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Flowers in Amber - Part 1

Title Flowers in Amber - Part 1
Rating: Teen
Pairing: Elrond/Celebrimbor
Genre: Drama, Romance, Slash
For Adlanth

Thanks to Oshun for the last minute beta, and for all her help and support.

Elrond was mindful of the mud he was tracking across the polished marble floor of Celebrimbor’s hall. His ride had been hard and swift, on a matter of urgency, and he had hoped for a moment to rest and change from his traveling clothes before his meeting with the Lord of Ost-in-Edhil. Yet when he had arrived, his escort took him immediately through Celebrimbor’s lobby to what looked like a combination study and workroom, where he had left him standing without even offering to take his cloak.

Annoyed, Elrond removed his riding gloves and bunched them in one hand, his brow knit in a frown. While he hadn’t expected a grand welcome he had expected to be treated with a modicum of respect as Gil-Galad’s representative. The ties between their families ran deep.

He glanced about the chamber, his irritation giving way to his customary curiosity. He had never met Celebrimbor before and always liked to see what he could surmise about a man from his work area. For example, Gil-Galad’s study was as meticulous as the man himself. There was not a wasted bit of space or unnecessary item to be found except for a bottle that sat upon his desk with a model of a swan ship inside, a tribute to both his love of the sea and his fixation upon precision and detail.

Celebrimbor’s study, on the other hand, was a lesson in controlled chaos. While the desk was tidy, with scrolls and papers neatly arranged and a large open work area, the workbench in the corner was overflowing with oddly shaped bits of metal and a scattering of small tools. Drawings and fragments of parchment, ragged and crumpled, were tacked to the walls and littered the floor. A few books were placed here and there on a chair or shelf and one was lying face down on the windowsill. Elrond pursed his lips in distaste to see a book with a spine haphazardly broken in that manner, and he went over and lifted it up, flicking a bit of dust off one of the pages before closing it carefully and placing it back on the sill. The title was “Metallurgy of Gondolin” and bore the name Erestor as its author.

Elrond heard a chime and turned around, noticing a strange object on a shelf behind the cluttered workbench. It was an ornate metal box with a glass front containing a round disk with the numbers one to twelve spaced around it. Two thin strips of metal inside pointed to the numbers and, as he watched, one of these strips moved slightly past the number with a small clicking sound. He was certain this box was the source of the chime but could see no bell or other object that could have made it. He picked up the box to examine it more thoroughly, turning it this way and that. He was so intent that he nearly jumped out of his skin at the voice behind him.

“I see you have discovered my clock.”

Elrond spun around, fumbling the box, just managing not to drop it. A man stood in the doorway, wiping his hands on a stained rag that he then stuck in his back pocket. The man moved forward with a fluid, easy grace and thrust out his hand in greeting. Elrond put the clock back on the shelf and clasped the proffered hand with his most charming, diplomatic smile.

“Celebrimbor? It is good to meet you at last,” Elrond said.

At the touch of the man’s hand, Elrond felt a palpable surge of energy that almost made him jump. Yet he found himself captivated by the large, deep grey eyes that looked candidly into his. Elrond thought this man among the most beautiful he had ever seen, not that he expected less from a grandson of Fëanor. His hair was like a midnight sky, profoundly black, glittering with droplets of sweat from some recent labor. His features were strong and regular, his pale skin flawless, but his eyes held Elrond entranced; large and widely set, framed by thick black lashes, full of wisdom and benevolence.

“No,” the man replied, “I am Annatar. Celebrimbor asked me to greet you while he finishes his work at the forges.”

Elrond’s face fell. He covered quickly with a small bow even as a chill raced up his spine. “Forgive me, Lord Annatar, for not recognizing you. You seem changed since last we spoke,” Elrond said uncertainly. ‘I could have sworn he resembled Gil-galad when last I saw him, but now his face is more angular, his eyes a deeper gray. Curious indeed.’

