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In The Bitter

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Erestor was taking tea with Maeglin. Or rather, Erestor was taking tea while Maeglin eyed her across the little decorative table.

"Lady Erestor, I think it is generally unappreciated just how terrifying you actually are." Erestor gave him a cool, even look.

"And what would ever make you say that?" She asked, taking another sip.

"You mean, apart from the fact that over this past week I have heard Lord Elrond, his two sons, Lord Glorfindel, the minstrel Lindir, three kitchen staff AND Lady Galadriel threaten to send you after someone. And after doing so, those elves they were threatening complied immediately. Four began weeping. One fainted."

"Truly?"

"Yes. This apart from certain rumours I have heard-"

"Almost certainly exaggerated, or even outright lies."

"Rumours I have heard concerning you. Apparently you scolded Lord Celeborn in front of his parents."

"He knows what he did."

"And Lady Galadriel's father."

"To be fair, he started it. And it was his doing that led to me scolding Lord Celeborn in the first place."

"Lord Glorfindel's parents?"

"They had completely unrealistic expectations and they were ignoring him when he tried to explain. He was rather worried about hurting their feelings. I was…less so. Besides, he did most of the talking. I merely gained their attention, silence, and cooperation.

"I see. What about the Maiar?"

"It was not some random Maiar, it was Mithrandir. We know him- as well as anyone knows a Maiar, that is- and I was not scolding so much as…explaining. Vigorously."

"Explaining?"

"That he needed to visit more. The twins require someone around their maturity level occasionally, they get bored with only ancient elves around. When the twins grow bored, bad things happen."

"Ah. So you did not throw your shoes at him?"

"It was just one shoe and it was not mine. And it was to make a point. He was acting very foolish. 'My work is done! You do not require my services! I have to make sure Radagast does not try to breed birds and fish together!' Things like that. Ridiculous old man. Very stubborn. Although his last protest was legitimate; the last time Radagast tried to create a new animal breed they were…extremely carnivorous. Extremely."

"I begin to see why the city set for the elves of the third age is so far away from anything else."

"Which, all things considered, is extremely unfair. You were there, you know how many cities and towns were destroyed by First Age elves. But perhaps it is more for our safety than theirs," Erestor said, drifting off into her own thoughts. With a shake of her head she brought herself back.

"But yes, Mithrandir is exceedingly stubborn. Thought we would not want him around, and after all the times he forced his presence on us! Between you and I," and she leaned closer and lowered her voice, "I believe he forgot that he is not wearing the shape of an old man anymore. Oh, it was one of the funniest things! He tried going without his staff when he first changed to his original form, but he was so used to having it to lean against that he kept falling over!" Maeglin gave a surprised snort. "And sometimes when walking, he would go to put his weight on it and Crash! Down he would go!"

Erestor smirked to herself and took another sip of tea. Maeglin stopped laughing long enough to take a bite of pastry.

"Oh, and the first time he swore, it was in front of Eönwë. It was shortly after his first dozen times falling in his new body. Honestly, I thought it was impossible for any Maiar to be so clumsy, but Mithrandir has managed it. Ah, but I thought Eönwë was going to combust hearing Mithrandir. Apparently his temper grew shorter in Middle Earth." Erestor hummed merrily as she poured another cup for herself and Maeglin.

"Lady Erestor, you thought to distract me with tales of Mithrandir, but I do not forget so easily."

"If this is about that rumour involving myself and Lord Manwë, I will have you know it is patently false. I have never scolded, raised my voice, or even engaged in conversation with any of the Valar."

"I had not heard that one, actually. But I heard you visited the Halls of Mandos and spoke with my father?"

"I might have done."

"You walked into the Halls of the Dead and scolded my father."

"Perhaps."

"Why?"

"If it happened, it was because someone needed to."

"More importantly, HOW?"

"I have connections. And people owe me favors."

"Lord Mandos owed you a favor."

"No. But someone else did. I took care of a little problem – a couple, actually- and in the end, people in low places owed me."

"Low places?"

"Apologies. That makes more sense to humans."

"If you insist."

"It is actually a rather clever pun."

