The Grey Shores

by Nefertiti

Disclaimer: No rights claimed, no income earned.

Feedback: Yes, please, but don't bother to tell me that Gandalf having sex squicks you. I am unrepentant. (If you tell me that Gandalf having sex squicked you before but no longer does, you will make my day.)

Author's note: Book-canon. This episode takes place shortly after episode 1, where Olorin arrived in Middle-earth, was given the Elven name Mithrandir, and started getting lessons in love from Glorfindel.

Profound gratitude to Elanor, beta and inspiration. Many thanks also to Sarah and River Woman, who take so much time to encourage and guide me.

Chapter 2

Glorfindel and Mithrandir rode through the gathering dusk until they could distinguish the trees from the sky only as dark silhouettes blotting out the myriad stars. Finally the Elf chirruped to his horse to stop, and Mithrandir reined in his mount.

Glorfindel sighed regretfully. "I had hoped that we could reach Rivendell tonight, but there is still at least an hour's ride ahead of us. The paths leading down into the hidden valley are difficult to find and steep in places. It would be dangerous to essay them in darkness."

"I could provide some light with my staff."

"No doubt, but I think it would not suffice. I must be able to orient myself by the mountains that rise on the eastern side of the valley, and besides, the horses are probably too tired to be sure-footed over some of the steeper stretches, even with a wizard's magical light. No, your staff would be better employed in quickly starting us a campfire. You have not got so accustomed to doing that that you would consider it a bore, have you?"

Mithrandir had already lit up the tip of his staff slightly so that they could see each other. Now he grinned. "On the contrary, I could use some practice in even such a simple task. I suppose I shall eventually find it routine, but for now it's quite a pleasure to be able to do such a thing."

"Good. I feel the need of a lively blaze. This is the coldest night we have yet had this autumn. I had truly hoped that we would be able to spend this evening cozily in the Hall of Fire at the Last Homely House."

They walked their horses a short way, peering through the gloom until they found a suitable clearing against a worn, lumpy limestone bluff with a slight overhang. Gathering a bit of wood, they laid a fire. The wizard held up a thick branch and said in firm tones, "Naur an edraith amen," as he tapped it with his staff. A small flame arose from it and quickly spread along its length until the brand was burning hotly enough to kindle the small heap of wood. Glorfindel smiled with affection as he watched its light reflected in the wizard's dark eyes and saw too the delight in the old man's face as the fire grew. Soon the soft tan stone behind them was glowing dusky yellow, and they had their blankets spread.

Although they had long since passed beyond areas where they could find inns and rural markets, they were trying to get a little variety in their meals by having lembas only for breakfast and lunch. Glorfindel used his considerable skills as an archer to procure game, and he took advantage of their time on the road to teach Mithrandir some simple ways of cooking in the open air, using preserved foodstuffs and herbs available in the wild. Today he had shot a plump rabbit, and he used some prunes from their dwindling store of dried fruit to make a stew. Wrapped in their blankets, the pair sat close to the fire to eat.

"Glorfindel, this is delicious! I would never have expected that one could make such a tasty dish under such limited circumstances."

"I'm delighted that you like it. It is certainly one of the most interesting items that I know how to make while on the road. Of course, it would be better with some onions and a few additional herbs, but it is the wrong time of the year for that. Ideally, of course, one would also have a nice wine to accompany it, and some greens. Never mind, you shall soon dine splendidly in Imladris."

"Given my experience in Cirdan's house, I'm sure the meals will be spectacular indeed. Still, there is a certain pleasure in camping out. A peace and contact with the woods and countryside that I find quite appealing."

Glorfindel laughed. "I'm glad you do! I for one much prefer the warmth and comfort and conviviality of places like Rivendell and the Havens. I camp out when I must, but I confess that I do not much like it. Though our conversations and other very pleasant activities by our campfires have certainly made this a much more enjoyable journey than most of its kind-indeed, more than any other I have experienced in a very long time."

They smiled tenderly at one another, and Mithrandir carefully balanced his plate as he leaned over and moved his lips briefly against the Elf's mouth. They quickly finished their meal and sat for a while talking, wrapped in their blankets and leaning against the rough stone. At that time of year, the sun set long before either felt drowsy and rose late enough that getting out onto the road early was not possible, at least in this terrain.

Mithrandir gazed up into the thick, brown leaves still clinging to the nearby branches and dancing in the firelight. "I am very curious to meet the Master of Imladris. I have heard that Elrond is the wisest of all Elves in Middle-earth. Is that true?"

Glorfindel considered. "It is hard to say. I would hate to have to choose among him and Galadriel and Cirdan."

"But what of you yourself? You are the wisest Elf I have ever known. You have reflected long and learned much, in the Halls of Mandos and in Eldamar, and I am sure that your experiences here in Middle-earth have only sharpened your mind."

Glorfindel smiled and sat quietly for a moment. "Perhaps many experiences, both bitter and sweet, have taught me something. Not to mention your own generous patience with a wayward Elf who had to relearn much-and learn it better the second time. Let us put me aside in this discussion, though. Elrond has the enormous advantage of having Vilya, which perhaps does not confer wisdom but gives its owner the power to see how it may be applied. I know less of Galadriel, keeper of Nenya since its creation, since I have spent most of my time in Middle-earth here in the North. I think, though, that few are capable of judging just how profound her wisdom is. Cirdan of course has rendered his Ring to you-an action, I must say, that only confirms his own wisdom."

"Do you think so? Far be it from me to question Cirdan's wisdom, but it would seem only logical to bestow it upon . . . Saruman, as you tell me he is now called. Why should not the leader of my order be the one to keep it?"

