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The Messenger
by Mirasaui

Summary: Erestor is the victim of a prank and wonders who is behind it.
Disclaimer: The characters are Tolkien's creations, not mine. This is all just for fun.
Story Notes: Boxes within boxes, notes in closets. My family had quirky ideas when it came to gift giving. It is not surprising they made their way into this tale. Humour, romance, mild slash, AU. Rated: PG-13
Characters: Erestor/The Messenger
Thanks to my beta, Alex_cat.

It was a day no different from any other, except Erestor was tired and had a stack of papers on his desk that seemed never-ending. Most were unimportant, trivial, receipts that needed his signature, but others required research. He had just finished a detailed analysis of the effects of fire blight on apple orchards. This disease occurred only when certain conditions were met, but it could devastate production, destroying not only the fruit, but also the trees. Records had been kept for the last century and it was found that the disease erupted about once every seven to nine years. Efforts to fight it had come to naught and those in control of the orchards were desperate for the results of the study.

In fact, there was somebody who was desperate for just about every item in the stack upon Erestor's desk, or so it seemed, for elves had been popping in and out all day inquiring about this one or that. He sighed, picking up the next document from the top of the stack. At least all this one required was transcription and his signature. He set to work on it and after about 20 minutes, laid it in the finished pile on the left. But the bin of work did not appear any smaller. Sighing again, he grabbed the next document and with weary eyes began to read it. It was hastily written, almost illegible, and he had to read it through twice to make sure of all the words. Then he put it down and frowned. This is what it said:

Messsenger Note One

Was this some type of joke? One clue, aside from the poorly written note, was that any and all persons of the messenger guild were always properly received in Imladris. None would dare walk into the kitchen and tell the head cook to hold a package for Elrond's Chief Advisor. And, if the messenger had any knowledge of the kitchen staff, she would be the last he would turn to! The mistress of the kitchen had a temper that would outmatch a balrog! Besides, she would never allow such foolishness to occur in her domain.

Erestor snorted. He laid the note aside and returned to his work, but his eyes kept straying to the letter. After finishing a quarter of the task before him, he decided a snack would be in order. Of course, this would require he visit the kitchen, and while there, it would not hurt to ask the cook about the package.

Placing his quill in its holder, he yawned, stood and stretched and with a swish of his robe was on his way to the kitchen. He was barely through the door when the head cook touched his arm.

"Good morning, Lord Erestor, how is your day? I have a package for you that a young ellon left. He said you would be coming to my kitchen to pick it up."

She went into the larder and returned with a small box covered with fabric. A note on the top was addressed to Lord Erestor. She gave him the box and a plate of sweet pies, knowing it was one of his favourite treats. "I am sure you could use something to tide you over until dinner."

Erestor accepted the package and the gift in a state of semi-shock. The head cook of Imladris ruled her kitchen with an iron hand. No one was allowed into her territory without good reason, and usually a snack was issued only with much grumbling and complaining. Thanking his lucky stars he had caught her in an expansive mood, he quickly left the kitchen with his pies. Heading back to his office, he shook the box to see if he could tell what was inside. Nothing rattled or moved, and the box itself was quite light. Overcome with curiosity, he increased his pace and soon was back at his desk.

He finished the pies then wiped his hands with a handkerchief he kept in the pocket of his robe. Placing the box on the desktop in front of him, he cut the bindings and un-wrapped the fabric. What remained was a simple box made of unfinished wood. He opened the top of the box and was surprised to find another note inside. He unfolded it and read:

Messenger Note Two

Erestor ran his hands through his hair. By now he was sure it was a prank, most probably thought up by Lord Glorfindel or the twins. Yes, they were just the elves to pull a stupid trick like that. Erestor was not amused. He did not have the time to waste on trips to the kitchen or the stables, especially to end up as the butt of someone's joke. He pushed the box and the note aside and worked steadily for the next hour. But he could not stop thinking about it, and every so often he found his eyes straying that way again.

"Elbereth," he muttered. He could use a break, a bit of fresh air would not do him any harm. It was not that far to the stables, he would retrieve the package and kill two birds with one stone. Once more, he rose from his chair and with a nonchalant air, headed out of his office.

The air was sweet with the smell of spring flowers as he made his way to the stables. Erestor passed a few elves he knew, and they smiled and forced him to stop for conversation. After an exchange of pleasantries, comments about the weather and the season, a discussion of the state of affairs of the elven haven, and a bit of gossip about Lord Elrond's seneschal, he was able to make his excuses and continue on his trek toward the stable.

