Title: The Heart’s Stronghold
Characters: Beleg/Glorfindel, Gildor, Erestor
Beta: aglarien1 (all errors are mine)
Rating: NC-17 (slash)
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They are the property of JRR Tolkien and his estate. I have borrowed them for my own amusement and for yours, I hope.
Summary: Beleg and Glorfindel meet on the edge of Nevrast and form an attachment that will last through the Ages.
Beleg and his march wardens found themselves further afield than was usual, entering into the province of Nevrast and a Noldor stronghold. They knew these lands to be under the rule of Turgon, son of Fingolfin and tried to be as inconspicuous as a party of Sindar elves could be. They sought information for Thingol, King of Doriath and the most powerful ruler this side of the sea, and did not fear any interlopers or newly crowned upstarts. Their kingdom was preeminent, longest standing with a Maiar queen protecting its borders. They could go whither they wished and inquire as they would.
“Here is an inn, Strongbow. We could rest here.”
That point was well taken. While they often slept in the open, it would be nice to warm by a fire, eat some rustic fare and drink ale amongst the mortals who lived around these parts.
“Agreed. We shall enter and spend the night. No trouble. There might be Noldor here given the proximity to Vinyamar. “
Both of his companions nodded. The last thing they wanted was an incident in Noldor lands.
The red headed barmaid leaned over and obviously she wanted Glorfindel to observe her ample charms. With a toss of her head, a laugh and the glow on her rosy cheeks, he could not miss the open flirtation and invitation. He was not immune to such charms, just not in the mood for her attentions tonight. He appreciated beauty in all forms and she was definitely worthy of his note. Yet she reminded him too much of his Lariel, whom he had lost on the Helcaraxë. That memory still pained him after all this time since he had made landfall in Middle Earth.
“Will you be needing anything else, Lord Glorfindel?”
“We could use some of your fine, fresh made potato chips and another round of ales to the table.”
The fire cast his hair in a golden light and one could not help but imagine a likeness to the precious metal or that it was woven through his long tresses. Many different shades of yellow and gold surrounded his sun kissed face and his eyes were as blue as the sky. This elf was a being of unsurpassed beauty, strong of body, with spirit and compassion for all living creatures.
“You’ve got it, love. In a jiffy!” Belle flew to do his bidding, taking his orders to both the kitchen and the bar.
“Well, she likes you, no doubt,” his dark haired companion said drily, leaning back on two legs of his chair, surveying the crowded inn as mortals milled about. Their food was brought quickly and the beer came, rich and amber.
“It is good here, no? Full of life and fun.” Glorfindel enjoyed the rustic ambiance of this second born establishment on the edge of Nevrast, and frequented it whenever his travels allowed him to. The sights and sounds of it were so different from the elegance of Turgon’s court, more visceral in a way. They were usually the only elves hereabouts and so were treated in a preferential way. He dispelled any sense of entitlement by flirting with the woman folk with a ribald sort of fun. The ladies loved it, clamoring for his attention.
“Look there, Glor. That is elvish garb if I don’t miss my guess. Not from around here, either.”
He turned just as the door swung closed and a very broad shouldered, auburn haired elf strode through the door. He carried a large bow and wore a livery that bespoke a king’s favor, well tailored, elvish made, to blend in with the forest.
“March wardens of Doriath, I do believe. Not Noldor.”
“Sindar. Gah,” his companion scoffed.
“Be nice.” Glorfindel grinned as Gildor eased back in his chair, seeming to relax yet not quite doing so.
“Well, lads. Weapons at the door. No arms permitted, even yer bow.”
Abe the barman was amiable but firm about his directive. Any conflicts were to be settled outside and no bloodshed within the walls of The Ravenshead Inn and Tavern. All the regulars knew the rules and divested of swords, knives and other weapons in the entryway of the establishment.
Beleg shrugged and left his bow and sword in the corner of the hall but chose not to reveal the small throwing knife in his boot. He was not comfortable being unarmed in a foreign place. He would sit with his back in a safe corner and that blade resting nicely by his ankle.
“Do as he says. Leave your weapons at the door,” Beleg said.
This rankled, but his fellow elves did as ordered, and they entered the tavern which smelled of second born bodily odors and meat roasting in the kitchen.
As luck would have it, a recently vacated table came in view and the four elves quickly grabbed it, ensconcing themselves into a dimly lit corner. The room was crowded and teemed with people.