"Well, it is true that Saruman is a wise and powerful Istar, but I fancy that Cirdan had his reasons. I met Saruman at the Havens, you know, upon his arrival a few years ago."

"Yes, I suppose each of us needed a guide to Rivendell-and a teacher in the ways of Middle-earth," Mithrandir added, glancing with a slightly inquiring and bemused smile at Glorfindel.

Glorfindel blushed slightly. "Yes, I taught him much, as did others of Cirdan's household. He never, however, confessed any 'urges' to me."

They laughed, and the Elf continued, "If he had, I should not have been taken aback when you spoke so frankly to me that night. Indeed, I suppose the fact that he seemed to have no such needs was part of what gave me the impression that none of the other Istari did. The ones who had come before, as far as I know, did nothing of the sort either-though I did not meet all of them at the Havens."

"Well, perhaps Saruman found someone else to give him those most delightful of lessons. You are truly the most beautiful Elf I have ever seen, but there are others at the Havens who are extremely attractive as well. I would hate to think that Saruman and the others failed to learn about this wonderful aspect of embodied life. Perhaps he simply preferred a dark-haired Elf. There were certainly some there that I might have turned to if you had resisted my seduction," he added with a teasing grin.

Glorfindel smiled. "Perhaps, but if so I saw no sign of it. And news of such liaisons tends to spread quickly in a little closed community like that. As it does in Rivendell, I might add, and other such places. You will need to learn to be discrete about these things. Elves tend to be quite open and understanding of such activities, but being too frank and talkative about them can cause jealousies and resentments."

Mithrandir nodded thoughtfully, then replied. "Well, I think Saruman wasted a wonderful opportunity. I hope he later found someone to teach him about such things."

The conversation died down, and the pair sat in companionable silence for a while. They had made love every night since Glorfindel had initiated the Istar into sex, and both were assuming that they would do it again this evening, despite the cold.

Glorfindel smiled at his friend. "Now that we have been on the road for weeks, I'm afraid I have taught you most of what you should know of physical love. You will no longer need me to do things like this with you," and he leaned over slightly to kiss the wizard.

Mithrandir responded enthusiastically, sucking Glorfindel's tongue quickly into his mouth and cupping the Elf's cheek and jaw with his thin hand. Withdrawing, he said with a grin, "I need practice, though! I like to be able to do things well. Indeed, you have probably realized by now that I am something of a perfectionist. Feel free to test me at length and to offer suggestions about any little improvement I could make! . . . My darling Elf, I would love to touch you unclothed, but I am already shivering under this blanket while fully dressed. There is quite a chill in the air tonight."

"Yes, I sense that we may even see some frost by morning. I do wish we had made a bit faster progress on the road, but I have felt it foolish to pass up chances to show you things and places you need to know in Middle-earth-and to display its beauties as well."

"Of course, and I have enjoyed it all. It would not have been worth passing anything by just to spare us one chilly evening."

Glorfindel pursed his lips and looked at the Istar speculatively, "Here, move until we are facing each other. Yes, keep your blanket on over your cloak. Now spread your legs and hold your knees bent, like this. Fine."

The Elf slid his own legs, slightly less bent, under his partner's thighs and edged forward until their crotches were pressed together and he could rearrange the blankets to form a sort of tent, encircling them entirely apart from their heads. Sharing their body heat made the air trapped around them grow quite pleasantly warm. Already they could feel each other's erections beginning to swell. Mithrandir leaned forward eagerly, trying to kiss the Elf.

Glorfindel moved his head back quickly and smiled. "Always so impatient when we begin to make love! Here, sit still-if you can. Now, put your tongue out-further."

Slowly the Elf licked Mithrandir's tongue, circling it and barely brushing his partner's lips with his own. Soon the Istar was panting and tried once more to pull Glorfindel into a deep kiss. Again the Elf pulled back. "No, no, just sit there, follow my lead. Put your tongue out again."

After a little look of puzzlement and frustration, Mithrandir did so, and Glorfindel again licked it, slowly at first, then flicking around it, then lapping hungrily at it as he felt the wizard panting into his mouth, moving his own tongue with increasing confidence against the Elf's. Mithrandir's hands hovered over his companion's shoulders, where the blankets had slipped down slightly. His fingers brushed occasionally against the Elf, but he seemed to have forgotten even his intention to embrace Glorfindel in his fascination with the feel of the other's moving tongue. By the time the Elf retreated slightly, their members were hard and pressing together.

Mithrandir opened his eyes, which were glazed with arousal. "Why in Arda should a silly thing like that be so exciting?"

Glorfindel, slightly giddy with arousal himself, laughed breathily. "I only teach you these things-I don't explain them." He reached down and cupped his hand along the wizard's erection. Mithrandir lowered his hand to do the same for the Elf, but his partner whispered, "Let's take turns. I want to watch you, if you don't mind." The Istar put both hands up to comb his spread fingers through the Elf's long hair and grasp the back of his head. As Glorfindel unlaced the wizard's trousers, Mithrandir opened his mouth, inviting his lover to resume the sensual caresses of tongue against tongue. The Elf drew out Mithrandir's erection and stroked it slowly at first. As the Istar's excitement rapidly mounted, he became lost in bliss and forgot the kissing, lowering his hands to the Elf's shoulders and squeezing tightly, gasping in a shallow, quick fashion as he concentrated on the now rapidly pumping hand. Glorfindel slid his other hand up under the wizard's beard and found one nipple, pinching and rubbing it through the cloth of the shirt. He watched as little flinches of pleasure played across Mithrandir's rapt face. Listening to his companion's soft, desperate whimpering, he felt a thrill of joy at being able to give this much pleasure to a being that he had known and admired for so long as a friend. And how marvelously uninhibited the Istar was! The Elf's own erection was throbbing a bit painfully by now, and he managed to rub the side of his fist up and down his own shaft as he pumped much harder at Mithrandir's, eager now to proceed to his own release. As the wizard's face twisted into an intense grimace, Glorfindel quickly lowered his other hand to catch the hot spurts, then grasped the shaft with both fists, rubbing the thick liquid over the skin and feeling the cock twitch with small and then finally tiny spasms. The wizard collapsed forward against him, his forehead resting on Glorfindel's shoulder as he panted.