As he approached the large structure, one of the grooms, who was sitting outside the door on a bale of hay, lazily waved his hand at Erestor. "Do you wish me to ready your mare, Lord Erestor?"

"Ah no, that will not be necessary." Erestor returned, wondering how he should phrase the question he wanted to ask next. "I simply came to check if she is all right."

"If you need me, give a call." The groom answered, not bothering to move from his comfortable perch.

Erestor gave him a glare, but nodded, entering the darkened interior of the building. Once his eyes grew used to the lack of light, he grabbed an apple from a sack near the entrance and headed toward the stalls. Whistling softly to catch his mare's attention, he held an arm over the gate with the apple in his out-stretched hand. The horse nickered softly and nudged Erestor's arm with her head before large ticklish lips whisked the fruit away. Erestor smiled as she made short work of the treat. He patted her nose and pulled at her forelock teasingly, then left the stall and began to search for the head lad.

Before he had gone far, the lad himself came out of the tack room, dusting off his hands and giving Lord Erestor a warm welcome.

"Mae govannen, Lord Erestor, I have a parcel for you. Wait here a moment and I will fetch it."

"Oh?" Erestor pretended surprise, watching as the elf turned back into the tack room. The lad retuned quickly, bearing a small wooden crate.

"This was left for you this morning." He said, handing over the box to Erestor.

"Thank you," Erestor replied. "Did you know the person who delivered it?" Erestor tried to keep any eagerness from his voice, acting as if this was a general inquiry.

"I do not know the elf personally, but from his garb, he was a messenger from Lothlórien."

Erestor thanked the lad again, and carrying his package, left the stable yard to return to his office.

As he walked, he shook the crate, wondering what could be inside. As before, there was no rattle or noise of any kind that came from within, and not wishing to show a lot of interest in what he carried, he put it under his arm and walked with sprightly steps back to the Last Homely House.

Once again a package sat on his desk while Erestor returned to his work. "I will not give this jokester the satisfaction of showing interest in his prank." Erestor thought to himself, and worked quietly on his papers for about 30 minutes. Of course, his eyes kept straying to the crate that sat so innocently on his desktop.

"It would not hurt to open it now," he thought. But before he picked it up, he secretly glanced around the room to be sure no one was watching.

Satisfied there were no eyes upon him, he began to remove the pegs that held the top fast. He lifted the lid and placed it on the desk beside the crate. He looked inside and sighed. Resting on the bottom of the box was a note.

Erestor took it out, unfolded it and read:

Messenger Note Three

Erestor groaned. "Do not tell me Lord Elrond is in on this also!" For by now, Erestor knew it had to be a prank. "This is not funny. I have a mound of paperwork on my desk that needs attention." Erestor once again ran his fingers through his hair. He was not happy. Bound and determined to get to the bottom of this, he stormed out of his office and a few moments later knocked upon the door to Lord Elrond's chambers.

"Enter," a commanding voice called out, and Erestor did not hesitate. "Lord Elrond..." he began, walking into his lord's sitting room.

Elrond looked up from a book he was reading. "Erestor," he said with a smile, "I was about to come looking for you. I was speaking with the messenger from Lothlórien. He had a package for you. The messenger rode long and hard to reach Imladris, so I said I would see you received it, and sent him to rest."

As Elrond was speaking, he walked to a large table and picked up a box, bringing it to Erestor.

"I know the routine by now," Erestor said in an irritated voice. "I open the package and there is a note inside directing me to go somewhere else. I am not going to do it! I have work that needs to be done. You can open the package yourself if you like. I am returning to my office."

"But, Erestor..." Elrond began, hurrying after his advisor. It was no use. Erestor had rounded the corner and was gone. "What in all of Arda is wrong with Erestor?" Elrond wondered, going back into his chambers and placing the box on the table. "Perhaps, Lord Glorfindel was right. Erestor was working too hard, spending too much time at his desk"

Erestor, now back at his paperwork, found he could not concentrate. Who was behind this business with the packages? Glorfindel was number one on his list. It would be just like the seneschal to write such silly notes, but Elladan and Elrohir could not be discounted. Then again, perhaps all three had joined together to make fun of him. Why could they not realize the importance of his work?

