4. Titles Given
Imladris was nothing like I imagined it would be. I knew it would be unlike anything I had ever seen at home, but the differences were even greater than I expected. I knew that Elrond's settlement had been built in a river valley, so the dramatic slope and curve of the land gave me no surprises, but I was not prepared for the naked openness.
I had lived my entire life in the cosy embrace of solid stone walls and the strong boughs of Greenwood forest, and Imladris had neither of these things. What woods I could see, as we rode down the mountain trail, comprised only brush, saplings, and young trees, none of them any thicker than a man's leg. The trees at home grew wider than my armspan. These Imladren things looked as if they would bend to the ground if anyone tried to climb too high. And few of them grew any taller than the peaked roof of Elrond's home, which sprawled, plainly visible, along the side of a hill. How could anyone live like this, out in the eyes of all and protected from nothing? Anyone, or anything, coming down this road would have a target in plain sight. And, judging by the smug tones and haughty gestures that came from our Imladren escort as they led us down into the valley, they were actually proud of this defenceless arrangement. They thought their home to be the best in the world. Obviously, they had never seen the strength of Father's impenetrable cavern stronghold.
A small attending party, hardly worthy of my royal stature, met us at the gate. Elrond was not among those present. Worse, neither was Glorfindel. The sharp-eyed and dark-haired man at the fore of the group introduced himself as Erestor, Elrond's chief counsellor, and made Elrond's apologies. For reasons he did not provide, the Lord and Lady of Imladris were unable to welcome me in person.
"Though they will see you tomorrow," he promised, "once the household has had sufficient time to prepare a welcoming banquet in your honour."
"Thank you," I said with a little bow. I liked the sound of a banquet in my honour. "And where is Master Glorfindel?"
Erestor looked momentarily taken aback, his eyebrows rising high. "Glorfindel?"
"I... assumed he would be here to meet me." I looked to my companions, who returned my gaze with equal confusion. All of us had expected Glorfindel to be present. Erestor's reaction made me uneasy.
"Ah, yes," said Erestor, clapping his hands together. "I'd forgotten. Glorfindel was the one who secured your position."
"My-" I began, but caught myself before saying anything further. What position did he mean? As far as I knew, as far as any of my companions knew, and as far as my contract allowed, I had a position as a servant to Glorfindel. The way Erestor spoke, there was no mistaking that he meant something else.
"But I'm afraid he's not here," Erestor continued. "He left for Lórien at the end of spring, and won't return until early fall. No worries, though. I am sure you will easily find yourself at home here, and there are many others more qualified than Glorfindel to help you acclimatise yourself to your new duties. You will primarily be working with me, in fact. I handle the majority of Elrond's foreign correspondence."
He smiled, a gesture obviously meant to make me feel more at ease. It did not help at all. Whatever Erestor thought my new position to be, it sounded nothing like what Glorfindel had implied and what I had expected. What had Glorfindel told Elrond I was coming to do? Had Elrond assigned me some further duties and not bothered to let me know? Or was Erestor confused as to my identity? Had he expected to meet someone else? This explanation was the most likely. My hand dropped down to a pouch tied to my belt. It was hardly the right timing, but I needed to be certain.
"Ehm, I have a... a letter for Master Elrond. From my father. King Thranduil of Eryn Galen." I spoke Father's name very clearly, so that Erestor would have no chance of mishearing it.
He registered no surprise, but only nodded and held out his hand. "Yes, I can take that. Thank you." So he did know who I was, after all. I should have known that a simple case of mistaken identity was too easy an explanation for this strangeness.
Erestor retreated into the house with my letter, leaving a fellow robed in dark blue to lead my companions and me to our lodgings. The man did not give me his name. Nor did he speak a single word as we walked through airy corridors, up shallow stairways, and past open commons where the folk of Imladris gathered to conduct their business under Elrond's authority. When we finally reached a series of rooms at what seemed to be the very farthest corner of the house, the man in blue nodded with a grunting sound and swept out his arm to usher me into one of them. By the time I had stepped inside and taken a quick look at the furnishings, he was gone.