“What can I get you, lads? Anything from the bar or kitchen? We have good ale and hearty food.”
“Both, my lady, if you please.” Beleg smiled up at the buxom barmaid. “We are parched and hungry and have travelled far today.”
“Well then, the menu is on the board.” She pointed at a barely legible chalk board featuring today’s food service. “And I recommend the house ale, a fine amber.”
They ordered the beer and discussed their meals. Beleg was partial to the beef stew while the others thought the mutton hearty. And so it was they made their choices and relayed them to the very attentive waitress. She appeared somewhat dazzled by the beauty of the elves by the firelight. The flame seemed brighter in their hair, their skin aglow by the candles and their eyes so sincere as to make you want to tell your innermost secrets. She stared a little longer than necessary and blushed as she turned to order their food from the kitchen.
“There are elves over there, Strongbow. And they are looking this way.”
“We are as inconspicuous as an orc in a country faire wearing petticoats.”
“You are right there. Cannot be helped.”
Beleg looked across the room at the Noldor and found his gaze returned by a pair of crystal blue eyes. His view was then obscured by the return of Belle, the industrious waitress carrying a tray laden with pints of ale.
“Here we go, lads. One for each of ye…”
“Thank you. Thank you.” He assisted her by taking the glasses from her hand and passing them around the table. “We will run a tab and settle up at the end of our stay. Will that be alright?”
“Yes, sir. I will just need your name for that.”
“Beleg Cúthalion, of Doriath. I will be responsible for these miscreants.”
She laughed and went to tell the owner so he could tally the account later.
Glorfindel could not help but look at the leader of the elves from Doriath. He was strongly built and clearly in charge of the others, and was very handsome of face and form. Their eyes met frequently across the room and he tried to think of a reason to go over there that would not be aggressive or intrusive. How best to go about it without causing conflict between their people?
“What say we challenge them to a game of darts? We can let them eat their food and see if they are up for it.”
“Are you serious, Glorfindel?”
“I am. I am always serious.”
“You are never serious but I do believe you are this time.” Gildor laughed and added. “As you wish. They look like archers and will likely thrash us but I will back your play.”
He popped a crispy, warm chip into his mouth, chewing it and following it with a long draught of his ale, savoring the combination of flavors. He swallowed and put his half empty glass down.
Glorfindel stood up and walked to the bar to ask for two sets of darts for the impending game. They came three to a set in various colors. He chose a fanciful Noldor blue and a deep forest green color seemed evocative of the forest and might suit a wood elf, or Sindarin theme. He imagined those from Doriath would enjoy using those for the dart game.
“That took some time. Did you have to make the darts? Smelt them at the smithy? And pluck the feathers from a bird outside?” Gildor was enjoying himself. He had an idea that Glorfindel’s interest was piqued and so would not make this easy on his cousin.
“You are amusing, at least to yourself. I know you think that funny.”
The dark haired elf leaned over the table, smothering a self indulgent grin. They oft teased each other and had so since they were youngsters in Valinor when times were more carefree. Even in these dark days, with the evils they faced, it was good to have some levity and humor.
The march wardens of Doriath tucked into their food as soon as it arrived, eating it hot. It was savory and flavorful for mortal fare and they would have to compliment the cook for his or her skill. Beleg’s stew was full of meat and vegetables and given in large portion with a big piece of warm, fresh baked bread and softened butter. He ate his fill and had more to spare, sharing it with his companions. He lounged at the table, dipping pieces of bread in the left over soup, lazily eating past satiation.
“This is good, very good. I am well pleased.”
There were grunts of assent as the others worked on their mutton and potatoes. Their meals also were generously plated. The elves had been hungry and consumed their food for some time.
Later they sat back, someone belched loudly, causing a laugh amongst the group.
Glorfindel, ever watchful, waited until their plates were cleared and stood with dart boxes in hand.
“Make your move, Fin. Go to it.” Gildor was slightly in his cups and a bit cavalier.
His cousin laughed and sauntered across the room, approaching the wood elves in and open and friendly way.
“What say, you fair folk, to a friendly game of darts? We Noldor have bets that you are archers and good shots all. I am Glorfindel of Vinyamar, well met this night.”
Beleg was sitting with his shoulder slung over his chair and eyed the Elf casually.
“How many of you are there? You don’t challenge all of us, surely.”
“Two of us to two of you. My cousin is here to play.” Glorfindel gestured to where Gildor sat.