Lord Elrond depended upon him and so did many others of the household. Lord Glorfindel would not be amused if Erestor interfered with the training of his troops, or kept him from completing his duty roster. Erestor sighed. Nine times out of ten, it was Erestor who helped Glorfindel finish the roster. And the twins, they thought of Erestor only as their stuffy old tutor. They did not give him the time of day unless they needed something. Then they would come to him with pleading eyes and cajoling looks.

He rose from his chair, not able to continue with his work. That package sitting in Lord Elrond's room kept preying on his mind. Of course, it would contain another note. But, if he did not retrieve it, he would never find out who wished to disrupt his day. Erestor paced back and forth, the mystery driving him crazy, and the gall of the person or persons who perpetrated the joke, flaming his fury.

Throwing his hands into the air, he stormed down the corridor and up the stairs, heading once again to Lord Elrond's chambers. Entering without a knock, he stalked over to the table and grabbed the package. Lord Elrond, who had settled back down with his book, simply stared at Erestor in astonishment.

"I will find out who is behind all of this and they will pay!" Erestor muttered to himself, leaving the room the same way he had entered, in a hurry and upset.

"But Erestor..." Lord Elrond said with a sigh to the empty room, for his advisor had once again disappeared in a huff. Elrond shook his head and gave up. "Whatever is the matter," he thought, "Erestor will straighten it out. If he needs my help, he will ask for it."

The package was almost weightless, confirming Erestor's suspicions, and he carried it not to his office this time, but to his room. He set the package on the bed and poured himself a glass of wine before opening it. His nerves were on edge and he needed the calmness the alcohol would provide. After a few sips of the heady wine, and a few deep calming breaths, he put down his glass and sat on the bed, taking the package in hand. He opened it, and pulled out the expected note. Unfolding it, he read:

Messenger Note Four

Erestor's eyes narrowed. So it was Lord Glorfindel behind this madness. If I go to his rooms for the package, he will be waiting for me, and no telling what is on *his* mind. Erestor smirked. Glorfindel could not really expect him to fall for that trap. He smiled to himself as he walked down the hall and knocked on a door. The door opened and a dark-haired elf looked at Erestor in surprise. "Lord Erestor? Come in." Melpomaen said, feeling somewhat flustered. It was his day off and the last elf he expected at his door was Erestor.

"I am sorry to disturb you on your day of rest, Melpomaen, but I need a favour. It will not take long. Lord Glorfindel has left a package in his room for me, and I do not wish to speak with him at the moment. I wondered if you would retrieve the package. Glorfindel has given permission to take it from his room."

"Of course, my lord Erestor," Melpomaen replied, wondering why Erestor wished to avoid the seneschal, but not daring to ask. "I will go right away."

Erestor watched as Melpomaen hurried down the corridor. He waited impatiently for the young elf's return, and was surprised to see him come back so quickly.

"Here is your package, Lord Erestor. You need not have worried; Lord Glorfindel was not in his room." Melpomaen looked at Erestor for an explanation, but one did not come forth. Instead, Erestor thanked Melpomaen and left, leaving the young scribe more curious than before.

Erestor was curious also. He had thought for sure that Glorfindel was the culprit. Now, he just wanted to open the box and find out what the next note said. Work had become secondary to solving this mystery.

Back in his room, Erestor wasted no time opening the box and unfolding the note. He growled when he read its contents:

Messsenger Note Five

Crumpling the note into a ball, Erestor threw it across the room. "As if I could work now!" He said out loud, irritated beyond all reason at this last revelation. Who was this messenger anyway, to decide a package for him was not urgent? Erestor fumed and fussed and paced until it was time to get ready for dinner. He bathed, donned a new robe and quickly ran a comb through his hair. "I will not let this upset me anymore," he decided, counting to ten and taking four deep breaths. Squaring his shoulders and straightening his robe, he left the room and headed for the dining hall.

Erestor groaned inwardly when he saw the elf sitting at Lord Elrond's table talking to Lord Glorfindel. None other than Lord Celeborn's marchwarden, Haldir! If there was another that could cause as much trouble as Lord Glorfindel, it was he. Arrogant, hard-headed, stubborn as a mule, Haldir sometimes functioned as a messenger between the two realms, especially if there was important communication to be delivered to Lord Elrond. Erestor knew he had to be gracious and kind to the visitor from the Golden Woods, but he was determined to know why Haldir had sent him running all over creation. Pasting what he knew was surely a false smile on his face; he took his seat at the table.

