs. "I will be fine," she reassured them. "As I told Lothiel, I have survived many such encounters. Have a little faith in me." She rose and met her parents before they had come close. "I know we need to talk," she told her father quietly, "but this isn't a good place for it. If you will come with me…"
She led the way out into the main garden to the fountain, far enough away from the building so as not to be overheard. She seated herself on the broad stone of the fountain's pond. "This is comfortable and private. We can see any who approach, and if you keep your voice down, nobody will hear anything you say."
Ivorwen sat down next to her daughter and patted her hand. "I have to admit, they were doing a very good job of protecting you," she commented gently. "Are they always so…"
"Interfering," Dírhael growled. He hadn't seated himself at all, but stood in front of Gilraen in what she now recognized as full battle stance. "I saw how they touched you. You need not deny it."
Touched? The Els had been as gallant as Dírhael himself could ever be, when he put his mind to it. "Elladan and Elrohir are good friends," Gilraen said cautiously. "I have missed them."
"And don't think I didn't see the way that one… Glorfindel, I think… whispered in your ear earlier."
"He was concerned," Gilraen explained calmly.
"I suppose he would be, when the reason why you refused to come home is so obviously clear to me now."
"Dírhael…" Ivorwen spoke softly, but with steel in her voice. "Ask, don't accuse."
"Ask? Ask me what?"
"Which one of them is it?" Dírhael snapped. "Don't lie or pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. Or is it both of them?"
Gilraen frowned, honestly confused. "I don't know what you're talking about, Father."
"Here and I thought they suggested that you come with them to Imladris to keep Aragorn safe! Which one is it – and did you wait until your husband was dead before you took an Elven lover, or were you seeing one of them even before…"
Gilraen's jaw dropped, and she buried her eyes in her hand in her struggle to keep from laughing. He thought she was involved with…
"At least you have the good sense to be embarrassed about it when confronted," he grumbled, still obviously quite irate.
She shook her head and looked up at him, unable to hide her amusement. "You think that I have become the mistress of one of the sons of Elrond?"
"This isn't funny, Gilraen," Ivorwen hissed at her. "You were the wife of the Chieftain, and the mother of the present Chieftain. Of all women, you are expected to set the example for Dúnedenith behavior! To take a lover – an Elven lover – and then refuse to come home to your position and duties, now that it is safe again, because you're ashamed…"
"I'm not the mistress of either Elladan or Elrohir. I am NO man's mistress, and I am not ashamed of anything!" Gilraen exclaimed, her humor vanishing and her horror at the thought emerging. "That isn't why I wanted to stay. You don't understand…"
"Do you think I'm blind?" Dírhael exploded. "I saw how they touched you. There isn't a man in our village that you would have let touch you in that way before. But then, there wasn't a man in our village with the audacity to approach the widow of the Chieftain…"
"They touched me with nothing but respect and friendship! They behaved just as you would have, if in a position to escort a lady for an evening, and they have never even suggested anything inappropriate in all the years I've been here." She was starting to get angry as well. "They are Elves, Father, not Dúnedain. They hold different views from ours in some ways, but they know where the line is."
"They had no business putting themselves between us!" Dírhael exclaimed, thrusting his fist toward the ground. "WE are your family!"
"Elrond considers me a part of his family too, Father!"
He ignored her entirely. "And what about that other one - the one all dressed in silver and gold and white? He came very close to you too. Is it he that managed to get you into his…"
"Dírhael…" Ivorwen tried to reach out a hand to her husband only to have it knocked back with a backhanded swat.
"You would just protect her," he snarled at his wife. "I am going to have to go home, knowing that my daughter, the mother of the new Chieftain, has become the whore of…"
Gilraen had heard her father lose his temper at others, but the years since he had last loosed his anger at her had not made him any more tactful. He was convinced of her guilt, and nothing she could say would change his mind. She rose from her seat with all of the serenity and conviction she could summon, and she didn't flinch when he put himself toe to toe with her and glared down at her. "I have been with no one since Arathorn died, Father, and I am insulted that you would think so little of me, not to mention the Elves, who have been friends and allies to the Dúnedain for generations. But if that's what you want to believe, then sobeit; I would hope you will leave me here in peace, then. And I will see you in the morning."