Reaching between the two blankets, which had slipped partway down unnoticed as the pair's excitement shut out all other sensations, Glorfindel grasped a cloth and wiped the wizard's shrinking member gently. After a short time Mithrandir raised his head and smiled into the Elf's face in the blissful way that was by now completely familiar-and delightful-to Glorfindel. The Elf darted his tongue teasingly into the slightly slack mouth, and his hand guided the still somewhat dazed wizard's hand to his own erection, which he had freed from his trousers. Mithrandir circled the long, slender, blue-veined shaft with his fingers and began to pull rhythmically at it. As his panting slowed, he imitated Glorfindel exactly, staring into the Elf's face, watching it relax and the eyelids droop with arousal. The wizard slid his hand partway inside his partner's shirt and played with the responsive nipple. He found the sight of Glorfindel's abandonment of control and slide into complete sensual pleasure enthralling, and he stroked slowly to delay the end. At last Glorfindel began mewling, wordlessly begging for release, and the wizard pulled faster, leaning in to swirl his tongue over the Elf's ear. Within seconds his climax erupted, and Mithrandir tried to catch the emerging seed as the Elf had done, though a bit escaped through his fingers and dripped onto his own trousers.

Glorfindel hugged the Istar tightly to himself and waited until he had caught his breath somewhat. "And that, my dear wizard," he whispered into the other's ear, "is one way to pleasure each other and not get cold."

"And a very effective way it is, too, despite its simplicity," Mithrandir said against Glorfindel's neck, where he had pressed his sweat-moistened face. "Well, it would have been lovely to be in a comfortable bed in Rivendell tonight, but it is good to know that there are such options when I am on the road once more-and I assume I shall sometimes have companionship when I have to camp out." He kissed the Elf's neck softly and sighed, and Glorfindel tilted his own head sideways to rest lightly on the Istar's.

Finally Mithrandir raised his head and gazed at his companion with a contented smile. "That reminds me, however, of how difficult it will be to leave you, my dear Elf, when I have finished my visit to Rivendell and move on. For I gather that you must stay there, and that someone else will escort me to LothLorién. Still, during my travels I can always look forward to seeing you again, and I imagine that that might help sustain me on nights when I am camping alone. Well, my dear Elf, I was beginning to wonder if you were going to run out of things to teach me, but you continue to surprise me."

As always after they made love, the Elf was enchanted by the joy in Mithrandir's smile. A sudden awareness of their impending parting hit him, however, and he swallowed, trying to keep his tone light. "Soon I shall have to see if I can invent new ways to make love, so that I can teach you those and keep you in my bed the longer."

The Istar laughed. "You will have no trouble keeping me in your bed."

Glorfindel did not laugh but was silent for a long moment before replying. "Do you mean that you assume we shall be doing this sort of thing after your 'lessons' are over?"

The Istar shook off his drowsiness, and his blissful look faded as he stared at Glorfindel. "Perhaps I am being presumptuous. You may have reasons for not wanting to. I suppose it would be absurd to think that you do not have someone in Rivendell-maybe more than one someone-who would be jealous if we did. I certainly do not want to cause difficulties for you."

Again Glorfindel thought long before he responded. "It's not that I do not want to. In fact, I do not think that I could bear the thought of never again doing this with you. These last few weeks have made me feel all such joys anew, helping you experience them for the first time. I have not enjoyed lovemaking so much in . . . well, a very long time. I should tell you, however, that I do in fact have some with whom I am on intimate terms. None is a deep, permanent relationship, however-and you have made me forget them."

"Until you return to them, perhaps, but you will soon remember them very well."

"No doubt, but I quite honestly think that our time together has been the happiest that I have spent in the whole of the Third Age of Middle-earth."

They stared at each other for a long time. Finally Mithrandir smiled mischievously. "I would say the same to you, but it would not seem much of a compliment." They both laughed briefly, but the Istar continued, "But seriously, my dear Elf, have you come to feel so strongly toward me?"

Glorfindel simply nodded. Mithrandir looked down, frowning, and said wistfully. "Could you not come with me, at least on some of my journeys? No doubt eventually I shall be past the point of needing lessons-not just in love, but in other things. Still, I would never tire of sharing the joys we have found together."

The Elf shook his head sadly. "In a way, it does make me wish I could go with you, at least on some of your journeys, as you say. I realize that so far you know little of my duties here in Middle-earth-my specific duties, that is, beyond aiding in the struggle against Sauron. I have long been Elrond's chief advisor in matters of defending Rivendell and parts of the North in general, and in times of trouble I have led his forces in battle. Even before you arrived, I have occasionally regretted not being able to travel more. Still, I love that valley dearly, and the thought of invaders despoiling it appalls me. I could never leave it long for fear of such things. I make these occasional trips to the Havens not just to meet arriving visitors, but because Cirdan shares in my task of guarding the North. For there are very real and considerable dangers not too distant from Rivendell and the Havens. You know about some of them, for they will be a major part of your concerns, and Elrond and I can explain more fully after we reach his home."