The room was not bad at all. Great windows covered almost one entire wall, allowing a steady stream of light in through the sheer curtains, and a door led out to a private terrace beyond. Inside, I had a large bed with rich-looking bedding, several small tables and chairs, a large desk, and a wardrobe. A small door almost camouflaged by the wall's decor led to a little side room for personal needs, complete with a bathtub. The floor throughout was wood covered in large, colourful carpets. A tapestry depicting scenes of the hunt hung on either side of my bed, and other decorative pieces, including a small statue of a woman holding a bird and a copper bowl full of river-smooth pebbles, gave the room a sense of welcome. I felt as if I could live there.
Gwenoth, the leader of my escort and a childhood friend of Alagil's, nodded appreciatively. "It's nice."
"I agree," I said. "Of all the things I'll have to worry about here, my living space won't be one of them."
"What worries you?" he asked.
"Nothing. Well, nothing yet, and nothing specific. I'm more... uncertain, maybe? I was expecting Glorfindel to be here."
I did not know what I would do for the remainder of the summer until Glorfindel returned from Lórien. In his absence, I felt almost like an intruder in Elrond's household, taking advantage of hospitality that I did not deserve. Erestor had spoken of a position, but until I knew what that would be, I would not feel at ease. I wanted to have a reason to be here in Imladris: a purpose. I did not want to live here feeling like an unnecessary guest.
Gwenoth and the others helped me to unpack the few things I had brought. Clothes went into the wardrobe, a few trinkets were placed on the tables, and a miniature portrait of Father and Mother replaced that of some unknown Golodh on the wall near the door. As a joke, Gwenoth placed the old portrait on a shelf in the bath room, commenting on the nosy nature of the Golodhrim. I would be unable to even take a piss without one of them watching me with painted eyes.
No-one, not even a servant, came to see me for the rest of the night. I received no word from Erestor or anyone else. In the morning, a maid brought in a tray of bread and fruit, shortly followed by another when she realised that all of my companions were stayed the night and there were more hungry stomachs than just mine in the room. We spent the morning reorganising the furniture and then sitting on the terrace. No word came. I did not know if I was permitted to leave my room, and so I stayed where I had been put. It was not until late afternoon, when we were all hungry again, that the blue-robed man returned to lead the way to the supper hall. From the look on his face, I could tell that he had expected my companions to be gone. In truth, they should have left immediately after our arrival, as per Father's instructions. He did not want anyone staying in Imladris any longer than necessary, lest Elrond begin to think it acceptable to send his own men to Eryn Galen and expect a warm welcome. But both Gwenoth and I decided, for my safety, that it would be best for the escort to remain with me a few days: at least until I understood what my position would be in Glorfindel's absence. They would leave only when I felt comfortable enough on my own.
We followed the man in blue back through the corridors toward the centre of Elrond's sprawling house. The entire way, he said nothing. He motioned for us to hurry, and pointed us through a door ahead that he would not enter, but spoke no words. I wondered if there might have been some strange Imladren etiquette that prevented him from speaking to me, and made a note to myself to ask someone about it later.
The door he had indicated led to Elrond's dining hall. And I was stunned at the sight that lay beyond. I had once thought Father's dining hall, seating two hundred people, was a grand room. Elrond's dining hall, ringing with the babble of voices at nearly deafening volume, held easily four times that number. From wall to wall, around more pillars than I could count at a glance, table after table had been arranged in curving lines across the floor. At the far end of the room, as at home, a head table stood upon a dais, but it was much smaller than the one at which I was sat. At this table, there were only five chairs. Most of the floor-level tables were already occupied by guests drinking heavily from the numerous jugs of wine.
"Name?" a voice to my left asked.
I turned to see a harried-looking man holding several leaves of papers. He must have had a seating plan; such a thing would be necessary for such a large group. "Legolas," I answered. "And-"
"Ah!" he exclaimed, interrupting me before I could mention my companions. "Legolas! Splendid! Yes, you will be at the centre table directly before Elrond. I believe master Erestor and his apprentice are already there, so you may sit beside them."
"And my companions?"
He looked over my shoulder, blinking at the sight of the five men following me. "Oh. Ah. Humm." He shuffled his papers, looking for something that clearly was not there. "I have only your name on my list. Are they meant to be here?"
"I asked them to be here, so, yes. They, along with me, are representatives of my father, the King of Eryn Galen."