"You will not walk away from this!" Dírhael's hand whipped out and grabbed Gilraen's elbow in a hard grasp and whirled her around. "And if you think I will allow you to stay here and make a mockery of your position and your son's heritage, you are very much mistaken. We are leaving in the morning, and you will have your bags packed, or I will see you back in the village in nothing but your petticoats."
Gilraen had had enough. "And you – you – are the acting Dúnadan, the man responsible for administering justice and fairness for our people and keeping them safe? You will hear nothing I say, you will accept nothing but your own views. What leader does not listen to both sides of an issue? I am no Elf's whore, but I tell you now that I would rather be whore to the whole of Imladris than return with you under this kind of cloud of unreasoned suspicion and disgrace, when I have done nothing wrong!"
Dírhael's hand moved so quickly to slap his daughter's face that she didn't see it coming, and the blow sent her reeling. He had caught her ear fully, and crushed the delicate mithril chains into the skin of her cheek. Head ringing and not quite steady on her feet, she nevertheless faced him squarely. "Good night, Father. Mother…" She nodded her head at her gawking mother, not daring to move her head much more lest she lose her balance completely. With her back as straight as a blacksmith's rod, she turned and walked slowly back toward the House, heading for the kitchen doors that would take her back to her rooms without having to push through the crowd in the Hall of Fire.
There was the sound of another blow struck, and then her mother's voice called out to her. "Gilraen! Gilraen! Wait!"
All she wanted to do was go to her rooms, take off the damned circlet with its chains, wash her stinging cheek with cool water, and lay down; but she halted before the doorway into the kitchen and waited for her mother, fearing to see yet another palm print on the cheek of another of Dírhael's women. But Ivorwen looked hale and unharmed. Had she slapped him?
"That was beyond insanity, daughter," she said, taking Gilraen's chin in hand and turning her to see the damage her husband had wrought. "You say they have never touched you – is that the truth?"
"Mother," Gilraen sighed tiredly. "I'm telling you that they have never treated me with anything but the utmost respect, never touched me in anything but dearest friendship. I have known no man since Arathorn." Now, finally, the tears welled. "I loved him. I still love him. I miss him everyday I have been here – and here, my love for him has been respected and understood, far better than Father has ever tried to do."
"I believe you." Ivorwen winced as she gazed at her daughter. "I will convince your father somehow that he is mistaken and has done you a grave injustice. It appears that these Elves of yours had good reason to protect you after all."
"For the last time, they Are. Not. My. Elves. Good night, Mother." Gilraen could feel her energy flagging badly, and she left her mother standing in the doorway. The wide eyes of the kitchen help followed her until she vanished into the family hall on her way to her suite.
She had survived yet again, but this time not unscathed. To protect her father, however, she would have to plead illness and somehow avoid both Elrond and Glorfindel; and something told her that that was hoping for something that could never be. At the moment, however, all she could think of was to get behind closed doors…
She almost made it to her door, but then Erestor was coming toward her down the hallway from his suite. "Gilraen?" he called to her, but she slipped into her room and shut the door before he got close. She wasn't surprised when, only moments later, he was knocking at her door. "Gilraen!"
"I'm very tired," she called back through the wood. "I need to lie down. I'll see you tomorrow."
"I can tell something is wrong. Let me in, child." His voice was low and determined.
Perhaps if she just kept her face turned away just right… She opened the door a crack. "What can I do for you, Erestor? I really am very tired…"
She watched him slowly and very deliberately put his hand against the door and begin pushing, and she knew she would not be able to keep him out. With a sigh, she turned away from the door, letting it fall open to his insistence, and headed toward her bedchamber. "Please…"
But a determined Erestor was always hard to escape, and she had only managed a few steps when he had her by the shoulders and was turning her about. "What…"
Her balance gone, she tripped and then sagged against him on her way to the floor. He smelled of the delicate niphredil flowers that bloomed late in the year, his dark grey robe was soft silk and smooth against skin that could hardly bear to be touched, and his arms were strong and gentle when they caught her.
His momentary silence spoke volumes. "Your father did this." It was no question. She shuddered at the flat tone she was quickly learning to recognize as Elven rage. "Elrond will need to be told."