Lord Elrond smiled at his advisor. "Lord Erestor, I hope the rest of your day has gone well. We await Lindir, and then dinner will begin. You, of course, know Marchwarden Haldir. He will be staying with us a few days."

Elrond's greeting was interrupted by Lindir's entrance into the dining hall. The minstrel apologized for being late and quickly took his seat. Lord Elrond motioned to his steward and the first course was served.

Once the servants had moved away from the table, Erestor opened his mouth to speak to Haldir. But Haldir spoke first. "I am sorry, Lord Erestor, that I could not deliver your package. I had a terribly rushed day."

Erestor glared at Haldir. "You had enough time to write those illiterate notes and wrap them in boxes!"he said.

Haldir looked at Erestor questioningly. "What notes? I did not write any notes, Erestor. I only accepted a package for you and gave it to Lord Elrond." Haldir turned to the Lord of Imladris.

"Erestor claimed the package himself," Elrond said, raising his eyebrow at Erestor. "Although, I must say, Erestor, you looked decidedly unhappy about it."

All eyes turned to Erestor, who decided to drop the subject. "Never mind, it was not important."

Erestor turned to Lindir and began a new conversation, leaving everyone else at the table wondering what had the advisor so perturbed.

The dinner seemed to last forever, and the more the marchwarden laughed and joked with Lords Elrond and Glorfindel, the more irritated Erestor became. He would go to the stable after dinner and see this charade through, but he was angry. Finally, Lord Elrond declared the meal ended, and Erestor was able to return to his room. There he sat, trying to make up his mind whether to retrieve the package or not. Finally, he sighed. "I might as well get this over with."

It was almost dark by the time Erestor left The Last Homely House, heading reluctantly toward the stables once more. "I am a fool," he thought. "I should go back to my room and forget all about today. But try as I might, I cannot control my curiosity." He slowed down his pace, looking around him to see if anyone was about, who might be watching him discretely. But he did not see a soul.

The lanterns were already lit at the barn, and their light cast a welcome orange glow. Opening the large double doors of the stable, Erestor peeked inside. Lanterns also lit the interior, but there were still many shadowed areas, and Erestor could see no messenger waiting with a package. He walked further into the structure, heading for the stalls. There, he saw a silver-haired elf, dressed in the colours of Lothlórien, leaning against a post, facing away from the door.

From the way the elf stood, Erestor knew who it was right away. Haldir! There was no mistaking that form.

"I am tired of these games, marchwarden!" Erestor said huffily, crossing over towards Haldir. "hat is the purpose of the notes which you so innocently denied writing? What do you want!"

Haldir turned around slowly, only it was not Haldir that looked back at Erestor.

The elf had the same shining silver hair, broad muscled shoulders, pale blue eyes; his features were very similar to the marchwarden, but it was not he. The eyes that looked at Erestor were not cold and calculating, but wide and beguiling, set in a face that was cherubic and rosy. This was not the arrogant elf Haldir, but Haldir's younger brother!

"Rúmil...?" Erestor said in a softer voice, seeing a small package clutched in the elf's hands. "You are the messenger?"

"Lord Erestor," Rúmil said shyly, "I am sorry about the notes. Rúmil lowered his eyes to the package that he held, and Erestor noticed the young elf's hands were shaking. "I wanted to give you this final package."

Erestor took the box from Rúmil's hands and opened it slowly. Inside, wrapped in a soft cloth, were three silver Mallorn leaves, soldered together to form a beautiful hair clip. It was a lovely piece, finely crafted, and Erestor gazed at it in awe. "Whoever could have sent me this?" Erestor wondered, looking at the clip and then at Rúmil, for there was not a note or a name anywhere on the box.

"I only delivered it," Rúmil said, then rushed by Erestor and almost ran out of the stables. Erestor stood there spell-bound, turning the clip over and over in his hand. He had thought this all a prank. He never expected to receive such a gift. As he turned to leave, a flash of white on the ground caught his eye. It was a folded note, which must have dropped from the box when he opened it. He bent down, picked it up, and read:

Messenger Note Six

Erestor smiled. Such writing would never grace the shelves of the library, but the words came from the heart. He tucked the note inside his robe and quickly pinned the clip in his hair. Moments later, he was walking swiftly to The Last Homely House, heading for a specific room.

"Did you deliver the package?" Haldir asked his brother, as Rúmil quietly entered the bedchamber.

"Yes," Rúmil answered, looking sad and downhearted.

"And?" Haldir prompted, "What did Erestor say?"