“Beleg is my name and Dariel and I will take your challenge. The loser shall buy pints for the winner. How is that?”
“Fair enough. We agree to those terms.” Glorfindel’s smile was like the sun rising over a hill and the march warden found he returned it in kind.
“Lead on, Lord Glorfindel.” For his status was apparent. “We will see how well we do in this Noldor-Sindar battle.”
The Noldo laughed as they made their way through the crowd toward the dartboard mounted on the wall on the northwest side. A red line was painted on the floor board to mark the appropriate throwing distance for the game. A foot could touch the paint but not go past it for a fair shot.
“We will play down the numbers from twenty to one in consecutive order. The outer ring is one point, the inner ring is three. One cannot go for a bull’s eye until hitting all the numbers in order first. Is this agreeable to you?”
“It is.” Beleg took a practice throw with a green dart, just south of the bull’s eye for his first attempt. This did not bode well for Glorfindel, though winning was not his main objective.
Gildor arrived and added, “We will score as teams and not as individuals.” He wiped the chalk board clean of the previous game’s tally and wrote ‘N’ on one side and ‘S’ on the other side, separated by a line, meant to signify Noldor and Sindar respectively.
“Agreed,” affirmed Dariel.
It became clear to Glorfindel that Gildor would be no help. He had imbibed too much ale to accurately throw a dart at the target. His aim was random, at best.
“Sorry, Glor,” punctuated each shot, in a somewhat pathetic showing from the Noldor elf.
“Fear not, we will rally.”
Beleg and companion were steadily working through the numbers down to ten while the golden haired elf could only boast seventeen at this time. Glorfindel reminded himself that it was not about the winning, but gaining information and diplomacy and so kept up conversation as they played, cheerful, light and mildly flirtatious if he might own, with the tall, broad shouldered elf who commanded the board.
As the leader hit the bull’s eye evenly and true, Glorfindel congratulated him, “Well done, Beleg, indeed you are good at this game. Shall we go another set?”
Gildor groaned as he leaned against the wall, looking the worse for wear. “I am done for and must seek my rest. I will see you in the morning, cousin. I am sorry to abandon the game but must do so.”
The other march warden begged off too and so the two remained. Glorfindel set his darts on the high table and quipped, “We could play or we could simply drink for the rest of the night.”
“Which ever you prefer. I could thrash you again, if you like.”
Glorfindel winked and put the darts into their case.
“I have had enough of a beating for tonight. Since your friend turned in, I can buy you two drinks. That is only fair.”
They walked back past the bar, leaving the darts there for the next players and returned to the march wardens’ table in the corner. Beleg sat in the corner, leaning his chair back, and Glorfindel took the seat to his right, flagging down Belle to take his order. He added two pieces of hot apple pie to that, a specialty of the house.
“Trust me, you will thank me later. It is the most delicious dessert you have ever had.”
“I do trust you.”
Beleg knew people and knew that he could put his faith in this Noldor elf, even with the conflict between their peoples and the edict of his king banning spoken Quenya as a measure against the kinslayers. He found Glorfindel to be uncommonly beautiful, almost painfully so. His eyes were arresting, a crystalline blue that made one think of a mountain stream or the sky on a perfect day. He could get lost in them if he chose to and he just might.
“What brings you to these parts, Beleg? We thought your people stayed within your borders as a rule…” Glorfindel asked his question directly with no guile. He felt it best to deal straightly.
Their drinks arrived, along with two large pieces of fresh baked apple pie.
“Here you go, sirs.” Belle whirled on her toes, disappearing into the crowd, taking their empty pints with her. She let her hips sway as she walked, giving both elves a full view of her assets.
“We travel far and wide in service of King Thingol, to gather information and see the lay of the lands in Middle Earth. All that happens can affect the security of our realm and so he needs to know what comes to pass. He is especially vigilant since the arrival of your people and so seeks to know your aims and ambitions.”
“Eat your pie while it is hot, Beleg. It is better that way. The apples are warm and delicious and melt in your mouth.” Glorfindel took a bite and so began to enjoy his own treat. The buttery crust melted on his tongue and he could easily distinguish the sugar and apple flavors. He always ordered apple pie when he was at The Ravenshead, without fail.
“Mmm.” Beleg was taking quick bites of his piece while Glorfindel ate more slowly, savoring each morsel. Soon the march warden was scraping his plate and looking comically forlorn at the empty porcelain.