"No!" Gilraen opened her eyes and grabbed the collar of his robe. "Don't tell him! He will be furious, and it will spell the end of the help he gives my people!"
"He would not…"
"Please! Erestor! I'm begging you…"
He shook his head and with one finger traced what she was certain was a hand-shaped mark on her cheek. A feather touch to her ear made her flinch. "This is not wise, little one…"
"Or Glorfindel. Oh, Erestor, if he discovers…"
Erestor sighed. "I do not know how you will keep this from them, though. Your face… the damage is rather apparent, I'm afraid. And if you do not break your fast with us as usual in the morning, your absence will be noted; and you know as well as I do that one or the other of them will come to check on you. Both of them will be understandably and rightfully upset that anyone would dare raise a hand to you."
Gilraen huddled against the soft silk. "Perhaps I can tell them that I fell…"
"They are not fools, child. And besides, you do yourself no favors in trying to hide this from them." He sighed again. "If I promise you that neither Elrond nor Glorfindel will take action on this, will you allow me to at least summon Elrond as a healer?"
"They'll do nothing to him – nothing at all?"
"I am certain Elrond will want to speak to him about his abusing his welcome as a guest in this house, but I will convince both Elrond and Glorfindel to take no punitive actions on your behalf. I swear it. But please. You are hurt; let me summon Elrond."
Gilraen finally nodded, too depleted to argue anymore.
"Come, then, let me get you to your bed. Can you walk?"
She pushed herself away from him to stand alone, but was glad of his arm sliding back around her and keeping her steady through into her bed chamber and to her bed. "Sit down. I will give you a cool cloth for your cheek, and then I will go for Elrond." He strode quickly into the small private bath, coming back only moments later with a wet washcloth that he folded and then laid gently against her cheek.
"Thank you," she said, for the coolness of the soft fabric really was soothing. "Wait!" She used the hand not holding the washcloth to her cheek to grab hold of his sleeve. "You swear that neither Elrond nor Glorfindel will do anything to my father?"
"I will convince them of the wisdom of that, yes. You have my word. Now you rest, and I will have Elrond to you as soon as I may." His long fingers stroked her undamaged cheek for a brief moment before he had risen and vanished.
Elrond's voice was calm and compassionate, but his expression was anything but. "First," he said softly, settling on the edge of the bed next to her so carefully that she hadn't even felt his weight shift the mattress, "we shall remove the culprit for the torn skin I see." Gilraen held very still while he relieved her of the circlet and its dangling chains. "I had no idea something so beautiful and peacefully intended could have caused such harm," he commented before setting the circlet aside on the bedside chest. "You have even bled a little. That must have been quite a blow."
"It wasn't your fault," she sighed as he turned her head to the candlelight to better examine the damage.
"And before I go any further, Erestor wanted me to confirm for you right away that Glorfindel and I have indeed agreed to allow ourselves to be bound by his word to you. Neither of us will do anything harmful to either your father or your people over this. And I give you my word that the Dúnedain have not lost Imladris as an ally over your father's actions."
Gilraen closed her eyes in relief, both at the reassurances as well as the tone in which they had been made. "Thank you, my lord."
"I would never do such a thing to Estel, for one thing," he continued, now stroking her cheek with fingers coated with some substance that felt almost as soothing as that cool, wet rag had at first. "For another, my sons tell me that Dírhael has always been a hard man, and his rages are well-known and feared among your people. They also tell me that some of your menfolk often think of and treat their women as property, Dírhael among them. This was what you were trying to explain to us before, were you not?"
She nodded, careful not to disrupt what he was doing to her face.
"Your ear is red. Erestor says that your balance is affected. Are you having trouble hearing?" His gentle touch had moved on.
"No, but I have a headache." Again she felt the coolness of the substance he was spreading over her skin touch her ear with relief. "That feels better."
"You will stay quiet tomorrow, away from loud noises. And Elladan has volunteered to remain in your sitting room for the rest of the evening. Glorfindel insisted that he would take over in the morning and make certain you do not overdo tomorrow at all."
Gilraen's eyes popped open. "He doesn't have to…"
"He insists, and so do I." Elrond's grey eyes had gone as flat and angry as his voice. "We will allow no more harm to come to you here." He set a small, squat glass pot on the bedside table near the circlet and folded his hands in his lap. "Now, I would know what happened."