"He asked who could have possibly given him such a gift." Rúmil replied, turning away from Haldir.

"You did not tell him it was from you, Rúmil?" Haldir looked totally amazed. "You spend a good month's salary on that hair clip, and you let Erestor think it a gift from someone else? Are you daft, brother? And what of the notes that Erestor questioned me about, what was in that other package you wanted *me* to deliver? Just how many gifts did you buy for Erestor?"

"I-I did not have the nerve to give the box to Erestor right away, Haldir. Do you remember that game you played on Orophin's begetting day? You left notes, sending him to different locations until he found the bow, the one we made for him. And remember how he was upset at first, but then hugged us, telling us it was his best begetting day ever?"

"I remember," Haldir replied slowly. His eyes widened. "You did not...you did not do the same with Erestor, did you Rúmil? Is that what he meant by notes?"

"I thought..." Rúmil began, but whatever he was about to say was interrupted by a knock at the door.

Haldir crossed the room and opened it, only to be met by an elf dressed in the colours of the messenger guild of Imladris. He handed Haldir a folded parchment then left. Haldir looked at the writing on the front. It was addressed to Rúmil. He looked at his brother oddly and handed him the note. "It is for you."

Rúmil unfolded the parchment with trembling fingers. Inside, written in fine, neat lettering was the following:

Messenger Note Seven

Rúmil smiled at Haldir, a grin that went from ear to ear. "Do not expect me back tonight, brother. I, ahem, have an engagement." With that, Rúmil headed for the bath. Almost an hour later, he was dressed, smelling like a bouquet of flowers. He bid a cheerful good-bye to Haldir and walked out the door.

Haldir grinned and shook his head, his younger brother and Erestor? Stranger things have happened. He relaxed and lay back upon the bed, happy to have the room to himself.

Rúmil's heart was beating madly in his chest as he almost skipped down the corridor to the room of Erestor. He knocked upon the door and it opened at his touch. He hesitantly entered the chamber then stopped, seeing the covers on the bed pulled back and a large folded note laying on the sheet.

Dreading what he would find, he picked it up and opened it.

"The balcony." was all it said. Slowly Rúmil pulled aside the curtains to the balcony. Erestor stood leaning against the railing looking at the stars, Rúmil's clip fastened in his ebony hair. He turned and held out his arms to Rúmil, who went into them willingly, tipping his head up to kiss Erestor's lips.

Erestor returned the kiss then smiled. "Next time you visit Imladris, Rúmil, a simple knock on my door and a question will suffice." He took Rúmil's hand and led him to his bed.

Three months later, Rúmil returned home from another tour of duty. He had just entered his talan and dropped his carry sack upon the floor, when there was a knock at his door. He sighed and went to open it. A messenger stood there dressed in the brown and red of Imladris. He handed Rúmil a package. Rúmil opened the box and looked inside. Lying within was a white rose and a smaller box of luscious, dark red cherries. He smiled, remembering fondly three lovely nights in Imladris. There was also a note inside, and he opened it and read:

Messenger Note Eight

He sighed, wishing he were back in Imladris, and went to run his bath. But before he entered the bath chamber, he noticed a flickering light coming from his bed room. He walked over and opened the door.

Candles were everywhere, giving the room a soft glow, and lying in the middle of his bed, clad only in a red bow tied to a very prominent appendage, was Erestor. "Did you get my package?" Erestor asked, "My sweet messenger?"

Rúmil nodded emphatically and smiled. He removed his uniform and climbed into bed next to Erestor, placing his messenger pin on the nightstand. It was the last time he would wear it, for he had quit the guild, and was now one of the galadhrim, a guard of the northern border.

They snuggled and embraced and kissed and soon the bed rocked in an age old rhythm. Neither awoke until late the next afternoon. When Erestor's business with Lord Celeborn and Galadriel was finished each day of his stay, he could be found in Rúmil's talan, but none wished to disturb the counsellor or the Silvan elf.

Erestor left a week later with a keepsake, an enamel pin that he wore close to his heart. During the long ride back to Imladris, he would finger it, thinking of silver hair, large blue eyes, rosy cheeks and loving embraces. Rúmil might no longer wear the metal emblem, but Erestor would treasure it, for it reminded him of his sweet-faced lover. To Erestor, no matter what Rúmil did in the future, no matter what uniform he wore, no matter the title that he bore, he would always be, The Messenger. Erestor smiled -- his messenger.

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