Mithrandir nodded thoughtfully.

Glorfindel returned to their previous line of discussion. "Well, you will find others on your journeys. I realize I cannot possibly ask you to promise yourself to me. You have so recently arrived and have experienced these pleasures with no one but me. You need to know more of this world before you can know your own heart fully." He smiled. "Besides, from what I have learned of your 'urges,' they are too strong to allow you to go for weeks or months . . . or perhaps years, without recourse to such pleasures. And I must confess, I would find it difficult, if not impossible, to refrain from such activities myself under the circumstances. I am sure, however, that from now on I shall think of you as my . . . favorite and shall long for those times when we can be reunited."

He looked hopefully at Mithrandir, who stared in wonder at him. "Given my tasks, I could ask no more of you, Glorfindel. Or, I am afraid, promise more to you. I think you are right, both about my need to experience more of . . . well, simply of life, and about our physical needs. Even with my brief experience, I can easily imagine that attempting to refrain from such activities when we are apart could eventually cause us to resent our duties or our promises to each other, or both. Or I might become so desperate to be with you that I would commit errors of judgment, simply in the hopes of hastening back to you. I could almost wish that Manwe had not endowed me with this particular physical need, for I see that it will at times be most inconvenient. Yet having experienced so much joy with you in such a short time, I can only be grateful that he did allow me such desires. And you have been such a skilled teacher, I suppose I should apply some of the wonderful lessons you have taught me."

Glorfindel tried to smile. "Yes, you are becoming so skilled that it seems greedy to try and keep you only for myself."

Mithrandir looked at him tenderly. "Still, I suspect that you will remain my favorite as well, despite all my journeying. I feel quite confident that there cannot be others who would attract me more. A continent full of Elves as entrancing as you would be more heavenly than Valinor itself!"

"Oh, well! With such an eloquent tongue you will indeed have no trouble in finding other partners." They laughed, as much in sudden joy as in amusement, but then the wizard added earnestly, "Already I know that you will ever be the lodestar that guides my travels and brings me back to Rivendell." He twisted his finger in Glorfindel's hair so that a golden lock slipped in spirals around it.

Glorfindel took a deep breath. "Perhaps some day . . ."

"Yes, a day neither of us can foresee, when all my labors-and yours-are over, and if all goes well . . ."

Glorfindel nodded, watching his face intently, "We finally would not need to part."

Mithrandir leaned his head back to look up at the stars and sighed. "Perhaps we can return together to the house on the grey shores and . .. but, no, I think we should not speculate on such things too soon and too much. I am only at the beginning of huge tasks, and so many 'ifs' lie between now and then. Through such longing we might make our respective burdens all the harder to bear."

They embraced and sat silent for a while. Finally Mithrandir whispered, "First I am given such strength with Narya and now such joy with you. Middle-earth is indeed a land of unexpected treasures."

Once dawn arrived, the pair easily made their way along the short remainder of their road and down the steep, narrow path leading into the deeply delved valley that sheltered the Elven enclave of Imladris. The dramatic cliffs and bluffs revealed unexpected and stunning vistas around every curve, and Mithrandir turned this way and that, trying to take it all in. At last Glorfindel stopped and pointed, and the Istar saw an impressively large house to one side of the river at the bottom, blending modestly into the huge valley despite its size.

After the remainder of the quiet journey to the house, their arrival was confusing and a bit noisy. The household was far larger than that of Cirdan's dwelling at the Grey Havens, and word of the newcomers' presence had obviously spread very rapidly. The Istar found himself in a bustling hallway, being introduced by Glorfindel first to Elrond, the dark-haired, wise-eyed head of the establishment and then by Elrond to his wife and children and to other Elves so numerous that Mithrandir soon felt a bit overwhelmed. In the midst of all this and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Elves greeting Glorfindel as well, some embracing him in a manner that could possibly indicate that they were the ones with whom he had said he was on intimate terms. The wizard tried not to stare or feel upset by this.

He realized uneasily that he and Glorfindel had not discussed specifically enough how they would behave toward each other initially here in Rivendell. He had no idea how close Glorfindel was to these other Elves, but presumably he did not want to break with them. He would need their companionship when the wizard was away. Given that, it might take some time for Glorfindel to explain the situation to them. Mithrandir knew so little of such relationships yet, but he could easily imagine that his beloved Elf might have some tense conversations. The Istar only planned to stay in Rivendell for a couple of weeks, as he had at the Havens, before moving on to meet the members of the Wise at Lorién. He hoped they could sleep together at some point before he left, or at least get a chance to talk in private. At one point Glorfindel glanced at him through the cluster of heads separating them, and the Elf smiled, though with perhaps a trace of embarrassment or nervousness. Mithrandir wondered if the look was a signal that he should not approach Glorfindel for a while or show any signs of undue attachment to the Elf.

And there was no opportunity for him to do so anyway, for Elrond drew him into his study for a drink and a quiet talk, welcoming the Istar more personally and filling him in on some aspects of how the household operated and some recent news that had arrived from Lorién. Mithrandir was pleased to discover that he could follow this fairly well, recognizing most of the names mentioned and understanding what the background to these developments was in most cases. Glorfindel and the Elves of Cirdan's household had, he realized, taught him quite effectively in a short time. Finally Elrond led him to the door and turned him over to one of his own sons, who showed the wizard to a pleasant, airy bedroom that was to be his-not just for this visit, he was quickly led to understand, but for his entire stay in Middle-earth, to be kept empty when he was elsewhere in case he arrived unexpectedly. It was, he realized, probably the closest thing to a home that he would ever have on this vast continent, for both Cirdan and Elrond had told him that Rivendell would be a logical center of operations for him.