"We argued, as I feared we might," she said with a shrug. "He said things that made me angry, I said something and…"
"He struck you," he finished for her. "This I have already been able to surmise. What did you argue about, however?"
"It was personal…"
"When one of my family suffers physical harm from an argument, as Master of the House, I have a right to know what the argument entailed," Elrond announced very formally. "Tell me, Gilraen."
"He accused me…" She blushed. "He had no proof, except what he wanted to believe he saw…"
"What did he accuse you of?"
"Of being the mistress of one or both of your sons, of disgracing myself and my position by taking an Elven lover and refusing to return home to my duties there out of shame." There. It was out. And, as she had feared, Elrond hadn't taken the news well. The eyebrows surged together even further, and the grey in his eyes became that of a storm, complete with flashes of something truly dangerous in their ancient depths.
"He would not hear you try to explain?" he asked in a deceptively calm and flat voice. Yes, she decided, Elven rage had a certain tone of voice, and it was very frightening. Still, he was awaiting her answer, so she shook her head. "And his proof was…" he continued, obviously waiting for more.
She sighed, thoroughly embarrassed. "That I hadn't given him a good enough reason for not coming back with Estel, in the first place. Then the informal, almost intimate way the Els treated me – you know how they are – at the meal and then in the Hall of Fire, the way they kept me at a distance from him, only made things worse."
There was confusion swimming in that ocean of rage. "But we – they – would never…"
"I know, Elrond. I know. He didn't understand, and he didn't want to understand. I wasn't doing what he wanted me to, and he had made up his mind why and wouldn't hear reason. He ordered me to pack my bag and be ready to leave in the morning, and then called me a…" She cringed; even untrue, the accusation stung. "…a whore. I told him that I still loved Arathorn and always would, that I missed him, that I had known no man since him… And then I told him…"
"Yes?" An eyebrow had risen quizzically.
She screwed up her courage, just as she had for her father. "I told him I would rather be whore to all of Imladris than to go back with him in disgrace for something I'd never done." She then closed her eyes, not wanting to witness his quiet, seething fury anymore, because she knew it would only get worse with every word she said. "That's when he slapped me."
The voice was so devoid of emotion that Gilraen cringed, both inwardly and physically. "I'm so sorry, Master Elrond. I didn't mean to cause…"
"You did nothing wrong," he said gently, the compassion finally returned to his voice again a little. "And while your… statement of preference… does take me aback a bit, I have to admire your courage for facing that kind of accusation as well as you did." He patted her hand. "Glorfindel will hear nothing of what truly happened from me, or we both know that he would make a liar of Erestor. Not that I would blame him, but I would prefer that not happen at all; enough harm has been done already. Therefore, this will remain between just the two of us – and your parents. I understand your mother was there?"
"Thank you." Again she felt a rush of relief and finally opened her eyes to face him again. Thankfully, the rage in his eyes had receded, leaving sadness and steel in its place. "And yes, my mother was there. As a matter of fact, I think, although I'm not certain, that she slapped him after I walked away."
"Indeed?" Elrond's lips quirked in a wry smile. "I have learned that one should never underestimate the will of the Dúnedenith. They are a most hardy and resilient breed."
"Some of us are, my lord." Gilraen sighed. She certainly didn't feel very hardy or resilient at the moment.
He smiled, and more of the gentle, caring Master of the House reappeared from behind the storm clouds. "I will return shortly with some tea that will help with the headache and make you sleepy. And as I said, you will spend tomorrow quietly, and I will assess if any more lasting damage was done to your ear."
"Thank you, Master Elrond."
"None of that, now. We are family, and family does not use titles in private." He patted her hand yet again. "Before they leave again, I shall make it clear to my sons that Imladris will be doing its direct business with the Dúnedain through a different intermediary, at least until Estel has taken the position to himself and can appoint someone more appropriate. And until your parents leave, you will be accompanied by one of the family at all times, to prevent any further… incident."
Gilraen nodded her agreement, knowing that Elrond could be just as adamant in his decisions as her father. Then again, Glorfindel would be impossible to convince to leave her side after this, at least until her father departed. And he was considered "family" too…
For the very first time since she had come to Imladris, Gilraen was more than willing to leave her hair down and unbraided, for that way she could partly hide the lingering bruise to her cheek. She dressed slowly and with care, happy that at least her sense of balance seemed to have returned. As she came out into her sitting room, Glorfindel rose from one of the chairs near the fire and came over to her immediately. Gentle fingers lifted the hair back away from her face.