Annatar gave a full, hearty laugh. “Forgive me, Master Elrond, for presenting myself to you in such a frightful state. I was working at the forges myself and am just come from there.” He took in Elrond’s travel-soiled cloak and boots with dismay. “I see you were not given the chance to rest and freshen up from your journey before your audience with Celebrimbor. Allow me to correct that.” Annatar tugged at a bell pull next to the desk. “I am afraid we do not stand much on ceremony here. The servants are used to the mess we smiths make and I am sure they thought your matter urgent enough to forgo the usual amenities. It appears you have ridden here in haste.”

Elrond felt his face grow hot but he answered coolly, “Indeed. I have come bearing a message from my lord on a matter of some import, but I would welcome the opportunity to change and rest before speaking with Lord Celebrimbor.”

Just then the door opened and a servant appeared. He bowed to each in turn, but addressed Annatar. “How may I assist you, my lord?”

“Show Master Elrond to a room and attend him. He has had a long, wearying journey. Also, please inform Lord Celebrimbor that Master Elrond is most eager to speak with him. He bears a message from the High King.”

“It shall be done, my lord,” said the servant with a bow. He turned to Elrond. “If you please, sir.”

As Elrond followed the servant out, Annatar said, “It is good to see you again, Master Elrond. Perhaps we can chat again at supper.”

“I look forward to it,” Elrond said politely, thinking exactly the opposite.

Once in his room, Elrond removed his cloak and muddy boots and sat down heavily in a chair by the window. Annatar unsettled him in the same way he had at their previous meeting, and not just due to the shock of finding out he was not Celebrimbor. His shape-shifting looks and casual familiarity both disturbed and rankled. After Gil-galad refused him entrance to Lindon he had immediately come to Eregion, quite eager to share his “gifts” with those of Middle-earth. Elrond’s suspicions, which had nagged him before, spiked sharply. His mission was now much less urgent but no less important. The difficulty was how to present his case to Celebrimbor. How receptive would he be to Gil-Galad’s concerns, to his concerns, when Annatar had already insinuated himself into the Gwaith-i-Mírdain?

He called for a bath to be drawn then dressed in a tunic of midnight blue silk embroidered with silver stars, black doeskin trousers, and black leather ankle boots with silver buckles. No matter how his meeting with Lord Celebrimbor went, he at least now felt he was presenting himself in a better light than when he had first arrived.

He expected to be escorted back to Celebrimbor’s study but was instead taken to one of the Lord’s private rooms. There were several cushioned chairs with side tables and a marble fireplace, the sides carved to look like trees. At the top, under the mantel, rose the Misty Mountains. The effect was that of looking through the trees at the edge of the forest to the mountains in the far distance. For a moment it caught Elrond’s eye, for he had never seen the like of such craftsmanship.

Then he looked to Celebrimbor and this time there could be no mistaking his host for any other. Celebrimbor was possessed of the striking good looks and perfection of form that was the hallmark of his lineage; tall, with strong arms, and broad shoulders that tapered to a slim waist. His sable hair hung in soft waves to the middle of his back, held in check by a mithril clip set with a small emerald. His eyes were the color of pewter, with flecks of gold ringing the pupils, and held a confidence and curiosity that reminded him of Maglor. Despite his vocation, his hands were immaculate, his nails neatly clipped and buffed. He wore a green velvet jerkin with red and gold brocade over a light grey shirt and forest green trousers.

Elrond felt a fleeting, melancholy weight upon his heart at seeing Celebrimbor, the last of his noble, tragic line, with no wife or children with whom to share his passions and considerable knowledge. It would be unfortunate indeed if he were destined to come to ruin like his kin. He shook off the feeling, disconcerted by the path of his thoughts. Celebrimbor stood when he entered and Elrond bowed, his hand over his heart.

