Mrs Bedlow-Squires decided that she would go for a walk after her lunch. She told herself that she needed the exercise and if her walk took her past the private road leading to the cousins’ cottage then she might as well pay them a visit and leave her calling card. The private road was more of a track but at no time did the redoubtable lady consider that she should turn back. Nearing the house, she could hear voices and peeped through the garden hedge where she could just make out the two cousins sitting in the garden sharing a bottle of wine and reading books. A small cat brushed past her ankle, causing her to yelp in surprise. Looking again, she was sure that the occupants of the garden had not noticed and she stealthily crept away and carried on up the path.
The sturdy oak door rattled in the frame when Mrs Bedlow-Squires used the doorknocker. There was no reply. She knocked again and wondered if they could hear her. Etiquette demanded that she did not knock a third time and so she slipped her card through the letterbox after writing a short note on the back that she had called as she was in the area. Walking back down the track she peeped again through the hedge and saw that both cousins had fallen asleep. She was not convinced, and her face betrayed the fact, but there was nothing she could do.
“Harrumph…” she muttered to herself and stormed off back home. Her shoes were scuffed and covered in mud. The cousins really should get the track re-laid and she decided to mention it to Mr. Fin when she saw him again.
“Has she gone?” Erestor asked.
“I think so,” Fin said as he crossed the garden and peered through the small hole in the hedge.
That afternoon, Mrs Bedlow-Squires decided to call on her old friend Mrs Hawkinghurst. “Daisy darling, far be it from me to suggest that anything is amiss but have you noticed Mr. Fin’s ears?”
“Yes, they have little points on them,” Daisy Hawkinghurst observed.
“Well, I should not really tell you this as every one else, apart from you, dear heart, will be rather envious, but today I went to see them both and noticed that his cousin Mr. Erestor has pointed ears too.” Mrs Bedlow-Squires took a sip of her tea out of the rose decorated bone china cup that Daisy brought out for non-special occasions. “Do you suppose they might have foreign parents?”
Daisy was never one to fall for implication. “Did they actually invite you in, dearest?” she asked ingenuously.
Mrs Bedlow-Squires shifted uncomfortably but brazened it out. “Sweet one, I made it quite clear to them both that I was not able to stop and left my card instead.”
“Did they even answer the door?” Daisy Hawkinghurst asked and then took a small bite of her almond biscuit.
“Really Daisy, sweet one, how can you think such a thing?” Mrs Bedlow-Squires said and drank the last of her tea. “I really do not know what goes on in that suspicious head of yours sometimes.” The lady made much of looking at her new wristwatch and announced that she had to go as she had an appointment at the hairdressers.
“Shouldn’t think there is much they can do with your mop,” Daisy Hawkinghurst tartly observed and said goodbye to her friend as she hurriedly left.
That night Erestor lay with Glorfindel holding him, as he always did. He could not sleep. Nighttime was the worst time for him and he dare not sleep because of the nightmares he suffered. In the end, sleep would come and he would wake yelling out and panicking whilst Fin tried to calm him. It was always the same.
Nearly a year and a half before, Erestor had witnessed many thousands of soldiers die or become seriously injured when going over the top of the trenches into No Man’s Land in the Battle of the Somme. He had witnessed death many times before, but it was the wholesale slaughter which shocked him and had ultimately broken his spirit. What disturbed him even more were the troops moved from other areas, who were also to go over the top in a second wave. He wondered when the madness would end as he looked dispassionately at one of the war artists hurriedly sketching the carnage beyond.
Over in the distance, hidden by a tree he saw a slight movement. Erestor lunged forward and pulled the soldier down from his perch as the bullet thudded against the sandbag. “Do the rest from memory,” Erestor told him and noticed that his hands were violently shaking.
The cries of the injured continued well into the evening and Erestor was one of the volunteers who made their way out into No Man’s Land to collect them. As the soldiers picked up the young men, they too, were picked off by sniper bullets. Erestor had the elven gift of passing unnoticed when he did not wish to be seen and so he was never a target. He stood in the middle of the field of death, hearing the cries of the injured, and tears rolled down his cheeks. It was too much.
“Lord Manwë,” he roared towards the sky. “They are not yours but please help them.”
Only one soldier marvelled with wonder at the longhaired warrior in his blindingly bright mithril and leather armour holding his flashing sword to the sky and looking upwards. That is how Erestor appeared to him, but the other soldiers, on both sides, saw no change at all. All they saw was the crazy war artist shouting up to the sky.
“We are already here,” a quiet voice said by his side. Námo stood with two elves who looked lost and uncertain.
“Melpomaen?” Erestor said as he recognised the first elf. He looked at Námo questioningly who nodded.