"I wish I had not given my word to you," he said softly, the tick in his cheek suddenly back again.
"I'm glad you did," Gilraen replied, patting his chest softly and then stepping to the sideboard, where a plate with her normal morning fare had been placed. "Thank you for breakfast."
"It was the least I could do," he answered with a tiny bow. "Elrond requested that I tell you that he would be in to see how well you are recovering a little later."
"Elladan left already?" She knew she was asking the obvious, but she honestly didn't know how to talk to a half-enraged Glorfindel. "How long have you been waiting?"
"I have nothing planned for the day but seeing to your welfare," he said, moving back to his chair. He gestured at a pile of material on a small table near the door. "Maeniel was imposed upon to supply you with something to keep your hands busy even as you rest. She wanted me to tell you that she hopes you feel recovered quickly."
Gilraen closed her eyes for a moment, humiliated. "She knows what happened?" She sat down as much because her legs didn't want to support her anymore as to sit to eat.
"The kitchen staff was telling as much of the tale as they knew to anyone interested for most of the night. Maeniel heard from one of them, I fear."
"What have you heard?" How much did he know? Elrond, she knew, would have kept his word, but if any of the kitchen help had witnessed more than just her flight past the hearth and work tables…
Glorfindel's blue eyes glittered dangerously at her. "Only what Erestor had to tell. Is there more to it that I should know?"
"No." She shook her head, relieved.
A low knock on her door brought Glorfindel to his feet immediately, before Gilraen could even set her plate aside. "I thought this was Gilraen's…" her mother's voice floated through the small opening.
"Let her in," Gilraen called to her friend, whom she could see wasn't happy to allow this new visitor into the sitting room. She waved her mother over and then gestured for her to take Glorfindel's seat. "Mother…"
Ivorwen sat down and watched with wide eyes as Glorfindel crossed his arms and leaned himself against the mantle, just behind Gilraen. "Is it possible to speak to my daughter privately?"
"No." Glorfindel's voice was kind, but firm. "Master Elrond was very specific in his instructions that, for the time being, the Lady Gilraen have protection near her at all times."
"Glorfindel," Gilraen added her plea to her mother's.
"I am sorry, Gilraen, but I only follow Master Elrond's instructions." He understood, or at least she thought he did, but was as immovable as Elrond ever could be. "Perhaps, if you and your lady mother would like to go to your bed chamber, leaving the door open so that I might observe, and keep your voices low…"
Gilraen glowered at him. She knew as well as he did that Elven hearing would be more than adequate to the task of overhearing everything. She rose and, taking her mother by the arm, directed her into the bed chamber. She left the door ajar, so that he could see in if he wished, and pulled her mother to the bed. "Sit down."
Ivorwen sat down on next to her and lifted her hair back away from her face. "It looks better than it did last night."
"Elrond used some sort of balm on it," Gilraen told her. "I'm feeling much better, but they want me to stay quiet, away from Father, I think."
"I think I have convinced him that he jumped to conclusions far too quickly, although he's still not happy at all with your attitude."
Gilraen shrugged. "I have been given my freedom here, and treated with respect as an equal, Mother. The reasons I wanted to stay were because I have made myself useful here. Elrond depends on me keeping his household running smoothly so that his Chief Counselor doesn't have to do double duty shifts. That means that Erestor is able to keep his mind on the intelligence that comes through here, and that ultimately means he can help our people fight the Enemy that much better."
"Erestor. He was the one in grey yesterday?"
"Yes." Gilraen nodded. "He manages Elrond's library and is a good share of the strategic genius of Rivendell."
Ivorwen nodded with a smile. "He seems a very personable young man. He even offered to take your father out to the sparring ring this morning."
Gilraen's eyes widened and her heart leapt to her throat. "Erestor? Did what?"
Ivorwen smiled at her. "Don't worry. I'm certain your father will be easy on him, if all this poor fellow does is arrange books and read intelligence documents all day."