"Of course they are," the fellow replied with a hasty smile. "Well then. Ehm. I think I may have room at one of the last tables, but I will have to wait until a few other guests are seated. Will that do?"
Quickly, Gwenoth put a hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry about us," he said. "If we don't eat here, we can find some food in the kitchen. Go take your place. We'll find you back at your room later."
He was right, of course. And there was no sense in making a fuss about it now. Sooner or later, I would have to learn to navigate the politics of Imladris on my own. It was better I grew accustomed to it right away rather than leaning on my countrymen as a crutch. I stepped away from Gwenoth, standing on my toes to peer above heads in search of my table, and the seating-master announced me to the crowd in a clear, ringing voice.
"Our guest of honour: Legolas son of Thranduil, newly appointed ambassador from Eryn Galen!"
In the chaos of the moment that followed, I had just enough time to wheel around and lock eyes with Gwenoth before the crowd closed around me and I was carried away by a wave of bodies toward the far end of the hall. I knew we shared the same surprised expression, and the word that had been spoken echoed silently between us. Ambassador?
All through the banquet, Erestor did not explain this turn of events. He said not a single word about me being named ambassador from Eryn Galen. He must, I realised, have assumed I already knew. After all, what sort of idiot would appoint an ambassador and neglect to tell said ambassador that he had been appointed? Glorfindel, I thought bitterly. This is Glorfindel's fault. What sort of horrible game is he playing?
Learning of my new position did nothing to quell my fears. In fact, it increased them. I knew I should have been overjoyed at my incredible luck to be so honoured, but it felt wrong. I did not deserve this. Someone had made a mistake, or been given the wrong information. As far as I knew, Glorfindel could return at any time, announce that I had been wrongly appointed, and humiliate me in front of all of Imladris when he explained that, no, I was meant to be his servant all along. It made me angry even to contemplate that possibility. But, there was nothing I could do. Until I understood his plan, I could not act against it.
I ate hardly anything for the twisting, gnawing anxiety in my stomach. Platter after platter of wonderfully aromatic food arrived at our table, and I could manage little more than a polite taste of each. Every time I glanced up to Elrond at his seat on the dais, he looked back at me with a concerned half-frown. And then ordered another platter sent over. I suppose he thought I found the food unappealing, and wished to give me more choices. Truly, I wished I could eat it all, but I just did not have the appetite.
We had thirteen platters on our table, most of them still full, by the time Erestor and the others seated with me finished eating. Erestor ordered the platters sent out to other tables around the room. This was how a great banquet in Imladris worked. Unlike at home, where the King was served first and then everyone else in the hall, all food went to Elrond's table. He and his family would take what they wanted, and then order individual platters sent around the hall to the tables of their friends and favourites. No table had any guarantee of receiving what its occupants wanted. They might be given fish and dumplings, or broth and veal, or duck and mutton, or carrots and cake. Then, if anything remained when that table was finished with its platters, they could in turn send the food on to others down the line and outside of Elrond's hospitable embrace.
In the end, the farthest and lowest tables might be given nothing at all. That was the rule of the banquet. Anyone could attend, but only those with some standing in Elrond's court could expect to eat a full meal. All else happened by luck. From my place, I could not see where Gwenoth and the others sat, or even if they had managed to find a seat, so I could not send them any of our left-overs. Instead, I wrapped a few quail legs and savoury mushroom-stuffed buns in a hand towel and hid it all inside the wide sleeve of my formal robe. If they received no platters and were unable to scrounge anything from the kitchen, this would have to do. A worry of how I would manage to secret the bulky roll back to my bedroom had only just formed in my mind when Erestor turned to speak to me.
"Master Elrond will be waiting in his salon. I'll show you the way."
My stomach did a nauseating flip. Not only would I surely be caught hoarding food like a naughty child, I would be caught by Elrond himself. "Oh. Uhh... would it be possible for me to return to my room briefly before the introduction?" My mind spun furiously through a list of excuses. "I've spilled something on my breeches and would prefer to change."
"No need to worry," said Erestor. "Elrond will not mind a little spill. But since he is expecting you, it would be best to go directly."