After unpacking what little he had brought with him and examining the splendid view from his window, he paused, at a loss. It was only late morning by that point, and he was not feeling particularly tired-certainly not enough for a nap. He felt, he realized, a bit sad and lonely. In Cirdan's house, he had slept each night in Glorfindel's room after their "lessons" had begun, and most of the rest of the time he had spent in various activities with him and with other Elves. He had almost never been alone in Middle-earth except to sleep during those first few nights after his arrival. Clearly trying to find Glorfindel was a poor idea. Even if someone could direct him to the Elf's room, it was quite possible that the wizard would not find his friend alone. Well, there is no reason he should be, the wizard reminded himself. That was what they had agreed on, and it made perfect sense. That did not mean that he had to like it, but there it was. He sighed and went out to explore the gardens near the house, since the weather was getting close to being as warm as it would be on this autumn day.

By the time dusk was settling over the valley, Mithrandir had come to realize why Glorfindel loved this place so much and dedicated virtually all his time to protecting it. The juxtaposition of the low-lying river with steep cliff-faces and woods in the immediate surroundings was spectacular enough, but from certain vantage points one could also see the distant, snowy peaks that he was told were part of the Misty Mountains, with waterfalls in the foreground. Returning to the house, he spoke with several Elves sitting about having a pre-dinner glass of wine in a small room with a roaring fire. As at Cirdan's house, he soon was talking freely with them, giving news of doings at the Havens and amusing them with anecdotes about learning to ride his horse and about the various curious sights the wizard had seen while traveling from the Havens. They in turn filled him in on more details of the household schedule and, when the first dinner gong rang, guided him to the large, torch-lit dining hall.

Mithrandir sat at the main table, with Elrond and his beautiful wife Celebrian, as well as their twin sons and enchanting daughter, Arwen. The young Elves, especially Arwen, took to him at once, delighting at knowing so much more about Middle-earth than did this apparently aged man and chattering away at him until he again felt a bit overwhelmed with information. Glorfindel sat a few seats away, smiling at all this and looking fondly at the Istar from time to time.

Finally, when dinner was over and the company had stood up, Elrond moved to Mithrandir. "I know you are eager to talk with me and some of the others more seriously about our doings and policies and how we envision working with you, but that can begin tomorrow. Except at times of crisis, evenings here are reserved for music and conversation and story-telling and generally for reflection on the joys of the present and the past." He took the wizard's arm and escorted him to the Hall of Fire, of which Glorfindel had occasionally spoken. The evening that followed was a revelation to Mithrandir, for the music and the chanting were the closest things he had encountered yet to the beauty and sounds of his home in the Uttermost West. At first the yearning to return there rose in him so intensely that he winced and sat breathing more deeply and quickly, tempted to get up and leave the Hall. Soon, however, he conquered the feeling and sat sadly listening. Eventually, with an effort, he came to perceive and understand the strains in this music that marked it as distinctly of Middle-earth. After that, he could listen to it with growing happiness, trying to discern those distinctive strains all the more subtly.

At first all sat quietly, listening to the singing and chanting. Eventually, however, things became a bit more informal as quiet instrumental music played and the Elves began to talk among themselves. Mithrandir looked around and marveled at their beauty. He felt no pressing physical desire as yet, but he could not help speculating rather nervously as to how he might eventually go about approaching one of these splendid creatures when he did wish to. It had been possible to joke about how easy it had been to seduce Glorfindel-but after all they had known each other for a great long time. Here he was among strangers, and he had no idea how to proceed. His feeling of being naïve and ignorant, which had nearly prevented his speaking to Glorfindel that lovely night of the sunset at the Havens, came back to him now. In that case the beautiful Elf had offered him "lessons" in love, but that could hardly be an excuse here. Still, he reasoned, asking for information or help of another sort would be reasonable and might allow him to strike up a closer acquaintance with someone. He noticed one of the Elves he had chatted with before dinner, Findur, sitting nearby. Findur seemed to have some sort of role as a record-keeper for the community. He had been quite friendly and charming in answering the Istar's initial questions and offering to show him how to find books and documents he might need. Thinking about it now, Mithrandir realized that he also found Findur quite attractive physically. His lovely face held a suggestion of good humor, and his hair was so very jet-black as to contain a striking hint of blue. Mithrandir hesitated, thinking how ironic it was that he would have to face unthinkable dangers in the years to come and yet here he was, nervous about speaking to a perfectly friendly Elf. It took a very different sort of courage, he realized, and making a sudden decision, he moved to sit beside Findur.

The Elf smiled in welcome, and Mithrandir began to ask him questions-questions about things that did indeed intrigue him, and he listened closely to everything that the Elf told him. It was useful and fascinating information, and he only allowed himself to be partly distracted by Findur's finely-chiseled features and flowing, dark hair-so different from Glorfindel's and yet so silky and shiny. He began to wonder what it would be like to kiss him-similar to kissing Glorfindel, or a completely different experience?