“Greetings, Master Elrond. You need not bow to me, unless it makes you feel more comfortable. We forgo such formalities here. Please accept my apology for not meeting with you earlier. Timing is everything in the shaping of metal, and one reaches a point in the work where mere seconds can mean triumph or failure. I was at just such a point when you arrived and could not leave. I trust Lord Annatar extended my regrets.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, my lord. No apologies necessary. Lord Annatar was most kind.”

“I am glad to hear it. Now, what message from the High King brought you from Lindon with such haste?”

Elrond looked around the chamber to make sure they were alone. “It is a private matter, my lord. May I approach?”

“Of course,” Celebrimbor said, motioning him forward. “You have me curious, Master Elrond. You are being most mysterious.”

“I assure you it is not my intent,” Elrond said, moving closer. “Did you receive a message sent from Lindon these three months hence?”

“If you are referring to the matter of Lord Annatar, I did indeed. I have simply chosen to ignore it.” Elrond opened his mouth to speak but Celebrimbor raised a staying hand. “If this is the reason you have come, I fear your journey has been for naught. Lord Annatar was sent by the Valar to teach us. His words are wise and his knowledge is great. I see no reason to doubt him.”

“Even so, my lord, a little caution could not go amiss could it? Both Gil-galad and I doubt his assertion that he was sent from the Valar, though I admit we have no evidence his claim is false. Still, gifts rarely come without a price.”

“Ah, but you have not seen what he is capable of, nor his generosity. He asks nothing for himself, he works harder than the most driven of us, he speaks with wisdom and humility, but most of all his desires are our desires, to achieve glory and honor though the sweat of our brows, not the point of our swords. It is a rare time of peace in Middle-earth. Why not use this respite from the darkness to raise ourselves to the pinnacle of our abilities and make this world better in the process?”

“It is a worthy goal, my lord,” Elrond said, “I do not deny. . .”

“Then you and Gil-galad need not worry yourselves about our latest guest,” Celebrimbor broke in. “I invite you to stay and not hurry back to Lindon. Stay and witness the work we are doing here. Then if you still believe we are wrong to trust Lord Annatar, I will keep a watchful eye upon him. It is the most I am prepared to offer at this time, for I will not turn him out of my city on the whim of our king or his herald.”

Elrond was irate but Celebrimbor’s reaction was not entirely unexpected. Without hesitation he replied, “I accept your offer, my lord. Thank you.”

“Splendid. We shall expect you for supper then. In the meantime, feel free to ask the servants for anything you might need. The library is in the east wing. Consider it at your disposal should you wish to do some reading. One can nearly always find a partner for one game or another in the lobby of the west wing. There is a large music room, also in the west wing where the musicians among us like to gather in the evenings. The playing of instruments is quite common here as it aids the dexterity which is essential to our work. If you prefer the outdoors there are many courtyards and gardens as well. I hope you will find our city to your liking. Now if you will excuse me.”

“Of course, my lord,” Elrond said. “Thank you for your time.”

Celebrimbor left and Elrond fumed. He felt completely dismissed, as if his doubts were of as much import as a child chasing shadows. If only Celebrimbor had given him the opportunity to speak. . . but no. With nothing but an uneasy feeling how could he hope to make Celebrimbor understand the need for caution? He knew his best chance of convincing his host was to agree to stay and see with his own eyes what was going on. Perhaps Celebrimbor was right and Annatar was everything he claimed to be. If that was the case, he could allay Gil-galad’s fears as well by remaining in Ost-in-Edhil for a few weeks. Elrond was willing to be proved wrong.

He decided to take Celebrimbor up on his suggestion to visit the library. Some light reading would be welcome before bed. He only hoped there was something there of more interest than the books in Celebrimbor’s study. Wandering the halls of the great house he was dazzled by the opulence surrounding him. Everywhere he looked he was confronted with objects of surpassing beauty. Gold leaf gleamed from the tops of marble columns, gems adorned vases and urns, silver shone from candlesticks set upon tables topped with onyx or lapis. Yet despite the splendor of it all, Elrond found not one object in Celebrimbor’s home as lovely as a single foxglove or athelas flower.