"Should I laugh?"

Erestor eyed him. He took a bite of pastry, managing to look both snarky and innocent.

"You have spent too much time around me. Or perhaps this is your time with Lord Elrond's spawn showing through."

"I prefer to think that the experience I have gained from you has transformed me into a much better person. You are my role model for all things sarcastic." Erestor sighed.

"Definitely the spawn," she decided. Maeglin laughed, but also began fidgeting with his sleeve.

"Spit it out, child, I have no patience for your squirming."

"I am older than you."

"Only in birth date."

"Years dead count!"

"Not for intelligence, Glorfindel proves that." Maeglin was about to argue more, but reconsidered.

"You are excellent at changing the topic."

"You changed it."

"See?! No, do not answer, I will ask my question. Before, when we first met, you said you had experience with having someone else in your head."

"Yes."

"Are you ever worried? I mean, I know my father cannot bother me again, and I assume the same is true for you and your situation?"

"It is."

"So, what I want to ask is, how do you deal with the worry that you still cannot trust the thoughts in your own head?"

Erestor watched Maeglin carefully.

"Is this something you worry about often?"

"Every day."

"I used to worry about it, and every once in a while I will have a bad dream, or a flash of memory, and wonder if I have been unduly influenced by him. So I do understand what you mean. At first, it almost paralyzed me. I was so taken with the worry that nothing would ever free me from him, that I was destined to follow his footsteps." She traced the pattern on the teacup in reflection. "But I realized that this would soon drive me mad, and then I really would follow his path." She paused, and grabbed Maeglin's currently forsaken pastry, ignoring his protest.

"Tell me, what keeps me from throwing this into the fire?" Maeglin stared at her.

"What?"

"What keeps me from throwing this into the fire? Perhaps I was raised to hate this kind of pastry. Why would I not throw it into the fire?"

"Because sane people do not go around throwing innocent desserts into fireplaces?"

Erestor gave Maeglin a disapproving look.

"Fine. Well, you were raised to hate it, but do you hate it? I mean, it is your choice to throw it away or not." As he said it, Erestor placed the abused pastry back on his plate and patted his head. Maeglin glared, but sighed. "I see."

"Do you? I tried to make it obvious. I chose not to destroy the pastry. I chose not to go insane with and for power. I choose every day not to strangle Glorfindel. What I choose changes everything. Granted, sometimes the choices are bad ones, or limited. But I myself control my actions. If I do not like something, if I think I am acting too much like Him, then I make the decision to change what I am doing. Part of this is knowing yourself. If you do not know what you believe, what drives you, then anyone, and not just your father, can control you."

"So, I need to know who I am."

"Yes. But- oh, do not look so solemn. It does not have to be all at once. Start small. What is your favorite food?"

"What?"

"If is a simple question, Maeglin."

"I enjoy carrots."

"Fine. There is something you know about yourself. Enjoy your carrots."

"But how do I know it is not just my father who likes them?"

"Eat some. Do you like the taste? The texture? Maeglin, even if you have some similarities with him, it is fine. I mean, he and I share some things in common. Dark hair, neither of us was born in Valinor, we prefer night to daylight- but that in no way means that I can or will become Eöl." She took the hand that had been nervously fidgeting with the pastry plate. "Listen to me. Think of it as a battle. Every time you find something you enjoy, or form an opinion you believe in, you gain ground. Every time you let fear of 'perhaps' rule your actions, your father does." Erestor gave him her fiercest glare, and part of her sighed in satisfaction as Maeglin shrunk away from it. "I had best not hear of your father winning anything, Maeglin. Or I will hunt you down and make you regret it." He nodded, and she released his hand and patted his head.

"Good little elf."

"I am taller than you."

"Physically, not mentally."

"Is that your winning argument for everything?"

"Physical victory is fleeting, sir. It is the mind that controls all. You more than most should know this."

"I suppose. But I think you really only decided that after realizing you would more closely resemble a Halfling than an elf." Erestor scowled.

"I preferred it when you were terrified of me."

"That was only before I realized you were a pushover on the inside."

"I do not suggest you test that theory, child."

"Yes m'lady."