At last they passed to a discussion of the lands eastward, on the other side of the Misty Mountains, and Findur suggested that they go to the library and consult a map. By this point Mithrandir was quite delighted at the idea of being alone with this beautiful Elf, and he agreed eagerly. He had not been in Elrond's library up to this point, so Findur gave him a brief tour, then pulled out a map from one of several shallow flat drawers of an inlaid wooden case in one corner. He spread it carefully on the central table and leaned over to explain the terrain that they had been discussing. Mithrandir leaned over beside him to examine the map, and abruptly he felt a surge of desire pass through him. Without thinking he placed his hand over the Elf's on the table and gazed at him hopefully, realizing that he had not the faintest idea what to say. Startled, Findur turned to look into his eyes inquiringly, then pulled his hand away and straightened up.

The Elf hesitated, then spoke in some confusion. "I'm sorry, but . . . this is a bit fast for me. I . . ."

Mithrandir straightened up as well, feeling awkward and embarrassed. "Yes, I . . . I suppose so. I am sorry, I . . . excuse me." He turned as if to leave, but the Elf detained him by touching his arm.

"I did not mean to drive you away. I only said that it was, well, a bit fast. That's all. Perhaps in inviting you here I gave you the impression . . . But now, I would be happy to show you where the area we were discussing lies."

Blushing, Mithrandir leaned over the table again and paid close attention to what Findur was describing, finding that his embarrassment had driven away any hint of desire. Their discussion continued and eventually concluded in a somewhat more relaxed fashion.

Indeed, to Mithrandir's relief, the handsome Elf did not seem to resent the incident in the library but continued to spend time with the Istar, giving him tours of the intricate layout of the Last Homely House, explaining details of the various inhabitants' relations to the history and ongoing struggles of the Elves, and answering the wizard's questions on a wide variety of subjects, from the names of plants to the tense relations between Elves and the Dwarves who lived far to the east. Mithrandir was careful not to make any remark or gesture that could be interpreted as seductive, despite the fact that he felt more and more attracted to the Elf physically-and the fact that at times he thought he detected a reciprocal interest.

This situation stretched on for three days. On the fourth night, Mithrandir sat again with Findur, listening to the music until late into the evening. At last he stretched slightly and glanced at his companion, who smiled and said, "It is a bit warm in here tonight. Would you care to step out onto the porch for a few minutes? A nearly full moon should just be rising, and it is still not the customary time for retiring." Nodding, the Istar followed him outside, self-consciously feeling several pairs of inquiring eyes fixed on them as they went. He had already realized that Glorfindel had been right: gossip traveled fast among at least some elements of these close-knit communities.

The air was cold but not unpleasant after the somewhat stuffy atmosphere of the Hall. The pair chatted for a while about the change of seasons in Rivendell, and Mithrandir gazed out of the corner of his eye at the beautiful dark hair reflecting the pale moonlight, wondering whether he dared to try and kiss Findur. He suspected that the Elf had probably brought him here for that very purpose, but it might be best to test the waters, he thought. "I hope you are not still offended by my actions in the library the other evening."

"I assured you then and I assure you now, I was not offended. It was simply, as I said, that it all seemed a bit too fast."

"Yes, well, I know I look as if I should have a great deal of experience in such matters, but I'm afraid I am in fact fairly new to them."

Findur chuckled. "I have sensed that, and although it surprises and puzzles me, it seems a charming contradiction." His eyes lingered on the wizard's just a little longer than necessary, and Mithrandir's heart began to race.

The Istar hesitated, at a loss as to how to proceed. He wished he possessed the self-assurance and charm that Findur displayed so easily. He also wondered with a tiny thrill of surprise whether the Elf might in fact be the one trying to seduce him. It was a very pleasant thought. Could two people seduce each other simultaneously, he wondered. Probably, why not? Indeed, it would seem to be the ideal situation. At last he said uncertainly, "I take it I am no longer going too fast."

Findur grinned. "Not at all. Indeed, I think you are now perhaps going a bit too slowly." He leaned over and kissed the wizard. Mithrandir responded immediately but with as much restraint as he could manage. He immediately felt his cock begin to stir, and very gradually he intensified the kiss, slipping one hand to the back of Findur's neck and delving his tongue carefully between the Elf's warm lips. There were definitely subtle differences from kissing Glorfindel, and he was quite enjoying them. At last they broke the kiss, and the wizard's mind fumbled for what to do next. He remembered what Glorfindel had said to him at about the same stage in similar proceedings. He murmured, "I think it would be best to retire to my room before we take this any further."

Findur stared at him with a surprised little smile, and Mithrandir feared he might have made another mistake. "Too fast again?" he asked, trying to return the Elf's smile.

"Perhaps just a trifle. It is very hard to find the right balance, I realize. Why don't we take it just a bit further right here?" He pulled the wizard into another kiss, and Mithrandir embraced him tightly and delved more confidently into his mouth. Findur was soon sucking on his tongue, and the wizard realized that his rapidly growing erection must be quite obvious. Desire was rapidly overtaking caution, and he trailed his mouth across the Elf's cheek and swirled his tongue over the ear. Findur gasped and laughed softly. "Ah, now I understand why you wanted to retire to your room so quickly. I had thought perhaps your inexperience extended to the physical side of love as well, but clearly that is not the case." He pulled away and looked into the wizard's face, where trepidation and desire were mixed. "Yes, why not? This all promises to be very pleasant," he breathed, and holding hands the pair walked along the maze of corridors to the wizard's bedroom. As they went, Mithrandir initially felt a simple mixture of relief at not having been rejected and anticipation at having this gorgeous Elf in his bed. After the initial surprise and arousal, however, he also sensed a considerable delight welling up within him, and he could barely suppress a little laugh as he congratulated himself inwardly on having successfully seduced the second beautiful partner he had approached! Watching sunsets and moonrises, he thought giddily, that must be the key.