The library was the only place Elrond had seen as yet that was orderly and muted in its grandness. Here the books took center stage, resting in quiet dignity upon mahogany floor-to-ceiling shelves. Cushioned chairs and simple tables of ebony were scattered liberally throughout and a modest fireplace with a green marble front piece and mantel sat at the back of the room, surrounded by two chairs and a long sofa upholstered in green velvet with pillows to match.

Elrond smiled and began to peruse the lower shelves, feeling at home at last. He was in the process of making his selections, which he planned to take back to his room for later, when a pretty young woman walked in. She had silver hair and eyes like a morning sea, grey and tranquil. She gave him a smile and went to a collection of books on iron work, pulling a book from the shelf then settling on the couch.

“A little light reading?” Elrond inquired.

She looked at him in confusion for a moment, then glanced down at her book and gave a merry little laugh. “Light reading of a heavy subject. This is for a project I am working on.”

Elrond raised an eyebrow. “So you are a smith?”

Her eyes twinkled. “Does that surprise you?”

“It shouldn’t, but I suppose it does,” Elrond said honestly. “I have never met a lady who worked in the forges before.”

“It is not an uncommon thing here, thank Eru. But to answer your question, I live in Ost-in-Edhil, why not learn from the best?”

She nodded toward the books Elrond held. “I take it smithery is not your trade.”

Elrond held up his selections, which consisted of a book on the treatment of burns and other common injuries, a book on healing stones, and a book of Sindarin poetry. “You are correct, my lady. I am the herald of the High King, and though I have many interests the working of metal is, alas, not one of them.”

“What brings you to Ost-in-Edhil then, Master Elrond?”

Elrond was taken aback that she knew his name, until he realized she must have guessed it from his association with Gil-galad. “Only to speak with Lord Celebrimbor. He was kind enough to ask me to stay in the city for a time and I have accepted. But I am afraid you have me at a disadvantage, my lady, for you have guessed my name despite my lack of manners in our introduction, and I do not know yours.” He walked over and sat down beside her as he spoke.

“I am Celebrian,” she said. “It is a pleasure to meet you, my lord.”

She extended her hand and Elrond took it, but before he could bring it to his lips for a kiss, she gave him a firm handshake instead.

“Please, call me Elrond,” he said, trying to regain his composure. “I am no lord.”

“And I am no lady,” she replied with a sly smile. Elrond found himself liking this pert, brash young woman.

“It is a pleasure to meet you as well, Celebrian. Perhaps you can tell me a bit about the work you do here. I am quite interested.”

“You may be sorry you asked. Please tell me if I begin to bore you.”

“You shall be the first to know,” Elrond said with mock solemnity.

So, Celebrian launched into a summary of the different types of metal and stone work going on in the city. It seemed since the coming of Annatar, smithery and masonry was on the cusp of a renaissance of sorts. The forges were never so busy and new ideas and designs were coming from them daily. Dwarves were circulating about the city, learning and teaching their unique techniques, and workshops were packed to capacity with eager smiths and masons. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and by the time she paused for breath Elrond found himself wondering once again if he was being unnecessarily alarmist.

“It certainly sounds wonderful,” Elrond said at last. “Have you met Lord Annatar?”

“Not personally, but I have seen him in the Great Hall in the evenings. He is very fair and very wise. I wish I could work more closely with him for I hear he is a marvelous collaborator, but I am only a novice. It will be many years before I am ready to work with someone of his skill, or that of Lord Celebrimbor,” Celebrian said with a pretty little pout.

A servant came in to light the lamps and it was only then that the two noticed the hour.

“It is growing late, I must be getting ready for supper,” Elrond said. “It was very nice meeting you, Celebrian. Perhaps we may chat again another time.”