A less feeble excuse was required. Nodding to Erestor, I slowly stood and took great care to catch my sleeve cuff on a half full goblet of wine. Luck was with me: it tipped forward and splashed over the edge of the table. "Oh!" I cried in mock dismay. Erestor quickly grabbed his hand towel to mop the spill, but the damage had already been done. A long, wet stain had appeared on my thigh. "Er, what about now?" I asked.
"Yes, I think you had better change your clothes," Erestor admitted. I glanced down at my leg as he shook his head. It looked as if I had wet myself. "But hurry, please, Legolas," he added. "I will inform Elrond as to the reason for the delay, and meet you back at the main door to the hall."
"I will be as quick as I can."
Awkwardly, trying to conceal the bundle of food under my arm, I backed away from the table and gave the necessary bows. Erestor frowned at my clumsy movements.
"You're holding your arm strangely. Did you injure yourself?"
"Uh, yes," I lied. "I must have strained it somehow while riding yesterday. My shoulder was very stiff this morning." And then I fled the dining hall before anything further could be said.
Gwenoth and the others were not in the room when I returned. I hoped this meant they had been given food at the banquet or had found some in the kitchen. I set out the towel of stolen food on the bed and quickly changed my wine-stained breeches. I had already caused a delay; I had no wish to keep Elrond waiting any longer than necessary, especially if he and his household were to be my only allies against Glorfindel and whatever hare-brained scheme he was attempting. If Elrond liked me, and was pleased by my work as ambassador, he would be able to gainsay Glorfindel if worse came to worst. And I planned on being the best ambassador Imladris had ever seen.
Properly dressed again, I headed back to the dining hall almost at a run. Erestor, as promised, was waiting by the door. He gave me a small smile. "You are quick. Good. Follow me."
He led the way up a short flight of stairs and down a corridor full of golden light so bright I had to squint against it. Hundreds upon hundreds of lanterns lined the way, each only inches from the next and all of them encasing a candle within yellow glass. It looked like something out of a dream, or a fanciful tale of Balannor. I had to slow to look at them. I could feel their heat on my skin.
"The Path of the Sun," Erestor told me. "It runs from west to east. If you look up, you will see that the roof is made of long panels of glass, which allow the sunlight in during the day. And in the floor just ahead of me are the markings of a sundial. A pole on the roof casts shadows to tell the time."
The walls were tiled with silver. No wonder it was so dazzling. It would be equally so in the light of the sun, but the golden candlelight lent a beautiful serenity and surreality.
"Of course," Erestor continued, "it would be prohibitively expensive to keep all these candles lit every night. We only light all of them on special occasions. Otherwise, only every twelfth."
I would have to return to see the Path of the Sun during daylight hours, and also on another, partially lit night to take in the full spectrum of the corridor's wonder. This was something to look forward to, and somehow, that anticipation made me feel a little more at home.
Elrond's salon was located up another short flight of stairs. The door was open, and Erestor entered with no bow: only a slight nod. After everything else I had experienced in Imladris I was hardly expecting Elrond's salon to be anything like Father's, but the difference that struck me most was not the foreign architecture or decor, but the total lack of formality. Elrond had tossed his dinner robe over a chair-back, and he lay stretched out on a divan by the fireplace with his eyes closed and his shoeless feet up. His two sons appeared to be playing some sort of card game at a table in the corner, complete with vulgar language from the one who was losing, which earned a sharp reprimand from their mother, who was seated on a large cushion on the floor. She was brushing her daughter's hair and had a mouth full of hairpins. Celebrían, I knew this lady's name was, and the dark-haired daughter would be Arwen, but I could not recall the names of the sons.
"Legolas son of King Thranduil and Queen Taralith of Eryn Galen," Erestor announced. "Our new ambassador."
Elrond startled himself awake from his fireside doze and sat up to look at me with the confusion of someone who had not intended to fall asleep. The two sons cast me a brief and incredulous look, as if questioning how someone as young as I could have been made an ambassador. Arwen smiled warmly but said nothing and did not move. Only the Lady Celebrían seemed to know how to behave. She stood gracefully from her cushion and lowered her head. "Welcome to our home, Prince Legolas," she said. "I hope you will find your time here enjoyable. If there is any comfort we might provide you, or if you have any troubles at all, please let me know. I take pride in running a household where all are well treated, and I would have you want for nothing."
