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Laying the Foundation by Lotrfan

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Author notes:

I have taken a few liberties with the Second Age timeline and canon. I just really wanted Erestor and Elrond to have this conversation.

(See the end of the work for more notes.)


They had crossed the Hithaeglir, bringing a small remnant of the survivors of Eregion with them, the ones who had chosen not to follow Galadriel to Lothlorien or travel to join Gil-Galad in Lindon. Elrond and Erestor had ridden ahead, to scout out a safe location to make camp for the night.

"This is the place, Erestor. We make camp here for now but this will be where we build our city," Elrond slipped off his horse and moved to the edge of the path, to look at the whole valley visible below them.

Erestor frowned as he surveyed the terrain. "This may be fine for a camp but it will not be easy to fortify, Elrond, deep in a valley like this."

"Gondolin was in a valley. I am not building a fortress, Erestor. The valley will provide its own protection. This will be our city of Imladris," Elrond replied.

Erestor snorted. "This path is neither treacherous enough nor defensible enough. The only protection it affords is how narrow it is—it will not allow more than two side by side, for whatever that is worth."

"I am not building a fortress," Elrond repeated. "This is no Himring."

"High, forbidding, cold and desolate worked very well." Erestor responded.

"Substitute tall for high and that is a very accurate description of Maedhros himself," Elrond smiled at Erestor.

"Well, who would have chosen to live in a forsaken place like that, other than Maedhros?" Erestor said irritably. "But it served its purpose. I have my doubts about how good a location this is, Elrond."

"We are building a city for refugees, Erestor. It is meant to be a haven, a sanctuary. It must be accessible, not remote," Elrond replied. "This is to be a place where all the Free Peoples of Middle Earth are welcome, where they can find healing, rest, peace and counsel. This is not just for the remnant of the Noldor who escaped Eregion."

"The Union of Maedhros welcomed all the Free Peoples of Middle Earth and that did not turn out well," Erestor grumbled.

"That was a union of war. This is a union of peace. There is a difference."

"As you say, Elrond. I still have concerns about the security. It may do very well as a temporary camp but who knows what foul creatures dwell in the mountain caves of the Hithaeglir?" Erestor said.

"As you said, gaining access to this valley is by the paths only. It will be impossible for a large force to invade both quickly and secretly, " Elrond said. "I have full confidence in your ability to manage the defenses and our warriors, Erestor."

Erestor put his hand on Elrond's shoulder and met his gaze, his expression stern and grim. "I will not take that on, Elrond. I will be a warrior no more," Erestor said.

"You pledged your sword and your loyalty to the House of Fëanor. . ." Elrond began.

"The House of Fëanor and that pledge of mine died on a bloody field in Eregion, lashed to Sauron's banner and pierced by Orc arrows," Erestor said bitterly. "I pledge myself to you, Elrond. But not as your general and not as a warrior."

Elrond laid his arm across Erestor's shoulders. "The House of Fëanor did not die out in Eregion. You know one of that House still lives to bind you to your fealty. But I will take whatever you can offer me, my friend."

"Maglor does not hold my fealty, Elrond. He renounced all his ties with his actions. I will do anything you require of me but I will not raise a sword in battle again, only in the dire need to defend the lives of my companions or those I love, no more," Erestor said.

"As you wish, mellon. You functioned as the seneschal at Himring for many years before I met you," Elrond gave Erestor a sidelong look. "I would be honored to have you be my right hand man in Imladris." His eyes shone with amusement at Erestor's visible irritation at his choice of words.

"It was not funny when Maedhros used to call me that and it is not funny now, Elrond," Erestor growled.

"You know he meant it. You were his right hand—you did all he could not do for himself and would not ask another to do for him," Elrond replied.

"I did what I needed to do and no more," Erestor said.

"As I hope you will do for me as well, my friend," Elrond returned. "I value your presence and your advice."

Silence stretched between them as they looked out over the valley. "If you are not building a fortress what do you plan on building, Elrond? This terrain is poorly suited for a citadel or a castle," Erestor mused.

"No citadel and no castle. This is not a kingdom and I am no king," Elrond said.

"You could be," Erestor muttered.

"Erestor. Gil-Galad is my king."

"You are just as much a descendant of kings as he is. You have the right—more so in fact-as you come not only in direct line from the High King of the Noldor but of the King of Doriath as well!" Erestor returned.

Elrond rubbed his forehead. This was not the first time they had argued this issue. "We have been through this before. The kingship is Gil-Galad's for the Noldor and Oropher's for the Sindar, by their descent and right."

"You are descended from Fingolfin and from Thingol himself. Not to mention you have Maiar blood as well," Erestor growled back.

"Blood of Sindar, Noldor, Maiar and of Men as well, but what does it matter? I am a mix of all but kingship is not my fate, not my desire, nor, despite your words, my right." He touched Erestor's arm. "Enough, Erestor. We have suffered through a grievous defeat in Eregion but our leadership is secure in Gil-Galad. My task is to build a home for these survivors of Eregion and my goal is to found a haven for all who seek it in Middle Earth. I would have you aid me in this and put aside this talk of kingship."

"I will do what I must to help you create this Imladris of yours," Erestor sighed. "Come, let us go down into this blasted valley and see what we can make of this place." Erestor spoke a few words to his horse and then strode further down the path that led to the valley below, Elrond falling into step beside him. Erestor evaluated the mountains surrounding them as they walked. "This valley is not as large as Tumladen and it is far narrower. You will not be able to build a city the size of Gondolin here," Erestor said, eyeing their surroundings critically.