“That would be most agreeable,” Celebrian said. She smiled at Elrond and he knew it was a smile he would never forget.

They parted and Elrond took his books to his room and prepared for supper. A servant showed him to the Great Hall where, to his surprise, he found himself seated to the left of the lord’s chair at the high table. Annatar was already seated to the right, but Celebrimbor had not yet arrived. No fanfare announced his presence, just a simple chiming of silver bells. The crowd fell silent until Celebrimbor entered and seated himself then the general tumult of the hall began as the food was brought forth.

“I trust you found some way to amuse yourself this afternoon,” Celebrimbor said.

“I did, my lord. I met a lovely young lady in the library. Celebrian was her name.”

“Ah, yes, Galadriel’s daughter. She is a distant cousin of mine, and not so young as you might think. A quick mind and strong will, like her mother, but I fear her interest in smithery is little more than that of a dilettante.”

Elrond was reeling from that bit of news. The daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn? No wonder she was so lovely and spirited. He recovered quickly, feeling somehow he must defend her though he did not know why. “She seemed very enthusiastic when we spoke.”

“Yes, she is quite interested in the art, but more to irritate her mother I think. I indulge her for the same reason,” he said with a wry smile. “Still, she works hard and shows some aptitude. She might make a good smith one day if her interest does not turn to more gentle pursuits, as is so often the case with females.”

Elrond would have chuckled at that remark, but then he realized Celebrimbor was serious. He wondered if Celebrimbor was one of those men who felt threatened by women working alongside them or if it was Celebrian in particular he dismissed as frivolous. If that was the case, Elrond doubted he knew Galadriel well.

“Does the city have many women smiths?” Elrond asked.

“A few. Many of them are Dwarves but we have perhaps fifty Elf women. Most of them are jewel smiths, with a few notable exceptions.”

“I find your city fascinates me more all the time. May I observe the forges tomorrow?”

“Certainly, I was counting on it. I think once you see the work we are doing here you will change your mind about many things. For example, Annatar tells me you were looking at the clock in my study earlier. It is a small advancement we have made for the telling of the hours. The Dwarves, working underground as they do, cannot rely on the sun and stars to tell the time, so they designed the device. Of course we have made some improvements of our own, but I think you will agree that the trading of such ideas is useful and benefits both our peoples.”

“I never doubted it, my lord,” Elrond said emphatically. “I am sure the work you do is without equal. Perhaps we can discuss this further after supper. Do you play arantyalmë?”

“I do indeed, and I would welcome some new blood. I fear I have bested my court so often I find it difficult to find a partner.”

“I hope I do not disappoint you,” Elrond said.

“If you hold your own past six moves I will be more than satisfied,” Celebrimbor replied. He smiled and Elrond felt his heart skip a beat. He smiled in return but quietly chastised himself. Celebrimbor was not the foster father for whom he had harbored unrequited feelings these many years. Strange how the past could lie dormant, like a crocus under the snow, until a beam of sunlight, a smile or look, could bring it to bloom in an instant.

“I will do my best, my lord,” Elrond said through a wan smile of his own.

After the supper was done the crowd started clamoring for the evening’s entertainment. Elrond was surprised to see that, instead of a group of professional musicians and storytellers, some of the guests began pulling harps from under chairs and flutes from out of pockets and making their way to the front of the hall. The high table was cleared and pushed back against the wall, allowing the dais to act as a stage. Elrond, Celebrimbor, and the others sat on a bench at the front to watch the performances. There were comical tales and fanciful, lively music and somber, recitations of poetry and even short scenes from plays and opera, all performed with enthusiastic encouragement from the crowd. Elrond could see how the practice created a feeling of community and good will among all and he decided to speak with Gil-galad about starting the practice in Lindon.

Just as the evening was winding down, someone called out, “Will Lord Annatar grace us with a song?”

Continue to Part 2



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