“This is Annárë, my soul mate,” Melpomaen said. “We thought that staying on Middle-earth would be a jolly adventure.”
“For the most part it was,” Annárë said and then took his beloved’s hand.
Námo and the elves faded from sight, and as they did so, they rose away from the ground and into the sky as Erestor watched them.
“I will help you, Erestor,” Manwë said as he materialised beside the grieving warrior.
“I do not want to be here anymore; I have had enough,” Erestor said, his voice breaking. “I cannot do this anymore.”
A hand on his shoulder filled his being with warmth and a familiar, long-missed voice told him that she would give him the strength to continue. Nienna filled his being with light and gave him a new sense of purpose. Erestor walked in between the injured and felt the burden of choosing who was to be rescued and who was too far gone. Sometimes a dying hand would grasp at his ankle, only to be released as the soldier expired. He picked the most vocal amongst the injured as he considered that they had the best chance of survival. It was as though they weighed nothing. He balanced two men in his arms and delivered them to the trench, to the awe of those receiving them. They were not weightless to the soldiers who took them from Erestor’s arms, and those who saw it talked about his legendary strength for many years after. He knew he could not save everyone and picked those most likely to live, until Manwë put his hand on his shoulder and told him that it was time to stop.
Erestor felt defeated but knew that he could not carry on forever. The hail of bullets continued although none of them would ever reach their mark; Manwë made sure of that.
“Go now and rest,” Nienna told him.
“How can I?” Erestor asked. “How can I ever sleep again after all this?”
“Glorfindel will help you,” Nienna said as she kissed his forehead. “Go now, I give you a good sleep this night and that is all I can do until we meet again.” The Vala disappeared from sight and the battlefield was now filled with a transient peace that would last until the morning when all the quietness would be gone.
Erestor jumped back into the trench and his appearance to the one soldier who saw him in his true form was as it was before, a shorthaired soldier with a gun instead of a sword.
“What was that? What happened out there,” one of the other soldiers said in an awestruck voice.
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Erestor said with an easy smile.
“You didn’t see the angels?” the soldier looked into Erestor’s seemingly confused face. “Never mind, I know what I saw.” He shrugged and walked away.
The bed was damp, as it always was, but Erestor needed the sleep; he felt irritable and had a blinding headache. His hands shook and it was difficult to focus properly. A good sleep should sort that out.
“Excuse me,” the voice of a fresh-faced young soldier asked as he peered into the room cut into the side of the trench. “I know you are resting but I have something to show you.”
The soldier walked in with a piece of paper on which he had sketched the warrior he saw in No Man’s Land. “Look, I saw you change into this man here. I drew it very quickly and wondered if you could explain the beautiful beings who stood beside you.” The young soldier hesitated for a moment. “Were they angels?”
“They were the Valar,” Erestor smiled. “They are the gods of the elves and two elves died fighting today.”
“Elves don’t exist,” the young soldier said with concern. “Are you all right?”
“You are talking to one,” Erestor said with a tired, wan smile. “Look at my ears.”
“I have seen your ears before but thought that you just had pointed ears.” The young soldier thought that it was not right that Erestor should make fun of him but said nothing as, for all he knew, Erestor might be suffering the effects of shock.
“Do you disbelieve the evidence of your own eyes?” Erestor asked, and pointed to the slip of paper.
“It is hard to understand,” the young soldier admitted, furrowing his brow and wishing to remain polite. “I wish it was easier.”
“Perhaps one day you can write about what you saw to keep it in your memory.” Erestor smiled at the young soldier who replied that he would not know where to start. “What is your name, young one?”
“My name is Tolkien, John Tolkien. I am a communications officer here. Nice to meet you.” The young soldier grinned and shook Erestor’s hand. The smile was replaced by awe as his head filled with the images and chronicles of the elves and their existence and subsequent departure from Middle-earth. “You really are an elf,” he exclaimed in wonder and understanding as Erestor released his grip.
“Go write what you have seen, young one,” Erestor smiled. “May the Valar guide your hand and may Elbereth’s starry veil light your way.”
“Are you still awake?” Glorfindel asked as he felt Erestor shift in his arms.
“I am nearly asleep,” Erestor said as he snuggled nearer to his mate.
“Well nearly asleep is not good enough.” Glorfindel grinned as he gently stroked his lover’s face.
They kissed and in a short while, Erestor closed his eyes to welcome the sleep that for the first time was peace-filled and deep.
Glorfindel looked upon his mate’s beauty, smiled, and closed his eyes.
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Chapter notes: Beta: Keiliss
Summary: Story set just after the First World War. Erestor lives in an English Village with Glorfindel. Their neighbours are extremely curious, not least because the status of the newcomers might make their village famous enough to have its own extension of the railway line.