"Thank you, my Lady." I bowed low to her. At least I remembered my manners, if nobody else in the room did.
"Come here, come here," Elrond said, finding his voice. "Sit by the fire. Tell me how things are in Eryn Galen. You are Thranduil's youngest child, yes?"
King Thranduil, I nearly said aloud, but let the slight pass and took a seat on the floor with Lady Celebrían. "Yes. I have two brothers and a sister, all older. And things are very well. Our kingdom has been prosperous of late, and as peaceful as one can expect with the darkness lingering in the south."
Elrond frowned. "Mm. Yes. That situation is one that troubles me as well. It is something we should discuss in greater detail, and with representatives from Lórien. But not now!" he said, clasping his hands together. "Tonight is not for politics. Let me introduce you to my wife, Celebrían."
"It is an honour," I said, bowing again, and she smiled and nodded her head in return. "I have heard much praise of your kindness and wisdom, and I see now that every word of it is true."
"And my daughter, my youngest, Arwen."
I bowed to her. "Lady Arwen. Word of your exceptional beauty has reached even in the far corners of my land. You are as lovely in person as I imagined you would be."
She blushed at my flattery, coyly tilting her head toward her shoulder. "You are very kind to say such a thing, Prince."
Truthfully, I did not find her beauty to be so great. If she was Lúthien reborn, then I would have been disappointed in Thingol's court. I could see how some would consider her beautiful, but found Celebrían to be the prettier of the two. I liked silver-haired Thindren women.
"And finally, my sons. Twins: Elladan and Elrohir."
Those were their names; I remembered as soon as Elrond spoke them. Elladan and Elrohir. "I am pleased to be introduced to you," I said, bowing to them.
"What, no sweet words for us?" asked the one in red.
"I'm afraid no songs praising your beauty are known east of the Hithaeglir," I replied.
The one in red looked mildly offended at that, but his twin, wearing a cream tunic with grey sleeves, laughed as if it were the funniest thing he had heard in a year. Elrond, too, smiled. "The fellow in the red tunic is Elladan," he said, answering the question I had been wondering how to ask. "Elrohir wears cream and grey."
I had a hard look at them, searching for any distinguishing features that would enable me to easily tell one from the other. They would not always be wearing red and cream. From my experience at home, the two sets of identical twins I knew were both more trouble than they were worth, and these twins of Elrond's seemed to be no exception to that rule. They already looked as if they wanted to play some highly hilarious and probably painful or embarrassing joke on me. I had no desire to give them the chance.
"Wine?" Celebrían asked. She had fetched a silver jug from a nearby table.
"Please. And thank-you."
She poured me a generous cup, and two more for herself and Elrond. "Now I would like to hear some stories about Eryn Galen," she said. "I've never been, but I have heard that many parts of the forest are quite beautiful. Is it true that unicorns live there, in its deep heart?"
"I don't know," I laughed. "I have never seen one. Nor has my father, nor my mother. But my sister, Tiralaen, claims to have done, when she was a small girl. She saw it eating lady slippers in a bright clearing, and said it looked just like a dazzling white horse with a single pearly-silver horn growing from its forehead. It did not see her, which is a shame, because if a unicorn looks at you and does not run away, you have a brief chance to make a wish when its eyes meet yours. The unicorn will hear your wish, and if it thinks you are noble and true, the wish will be granted."
"What a delightful story," said Celebrían.
"Some also say that there are ghosts and spirits living in the woods: some good and some cruel. The good ones will help those who become lost, and give gifts and blessings to those they meet. The cruel ones try to hinder or even kill any who cross them, just for fun. There are stories of children being taken in the night or brave warriors becoming nothing but hollow, frightened shells after encounters with ghosts. Or of men finding strange, impossibly beautiful women alone in the woods and bringing them home as wives, only to discover that what felt like mere moments of being caught in the magical gaze of the new bride was really several years. The most famous spirit-bride of course is Melian of Doriath. But people say that more like her roam the dark parts of the woods and will enchant lone men who find them."
I remembered only too late that Elrond himself was descended from Melian. But if he was offended by my story and me all but calling his foremother a dangerous spirit who preyed on unwary male travellers, he gave no sign. I quickly continued on to another tale in hopes that he would forget my carelessness. It was safer to speak of unicorns, harpies, cockatrices and other magical beasts.