He had expected not to enjoy making love with Findur as much as he had with Glorfindel, but he soon realized that the sex was so intense and satisfying that he had no reason to be at all disappointed. His new partner was fully as passionate as Glorfindel. Once Findur realized that, for all his apparent inexperience, Mithrandir was eager and quite skillful, they made love all night, with the wizard sleeping between sessions and the Elf at intervals playfully urging him awake and into renewed arousal. By the time they rose and washed and went down to breakfast, Mithrandir was feeling not only marvelously satiated but a trifle smug.

Glorfindel had from a distance watched this little romance unfold, suppressing his impulses to step in and advise the wizard-and his deeper desire, which he hardly admitted to himself, to stop the whole thing. He realized that he had no right to prevent the Istar's pursuing the course they had both agreed upon, however precipitate this first flirtation seemed. After all, his own romantic relations seemed more tangled than he had expected, and it was not easy to reconcile his companions to the idea that the Istar seemed to have gained a great hold on the lovely Elf's affections. Moreover, Mithrandir needed to learn to manage his love life on his own, since he would seldom have Glorfindel hovering about, ready to offer advice. And he might as well learn here in Rivendell, so that he could at least come to Glorfindel for advice if he badly needed it. The Elf determined to stand back and see whether the fledgling lover would learn to fly.

At breakfast after Mithrandir's first night with Findur, Glorfindel immediately noticed the new contentment and delight in the wizard's face, as well as his absorption in his new partner, and he managed to be happy for his friend-reasonably so at any rate. In Findur, Mithrandir had at least chosen quite well, though whether that was by sheer good luck was unclear. Glorfindel liked the dark Elf and admired his kindness and humor. How Glorfindel was to arrange some intimate time together with the wizard under the circumstances, however, was increasingly unclear.

Over the next week the affair continued, and Mithrandir seemed ebulliently happy. Still, Glorfindel began to suspect that Findur had not been able to resist boasting a bit to other members of the Rivendell community, perhaps also at least hinting at the Istar's skills in bed, for a few others began to take a decidedly increased interest in Mithrandir. Apparently the fact of the wizard being an "old man" would not offer his friend as much protection as Glorfindel had hoped. Some had been quick to sense the underlying vibrancy and power of the Istar.

Mithrandir seemed all too eagerly and naively responsive to the attentions of the bolder ones among these Elves, who flirted with him quite obviously. Reluctantly Glorfindel began more closely to monitor these relationships, which seemed to be developing all too quickly, and he found himself participating more in the gossip around the household than he ordinarily liked to do. After witnessing one Elf kiss the wizard on one of the house's many porches-with the wizard making no effort at all to back away-Glorfindel decided that he must have a heart-to-heart talk with Mithrandir, little though the prospect appealed to him. That afternoon he invited the wizard to walk out into one of the stunning dells that wandered off on various sides of the main river valley.

As they reached a broad path partway up one of the cliffs along the side of the dell, they came across a small overlook with a bench and sat down to watch the afternoon sun reflecting dazzlingly off the snow that now crept down the sides of the distant peaks as winter approached. Glorfindel paused in thought, then plunged abruptly into the subject that he had intended to raise. " I feel a bit silly having offered you a lesson in the art of seduction. You seem to have been very successful at it without any tutelage from me."

Mithrandir blushed slightly and looked at him questioningly for a moment, but as usual he saw nothing but candor in his friend's eyes. "Somewhat to my surprise, yes. I still feel I have to apologize for my inexperience, but I must say, some of the Elves seem to find my clumsiness rather appealing--luckily for me."

"Yes, well, I am delighted in a way, but I fear you are perhaps exposing your emotions too readily in your eagerness and possibly leaving yourself open to being hurt. You may not welcome my saying this, but you should not be so forthcoming, so praising, so adoring, so enthusiastic . . . You are flattered that so soon after our arrival one beautiful Elf has succumbed to your charms-it is still only one, is it not? But do you truly know his motives? That is, I am not saying that they are anything other than delight in sharing joys with such a wonderful lover. Findur is a wonderful fellow. Yet there are those here who might simply be curious about what it is like to make love with someone who is not an Elf. Or who might perceive you as a powerful being and want to be able to brag about having been in bed with you. Yes, I know, no one here other than Elrond and I know who you truly are. But it is clear that you are an important being, sent from somewhere distant to aid in our struggle-that by itself is impressive and potentially attractive. Others might simply find it an amusing or novel experience to bed a vigorous old fellow like you. And I fear there might even be one or two who hope that it would give them some sort of influence with you. I think it would be well if you learned to wonder about your potential partners' motives and eventually gained the skill to detect and understand them. If you give yourself too easily or seize too quickly upon every advance made to you, you might leave yourself open to gossip or to unwanted obligations. You might even find yourself losing your heart without realizing it or you might draw someone else into losing his heart to you when you do not intend it."

Mithrandir looked up at the mountains and then shifted his eyes across the length of the valley before returning his eyes to his friend's face. "I can understand why you suggest the former. I am aware that my inexperience could lead to my losing my heart, though I assure you, I do not intend for that to happen. But I doubt that anyone would easily lose his heart to an old fellow like me."

Glorfindel stared at him for a moment, then said quietly, "I can imagine it happening. Those qualities that I see in you may well be apparent to at least some others. You must not dismiss the possibility so easily. Frankly, though, I am more concerned about you than your partners. You will be in Middle-earth a very long time, I fear, and you will see people you care for grow old and die, since your travels will take you much among mortal races. What you may think of now as opportunities for pleasure could well be opportunities for pain as well."

