1. Of Awe and Envy
When Erestor entered his private rooms at the end of the day, he was greeted with his papers - every last one of them - scattered all over the ground. Someone had torn each piece apart.
Without a single complaint Erestor piled up the scraps, set them aside to be burned later on, and settled in his writing desk. Without another glance at his destroyed work Erestor pulled a new of parchment towards him and restarted his book for perhaps the tenth time that year.
He did not need to investigate the matter to know who repeatedly broke into his rooms to tear his work apart. He did not need to ask his neighbor and friend Lindir if he had seen the elf Carangil anywhere near their dwellings. The elf's raiding tactics were well known to Erestor by now. Everyone suspected Carangil was the culprit behind these attacks, for he never kept his jealousy and hatred for Erestor a secret. He was a Noldor elf, like Erestor and most others who lived in Rivendell, but unlike a true Noldor he spent more time envying the works of others than tending to his own pursuits of knowledge.
There was a time when Erestor had found it rather peculiar that the elf envied his skill with words rather than his high position in Elrond's council. It perplexed him, and even bothered him, that his skill in writing was so envied by the younger elf. It wasn't until a year ago when he realized the truth behind Carangil's jealousy, which in turn taught him a lesson on the true nature of jealousy in general.
* * *
It was on a day when Elrond held council with his advisers and Gandalf. They were meeting to discuss the growing threat of the One Ring, which Frodo Baggins had currently acquired from his uncle Bilbo. The Ring still rested in the Shire, but they worried that the peaceful Hobbit land would soon face threat.
After a time the meeting turned stagnant, for no member could find a solution to Frodo's problem (or to find a way to get him out of the Shire.) Gandalf left after a time for a smoke and for some time to think.
Elrond grew quiet, contemplative, and the meeting area soon grew silent as each member also fell into his own thoughts. Erestor, not finding anything to do till Gandalf returned, scribbled a few lines on a spare page. He was deep in thought over his book, which had recently be destroyed and rewritten in the span of three nights. He hasn't slept (in the matter of elves) since, and a tiny part of him wished to give up simply due to the shock of seeing his hard work of two hundred years lay in ruins. Elrond looked up then, and seeing Erestor, gave him a knowing smile.
"Writing new ideas for your book?"
Erestor nodded his head and the other present members shared amused looks. All except for Melpomaen, who blurted, "You inspire me, Erestor. Just earlier this week your book was destroyed. Is it true you've already rewritten it word by word?"
Erestor nodded again. "Though of course I cannot replicate it exactly as before. I changed a few ideas around, but this new draft is much stronger than before." Melpomaen's eyes shined with even more adoration and awe. "And what news do you have of your own book?"
"I've reconsidered a few points, so my focus have been more on that than on writing," Melpomaen said. "But my writing has improved greatly. I must thank you for it. Before I couldn't string two words together! I must confess I wish I can write up to your skill."
"In time you will," Erestor said.
"Your love for Erestor's talent will push you to the top," Elrond said. "You certainly have the skill. Take this inspiration as your ladder to your utmost potential." Elrond now gave Erestor a mysterious smile. "Wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes," Erestor said, but his mind had become distracted with an epiphany. He thought of all his students and their praise, of their improvements. His mind turned to the few who expressed jealousy. In time all their activities in writing ceased, replaced instead by mindless gossip they filled in the valley of Imladris.
"Your are correct as always, Elrond," Erestor said. "Only those filled with vile jealousy will never improve, for they never had the skill to begin with."
"And thus they burn with the envy when they come across one whose level of talent they will never achieve," Elrond added. "Take that as an honor, Erestor. You are above them."
* * *
Erestor brushed a stray strand of hair behind his ear. The entire night was spent reworking his book. He was close to finishing the book now, at least the portions he had to replace. Perhaps he'll add a few more scenes after this. He may even finish another chapter before the first rays of dawn fill his room.
He glanced through his work. The book had been destroyed a few times since then, but with each destruction, Erestor felt greater reassurance from Elrond.
He smiled to himself. How ironic that his book had gotten better in this past year compared to the hundred years since he's been working on it. Carangil had unknowingly pushed Erestor to his greatest potential while his own talents sunk. And each time when news of another ransacking spread to his students, Erestor received nothing but additional praise and declarations that his manner of handling the situation inspired his students further, ultimately pushing them to hone their own skills.
One could learn much from his enemy, Erestor thought. He set the final piece of parchment aside and scanned around his rooms. Where next should he store his book? His writing desk - where his book comfortably sat undisturbed since its conception - was no longer the logical nor safe place to put his work. It was terribly easy to access. Neither was the book safe hidden under his bed, in the cabinets, or even under the large vases (which were now broken) near the balcony.
"I may have to carry it with me wherever I go," Erestor said to himself. He set his quill back in the ink bottle which glistened under the morning sun that now shined into his rooms.
Elrond needed to speak to him this morning, so Erestor washed up and prepared for the day, never straying far from his work. He then gathered his book and other materials he needed for the meeting before heading out.
A few elves he passed already guessed that his book had been destroyed again, for Erestor's appearance showed that he had been up all night working, never taking a moment to fall into reverie. But even with his eyes betraying him, Erestor walked with every bit of confidence.
He turned round the corner and he was suddenly face-to-face with Carangil. The younger elf sneered.
"I heard all your paperwork was in ruins. I am much saddened to hear this." He did not bother to pretend he was sorry. His voice carried a nasty air of arrogance and satisfaction at his ill work. "How many times has it been now? I cannot imagine having to rewrite my own book from the beginning! I would have just quit."
Carangil's smile was cold and twisted, but Erestor gave him a genuine kind smile in return. "It's nothing of importance. I've reconstructed my novel all in one night. Its currently in its best shape yet, both in form and context. I daresay the novel needed much revision, so I forgive the elf for his plundering about my rooms. He's offered me a chance to turn my hard work into a truly promising masterpiece."
Carangil's face turned pallid at this. His eyes flashed to the books tucked under Erestor's arm, but he said nothing. With an annoyed grunt he hasted off.
Erestor allowed himself a sigh of relief at the sight of Carangil's back disappearing behind the corner. There was no telling if the elf would ransack his rooms once more, or if he had already figured out where the new hiding place for his book was.
But Erestor had not lied about his book becoming a great improvement with each new draft. A smile came to him. Let Carangil try to destroy his work again. His story will only grow stronger.