For hours, I told tales of Eryn Galen and answered questions, mainly from Celebrían and Arwen. I had completely forgotten that Erestor was in the room until he spoke.
"I'll be retiring for the evening, and it may be wise if our new ambassador does as well. I would like to have an early start on things tomorrow. We have much work to do before he is fully prepared to take up his post."
"I agree," I said. "It's late, and I would also like to start early tomorrow." On top of that, my mouth was dry and my throat beginning to ache from so much talking. I had never had a chance to go uninterrupted this long at home. "Thank you, Elrond and Celebrían, for a wonderful evening."
"Thank you, Legolas," Celebrían replied. "You'll have to come back soon and tell more stories."
I kissed Arwen's hand and bowed to Elrond and his sons before following Erestor from the room. Beyond the salon, the rest of the house lay in silent darkness. It must have been later than I thought. All but a few of the candles in the Path of the Sun had burned down to nothing, casting the corridor in a warm, dark-coppery light. Down the stairs, Erestor bid me farewell and turned to the left, and I continued on to the right toward my room. He promised to send someone to show me the way to his office in the morning.
All of my companions were already asleep when I returned, and the food gone. I undressed as quietly as possible and slipped into bed without disturbing them. Whoever it was that had placed his bedroll by the balcony door was snoring. The grating sound of it made me look forward to the day when they all went home. Having met Elrond's family, and Celebrían in particular, I felt as if I could handle life in Imladris. I no longer needed my safety net of eastern guards. They could go any time.
Gwenoth and the others left two days later. We had a brief farewell at the gate, and I sent with him a letter to my family, stating that I was well and that my unexpected position in Imladris was to my liking. This, so far, was true. I found I liked working with Erestor. Once we were past his assumption that I was an uneducated idiot who knew nothing of history or politics, we got along very well together. He seemed pleasantly surprised that someone my age could actually be a functioning, literate adult capable of holding a conversation on worldly matters. I could not say why this would be. Perhaps they did not educate children in Imladris.
Whatever the case, on our third day together in his office, we had already moved past the preliminary lessons of making sure I knew who the High King of the Golodhrim was (nobody; the last one had been killed at the end of the Second Age), that I could read and write both tengwar and cirth (I was a little surprised to hear that some men couldn't), and that I could speak and read formal book Thindren in addition to the dialect of Eryn Galen (had he not been listening to me?). He did not ask, either because he thought I would not know or because these things were unimportant, but I was also familiar with the history and political systems of Gondor, and the change in the governing structures of the Golodhrim since the death of Gil-galad and the collapse of his kingdom. We folk of Eryn Galen may have preferred to live simply, but we were by no means ignorant.
So, with questions of my intelligence out of the way, we swiftly came to the problems that had tarnished diplomatic relations between Eryn Galen and the Golodhrim since Gil-galad's time.
"We both know that the biggest obstacle to trade is the dangerous condition of the mountain passes," said Erestor. He had produced a collection of old trade agreements from a cupboard. Some of them were so old that the crumbling parchment bore Oropher's signature. None of them had lasted more than a few years. Petty squabbles always arose over the problem of whose responsibility it was to keep the roads through the Hithaeglir free from Orcs. Both sides had their views: to Imladris, it was obvious that everyone should work together, however, to Eryn Galen it was clear that the Hithaeglir lay within the periphery of Imladris. They, after all, never bothered to help us with the increasing dangers of Orcs prowling the Anduin and the southern woods, or giant spiders breeding in the trees. Those things were most definitely "our problem".
"Now the fairest thing to do," Erestor continued, "would be to assemble task forces of warriors from both our lands. According to a schedule, which must be determined, they would patrol the passes to keep everything safe and open for our traders."
"And what of the roads through Eryn Galen?" I asked. "Especially in the west and south, outside of my father's influence, those can be just as treacherous."
"Those naturally fall under your father's jurisdiction."
"If so, then the Hithaeglir fall under Elrond's. The entirety of the forest is as much a part of my father's kingdom as the mountains are part of Elrond's land."
Erestor gave an irritable little shake of his head. "No, no. The Hithaeglir are shared; they lie between us."