"Perhaps not an entire city but multiple small dwellings would work here, connected by paths to a larger, central building. A Homely House," Elrond said, grinning at Erestor now.

Erestor snorted. "You do realize Maedhros called our home that in jest?"

"Perhaps. But the house we shared was exactly that—a Homely House. It wasn't much of anything when we found it but we made it a home," Elrond swept his arm to encompass the valley around them. "There is nothing here now but we will make this our home, Erestor."

"You really mean to do this, Elrond?" Erestor asked.

"I do. I have thought about it for many years," Elrond admitted. "By the end there was no place for them. No place that would take them in, because of who they were and who they had become. No place where they could find sanctuary. No place where they could rest. No place where they were not judged," he finished bitterly.

"Don't delude yourself into thinking it would have ended differently, Elrond, if they had such a place. It would not have. The Oath drove them and it never ceased driving them, no matter where they were or who they were with," Erestor said.

Elrond did not reply. They had reached the bottom of the valley. Erestor stood next to him, shoulder to shoulder. "I know you wish it had not ended the way it did, Elrond. There was nothing that we could have done to change the outcome," Erestor sighed and bumped Elrond's arm. "We cannot change the past and we cannot bring them back." As he spoke Erestor turned to Elrond, a shocked expression on his face as realization came over him. "You think he will come find you here? That if you create this sanctuary he might somehow return to you? Elrond, you know that will not happen!"

Elrond frowned at Erestor. "I do it for us, Erestor, and for the people of Middle Earth. It may be in memory of Maglor and Maedhros, I will admit that." His frown deepened. "And if he should hear of it? If he should come? I would never turn him away!" Elrond's voice rose with his words.

Erestor laid a hand on his friend's arm. "I never thought you would turn him away," He made a wry face. "Quite the opposite. Knowing you, you would run to greet him, seat him next to you at dinner and expect him to sing to you in the evening!"

"Your point being what, Erestor?" Elrond asked frostily.

"That you still think like a child regarding Maglor!" Erestor said.

"Perhaps that is because he is my father, Erestor," Elrond raised an eyebrow at his friend, his tone still cold.

"He is not and you know that," Erestor grumbled.

"He is the father that raised me. One of two fathers I was fortunate enough to be blessed with, when our own parents left us behind," Elrond countered.

"Oh, all right then!" Erestor conceded. "I know how you feel about him, Elrond. I was there too, if you remember," Erestor exhaled loudly. "It has never done you any favors being associated with them, you know. No favors for either of us, if we are going to be honest. " Erestor looked troubled. "You will not find many allies if your first guest happens to be a Kinslaying Son of Fëanor, Elrond."

It was Elrond's turn to sigh. "I know," he said quietly. "But I also know he will not come. It is enough for me to create the place, knowing he would be welcome, if the chance ever came."

"Don't get your hopes up," Erestor said brusquely.

"How could I, when I have you to bring me back to reality, old friend?" Elrond bumped Erestor's shoulder roughly.

"Part of my job as your right hand man. Make you see sense once in awhile," Erestor's tone sounded irritable but the amused, sidelong look he gave Elrond contradicted that.

Erestor turned away from Elrond to eye the mountains around them again. "It can be besieged but I do not think an army can enter this valley easily." He narrowed his eyes as he looked back at Elrond. "You will need someone experienced to man the defenses and train your warriors though."

"My most experienced warrior has declined the offer," Elrond said pointedly.

"You could ask Glorfindel," Erestor said.

Elrond widened his eyes. "Our 'golden warrior', as you call him? I had not thought you held him in such high regard."

Erestor grunted. "He has experience defending Gondolin, which was in a valley, although one much larger in scale than this one. He should be able to use that knowledge to our benefit here. He has adequate training battling Morgoth's creatures, I'll give him that." Erestor paused and gave Elrond a serious look. "I think he needs something to do. I am sure he chafes at the inactivity at the Havens. He was sent back for some reason, was he not? Certainly not to help Cirdán build ships! Why not send for him?" Erestor continued. "I am certain he is driving Gil-Galad mad with his stories of the glory that was Gondolin and advice about fortifying Lindon. Better he join us here and actually make himself useful."

Elrond laughed. "A Balrog slayer returned from the First Age and you are trying to find ways to make him useful? Truly, Erestor, I do not know what I would do without you."

"You would likely be starved or dead somewhere, so consider yourself fortunate, " Erestor asserted bluntly, moving to climb up the path back to their waiting mounts. Elrond shook his head and followed him.

"So you find this location adequate for a base camp? Shall we bring the rest of our company down here and set up temporary quarters?" Elrond asked.

Erestor looked around one more time. "It will do," he said grudgingly. "If this is where we settle, we will make it work. It will serve us well as a camp for now."

Elrond clapped him on the shoulder. "Then let us bring the others and settle in for the night. I will send a messenger to Gil-Galad tomorrow to ask Glorfindel to join us here. Let us hope he will come."

"He will not refuse Idril's grandson, mark my words," Erestor said.

"And you, my friend? Will you be able to work with him to build our Imladris?" Elrond asked.

"I daresay he will keep any disparaging remarks about the Sons of Fëanor to a minimum with you around, so I shall manage," Erestor answered, as they reached the horses. He looked down at the valley again, and smiled at Elrond. "This place will do, Elrond. It will be good to have a home of our own again."

Chapter End Notes:

Hithaeglir: Misty Mountains in Sindarin

Tumladen: the Valley surrounding Gondolin

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