Mithrandir sat silent for a moment, a frown creeping over his face. He said quietly, "Are you sure, Glorfindel, that you say this out of concern for me? Or could some jealousy underlie your words?"

The Elf sat staring in surprise and then annoyance. He had to admit to himself that there might be some truth in that gentle accusation, and yet he strongly believed he was primarily speaking in the wizard's own best interests. "If you believe that, then I suppose I could abandon my warning and let you learn these particular lessons for yourself the hard way. But I cannot bear to see you hurt as badly as you well might be. I have hesitated as to whether to tell you something about my own experiences, but now I think I probably should. And I tell you not in a bid for your sympathy but in the hope of showing you that I know whereof I speak."

Mithrandir sat looking at him in puzzlement, and the Elf continued. "You see, when I returned to Middle-earth in the Second Age, to aid in the initial fight against the growing evils creeping over the continent, I fell in love with another leader in that struggle-the great Elven king Gil-galad. He was an extraordinary leader-the only one who had not been deceived by the seductive overtures of Sauron. His realm, Lindon, survives only partially above the waves, but ironically, its remnants of course include the area within which the Grey Havens lie. I presume that you are aware of his doomed efforts to help the Elves of Eregion and the fact that he originally held Vilya, which he passed on to Elrond as he died.

"I was lucky enough to have him fall in love with me as well, and we were together for many years. Everything seemed wonderful. We were united in our goals, and we dreamed of how things would be if we ever defeated our enemy. And, as you know, our enemy was indeed defeated, but Gil-galad was killed in that great final battle-a battle which led to a bitter victory that really settled nothing and only prolonged the seemingly endless conflict. I shall not go into my profound grief, but I must say that I suffered enormous guilt over his death-unreasoning guilt perhaps, but real nevertheless. You see, Elrond insisted on going as one of the leaders of the Last Alliance. That meant that I had to stay here and make sure that Rivendell remained safe during his absence. I was not there that dreadful day, and yet I have wondered ever since whether, if I had been at that battle, I could have prevented Gil-galad's death. I might even have forced Isildur to destroy the One Ring, though I am sure that Elrond tried his utmost to convince him to do so. At any rate, my decision to remain here and supervise the protection of the north results partly from the fact that in doing so, I, along with Cirdan, help to preserve what remains of Gil-galad's ancient realm by guarding the lands between here and the Havens."

He fell silent, gripping the hand that Mithrandir had slipped into his in the course of his story. Glorfindel resumed, "Since then I have understood only too well the dangers of losing one's heart in this troubled and uncertain world. Even the bravest and most powerful, those who seem so unlikely to fall, can suddenly be wrenched away." He looked at the wizard. "I do not counsel you to avoid the pleasures of intimate companionship or to reject friendship. Obviously such things are precious and offer enormous solace. I embrace them myself, though I have taken care not to move into a deep relationship again. No, I simply beg you to be cautious and to hold yourself back just a little. For you are not of this land, nor ever will be.

"And perhaps I am indeed a bit jealous. I have begun to wonder if I should have immediately invited you into my bed here in Rivendell. But as you see, I have friends here, very good friends, lovers whom I do not wish to alienate. As we have acknowledged, we both shall need such relationships. Now I am determined, however, to make it clear to them that in future, when you are here, I shall be only with you-if you will accept that offer, of course, as I hope you will."

Mithrandir gazed sadly at him. "I had not known about you and Gil-galad, and it pains me to think of your long grief, my dearest Elf. And now I understand much better why you choose to remain here so steadfastly. Believe me, though, I am sincere when I say that I do not intend to lose my heart in Middle-earth. Indeed, I have thought long and hard about this very subject, before I left Valinor, during my journey, and after I arrived at the Havens. While I was still in Valinor, Varda herself warned me about the risk. She knew that it was in my nature to care deeply about things and beings, but usually from a distance and secretly, or occasionally passing among them unperceived. She said, however, that once I was plunged into the variety and physicality of Middle-earth, there would be many temptations to love people or become enchanted with things. She made it abundantly clear that I should not-not fully. I must resist Middle-earth to some extent, attractive though I find it, for of course inevitably I shall leave it one day. And I realize that she is right."

He paused. "But you, Glorfindel, are not of Middle-earth either, not ultimately. I accept your offer gladly, that we shall not share each other with anyone while we are here together in Rivendell. I am sorry, by the way, for my little remark earlier that you were speaking out of jealousy. Clearly that was not the case." He gave the impish little grin that Glorfindel had come to treasure. "By the way, can our new arrangement begin with my next visit? I shall be leaving for Lorién in a few days, and I assume you have not been able to explain all this to your friends so quickly, or at least to reconcile them to it. I hope you will not resent my taking some last pleasure with Findur while I remain here. Perhaps I am being naïve again, but I do not think he has lost his heart to me. We have made no promises to each other, and he does not seem to expect any."

"Given my own situation, how could I resent your spending some additional time with him? And I assure you, Mithrandir, this conversation has calmed some of my fears for you. Obviously you have thought about all this more than I had realized. And if you and Findur have enjoyed each other without serious entanglement, then you give me confidence that you will fare reasonably well when you leave here. I should not overreact to the initial enthusiasm you display as you discover the joys of Middle-earth. It will fade all too quickly, I fear. And I shall endeavor not to resent your taking delight in others, as long as you do not give your heart entirely away."

"Trust me, my dearest Elf, when I say that I do not want to give my heart to any one else. I shall save it, hidden like Narya, finally to reveal if and when I may."