“So quick and fleeting.”
“True indeed. That was a real treat. I wonder if they will share the secret.”
“I am sure you could wheedle it out of the innkeeper’s wife. She is the one who bakes the pie.” Glorfindel smiled as he licked his fork.
“Sheer genius.” Beleg was tempted to clean the plate with his fingers but possessed better manners. His mama would have been appalled had he done so.
In the main room, the shout was heard, “Last call! Get your orders in! Last call for the night!” Which meant it was well on to two in the morning and the pub was about to close. Abe usually made the announcement in his booming deep voice as Belle took the late night orders for her tables.
“What say you we order a bottle of wine and go to the stables to check on our horses? I am sure they will give us two glasses to go with that.” Glorfindel was not tired as of yet and enjoyed the Sinda’s company. He hoped that Beleg felt the same.
“That would be agreeable to me. I enjoy a good red wine, if you please.”
“I do also,” the golden elf assented.
He flagged down Belle as she skipped past their table and did the honors, ordering a fine local vintage and two glasses that they could return later. She delivered the opened bottle and two goblets back to them quick as lightning, not stopping with their bill.
“We will add it to your tab, Lord Glorfindel!”
She had a soft spot for the elves and had seen to Glorfindel first. The Elda laughed as she twirled away, tending to the very rowdy crowd trying to get their last drink orders in.
As they stepped outside, they could smell the freshness of the late Fall air, the turn of the season, and the local harvest of wheat that permeated the breeze. The Ravenshead Inn and Tavern was the central gathering place in a busy farming community within the land of Nevrast. Their produce supplied Turgon’s kingdom as well as the mortal settlements in that region.
Beleg’s boots crunched on the dirt path leading to the stables. He held the two glasses in one hand by the stems and they clinked together as he walked.
“It is, indeed.”
Glorfindel cradled their wine in one arm and led the way into Drago’s stall. The black stallion stomped as Glorfindel neared and snorted a very horse-like greeting. He hoped for treats of sugar or an apple, and so sniffed the air hopefully. The Elda grabbed some carrots from a bin and fed his steed over the partition.
“Here you go, boy. A little something for you tonight.”
“He is a beauty.”
“And he surely knows it.” Drago huffed, seeming to understand what Glorfindel had said.
“Horses are funny creatures.”
“Vain and arrogant while being brave and steadfast. Is that what you mean?”
Beleg laughed, a deep rich sound from his belly. He felt relaxed with Glorfindel and leaned against the stall absentmindedly.
“Where is your horse?” the golden elf asked, rubbing Drago’s nose and feeding him one last piece of the carrot. He checked the feed and straw, and made sure there was enough water for the night.
“She is over here. This spoiled one is named Fariel.”
The horse in question was a lovely brown mare who appeared to be munching on her grain. She barely looked up at them as they neared her enclosure, so intent was she on her dinner.
“Her name means ‘spirit’, does it not?” Glorfindel asked.
“It does indeed. Do not be fooled by how docile she is now. She can be a brat when she does not get her way.” Beleg laughed as Fariel gave him a rueful look, as if knowing what he said was true.
“Give her a carrot. She should have a treat.” The Elda handed his Sinda companion a carrot which he broke in half. Fariel snuffled over the wall of her stall seeking the sweet root vegetable.
Beleg fed her one large piece and they could both hear her munching it.
“Delicate, she is not.”
Glorfindel laughed at Beleg’s description of his mount and moved along past the tack room, into the larger part of the barn. The only area that looked comfortable was the hayloft so he grabbed a plaid blanket and called back.
“I think we should go up here. We can lounge and drink our wine.” He carried the wine bottle and blanket in his left arm and hoisted himself up the ladder with his right. Beleg followed suit, being careful not to break the wine glasses. Once above, Glorfindel spread out the blanket, which was large enough to cover a horse and so would fit them both. He uncorked the wine.
“Pass me those glasses.”
Beleg settled on the blue plaid and handed his companion the two wine goblets. Glorfindel poured them each a portion of the ruby red wine and placed the bottle in the hay, propped up so that it would not spill.
“Thank you, Glorfindel. Cheers to you.” Beleg smiled at the other elf, leaning himself up on one elbow with raised goblet.
The Elda touched their glasses together and said, “Here’s to us and chance meetings.”
Both drank to seal that toast. They spent some moments in silence enjoying the flavor of the full bodied wine.