"So do the spider-dens," I replied.
"The spiders are at Thranduil's doorstep!"
"As the mountains are at Elrond's. Look," I said, pointing out the window. Just beyond the hills above us, the smoky purple peaks of the Hithaeglir loomed amid the clouds. "I can see them right now. There they are, clearly visible from this very room. But one cannot see them from any office in my father's stronghold."
He looked ready to slap me for my cheek. "Legolas, we are not talking of mere border issues."
"It sounded like we were."
"No, we are talking about what is fair. Fairness is both sides working together to keep the wild lands between us safe for travellers."
"Exactly," I said with a nod. "We help you with the Hithaeglir, you help us with the western and southern woods."
"No, the forest is part of-" he began, but then stopped and smacked his hand down onto the desk. The argument was quickly becoming pointless.
"How about this, then. Measure the number of paces from here to the top of the peak in the middle of the range. In fact, measure from Elrond's bedroom door. Then, we measure the number of paces from my father's bedroom door to the top of that same peak. Each side contributes troops of a number inversely proportional to the number of paces they are from any given area. So you, being a small number of paces from the Hithaeglir, contribute a large number of troops there, and we contribute more to fighting the spiders a small number of paces from us."
"That is absolutely ludicrous," said Erestor. "And, no."
"Your refusal to help us while asking us to help you is ludicrous. Also the fact that you keep arguing with me on the chance you can convince me to change my mind and sign some new treaty. It won't work, Erestor. I'm young, but I'm not stupid. Actually, I'm at an age where I think I know everything, so no old grump will be able to bully me into making a poor decision." I smiled blandly at him.
"I believe it's dinner time," he snapped.
"Oh, good. I'm starved. What are we having?"
Erestor riled easily, but he did not nurse a grudge over minor disagreements. Every argument between us was always forgotten within minutes. He was my friend again as soon as we sat down to our bread and soup. We returned to his office in better spirits. The safety of trade routes was not discussed again that day.
He used other tactics, though, to try to change my mind on that topic. After long days of unresolved arguments, he began to hint that perhaps all hope of treaties should be abandoned. Anything Imladris needed from the east, he said, they could acquire through traders from Gondor instead. If an agreement with my father proved impossible, they could continue to work around him. I nearly laughed at this weak ploy. I knew exactly what Imladris wanted: spices and silks from Khand and other south-eastern lands beyond the Sea of Rhûn. Not only was the route to these lands more direct if one went via Eryn Galen, it was also far less expensive. Gondor charged extravagant tariffs on any goods coming through. For years, Elrond had been spending money by the barrelful for Men of Gondor to bring him what he wanted from the south. Southmen coming up the road to trade in Esgaroth could provide the same products at almost half the cost. If only they were not so firmly allied with Eryn Galen. Occasionally the traders from Khand would deal with Lórien, but as they refused to cross the Anduin, Lórien merchants were forced to meet them at a trading outpost on the west coast of the Sea of Rhûn. It was less than ideal. Lórien usually opted to pay the higher price and trade through Gondor. Even if they did not, Imladris would not be guaranteed better access. If my guess was correct, relations with Lórien were not as tight as they could be. Glorfindel spent far too much time there for things to be running smoothly.
After my suggestion that, yes, perhaps continued trade through Gondor would be the best solution, this talk ceased. Then we were back to our starting point, and no progress was made. For a month, through endless debate, we came no closer to an agreement.
I became so involved with Erestor's trade negotiations that I forgot why I was come to Imladris in the first place. I was become the ambassador; that was all that mattered. But the origins of my position came crashing back to the front of my mind one afternoon as I sat at Erestor's office window, alternating my gaze from the mountains above to the road that led to the stables below. Every day, I saw riders coming and going at all hours, to the point that I hardly noticed them anymore. This one, though, caught my attention. He wore a blue leather tunic over darker trousers, and his bright golden hair flew behind him to whip in the wind. My heart leapt at the sight, certain that it was my father come to visit me and tell Erestor how utterly stupid his demands on mountain pass safety were. Those looked like Father's riding clothes. But then he came closer, and I saw how the desire to see my family again had clouded my eyes.
This was not Father. Glorfindel was returned from the east.