But Gilraen was already on her feet and through the door into the sitting room. "Glorfindel! He promised…" Worried and angry, Gilraen glared up at him.
Glorfindel merely blinked back at her and smoothed down her upper arm. "Erestor's promise to you has not been broken. He swore that neither Elrond nor I would lift a finger against your father, and we have not and will not because he also promised us that he would do what was necessary in our stead. He actually demanded the right to do this."
"But…" Gilraen swayed. "He'll kill him!"
"No, he will do nothing of the kind." Glorfindel stated calmly. "Elrond made him promise to do nothing that would draw blood or require Dírhael spend an extended stay in the Healing Wards." The blue eyes grew flat and deadly calm. "I swear to you that your father will not be seriously harmed, much as he deserves otherwise."
"What's the matter?" Ivorwen demanded, coming out to join the others. She grabbed her daughter's arm. "What is it?"
Gilraen turned to her, trying to think of a way to explain it all quickly. "Erestor is a master swordsman, Mother, one of the best in all of Middle-earth. I have seen him make even Glorfindel have to fall back in defense, and Glorfindel is Elrond's Battle Master and the one who taught Elladan and Elrohir all they know. Believe me, Father doesn't stand a chance against him – and Erestor was angry last night. I doubt he feels any more kindly this morning."
Ivorwen was finally catching some of Gilraen's distress. "My husband! What will happen?" She too looked to Glorfindel in dread and fear.
"A much-needed and hard-learned lesson, Lady," Glorfindel answered her calmly, "with nary a drop of blood shed. Those were Master Elrond's conditions. But your husband will learn the depth of the offense he committed last night, and the price of his forgiveness. He will learn to respect and honor the women that the One have gifted him in his life."
"I should… how do I get to…" Ivorwen was frantic.
Glorfindel caught her as she sped past him, heading for the door. "Nay, Lady. This will not be a place for you to play observer this day. You must trust that Erestor knows exactly what he is doing, and will do Dírhael no lasting damage, and be glad that Master Elrond spoke in your husband's defense, despite everything."
Ivorwen turned her frantic gaze to her daughter, who was forcing herself to calm. "Gilraen?"
"If Erestor was made to give his word that he wouldn't hurt Father, then he won't. Oaths are taken very seriously here." She sat down in her regular chair before the fire. "Besides, whatever is going to happen has probably already started. You would get there only to see the very end of whatever Erestor has planned."
"He's your father, Gilraen! I know he was out of control last night, and that he hurt you for no good reason, but I can't understand your just sitting there!"
"Mother." Gilraen rose and put her arm around her mother's shoulders. "Come and sit down. If I know Erestor, then what he was planning will not take long. Father will be back soon, and you'll see that he'll be fine."
Ivorwen was visibly shaken, and she turned to Gilraen. "I should … probably go back to our rooms… Dírhael will be expecting me there…"
Glorfindel seemed to shake himself free from his cloud of rage to approach Gilraen's mother and take her hand. "Lady, there is nothing to fear. I would swear my life as proof of Erestor's skill and promise to do no serious harm, if it would give you ease. Calm yourself. I believe Erestor intended that your husband pay a call here after the time in the sparring ring. It is well, then that you are already here."
"Here?" Gilraen wasn't exactly certain she even wanted to look at her father, much less listen to anything he had to say.
Crystal blue eyes filled with earnest affection gazed back at her. "What your father needs to say to you will not wait, and it would be better done with witnesses. Elrond himself will be summoned when they are seen returning from the practice ring."
"You would humiliate my husband before everyone?" Ivorwen glared up at the Elven warrior.
"Nay, Lady. Your husband's humiliation will take place outside and beyond our sight, with only those other warriors who have faced much the same lesson in their time as witnesses. What we will witness in here will be his contrition, both to the Master of the House, the serenity of which your husband violated, and to your daughter, whom he insulted and injured for no reason."
"Tell me about home," Gilraen begged, drawing her mother back down into her seat and sitting herself. "I still have had little news about anybody."
Glorfindel, evidently satisfied that Gilraen had matters back under control, returned to his leaning slouch against the mantle. Hesitantly, Ivorwen began to relate the kind of news from their village that Gilraen had been hungry for, although she could see that her mother obviously was listening very carefully for the sounds of returning warriors outside the doorway.